Thursday, February 17, 2011

Historical Snippets and the Potty

It’s always a bummer when you find a juicy quotation that you can’t use. I completely suck at organizing materials. I’m pleased to say that it’s been a good decade since I found a footnote to “orange Pirrotta book” in anything I’ve written. I’ve spent some time in the last few weeks skimming texts by Cardano. He was a 16th century doctor/musician/philosopher etc… He is probably best known for his contributions to algebra and medicine. I’ve always liked him because he was one of the first people to argue that the deaf could be taught to read and he was impressively accident-prone. He also had the misfortune of being used by his father as a table for books. And his horoscope of Jesus got him in trouble with the inquisition. I’m looking for a quotation I found somewhere in which he explains that the voices of exhausted people sound thin and weak and therefore thin strings sound weak and high. I can’t remember where I found it or even what language I read it in. And it’s not crucial to the larger argument about the sympathetic relationship between humans and instruments at the turn of the seventeenth century. But I like it. And to make the skimming easier I finally noticed a 1973 translation of his writings on music. (Why have I been writing about this guy for 20 years and only now found this…...) So I keep the book in my backpack and when I get bored or frustrated with what I’m doing I skim the text looking for my mystery quotation. At the very end of the book I noted a great discussion on why musicians never get rich. He wonders if “its practitioners, addicted to sensual pleasure and gluttony, squander money as fast a they make it.” or “is it because in their capriciousness they cannot keep friends or possessions? Or is it “because those who take pleasure in the art are foolish adolescents who have little money and who are equipped to continue other actives that are more physical in nature?”

Other than the nice Cardano book this week’s good news is that every child has gone to school every day and I have not had a single conversation with Nurse Brown. But even more importantly, Eli has finally made some progress on potty training. This kid, with his will-of-steel attitude towards the potty may do me in. The downside of any kind of negotiating with a four-year-old third child is that the stakes are high. While for a two year old one or two m and m’s might do the trick. This kid would like a star wars action figure. The weekend was especially dramatic. As my friend Liz described the scene. “just to let you all know that our lives are infinitely easier than Bonnie's right now... I watched her being summoned to the potty about 15 times in the space of 2 hours and she had to wait, crouched on the floor beside Eli as he screamed about torpedo poops. of course Manuel wouldn't do, and of course physical contact was needed”

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