Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Moon

It's forty years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Do people get thrilled any more? By anything? Yes, sports victories are great. I kvell to great music making. It may not be the same music you like but I get the thrill. 9/11 united us all in horror.

But when was the last time when the entire world, or at least all of the US was united, or at least felt untied in a shared 'high'. I can't think of much past July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It's good to see him,at 80, making the news and talk show rounds. I don't think he had done that before. Neil Armstrong seemed to have been reclusive, and good for him. Maybe he 's a humble man who felt he had a job to do, and did it. But hot dog her was not...in fact none of the Apollo11 astronauts followed up with spousal abuse or drunk driving charges, the kind of shit we worship hearing about on the news today. No disrespect, but non stop coverage of the death of Michael Jackson insults heroes like these astronauts. Just my opinion. If you want to honor Michael Jackson, buy and enjoy his music.

I was 13 years old on July 20, 1969. I was Camp Miramar in Duxbury, MA. We all stayed up late wot watch the moon landing on the one 18" black and white TV. Younger campers fell asleep. I didn't. I'm so glad to have this memory. I wish everyone could, and share in an hones to God thrill. I wish younger people -40 and under!- could summon this memory and remember how amazed we all were that man had landed on the moon.

A Pie in the Face

It's funny when the Three Stooges throw pies, and it was a laugh riot growing up watching Bozo the Clown take a pie in the face, but on the evening news? Could it happen today? It did in 1977. Most people today don't remember Anita Bryant, but I remember the buttons people wore: Anita Bryant Sucks Oranges (and worse). She was the beauty queen turned singer who made it her mission to repeal gay rights. I hadn't thought much about her. Why would I? She was a thirty five year has been at least. But recently I watched Milk, starring Sean Penn. Harvey Milk was assassinated along with the Mayor of San Francisco in 1978. Milk had been the first openly gay politician. This was while Bryant was touring the country saying gay people, because they didn't reproduce were busy recruiting your children to join them. In other words, abbracaddabra and a kid with no such inclination ever becomes homosexual because of gay pixie dust. Thus spake Anita, and people took it seriously. More frighteningly, people still do. Google Anita and you'll find a lot of vitriol and a fair amount of recent admiration. I had forgotten how vicious she was, and how ignorant. It was frightening that such nonsense got such play.

Anita was "pied" at an airport in 1978. By this time her credibility, both as a well compensated spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Association and, as a singer and as an activist was waning. She became ridiculous. It's one thing to be opinionated and passionate, it's another thing to be stupid. Even your friends lose patience.

I never like to see anyone vilified for their views, much less assaulted. But go ahead, ask me to feel sorry for her. Just ask me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Edward Downes has been in the news this week. The British born conductor (1925) long associated both with the BBC and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, traveled with his wife to a clinic in Switzerland where the couple, under medical supervision, took their own lives. Sir Edward was 84, nearly blind and deaf and immobilized by old age. Lady Downes was in the final,painful stages of cancer. The couple had been married fifty years and decided to go out peacefully, together. I applaud them.

But I've had some e mails of sympathy! I never met Sir Edward Downes. I wrote my doctoral thesis on the critical writings of Edward Downes (1911-2001) the long time host of the Texaco Opera Quiz. MY Edward Downes was a critic and musicologist. I was able to find through his scrapbooks years of musical criticism he wrote for the Boston Evening Transcript in the late 1930s. I've also been able to write about his life based on recorded interviews I had with him in New York in the mid 1990s. There are TWO Edward Downes in music. Both honored and influenced many by lives of devotion to music. God bless them both.

Edward Downes's writings and my comnents of him can be found if you search the early years of this blog. My paper on his life, with all the interviews and excerpts from his critical writings can be accessed as follows:

go to www.ohiolink.edu/etd

Type my name in the search function: Christopher Purdy
Edward Downes: A Life in Music and the Media will come up.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I'm right brained!

The Columbus Dispatch recently published a fine column by Dennison W. Griffith, President of Columbus College of Art and Design. He discusses the importance of encouraging right brain people and references a book called "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future." Now I admit,especially as I spend this week at home with house and yard chores to despairing at my incompetence at same. How many Christophers does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. Christopher can't screw in a light bulb. Christopher will break the borrowed lawn mower by putting oil in the gas tank; he washes blues and greens with whites and everything on hot water with lots of soap (do you want it clean or not?) He'll put liquid dish soap in the dish washer and enjoy the endless bubbles and froth and don't even get him near trying to fix a computer. Who knew laptops needed a power source? Doctorate or not, he can't find the ON button.

But by Christ, Christopher can sell the arts. He can't play or sing or dance but he can sell. He can talk about Bruckner and Monteverdi and Beethoven and Verdi and Bellini and he can get people to listen and laugh and enjoy and here's the greatest gift of all that Christopher gets to enjoy and not everybody does: He gets to see the lights go on. He gets it when people get it. When a tune or two notes or an idea flashes across a cranial tabula rasa and invades, takes root and grows into a great tree of passion and joy and love. Christopher gets to do that. Christopher-that's me is right brained. He can't do math or linear logic and would rather skip tasks that make sense, that are logical and necessary and important to know. He-that's me-doesn't follow recipes, and in the ten minutes of typing this has had to check twice that right brained is what he meant: intuitive, emotive, empathetic reasoning (otherwise called creativity) as opposed to left brained, favoring science, technology and math. Forget it. I burn the toast. But I can play you a little Schubert and get out of the way!

Find this article at www.dispatch.com. Arts education would provide right balance
by Dennison W. Griffith, July 5 09. I'm quoting him in this piece. And the book Mr. Griffith references is (again), "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future" by Daniel Pink.

I'd like to stay longer, but have to go turn up the Gesualdo madrigals in the other room while I get ready to milk the chickens. No kidding.

P.S. The spell check took much longer than the writing. And still there will be typos....

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Kassie Rose, WOSU's sublime book critic has a terrific blog called www.thelongestchapter.com, and on it she provides a list of 54 of the "Great Books". She did this for her own birthday, as a present to herself, offering the titles that have changed her life. I recently hosted an Open Line broadcast where Kassie was a guest,and she reiterated that "An Infinity of Little Hours" by Nancy Klein Maguire is a must read.

I read it. I'm so glad I did. My long standing attraction to monasticsm and the cloistered life turns out to be a lovely fantasy. After reading this I realize now I could never live the life. Maguire uses records, archival material and interviews to reconstruct the path of five novices in the Carthusian charterhouse at Parkminster, England. Soldiers for God are one thing-these are full scale warriors. The life of silence is lonely and demanding, and one either finds the fortitude to continue or one does not. It seems one is always cold, tired, hungry and dirty. Four of these men left. All went on to successful lives, as did the monk who stayed. The monks live alone in cells-really multiple room dwellings, however modest. They leave the cell three times a day for offices in the church. On Sundays the community eats together-vegetarian, no dairy during Lent. There is no conversation. You could live years in the cloister and barely recognize the men around you, much less know them. Quanitaevly figure 20 hours of alone time per day. Its a life or prayer and mediation, and it is the life of a warrior, of an athlete, of a strongman (and woman-there are Carthusian nuns). Several of the monks break down. And I'm glad I'm not the only one worried about passing gas in church. The very, very few people in this world suited to such a life are either very blessed or have a screw lose. I'm thinking blessed. If you type in Carthusian on youtube you'll get some compelling video, but I doubt Maguire's book would have been possible fifty years ago. There was simply no access. Even now the Carthusians have web sites (!) but among the "FAQs" about visitors the reply is always, Not Possible.

All of us can live a life of prayer and many of us should strive to pray more, and mean it. The Carthusians, who were brutally persecuted as Henry VIII was wooing Anne Boleyn, have a legacy of courage and strength on which to draw, and they find the way to persevere. I'm so glad I read "An Infinity of Little Hours" by Nancy Klein Maguire, and I hope you'll read it too. I didn't feel cheered or comfy or encouraged at the end. I felt unsettled and disoriented and a little sad. Which may be the point!

Again, Kassie Rose's blog is www.thelongestchapter.com