Happy birthday, Camille

October 9, 2015

Camille Saint-Saëns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. He was a musical prodigy who began playing piano at the age of three, was composing at the age of five, and made his public debut as a concert pianist at the age of ten. In addition to having perfect pitch, he also had a phenomenal memory; he was able to play all thirty-two of Beethoven’s piano sonatas from memory. During his teens he trained as an organist at the Paris Conservatory, after which he worked as a church organist to pay the bills while he was establishing himself as a composer and performer. No less an authority than Franz Liszt declared Saint-Saëns to be the finest organist in the world.

In the course of a long and productive life, Saint-Saëns visited twenty-seven countries on five continents and gave countless performances; and he composed hundreds of works in a wide variety of genres, from symphonies and operas to pieces for solo keyboard, and almost everything in between. Here is one of his enduringly popular creations, the tone poem Danse Macabre, composed in 1874.

Product fan mail

October 8, 2015

Dear Tide:

I’m writing to tell you what an excellent product you have! I’ve been using it ever since I got married many years ago, but it’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate just what a superior product it is.

A few weeks ago, I spilled some red wine on my new white blouse. Right away, my worthless husband started to berate me about how clumsy I am. One thing led to another, and to make a long story short, I ended up with a lot of his blood on my white blouse. I wondered if anything would take the stains out, but after I washed my blouse in Tide, to my amazement it was cleaner than I ever would have imagined possible.

In fact, the blood came out so well that the DNA tests on my blouse were negative, and just this morning, I learned that I am no longer considered a suspect in the disappearance of my husband. What a relief!

Once again, thank you for making such a fantastic product. Now I have to go write a letter to the Hefty Bag people.

Sincerely yours,

A satisfied customer

Happy birthday, William

October 7, 2015

Almost everyone who has done any serious choral singing knows the name of William Billings, who was born in Boston on October 7, 1746. Although he had little formal schooling and was largely self-taught as a musician, he became the most popular choral composer of his day. The primitive state of copyright law at the time prevented him from making enough money as a composer to quit his day job as a tanner, but music was always his first love. He was very active as an itinerant singing master and was influential in furthering the singing-school tradition of American folk culture. He wrote more than three hundred choral works, most of them settings of sacred texts. “O Praise the Lord of Heaven” is one of my favorites; this performance by VocalEssence was recorded at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England.

Heroic veteran from Oregon shooting just glad he’s not in VA hospital

October 6, 2015

From The Duffel Blog.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Real-life hero and Army veteran Chris Mintz, who took seven gunshot wounds while protecting classmates at an Oregon college last week, says he considers himself truly blessed to get treatment in a civilian hospital.

“As I got in the ambulance, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Dear God, please don’t let them take me to a VA hospital. I don’t want to die waiting for treatment,’” Mintz told reporters from his bedside at Mercy Medical Center, where nurses actually check on him periodically to ask whether he needs anything, such as a blanket or a snack from the cafeteria, and bring it back to him within minutes, despite him not filling out the proper DA-7022 Form, Meal Replenishment paperwork. “When I think about my brothers and sisters in arms that started waiting for Veterans Affairs service before I was shot, and will still be in the waiting room after I’m discharged, I have flashbacks of my week-long VA eye exam.”

In recognition of Mintz’s heroism, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter offered to transfer Mintz to any active military hospital of his choice for continued care, sources confirmed. “No thanks,” Mintz reportedly said, according to an unnamed physical therapist who started working with the Army veteran almost immediately after a doctor requested his services instead of waiting for paperwork to make it through the system over a period of five to seven months. “If I can’t stay in a civilian hospital, just go ahead and drop me off at my car and I’ll drive home.”

While many have speculated about the VA’s response to Mintz’s statements, the department has so far remained silent. When reporters attempted to reach the VA for comment, they were put on hold, then after a seven-hour wait, the line was cut off.

Mintz, who has shown never-ending selflessness, says that he hopes to recover soon.

“The faster I’m out of here, the faster I can start repaying them for my GI Bill,” Mintz said. “After getting dropped from my classes because I have not attended over the past few days, the VA wants its money back.”

Also from The Duffel Blog: Army Unveils Pink Camouflage Uniform For Breast Cancer Awareness Month

English major jocularity

October 4, 2015

pedants revolt

Some beautiful music for Sunday

October 4, 2015

It’s the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who is remembered for many things… but because I was a church music director for many years, this hymn tends to be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of St. Francis.

Happy Caturday — feline logic edition

October 3, 2015


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