I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

March 31, 2012 - 12:26 p.m.

I Could Drink A Case of Chicks

I've wasted enough time that now I'm falling back to sleep so I guess I should start writing.

I posted about this on Facebook yesterday but it's important enough to me that I want to discuss it here too. The first test I gave my precalculus test was a disaster, the average grade was a 44. There were certain skills that it is assumed they'd know coming into the class that most students didn't. I made a list of questions to show the students what they were and told them that I'd give them quizzes on them and then treat it as if those were questions on the test. These were at a lower level than the actual test. The first topic, order of operations, is something they are by New York State standards supposed to be competent in by the sixth grade. I'm teaching a college precalculus class for students with technical majors. I gave the quiz. I didn't compute the average grade but it was close to 40%. On the first question which I did count only 5 out of 24, 21%, got it right. It was the same as a practice question I gave them with different numbers. I do problems like it every day in class as I work out actually precalculus problems. I stopped and explained the logic to them. They knew they'd be tested. I find it hard to believe that anyone studied. Other classes master this I have no idea what to do. Should I just give up and teach to the five students that got it right and quit wasting time trying to motivate the rest?

After grading the quiz the fun began. I headed across the Hudson to see The Chicks With Dip perform all the songs from Joni Mitchell's Blue album at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. I love the Outost but I hate getting there; it is a difficult commute from New York on a Friday night. It is easier without a car. I took the NJ Transit train. The problem is always getting home. The last train home to New York leaves too early. I'd have to miss the end of the concert to catch it. I talked about it with some of the chicks and realized that one of them would be able to give me a ride back to Manhattan and from there I could take the subway so I shouldn't worry about it. So that's what I did. I did more than that. I took advantage of being in Jersey to go food shopping. Let's see if you've been paying attention. Name the one thing I was sure to buy. Yes! You're right, Taylor ham aka Taylor Pork Roll. I bought two big ones that I put in the freezer when I got home and I already have one in my fridge. I'm set for months now.

I know the area fairly well and remembered that there is a Popeye's right by the Pathmark and that's where I had dinner! How many of you are grossed out that I get excited about Taylor ham and Popeye's fried chicken?

I did have to walk a mile from the train station so I got exercise too. My Gentle Readers know I enjoy a good walk. See I like things that are healthy too.

When I got to the outpost first thing I did was find the merch table where I'd be volunteering then the chicks. Along the way I played social pinball as I know so many of the Outpost Volunteers. My path didn't look that different from Brownian Motion but I finally made it. Then it got even more complicated as I know every chick, there were a 11 of them, and every significant other of a chick, and every backing musician and I can't resist getting hugs and kisses. But I managed to drop off my stuff, about 600 pounds of groceries plus my usual bag, hang up my coat, get directions about the merch, and head back to the table.

I had the fun merch job. Outpost volunteers took care of the money. What I did was answer questions. There were a lot of them so I actually felt useful. I also made sure that the CDS were displayed so that the most recent work by each artist was displayed most prominently. I am not someone that automatically thinks that the newest album is the one to recommend to people but in the Chicks cases it is. They are all going through growth spurts. That isn't a coincidence. An artistic community fosters art. Of course the exciting thing on sale was their brand spanking new album, Joni Mitchell's Blue: A 40th Anniversary Celebration. Someone pointed out that buying the CD gave you something to remember the concert with. It's like a cast album. Here's the cast from the album.

  1. All I Want -- Honor Finnegan vocal, Cheryl Prashker* shaker, Carl Money guitar
  2. My Old Man -- Allison Tartalia vocal and piano
  3. Little Green -- Elisa Peimer vocal and piano, Jon Sobel bass
  4. Carey -- Sharon Goldman vocal and guitar, Cheryl Prashker drums and tambourine, Jon Sobel Bass, and Jay Mafale shaker
  5. Blue -- Carolann Solebello vocal, Allison Tartalia piano
  6. California -- Victoria Lavington vocal, Carolann Solebello guitar
  7. This Flight Tonight -- Anna Dagmar vocal and piano, Allison Scola vocal, tamburello, and ukulele
  8. River -- Meg Braun vocal, Anna Dagmar piano, Tom Prasado Rao# strings
  9. A Case of You -- Karyn Oliver vocal and guitar, Cheryl Prashker drums, John Sobel bass, Paul Silverman piano
  10. The Last Time I Saw Richard -- Catherine Miles vocal, Paul Silverman piano
*Cheryl couldn't make it last night so Eric Puente played drums
# Tom PR lives I Texas so River was performed sans strings.
I sat in the front row but I left my camera at home as I knew I'd be running around and carrying lots of things. You'll have to satisfy yourself with my words not my photographs today.

I love the entire idea of Chips with Dip. I grew up watching The Little Rascals and thought that was how people were supposed to live. We're supposed to have these kindred spirits clubs. The Chicks are like the He-Man Women Hater's Club, except of course that they aren't he-men (or she-ras) and don't hate anyone. Part of the fun of watching them is watching them enjoy each other. Artists are each other's allies not competitors and they know that at a visceral level.

This is my second time seeing this show and I loved it as much as the first. The first set is the album performed from beginning to end with no breaks and no patter. In the second act each of the performers do their original material. It just works. They'll be doing it again in the fall at the Garden Stage on Long Island. Do yourself a favor and be there.

Joni is of course one of the very greatest songwriters and everyone knows it. I didn't think I'd have any insights to share but I do. It hit me when Karyn was doing A Case of You. On a album of great songs it stands above the rest. It is simply one of the greatest songs ever written. It often puts me in mind of my favorite Beatles song In My Life. That connection is thematic, not musical. A Case of You achieves its goals in differently. It is far more Byzantine. What I realized last night is that it reminds me of John Prine. It has that same sense of images and ideas coming out of nowhere. The magic of Joni is that while John Prine's music will always strike the listener as weird, Joni's doesn't. You adjust your world view to hers. John Prine is way up there on my list of songwriters and Joni is a level above him. It reminds me of what Bill James wrote in his article on Lefty Grove where he compared him with the otherwise incomparable Carl Hubble. Grove was that much greater than great.

After the show there was more CD sales and schmoozing. The one person that I hung out with that I didn't expect was Jeremy. He's an engineer at WFUV that I've known since he was a student there. He lives in White Plains. He did the sound. I have to remember him next time needs a sound guy. I met his parents again. He introduced me to them at the Clearwater fundraiser at Symphony Space. I saw them in the audience last night and couldn't figure out where I knew them from till he introduced them again. There's a good lesson there, introduce me to people multiple times.

This was as much a comfort concert as there can be. I was surrounded by friends. I've have had a fun time if there were no music It all came to a head after the show when Mike, one of the volunteer that I know from WFUV and a great baker gave us Death by Chocolate. My reaction was, "A perfect night; Great music, great friends, beautiful women, and chocolate. It would take someone terminally ungrateful to want more." Of course then somebody, I think Catherine, maybe Honor, said, "what about bacon?" I had bacon for breakfast so I was covered.

As people were milling around warming themselves on the glow of the evening I started looking for my ride back. I knew that Honor lived near the F train and asked how she was getting back. Allison Scola was taking her but couldn't fit me in the car. I didn't have to ask anyone else though as Jon overheard and he and Elisa drove me back to the City. I even made myself useful since I could direct them. I haven't driven there in a year or so but I can still find my way around Montclair as long as I don't try and be fancy. I was shocked that I remembered the name of the streets.

Wow it's late, after noon. I better move on to breakfast now. There's more music tonight that you'll get to hear about tomorrow.

Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
Late to Bed and Late to Rise - September 30, 2017
On Your Feet or On Your Knees - September 29, 2017
Why Life Doesn't End on Closing Day - September 28, 2017
Anna and King of I Am - September 27, 2017

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Horvendile March 31, 2012
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