Monday, September 30, 2013

Fuck You, Verdi

Handsome Lou
What the fuck does Verdi know?  Here's what that Schweinehund of an organ grinder had to say about Beethoven's 9th Symphony upon hearing it for the first time:

...marvelous in its first three movements, very badly set in the last. No one will ever surpass the sublimity of the first movement, but it will be an easy task to write as badly for voices as is done in the last movement.

Badly set?  Some aficionado.  Listen, amico, you may have dashed out a competent opera or two, and Beethoven may not have been the OG of vocal works, but when it comes to the most immortal movement of any symphonic work ever composed, you got it exactly wrong.  The first movement is sublime, true enough, and yes the first 3 movements are certainly marvelous, but I can't but pity you, a man of considerable talent, if you somehow didn't get this part.  Here's hoping the choral bit grew on you with time.

Understand, gentle McBoners, that I didn't intend to begin this post with a rant, but darn if that old bearded vulture didn't get my dander up.  What I wanted to do was point out how much space I've dedicated over the years to exalting Bob Dylan, while plugging 'Beethoven' into our search bar turns up precious little.  That seems odd, because Beethoven occupies at least as high a tier in my estimation.  That is to say, he's my co-favorite.

The fact is, I have been listening to less of LvB in recent years.  I don't know if I'll ever recapture the exuberance of discovering the symphonies with our resident oudist (when we probably should have been trying to meet girls), but do I miss having the melodies running through my system at all hours of the day.

Because that's what it was like back then.  Beethoven's phrases wouldn't just rattle around in my head, to be recalled in idle moments or hummed on a whim; they were pervasive, saturating me down to my very last atom.  How magical that at any hour of any day, waking or sleeping, long and complex recitals would be taking place in my brain.

That gift is long absent, and I miss it.

Furthermore, I think it's crazy that I've loved this man's music for more than 20 years, but there remains so much of it I have never even heard, in fact the majority of it.  I've got a fair grasp on the most important stuff.  In the symphonies, piano concertos, piano sonatas and late string quartets I'm well versed.  But I've never listened to his lone opera.  String quintets, cello sonatas, dozens of songs, airs and bagatelles...there are hundreds of works I don't know.  Who would have thought he composed a sonata for French Horn?  I love the fucking French horn!

It has occurred to me: what if I should live my life having never heard my favorite composer's entire canon?  That would be, on a very personal level, a tragedy.  Kind of like if I had never bothered to spin Dylan's Street Legal album.  Perish the thought!

So I'm starting at the beginning.  I'll hear everything ever published and recorded, every Opus, Hess and WoO on any media I can find them.

The journey has begun.  I can tell you that the String Trio in E-flat major (Opus 3) is a minor masterpiece.  Check it out, if you get a chance.  The 9 Variations on a Theme by Dressler (WoO 63) are utterly forgettable.  Check them out anyway!

And yes, I'll listen to the symphonies again.  The long path leads to the 9th.  And when I get there, I will not dwell on Verdi's shortcomings (I like Verdi); I will look for new reasons to love it.  They are there.  First I'm going to try to understand why my grandfather treasured the 3rd movement, so subtle and restrained, above all else.

This is going to be fun.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

CLEVELAND BROWNS FANS! Deep Breath....And Read

Browns Nation was sent into a state of hysteria yesterday with the trading of our number three overall draft pick in 2012, Trent Richardson.  I'm not going to count, but I'm guessing I've exchanged about 200 text messages in the past 12 hours.  Not to mention facebook messages, tweets, and conversations over beers at dinner.  I wonder how many households in Cleveland were discussing this at the dinner table last night?  From 6:00 p.m. yesterday until now how many texts, tweets, and facebook messages have been exchanged?  I would guess millions, because that is just how passionate Browns fans are about their team.

Not that I am really surprised, but most of my close friends have reacted very negatively to this move.  Radio stations and callers on the local sports shows at this point have been fairly split on their opinions.  Same with the media and sports talk show hosts.  However, the people that are on the side of this being a terrible move are absolutely losing their minds in frustration.  Hard to really blame them based on the anger, disappointment and utter exhaustion we've all experienced rooting for this team the last fourteen years. Pouring our pride, passion and money into a franchise that is seemingly in an endless cycle of losing and rebuilding.  I am sure it is very difficult for many Browns fans to truly believe that we will finally emerge from the vicious spiral that Cleveland Browns Football is in.  I've heard so many of the phrases that have become the mantras of Browns fans....."Here we go again", "I can't believe we're back here", "We suck", "Yet another disasterous move made by my Browns",  "I'm done, not wasting another minute or penny on this team"....You get the point.

Browns fans are tough, resilient, stead-fast.  Those characteristics are exactly the reason why it will be difficult for me to curb their emotions right now, or try to get any of you that are angry to see why this was the right move.  That doesn't mean I won't try.  There is hope.  There are reasons for us to be optimistic, and most importantly right now, today....there are 19 reasons why this was absolutely, unequivocally the right move at the right time.....and here they are:

1. Ty Detmer, 0-2.
2. Tim Couch, 22-37.
3. Doug Pederson, 1-7.
4. Spergon Wynne, 0-1.
5. Kelly Holcomb, 4-8.
6. Jeff Garcia, 3-7.
7. Luke McCown, 0-4.
8. Trent Dilfer, 4-7.
9. Charlie Frye, 2-3.
10. Derek Anderson, 16-18.
11. Ken Dorsey, 0-3.
12. Brady Quinn, 1-2.
13. Bruce Gradkowski, 0-1.
14. Jake Delhomme, 2-2.
15. Seneca Wallace, 1-6.
16. Colt McCoy, 6-15.
17. Brandon Weeden, 5-11.
18. Thaddeus Lewis, 0-1.
19. Brian Hoyer, 0-0.
Nineteen quarterbacks that went on to be back-ups or insurance salesmen after their tenure with the Browns. THIS HAS TO STOP, and now it has (we hope!).  You can not win in the National Football League consistently over a period of time unless you have a franchise quarterback.  You have ZERO chance to ever win a Super Bowl unless you have a leader behind center that can make plays in clutch situations. I don't need to expound on this any further because that list above speaks for itself.  This organization can either continue to fester in mediocrity, 5-11 records, and horrendous quarterback play, OR, they can finally have a regime that knows they need to do whatever it takes to get the franchise QB. 
That doesn't make it any easier for us as Browns fans to live through another dreadful season.  Once again, I know how difficult it is to actually believe we have a front office that knows what they are doing.  Everything that has happened for the past decade and a half probably should make us feel exactly the opposite, throw our hands in the air in disgust, and quit on this team. To say, "why is this any different?".....
In my heart, in my mind, I sincerely feel this is different.  They have had nine months to run this team.  I don't love every move they have made but I can name quite a few that I do.  Hiring Chud, Norv and Ray. Signing Bess, Bryant, Kruger, and Groves.  All have played well and will be solid pieces for years to come.  They have acquired 10 picks in the 2014 draft including three in the top 35, and retained cap space and flexibility to sign players next offseason.
MOST IMPORTANTLY - They have finally stood up and made the most significant statement that any front office has made since we've returned.  This season is about one thing: That nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important than acquiring our franchise quarterback.  Certainly there are no guarantees.  They still have to make the right choice and select a QB that  will become the player that we need him to be; but the alternative is another 15 years of meaningless football.  This move, along with others, provide all the proof you need to understand their plan is to lose every single game this season so there is no question they have the #1 or #2 pick.  We all know how much that hurts to think about, and much more painful it will be to watch.  Could we have still had a high draft pick while retaining Trent?  Maybe.  But most likley if you play Trent and Weeden all year (and by playing Trent I mean 20 carries a game), we win four or five games.  Especially considering the progression of our defense.  We can't afford to take that chance.  We can't afford to not do everything in our power to get the QB we need.  That only happens if we pick #1 or #2.  Trent may turnout to be a good player, GOOD PLAYER, but he is not the difference between this franchise becoming a contender.  That happens if and when we finally get the guy behind center that becomes the leader of this team. 
The reward of this whole process is the euphoria we will all feel when this team becomes a winning franchise again for decades to come.  When we have a guy taking the snaps we are actually confident can go out and win us a football game. The risk, of course, is that we continue on the same path.  Wouldn't you take that risk at the chance that we can finally be the football team that we all dream about? 
I'm an optimist, you all know that.  But I have looked at this objectively and I truly believe we are finally on the verge of restoring this franchise to the greatness it once enjoyed. You may think I'm misguided.  That my blind faith is ridiculous. A year from now, two years from now if I'm wrong you can throw it back in my face.  I don't really care because regardless, at the end of the day, I am Browns fan.  I am Clevelander and this is my team.  You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself and be pissed off. Say you're done.  Say this is the same old BS.  Or you can pick your jaw up off the ground and move forward as the die hard, tough, passionate, stead-fast Browns fan that you are.  Every bump in the road, every road block, all the adversity that we've experienced will only make it that much sweeter when we are watching playoff caliber football. Today we are one step closer.  Today I can clearly see the plan laid out by this regime.  We all have the choice to believe it or not.  That's your right as a fan.  As a human being.  But I will be there a year from now when this team drives down the field and our franchise QB throws his first NFL touchdown.  Most importantly I'll know that I never lost faith, that I never left, that I never gave up hope in something that is such a huge part of what makes us Clevelanders.  OUR SPORTS TEAMS!  GO BROWNS BABY!!!  
To the Browns Front Office (Sales & Marketing Team) - Keep your heads up, stay positive and stick together.  You are all going to be a part of something very special, very soon, and the feeling you'll have when you get there will be well worth the journey.  We're behind you.