Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A RARE DISCOVERY





Last night I happened to find some more of my old piano recordings and this particular one shocked me, because I had completely forgotten about it. It's one of the many transcriptions that I wrote when I lived in Hollywood - and (to be brash for a rare change) it's definitely one of my best.

This is my piano arrangement of the theme from the 1960 film  The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. The music score was originally written by Adolph Deutsch.

Strangely enough, I've never seen this movie - but I always loved the music from it. And I always wondered why such a beautiful film score is so seldom heard. I wrote this solo piano transcription to use in my repertoire when I performed.

Unfortunately, my original piano manuscript was one of the many things that the movers lost when I came from Texas to Tennessee. All I have left is this unedited recording.

Listening to it puts me in a romantic Hollywoodized mood: intoxicating moonlight, dangerous cocktails, soft candlelight.....
....and - of course - an accommodating pianist.
(*smile* inserted here) 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

THOUGHTS ON A RAINY SATURDAY

 
Hi - my name is Jon....and I'm a jelly bean addict.

It's true. It happens every Easter. I don't know what I'll do when I run out of my stash. 

Did I ever mention that Tennessee is the rainiest place on earth? The rain never ever stops. It's like Vietnam in the monsoon season. It's like Venice, but with hills and dangerous curves and no canals.  

This place is called The Volunteer State. Hell, they should re-name it the H20 State.
Don't ponder that for too long. You might strain yourself.

Volunteer?
Heck, I never volunteered for anything in my entire life. Except for sex. 
But that's beside the point. 

It's pouring rain, as usual, and it's a cool day. The trees are lush and green, the grass grows taller by the hour. And the mega weeds have reached H.G.Wells proportions.

 I just snapped this pic a few minutes ago from the back porch. Green is in vogue.
 

Rainy days are cozy days. I remember rainy days when I was a kid. Eating Lipton soup with oyster crackers and watching monster movies on TV.

Do they still make oyster crackers? I haven't seen them in 20 years. 
Do they still make Lipton soup?
I'm hopelessly archaic. I'm from an era when June Cleaver was preparing dinner in high heels, faux pearls, and a crisp Betty Crocker apron.

All the letters on my computer keyboard have worn off, so consequently I keep making grievous errors.

Speaking of computers
notice my smooth transition of thought....

My old desktop computer went completely insane yesterday. Last night I spent nearly four hours with Windows "support" getting things repaired. So far it's working again. It's probably the only computer left on earth that's still running on Vista.

Today Firefox went insane on my laptop and it took me an hour to get that straightened out. I'm exhausted.

I was going to post more piano music today but - happily for you - I'm too lazy. And I'm sure you're still recovering from Lohengrin (see side bar).

After careful consideration, I've decided to write a book about the 1906 New Jersey murder (see previous post). I certainly have enough information.
I doubt if the book will be a home run, but heck - - I could just imagine a Broadway musical.....

And I should really think about finishing my memoirs. I've had one helluva interesting life. The only thing that's impeding my enthusiasm is the possible prospect of multitudinous lawsuits.

It's still pouring rain.
I sure hope my cats know how to swim.

That was a dumb ending to a boring post, but it was all I could come up with. 

 

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MURDER IN THE FAMILY

It's become an annual habit with me to remember my great aunt Katalin (Kate) Gordon, who was murdered at the age of eighteen on April 20, 1906.

I've told this story on several previous occasions but decided to briefly rehash it solely for those who haven't heard it.

Ironically, I'm related to the murder victim and the murderer.

Katalin Gordon was the eldest sister of my maternal grandmother Anna Gordon Knoll. She was murdered by her uncle Frederick Lang, who was twenty-one years old at the time.

Lang was passionately in love with Kate. He lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and came to New Jersey to spend Easter week with the Gordon family. His main intention was to propose to Kate. When she rejected his proposal, he became enraged and shot her through the neck - severing the carotid artery. She bled to death immediately.

Lang escaped into the woods and wasn't arrested until over two months later. The trial took place in July, 1906 and he was found guilty. After numerous appeals and a sanity hearing, he was finally executed in March, 1909. Lang was twenty-four years old, and was the last man in New Jersey to be executed by hanging.

I wrote an article about this, which appeared in The New Jersey Monthly in 1996. That was before I had a computer or access to the Internet. It took several years of research to compile sufficient information and to locate the trial transcripts and attorney briefs.

I now have enough information to write a book - which would be a rather interesting project to pursue. 

 Katalin Gordon
(1887-1906)
 This photo was taken only about a week before she was murdered. The white Easter dress that she's wearing is also the dress that she was buried in.
Kate was the eldest of twelve children. She and one other sibling were born in Hungary. The rest of the children were born in the U.S. 
My grandmother Anna, who was ten at the time of the murder, was born in Pennsylvania.

 Frederick Lang
(1884-1909)
Frederick Lang was the illegitimate brother of my great-grandmother Justinia Schmidt Gordon (Kate's mother). He was the black sheep of the family - wild, tempestuous, with a quick Hungarian temper. He was described as being short and slight, with reddish (auburn) hair.
Lang maintained that if he couldn't have Kate, nobody else would, either. He later expressed remorse for killing her and said that he deserved to die. He attempted suicide on two occasions: by setting fire to his jail cell, and by trying to hang himself.

After Lang was executed, he was quickly buried - at midnight during a storm - in an unmarked grave.
Our family had refused to claim his body. 


 John Gordon (Janos Gurdon), who was Kate's father and my maternal great-grandfather.
Gordon was of royal blood but was disinherited when he married a peasant girl (Justinia Schmidt, the sister of Frederick Lang).

Monday, April 17, 2017

EASTER LIZARD AND OPERATIC MOONWALK WITH SWASTIKAS

I kept hearing scurrying noises in the eaves of the house. At first I thought I was on the brink of insanity - but I crossed that brink years ago (I have no clue what that means - - use your own discernment).

Weird, unexplained noises aren't uncommon around here. After all, I have mice in the walls, 'possums under the house, and there are strange hoof-sounds on the roof late at night, which I'm positive have nothing to do with Santa Claus.

So on Easter morning I step out the back door and suddenly see a lizard emerge from the eaves and climb down the wooden post where the utility box is.

I photographically documented the event for posterity.
Then I emitted a Big Sigh of relief.
Lizards are definitely the lesser of many other evil possibilities.
I'd rather have lizards than rats...

 

Change of subject
 
One of the pleasures that I always indulge in during the Easter season is listening to a performance of the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner (Wagner preferred to call his creation "a festival play for the consecration of the stage" - but that's beside the point).

Nothing stirs my senses and nourishes my soul more than this masterpiece of suffering, compassion, and salvation.
Speaking of suffering, the opera is nearly five hours long. It isn't merely a performance - it's an event.

Before we go any farther (further?) let me explain that Parsifal is an Arthurian knight, who is on a quest for the Holy Grail. The story traditionally takes place in the thirteenth century.

 Parsifal

Since I'm not in the mood to excavate my old VHS tape of Parsifal, I decide to watch it on YouTube.

I select a performance recorded in Salzburg in 2013. Imagine my complete shock, when I discover that the traditional 13th century theme has been abandoned in favor of a "modern, updated" version. 

Instead of knights and maidens, the cast is arrayed in some sort of bizarre outer space costumes. They look like rejects from an Apollo moon mission casting call.

  the 2013 Salzburg production of Parsifal

Looks like the Space Cadets have seized some fat guy in drag

This updated production is beyond my realms of tolerance. I quickly turn it off in disgust  and search for another version.

My next discovery is a 2012 version of Parsifal recorded at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus - which is the holy grail of Wagnerian opera. The Festspielhaus is a theater built by Wagner solely for his own operas. The premiere of Parsifal took place there in 1882.

What could possibly go wrong?

I was nearly blown to the moon when I discovered that this production was also a new "modernized" version - - which apparently takes place in Nazi Germany! The singers were clad in SS uniforms and the stage was adorned with swastikas!

After I regained consciousness and found my tongue  I screamed What the freaking hell does an 1882 opera by Wagner have to do with Nazi Germany?!!??

 Here it is, folks: the 2012 Bayreuth production of Parsifal

I am a staunch traditionalist. I don't want operatic masterpieces to be "updated" so they "appeal" to modern audiences. I don't want true art to be usurped with carnival tactics and pseudo-intellectual psycho-babble garbage.

I am thoroughly disgusted with these pompous, "innovative" producers, directors, and set designers - who get a degree from Walmart University and think they can trample the course of tradition with their own demented versions of progress in the arts.

These gang-rapes of Parsifal must have Wagner revolving in his grave.

Have I said enough? 

Dammit, Jon, you're cute when you are angry.