By Rita Dove
per il Mulatto Brischdauer
gran pazzo e compositore mulattico
––Ludwig van Beethoven, 1803.
If was at the Beginning. If
he had been older, if he hadn't been
dark, brown eyes ablaze
in that remarkable face;
if he had not been so gifted, so young
a genius with no time to grow up;
if he hadn't grown up, undistinguished,
to an obscure old age.
If the piece had actually been,
as Kreutzer exclaimed, unplayable––even after
our man had played it, and for years,
no one else was able to follow––
so that the composer's fury would have raged
for naught, and wagging tongues
could keep alive the original dedication
from the title page he shredded.
Oh, if only Ludwig had been better-looking,
or cleaner, or a real aristocrat,
von instead of the unexceptional van
from some Dutch farmer; if his ears
had not already begun to squeal and whistle;
if he hadn't drunk his wine from lead cups,
if he could have found True Love. Then
the story would have held: In 1803
George Polgreen Bridgetower,
son of Friedrich Augustus the African Prince
and Maria Anna Sovinki of Biala in Poland,
travelled from London to Vienna,
where he met the Great Master,
who would stop work on his Third Symphony
to write a sonata for his new friend
to première triumphantly on May 24th,
whereupon the composer himself
leapt up from the piano to embrace
his "lunatic mulatto."
Who knows what would have followed?
They might have palled around some,
just a couple of wild and crazy guys
strutting the town like rock stars,
hitting the bars for a few beers, a few laughs . . .
instead of falling out over a girl
nobody remembers, nobody knows.
Then this bright-skinned papa's boy
could have sailed his fifteen-minute fame
straight into the record books––where,
instead of a Regina Carter or Aaron Dworkin or Boyd Tinsley
sprinkled here and there, we would find
rafts of black kids scratching out scales
on their matchbox violins so that someday
they might play the impossible:
Beethoven's Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47,
also known as the "Bridgetower."
From this week's New Yorker.
Monday was another less-than-stellar day. I woke up at three in the morning with a murderous migraine that the first Imitrex did not knock out, lay awake alternately shivering and sweating when I wasn't dashing for the loo, finally fell asleep around 7:30 a.m. when younger son was leaving for school and woke up after 10. I had plans to go out for Mexican food with gblvr but I wasn't in the mood for eating, so instead I begged her to come over and we finally watched the David Tennant Casanova, which is particularly amusing after last season's Doctor Who because the characters have more and more of the same gestures and manic vocal inflections. I'm not sure whether this is because Russell T. Davies was involved in both productions and told Tennant to take both characters a certain way, or if Tennant has been phoning it in a bit on DW, but it kind of confirmed my lack of devastation over the eventual upcoming switch in Doctors -- I was much sorrier to lose Nine at the time, and that worked out all right.
Adam came home cranky because his best friend has had his adenoids out and is getting an awesome Bionicle; I'm not sure whether the crankiness is from not having the friend to play with or Bionicle envy, but he already has one awesome Bionicle on order and is campaigning to get another for Chanukah so I really can't feel very sorry for him. Daniel -- whose school had yet another shooting over the weekend, though this one was apparently accidental, from kids being idiots with guns -- came home insisting that we need Windows Vista for some reason, when we have gone out of our way to be an XP-only household, and I am still puzzled why. I did a lot of reading about cameras, mostly the Nikon Coolpix P80 which was my first choice for a superzoom camera for my birthday next month, and the Canon Powershot A590, which would be my first choice to replace the Nikon L12 based on the price and comparisons with the newer Nikon L18, but I really can't afford both and I can't decide whether to live without a pocket camera or live without a superzoom that I've waited to get all year.
The stairs on the nature trail down to the creek.
Unlike last fall, the water was quite high and there were rapids over the rocks.
The dry leaves gave shelter to daddy long legs.
As you can see, most of the autumn leaves are gone or soon will be.
The cages at the nature center where injured raptors are kept.
A red-shouldered hawk.
A bald eagle.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles made me very happy by having Richard Schiff as a guest star, but I'm having "The future's the past, the past is the future, and it all gives me a headache" syndrome, to quote Captain Janeway from Voyager. (And I did see the Star Trek trailer during the episode, and even if I did not have a compelling personal reason for not wanting to see the movie, I can't imagine why I would want to sit through that already-dated-looking imitation of something that never need remaking, rewriting, recasting, or reimagining.)
As for Heroes, it also has the twisted-past-and-future storyline problem so that I can't tell whether we have Good Sylar or Bad Sylar or Good Peter or Bad Peter anymore, and I'm so very, very sick of women being threatened with having to go back to a "previous life" implied to be exploitative and horrific. Not to mention the rotating Favorite Petrelli Sons and the poor damaged couples being paired off -- misunderstood blondes and conflicted bad boys who are really not interesting. Take Hiro out of the equation and I'm completely bored. At least there's still Boston Legal, for a couple more weeks, past its heyday but not afraid to approach things like botched executions as crack.
Denny pretends to be Carl when attractive lawyer Jenny wants Carl to come to Virginia for a death penalty case in which a corrections officer shot a prisoner who was convulsing and screaming in the throes of a botched execution: "I look shorter in person, and fatter," Denny explains, saying that the real Carl has Mad Cow. We're shown flashback footage of the excruciating minutes before the guard, Preston, put the prisoner out of his misery, just in case there was ever any question where David E. Kelley would stand on the death penalty. Though he's always been pro-capital punishment, Denny insists on joining the case on the grounds that this is their last season and he never says no to a road trip. So Denny and Carl head to Richmond, where -- unable to convince a judge of the insanity of prosecuting a man for murdering a condemned felon in the process of being executed by the state -- Carl prepares to face what he expects to be a pro-death penalty jury.
Meanwhile, back in a state without a death penalty, Alan is hired by Martha, a woman fired from her job for voting for John McCain. The woman's boss, Donald, claims that he, too, voted for McCain, but that was because he agreed with McCain's stance on nuclear energy, not because he found Sarah Palin "spunky"; he claims he fired Martha not for voting for McCain, but for being stupid. Since Denny is away, Alan asks Shirley to join him on the case, and on the balcony too if she wishes...in fact, Shirley can join Alan anywhere she wants. Shirley is bemused that Alan still lusts after her and moreover that they're representing a McCain voter. In court, Donald's lawyer identifies him as a lifelong Republican, but adds that in sales, what comes out of people's mouths is important, and Martha sounds like an idiot. Martha doesn't help her case when she takes the stand and talks about the importance of the economy, then admits she doesn't know what Obama or McCain's platforms were so far as the economy is concerned -- she was initially a Hillary supporter but switched when spunky Sarah joined the Republican ticket.
In Virginia, Carl elicits testimony about the horrors of lethal injection as a means of execution and the incompetence of prison teams that don't require a doctor or nurse competent to administer intravenous drugs. There are so many screaming objections from the prosecution that Denny pulls out a pistol and shoots it, then acts surprised to find himself in a jail cell for firing a gun in gun-happy Virginia. A tearful Preston says that he couldn't watch the condemned prisoner suffer any longer -- "it was inhumane, somebody had to do something." But the prosecutor suggests that this is similar to a doctor deciding to hasten a patient's death; he compares it to the situation of Preston's own aunt, whose sister wanted to put her on a morphine drip while she was dying of cancer, but Preston objected at the time that only God got to make that call.
Sharing cigars on the balcony, Shirley and Alan discuss the fact that Obama's election proved that "real Americans" come in all races, ethnicities, ages, and demographics, even if a lot of people who didn't vote for Obama made decisions based on a belief that he was a Muslim or a socialist...or they liked Sarah Palin's clothes. Shirley admits that as heartened as she is by the election, she must admit that Martha IS an idiot. When Alan admires Shirley as she smokes, she asks him if it's all a game or if he's really sexually attracted to her. He says she's beautiful and compliments her intellect. "So if I wanted to go there, you'd go there?" she asks. "In a second," agrees Alan.
Over a meal, Denny reminds Carl that Americans love the death penalty -- even Clinton and Obama claimed to support it. When the prosecution closes by telling the jury that the defendant took the law into own hands and murdered somebody, claiming it would set a precedent for doctors and nurses, Carl gets up and insists that the prosecutor clearly hates capital punishment, so he wants to shed scrutiny on this one. "There are those out there trying to get rid of capital punishment," he warns, adding that they will resort to tricks because We the People are for it, even if every other Western country has abolished it. "We believe in executing murderers. It's justice. My client carried out state's mission, it makes no sense to be prosecuting him!" declares Carl. Since this is Boston Legal, the logic works, and the jury finds Preston not guilty.
Donald insists that Martha was not fired over politics, but because she expressed ignorant beliefs unprovoked. Their job is sales, and Martha didn't read the newspaper before spouting off opinions. She went on and on about Hillary, then switched allegiance to the "moose hunter from Alaska" -- would Shirley hire someone like that, Donald asks? Martha is furious that Shirley didn't defend her better, calling it blatant sexism, to which Shirley retorts that Martha is the sexist, going into voting booth and voting against everything Hillary stood for. Alan closes by noting that a majority of Americans don't know there are three branches of government and one in three can't name the current Vice President, so Donald's elitism should not be a reason for firing someone, but the judge agrees with Donald's lawyer that while Martha can sue for lost wages, her political beliefs are evidently not why she was fired. Martha snaps at Alan that he lost because he didn't try hard enough and says she'll sue him next.
When Alan says he made a reservation for a celebratory dinner thinking they would win, Shirley tells him that she'll have sex with him...with Denny's permission. So on the balcony, while Denny is scoffing at elitism given that the current President went to Yale yet got us into Iraq, Alan says that he worries about Denny's Mad Cow and is afraid that one day Denny won't remember things that brought him profound joy like making love to Shirley. If that day came, Alan adds, he would like to be able to help remind Denny. Furious, Denny accuses Alan of exploiting his Mad Cow to get in the sack with Shirley. He adds that Alan's logic fails because Denny could never forget what it was like to make love with Shirley, then describes it in such detail that Alan calls him cruel. Denny says Alan deserves it, and Alan decides he needs a new woman to objectify, asking what Denny thinks about Sarah Palin. Denny wonders in turn about Sarah and Shirley together, and Alan agrees that that would be a ticket worth watching.
I am getting my replacement phone tomorrow -- yay!