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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Put a Bit of Bach in Your Daily Life

I can’t remember exactly where I heard it, but in one of the piano instruction videos I watched recently he advised that students play a bit of Bach every day. I would take that a step further and say that everyone should have a bit of Bach every day. These two-part inventions are standard fare for students, but I think that people who don’t play the piano can appreciate them strictly on their merits as great and interesting pieces of music.

I like these videos of kids playing the inventions, because it reminds me of my humble status as a wannabe musician, and also to stress the playful, almost childlike nature of these clever pieces. Again, I can’t remember where I read it, but one observer said that Bach cranked out these songs for his students in about the same manner as some people do the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper (if that still makes any sense in our digital age).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The (my) Last Word on the Spanish Corner Bar

What if I suddenly found myself living somewhere other than Spain? What would I miss about life here? That is the wrong question because I would miss almost everything about living here. I’d need to narrow down the parameters somewhat, like asking myself, "What things would absolutely break my heart to live without?"

How could I possibly live without the Spanish corner bar? Like fingerprints and snowflakes they’re all alike yet different in subtle ways. And like an FBI fingerprint expert I’ve spent many years studying these differences. I’ve become, if not a connoisseur, then at least an inspired amateur on the subject. In my exhaustive investigation into Spanish bars, I’ve developed my own set of rules and insights which I feel I should share with the world.

Here is a very abridged list of reasons why I go to certain bars.

-       If people are nice to me when I go into their bar, I feel an overwhelming obligation to return. When I first arrived being “nice” simply meant listening to my bad Spanish, but now this means people have to listen to me pontificate on shit like the Catalan independence movement or why they should monitor off-sides electronically and get rid of the line judges.

-           A good terrace is the easiest bait if you want to lure me into your place. Tables with shade in the summer and sun in the winter are always welcome. Sitting outside is something bordering on a basic right among people in Spain, no matter the weather. I love reading at a café and I enjoy the hum of the background noise.

-           The clientele can be a deciding factor when choosing a hangout, but this rarely is a concern when you’re just popping in for a coffee or a quick beer in the afternoon.

-           A big reason why you may want to stop in for something in a bar is to use the bathroom. Public bathrooms are in short supply so if you find yourself out in the street when nature calls, the corner bar is the best alternative to getting arrested for urinating in public.

-           Almost all football matches in Spain are on pay channels that most of us lowly slobs don’t have at home. If it weren’t for football matches in bars I’d never see most of my friends.

-            I use this excuse for going to a bar less than almost every human in Valencia, but most bars have wifi. I’m one of the few people who don’t feel compelled to look at the internet when I close the door of my apartment and enter out into the world.

-         Coffee. I have never understood why they have Starbucks here in Valencia when you can get great coffee almost anywhere (several Starbucks here have closed their doors).

-           Food is way down the list for me when it comes to reasons I go to cafés simply because I don’t eat out much. With that said, a bar with a great looking tortilla de patatas earns my respect.

-            Beer, wine, brandy, gin and tonics, rum, and other alcohol-based beverages are one of my top reasons to go to bars.

-    In Spanish they call it climatización which means heat and air conditioning—two things I don’t have at home. Valencia has beautiful weather where these comforts are rarely needed so this excuse is only valid for about four weeks a year. The good news is—as you have been reading—I have a lot of reasons for going to bars.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Musical Rant?

Setting all hyperbole aside for just a second or two, I have to say that for me this little tune by J.S. Bach is perhaps the crowning achievement of all art on this humble planet of ours. How’s that for praise?

Although far above my pay-grade on the piano (for now!) I love this arrangement for trio.