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. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

EASTER

I had written a long blog post for Easter and scrapped it after careful consideration. Nobody wants to read a long blog post on Easter.

Come to think of it - nobody wants to read a long blog post when it's not Easter, either, but that's beside the point.

Instead, I've decided to post some inane photos that nobody wants to see.
Some were taken recently. Others are Easter leftovers from when I lived in Texas. 

 A few days ago I went outside just before sunset and saw the rising moon caught in a tree.

As it grew darker, the moon broke free from the tree and sailed into the sky.

 The back yard at dusk and a tiny dot of moon

 All of the beautiful purple and white blossoms have completely perished due to the frost we had last week - but it's finally warm again and the trees are quickly turning green. So are the weeds.

 I found an old box with a springtime tea set that has been packed away for many years. It's an appropriate display for Easter, but I'll probably never use it - so I'll pack it away again.


I also found these two items that I got in a Springfield, Missouri antique store. The chick on the egg (right) is old, but the chick emerging from the shell isn't an antique. I think it's cute, anyway.

As if this wasn't enough, here are a few old Easter pics that I took when I lived in Texas.

 These flowers are orange stars, which were popular for Easter in West Tx.




 My cat Scratch eating the Easter tulips

 Scratch encountering the Easter Bunny




Scratch eating the Easter chicks


The End

Have a wonderful Easter!


my other blog:

Cabinet of Curious Treasures

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

AN ENCOUNTER WITH LOHENGRIN









I'm trying a new format with my piano music tapes, which is SoundCloud rather than YouTube. Since I've never done this before - and have no idea exactly what I'm doing - I can only hope that it works.

One problem: I don't know where the hell to adjust the volume... 
make sure your computer volume is turned down

This is my piano transcription of the Prelude to Act III and Bridal Chorus from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner.

When I was a pianist in California I spent a great amount of time as an accompanist (for singers and instrumentalists) and also occasionally as a rehearsal pianist for ballet and opera productions.

This particular tape was made during an operatic rehearsal of Lohengrin at USC.
At the time of this recording, I didn't have a piano score of the opera. I played this at sight from the original orchestral score - - which is an extremely (and I mean extremely) difficult thing to do.

My right hand was nearly ravaged from playing those endless repeated notes (which are originally written for the strings). If you listen very carefully, you might be able to hear me turning the pages of the score as I played.

It's nearly six minutes long - which hopefully won't be too boring (or excruciating).

 Lohengrin
the Knight of the Swan

 The orchestral score from Act III of Lohengrin




a link to my other blog:
http://cabinetofcurioustreasures.blogspot.com  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

FOUL




I'm not talking foul ball. Or fowl bird. I'm talking foul mood. I've been in a dangerously foul mood for a long time. And I have the urge to rant.

I had a few beers today - along with a lethal dose of NyQuil. No need for you Goody-Two-Shoes to worry. I wasn't driving.
I used to be a hardcore lush.
Ever since I moved to Tennessee I'm nearly a teetotaler. Not because I got righteous. Solely because this is a "dry" (or semi-dry) county. In layman's terms it means that the Baptists don't want anyone to drink liquor. Someone ought to tell them that Jesus turned water into wine.  He'd do one helluva business here in Hillbillyland.

Anyway, there's one tiny store snuggled on the edge of town that sells beer only for outrageous prices.

You've told us that already, Jon.

Well, I'm telling you again just in case you forgot.

The joy of life in the wilderness is wearing thin. There are times when I'm almost tempted to rejoin civilization. 
I said almost. But not quite.

My ravaged back is keeping me from doing things around here. I can hardly walk most of the time.

Run to a doctor, Jon.

I presently don't have any health insurance. And past experience has assured me that most doctors are only good for two things: prescribing pain pills and sending outrageous bills.

A serious aside:
I realize that several of my fellow bloggers (including Geo. and David) have literally had their lives saved by doctors, and I truly appreciate the fact.

As for me: I no longer give a shit about my own life. I have nothing to lose but the ability to walk (if there's any grim humor in that, I can't find it). 

Doctors are not all Ben Casey. I could tell you about a frighteningly loopy doctor that I had a personal relationship with (long ago).
But I won't. 

This blog post is getting too long but I'm on a roll. Sort of.

All of the purple blossoms around here (in my previous post photos) have died from the recent frost. Only a few scant white ones are left (see header photo).
I always assumed Tennessee was a mild southern state. If I ever knew the winters were ten months long here I would have never came. I should have gotten a clue when I discovered that the state bird is the Penguin.

I thought that was funny but nobody's laughing. 

The wasps and bees are vicious this season. I get attacked every time I go outside. And there are a lot of them.

My cat Scruffy caught two lizards lately (in the house). I quickly rescued both of them. Fortunately they were both unharmed. I like lizards.

One more thing before I go:
I've decided to keep the comments on this blog in the "moderation" mode for a little while longer.
I personally hate comment moderation - and I'm sure some people also find it annoying.

I've discovered, however, (thanks to live traffic feed) that a few people who despise me still regularly visit my blog. I can't understand why - except for the fact that I'm irresistible (*smile*).

I think they are just waiting for me to say something that they don't like - so they can gleefully pounce on me again.

It's a good thing I keep most of my thoughts to myself.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

STORMY



 Photos by Jon

I won't mention the unrelenting agony that I went through with my back recently. For four days I couldn't walk or even stand. The pain was so excruciating that I thought I'd have to call an ambulance.

I won't mention the boring details. It's a herniated disc compounded by several spinal fractures that never healed properly. I keep re-injuring old injuries. Over and over and over.....

I finally gritted my teeth, tried to get some much-needed rest, and said "The hell with everything." (I was MUCH more graphic than that, but I'm giving you the Disney version).

Yesterday I was finally able to stand on my feet and walk - not without difficulty, and not without the help of a makeshift cane and some frighteningly out-dated aspirin.

I don't like to complain. I'm not a sissy. Whining and bitching is extremely unbecoming. I clumsily plod onward-  - between frequent curses and sheer determination - knowing that if I ever drop dead out here, no one would find my body for a dozen years. At least.

But no need to worry, boys and girls. I'm here to talk about stormy weather. Several severe storms swept through the Tennessee boonies late yesterday afternoon and early evening.

Despite being crippled and unrelentingly despondent, I grabbed my El Cheapo camera and hobbled outside to document the excitement.

The following photos were taken by me on Wednesday (which, I'm assuming, was yesterday).

Actually, the day began beautifully and the sun made a rare morning appearance.

 A few of the trees are blossoming, but the wildly fluctuating temperatures haven't been helpful. It's 80 degrees one day and 40 the next. More frost is predicted tomorrow night.







 By late afternoon we were under a Tornado Watch and clouds were gathering (this is the view from the front porch).

 There was a tornadic storm to the west and it got extremely dark. Soon the first storm arrived with a torrential downpour and fierce winds.

 The first storm ended with an eerie glimpse of sun rays.



The second storm, just before sunset, was much more dramatic and beautiful. These photos don't do it justice.





 I hobbled out the back door and climbed up the steep embankment at the edge of the forest to take these pics. There was lots of lightning.


Overlooking my house.






 This looks similar to my header photo. It's a view of the same trees that were blossoming in the photos I took in the morning.


The temperature has dropped drastically (again) and today (Thursday) is raining, windy, and freezing.

I just deleted a few photos because there were too many.

Monday, April 3, 2017

FORTY QUESTIONS





Somebody gave me a list of 100 questions to answer. Since that is way too long, I tried to narrow it down to about half - in no particular order.

Why the ducks??
Because it's raining all the time. Good weather for quackers.


1. Are you lazy?
Let's just say that I'm often too lethargic to even consider taking a nap.

2. What do you eat for breakfast?
I never eat breakfast. It ruins my appetite for lunch or dinner.

3. Coffee or tea?
I'm a tea addict - hot or iced. 

4. What was your very first job?
Dishwasher at the Orange Convalescent Home in Buena Park, California.

5. Occupation you wanted to be when you were a kid?
A private detective, or an actor.

6. What is the most unusual job you ever had?
An assistant at a mortuary (that lasted about a week).
A chauffeur (that lasted about two weeks).
A movie extra (off and on when I lived in Hollywood).

7. Have you ever been fired from a job?
Strangely enough, I was fired from a job as a pianist. I was the accompanist for a singer in a restaurant. We clashed and I wound up telling him that he should take singing lessons. He fired me. He also owned the restaurant.

8. Describe yourself in three words.
Enigmatic, versatile, unconventional.

9. What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
A few things that come to mind aren't printable (lol).
I've eaten rattlesnake and reindeer (not at the same time).

10. What is your favorite movie quote?
"I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair."

Bette Davis said that, in the 1932 movie Cabin in the Cotton.   

11. What is your least favorite movie?
That's difficult. I think three of the most over-rated films are Citizen Kane, Doctor Zhivago, and Titanic.

12. Were you ever a Boy/Girl Scout?
Nope. I wouldn't have lasted twenty minutes.

13. Describe the perfect kiss in three words.
Intense, probing, lingering.

14. The last person you kissed.
A Boy Scout.
Don't panic. I just wanted to see how alert you are.

15. If you were gay, who would you want to have a passionate affair with?
You're really putting the nails in my coffin, aren't you?
Let's see - -  how about maybe... Ryan Kwanten, Rob James-Collier, or....... Julian Assange (wry humor here).
Oh! Jason Hardy the opera singer.
Is that too many? Well hell - you only live once. 

....and my readers are rushing to Google those names.... 

16. Are you an innie or an outie?
Are we talking about belly buttons or........?
If it's navels, I'm probably an "innie". If it's another appendage, you might say I'm an outie....
Just ignore this. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.  

17. Introvert or extrovert?
Absolute introvert.

18. Would you ever pose nude in a magazine?
Well, that puts the kibosh on my previous answer. Despite being an introvert, I have posed for some nude photo sessions when I lived in Hollywood.
Of course, I was young and hot then.
And soused.
And probably high on grass. 
And I knew the photographer. Intimately.
Am I saying too much?  

19. What have you forgotten?
If I had forgotten it, why would I be remembering it now??
Actually, there are many things I'd like to forget. Including nude photo sessions.

20. What color is your underwear?
What makes you think I'm wearing any?
Actually, if you must know, they're white Fruit of the Looms.

21. Have you ever tried to cut your own hair?
I've been cutting my own hair since I was twenty - - and, Gawd knows, it looks like it.....

22. Do you think you are selfish?
I am basically selfish (he says with regret).
This probably stems from being an only child. I never had to share or compromise or compete with siblings.

23. What are you afraid of? 
Sickness, poverty, old age, senility, death.   

24. Do you think people are basically good or bad?
I believe that evil is predominately the essence of humanity. The world is a cesspool.  

I've always been a realist - - which irritates the hell out of some people.

25. Do you believe everyone deserves forgiveness?
Absolutely not. Some things are unforgivable.

26. Are you self-critical?
I am relentlessly self-critical - - almost to the point of being psychotically self-critical. 
I can probably thank my father for this. He criticized me mercilessly his entire life.  

27. What is the meanest thing anyone has ever said to you?
Hey - how much time do we have?
I suppose one of the meanest was when my father handed me a loaded gun and begged me to kill myself.  

28. What's the meanest thing you've ever said?
I'm guilty of having said some unforgivably cruel things in my time. The blind wrath of anger is extremely unbecoming.  

29. Do you believe in a higher power?
Yes. I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to think that nothing is greater than mere mortals.

30. What's your idea of heaven? 
Music, writing, books, art, creativity, learning, discovering, making love, peace, security, the eternal astonishment of nature

31. What's your idea of hell?
The harsh, brutal, merciless realities of life in an imperfect world.

32. What makes you nostalgic?
Remembering the past and the good times (while conveniently expunging the bad...). I am  deeply sentimental, nostalgic, and melancholic. I have a poetic soul. 

33. What is your biggest regret?
I have more regrets than I would ever care to reveal or ever want to remember.
Anyone who says they have no regrets is either lying or......delusional.... 

34. How many times in a day do you look in a mirror?
I avoid mirrors as much as possible. The last time I looked in one, I thought I was wearing a Halloween mask.

35. What time of day do you feel most energetic?
Being notoriously nocturnal, I don't start fully waking up until after dark. I'm probably most energetic between the hours of midnight and dawn.  

36. Would you ever sky dive or bungee jump?
Not while I was sober or sane. Let's put it this way: I get acute anxiety attacks even when I'm on  terra firma.

37. Would you rather be rich and unhappy or poor and happy?
Hell, I'm poor and unhappy now. I might as well be rich and unhappy. 

38. What did your father teach you?
Unmitigated fear, profound insecurity, unrelenting hate, an agonizing sense of worthlessness, and an intense penchant for self-destruction.

39. What did your mother teach you?
The ability to survive and regenerate, the quest to learn and to discover, the value of self-worth, the power of love, the necessity of humor, the solace of forgiveness.

40. The most agonizing hour of your life?
The day that my mother died.