Siouxland Observer

Master of Science

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dusty Bin of History?

Once upon a midnight dreary, while we pondered weak and weary over many a quaint and curious book of bores, we found one full of dull inquiry winking, blinking from the dusty bins of yore.

Of course, Poe couldn't be there, but a book of card games stood out. Once a treasure to people everywhere, it can only be wondered if this use of (wasteful?) time is still studied and learned by anyone.

Now before card lovers clog the inbox, this is not a diatribe. Rather an interesting muse on a really neat way to listen to music.

Classical music is joy, and if anything can be learned from the generation who claimed Woodstock as their own, it is that those who listen to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony must know rock. The symphony explains what rock and rollers meant when they bragged up Beethoven as inspirational.

And there is more. People who have a lot of leisure time and money (or as they are known in this space as scholars) have found that not only did the creator of “Peanuts,” a comic strip about adult children, make Lucy a pop psychologist, but Schroeder a true music connoisseur.

Perhaps Schroeder is the true alter ego of Charles M. Schulz. After all it was Lucy, the iconic groupie, who hung around planning a future with Schroeder. Groupies are like this everywhere, and certainly Schulz encountered his fair share in Santa Rosa.

According to The New York Times, William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at Cal State, San Jose, studied Schulz and found the musical bars that accompany the cartoon strip with Schroeder are not only real, but accentuate the meaning of the storyline.

Thus, in a comic strip where Schroder is trying his hand at “boy” stuff, his music follows the storyline.

In the cartoon, for example, “…he does push-ups,” according to The New York Times, “jumps rope, lifts weights, touches his toes, does sit-ups (‘Puff, Puff’), boxes, runs (‘Pant, Pant’) and finally eats (Chomp! Chomp!’).”

Then in the last two panels he heads to the piano where “the eighth notes above Schroeder’s head are from the opening bars of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op 106), a piece so long, artistically complex and technically difficult that it is referred to as the “Giant” Sonata.”

Thus, the piece is so difficult to play that the sweat springing from Schroeder’s brow becomes a metaphor. That is, good music is hard work; even more than lifting weights. Yes, Schulz loved classical music, The New York Times said.

Not a fan of this kind of music? Not to worry. Schulz choose Beethoven as Schroder’s hero because the name sounded funnier. The roots of genius, perhaps.

Still, it is worth rocking out to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony just to hear some of the loudest and the best.

Interestingly, Schulz liked music as much as drawing. And he played cards too. In art school he and his friends often got together around “a wild game of Hearts." But they did it while listening to classical music.

Many in Santa Rosa claim he like country-western music as well, and perhaps he did. But like Schroder, Schulz turned to classics for more depth, and often went to classical concerts.

Try it over a game of Hearts or something, and make it Beethoven. Who knows? It might make playing cards worth while.

Editor’s Note: Our thanks to the folks at at Discovery Education for the clip art of the guy with the funny sounding name.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tigers All

A book of cartoons and a place to learn understanding. Comic books?

Remember Miss Wormwoood of Calvin and Hobbes? The teach who transported Calvin to outer space as he fought off the monster teacher demanding he read his book report, aka, Miss Wormwood? Book report? What in the world is that?

It is hard to imagine a place where people challenge you to learn as anything but a joy. Yet, it wasn’t always true. As a child, many hate school. And for me, it was a place of hate without doubt. A fearful world that could not be understood.

Miss Wormwood? Try Mrs. Blinkler, Mrs. Staids or Mrs. Zimmerperson (not real names). Educators in a prison-like place of teachers, who not only could not teach or understand, but who did not care to—or so the Calvin in me remembers.

Oh yes, there was Miss Nelson, an angel of a teacher who had me in band and parading on the school grounds. But for the most part, school was for me as this cartoon shows: a world of total miscommunication.

Ironically, one of the most useful books in my library (for I have since found the joy of learning) is a primer I never used. It wasn’t until college I truly began to study and write.

I do remember writing a rendition of sorts, a short story of mistaken understanding in high school where a man dying on a desert actually turned out to be a turtle. My turtle. Not original, but guilt over something I had done was copied in a skeletal form from a short horror story. On that day, my instructor actually read my story in front of the class.

It was not totally original, but it was mine. And I have seldom been prouder.

A few years ago I came across the text all the "smart" kids used in high school--the English class I never took. Had I taken that class and had written my tale, I would have felt shame. My bad grammar and mistakes would have never been accepted, or so I felt at the time.

Ironically, the story was all but a perfect piece of prose. Not a good student?

Yes, what a bunch of garbage.

For the record, this old text book is as easy to understand as it is to use a computer. If only Mrs. Blinkler, et al., had been from Mars too.

Here’s looking at you. And the gentle teachers teaching all. For all of us who wanted to learn but never could seem to manage, I thank you for trying and having faith in us.