Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Drosophila melanogaster

I was in the hardware store yesterday and I overheard a nerdy, iPhone wielding guy ask where the fruit fly traps were. From all appearances this was a guy who was a techie. Geeky but based on what he was wearing, probably a successful geek. From the white pallor of his skin, I think he spends most of his time indoors. I bet he's a problem solver, but views it from a "new is better" perspective. I say this because I tracked him down and gave him a homespun fix that is way better than any trap bought in a store.

Yup, I followed the guy. I realized that if I had a preconceived notion of him, he certainly had one of me. There I was in the store with a ratty t-shirt, covered in sawdust, wearing worn out jeans and dirty tennis shoes. I was unshaven and my hair is getting that distinctive look that only bald men get when the hair gets shaggy--I call it the clown shroud.

I leaned in conspiratorially to the guy and said, "Hey...I heard you're looking for a fruit fly trap."

He seemed a little unnerved, but had that courteous demeanor we all put on to strangers in public.

"Yes, I am."

I decided I would give him a little folk wisdom, whether he wanted it or not.

"You don't need a trap, man. All you need to do is take a piece of fruit, cut it in half, put it in a bowl, cover it with Saran wrap and punch a bunch of holes in the top. The fruit flies are smart enough to get in, but too dumb to get out, and so they get trapped. Works like a charm."

"Thanks--maybe I'll try it," he said, looking as if he only hoped I'd go away. The entire time he had his iPhone in his hands, as if he was checking out ratings of different fruit fly trap brands.

I suddenly felt like I needed to convince this tech guy of the efficacy of an old school remedy and so I quickly blurted out, "I do it all the time--it works great. You should try it!" He just nodded again in feigned appreciation and so I left him to his search with a shrug of my shoulders.

Since the hardware store didn't have what I needed, I headed for the door. The tech guy caught my eye as I walked past him while he was asking two employees exactly where the fruit fly traps were. Since he realized I had overheard him, I heard him say, "This gentleman suggested another method, but I'd like to buy a trap so I have a few options."

As I tossed my shopping basket into the pile at the door, I let loose a last parting shot, "You gotta try it, because it works!" With those words, I headed out the door and realized that I had become "that guy," the guy who sidles up to people who never asked for his help and tells them a homespun remedy that sounds a little crazy.

I don't mind.

And besides, if you've ever been to my kitchen, you'd know that from time to time, I'm bound to have a fruit fly problem.


alison said...

"become" that guy? Are you kidding me!

Should have read: "Realized I am that guy..."

All of us over here, love that guy.

Dan said...

Oh, and I feel the love, sister!

Dan said...

And it's reciprocated!

alison said...

And yet if you accosted me in a hardware store (wearing your work clothes) I might not take your advice either.

Torey said...

Alison read this out loud to me today and I pictured the whole thing like a movie in my head. Hilarious. We do love that guy.

Dan said...

And as I read this again tonight...it's sort of the pot calling the kettle black: "nerdy, iPhone wielding guy."

alison said...

Um, yeah.

Sherry C said...

Hey Dan,

My eleven-year old son, who has never met you, has a lot of respect for you because of a few things I've shown him on your blog--mostly food-related, some photography-related--can't remember what else.

I don't think he knows what you do for a living, just that you are an old friend from elementary school who knows his friends, the H's, and sent us a batch of the cookies we'd been drooling over on-line.

So what would YOU say to my kid who you know respects you, but has ABSOLUTELY no interest in listening to or learning about classical music? We are trying to study Bach and our first piece is "Magnificat in D." He will have none of it.

Any words for him or tips for me would be truly appreciated.


Dan said...

I would start with something more exciting than Bach to whet his palate, and then move backwards. I think Bach's Magnificat in Da is sort of like fine French dining when someone's used to mac & cheese. Does Tano like Star Wars? I'd imagine he does...what I would do is download a copy of Mars from the Planets by Gustav Holst and tell him that John Williams, who wrote such cool music, stole it from Holst.

Then instead of the Magnificat, crank up the speakers and sit him down in front of them and belt out a good version of Toccata and Fugue by Bach. I think kids naturally recoil at vocal music, so the Magnificat might be a bad place to start.

I would also run Handel by him instead of Bach at first...everyone loves the stuff from Water Music and the Royal Fireworks, especially the hornpipe.

But I would also talk to him about the history of dance, and that dance music today has a direct line with the music of the Baroque. The Galliard, the gigue, and all of the other stuff from Baroque times stole the music of dance and made it art, which is actually happening today in contemporary music.

You could also make an assignment for him to create a story that goes along with the music, as if the music of Holst, or Handel, or anyone is a soundtrack. That will get him thinking about music in a very different way, and will begin pushing him towards feeling an emotional impact with the music.

I'd also talk to him about how Bach is very mathematical. Find a fugue and ask him if he can hear where the theme is brought in by another voice. See if he can hear if when it goes backwards--tell him that Bach's music is a like a complex puzzle.

I hope this helps a little bit, and I'm happy to keep up the conversation! It's a worthy endeavor to teach a man to appreciate great music.

I'll always have a ready suggestion for music for you.

When you're talking about WW II sometime, you could talk about the Soviet occupation of Finland and about Sibelius's Finlandia which was banned by the Russians because stimulated so much patriotic fervor. You can show him that music has the power to move nations, and when listening to Finlandia with the knowledge of its context brings an entirely different understanding to the piece and to the power of music.

Dan said...

And I'll think about what to say to him too...does he have any interest in art at all, or great literature yet?

I would have him read a biography of a true renaissance man, like Benjamin Franklin, someone who viewed it as essential to know something about everything. BTW...few people know that Benjamin Franklin invented an instrument called the glass harmonica, and that Mozart wrote a concerto for it. It's essentially an instrument that takes the concept of ringing crystal glasses by friction of the finger over the rim to the context of a musical instrument.

I think linking music with the history of the world is important, such as Beethoven's 3rd symphony which was originally going to be dedicated to Napoleon, but then Beethoven thought better of it.

There's a great book worth getting called Bach, Beethoven and the Boys. It's very humorous and is a history that speaks about the real lives of composers in a funny and very accessible way.

I'll keep thinking...and I'm glad he enjoyed those cookies too!

Sherry C said...

Wow. That gives me a lot to work with. Thanks for putting so much time and thought into your response. I figured you could help me out here.

The music I started us on was not really my choice; it is just the recommendation of the online curriculum support group I'm working with. They have an ongoing multi-year schedule that rotates through different composers poets and artists, one of each per term. Most people in the group tend to stay together, just to share resources and ideas. The camaraderie is not important enough to me, though, to lose my son in the process. I would rather go at it on our own, using your suggestions, in hopes of developing a life-long appreciation of good music in the boy.

So, perhaps we will put Bach on the bach burner for now, especially the Magnificat (I had also wondered about the vocal aspect for him, even though I find it beautiful, myself), and start out with some lighter fare.

I think if we lived near you, we would be doing music appreciation at Mr. Dan's house once in a while.

Hey, any chance you could reword some of what you wrote to me and address it to Tano in an e-mail (chidster jr at the big google), so that the boy could come to me with some suggestions from you? He might feel better about me going with his ideas (or rather, YOUR ideas for him), rather than him having to go with my ideas on this first go-around.

And good call on John Williams and Star Wars. He is a red-blooded American boy, after all, and that theme truly stirs his soul.

Sherry C said...

Oh, I know why my son is familiar with you and holds you in somewhat high regard. In addition to the cookies, you were the one who gave him the hot lead on where to find a wealth of trebuchet information -- with your friends at the Forestry Forum!

So if you are able to write directly to him, that would be cool, but no pressure. You can mention that I came to you seeking advice.

Dan said...

Hey there Sherry,

I'll be happy to write him--give me a few days though. I've got an insane week coming up.

What bands does he like now, and does he like any classical music at all yet?

Sherry C said...

Thanks, Dan. We can be patient.

He currently likes some of the popular Christian rock bands, like:

Thousand Foot Crutch
Seventh Day Slumber
Relient K

He hasn't really been exposed to a lot of classical music, other than whatever I might be listening to that he pays no attention to. He does like a good, powerful movie score, though, like Star Wars or Jurassic Park.

Thanks again for your help.

Sherry C said...

Oh, and he also likes some classic 70's rock and Pink Floyd. Go figure.