Viola Inspiration Playlist

Tired of being made fun of for playing viola in his school orchestra, Max has put together a playlist that reminds him about the potency of violas, their awesome potential.

Roland Glassl: Capriccio for Viola by Henri Vieuxtemps and the William Primrose arrangement of Paganini’s arrangement of Liszt’s La Campanella (with Cornelia Weiss on piano).

Amber Archibald: Rebecca Clarke’s Passacaglia on an Old English Tune (with Jamie Namkung on piano).

Paul Neubauer: Hermann Schulenburg’s Gypsy Romance and Csardas (with Arnaud Sussmann, Rafael Figueroa, and Michael Brown on violin, cello, and piano).

Kim Kashkashian (not to be confused with another Kim K.): Benjamin Britten’s Lachrimae Op. 48a (with the New York Classical Performers) and Tigran Mansurian’s Three Medieval Taghs for Viola and Percussion (Jonathan Hepfer on percussion).

Roberto Diaz: Elegie for Viola and Piano, Op. 30 by Henri Vieuxtemps (with Robert Koenig on piano).

Sebastian Peszko: his own composition, Detective Bach (with Laurent Humeau and Charles Frechette on guitars and Francois Perdriau on bass).

Sarah Sung: Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata, 1st Movt. (Molly Sung on piano).

Marc Sabbah: Mikhail Glinka’s Sonata for Viola & Piano in D minor, 1st Movt. (Elaine Reyes on piano).

Tabea Zimmermann: Alexander Glazunov’s Elegie in G Minor Op. 44 (with Thomas Hoppe on piano).

Lillian Fuchs: Prelude from J.S. Bach’s 6th Cello Suite (arranged for viola).

Nobuko Imai: Viola Sonata in B-Flat Major, Op. 36: I. Maestoso by Henri Vieuxtemps (Roger Vignoles on piano).

Lee Sanghae: Henri-Gustave Casadesus Concerto for Viola in B Minor in the style of Handel, Movts. 2 and 3

Lawrence Power: Intro to Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 (Arr. for Viola and Piano) by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (with Simon Crawford-Phillips on piano)

Gérard Caussé: Ernest Bloch’s Suite Hébraïque, I. (with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande)

Alexandra Telmanova: Max Bruch’s Romance for Viola and Strings in F major op. 85 (with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra)

Antoine Tamestit: Max Reger’s Solo Suite No. 1 in G-Minor

Adrien Boissseau: Viola Sonata op.120 n.1 by J. Brahms (with Gaspard Dehaene on piano)

Pinchas Zukerman: Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata (with Marc Neikrug on piano)

Jane Atkins: Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Viola and Piano No. 4, Op.11 (with Pamela Lidiard on piano)

(… and he’ll probably be adding to this list.)

Five Dogs Named After Song Titles

Mr. Blue Sky

Mr. Blue Sky is a cream-colored golden retriever, four years old and mostly past his frenetic puppy stage. He lives with a first-time dog owner, a single woman who named him after the Electric Light Orchestra song. (Although the song is cheerful, it has hints of melancholy, because Mr. Blue Sky isn’t going to live forever.) He’s a force of cheer and minor chaos. His swishing tail knocks things off the coffee table, and he barrels into kitchen chairs and topples them. But all is forgiven. You look at him, and the words, “Good boy,” automatically spring to your lips. Also, as his owner likes to tell herself, “Mr. Blue Sky is living here today.” What a good day it is.


Jolene is a brown French poodle, not a show dog but still pretty. At age 2, she came to live with a married couple. The wife wanted her badly, but the husband hated the idea of a dog, which led to quite a few fights about how they’d afford Jolene (a name the wife thought was pretty). After a short while, the husband did warm up to the dog, who liked to lie next to him on the couch when he watched football. The marital quarrels continued, and the wife accused her husband of enjoying the dog’s company more than hers. During the divorce proceedings, they arranged for shared custody of Jolene, who seems unruffled at the periodic switch in households, though she has a slight preference for the ex-husband, because his couch is more comfortable. 

Lovely Rita

Lovely Rita is a border collie introduced as a puppy to a household with four kids, one cat, and two parents (one a Beatles fan). From the beginning, she showed a love of order and a need to impose it on her surroundings. She’s trained to get the kids out of bed in the morning and gently herd them to bed in the evenings. (She has also attempted without success to keep the cat from ever leaving the kitchen.) More recently, she has extended her responsibilities to the parents – chivvying the dad off the couch when he’s been watching TV for too long and nudging the mom to bed at one in the morning. Someone’s got to keep the household healthy and functioning, and that’s clearly Lovely Rita’s job.

Sergeant Pepper

Recently adopted by an elderly bachelor, Sergeant Pepper is a 6-year-old pug who struts around like a retired military officer with tons of stories about his glory days. He also emits peppery farts that flavor the air of his owner’s one-room apartment. The dog’s snores and snorts are preferable to the lonely silence of before, and although Sergeant Pepper pretends to be aloof sometimes (especially when denied a snack), really what he likes best is to cuddle on the couch and nap intensely at his owner’s side.

Mack the Knife

This five-year-old American akita was adopted by a married couple who silently switched his name from Mack to Mack the Knife because they find him a tad disturbing. Sleek and unreadable, he’s responsible for the uptick in dead squirrels and rabbits on his owners’ one-acre property. Recently, he’s expanded the scope of his activities to cats. A couple of strays at first (no one would miss them), but last week it was Ginger Snap, the neighbor’s tabby, who turned up in the hedge a bloody mess. Mack’s owners quietly disposed of the cat, and they won’t meet their neighbor’s eyes as he hands out flyers with Ginger Snap’s photo under the word MISSING. He suspects them, but there’s no proof, and really, why did he let his cat roam outdoors?   

16 Types of Internet Commenters

By no means a comprehensive list:

The Patroller

Takes pleasure in telling you that you’re awful. What you read, watch, write, eat… awful. Stays up-to-date on the latest jargon of whatever political or ideological movement they subscribe to. Checks to see that you’re expressing the correct opinions and tastes. Attacks you if you aren’t. (Has been known to end a Twitter thread with *mic drop* but now uses clapping emojis.)

The “Look Over There”

Keeps asking you why you aren’t talking about something else. There are always other things you could or should be talking about. If you aren’t talking about those other things, it means you don’t think they’re important, which means you’re a terrible person.

The Gnat in the Swarm

Loves a good pile-on. Joins in, just for a nibble. May not even truly know (or care) about what’s going on, but enjoys that little taste of blood.

The Downer

“Just chiming in to remind you that things are horrible and the world is ending. K thx bye.”

The Great Rationalizer

Bends over backwards to excuse or explain away anything. (Especially anything that doesn’t affect them personally.) May assume their position is objective, completely dispassionate.

The Sock Puppeteer

How many accounts can one person create for a single site? Watch them as they cheer themselves on, generate noise and confusion, and evade moderators.

The One Issue to Rule Them All

“Do you have a headache? Stop eating GMO products. About to commute through a snowstorm? Cheer yourself up by not eating GMO products. Favorite TV show got canceled? Console yourself with a non-GMO dessert.”

The Scorpion of Malice

Emerges to make venomous remarks before scuttling back into the dark… from which they’ll emerge again.

The Brooder at the Tower Window

“Ah, you fools.” (Pauses to swirl brandy in a crystal-cut goblet.) “What do you know of the world, mired as you are in your petty concerns? Alas, only I can see it all. Only I can grasp the truth.”

The One Who Dies on Hills

Won’t admit they’re wrong. Even if it’s a little throwaway fact that’s easy to check. (“Thomas Jefferson wasn’t born on that day.” “Yes he was, if you go by a different calendar.”)

The Great Decay

There’s something putrid about this person. They bring a stench of corruption to any comment thread. You could be discussing something innocuous, like recipes for blueberry muffins, and they’ll ooze in with a protruding tongue like Jabba the Hutt, and everything will feel tainted.

The Flying Monkey

Eager to attack at another person’s bidding. *claps hands excitedly*

Me, Me, Me!!!

“Does what you’re talking about affect me? What’s the point of talking about anything that isn’t relevant to me? If it’s not relevant to me, it isn’t important. In fact, I’m starting to feel excluded! Now you’ve done it, you’ve offended me…”

The One-Sided Conversation

It doesn’t matter what you say. They’ve already filled in your end of the conversation. Enjoy front row seats to their interaction with an imaginary version of you.

The Mature and Reasonable One

Makes sincere efforts to understand and evaluate another person’s point-of-view. Argues without resorting to malicious remarks. Knows when to step away to cool down.


Their new telecommuting job earns them $105.11 an hour! Isn’t that amazing?!!

Four Languages Sigrid Dips Into on Duolingo


Sigrid picked up a fractured Spanish in high school, which she later mended slightly for casual conversations at her job. She associates the language with the smell of disinfectants and the careful application of powders, cologne, perfume, and lipstick. It makes her think of coffee mugs and bony hands with prominent veins held in hers at a table, sunlight warming the chairs. She dips into Duolingo’s Spanish because she wants to explore more of the language, see the words in front of her and think more about the spelling and grammar.


To Sigrid, French is a wonderful clotting in the mouth and nose. It’s a language that renders even practical phrases nonsensically romantic. She finds humor in it and loveliness and frustration. It isn’t entirely beautiful, though. For instance, she doesn’t like the word pastèque, which is French for watermelon. It sounds like a gunky watermelon paste. But much of French is lovely, and it’s a hopeful language to her, because she imagines herself in France one day. Not even in Paris, but in lavender fields in the south or on beaches in the north and fields with white graves, gardens with des petits chats, and stony paths that lead to cathedrals.


So far, German is the language of clean airport gates. Glass made brilliant in sunshine, sleek curving chairs, planes patiently absorbing luggage. The same planes later leaping into the air and seeming weightless as they rise. It’s the taste of coffee and formalities. Ticket agents with their hair in a bun and their lipstick tidy. Screens displaying a schedule of flights and the promise of timeliness.


When Sigrid works on Welsh she feels as if a dryad has arrived to summon her on a quest in the forest. She hears the language of earth and trees, and streams engorged with unexpected floodwater. The words are enchantment. They set her circling a forest glade barefoot, with pillowy grass and spikes of pain from twigs and stones. Sometimes, she smiles in wonderment when she encounters a new word. Pilipala, which is one word for butterfly. She wants to discover other words.

Why sleeping during movies isn’t so bad

Mrs. Selby doesn’t mind falling asleep during movies or shows. The other day, she settled in for a viewing of the 2009 Emma mini-series, a BBC production. Here and there, she flickered into a light doze. Whenever she woke up, there were pretty British people waiting for her on the screen. Or beautiful landscapes presided over by large homes. She enjoyed herself tremendously.

The way she saw it, sleep didn’t make her miss out on much. Movies and shows were rarely good the whole way through. They usually had their dull patches. More often than not, the character development was written awkwardly, with missed opportunities. Memorable moments of dialogue weren’t the norm. As far as she was concerned, she could nap while sampling the bright spots of whatever she was watching.

So, there were Emma and Knightley, experiencing gentle but profound revelations on a dance floor. And there they were, touching their foreheads together while seated on a bench. Seemed they were having a lovely day, after many a quarrel and misunderstanding. They looked very well deserving of this moment, and Mrs. Selby was satisfied with that.

Movies and shows really were at their best in a handful of crystalline scenes that had the right words and gestures, a tender look on someone’s face or some dramatic music. Who cares what came in between. Screen productions, like people, were at their finest in doses of five to ten minutes with breaks for snoozing.

Howard rediscovers Erana’s Peace

When Howard thinks about the height of the pandemic, two things come to mind: a fog of anxiety and an escape into old computer games.

Instead of marathoning movies from the 1940s, which is his usual anxiety management strategy, he took a dive into classic Sierra games. He dipped into the King’s Quest series to revisit Daventry, Kolyma, and the land of Tamir. He muddled his way through the first Laura Bow game, spying on people through paintings.

And he returned to the first Quest for Glory game. The original with the EGA graphics that had once been called Hero’s Quest.

It surprised him how much of the game he remembered. Dancing with the fairies in the mushroom patch, getting squashed by a bouncy blue Antwerp, the wizard in the pink mansion with the gargoyle over the door. It was a game his older brother had introduced him to, an older brother he barely spoke to these days. Rediscovering it was a delight, but also left him feeling tender and bruised in his heart.

Erana's Peace from Quest for Glory I.
Erana’s Peace

One part of the game came as a shock to him. He remembered it, but the memory didn’t prepare him for the effect it would have on him now, as an adult.

For the first time in years, he set foot in Erana’s Peace.

Erana’s Peace is a meadow in the northern part of the snowed-in valley where the game is set. It’s a place of safety. The forest monsters can’t follow you there. You can sleep at the foot of a tree that bears bejeweled fruits, and no wraith or monster will murder you. The fruits from the tree are healing. The meadow embraces you, calling you to rest. It’s a place of restoration and a haven where no harm can come to you, even when you’re wounded or sleeping.

But what makes this place truly special is the music. Music that speaks of sweetness, peace, and melancholy. Much can be restored in Erana’s Peace, but certain things can never come back. And yet, there are consolations. 

The first time Howard re-encountered this melody, he felt a wave of emotion that closed his throat. When playing the game, he frequently brought his character back to the meadow, to linger without obvious purpose. Even in the middle of the day, even when he was strong enough to slay the most powerful of the forest monsters, he savored Erana’s Peace.

He remembered that as a child he had done the same thing. It wasn’t something you spoke about when you told people you were playing a computer game. You talked about tips for leveling up and getting a high score. You didn’t tell people that you had found a balm for your fear in a computer game from 1989. 

He must have carried that meadow in his soul for years. It had remained secreted away, and now he found the path back to it.

Howard wonders if there can be a place like that in real life. Can he recreate it? He doesn’t know how to draw well, and he doesn’t know how to play any instruments. (One year of trumpet lessons at age 13 doesn’t count.) Can his apartment become a home to a small tree with glistening fruits that wink in and out of sight?

For the time being, Erana’s Peace remains in the game. Howard keeps returning to this game now. You can play it as a fighter, a mage, or a thief, so his excuse, if anyone asks (no one has) is that he’s just running through it as different character types. But the main perk for him is to hurry through a dangerous forest to the meadow and its melody.

Plus, if you use magic in the game, you can discover something under the large rock in Erana’s Peace. An extra bit of calm.

13 Songs to Help you Power Through Hard Times

If you’re in a dark place or up against some challenges that are proving tougher than you expected, maybe some of these songs can help you power through. (Because of their lyrics or just the way they feel.)

Keep Going//

1) Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.)

When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)

2) Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)

When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

3) Love Reign Supreme (Alison Moyet)

We are more in the sum
Of the numbers we’ve been done
And it’s right to be kind
Even as your chest is bleeding

4) You Gotta Be (Des’ree)

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky

5) Shake It Out (Florence + The Machine)

And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat

6) Level Up (Vienna Teng)

If you are afraid, come forth.
If you are alone, come forth now.

7) Afterlife (Ingrid Michaelson)

Living like you’re dying isn’t living at all
Give me your cold hands put them on my heart

8) 8 Good Reasons (Sinéad O’ Connor)

But I got 8 good reasons to stick around
8 good reasons, well maybe nine now

9) I See a Darkness (Johnny Cash)

But can you see this opposition comes rising up sometimes?
That it’s dreadful imposition, comes blacking in my mind.

10) By Myself (Judy Garland)

I’ll face the unknown, I’ll build a world of my own
No one knows better than I myself, I’m by myself alone

11) Innuendo (Queen)

Through the sorrow all through our splendor
Don’t take offence at my innuendo

12) Non, je ne regrette rien (Edith Piaf)

Avec mes souvenirs
J’ai allumé le feu

13) I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone)

I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
Though I’m way overdue
I’d be starting anew.