Something for Thursday

Compilation-arrangements that gather selections from Broadway musicals are a long-time staple of “pops” concerts everywhere, and for good reason: when they are done well, there’s a certain kind of charm to these compilations in their own right.

Robert Russell Bennett wrote a number of these arrangements, and his were some of the very best. This is because Bennett was a fine composer on his own, and it’s also because Bennett worked closely with many of the great Broadway composers in the first place. He wasn’t a composer who decided to try his hand at arranging these songs; he was the original arranger, and he was steeped in all that music. Bennett had his finger on the pulse of Broadway for decades, and that‘s why his concert arrangements make for such wonderful listening.

In my orchestra performing days, I only got to play one of Robert Russell Bennett’s compilation arrangements. I’m glad it was this one. The particular show it’s from has its problems, but the songs certainly aren’t one of them. Here is Robert Russell Bennett’s Selections from Camelot.


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Tone Poem Tuesday

I used this piece as part of my 2020 exploration of Beethoven over on Byzantium’s Shores, but it’s a cracking good piece and it even feels appropriate, given my shift to this space as my primary blogging home now. Beethoven wrote this piece on commission for the opening of a new theater in Vienna, a theater that is still operating and is in fact the current oldest operating theater in that city! I would hope that a theater that opened to the strains of a new concert overture by Ludwig van Beethoven would still be a going concern. He was Beethoven, after all!

So here is Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture.


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A test! (And a picture)

Nothing really to say here! I’m just trying out WordPress’s mobile app, for those moments when I am away from the computer but am also just DYING to post something.

Also, here’s a photo of my street, taken using the Night mode on my Galaxy S21. I liked the mood of it! LED streetlights make a lovely noir-esque pool of light, don’t they?

(Tone Poem Tuesday will appear as usual, but later.)

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“All right, Mr. Sulu. Let’s see what she’s got!”

Bridge of the ENTERPRISE-A

“Did they just paint the old bridge silver and white?” “SHHHH!”

Well, here we are! As noted the other day, I’ve been thinking about permanently moving my blogging operations to this site, and retiring Byzantium’s Shores after nearly twenty years of service. As you might surmise…I’m generally the type of person who, when I get around to stating openly that “I’m thinking about doing [something]”, is just about ninety-five percent of the way to actually proceeding with the [something] in mind. Now, this is something I’ve been kicking around for quite a while–it has, honestly, never made much sense for me to have what amounted to two “Official Sites”–but the idea has been growing, and a particular recent impetus was when Jim Wright, the brilliant mind behind, decided to do much the same thing:

I can’t work this way.

It’s just not possible. Literally. Even if I wanted to, Facebook won’t let me.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

I’m going to move political commentary back to my own website, here.

No. No. Stop screaming. This is a good thing for me and for you.

Why me? I’m hoping that becomes self evident by and by.

Why for you? Well, for starters, you keep telling me how much you miss long form. Okay. Here it is.

So, starting today, will host all of my new blogging content. Yes, I could have waited until February to make Byzantium’s Shores a cool twenty-year blog, but…well, that’s all pretty arbitrary, and as Hugh Laurie has said:

It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.

I am not deleting Byzantium’s Shores, because even though I’ve imported all of its content here, I know that there will be broken links and busted images a-plenty in all those archives, and there is no way that I have time to go through and fix all of that. Plus, Byzantium’s Shores has all that long-established search-engine mojo, which I am loathe to lose. What I’m going to do with the old digs is pin a post explaining what’s going on, and then I will post a weekly or bi-weekly “digest” of links to the new content here.

When importing the Byzantium Shores content, it did so under a different “author” name for each post, and while it did not create new categories the way the Blogger site did, it imported the categories as tags, so you can see a lot of those posts via the ‘tag cloud’ over there in the sidebar. Yes, that’s kind of a mess. A “kludge”, in computer geek and engineering terms.

Blogger and BlogSpot suited my needs for a long time, and I’m grateful to all the people who have been running things over there all this time, even back before they were a part of the Google-plex. I’m such an old hand with blogging that I remember when Blogger was pretty much the only game in town unless you knew HTML on your own. Other blogging platforms have come and gone–Movable Type was an early one to compete with Blogger (and I believe it’s still going strong), and there was LiveJournal and Tumblr in its heyday (it’s still kicking too) and I remember the brief run of AOL Journals.

Blogging was at its height in the last half of the Aughts, but that’s when social media began its inexorable rise, and the likes of Facebook and Twitter peeled off bloggers left and right with ease of use, content in short punches, and utility geared toward the concurrent rise in mobile devices. Let’s be honest, blogging is not something you really want to do much on a cell phone. But after a decade of social media dominance, the deficiencies of those services are getting more and more obvious, and now many are returning to long-form content creation, either through newsletter services, or essay hosts like Medium and Substack, or…by blogs.

I never came close to stopping blogging, even though my frequency dropped to an all-time low a couple years ago. I’ve been keeping those fires burning though, and I don’t expect to stop any time soon, even if I never get back to those levels of 2003 when I’d post five or six times a day. Oh, those were fun times! And vexing times. The best of times, the worst of times…well, somebody might have said something like that.

There will probably be some more tinkering “under the hood” over the next while as I regain my WordPress sea-legs. I’m told, for one thing, that this site as currently designed is not well optimized for mobile devices, and that may be an issue. (Or I may decide it’s not and y’all can just lump it. I’m quixotic, I am.) Also, types of content that I have previously striven to keep off ForgottenStars will start appearing here. In the past I’ve kept this site’s infrequent posts focused pretty much exclusively on updates about my writing, and thoughts about writing and storytelling in general, and that’s it. Now? Well, my occasional political thoughts will show up here. Geeky meanderings. My music-related posts…photo posts from my daily existence…it’ll all be here.

Including, dare I say it…pies. It’s all fair game, now!

So, here we go! I’m hoping to have fun with this. I hope you’ll join in!

And now, as John Oliver would say, this.

I receive a pie in the face.

In this ever-changing world, a pie in the face remains a wonderful thing!

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A possible technical change….

 So, as social media companies exercise more and more control over the content users post, and as those companies employ algorithms that are more and more quixotic in their moderation (I’ve seen people put into Facebook jail for using normal words that are homonyms of other words that may or may not be less normal, given the context), it’s more and more advisable that people with the intent of making at least some portion of their livings on content creation (like, writers!) own their own outpost online where there is no moderation save that which one applies themselves.

I already have such a space: my personal site,, which I launched with the idea of using it as my base of operations for my “writing life”, while I’ve kept this blog going for all of my content that is not specifically writing-related.

The problem is that I don’t use the space I pay for enough, and that I’ve got what seems to me too many outposts online. Also, I don’t own this space: Google does, via their ownership of BlogSpot. So what I’m very strongly considering is migrating Byzantium’s Shores to Forgotten Stars. I’m not entirely sure what would look like, as I’m a wee bit nervous about pulling the trigger, but I’m told it’s not super hard to do. The problem is going to be that there is almost twenty years of content here, and I’m not sure how well the migrating will work.

The more I consider this move, the more likely I think it’s going to happen. I’m not sure when exactly I’ll pull the trigger, but it will likely be sooner rather than later, because I tend to be a “rip the bandaid off” kind of person. Ultimately I’d like to set up an automatic redirect here, but I’m not sure if that will work. We’ll see. It’s not as if I expect to lose a ton of traffic if I move, since this blog doesn’t get a ton of traffic these days; not many blogs do, in all honesty. But blogging does seem to be making a comeback, whether it’s on individual sites that people own themselves or on Substack or Medium or Patreon. So…be ready for things to randomly look very different here, pretty soon!

I have to admit to feeling a bit odd about such a move! As noted, I’ve got almost twenty years invested here at Byzantium’s Shores, but the arguments for consolidating and migrating elsewhere honestly do seem to outweigh staying on BlogSpot and keeping multiple content management systems going.

More to come!

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Under the Hood

Greetings, programs!

You may notice a bunch of new content here all of a sudden. This is because I am very strongly leaning toward migrating the content of Byzantium’s Shores to this space, and closing down operations over there. I think it wise to own one’s own space online, and this space is that–and it also feels wise to do some consolidating of the spaces I have, even though I’ve been using the old BlogSpot digs for almost twenty years. There’s a lot of work in figuring this all out, but I’ll get it done. I think.

Anyway, things will likely start looking different ’round here, so bear with me!


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Something for Thursday

The fifth episode of the great Carl Sagan show Cosmos is titled “Blues for a Red Planet”. The episode focuses on Mars: a history of the chase for life on Mars, the clash between the fictional Mars (and the one fervently wished for by men like Percival Lowell) and the real one, the discoveries made on Mars in the 1970s (particularly by the Viking lander), and the prospects for future Martian exploration. How I wish Carl Sagan had lived to see the astonishing advancements in Martian exploration since his terribly untimely death!

Cosmos was a series that paid careful attention to every detail, including its music. Obviously an episode called “Blues for a Red Planet” should include some blues in it, right? But not just any blues: the episode called for an ethereal, other-worldly kind of instrumental blues, and that’s exactly what it got in a track by blues guitarist Roy Buchanan. The track is called “Fly…Night Bird”, and it begins with just the kind of ethereal soundscape followed by equally ethereal blues guitar playing that sounds perfectly suited to the cold days of Mars.

I was going to present that track by itself, but then I found myself curious about the rest of the album on which “Fly…Night Bird” appears. Titled You’re Not Alone, the album is a 1978 release that was apparently a commercial failure for Buchanan, who worked and recorded for years but who never really turned the corner into actual stardom. Instead Buchanan produced highly respected and influential work that is deserving of reassessment and exploration. Sadly, Buchanan appeared to have finally achieved some degree of artistic freedom in the mid 1980s, but he also struggled with personal issues that led to his death in 1988. I certainly knew nothing about Buchanan until I did a bit of research for this piece.

You’re Not Alone is an amazing album, packing in some astonishing music making in its roughly 41 minutes. Only one track, the second side’s opening “Down By the River”, has vocals; the rest is pure instrumental, and the mood shifts across the entire album from blues to psychedelic to pure rock and back again to blues. Listening to this album made me feel like I was in the control of a master who knew what he was doing.

Here is the complete album You’re Not Alone by Roy Buchanan (and others), in two sides. (Come to that, anybody besides me occasionally miss the concept of “Side One” and “Side Two”?)

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Vacation! (part the second)

 More photos from a two-day trip! Huzzah!

When last we checked in, The Wife and I had just finished up a visit to a Cayuga Lake winery. Next up was a stop that we make every single year, without fail: the great Taughannock Falls, which have the distinction of being the tallest waterfall in North America, east of the Mississippi River. Maybe next year we’ll try the longer walk on the Gorge Trail that goes up to the base of the Falls, but the higher overlook is always spectacular. This summer and fall have been pretty wet, so there was a good amount of water going over the brink. One year it had been so dry that the Falls were literally dry on the day we went.

I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I was not deeply thrilled by water, whether it be a placid lake, a running river, a surging sea, or a plunging fall.

As you drive up and out of Taughannock State Park, the road follows the stream before it starts its quick descent down its gorge before the fall. Up there it’s a beautifully picturesque Upstate New York stream, running quickly along its rocky slate bed. The temptation would be great to simply pull over and look for a swimming hole, if not for the signs all along the road pointing out the danger lurking a few bends downstream.
After Taughannock, into Ithaca we went. Unfortunately we had to miss this year’s Apple Harvest Festival, so we were just…in Ithaca. Which is fine! Ithaca is one of my favorite towns anywhere, and were I able to wave a wand and instantly move someplace, Ithaca would be the place. We went into bookstores and a few boutiques and gift shops and generally just soaked in the Ithaca vibe.

Ithaca is really a place that presses all my buttons. It’s big enough, with its population base and the two large colleges nearby, to have the cosmopolitan feel of a larger city while being very small. Its very geography keeps the degree of sprawl possible there to a minimum; the hills and the lake really keep Ithaca at a size where its only option is to expand upward, which it’s doing with a lot of high-rise construction of late. Still, the overall vibe is one of liberal weirdness. It’s the kind of place where I show up in a poofy Renfest shirt under a pair of vintage overalls, and I’m the one dressed kind of conservatively.
And the bookstores! Oh, my, so many bookstores. I only got into two this time (three if you include the comics store): Autumn Leaves, which is a wonderful used bookstore right in the middle of The Commons, and Odyssey, which is a beautiful new bookstore that just opened last year. Somehow Odyssey Bookstore has made a go of it despite having opened as COVID-19 hit. That says something. The only real downside to this year’s visit to Ithaca was that Waffle Frolic, our beloved joint for waffles and fried chicken, was closed! We arrived about 1:25pm, and Waffle Frolic had closed at 1:00. It never occurred to us to check their hours for abbreviated operation. Alas! But the day was lovely.
We passed a few hours in Ithaca and then had to strike out for home. We made one more stop, this time driving across the rise to the west of Cayuga Lake and into the valley of the next lake, the mighty Seneca Lake (largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes). Here we stopped at Rasta Ranch Vineyards, another favorite place of ours. This place is steeped in hippie vibes, with wines called things like “Uncle Homer’s Red” and “Terry’s Teaser”. Rasta Ranch is a joy, and here we pretty much wrapped up the “tourist” part of our day.

After this? Well, a sunset drive along the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, and then dinner at a fried chicken joint in Geneva (sadly they were out of bone-in chicken, so we had popcorn chicken), and then a stop at Trader Joe’s in Rochester for various items. And then…the trip home.
I’m always sad when we get home from a trip, any trip, to the Finger Lakes. The whole region always feels just slightly off-the-beaten-path, just slightly forgotten. It’s an entire region that still rolls along, probably with less money and fewer people than in days long gone by, but the bones are still there, and so is the wonder and the beauty. In fact, maybe some of that decay has even helped in some way: the old railroad tracks where the trains don’t run are a part of the landscape now. A long-abandoned army depot, which happens to house a herd of white deer because their population is protected by old fences. Occasional Amish folk in their buggies. The feeling of cresting a hill, leaving a lake behind you…but there’s still another one ahead.
Maybe it’s time for me to write that sequence of stories set in the Finger Lakes, after all….

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Tone Poem Tuesday

 Some nifty stuff in the pipeline–I’m not going to keep ignoring Richard Strauss, now that I’ve opened him up on this series–but for now, a favorite potboiler by Tchaikovsky, a man who certainly knew how to compose the kinds of potboilers that kept audiences pleased while he worked on his more serious work.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this work, musically. It’s pretty much a collection of tunes, but orchestrated by a genius. There’s a lot to be said for works in which great composers collect some tunes.

This piece also happens to have be a favorite of my father’s. He particularly loves the dance-like central tune. And as a former trumpet player, I’m eternally sad that my trumpet-playing career never gave me the opportunity to play the part that happens around the 8:00 mark in this recording! Trumpet players LIVE for those brief moments to shine.

Here is Capriccio Italien, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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Vacation! (part the first)

 The Wife and I made our annual trek to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes this weekend. Our trip was timed a bit oddly and was truncated by a day, because of Reasons; usually we stay two nights in a hotel near Rochester, leaving Friday and spending Saturday trekking through the FLX region and Ithaca before returning to the hotel and coming home (at a leisurely pace) on Sunday. We usually attend the annual Apple Harvest Festival in Ithaca, but this year the folks in Ithaca took a rather long time in announcing the dates for the festival (or if they were even having it at all). We took a gamble, booking our trip for this weekend, since the Apple Fest is usually either the last weekend in September or the first in October, waiting as long as we could to nail down our price. And wouldn’t you know it: right after we booked, Ithaca announced next weekend as the Apple Festival.

Oh well. Win some, lose some, and all of that. It’s not really that big a deal! I know that the COVID pandemic has made it difficult for towns to plan things like annual festivals, and we had a good time nevertheless. It was a stunning weekend for weather: it had been annoyingly hot and humid until the beginning of last week, when it turned dreary and rainy for the better part of three days. By Friday, though, when we set out on US 20A heading east? Blue skies and cool breezes, and it’s been that way ever since.

And even though we missed out on lunch at our favorite joint in Ithaca on Saturday (apparently they’re closing at 1:00 and we got there at 1:20, having not even thought to check their hours for staffing-related changes), did we ever eat well.

It started at the Broadway Deli in Lancaster. Behold this cheesesteak sandwich!

And for dinner that night? A visit to PF Chang’s. Yes, it’s a chain joint, but not all chains are bad. PF’s puts thought into what they do and it’s always a delight to eat there.

The next morning we headed out, bright and early, looking for breakfast. We found it in someplace new: Macri’s Deli in Canandaigua, which has a nifty selection of breakfast sandwiches and they also make them gluten-free. The place is right on the city’s municipal pier, right on the water, which made eating there an absolute joy.

(This phone does panoramas!)

Our next destination was the Goose Watch Winery on Cayuga Lake. We discovered this winery last year and liked it so much we had to return.

(Note The Wife, eyeing my wine because she hasn’t been served hers yet!)

I’ll stop here for now, but the day wasn’t even close to being over at this point. Stay tuned!

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