Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bringing Up Baby

It was the eminent philosopher W.H. Phillips who observed that becoming a parent is "Like conducting Beethoven's Fifth in front of a full house at Royal Albert Hall while reading the score for the first time."

As one parent who was raised by his children, this writer concurs, so we can offer little advice to new parents Will and Kate. Is "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" still in use?  Millions if not zillions of babies, now with children and grandchildren of their own, were reared by the precepts of Dr. Benjamin Spock, but today, everyone under sixty thinks Spock is a Vulcan with pointy ears. (And there were some parents who disagreed with Dr. Spock--"What, we shouldn't flog our kids?")

There is undoubtedly a market for a new guide--"Parenting for Dummies"--but it has yet to appear. So Will and Kate, you're on your own...bringing up baby.

P.S.: "Bringing Up Baby" is a classic 1940s comedy with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. The baby in this case is a leopard. Much easier to deal with.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Name This Child

His Royal Infant Highness now has a name--three names, in fact: George Alexander Louis. Those of you who were betting on Zeppo or Brad, tough luck. Barbara Hershey named an infant son Free Seagull, and one of Frank Zappa's offspring is Dweezil, but while Ms. Hershey and the Mothers of Invention are great favorites around the palace, neither "Free Seagull" or "Dweezil" was given serious consideration.

Some have speculated that should the tiny royal someday be crowned king, he could become George the Eighth (Prince Charles already has dibs on George the Seventh). Or, he could be the 21st century Alexander the Great. Or possibly go for Louis, in homage to Lord Louis Mountbatten (or Louis Armstrong, or even Louis Prima, in which case the national anthem could become "Louie Louie.")

But then, as Shakespeare wrote ("Romeo and Juliet," Act 2, Scene 2) "What's in a name?'

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

His Royal Infant Highness

The third in line to the British throne made his first appearance today, and slept through it with regal calm. He was greeted by the salute of sixty-two soothers.

Prince William has not been seen handing out cigars, but we're sure that will follow. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge has said, "We won't be needing a nanny. We have Harry."

The features of His Royal Infant Highness have yet to be clearly viewed, but Winston Churchill once correctly remarked, "All babies look like me."

Among the gifts being showered upon the royal arrival: a musical rattle that plays "Rule Britannia," an Aston-Martin stroller, and a year's supply of diapers with, on the bottoms, a photo of the head of the Anti-Monarchy League.

Prince William has said, "We're still working on a name," which means the bookies will be kept busy a while longer. "Rocco," "Vinnie" and "Elvis" are considered long shots.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dick & Steve--or: Nixon Redux

Many have felt for some time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been channeling Richard Nixon. The revelation that the Harper government has compiled an "enemies list" has added to the belief that Harper is this country's Nixon. The Prime Minister's Office, however, was quick to point out that the similarity stops there. "Prime Minister Harper," said a spokesperson, "does not have five o'clock shadow."

And further to this, was it Richard Nixon who said "Hey, even paranoiacs have real enemies"?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

76 Years Later...

"They say George Gershwin is dead, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to."

John O'Hara wrote that. Wrote that about the composer called by some the greatest writer of songs since Schubert. There is a story, probably apocryphal, about the young Duke Ellington sitting at a piano in a New York club playing "Prelude to a Kiss." When he came to the bridge, a man passing by said, "I wish I'd written that." Ellington said, "Who the hell was that?" And he was told "That was Geoge Gershwin."

Gershwin wrote so many songs, so many Broadway shows, so many film scores, so many piano and chamber pieces, so many orchestral works, plus two operas, that his output is beyond counting.

He was in Hollywood, working on the Astaire-Rogers film "Shall We Dance," when he said to his brother, "Ira, I have the most terrible headache." His last two songs were "Love Walked In" and "Our Love is Here to Stay." He died July 11, 1937. He was thirty-eight years old.

George Gershwin said, "Life is a lot like jazz--it's best when you improvise."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Umbrellas Under the Stars

Okay, we don't mean to jinx the season, but we all know it sometimes rains in Vancouver. Theatre Under the Stars has begun its 2013 season, with, as usual, two shows running back to back: this year, "Legally Blonde" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

The first TUTS performances were staged in Stanley Park in 1940, and they were "As You Like It," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "The Geisha." The what? "The Geisha"--a musical comedy that was the hit of 1896.

Among the performers we remember on stage at Malkin Bowl are Fran Gregory, then Mrs. Jack Wasserman, who sang "Take Back Your Mink" in "Guys and Dolls," and Brad Keene, the hip sportscaster, who played Big Julie in the same show.

An early lead at TUTS, before he broke through in "Camelot," was Robert Goulet. His career followed the classic show biz path, from "Who's Robert Goulet?" to "Get me a Robert Goulet type" to "Who was Robert Goulet?"

Have fun at Theatre Under the Stars. Take a cushion. And a Thermos.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Every Good Blog Deserves Friends

There have been many mnenomic devices invented to help young pianists remember the notes on lines of the treble clef--E G B D F--among the best are "Elephants Go Bouncing Down Freeways," "Elvis's Guitar Broke Down Friday," "Ernie Gave Bert Dead Flies," and "Even George Bush Drives Fast."

Tom Stoppard ("Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," "Shakespeare in Love," et al.) and Andre Previn created a musical play called "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor." It was given its premiere performance in 1977 as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations. The cast and company included Ian McKellen, John Wood, Patrick Stewart, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Recently, pianist Jeremy Denk wrote a New Yorker piece called "Every Good Boy Does Fine," subtitled "A Life in Piano Lessons." Now Random House has invited him to expand the article into a book. It is expected to be published in 2015 or 2016; meanwhile, the pianist-author will continue his blog: Think Denk.

The best-known line using the EGBDF formula is "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge." It reminds us of our piano teacher--Miss Ethel Holtham--who always made several kinds of fudge for her students as a treat at the end of recital evenings.

We all got some, whether we deserved fudge or not.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Glorious Fourth of July

Oh, say can you see...yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July, a holiday celebrated throughout the United States, although with less enthusiasm in the Lone Star State, where Texans are still not sure how they feel about Union.

Three notable musicians were born (or said they were born) on this date. One who really was born on July 4 was Stephen Foster, composer of almost 200 songs in a very short life, among them "O! Susanna":

"It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry;
Sun so hot, I froze to death--Susanna, don't you cry."

And "Camptown Races":

"Bet my money on a bobtail nag,
Somebody bet on de bay."

Louis Armstrong didn't exactly know what day he was born, but thought July 4 was as good as any, and took that. Louis, rightly called Pops, may not have been the father of jazz, but he was certainly one of the music's major antecedents. Wynton Marsalis said no trumpeter played anything Louis hadn't played first, which may have been an exaggeration, but showed the proper homage.

The composer most often thought of today is George M. Cohan, who was born July 3, thought that was close enough for jazz, and wrote this rousing number:

"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Yankee Doodle do or die.
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.
I've a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
She's my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle went to London
Riding on a pony--
I am that Yankee Doodle boy!"

Start the fireworks! (With a special wave of the flag for all residents of and from Bad Axe, Michigan.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's That on Your Plate?

In a mall the other day, we spotted a license plate holder that read "Exotic, Erotic and a Little Psychotic." Sounded like several people we have known.

There was a time when bumper stickers were a fad. The most famous was "Mary Poppins is a Junkie." we were commissioned by a radio station--LG-73, then under Don Hamilton's management--to write a series of fifty bumper stickers. The stickers would carry the station logo and a line--the most popular of which was "Simon Fraser was a Dropout."

There are still drivers who order vanity plates--Terry Garner guessed they were all ordered after three-martini lunches. But probably not in the case of an elderly lady we know, a veteran of the Bletchley Park Enigma code-breaking group, who christened her vintage auto "Agatha."

Finally, some of us remember when an LG deejay--was it Jolly John Tanner?--was chastised for reading obscene license plates on the air. Today, of course, he'd be promoted in prime time.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Don Juan of Saskatchewan

In a late-day salute to Canada Day, and in homage to Marty Robbins's classic "El Paso," we offer this ballad of the windswept Prairies. Note: it is essential to employ the standard Saskatchewan pronunciation of place names.

I was sittin' mighty pretty
In Star City
When a gal from Esterhazy
Drove me right crazy.
I'd seen no one cutah
In Sintaluta,
No one as chic
In Maple Creek.
She was the sweetest I'd set eyes on
Since I left Horizon.

Her name was Lorraine,
Rode the train from Belle Plaine.
I won her away from a brute
From Pilot Butte,
And we made a date
To meet in Bien Fait.

But along crawled a snake
From Old Wives Lake,
Wooed her under the moon
In Saskatoon.
I was a little gun shy
From a fight in Punnichy
But no one's quicker on the trigger
Than the Kid from Biggar,
And I was ready to meet
At high noon on some dusty street.
Sigh--he was faster on the draw
In Ogema.
So long, pardners, I'm long gone--
Don Juan of Saskatchewan.