Monday, October 3, 2011

Ellington Tunes

Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington)

My mobility has actually worsened since my surgery in early February. Since that time, I have seen a neurosurgeon twice for a second opinion, a new neurologist twice, my orthopedic surgeon thrice, and a psychotherapist once (with, I suspect, many more times to come). I graduated from my walker to a cane during the trip to Spain in May, but recently have reverted to the walker more and more for both balance and support. Balance is especially bad, so cooking is a bitch (try slicing and dicing with one hand on the knife, the other on the counter), as is shaving and showering. And an MRI has proven that it's not my brain that's the problem, it's the weakening muscles and utterly deadened feet that cannot tell my brain where I am. In other words, neither surgery nor time has lessened the symptoms of the neuropathy; they have in fact grown worse, and there is no prognosis of where it will end, but I'm beginning to suspect it ends with a wheelchair. Oh, and I sold the pop-up camper because I simply cannot do the work anymore. (Just got back from the neurosurgeon, who said that cervical spine surgery will not correct the problem at all, and also said definitively that I will never walk normally again, no matter what I do. That's the first time that any of the professionals have confirmed what my body has known for a long time). Nevertheless, I will keep moving as much as possible, keep stretching, and keep up with leg raises and leg presses at the Y. (My upper bod looks great, btw!) And no one knows with any certainty what has caused this nor what I can do about it that I am not already doing. Nor do they know with certainty if things will improve at all, or what the prognosis is.

Things Ain't What They Used to Be (Mercer Ellington--Duke's son)

Speaking of upper bod, as long as I have a conductor's chair and the piano right in front of me, I am still a killer conductor from the waist up: Arms, ears, brain, wits, eyes all work fine, in some ways better than ever. Rehearsals with Erin's groups on MigraineDays have proven that. It's just that I seriously doubt that anyone wants a guest conductor who is held upright by his butt instead of his legs. I sure hope so, because I do love the guest thing; it's like being the grandparent--you get to have a lot of fun with the kid and then hand the little sucker back as you leave. And with a check in your hand to boot!

So anyway then, stairs are a big obstacle that can only be overcome slowly, curbs are tricky, travel of any kind is increasingly arduous (I always get a wheelchair in airports, and have since travel to Taiwan last December. Five dollar tips just fly out of my pockets!)


There you have it. My family has known this for a few weeks and now you do, too. You can help me by referring folks here, should they inquire as to my well being. I'd appreciate that very much. It's much simpler than numerous emails, and I'm damned if I'm gonna post this on Facebook. And I may alter and amend it from time to time, so stay tuned, will ya?

One final Duke Ellington tune:

I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Hot Rant

Before I came to Huntsville I didn't have a lot of time for the news via the web. Since moving here I've had plenty of time. I look at THE Times, THE Post, MSNBC, CNN, sometimes even Fox, and the HuffPost just about daily. I know what I'm talking about here.

You know how it used to be: you'd get a half-dozen letters to the editor on the OpEd page of any newspaper in the country, and those would usually be evenly divided on an issue or just single shots at an issue. And some poor wretch had to sit in his smoke-clogged cubicle and edit them for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the like.

It don't work that way electronically. You get sometimes thousands, usually hundreds, often scores of commenters on any article whatever. And they are not edited, nuh-uh, nossiree, Bob.

Used to be, in the days of newspapers and electric media, that I was disappointed in my people, based solely on reading--or listening to--the news. I'm no longer disappointed. I have fallen into utter contempt for the vast majority of my people. Their unedited posts reveal not only bad grammar, no punctuation/capitalization and bad spelling, but that they are brainwashed or ignorant (it's hard to be both), stupid and venal. And the dumber they are, the meaner they are. Most of these people are poor white Republicans who have swallowed the RightWing bromide that they might become rich any day now; all they need to do is work harder, God love 'em. These are the folks who are 'taking their country back' from that 'condescending,' 'arrogant,' 'narcissistic' 'man-child' in the White House. They don't care about spending or debts or 'houses in fiscal order' or taxes or anything; they just want that You-Know-What and his big-ass wife and that party run by Jezebel gone. And soon.

I've found that most of the letters to the Times are very well-written and well thought out, whether I agree with them or not. As are those written into the HuffPost, usually. But all other letters to all other outlets are truly something to behold, courtesy rules notwithstanding. And I gotta tell ya: in general, and by quite a margin, those on the Left spell, punctuate, and obviously think better than the represented Conservatives, who most often resort to name-calling ('Odumbo') and in many other ways just play with their own feces. Liberals are smarter than Conservatives, is what I'm saying; and conservatives don't have an original idea in their heads; they're quoting the same talking points that they hear from the air-heads on Fox or in DittoHeadLand. They're unquestioning--and obedient--as all get out, which of course is what the Lords of the coming, Renewed Middle Ages want: nice little serfs who know their place in the scheme of things.

Dredge up H.L. Mencken, P.T. Barnum, Bill Maher, George Carlin and Elmer Gantry on the state of the American soul and brain if you want. You could probably add a few of your own by now, too.

Among other things, the DebtCeiling Debacle revealed, though, that it isn't really the economy that's in trouble, it's the state of the collective American frontal cortex. By and large, this country is f****** stupid.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coming soon to a weblog near you . . .

. . . a post by me about the pernicious effects (on me) of comments by readers to news releases on the internet. It ain't pretty, folks.

(BTW, knee arthroscopic surgery to right meniscus (48 hours ago) went pretty well, but mobility severely hampered: I'm really slow, even with the walker. Today, though, I can put a bit of weight on the knee as I scrape around the house. Minor pain yesterday, none yet today, 48 hours later).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Politics Again . . .

. . . and it's about time, say you, being tired of all that failing health crap you've been reading on these pages. Actually, its about politics and money.


So, see, my mind was wandering around the other day and I noted that most if not all of the rabidly conservative billionaires started with inherited money, the Kochs (pronounce any way you like) and Richard Scaife among them. In other words, they didn't earn their original wealth at all, but garnered it simply by being separated from the placenta and drawing a breath. The rest was easy. That's how the Bushies got their money, too.

The three most famous wildly liberal billionaires, on the other hand worked for their money, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros among them.

Interesting, yes? Wish I could do some kind of survey and find out how many rich conservatives simply inherited (rich liberals, I've noticed feel a certain degree of noblesse oblige that most conservatives don't).

Anyway, I'll bet most of them. I've often said that the only way to riches is either through inheritance or theft. Simple thrift, competence, hard work, and morality will not get you there, yet skeendie seven million middle class and poor, brainwashed Republicans think that they, too, can become rich so they refuse to raise taxes on the rich, despite Warren Buffet's insistence on doing so ('Why should I be taxed at a lower rate than my secretary?')

One of the nice things about retirement is I don't have to withhold political opinions as I did while a professor. But even then, on a tour where to pass bus-time I allowed ten questions from the chorus, I was asked what my political party was and why. My response? Here:

'I'm a Democrat because I have observed that it is the party that truly cares about those of us who have to work for a living.'

That was in the early '80s, I think, during the reign of St. Ronnie (though his canonization by the Right Wing--for all the wrong reasons--came much later).

I was right then and I'm right now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

'Pastime with Good Company'

Tom, Buddy, Lisa, Ethan, TJ, Jodi, Karen, Lauren, Dan, Chris, Rob, James, Shinnshill, Ariel, Chung-Uk: Saw more than a dozen former USC graduate students at ACDA in Chicago, some of which I may have forgotten to list here but can add from time to time. And of course too many former professional colleagues to list here. It was also fun seeing Bruce, Starr and Steve from the UOP days, not to mention Bill Bausano from NMU days. Not to mention former CCC singers Rich and Ginger Colla, as well as Hugh Davies and Don Brinegar.

It was also very gratifying to have strangers come up and introduce themselves as fans of my book and even of my recent Letter to the Editor of the Choral Journal, wherein my Blast from Bama got right up into the grill of my collegiate colleagues for the paucity of music before 1900 on their convention programs. In fact, the best program of the convention in that regard was that of Fountain Valley High School, conducted by Kevin Tison--my college friends (and enemies, of which there are many because of my big mouth) ought to take a close look at that one and draw a lesson or two from it.

I also enjoyed judging the student conducting competition finals along with Joe Flummerfelt, Sandra Willetts, Simon Carrington and William Hall.

It was all a wonderful reminder of why I did what I did for almost forty years and why I would do it all over again, given the chance.

But that chance won't come, now, will it? All the more reason to enjoy the present state of things.


Speaking of which, I got around fine with my walker but got tired really fast, especially after climbing stairs one at at time using more arm than leg power in the Chop House and Miller's Pub. Whew. I THINK I've improved a bit since my surgery of 8 February but it's hard to tell because things move so slowly. I do believe I move unassisted for longer distances now with only the occasional touch of something to maintain balance.

I resume upper body weights and begin gentle post-op physical therapy tomorrow.

(Just keep moving, Dehning).