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No question about it, 2017 was a tough year.

And it’s not just the person in the White House. It’s the entire catastrophic GOP agenda: this horrible “tax reform” bill filled with poison pills, the hijacking of the federal judiciary by the ultra-right, the subversion of the EPA, the State Department, and the Interior Department, the attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice, not the mention the failure to get to the bottom of Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. And there is so much more: Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Jared and Ivanka and Roy Moore and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Mike Mulvaney and Donald Jr. and George Papadopoulis and Rick Gates and Vladimir Putin. The list is almost endless: the corruption is deep and complete.

It makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Everything else is really minor, when you consider that Trump has his finger on the nuclear button.

But within my micro-life, I had some beautiful moments and exquisite experiences in 2017, and that’s what I’m trying to focus on as we celebrate the end of an improbable year:

 

BEING WITH MY GRANDSON, ETC.

photo 4

 

Nature knows something. Old people and young people just seem to go together. And so the cycle of nature gives me a little boy – the son of my son – to fill these late-in-the-game days with a kind of pure, uncomplicated, primal love that I’ve never known before.

Fortunately, I get a lot of one-on-one time with my grandson Calder. His parents trust me. (I was a good Dad. And I am so terrified of anything going wrong while Calder’s in my care that I am super-ultra-vigilant. Nothing but good will ever happen to him while he’s with me.)

It makes me think of the song from SWEENEY TODD

“Nothing's gonna harm you
Not while I'm around
Nothing's gonna harm you
No sir, not while I'm around”

Sometimes I take him to a playground near his house. I push him in a stroller and sing and talk to him. We make jokes and play “I Spy” and talk about what’s new in the family. As his mother has said many times, “Calder is a good companion.” He just happens to be very young.

I also take him to two different parks near my house: our local playground with two play structures, some greenspace and a bandstand, and a larger park a little further away with ballfields, tennis courts, a huge playground, and even some forest.

Sometimes I’ll take him to a nearby botanical gardens – Descanso Gardens – which is an absolute gem. Of international renown, Descanso is our magical 150-acre retreat, tucked into Cherry Canyon on the south side of town, less than two miles from my house. Just two traffic lights. Calder loves flowers and gardening. “I am a good, strong gardener,” he says as he rakes, digs, or hoes.

Descanso is most famous for its vast camellia forest and its collection of native oaks. There is also a rosarium, a Japanese garden, a bird sanctuary, a lilac garden, and a xeriscape. (That’s a drought-tolerant or low-water garden, composed of native plants.) There are lots of walks and trails, a miniature railroad, and a stream. There are koi in the stream, and I’ve spent many hours, illegally feeling the koi with contraband bread. Kids love to feed bread to the koi, both my kids and the kid I used to mentor. Oh hell, I love to feed bread to the koi. But no more: I am a rule-follower with Calder. Right down the line.

The ETC. about Calder is that now I get to enjoy the Tiny Goddess as “Nana” or “Nanny” or “Nan” … my Son as a good Dad … my Daughter as a beloved aunt … my Daughter-in-Law as Mother-of-the-Year … and all the ripples of goodness that come from this smart, nice little boy.

It’s something quite wonderful: a new kind of love, this late in life.

 

“Not While I’m Around” – from SWEENEY TODD –sung by Ken Jennings
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zet0XrrhiuU

 

THE DODGERS

I watched more baseball this season than I ever have in my entire life. I bet that the TG and I watched more than 100 games. We missed a lot of April and May, but once the basketball season ended, we watched just about every game.

The love of baseball came slowly to me. When I was a kid, I wasn’t very good at baseball, and it was too slow and boring for me. It took a lifetime for me to develop an appreciation of this sport, from which I now derive so much pleasure.

And this was an amazing Dodger season to follow. Just because they fell short in Game 7 of the World Series, I won’t dismiss the whole season as a failure. At least they got us all the way to a Game 7. That’s the closest the Dodgers have gotten since 1988, the year before we moved to LA.

We reveled in every win, died a little with every loss, and enjoyed the whole ride. To quote from my “D-DAYS” blog from July 11 --

“The team is great: from veterans like Clayton Kershaw (who is approaching Koufax Kountry) and Chase Utley to prime contributors like Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Joc Pederson to new stars like Corey Seager and the sensational rookie Cody Bellinger. If you have Yasiel Puig hitting in the seventh or eighth position, you have a powerhouse line-up.

They could go all the way this year, but beating the Houston Astros in the World Series will not be easy.”


Turns out, my prediction was dead accurate.

I can’t wait until next season. I might even have to look at what’s going on down in Orange County with the Angels and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, the new Babe Ruth. Not to mention Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the Bronx.

Game 5 of the World Series highlights – one of the greatest games of all time!! – the year’s highest drama, even if the Dodgers lost
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZdlcTp56Hk

LA DODGERS – FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUMFfds2uMw

 

CODY BELLINGER – First Half Highlights
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GeHccpkefw

 

CODY BELLINGER’S FIRST 22 HOME RUNS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZcYkRb9ERU

 

FIVE GREAT DODGER PLAYS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZjHrVaDLB0

 

and I’ll repost my collection of “diamond gems” –

George Carlin's classic "Baseball vs. Football" routine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoWsPRzzia8


"Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke)" by Terry Cashman
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWKA9Zi5-_Y


Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SKyfGK9brs


Bill Mazerowski's Walk-Off, World-Series-Winning 1960 Home Run
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65Og0gUKfvc


The Most Amazing Defensive Plays in Baseball History – guaranteed to kill you with pleasure for 15:19
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDgL91zBVLo


The Greatest Post-Season Walk-Off Home Runs of All Time (Everybody: Joe Carter, Aaron Boone, Kirk Gibson, Chris Chambliss, Nelson Cruz, etc.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B537BOPgPb4


Babe Ruth's 1932 "Called" Home Run
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkEX0eb2eBo


Tommy Lasorda's famous Dave Kingman rant – count the F-bombs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIwrYH6Urbs


and the greatest baseball song of all time – with appropriate photos --
"Van Lingle Mungo" by David Frishberg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKzobTlF8fM

 

HAMILTON

Of course.

(Here’s a link to my “Hamilton” blog – http://peterseth.com/blog/254-finally-hamilton.html -- I stand by everything I wrote there, but let me add….)

HAMILTON has stayed with me since I saw it, and it’s not just listening to the music stream.

Miranda’s accomplishment—writing the book, music, and lyrics—is intimidating and a challenge to any other artist working today. “Write something as good as HAMILTON.” A lot of people are hearing those words inside, and it makes you raise your game.

Miranda didn’t compromise with HAMILTON, but he also thought about his audience. It is as smart as it is entertaining. He just set the bar a little higher for everyone.

HAMILTON links:

Lin-Manuel Miranda does HAMILTON in three minutes on “The Ellen Degeneres Show”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbniWvd5OZ4

 

“HAMILTON” on the Tonys
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5VqyCQV1Tg


Lin-Manuel Miranda performs “Alexander Hamilton” at a White House Poetry Jam
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8_ARd4oKiI

 
The cast of “HAMILTON” performs “My Shot” at the White House
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEHKBckBcr4

 
“HAMILTON” featurette on CBS 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wboCdgzLHg&t=94s


“HAMILTON” featurette on PBS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAiEVjW-GNA


“HAMILTON” – nine things that “Hamilton” got wrong
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkh5UAVL1xY&pbjreload=10


FIVE GREAT FACTS ABOUT "HAMILTON"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fuaoomVONs

 

 

RING HIGHLIGHTS BY THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC

I have a love/hate relationship with Richard Wagner and his music. Considering how much opera I listen to, I don’t listen to as much Wagner as I “should.” It’s hard to work with Wagner in the background, but it’s not just that. (Of course, Wagner is a major artist, influential not only in the world of opera, but across many art forms. His influence cannot be underestimated, and his greatest music is among the greatest ever written.) Yet, in the actual listening to his full operas, I find myself agreeing with Gioacchino Rossini’s assessment: “Wagner is a composer who has many beautiful moments but awful quarter hours.”

But those “beautiful moments” are absolutely spellbinding—right up there with prime Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, or Bruckner—as the most glorious music of all time: the music of the heavens opening.

While I don’t listen to entire Wagner operas, but I do listen to collections of orchestral highlights from the Ring of the Neibelung and his other operas like DIE MEISTERSINGER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE by some of my favorite conductors like Wilhelm Furtwangler, Karl Bohm, and Loren Maazel.

This particular concert by the LA Philharmonic, conducted by Philippe Jordan, Music Director of the Paris Opera, had quite a few of those moments: from the Prelude to DAS RHEINGOLD … the Entrance of the Gods … the Ride of the Valkyries … the Magic Fire Music … Forest Murmurs … Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral Music … and Brunhilde’s Immolation Scene.

I’ve heard this music so many times that it’s always a thrill to hear it live, played by the excellent Los Angeles Philharmonic.

This is among the most sublime music ever written, and it was a privilege to hear it played live from our perfect seats in the front row center of the front terrace.

Listen:

“Prelude” – from DAS RHEINGOLD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSbDhdAg4aE

 

“Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” – from DAS REINGOLD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b80Jw8MuZxo

 

“Magic Fire Music” – from DIE WALKURE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CxaCtJAY58

 

“Forest Murmurs” – from SIEGFRIED
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08vTtu4pmjk

 

“Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” – from GOTTERDAMMERUNG
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpmlAG-X4DY

 

“Siegfried’s Funeral March” – from GOTTERDAMMERUNG
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXh5JprKqiU

 

 

(Six next time.)

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