Friday Four

Friday, July 11, 2014

1. I haven't gotten to watch many World Cup games live, but I did see most of the surreal (and record-shattering) 7-1 dismantling of Brazil by Germany. The Internet naturally chimed in, with my two favorite memes (at least from among those gathered by the U.K.  Mirror) being the ones captioned "That's One Happy Jose" (referring to David Luiz's inept role at the center of Brazil's defensive train wreck) and "Even Tim Howard Couldn't Save Them".

I was rooting for Germany, but took no pleasure in seeing Brazil get humilated -- except in so far as the defensive catastrophe exposed vice-captain David Luiz, a dirty, impulsive player I have always detested.

2. Pinboard, whose proprietor describes it as, "a bookmarking site and personal archive with an emphasis on speed over socializing," has just turned five.

I see my role much like a small-town praire banker in the 1880's. My job is to project an aura of calm, solvency, and permanence in an industry where none of those adjectives applies. People are justifiably risk-averse when it comes to their bookmarks, and they are looking for stability. ...
Read the whole thing for Maciej Ceglowski's perceptive and often entertaining thoughts about such occupational hazards as burnout.

And do give Pinboard a try. I've used it for a few years now and can't imagine having to do without it.

3. Elizabeth Eshelman, who holds that "Real men bring their own shade," pays homage to -- and pokes loving fun at -- the tuba.
And it is a beast--at least for me it was. The first time I ever went to put one on in the summer before my freshman year of high school, my little 14 year-old arms couldn't lift it high enough to get it over my head. The squad leader, as the principal player is called in the world of marching band, had to lift it for me and set it on my shoulder, which, though embarrassing, was okay by me because he happened to be my biggest high school crush, and putting the sousaphone on meant he had to get so close to me I could see myself in the reflection of his sunglasses.
If you enjoy this, it's part of a series titled "I Like Big Brass and I Cannot Lie: Confessions from the Tuba World". The obvious allusion led me to find an interesting oral history ... behind ... Sir Mix-a-Lot's famous -- or infamous -- tribute to curvy women.

4. Google is calling their latest Android app "Chromecast", but it strikes me as "Web TV done the right way." There have been times that it could have come in handy to mirror my smart phone screen on the television, even though I have no desire to do this as my main or even as a frequent way of interacting with a computer. I look forward to giving this a try.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Your offering on tubas brought back a few memories. When I transitioned from the grade school to the junior high school band, I was playing a copper belled cornet that my grandfather had purchased during his years as a jazz trumpeter. (In fact, he was out playing a gig when my aunt was born to raise the money to, as he put it, "spring your grandmother from the hospital.")

I made second chair but the band leader pointed out that he had 29 trumpets and no French horns, and was wondering if I'd be interested. I said, sure, I'd give it a try. Then he dropped the bomb that the school didn't have any at present and would I mind filling in on Tuba?

I was 12 years old at the time and if I weighed 95 lbs it was because someone had put rocks in my pockets. Fortunately, this was concert band, because that tuba was HUGE! I've never seen anything like it since; it was supported on a stand/chair combo, and you had to worm your way into the middle circle which was parallel to the floor and from which the valve piping and mouthpiece sprouted in front, and a huge front facing bell arose from the back.

As you might imagine, I never took it home to practice; I was given custody of the mouthpiece and instructed to "practice" on it at home. It must have been an early version of a virtual instrument because you had to imagine what sounds would be produced as you conditioned your embouchure. It was this last that the band leader said was most important for our long term plan as trumpet embouchure is tighter than that required for French Horn and he figured that a stint on the Tuba would loosen mine up.

Well, it certainly did that. It was the near equivalent of blowing raspberries into the mouthpiece. And what made it an almost out-of-body experience was that, to get any volume at all out of this enormous instrument, I had to breath with every blat. By the end of the class, I'd have to sit a while until the lights got less bright and hazy before I dared worm my way out and stand up. I never quite passed out from hyperventilation, but there were some close calls.

When my French Horn came in, 6 months later, I never had to worry about breath discipline again. I could play that thing FOREVER on just one breath.

c. andrew

PS. Something of interest to me was that both my copper belled cornet and the French Horn had what I can only describe as a double-walled bell. The "inside" and the "outside" of both were two separate layers. I assume (but do not know) that this accounts for the more mellow overtones that both instruments display in regard to other brass.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for sharing that memory. Stories like yours and Ms. Eshelman's, apart from being entertaining, make me wish I'd had a better musical education growing up, and remind me to encourage my own children to master a musical instrument of some kind.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, a couple of fun odds and ends triggered by No. 3. First, Baby Got Back translated into Latin.

Second, tubas are fun. They should be played more, as even one or two of the less benighted folks at the AV Club realize. (I used to work in a used bookstore, whose owner was an inveterate lover of brass and wind ensembles, for which much good music has been written. When this article came up, I emailed him a link with the comment, "Wait, whah? The AV Club shows some culcha? Wha' happen, the regulars go on strike?" The old man and I are both long-time fans of the Boban Markovic Orkestar, who are just great; Markovic also teamed up with Frank London and his Klezmer Brass Allstars for some superb klezmer-Balkan music.)

This started me thinking about ska bands with tubas, and I definitely came up short there. Yes, ska needs trombones before tubas or anything else made of brass, but tubas would not do badly. The first group I could think of, Black Market Pop Tarts, isn't up on YouTube; and for the longest time I couldn't think of any others. Then I remembered the French, who not only add tuba to the mix but banjos: Ceux Qui Marchent Debout (Them That Walk Upright, one of my favorite band names) and Pistons Flingueurs.

Tubas are not, however, frequently made solo instruments in classical music. This is unfortunate.

Gus Van Horn said...

But has a ska band with a Tuba had someone toast the Latin version of "Baby Got Back"?

I was wondering when you'd chime in. I look forward to the music later on today.

SecFox HQ said...

Hello Gus,
Long time! Thanks for the Pinboard tip. I'm signing up. Keep up your great posting.


Gus Van Horn said...

Good to hear from you, Blair. Thanks for stopping by.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "But has a ska band with a Tuba had someone toast the Latin version of "Baby Got Back"?" Not that I know of. Someone needs to get on that stat!

Also, I haven't been distinguishing between tubas proper and other big horns like the euphonium. If we lump all of those (tuba, helicon, euphonium, baritone, etc.) together, then some more ska groups with such instruments come to mind. In particular, one you well know, Skavoovie and the Epitones, who have a euphonium in the line-up.