Summertime

Last weekend, I was looking after a couple of neighbor kids while their folks went to the city. And by looking after, I mean nothing of the sort. They are the same ages as my older two, who are old enough to play outside without supervision. So I basically kicked everyone out of the house. Yes, I am a role model.

These are not my children

These are not my children

Anyway, I eventually found my way outside, and I noticed that the kids were all playing “Capture the Flag.” And later, they played “Manhunt” (which is a cross between Tag and Hide-and-Seek). And after that, they played “Wax Museum” which I’d never heard of, but looks like T’ai Chi.


I was struck by a couple things. First, not once did they ask me what they should do. I think that may be the result of very consistently answering that question with a chore like “Clean your room.” But regardless of the reason, I’m impressed that kids still know how to play without guidance. Second, everything they did was so organized. They played games with names. They all knew the rules. They agreed in advance if the rules needed to be adjusted for circumstances. They all participated. It was really weird.

When I was growing up on the commune (that’s a story for another post), there were a lot of kids and there was plenty of room to play outside. So that’s mostly what we did all summer. But other than shuffleboard, I don’t think we ever played games with rules. We would play  a chasing game, but it wasn’t really tag. It was more, “Oh shit! Someone is chasing me!” We would climb the mulberry tree to eat our fill. We would wander off into the woods and explore.

My brother had a crush on Nikki, who looks a hell of a lot like the woman he ended up marrying

My brother had a crush on Nikki, who looks a hell of a lot like the woman he ended up marrying

We also watched a lot of television. Game shows mostly. My brother went through a phase where he watched “The Young and the Restless,” I think mostly because there were some curvy women on there he liked. At 4pm, just after Match Game was over, we would find an adult to supervise, and we’d go swimming in the pond (which we called the “Little Lake,” not to be confused with the “Big Lake” which was also a pond, but which we did not swim in for some reason).

I recall one summer (actually I recall that this happened every summer, but I doubt that’s true), my mother would deal with the “I’m bored! What can I do?” by having an activity every day. She would write this activity on a piece of paper late at night, put it in a small envelope, and stick it to the refrigerator with a magnet. The next day after breakfast, there would be a big reveal. My mother was a fucking genius. No matter what she wrote on there, it was exciting because of the reveal. “Pick up trash beside the road” is one that is seared into my memory for some reason. And we were thrilled! We all went out together, with trash bags, and walked up and down the road and picked up trash. Fucking evil genius.

We made silent movies. We had a Super-8 camera, so one of the older kids would write a script. We would each make signs with our lines on them. We would make costumes and wear makeup as needed, and shoot our feature. And later, when the film came back developed, the director would edit it, and put together the movie.

We would ride our bikes to the store (a couple miles away), into town (many miles away), or to a friend’s house. My parents never needed to drive us anywhere. If we had someplace we needed to be, we would bike there.

We were, in a nutshell, independent. Our parents were not responsible for our entertainment. We entertained ourselves. It’s a good way for kids to be, and judging from the independent play I watched last weekend, I think my kids are on their way to that same place.

Hard Tweets Explained: So What

I’m pretty sure this was a subtweet, directed at someone who was going to try something new that I didn’t think would stick. And clearly this person I was talking to had to know about jazz to have a chance of getting this tweet, so I’m pretty sure I know who that person was. But that’s not important now.

The tweet is in reference to a song from Miles’ album Kind of Blue called “So What.” This was a pretty important song in the development of jazz, because it established the thing called “modal jazz.” Let me explain that.

You may recall that a very common chord progression is the 2-5-1. That starts on a 2: meaning that you play a major scale but start and end on the second note. For example, the 2 of a C-major scale would be DEFGABCD. As I explained in that other post, this is called a minor-dominant-7 because you have to flat the third note of a D scale (making it minor) and the seventh note (making it dominant-7). But it has another name, and that is the “Dorian Mode.” Dorian meaning second. Because it’s the two. Are you writing this down?

The song “So What” has the chord progression: 2. That’s it. Just 2. 2 2 2 2 2 2.

That was the innovative part. They decided that instead of moving around 2-5-1 or 1-4-5 or whatever, they’d just hang around on 2. It wasn’t truly innovative, since it had been done before. But Miles’ band took it to an extreme.

Playing just one chord for a whole song is a little dull. So after a while, they moved up a half step. This is not a change in the chord progression. It’s a key change. So this new part is still just 2 2 2 2 2…

And then after that, they go back to the original key. And more 2.

Playing a whole song in a single mode (in this case Dorian) is what we call Modal Jazz. And this is the canonical example of that.

So, without further ado, here’s Miles. You can easily hear the key change during the melody (we call that “the head”) when the horns are playing.

Longing in situ

My whole life has been spent longing
Longing for a certain girl’s attention
Longing for a certain woman’s attention
Longing to have what I did not have

So I would strategize
Play out scenarios
Explore the solution space
Try to muster the courage to ask for what (whom) I wanted

And now I find myself in a puzzling place
A place where I have what I want
Yet the longing does not subside
I have her, yet I continue to long for her

When she goes away, as she did just now
The longing intensifies
Even if she hasn’t been away longer than every other day
It intensifies

I wonder if she loves me (she does)
I wonder if she wants me (she does)
I wonder why I wonder

But the strangest thing is the longing in situ
Where she is standing right there
Where she is in my arms
And I still long to have her, to have more of her

And she has nothing more to give
I’ve taken it all
And I feel for her
But I want more

“Ow,” she says
“You are squeezing too tight.”
And she means literally
But also metaphorically

So I work to please her
It consumes me
If I can bring her joy, and bliss, and contentment
Then she will have more to give

But it is folly
Because she has already given me everything
She is already mine
There is nothing else

I need to find contentment with longing in situ
Longing does not subside when you finally have what you always desired
Rather, it intensifies