Orchestra Hall Plaza

Sunday was the first concert in the Minnesota Youth Symphonies season, and it marked the start of my seventh year with the organization. Oy. Seven. I am never forget the day, as Tom Lehrer sang, when I did the first one; knees a’knockin’. Nor will I forget how I came home four years ago after the November concert with a tickle in my throat, and came down with pneumonia a few days later. That’s still the gold-standard for near-death experiences. Not this year. Last night I had the obligatory on-stage-without-a-script-or-plan dream, but it was rather merry; I got a standing ovation just for showing up, could say nothing wrong, even though the PA system failed and I was using my crappy Bleatcast mike through an iBook speaker. No matter! They loved me!

I showed up today, went to my dressing room. Two students in tuxes were standing by the door, looking at the sign. “Who’s James Lileks,” said one. “I have no idea,” said the other.

“It’s me,” I beamed. “Your host.”

Only teens can say “whatever” without moving a muscle on their faces.

I did get some “whoooos” when I took the stage, though. That’s nice. You rarely get Whooooos in your life – actual sonic whooos, not written ones or nice notes from the boss or attaboys from a pal. Real concert-hall whoooos. If I do have any appeal as an MC, I think it’s my efficiency; I tell no jokes, spin no tales. It’s a three-hour cruise, this concert, and every minute I spend being Mister Jovial is another minute people have to spend in their seats. There are four orchestras playing, which means that at any given time, three-fourths of the audience is less engaged than the other fourth, and might actually consider their presence as charity. So the less of me, the better.

And it always ends the same: walking out on stage for the bow with the conductors, backslaps back stage, blowing out the stage door in high spirits – and five minutes later, idling at a traffic light, thinking about dinner, glad it’s done. I was listening to some Bob & Ray shows from the CBS stint in the 50s – never heard them before, and had always resisted liking them because I was supposed to – part of that pantheon of comedy your elders are always telling you about, usually to make a disparaging point about the comics of your generation. Why, Bob and Ray didn’t need drugs to be funny! And they didn’t work blue, either. More of a mauve. Listening to the show now, it comes from an era that rarely gets broken out as its own distinct time – the late 50s and early 60s. It has a certain feel that’s hard to describe. But. When you hearthe theme – cheery whistlers whistling “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover” over a chopping banjo, presented without obvious sarcasm and drenched in the same, you know where you are. It’s middlebrow, middle-aged, buttoned-down, wry, offhand, and safely subversive. I have no interest in the modern model of Wacky Morning Guys yelling at each other, so that may explain why two mumbing underplaying improv artists has an appeal. In any case, I love it. Here’s an example. I’ve trimmed some stuff that concerns two running gags. It gives you the flavor of the show. Ten minutes, five MB.

If you’re new to these guys, you may not know that Bob had a son.

Kurt Vonnegut has passed from the realm of silly old man to pernicious fool. Screedblog.

But of course:
The weekend was a glorious success: got a table pad. Not one of your cheap vinyl ones – oh, no. This was a moderately priced vinyl one. Also went to Southdale to pick up some Apple DVDs for backup purposes; the Apple store was jammed, as usual. Smelled like a barn, too. On a whim I picked up “Railroad Tycoon,” because it had the elusive “sandbox” mode that let you construct vast rail systems and towns without having to play the annoying game. The install gobbled up 1.2GB of space, and I’m guessing that 900MB of the code is devoted to a special, patented program that makes the graphics look as bad as humanly possible. It hurt to look at it. Help! I’m being stabbed in the eyes by 1997! If this game had sucked any harder the plaster would have flaked off the wall and adhered to the fan intakes. Just as well. Too much to do.

Such as? I’ve begun another of those seldom-clamored-for revisions of an obscure area of the site; this time it’s the Comics page. In addition to redesigning the old pages to make them look like they belong in the 21st century instead of the 20th, I’m adding a new site devoted to peculiar comic books, including lots of DC drivel. There are many sites devoted to Superman’s stupidity; this will be another. The first installment, “Manowar, the First Noninterventionist Superhero,” debuts Wednesday. A curious 1940s comic about a superhero who fights against those who would involve America in European wars. Now I'm off to write the column & Screedblog. Rare double-page matchbook edition. Whooo! See you tomorrow.