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March 31, 2008

Today I fell asleep on the subway and woke up when I heard somebody talking and then I realized the person talking was me.

I have absolutely no memory of what I was saying. E.S. has claimed before that I’m very talkative in my sleep. He says that he usually can’t make out the words but that more often than not they are spoken in a tone of disdain.

So my next step is to get a voice-activated recorder and sleep with it next to my head. And on the subway.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 2 Comments

March 30, 2008

This fabulous review appeared in the Bangkok Post and then the LA TImes in May of 1967. I read it a year or two after college, when a friend forwarded it.

A Humid Recital Stirs Bangkok

Kenneth Langbell, Bangkok Post

THE RECITAL last evening in the chamber music room of the Erawan Hotel by US pianist Myron Kropp, the first appearance of Mr Kropp in Bangkok, can only be described by this reviewer and those who witnessed Mr Kropp’s performance as one of the most interesting experiences in a very long time.

Mr Kropp, the pupil and artistic successor to Straube and Ramin, had chosen the title “An Evening with Bach” for the performance.

Indeed from the outset, it was an evening the social leaders of Bangkok would not soon forget, the men in tuxedos and white dinner jackets and the ladies resplendent in floor-length evening gowns with more than one orchid corsage crowning a Lemey or Delmonte original.

There was a bit of disorder at the outset when the ushers, apparently brought in from the dining room, had some trouble placing concert-goers in their proper seats, a situation that was little helped by several late arrivals.

Nevertheless the audience eventually was seated and a hush fell over the room as Mr Kropp appeared from the right of the stage, attired in black formal evening-wear with a small white poppy in his lapel.

With sparse, sandy hair, a sallow complexion and a deceptively frail looking frame, the man who has repopularised Johann Sebastian Bach approached the Baldwin Concert Grand, bowed to the audience and placed himself upon the stool.

It might be appropriate to insert at this juncture that many pianists, including Mr Kropp, prefer a bench, maintaining that on a screw-type stool they sometimes find themselves turning sideways during a particularly expressive strain. There was a slight delay, in fact, as Mr Kropp left the stage briefly, apparently in search of a bench, but returned when informed that there was none.

As I have mentioned on several other occasions, the Baldwin Concert Grand, while basically a fine instrument, needs constant attention, particularly in a climate such as Bangkok’s. This is even more true when the instrument is as old as the one provided in the chamber music room of the Erawan Hotel. In this humidity the felts which separate the white keys from the black tend to swell, causing an occasional key to stick, which apparently was the case last evening with the D in the second octave.

During the “raging storm” section of the D-Minor Toccata and Fugue, Mr Kropp must be complimented for putting up with the awkward D. However, by the time the “storm” was past and he had gotten into the Prelude and Fugue in D Major, in which the second octave D plays a major role, Mr Kropp’s patience was wearing thin.

Some who attended the performance later questioned whether the awkward key justified some of the language which was heard coming from the stage during softer passages of the fugue. However, one member of the audience, who had sent his children out of the room by the midway point of the fugue, had a valid point when he commented over the music and extemporaneous remarks of Mr Kropp that the workman who had greased the stool might have done better to use some of the grease on the second octave D.

Indeed, Mr Kropp’s stool had more than enough grease and during one passage in which the music and lyrics were both particularly violent, Mr Kropp was turned completely around. Whereas before his remarks had been aimed largely at the piano and were therefore somewhat muted, to his surprise and that of those in the chamber music room he found himself addressing the audience directly.

But such things do happen, and the person who began to laugh deserves to be severely reprimanded for this undignified behaviour. Unfortunately, laughter is contagious, and by the time it had subsided and the audience had regained its composure, Mr Kropp appeared somewhat shaken. Nevertheless, he swivelled himself back into position facing the piano and, leaving the D Major Fugue unfinished, commenced on the Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor.

Why the concert grand piano’s G key in the third octave chose that particular time to begin sticking I hesitate to guess. However, it is certainly safe to say that Mr Kropp himself did nothing to help matters when he began using his feet to kick the lower portion of the piano instead of operating the pedals as is generally done.

Possibly it was this jarring or the un-Bach-like hammering to which the sticking keyboard was being subjected. Something caused the right front leg of the piano to buckle slightly inward, leaving the entire instrument listing at approximately a 35-degree angle from that which is normal. A gasp went up from the audience, for if the piano had actually fallen several of Mr Kropp’s toes if not both his feet, would surely have been broken.

It was with a sigh of relief therefore, that the audience saw Mr Kropp slowly rise from his stool and leave the stage. A few men in the back of the room began clapping and when Mr Kropp reappeared a moment later it seemed he was responding to the ovation.

Apparently, however, he had left to get a red-handled fire axe which was hung backstage in case of fire, for that was what he had in his hand.

My first reaction at seeing Mr Kropp begin to chop at the left leg of the grand piano was that he was attempting to make it tilt at the same angle as the right leg and thereby correct the list. However, when the weakened legs finally collapsed altogether with a great crash and Mr Kropp continued to chop, it became obvious to all that he had no intention of going on with the concert.

The ushers, who had heard the snapping of piano wires and splintering of sounding board from the dining room, came rushing in and, with the help of the hotel manager, two Indian watchmen and a passing police corporal, finally succeeded in disarming Mr Kropp and dragging him off the stage.

Alas, it was made up. As a humor piece for the Bangkok Post.

I don’t think I will ever feel disappointment as crushing as the disappointment that crushed me when I found that out. But I am able to console myself with the knowledge that for a time I had had something to believe in.

Notice that I don’t say how long a time.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 7 Comments

March 29, 2008

From a conversation E.S. and I had earlier today in the kitchen.

E.S.: Hey, those cookies are mine.
FAUSTUS: Yes, but your love for me makes them mine too.
E.S.: …
FAUSTUS: It’s the transitive property of love.
E.S.: Give them to me right now.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

March 28, 2008

I am about to take my life in my hands.

By which I mean: I am about to cook and eat a package of Ramen noodles.

I realize that such an action isn’t ordinarily considered life-threatening, and it’s possible that I’m indulging in hyperbole, but I am still so traumatized after my last experience with Ramen noodles that I feel I must be very, very careful.

Last time I had Ramen noodles, I was visiting my aunt in Los Angeles. It was the middle of the afternoon, and I wanted a snack but not something too filling, because for dinner we were planning to go to a restaurant so posh it didn’t have a name. A brief search of the pantry revealed just the thing, and I put the water in the microwave.

As the microwave performed the task for which it had been invented, I opened up the package of Ramen noodles. My eye fell upon the directions, and I started thinking. “Hmm,” I thought. “It says to put half the flavor packet in. But I really like the flavor. I’ll just use the whole thing.”

The microwave beeped, and I poured the water into the bowl in which I had placed the noodles and all the contents of the flavor packet. I stirred and let sit for three minutes. Then I picked up my fork and, delighting in the anticipation of pleasure, took a bite.

I will spare you the description of the convulsions that racked my innards as they had never been racked before. There’s no need for you to visualize how quickly I ran to the sink and spat out the noodles. I needn’t enumerate for you the minutes I spent trying to rid my mouth of the hideous taste that filled it.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening watching television and eating ice cream. We rescheduled dinner at the restaurant so posh it didn’t have a name. And Ramen noodles began to frighten me.

This happened twenty years ago.

Wish me luck.

Update: I couldn’t do it. I made pasta instead.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 7 Comments

March 27, 2008

While I was in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception and no Internet connection, I ended up e-stumbling across some old files about whose existence I’d forgotten.

It’s a week late, unfortunately, but here is a word search I apparently handed out one Holy Week to the choir at the church where I sang. Click to make it a little bigger.

Holy Week word search.png

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 8 Comments

March 26, 2008

I believe any comment on the below to be superfluous, but even if it’s not, I certainly wouldn’t be up to the task.

Click to see a larger, more legible version.

original.jpg

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 3 Comments

March 25, 2008

Okay, so you know the Margaret-Jones-a.k.a.-Peggy-Seltzer-memoir-fraud scandal?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about Jones/Selzer’s agent, Faye Bender (who said, “There was no reason to doubt her, ever,” which is a pretty ridiculous assertion).

And it turns out that my friend carpooled with Faye Bender for ten years. And that Faye Bender was really, really mean to her.

So I figure she only got what she deserved.

Faye Bender, I mean. Not my friend.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 4 Comments

March 24, 2008

I’m back.

Not only did I have no Internet access, I also had no cell phone service.

I am so traumatized I may never leave my house again.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 7 Comments

March 18, 2008

I made a terrible, terrible mistake and tried to switch hosts for this website. For reasons unclear to me, I moved from a reliable host used by many, many people to a host no one has ever heard of run by crazy incompetent morons. Upon realizing this I immediately switched back, but it has taken some time (and some help from this genius) to repair the damage to my setup. The damage to my psyche will naturally keep my therapist occupied for another year or two.

I believe we’re almost out of the woods, though even saying as much is probably tempting fate. So of course now that I can finally blog again I’m leaving tomorrow for a writing retreat in the middle of nowhere with no Internet access.

Whoops. I have to go vomit now.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 5 Comments

March 6, 2008

And someone seems to have subscribed me (anonymously) to O, The Oprah Magazine.

Clearly my week is looking up.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 2 Comments