Tone Poem Tuesday

Sticking with my new discovery, Russian-Jewish composer Alfred Schnittke, I’ve already learned that he composed music for films…including a version of Kipling’s mongoose story, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. This prospect initially excited me, because an animated version of that story used to show up on television once in a while, and I remember liking it a great deal as a kid. Digging farther, it turns out that Schnittke’s version was not the animated version I recall fondly (and rightly so, it was made by Chuck Jones), but rather a Russian live-action version. And there was an earlier animated version, also Russian–so what was with all this Rikki-Tikki-Tavi content in the mid-70s? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll read the story and find out.

Meanwhile, here’s a suite of Schnittke’s music for that live-action version of the story It’s melodic and very dramatic (there are some unfortunate sound drops in the later few minutes), and highly compelling. Battle music indeed, for a mongoose battling a cobra to the death!


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Meanwhile, cats.

Lazy good-for-nothin’s!


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Stayin’ Alive!!!

Oy, I don’t want to talk about snow. Let’s talk about the opening of Saturday Night Fever!

And yes, I’m serious, because it’s one of the best movie openings ever, and not just because it has a few famous shots or it uses one of the greatest songs by The Bee Gees. It establishes the film’s setting and a key facet of the lead character’s personality, all in the space of just a couple of minutes as the opening credits roll.

Here’s that opening:

Now, most people remember this for John Travolta’s cocky, almost arrogant strut down that sidewalk. His hair is perfectly coifed, and his outfit–leather jacket with red open-collared shirt and matching shoes with perfect shine–combine to create that image, don’t they? This is a guy you don’t mess with. The song’s lyrics seem almost to be describing this specific man, don’t they?

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walkI’m a woman’s man, no time to talk

But digging a little deeper…the movie doesn’t open right on Travolta walking. No, we get a shot of Manhattan, looking over the Brooklyn Bridge…and then the camera pulls back. Manhattan recedes, as if to tell us no, we’re not going there, that place is a dream. There’s a fade and suddenly we’re seeing another bridge, the Varrazano Narrows. We’re still in NYC, but Manhattan is world’s away, we’re being told. The camera drops us into one of those neighborhoods all the way on the other side of the city, with all of Brooklyn between our movie’s setting and the place where NYC dreams come true. An elevated train stops, and then do we finally cut down to street level, where our man, Tony Manero, is walking.

But we don’t even see him walking, first! He’s stopped to check out the shoes in the front window of a shoe store. So before anybody has said a single word, we know that we’re far away from Manhattan, and our main character is serious about his appearance. Then we see him walking: first that famous shot of his feet, walking in step with the music playing, and then the camera pans up to show us Tony Manero.

And for all the confidence of his strut and it’s mirroring in the music, his face is anything but super confident. Travolta’s eyes dart back and forth, in the self-conscious way of someone who is wondering if people are looking or laughing at him. The expression Travolta wears here is not the expression of someone walking as if he owns the sidewalk. (There’s also the fact that he’s walking that way, dressed this way, while carrying a can of paint.)

Then we get the movie’s first dialogue: cut to a pizzeria where a worker is pulling a pie from the oven as Tony waits at the carry-out window. She doesn’t address him like he’s a big-wheeling hot-shot guy; she smiles and says a friendly, “Hiya, Tony, two or three?” Because he’s a regular. And when he orders, he doesn’t give a confident “Two!” or a silent holding-up of two fingers. Travolta gives the order quickly, but repeats himself: “Uh, two. Two, yeah, two. Two’s good.” Cut to Tony, walking again, paint can in one hand and his two slices, stacked together in the other.

So now we know that Tony’s world is just a few miles from Manhattan but might as well be worlds away, and that the outward appearance that Tony obviously cultivates very specifically and very carefully is something of an act, a veneer he has put on a more tender inner life. Both of these facts will become key thematic elements in the movie to come.

That, folks, is a great movie opening.



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I don’t measure our snow, because…meh, I don’t need numbers. You reach a point where they’re not helpful…but here’s a sobering bit of numerical reflection. I just Googled Orchard Park’s average annual snowfall, and apparently it’s 114 inches, according to one site.

So, in the space of about 36 hours, we have received two-thirds of what we average for the entire year, in terms of snow.

Oof, indeed.

Luckily, we’re in good shape! I took the storm seriously as the forecasts started coming in. I loaded up on food and coffee and, yes, booze. We have power* and a comfortable house. We’re supposed to get another few inches overnight tonight as the weakening snow bands shift south again, and then this whole thing will be over sometime tomorrow. We’re forecast above freezing for the next bunch of days. Everything will be fine…eventually.

And that, combined with this from our County Executive, makes me think about something else:

There are problems in many streets and major roadways around here because people who insisted on attempting to drive someplace inevitably got stuck. Obviously this screws up all manner of important operations: plows, trucks moving the snow (when there’s this much, you really can’t just plow it to the side, it has to be trucked and dumped someplace), and the emergency vehicles that have to respond to calls. It’s not just people in regular cars; in advance of the storm, Governor Hochul closed major local expressways to commercial traffic, so now we have truckers getting stuck on major local boulevards as they attempt circumventing closed thruways. All of that can be partially chalked up to capitalism in some degree; we just can’t let business shut down for a day or two, can we?

But looking at County Executive Poloncarz’s tweet, I note his wording: “Please hunker down for a bit longer.”

This storm started in earnest around 8pm on Thursday night. It’s now Saturday morning as I write this, so we’ve been hunkered down for…not even two days yet.

So, my question is: Why do we as a society get cabin fever this quickly now? Is it “car culture” baked into our brains in 2022, where we get antsy to go out after just a few hours at home? Have we allowed our lives to become fast-paced to so great a degree that the very idea of spending a few days in our homes is somehow alien to us? I am by no means immune to this. I keep thinking, Wow, I really gotta suit up and get our cars dug out! I gotta get out there! And then I remind myself, Why? There’s no place that we have to be. We’re not even allowed to drive right now anyway. We have everything we need, right here, and we can go days without running into a NEED that has to be addressed. We’re good. Just take turns shoveling for a few minutes at a time, and meanwhile, just sit and be warm. Why own a personal library, if not in part for days like this!

So yeah, we really do need to do better as a society at living–really, actually living–in our own homes. We need to make our homes into less of a “base of operations” for our lives and more into actual homes. A home should not be a place where we find ourselves not wanting to be after just a short while. At least, that’s not what it seems to me a home should be.

* Oh, I didn’t mention that we lost power for about five hours yesterday morning! That sucked. Apparently a transformer at our local substation blew. Luckily, the NYSEG folks were almost dead accurate in their estimated restoration time: they forecasted power to come back on about 1pm, and it did, at 12:53pm. Nice. Our backup sump pump kept up just fine (though some work is needed in that department; more on that another time). It was fine, really…but a power outage on top of being in the middle of an epic snowstorm was more use of my brain-cycles than I really wanted to expend yesterday. When I finally crashed last night, around 10pm after my bedtime reading of about a page and a half, I crashed hard. Anyway, life marches on!

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At last report, a trained weather-spotter in our town reported snowfall of 54 inches to one of the local news stations.

This is what it looked like out my front door this morning:

That was nearly twelve hours ago. It has been snowing continuously since, dumping multiple inches an hour. We’re not due for any relief for another five or six hours, apparently.

I’ve never seen anything like this. Not even “Snowvember”, the big event that socked us for a week back in 2014, was like this. Or maybe it was…but Snowvember unfolded over two or three days. This is like that entire event, packed into a single day. I have made no attempt at shoveling out front; all of my shoveling has been in back, to give Carla a place for relief and so I can get at the furnace vents and keep them clear. And even that feels like a losing battle, because I’ve run out of places to throw new snow.

But I’ll have to go out again, at least once more this evening.

After Sunday we have a week of temps in the high 30s and low 40s, so we’ll be able to melt some of this off. But for now…I’m rarely one to indulge thoughts of moving to places where it doesn’t snow. As natural hindrances (not sure I’d call it a ‘disaster’) go, I’ll still take snow over wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, extreme heat, hurricanes, the likelihood of entire regions getting reclaimed by the sea as levels rise, and living in the company of many folks who vote for Ron DeSantis. But right now, all I want is for the snow to stop.


I can take two days to dig, but only if it stops!


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Something for Thursday

Here’s some wintry music, as we here in The 716 are gearing up for the first big lake-effect snow event of this season (and what might be the biggest one we’ve had since Snowvember in 2014): “Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway”, from John Barry’s score to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This is the music that accompanies James Bond’s trek into the Alps via helicopter as he, disguised as Sir Hilary Bray (a prominent genealogist), goes to the lair of the secretive Count de Bleuchamp, whom he believes to actually be his archenemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The sequence itself is one of many gorgeous sequences in the film, alternating stunning vistas of Alpine winter with darker, more suspenseful music that accentuates that Bond is very much not sight-seeing.

We may not have the mountains, but we’re sure about to have the snow!


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First Snows!!!

My friend Shaun Reiter, who puts up with more of my crap at work than he probably deserves to, was at a social function at Highmark Stadium the other night. When he left, darkness had fallen and the first flurries of snow were coming down, and he took a fantastic picture from outside the stadium on his way out. I saw the photo and asked if I could post it, and he graciously consented, so here it is.

If you’ve seen anything about the impending weather in this region, this particular vista may look very different in the next few days….

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Tone Poem Tuesday

Yup, as promised the other day, busy days in progress! So, here’s Franz von Suppe.


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Ambient Noise!

Do you like using ambient sound generators at all? These have been around for years–I remember gizmos you could buy that made “running water” sounds that you could play softly overnight, and as these got more sophisticated you had choices: You could have a “babbling brook”, or “waves on the shore”, or “rainfall”, and the like, all in the same gizmo.

Now, of course, all of this is digital and you can do it anywhere, just with your computer or even your phone. It’s even better if you have a bluetooth speaker with decent sound. For the last few weeks at work I’ve been using the engine sound of the starship Enterprise-D, which gives my work room a pleasant rumble underneath everything else going on. Another benefit is that when playing a six- or twelve-hour long sound video, your speaker stays on. The bluetooth speaker I have at work has a time-out that’s really short, and if it plays nothing in that time frame, it shuts off. That’s kind of annoying. Playing the ambient sound doesn’t hinder my playing music; I just open YouTube in a second tab and play away. I might have to dial down the volume on the Enterprise, but that’s fine.

There are a lot of ambient sound videos on YouTube beyond the Enterprise. Here’s one I started using today, because it suits my mood this time of year: Ancient Library Room. This one has a crackling fireplace, it’s raining outside with occasional thunder, and you can even occasionally hear someone writing with a scratchy pen or quill. I like this one. I might pair it sometime at home with some pine-scented incense I have someplace.

And there are so many more! Like water? There are streams of varying roughness. There are ocean sounds, and you can make your workplace sound like a coffee shop, if you want. I love this stuff and it does help me focus a little, if mainly by shutting down some of the other persistent sonic interruptions and helping to ground my brain a bit.


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Sporadic Posting Alert!

Hey, y’all!

We are heading into what is traditionally a quite busy three or four weeks for me, so I may not be able to maintain my daily posting regimen. I’ll try, but no promises.

Meanwhile, apropos of nothing at all, here’s a scene from M*A*S*H.


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