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My station in life

We recently changed cable services. We got a better deal than we had before, since we were offered an introductory rate. Our new system allows me to talk to the remote and magically the TV plays my choice. For me, this a huge advantage over the last set-up where instead of talking to the remote, I told Mary Ellen what show I wanted to watch. But then she would put on what she wanted to see…and I had to go down to the basement.

Truth is, I am easily entertained. For example, I’m a big fan of cooking shows on NPR. I listened to this woman making veal scaloppini on the radio. I couldn’t see the dish; I couldn’t smell the dish; but I drooled all over the steering wheel. Last year, one of the cable channels aired a yule log burning in a fireplace around the clock at Christmastime, and I watched it for three weeks. I was so captivated that I requested NPR also put it on the radio so I could listen to the wood crackling while driving.

This month, Mary Ellen and I have enjoyed several old movies, but mostly we’ve watched music. Yes, watched music. Just like the old days of MTV, but with one difference: there’s nothing to look at. It’s not much more than a blank screen. With our cable service, we get songs playing on several channels. Each station features a different genre, like R&B, hip-hop, Reggae, soul, smooth jazz, rough jazz, heavy metal, light metal, hard rock, soft rock, and sedimentary rock.

As a rule, I’m really bad at comprehending what a movie is about. I thought the music channels would take the pressure off my wife who always has to explain the plot to me.

“Sorry, I had to go the bathroom, Mary Ellen. Did I miss anything?”

“Yes, you missed the beginning of Bach’s Cello Concerto in D minor. And NO, I’m not going to hum it for you.”

“Can you explain it to me?”

“Explaining music would be very difficult.”

“Then let’s switch to Easy Listening.”

While the screen is basically a dull gray, there are sometimes ads in one corner, and they also throw in interesting facts about the song or the artist playing in the opposite corner. The promotional spots on the classical music stations are for reverse mortgages, life insurance and state-of-the-art catheters. The heavy metal channels promote acne creams and tattoo parlors. Apparently, you can go broke at any age.

I’ve discovered that most of the great symphonies and operas were written by classical musicians when they were mere youngsters. Impressive, but in all fairness, what else was there to do in the 1700s? No Internet, no iPhone 4G. Not even the 3G. Often the factoids leave you wanting to know more. For example, the 13th century French musician Léonin gained fame at Notre Dame. But what did he play? French horn? Violin? Quarterback?

Usually these little tidbits of history are kind of dull, so I did a little research of my own and found three unknown pieces of classical trivia:

n Johann Sebastian Bach’s wife made him a sandwich to take to work every day and is credited with inventing the Bach’s lunch.

n Beethoven was not deaf. He simply had heard enough already.

n It wasn’t that Brahms didn’t like children – he just liked them better when they were sleeping.

By the way, Mary Ellen said I could watch the Colts game on Saturday on our big TV. That was music to my ears.

Dick Wolfsie is a syndicated columnist and personality for WISH TV Indianapolis.