Lists on this page:

My favorite words.

  • tantamount 
  • ramshackle 
  • dropsy 
  • throttle (verb) 
  • ax 
  • insinuate 
  • sojourn 
  • wither 
  • asunder 
  • knack 
  • void 
  • insipid 
  • flamboyant 
  • quail (verb) 
  • hoick 
  • hell-for-leather 
  • bewilder 
  • countermand 
  • foist 
  • underwhelming 
  • absurd 
  • jettison 
  • (re)coagulate (for a group of people) 
  • filter (verb) 
  • erasers 
  • throughput 
  • parallax 
  • smarmy 
  • analemma 
  • elixir 
  • nary 
  • blizzard 
  • presage 
  • discombobulate 
  • bleak 
  • Transjordanian 
  • disintegrate 
  • debacle 
  • nomad 
  • dreary 
  • erode 
  • obsidian 
  • brandish 
  • kiosk 
  • pockmark 
  • marbles 
  • eerie 
  • slew 
  • rinky-dink 
  • blimp 
  • oak 
  • buildering (great word, great activity too) 
  • botch 
  • cobalt 
  • nixtamalization 
  • duh 
  • disgorge 
  • vault 
  • thaw 
  • consort 
  • haunch 
  • dulcimer 
  • zither 
  • dirigible 
  • zeppelin 
  • blimp

Special moments.

Bits of music that always give me an involuntary spasm of being amazed.

  1. Gustav Holst, The Planets, Mars. The moment is about 6½ minutes in, depending on the performance. All the chaos, built up the whole time by the 5/4, yields into a long, warlike chord held by what sounds like the entire orchestra in fff, and then—here’s the part—the strings come in with a low note, and bend it up to their own long chord. That bend does it every time for me. Sadly, few orchestras play it that way—most play it as two separate notes, which just has no magic at all. I don’t know what the name of the orchestra is that plays the version I have. I wish I could help you with that. This uncredited performance has it.

  2. Flobots, “Handlebars”. The climactic verse where the song’s protagonist, who has been becoming steadily more corrupt and perverse for the entire song, shouts out,

    And I can end the planet in a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaaaaaaaaaaaust!

    And an entire crowd screams in unison behind him. And suddenly we flash back to when he could just ride his bike with no handlebars, and that’s the end.

    The music video enhances it even more.

  3. Jean Sibelius, 2nd Symphony, Movement 2: Andante ma rubato. This entire movement comes close to that breaking point, but the spot is right at the end. The movement leaves room for you to breathe, or hold your breath, while you listen, and is painted with minimalist strokes of bright color. At the end, the orchestra has been getting quieter for a few minutes, and is winding down for the next movement. After a silence, the basses crescendo from nothing. The trumpets join them, and together they slowly go to two or three f’s. Then they stop in mid-air, they wait silently for you to move to the edge of your seat, and the trumpets blast their final three notes, falling away to nothing to let the srings quietly end the movement. The movement is 15 minutes long, so it’s in three parts here. You really ought to listen to the whole thing. The conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, is feeling the music too. At one point he has tears on his face.