‘twas a gorgeous day today-Indian summer warm and blue skies.
The first snow should come soon. I hope the first couple winter storms are temporary, giving us a beautiful blanket of snow for a few days, followed by the return of tolerable fall temperatures; there’s no pick-up soccer on a white, frozen pitch, and last year snow covered the ground from early November to April. Oddly, I didn’t catch a cold or flu last year, despite it being my first Montana winter, and those ridiculous cold snaps down in the minus 20s F.
The bright side of the advance of winter weather is a bit more indoor time to do some writing and scheming. I think I might put my collection of pond memoirs into book form. I’ll call it Mein Swampf- DW Shumway’s struggles and triumphs in the muck.
There’s another book with a similar sounding title out there, which reminds me that today is the last day of Banned Books Week. I was in the library the other day, trying to do some research for a short speech I’d been enlisted to give at a local gathering, and it was a bit noisy. In addition to the canned pop-music soundtrack coming from the earphones of the chubby teen playing video games, a conversation was taking place at the check-out counter. A patron was asking about a flier on the counter advertising our local library system’s participation in Banned Books Week. The librarian said, “We encourage you to read banned books. What you do is you find a book on this banned books list, and we’ll get it for you to read.” Which brings up the obvious question, and the patron asked it: “Uh, so, are these book banned by the library?”
-Well…no. What we do is give you the opportunity to read banned books. You find the banned book on the list and we’ll make sure you get it.
Still the guy was a little perplexed. “So these books are not banned here.”
The librarian had to admit that there was no current ban on the books on that list, at least not here at the library. My guess is they also would have been easy to find on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and Project Gutenberg if the title was past its copyright date. When they say ‘Banned Books’ they don’t really mean books that are banned. Nobody wants to touch the issue of books that are actually, effectively banned as I write. What they mean is books that used to be banned, or books that some benighted 4-Square-Church-attending parents in Casper Wyoming don’t want on the middle school library shelf because they assume somehow that daughter Tiffany and her 12 yr.-old posse shouldn’t be reading a book with sexually explicit, homosexual content loaded with f bombs.
So bold, courageous patrons at our local library can find books like Catcher in the Rye or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and turn their virtue beacons to blinding strobe-light mode. But the guy at the counter wasn’t impressed; like me, he seemed to think a book had to really be banned in order to be part of Banned Books Week.
Now, how about they put David Duke’s My Awakening on that list? Ha! That would be bold!
Dear Normie Reader, oh keep your pants on. I’ve never read any book by David Duke and I’m not endorsing him for the VP spot on the ‘24 Trump ticket; I just think the whole idea of celebrating banned books would be to look for the most heinous, politically incorrect books out there, banned nearly everywhere and only available from some underground, cash-only-please publisher in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and have your librarians say, “Yep, we got it. Would you like to read it?” Now that would be a honest to goodness banned books week!
And by the way, as Amazon is virtually a monopoly on book sales, I consider books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorium Amazonicum to be banned books, ‘nkay?
In leisure news, Rick gave me a guitar the other day. He’s a good picker, former guitar teacher and has a great, deep voice to compliment his playing, and he didn’t want me to go out and buy an old, el-cheapo. I kept threatening to go down to Costco and get that shiny Chinese model and that was more than Rick could take. He gave me his beautiful, Korean Ovation guitar with a built-in tuner and pick up for amp. It’s got a slightly softer sound than a typical acoustic, but it still sounds great, and when I plug it in and start singing Hank Jr., Katy bar the door!
When I came to Montana with son Andy back in July 2022, for the first time since December, ‘20, we were up helping Big Joe on a job at Lee and Susan’s. At lunchtime, Rick walked up and handed me his beautiful black acoustic guitar and said, “Let’s hear Justin!” He was referring to my song, Justin Bieber’s Face is Frozen, that I had written and recorded on this substack a couple months prior. I was out of practice and refused, not wanting to embarrass myself. Truth be told, I didn’t even have the chops to play it properly at recording time; I recorded the guitar part and vocals separately and mixed them together on Garage Band.
Now with the beautiful Ovation guitar, I’m gonna get my technique down so I can play the Bieber tune on demand!
It’s funny, I was playing some old ditties that are my go-to standards when putzing about on the guitar, and Stan Delaney said, “Hey, you could play that stuff live! Really!”
That's what playing the same thing over and over will get you. “Now please play the rest of the song!” are the dreaded words the 1-riff plunker who has reached the steep, advanced-beginner learning curve doesn’t want to hear.
Speaking of plunking, I’m also working on a couple piano pieces. You know how everyone used to be able to play chopsticks? I think everyone should know how to play at least one decent song on a piano. My plan is to learn at least a few favorites from the masters. I’ve got a Bach and a Beethoven down. The Bach is the Minuet in G minor. You know it when you hear it. The Beethoven is Ode to Joy. You know it because it’s the part where the chorus blows you away in the 9th Symphony. If I was trying to get some video-game addled kids to have some interest in classical music, I’d probably put the Ode to Joy chorus of the 9th on the short list of must-hears. That and the finale to Rossini’s William Tell Overture for sure.
Next I have to learn a Mozart piece. See, this way, I can sit at a piano and ask someone, who’s your favorite classical composer? 4 out of 5 people are going to say one of those three dudes, B, B or M. When they pick Bach, for example, I whip out the minuet and become the life of the party! My plan is to do this for at least ten composers so I don’t get sidelined by someone who prefers Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Schubert or Chopin. If they say “Shostakovich,” they can stuff it!
Here’s the Rossini:
And here is the Bach, actually- made into a modern pop tune you may have heard: