Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alas, biscuits! Alas, gravy!

The Good Doctor is in for a lifestyle change.

No, not that kind of lifestyle change, silly ... although there is a rather interesting blog post there which will wait for a day down the line.

I have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

Here are some numbers for those of you with a frame of reference: my A1C was 6.2 (depending on your scale, "normal" is below either 6 or 7) and my fasting blood sugar was 105 ("normal" is between 60 and 110). Because those numbers are borderlinish, and because my mom and dad both had adult-onset diabetes, he went ahead and diagnosed me.He wants me to see a diabetes dietician (which I will be doing) and start taking metformin (which I am not going to do -- not yet, anyway.) Regardless, my diet is going to have to change, and in researching the dietician's likely suggestions, I was thrown for a nasty loop.

Donuts? Gone. (Actually, all sweets are, for that matter, but the loss of donuts is the only devastating one for me.) Gravy? Gone. White rice? Gone. Pasta? Gone.

And here's a biggie. Alcohol? Gone.

Now, I'm not what I would consider close to being an alcoholic. But every week or two, I want to get shit-faced. So this part of the diabetic diet really, really, REALLY sucks. I sit here wondering how I will fill my own party prescriptions now? And what of biscuits and gravy?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shaker songs

Well, folks, I apologize for my blogoreticence as of late, but as Steve Miller sang, “There’s lots of funky shit going down in the city.” Work has been extremely pressurized (though still rewarding) as of late. Meanwhile, our home life, while as sweet as ever, has been in flux due to a number of factors, including Mrs. Z’s need to bow out of her summer show due to work conflicts.

The practical upshot of all this has been a dearth of blog posts. And it’s you, the reader, who has suffered. I apologize and hope this entry will help make up for it.

I want to talk about music. More to the point, I want to talk about music that isn’t necessarily your favorite or the staple of your iPod track list. I don’t want to spend time discussing music that’s danceable or hummable. I want to talk about five songs that, for one reason or another, have a profound emotional effect on me. And on you. But I’ll go first.

“First Approach”

Most listeners know Vangelis for one song and one song only: the theme to “Chariots of Fire.” While this song is memorable, it represents but a fraction of the Greek composer’s music. A lot of it has either a “spacey” theme or sound – or both. Such is the case with the CD “Direct,” released in 1990. But while “spacey” might suggest tacky, synthesized, mechanical music, the next-to-the-last track on “Direct” is anything but. Marked by a beautiful melody and a heartfelt cello solo, “First Approach” evokes a breathtaking mental image of an astronaut preparing to dock at a station after years in the isolation of space. And if you close your eyes, you can feel the ache of loneliness melting away into the relief of finally being at rest.

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Bobby McFerrin
“Common Threads”

I’m not sure what it was about 1990, but it also produced this gorgeous song by Bobby McFerrin. Part of the gut-punching quality of this song comes from knowing the story behind its composition: McFerrin was commissioned to write it to accompany a documentary on the AIDS quilt. But one need not know the back-story to feel the weight of this wordless lullaby. Its gorgeous harmonies convey a sense of premature sorrow mingled with hope against all odds — a mixture that somehow reminds me of “Seasons of Love,” which would be recorded six years later.

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John Rutter
“Gloria: Second Movement (Andante)”

Anyone who has ever sung any amount of choral music has made friends with Mr. Rutter. All of his music is beautiful, and particularly his three-movement standard for high school all-state choirs: “Gloria.” But while the first and third movements have joy and energy to spare, it is the second movement that really packs an emotional wallop. Led by a quietly exotic organ solo and layered male vocals, the music builds until a full brass ensemble and the entire choir burst forth in majestic sound. Then, suddenly, the sound becomes to a single note, which falls away into once-again quiet, but rich, harmonies. If heaven has a soundtrack, it is this song.

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The Manhattan Transfer
“Foreign Affair”

Closing out the jazz quartet’s breakthrough album “Extensions,” which included much better known songs like “Birdland” and “Twilight Tone,” is this a capella number. It defines cool because it combines incredibly sophisticated lyrics (so awesomely verbose I had to copy them down into a spiral notebook as a kid — there was not lyric sheet with the cassette) with absolutely gorgeous jazz harmony. But it’s the out-of-nowhere last chord that puts it on this list for me. I get goose bumps every time I hear it.

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Barry Manilow
“Once Voice”

I probably shouldn’t admit it, but there’s still one Barry Manilow song that absolutely does it for me. It’s just as schmaltzy as the rest of the Manilow canon, but “One Voice” is perhaps the purest match between music and lyrics ever. Plus, it has some whiz-bang a capella studio overdubbing to the nth degree, which I'm a sucker for anyway. But the clincher is the soaring, everybody-join-hands final chorus. I dare you to not be smiling at the end of it.

So, what five songs shake you to your emotional core? Respond on your own blog, or your MySpace bulletin, or in these comments.
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