Four inches  of snow tonight. Ugh. If Spring is a battle against winter, this is a war crime. Plus, I feel a cold coming on, or rather coming out; it’s already in, and now it’s just a matter of suffering through the minor manifestations. This time I’m taking RapidMelt zinc tablets, which have a pleasant cherry flavor. They still make everything taste like weasel smegma, though. That’s the only downside to zinc.

It feels like a long week. Trudging back up the hill this morning, it felt like Thursday, without any of the usual accomplishments.  So I set about accomplishing a few things. Filed two columns, one of which might be my favorite Quirk of the year. Last Sunday the paper ran a syndicated review of “Def Jam: Icon,” and the reviewer took pains to tell us that just because it featured hip-hop stars hitting each other while hip-hop music played, and that the objective of the game – aside from punching everyone bloody – was to build a hip-hop record label, the game had nothing to do with hip-hop. I took him at his word, and agreed – why, I’d just played the classical version of the game, and here’s a review!

You’ll have to wait until Friday. The headline on the piece is “If Josh Bell read this aloud in the skyway, no one would listen,” a reference to the WaPo Weingarten story about the Philistines of the Metro. It’s a typical Weingarten piece, which is to say it’s the apogee of the newspaper feature writing craft (something that’s been largely eliminated by industry changes, incidentally. Either the new breed of editors wants the feature stuff to be lite ‘n’ breezy ‘n’ useful for your busy life [Eliminate shoe clutter? Six easy steps!] or they don’t have the space. The Post has the money to pay for pieces like that, which helps.) Personally, I don’t blame anyone for not stopping – as so many others have noted, you learn quite quickly to tune out anything that pierces the commuter’s Iron Shell. I’ll throw money in a busker’s case if he’s any good, and I like to think that if I’d heard Bell playing something I knew – say, the Bruch or the first Paganini, I’d stop. But the intricacies of the latter might be lost in the caverns of a subway station.


This is the coda of the first movement of the first Paganini  violin concerto; I don’t know who’s playing, alas. Keep reminding yourself: this is one person. The difficulty of this passage is fiendish.

Now imagine yourself thinking about what you have to do at the office, dealing with the usual mental fugue, and you’re also trying to tack left to avoid the panhandler at 1 o’clock, and while you like the fact that some people play music in the station it makes you feel somewhat guilty for not giving them any money -  but you’d have to dig it out, which means stopping, and that means you’ll be late, and really, why do they have to make you feel guilty like this anyway, so to heck with them.

Not saying that’s what I’d think. Heavens no! I’m much more attuned to the rare moment of random urban poetry, don’t you know.

On the other hand: my colleague at the paper, Doug Grow, wrote a column about the Josh Bell incident, and interviewed a fellow who plays the cello in the skyway. I’ve heard that guy play. I’ve given him money, so there. We actually had a chat about the Walton cello concerto, a brooding and anguished piece, and one of my favorites in the 20th century repertoire. Middle age can be a bitch.

Ah, let’s see. What else. Not much. Home all day, due to a heavy work load (I know how peculiar that seems, but it’s so) – I managed to ramble off a Diner after dinner, though, and it’s a corker. This episode takes place in 1977, which many horrible depressing 70s pop songs.  I tried to get Gnat to practice piano, after today’s post-school debacle, but my wife didn’t hear me, and whisked Gnat off for a bath. Dang. The debacle arose from exhaustion – she needed a nap after school, and finally took one – and frustration after the time off over break. I’m not happy about it, though. I keep thinking it’s all been for naught, and that makes me very sad.

So . . . .

Oh, I know. There was a piece in the paper the other day (a phrase that really needs a widely accepted acronym) predicting a new office tower in downtown Minneapolis. Skyscraper lover that I am, I thought: cool! But then I began to worry. We’re not living in the golden age of skyscraper design. Minneapolis developers, like those in other cities, eagerly seize (man, you can tell I’m sinking fast here, cold wise. They seize, eagerly? As oppose to those who demonstrate a more languid, indecisive form of seizing?) on the latest style. Hail to the future! That was the clever built-in appeal of the old classically detailed skyscrapers; they would  age and date, but they had a pedigree that went back to Rome. The Moderne style that replaced the classical look was The Future as well, but a distinctly American future, lean and  confident, and it made sense. You looked at the 30s buidings, and they could be understood in an instant.

That's our old Bell Telephone building, our Daily Planet. These buildings were replaced, of course, by the Parade of Lifeless Modernist Slabs. This one was proposed for Minneapolis, but never built:

Fifty stories of joy, that one. Sweet Mies, what an excrescence.  The site was eventually redeveloped into two towers in the 80s, bulky lads that nevertheless have a certain amount of charm:


Most of the buildings from the 80s are pretty good, and that’s not surprising – it was a good era for skyscrapers. Looked back, looked ahead, looked up. Today, I fear, we’re more likely to get some tortured mammoth twisted pickle with polygon windows.

Take this, for example. Oy. The base is an old 1930s building - a rather ridiculous structure that resembles a fascist movie set, but a rare example of its breed. Let us be charitable and note that the tower does not take its foundation into account as much as one might like. It looks like a chrysalis that will produce a robot Mothra.

If such a thing is proposed here, and the architects have sufficient pedigree, I imagine it would be celebrated as proof we’re a “world class” city, complete with the inhuman, arrogant, flavor-of-the-month architecture that title has come to suggest.

Okay, I’m really sagging. Time to hit the sofa and crawl under a blanket and turn on the fire. The first day of the cold is always the worst! I only hope today counts.

Oh, Quirk and new money, written with an obviously small amount of enthusiasm. See you tomorrow.