Too Busy Being Busy

I generally hate reading blogs that are filled with entries of the “Boy, I’m too busy to post . . . but here’s a long post about it anyway” variety, so I usually try to avoid writing them here. But, boy, I’m too busy to post . . . or at least too busy to post about anything but being busy. Next week will be pretty similar, but then I have a (reasonably) slow week at work, followed by a week of vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am looking forward to it.

We had a great concert here last night by the Mathematicians and the Wasted, two of my personal favorite regional bands, both in great form. After two and half years at the C+CC, I think I’ve reached a point of true and consistent critical mass for our concert series here, as the room was full and rocking last night, and both audience and performers left pleased with what went down, I think. That’s rewarding, given how dead the cultural programs were when I got here.

It’s good to see that and focus on it when I’m too busy to write about anything but being busy. My being busy often makes cool stuff happen, and that makes other people happy. That’s a good busy. It’s just too bad that I’m too busy to appreciate it, but not quite too busy enough to not be able to write about being too busy.

Okay . . . time to get back to being busy being busy, and not being busy writing about being busy.

Marching to Tshwane

Interesting (to me, anyway) item in the news this week: the Republic of South Africa is changing the name of the Pretoria metropolitan area to Tshwane, leaving Pretoria to refer only to the Voortrekker-era city center. Most significantly, the seat of government will now be in Tshwane, not Pretoria.

As I read this news, the jukebox in my brain began playing “Marching to Pretoria,”

I’m with you and you’re with me
And so we are all together,
So we are all together,
So we are all together.
Sing with me, I’ll sing with you,
And so we will sing together,
As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria.
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hurrah!

We have food, the food is good,
And so we will eat together,
So we will eat together,
So we will eat together,
When we eat ’twill be a treat,
And so let us sing together,
As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria.
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Hurrah!

And as the jukebox in my brain played that tune, it made me remember learning and singing that seemingly innocuous marching song regularly in elementary school . . . which for me was in the period after the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in America, but before the fall of Apartheid in South Africa.

That seems a bit weird to me now, looking back. I wonder how the many African-American kids in my class at the time felt about singing “Pretoria, Hurrah!” I wonder if our teachers even thought about it at all. I mean, sure, the song’s words are benign, absent context, but when you figure that the Voortrekker’s descendents, still singing that song, went on to institutionalize racial intolerance by government dictate, it takes on a more malefic, fascistic tone.

Do they still teach this song in elementary schools? Does anyone know?

The Week That Was

Zip, time does fly. It didn’t even register on me that I hadn’t updated here in awhile. I guess I was too busy basking in all of the ‘404 not found’ messages I was sending to the music review linkers.

Monday, it got close to 50 degrees here, a lovely near-spring day. Then the bottom fell out: we got about a foot of snow on Tuesday, the wind was gusting at up to 40 mph, and the temperature fell to about 8 degrees here, producing windchills in the negative teens. I am tired, tired, tired of winter.

RPI has its spring break next week, so my students are starting to scatter tonight. Good for them . . . although it means next week is going to be a long one, as I will be woefully understaffed for the events we’ve got going on. Here’s hoping for no more snow until they get back, since I sure don’t want to be dealing with that as well.

We get a double whammy at work here, too, in that the week after spring break is Holy Week, the most labor-intensive seven days that we have here in our annual calendar. Easter is about as early as it can ever be this year . . . so, again, here’s hoping for another week with no snow to add to the labors already scheduled.

I have also been distracted this week by the early phasess of my favorite time of the year, sporting wise: the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Last week and this week, the conferences have been playing the tournaments, and I’ve been avidly following the progress, watching bubble teams go “pop,” watching new underdogs emerge. I love the concept that, theoretically at least, almost everyone of the 330 or so Division I teams have a chance at the title. That’s what college sports is supposed to be all about, not some corporate run, exclusionary cabal like the Bowl Championship Series, designed to keep the power in a small, central group, so that no one ever gets the chance to be an upstart. That’s just wrong.


We left cold and dry Minneapolis at 10 AM this morning and landed in cold and windy and very snowy Albany three hours later. It’s no fun coming home from a trip and having to park the car in the street so that you can tromp up the driveway to the garage to fire up and run the snowblower before you can even make it into the house. Is it summer yet? Or even spring? Or even a warm patch in the middle of winter? A: no, no and no. Dang.

All told, I think the weekend went as well as it could have, given what we were traveling for. Marcia delivered the eulogy at her mom’s funeral. I thought it was wise and insightful and reproduce it here with her consent, with a couple of omissions related to personal remarks made to some of her siblings:

“Since Monday, a number of people have called or stopped by to express their condolences. Most have also lost a parent and they understand what it feels like. A few lost their mothers to illness or after an extended stay in a nursing home. I have been struck by the profound impact that this loss had on their emotional well-being. It got me thinking: how do mothers penetrate so deep that we become unstable when they are no longer available to us?

Your mother is your initial link to the physical world. You get your air and nutrients through her. As a child, the world is filtered through her eyes to the point where you cannot distinguish between her thoughts and feelings and your own. Even after you are grown, this inner child is with us and your mother’s opinion on a particular issue cannot be ignored. If she tells you that Dawn dish soap works best, you must buy Dawn. If she assures you that a prospective employer will want to hire you, you believe. What an awesome power. But with power comes responsibility.

At my age, my mother was pregnant with her eleventh child: me. I can only imagine the chaos that was the Brom household in 1961. Yet she bore her responsibility to the eleven of us with grace and dignity and a smile. Each of us absorbed her worldview, her likes and dislikes, her engagement in politics and sports, and her belief in education. We are the sum of her inclinations, both good and bad. Over time, we have added to those inclinations, repressed those we disagreed with and passed them on to our own children. Our sadness comes though from the realization that we can no longer return to the source to find out what she thinks about the new governor or new team member.

I want to thank each of you for coming today to help us celebrate our mother and her full and wonderful life. Thank you.”

Powerful words, delivered well, in a room full of people gathered to remember and honor Marcia’s mom. A very touching moment.

We spent a lot of time visiting with Marcia’s siblings and their children and grandchildren, which was also nice, particularly for Katelin, who is the youngest of the 24 grandchildren, and therefore the cousin closest in age to the 17 great-grandchildren. We all spent much of the time piled up watching hockey and eating great food and watching the Oscars and eating more great food at Marcia’s oldest sister’s house in downtown Minneapolis. You can’t really appreciate the full and amazing value of family togetherness until you see one this large and multi-generational doing its thing together. I think if you put all of my known and surviving extended family together in one room, there would still be fewer of us than there are in Marcia’s immediate family. Pretty amazing.

On Lighter Stuff

The only sour note of the weekend for me was the Oscars . . . I like Clint Eastwood, but I like Martin Scorsese better, and I hate it when he keeps losing the “Best Director” title to actors-turned-directors. I’m sure at some point he will be given a lifetime-honorary Oscar, but I hope the Academy actually manages to give him a “real” Oscar sometime before then. He’s arguably the greatest director of my lifetime (the only person I would put before him, personally, might be Stanley Kubrick, depending on my mood at the time), and he’s been jobbed and robbed too many times.

That having been said, I am on some plane relieved that he didn’t win either best picture or best director . . . because the image of this great man receiving his award from Julia Roberts or the awful tag-team of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand might have been too much for me to bear. Better that Eastwood be on the receiving end of the kisses from these Hollywood hacks, I guess. And was Dustin Hoffman drunk when he was giving the Best Picture award, or was he just reprising his “Rain Man” role for the Academy? He used to be one of my favorite actors, way back when, but in the past year or so, he keeps popping up in these little toss-off, nothing, walk-through roles in films like “Finding Neverland” and “Lemony Snicket” and the like. Not to mention “Meet the Fockers,” which I just can’t bring myself to see, since Streisand makes the flesh want to jump off my body, crawl under a rock, and eat itself there.

And while I’m on the subject: why in the world was Beyonce Knowles tapped to sing three (!) of the songs nominated for Oscars this year? Why not have the real singers? Or why not at least give five singers the opportunity for such large scale exposure? Does Beyonce need the work? I don’t think so. And don’t even get me started on Antonio Banderas butchering the song that eventually won the Oscar. The reaction shot of Jorge Drexler, the original singer-songwriter of “Al Otro Lado Del Rio,” was priceless . . . he did not appear to be a happy camper. And when he won, and sang a verse in lieu of giving a speech, I think he made it damned clear how he felt about his song being treated like some token barrio jingle requiring a famous Spanish actor and guitar player (Carlos Santana) to make it connect with the American people. Bad call, Oscar planners.

As far as hosting goes, I certainly enjoyed Chris Rock a lot more than I enjoy Billy Crystal’s tired borscht-belt schtick or Whoopi Goldberg’s b-level hack work. The pundits didn’t like him, though, so I doubt he will get a return engagement, which means we’re probably going to get Billy or Whoopi again. Although I guess I can hold out hope that they might pick Steve Martin instead, the only host I’ve liked since Carson quit handling Oscar night.

Okay. Enough too-late-to-matter Oscar analysis. I think I’m gonna rent some Scorsese movies this week, just to wallow in wonderment at how this man keeps getting shut out. Ain’t no justice in Tinseltown, I guess.