It’s Danny Kaye, ma!

20 September 2006

In what is becoming a frequent occurrence, I sketched a definition of what rhetoric is to a friend today, having just come from a meeting of the Rhetoric Society of America, Hilo chapter. Another frequent occurrence followed: that my definition was essentially useless until I supplied some examples in the form of the forums planned for this semester.

Later this afternoon, I submitted a stern yet enthusiastic comment to iTunes, stating in some uncertain terms that they would lose me as a customer if they didn’t acquire the song ‘Tchaikovsky,’ sung by Danny Kaye in the 1941 musical ‘Lady in the Dark.’ The musical was composed by Kurt Weill, and Wikipedia posits that this song was performed a capella because no orchestra could keep up. While I do not dispute Danny Kaye’s puissance, it’s hard to give credence to that statement, knowing what some musicians can do.

All of this is by way of saying that if you can pronounce the following list in under a minute, consider a career in show business:

Maliszewski, Rubinstein, Arensky, Tchaikovsky, Sapellnikoff, Dmitriev, Tscherepnin, Kryjanovsky, Godowsky, Artiboucheff, Moniuszko, Akimenko, Soloviev, Prokofiev, Tiomkin, Korestchenko, Glinka, Winkler, Bortniansky, Rebikoff, Ilyinsky, Medtner, Balakirev, Zolotarev, Kvoschinsky, Sokolov, Kopyloff, Dukelsky, Klenovsky, Shostakovich, Borodin, Glière, Nowakowsky, Lyadov, Karganoff, Markevitch, Pantschenko, Dargomyzhsky, Stcherbatcheff, Scriabin, Vassilenko, Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Gretchaninoff, Glazunov, César Cui, Kalinnikov, Rachmaninov, and Rumshinsky.

Skill with words, whatever you use it for is rhetoric. Keeping that in mind, the NPR blog host JJ Sutherland posted an it’d-be-funny-if-this-stuff-wasn’t-so-damned-serious . . . okay-maybe-it’s-still-a-little-funny review of Hugo Chavez’s performance at the UN General Assembly.

That brings us to the theme for this post: 39 second audio clips. As Peter Schickele, another rhetor of yet a different kind says, here’s looking at you.

Dido, gauche, heifer

19 July 2006

The rule about no proper nouns in Scrabble is patently absurd. You get much cooler games if you keep them in. Last night we played a couple of medium-cool boards, and the only reasons I kept up were: 1. I had a few glasses of wine & 2. Bruckner finally ended and Handel & Bach came on the radio.

I really, really wanted to play ‘zeugma,’ or ‘syllepsis,’ but never got the letters. I learned the words from Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosopher’s Club, where he ‘cherishes words like a gardner nursing a sick plant.’ Good for Alexander.

Ciardi quotes WH Auden on young poets ‘hanging around words to see how they behave.’ Playing Scrabble with a fiercely intelligent and creative opponent is a pretty good dose of that, I’d say.