From Memory

“Dover Beach,” poem by Matthew Arnold,

Penned by a Victorian on his honeymoon! This is hardly a celebratory poem, but I get from it what the French call a “morne plaisir,” a gloomy satisfaction. Its somber music moves me, and lends assurance that human folly is eternal, as regular and repeating as a Hollywood superhero franchise. Wars have kept coming, do keep coming, and will keep coming as long as waves fling pebbles up the high strand.

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Why Learn the Fretboard? (6-23-2012)

I learned touch typing in high school and have used it intensively all my life. My dream is to enable my fingers to find the notes they need on the fretboard as automatically and unconsciously as they find the letters they need on the keyboard. I feel certain that sublimely accomplished guitarists such as Sharon Isbin and Pepe Romero have this facility, cultivated from early youth and refined over a lifetime of practice.

For this Johnny-come-lately to serious musicianship it’s a pipe dream. Nevertheless, something can be achieved. The effort to improve my grasp and practice of music on the guitar provides good thoughts when I go to sleep and a motive for getting up in the morning.

My chief goal in learning the fretboard notes is to become fluently conversant with chord anatomy. When I’m fingering a chord I want to know at a glance which finger is playing what interval of the chord: the first, the third, the fifth, the seventh, a suspended fourth, whatever.

(By the way, in music talk a “suspended” note is one that’s played, not one that’s left out. I can never get used to this. One writer says a suspended note creates melodic “suspense” calling for resolution. I buy that, but I would call it a “suspending” note if I were inventing musicology.)

If I’m building a chord I want to know where my alternatives are. You can’t finger a chord just anywhere. I can perform this analysis now, but more laboriously than I would like. I often drift off into idle song as a result of the mental fatigue incurred, and have to wrench my brain back to the task at hand.

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This Is Stag Country

Carlis McElroy was captain of our Lady Stags softball team her senior year. She had to stop pitching when she injured her rotator cuff. Bobbi Gail thinks that’s when she got pregnant with Mardel Spelvin. Mardel’s taking classes in Kinesiology over at Blane. He has a crush on that girl with the dark tan, but Bobby Gail thinks he’ll do right by Carlis when she has the baby. That’s a momma’s prerogative to be optimistic. Plus she’ll make Sturgis get Mardel a Tom’s Toasted Snack route to help pay the bills.┬áSturgis is fleet manager over there, commutes to the headquarters in Fleck three nights a week. I think it does Bobbi Gail good to get him out from under foot. Shawnetta Murd says Mardel and Carlis are too
young to get married, and I couldn’t agree more. Young parents should not rush into marriage. They need to be ready for that commitment. Shawnetta should know. She tied the knot with D’Havilland when she was eight months with D’EveLynn. Her kids turned out good. D’EveLynn’s at Blane now on a softball scholarship, and D’Antwan is junior varsity this year.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Social Math — UK

Eighteen minutes into Giles’s and Trevor’s trip for high tea with Felicity and Nigella at the Chancery Buttery near Vauxhall Mews, a lorry blocks their way for seven minutes in order to unload its bangers and kidneys at the Fox and Hound. Its driver gestures obsequiously.

“Uncouth villain!” murmurs Giles as they dawdle with engine idling.
“Indeed,” breathes Trevor, and discharges a cocked eyebrow at the lout.

Question: Giles’s monthly allowance is 4,000 pounds. He intends to ask Felicity’s hand in marriage on his twentieth birthday. That would give him her fortune straightaway. Posit what intelligence you would require, if you were a person of distinction, in order to estimate how many multiples of his pre-inheritance income, annualized, the lad would forfeit should Felicity spurn him.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Adventures in Toponymy

King Mswati III of Swaziland proclaims that his country shall henceforth be called eSwatini. It means “land of the Swati” in the siSwati language that predominates in the southern African kingdom. The king has reigned for 32 years over one of the poorest countries in the world. He’s tired of his country being confused with Switzerland.

Nearby Lesotho and Botswana are also countries that renamed themselves using the template “land of” followed by an ethnic linguistic designation.

On another renaming front, the article says the Czech Republic is now officially Czechia. I didn’t know that.
(Max Bearak, Washington Post, 4-20-18)

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Didactic Doggerel

The Little Comet That Could

Note: “Kreutz” is pronounced “Kroits.”

Lovejoy, a Kreutz sungrazer, has just done
A death-defying feat, and kissed the Sun.

Stargazers shook their heads: “He won’t make it!”
Lovejoy said to himself: “I can take it!”

The road ahead led through the Sun’s corona —
It’s hotter there than June in Arizona.

The stellar surface loomed and threatened to
Turn little Lovejoy into barbecue.

Old Lovejoy said, “No turning back. Here goes!”
And tail-wagged past the star on tippy-toes.

The gazers cried, “He’s bigger than we thought!
“How else could he survive something that hot?”

“Tremendously traumatic.” “Likely weak.”
“May fragment any day. Here, take a peek.”

Lovejoy winked at the lenses and their clan,
Said, “Better get an eyeful while you can!”

Then he set sail, continued on his way,
Leaving the naysayers to have their say.


(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Written in the 70s

MANED EXETER (Sontag, 219)
Maned Exeter, beleaguered metalunan

victor or the victim. The success of such spectacles indicates that most people identify with the victor; they are immortal. I identify with the victim. Screen violence is horrible because I am its object. Thus, a taste for distance and formalism in art (Sontag on Bresson). Porno, on the other hand, involves a similar, but titillating, projection. In this case, I am aggressor.
Screen gore is the successor of the public execution. Could the sex act replace the death act as public spectacle? Mores and censors overwhelmingly favor the latter. But couldn’t ceremonial and stylized execution proceed from erotic drive?
The energies must address a specific, delimited goal.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)70s-9

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