It’s been several weeks since I posted anything here. I don’t really have a good excuse – it was just a general lack of inspiration combined with laziness, with a brief period of seasonal illness thrown in for good measure. It’s remarkable how quickly one can fall out of the routine of regular blogging; it feels a lot like music composition in that way.
Anyway, I figured that I would ease back into this by posting links to some fun things that have been distracting me for the past month!
Being a server is a mixed bag. You’re part actress, part mother, part babysitter; always teetering on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown as you juggle the demands running across your radar at all times. I smiled politely when people ask for substitutions. Nodded accomodatingly when someone demanded their 8th side of eel sauce. Held my tongue when that group of Northwestern undergrads (the worst) left a $7 tip on a $150 bill. I can’t tell you how many times I had to mask my “oh shit” face when a table inquired on the status of a dish I had completely forgotten to enter into the computer, and the skill it takes to calmly reassure them that yes, their complicated and very fancy sashimi platter will be arriving within mere moments. What diners often don’t realize is the amount of scrambling that goes on behind the scenes when something like this happens. Messages are relayed and often lost in translation, chefs are pissed off, managers are annoyed, all the while the server is the one responsible for and bearing the brunt of a domino effect of inconvenience.
My only experience with food service is the summers I spent working as a catering waiter in Chicago. I would gaze longingly at the musicians as they strolled into the venues a few hours after I had already been there to set up — the musicians who got to play the party, and then leave as soon as it was over, while I was still clearing glassware and folding tables. We often look at wedding gigs as dull work, but I can remember nights when I would have traded an aching arm and leg to play in a wedding band, rather than pass another tray of hors d’oeuvres.
2. Bob Dylan hosted three seasons of a radio show called Theme Time Radio Hour on XM Satellite Radio, for a total of 100 episodes. Every single episode is available in its entirety for download HERE. It’s an amazing show — Dylan spins an incredibly eclectic collection of Americana music, everything from Sister Rosetta Tharp to LL Cool J. In between songs, he reads poetry, quotes lyrics, tells jokes, and occasionally breaks into song himself. A favorite (corny) joke, from the “Baseball” themed episode.
If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then how come so many girls get mad when you wanna go to the ballpark?
I’m only up to episode 10. That means there’s 90 more hours of music to go! I’m not sure what the copyright situation is here, so get ’em while they’re hot.
3. Michael Sandel is a professor of government at Harvard University, and he has been teaching a class called Justice for almost 30 years, often to auditoriums of 1000 students or more. Now you can watch the entire semester long course for free HERE. This isn’t your usual grainy, low-quality web video, however. In 2005 and 2006, WGBH Boston teamed up with Harvard to film the classes with three HD cameras, and they’ve been edited together into twelve captivating episodes, each containing two half-hour sessions.
Prof. Sandel is always eloquent and humorous, but sometimes the young students are frustratingly inarticulate as they struggle to poke holes in the moral reasoning of Kant or Rawls. Of course, they’re still miles ahead of the usual level of political debate in this country, which is simultaneously depressing and inspiring.
As a curious side-note, the creators of The Simpsons, several of them Harvard alums, reportedly used Prof. Sandel as the the physical model for Mr. Burns, who shares his balding, gray-ringed head and distinct accent, though not his moral sense.
So that’s what I’ve been doing: reading blogs, listening to music, and watching videos. My blogging batteries are recharged, and I’ve got several posts in the works, including one on Christmas music, one on approaches to improvisation, and a special Twenty Dollars investigative report. Stay Tuned!