June 12, 2007

Monday (11 June) marked a couple of commemorations. I’ll begin by mentioning that it marked the 143rd birthday of composer Richard Strauss, whose name appears in roughly every other posting since I’m a major “fan” of his music. Although 143 doesn’t have the same symbolic significance as other numbers, Alex Ross commemorated Strauss’ birthday anyway by posting a photograph of the composer from 1945, just after the Allies liberated Germany from the Nazi regime.

Prior to the photo, Strauss had played cat-and-mouse with Hitler and his cronies during their 12 years of madness, ranging from an appointment by Goebbels to the presidency of the Reichsmusikkamer to a fall from disgrace in 1935 after collaborating with Jewish author Stefan Zweig on Die schweigsame Frau. In addition, his daughter-in-law Alice was Jewish, so he tried using his name to protect her and her family (including his grandchildren).

Since many of Germany’s greatest minds left before things went from bad to worse, some have assumed that Strauss supported the Nazis. Strauss probably could have left quite easily with his reputation, but the evidence of his being pro-Nazi seems based on leaps in logic (and, at least subconsciously, likely conflated with Hitler’s liking of Wagner’s music). Besides, Strauss was at least a generation older than many of the major figures of National Socialism, and his sense of historical persepctive likely added to his political naivete; after all, regimes had come and gone in Germany, and he initially viewed the Nazis as hardly any different. The Nazis and their horrors finally did pass, leaving a reminder of the perils of unchecked power. Strauss remained on earth a few more years to give the world a few more great works (including his Metamorphosen and Four Last Songs), leaving a legacy of numerous orchestral works, operas, and lieder that explore humanity with a vivaciousness achieved by few other composers.

Health was also a major topic yesterday, so it seems suitable to commemorate that as well. I had my last dental appointment in Texas, which means that I will need to find someone good in North Carolina. I recall a Seinfeld episode where Jerry commented that everyone thinks their dentist is the best. I can say the same about mine, without the emptiness implied by Jerry. With his team of hygenists, my (now former) dentist does quite excellent work. On an amusing note, something about him also reminds me of Dr. Phil. It may be his look, his manner, or even his voice, but one almost expects him to say, “It’s not what you’re biting. It’s what biting you.” Anyway, things have progressed quite well with my teeth since the “scaling” a few years ago, and I left yesterday with a flouride treatment for good measure. (Of course, if my essence starts to feel drained, I’ll get suspicious…)

From oral health to overall health… On an unfortunate note, my father-in-law had to go to the hospital due to fainting spells. He has had them before, and he has started to forget things more over the past few years. The doctors believe that he has Alzheimer’s, but Diane and I think it’s something different; he has some apparent early and later symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but some things seem too inconsistent with such a diagnosis. We do hope that he’s at least better for Father’s Day, especially with this being the last one before we move.

When I go to the dentist, I have my blood pressure taken before the cleaning. (They use a wrist monitor, which is preferable to the one that cuts off circulation to half your arm and brings you to the brink of passing out.) It’s usually quite low, something I attribute to not liking things too salty and to taking CoQ-10. However, it was a bit higher than normal (131/87). The hygienist asked if I was undergoing anything stressful, which prompted me to talk about the move. When I told Diane about this, she mentioned something that she has broached to me several times before: that we go to a gym and do some exercising, especially with the weather here getting too hot. After some discussion (colloquially speaking), I came to my senses and tried pushing bad memories of gym class and little league baseball from my brain. We decided to sign up for month-to-month membership at a nearby 24 Hour Fitness, built just a few months ago. Several months ago, Diane actually went to another one further down the road to sign up for a temporary program, and ran away screaming as the counselor tried pressuring her into some signing up for something she didn’t want.

Despite what happened to Diane at the other location, as well as the MAD magazine-inspired moniker I gave it in reaction (“24 Hour Fatness”), we thought we’d give it a try. A counselor named Darren (whose voice reminded me of a young Jack Nicholson) took care of signing us up, and he jumped through a few hoops so we could get the month-to-month membership for the remaining six weeks of our residency here. Diane thought he was a lot nicer than the one at the other 24 Hour Fitness. I felt comforted by the fact that he made fun of the “meatheads” who frequent the gym, and who lift weights with their backs. (Darren wryly commented that they’re probably trying to build muscles in their gluteus maximi, which makes sense if you think about it.) Darren also gave us a tour of the place, which has multiple optical illusions: it looks bigger on the outside than on the inside, which is quite substantial, but mirrors all around make it look larger yet again. Diane and I will probably go after a steak dinner tonight, which seems appropriate in anticipation of the venue. I also hope that, like my previous attempts at starting physical fitness regimens, I will feel more alert and better able to get a decent night’s sleep (and maybe shed several pounds, too). I will say that I’m looking forward to using an elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike, which seem to do the job. Now that I have an iPod, a decent workout should seem less arduous with wonderful music for accompaniment. It may bring this posting a bit too close to a “full circle,” but I think that listening to Strauss should get everything pumping.


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