Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tips from a Blogger


It used to be that you could only write an “opinion piece” if you were a regular contributor to a newspaper and had your own column. Social media now allows anyone to write what they want anywhere, anytime.  Short thoughts can be tweeted.   Daily events and pictures can be shared on Facebook. and more ambitious writers can start a blog.


Why would anybody want to write a blog? The comparison I can think of is not a very elegant one. Something is stuck in your mind and it wants out.  So perhaps you end up writing a school essay on a topic of your own choosing. In the act of putting down your thoughts and letting them out, something of your personality will inevitably emerge.




A few tips:

–A blog writer has to be scrupulously honest, because readers will detect any insincerity or posturing.

–And if you hate “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” or something else that everyone loves, just say so!

–At the same time  you are not in the business of writing about yourself and you need to safeguard your privacy, so no nakedness. There are good reasons why clothes were invented. Keep  confessions for your diary.

–You also have to remember that you are not writing a novel. You do have to tell a story to keep your readers wanting to know more.

–There are no restrictions on what you can write about. I was asked once, “Why don’t you write about advice?”  So I wrote a blog about why I don’t give advice.

–Simple, concrete everyday words are more potent than abstract ones or circumlocutions. But if only an esoteric word can adequately describe your thought then use it. Some readers will know the word; others will guess or look it up.

–Avoid empty-calorie words like awesome, amazing or terrific. Their meaning has evaporated from overuse. Shun clichés like: “To make a long story short” or “The tip of the iceberg” or “Putting the cart before the horse” and many, many others.

And, most important, you need to enjoy writing your blog.

(I sure do)



Editor’s note: The word “blog” is a contraction of “weblog.”


Sing Out Birdies! (and the humans will follow)





From ancient times, birds have figured very prominently in all forms of human music. I think this is because the sounds they make are so much like musical trills, scales, arpeggios and even arias. Doesn’t the turtledove’s mournful cry resemble a musical lament?

Composers have featured birds individually and in whole flocks in their works, sometimes imitating them, other times incorporating actual recorded sounds and blending them in. Melodious calls like those of the nightingale, the cuckoo and the thrush are especially favored. One of Handel’s concerti is called “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” In Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” a single violin flutters like a bird. And in Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir” a flute and piano capture the sound of a blackbird. Cuckoo calls have also been used by Daquin and Vivaldi.

More prosaic birds also strut in some compositions: Haydn has a symphony called “The Hen”
in which an oboe does the clucking. And in Elgar’s “Owls” an owl-like sound recurs in the night.

Then there are the whole flocks of various birds appearing together. The 16th century musician Janequin composed “Le Chant des Oiseaux” (Birds’ Songs). Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” features a storm followed by the sound of birds by a brook. But the most famous work about flocks of birds is Otterino Respighi’s “The Birds.” He went about collecting and recording various bird sounds and incorporated them into his composition.

A most subversive idea came to me as I thought about the concept of “birds singing.” Why do we believe that they are singing? A bird’s life is fraught with danger and necessity. At every moment, it needs to think of foraging for food while not becoming someone else’s food. A bird does not have the leisure and luxury of engaging in frivolous singing. For that you need calm, tranquility and serenity.

So here is my translation of their sophisticated language that sounds like song to us. (This is absolutely without evidence.)

Her to Him: Night is falling. The chicks are sleeping.
Come home.

Him to Her: Looking for more worms. Coming soon.

Her to Him: Watch out for the fluffy cat. It has become better at pouncing.

Early morning birds singing in unison: Get ready everybody. We are migrating this morning.

And at sundown. Omigod, the world is coming to an end!

Next time…More animals and classical music…..


Editors note: This video is not completely on point, but still a lot of fun.

Here’s a lovely rendition of The Lark Ascending

Comments on the Passing Scene #1

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron

Editor’s note. From time to time, Simone sends us short commentary like the one below. We will publish the most interesting of these. These thoughts came in response to the Macron victory in the French election.

I am glad France has reversed course. I am glad Macron is pro-European. But why? oh why? couldn’t we do it here? Why do we have to put up with these Mafia criminals in the White House? And who will have the guts to sack them?

Our current resident makes Nixon look like a saint and George W like a genius. (and Marine Le Pen like a nuisance)

I guess we can thank our overly long campaign season and our electoral system for our woes.

Macron was a dark horse but perhaps will prove to be a good one.