Archive for the tag 'Mozart'

My Birds and Bees.

February 28th, 2016

A while back, I decided to convert one of the bedrooms in my house to a combination exercise, reading and music room.  Besides a bed for the occasional out-of-town guest, the room also contains a treadmill which I hardly ever use, a writing table piled high with books I have yet to read, a big boombox on which I play mostly classical music when I’m reading the local morning paper or the Sunday New York Times, and two fairly large bird cages.  My father used to raise large Brazilian parrots, but I am not quite as ambitious.

Up until a year ago, I had four lovebirds, a pair in each one of the cages, but then the older pair, whom I named Papageno and Papagena (from Mozart’s The Magic Flute), suddenly died within months of each other, perhaps because they were truly inseparable.  And then, when the younger pair, whom I named Gustav and Alma (Mahler), went through the motions of procreation, I placed a nesting box in their cage.  Soon they were in and out of there.  After a couple of weeks, I checked, and found three eggs in the box.  Another five or six weeks went by, with lots of activity, and then I sensed something was terribly wrong when Gustav and Alma stopped popping in and out of the box.  With great trepidation, I opened the box, and found that only one of the three eggs had hatched.  The baby bird was about two inches long, was partially covered with feathers, but it was clearly dead, even though its little body was still warm to the touch.  I felt remorse and guilt about having named the parents Gustav and Alma, because in real life the Mahlers also lost one of their young children, for whom Gustav wrote the very sad Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”), based on the poems of Friedrich Ruckert.  These days, Gustav and Alma continue to be very affectionate with each other, grooming and feeding each other, but I don’t see them mating anymore.  Perhaps they are still grieving over the loss of their one and only offspring.

Meanwhile, I could not bear to see Papageno and Papagena’s cage sitting sadly empty, so a couple of months ago I went to a local pet store  and bought, not another pair of lovebirds, because Mozart’s lovebirds could never be replaced, but four parakeets instead, two of them blue, and two of them yellow.  I’ve never had parakeets before, but I liked the way they chirped when I approached them.  The two blue ones already seemed to be a pair, so I named them Robert and Clara (Schumann).  The people at the store said one of the yellow ones was definitely a male, but that the other one was still too young to determine its gender, so I named the male Frederick (Chopin) and the asexual one George (Sand).  Whatever gender George might turn out to be, they also seemed to be a pair.  And now my house is filled once more with the songs of nature. The birds are happiest when I am in the room with them, reading the paper and listening to classical music.  They like whatever music I put on, but definitely seem to favor Vivaldi’s guitar concertos, and old Maria Callas recordings of Puccini arias.

I am now glad to report that George is, in fact, female.  But something strange is happening in their cage.  While Robert and Clara (Schumann) continue to spend a great deal of time together, as do Frederick (Chopin) and George (Sand), in recent weeks I’ve noticed George in flirtatious dalliance with Robert, to the annoyance of both Frederick and Clara.  But George always returns to Frederick, and Robert to Clara, then all seems well again, though only for a while.  I really have no idea what’s going on with these parakeets, but I’ve now also put two nesting baskets in their cage, in the hope that they might soon produce baby parakeets.  Will these be blue or yellow, or green if of mixed parentage?  Just like America itself, divided politically into red and blue states, with the odd purple one emerging hither and thither.

In any case, if I do get baby parakeets, of whatever hue, and they start to make their sweet baby chirps, maybe the grieving lovebirds will be inspired to give it one more try.  The nesting box is still in their cage, and maybe enough time has passed so that the scent of untimely death can now be replaced by that of new life.


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The Beastly Beatitudes of the Chinese Zodiac

January 1st, 2010

After over half a century of reading and collecting paper place mats from Chinese restaurants all over the world, I’ve decided to collate my collection and share the Wisdom of the East with anyone who believes that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by western horoscopes.

As you probably know, according to legend, the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac are listed in the order in which they arrived for an important meeting called by the Buddha (or maybe the Jade Emperor).  Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back.  As the ox approached the destination, the easy rider jumped off his back, and this is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, etc.

It might amuse you to know that, because of their birth years, Mozart and Shakespeare are rats, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are oxen, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are rabbits, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin are dragons, and Dick Cheney is a snake.

My mother tells me I was born on the day of a year when the “sympathetic” sheep was being ushered out by the “manipulative” monkey, that I am neither one nor the other but both, inheriting and exhibiting not just the best but also the worst characteristics of these two creatures.  My mother doesn’t like people to know it, but she’s a pig.  I console her by reminding her that Alfred Hitchcock is also a pig  She loves his movies—Psycho, The Woman Who Knew Too Much, and, of course, Dial M for Mother.

What about you?  If you have the stomach for it, you might want to check out your own beastly beatitudes below, courtesy of all the paper place mats from all the Chinese restaurants through the years which have contributed to my hardened arteries.

Rat:  1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Forthright, tenacious, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd.  Can be manipulative, vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.

Famous Rats: Michelangelo Antonioni, James Baldwin, Charlotte Bronte, Truman Capote, Wilt Chamberlain, Prince Charles, Sasha Cohen, Eminem, Scarlett Johansson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Plato, Robert Redford, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, George Washington.

Ox:  1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious.  Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.

Famous Oxen: Pedro Almodovar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlie Chaplin, George Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Anton Dvorak, Jane Fonda, Clark Gable, George Frederic Handel, William Inge, Rachel Maddow, Yukio Mishima, Paul Newman, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, Vincent Van Gogh.

Tiger:  1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous.  Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable.

Famous Tigers: Emily Bronte, Fidel Castro, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Emily Dickinson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lady Gage, Langston Hughes, Jay Leno, Jerry Lewis, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Marco Polo, Beatrix Potter, Queen Elizabeth II, Jean Seberg, Jon Stewart.

Rabbit:  1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible.  Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.

Famous Rabbits: David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Zac Efron, Albert Einstein, Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, Angelina Jolie, Rush Limbaugh, Arthur Miller, Brad Pitt, Frank Sinatra, Leon Trotky, Orson Welles, Tiger Woods.

Dragon:  1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, zealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, artistic, generous, loyal.  Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.

Famous Dragons: Edward Albee, Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Orlando Bloom, Sigmund Freud, Graham Greene, Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Keanu Reeves, Ringo Starr, Mae West.

Snake:  1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful.  Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.

Famous Snakes: Ann-Margret, Joan Baez, Dick Cheney, Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, James Joyce, John F. Kennedy, Imelda Marcos, Pablo Picasso, Martha Stewart, Kanye West.

Horse:  1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile (mentally and physically), magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded.  Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.

Famous Horses: Muhammad Ali, Ingmar Bergman, Jackie Chan, Davy Crockett, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Ang Lee, Silvana Mangano, Paul McCartney, Sandra Day O’Connor, Teddy Roosevelt, Sonia Sotomayor, Barbra Streisand, Mike Tyson, Luchino Visconti, Oprah Winfrey, Boris Yeltsin.

Sheep:  1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security.  Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.

Famous Sheep: Jane Austen, Catherine Deneuve, Anita Ekberg, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Franz Liszt, Michelangelo, Sam Shepard,  Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Barbara Walters, Bruce Willis, Orville Wright.

Monkey:  1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual.  Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.

Famous Monkeys: Julius Caesar, Daniel Craig, Bette Davis, Federico Fellini, Jake Gyllenhaal, Louis Malle, Eleanor Roosevelt, Diana Ross, Will Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry S. Truman, Leonardo da Vinci, Alice Walker, Naomi Watts.

Rooster:  1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible.  Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.

Famous Roosters: Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart, Paris Hilton, Rudyard Kipling, Groucho Marx, Britney Spears, Peter Ustinov.

Dog:  1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going.  Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.

Famous Dogs: Brigitte Bardot, George W. Bush, Mariah Carey, Cher, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Doris Day, Benjamin Franklin, Jean Genet, George Gershwin, Jane Goodall, Herbert Hoover, Michael Jackson, Akira Kurosawa, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Shirley McLaine, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Donald Trump.

Pig:  1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent.  Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

Famous Pigs: Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Hillary Clinton, Alain Delon, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, Mahalia Jackson, Elton John, David Letterman, David Mamet, Keith Olbermann, Elvis Presley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tennessee Williams.

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