Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Goat (ii)

(He's a wether, for sale, if you want him)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy goat

Monday Musical Object

Today's Monday Musical Object is...

...the “Original Jacket Collection:  Vladimir Horowitz”.  It’s an impressive chunk of recorded sound, the ten LPs Horowitz recorded for Columbia in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, including the double album of his return to Carnegie Hall, all on CDs packaged in slips printed with the original LP labels.  I got it, on sale, for $25. 

This is a crazy object on many levels.  First, the music.  Wow.  Horowitz.  The colors he could call out of a piano, the drama, the beauty, the charm, just…wow.  Faults may occasionally be found, or violations of modern taste, but they’re rare and subjective.  There’s not much can be said but…wow.

Once the jaw gets picked up off the floor, attention can be paid to the packaging.  It’s quaint.  It does make me nostalgic for the LP format: sleeve pictures could be large enough to be art, and liner notes could be informative.  The art has been shrunk, and the liner notes are still informative but make me reach for my glasses. 

Another thought-provoking feature of this object is the price.  Twenty-five bucks for some of the most amazing performances on record.  This is something that, while great for a consumer, is problematic.  Let’s say I am (as I once was) a young student without much money but seeking to broaden my knowledge of music with a nice recording of some Scarlatti.  I could risk paying full price for a newly issued CD, featuring a pianist who is developing an interesting career—say, the recent recording by Alexandre Tharaud. I could go further out on a limb and buy, at full price, a recording by somebody I’ve never heard of, but who has been picked up by a known label.  Or, I could go and buy Horowitz, for cheap.  Duh.  The only thing the recent recordings have to offer, to the naive, is superior sound quality, which doesn’t count for much in the MP3 age.  A performer today is in competition not just with her cohort, but with a century's ancestors.

So, there’s a final thought this cube of culture knocked out of my head.  On listening to it, it becomes apparent that Horowitz was very much a “live” performer.  There are artists who are at their best in the studio (Glenn Gould is one of many examples).  Then, there are those that you just have to be there for.  These recordings of Horowitz, many from concerts, are great, but it’s clear that the concert experience would have been transcendent. I don't think the attendees would have traded their ticket stubs for a shiny disc.

For about as long as there have been humans, there has been music—and when a human stopped actively making music, the music stopped.  For a tiny smidge of human history, we’ve been able to bottle up this temporal art, and in 2013 I can listen to a concert from 1965 played by a guy who died in 1989.  I’m not a hundred percent sure that this miracle is a good thing.  I have the Carnegie Hall concert playing in the background, and sadly, I’m not really paying attention to it.  I dip in and out—there was a five-minute pause between the last two paragraphs, while Horowitz played the snot out of the Bach-Busoni fugue in c minor—but right now I’m sort of humming idly along with the Schumann Fantasy.  I type, and the combined genius of Schumann and the talent of Horowitz provide nothing more than high-class background noise.  Doesn’t this cheapen the experience of music—especially at $25 for 10 CD’s?

I haven’t resolved this for myself, and in most cases, I don't need to.  There are recordings that I treasure—Horowitz playing the Rachmaninoff 3rd with Reiner, a lot of Glenn Gould’s work, and so on—that I will happily play as background while I muck out a goat pen, but that I also return to again and again, and listen to as hard as I can.  But there’s a separate class of recordings: recordings that I’ve played once, and they knocked my socks off and curled my hair.  Richter and Leinsdorf playing the Brahms Second Piano Concerto, Arrau playing the Liszt 1st Concerto, Godowsky playing the Chopin Berceuse…for some reason, I won't to return to these, though they wait for me.  It seems somehow unmannerly to hear them again, and sacrilegious to contemplate doing anything while they play.  These recordings remind me, paradoxically, that for virtually all of humanity—and probably, those in the audience in 1965—music is played, then stops,

                                           and is never heard again.     

I am curious, if anybody is out there reading this: is there anything transcendent and wonderful you’ve experienced—music, art of any sort, a place, anything—that you have perfect freedom to revisit, but won’t?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review--the animals

It's the end of December, time for all those "Year in Pictures" and "Ten Best" things that fill in what should be a quiet time in the news.  It's also a convenient time for looking backwards at the year that was, and forwards to what we want to do.  So, hailing the spirit of Janus, I'm going to look backwards and forwards for a bit...

This was the year that it really sunk in that I'm in the business of keeping livestock.  Leaving 2012, we had a handful of does and ewes, not a whole lot of housing, and no rams.  There were a handful of pregnant sheep, but they had to drive an hour to meet the daddy.  A year later, we've got a lot more does and ewes, not to mention bucks and rams, both by purchase and "natural increase."   We have had our first births, our first selection (followed by our first trip to the livestock auction), and our first death.  We've had our first experiences with disbudding and castration.   We've also seen a couple of our animals go to new homes, where they'll hopefully be productive, and sold some product from some of our goats.

Of course, some things are constant.  There's always the chooks.

It's always useful to consider the data, so here it is.  "Bucks" and "Rams" are animals born male; they may not have finished the year with all their original equipment.  Click on the graph to enlarge:

It's pretty easy to see the arrival of the rams in February.  The next big blip is lambing, in May and June; we did well, with each ewe having two lambs, for seven ewe lambs to five ram.  We've kept one ram lamb intact, but he's probably going to get wethered. The remaining rams (now wethers) are destined for various meat lockers.  The ewe lambs are all out in the field getting fat and fuzzy. 

We had two rounds of kidding--one in August, and another in October.  We didn't do as well there--all the does had two kids, but from five births we only got four doe kids. Two left for Wisconsin in November, where they are getting a ridiculous amount of attention from our niece and nephews.  We euthanized another in December, a sad story that bears telling at another time.  So, we have come out of the year with one new home-bred doeling; all the other increase has been through purchases. One of this year's bucklings is a keeper; that leaves five wethers that will hopefully go to market, somehow. 

The big dip in the ewes in late August was the trip to auction, after we decided that not all our ewes were worth breeding.  One wethered buck also made the trip.  I was sorry to see them go, as a couple had nice personalities, but such is life on the farm.  Their numbers were largely made up for by the arrival of a group of ewes from a farm in Colorado.  

The Colorado ewes were accompanied by Eleanor, an Akbash guardian dog.  She joined Sophia Bumblebutt, the miniature Australian Shepherd.  Wedge and Spot, the kittens, have already been introduced.

Janus compels me to look forward as well as back, and there are some pretty solid predictions that I can make.  Those five goat wethers have got to go.  The sheep wethers will find homes on various dinner plates, as may any lambs that don't make the cut for conformation or wool quality.  Sixteen of our ewes were bred on November 7th, so there should be a deluge of lambs in the first week of April.  We'll be hosting a goat artificial insemination clinic in February, so that implies a deluge of kids in late July.   We have a couple of reservations for goat kids, but those are kind of open at this date.  There are also all the known unknowns--predation, illness, stillbirths, fatal problems with kidding or lambing, just suddenly up and dying--that are part of the package with farm life.  And, there are always the chooks.

The Real Doctor reminds me that I missed some data on the graph; the number of humans has remained constant at two. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wednesday Wordage opening a second front in the War on Christmas

"Merry Christmas" gets pretty perfunctory when it is said, or heard, for the thousandth time.  So I was a not sure if the clerk's diction, or my hearing, was at fault at the store today, I thought I had been wished hircismus.  Whatever.  If you get tired of holiday cheer, wish someone hircismus.  See how it goes.