In Which The Hero Has A Narrow Escape (2015Nov24)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015                                           8:00 PM

We got new chairs—they’re classy, made out of unpainted wood—not folding chairs, which have been our go-to chairs, mostly. It’s good to have chairs—that way you can have company—uh-oh! Company? Wait a minute….

I started to write a post today, then about three pages in, I realized I was mistaken in my facts. I had to walk away—I hate when I realize I’m wrong about something—it’s not like it happens every day (more like every other, but never mind).

But I walked away with a cigarette burning in the ashtray. I came back just now, hours later, and the smoke-eater ashtray is still on, wasting its batteries, and there’s a butt that’s gone out on the newspaper that I use for a mouse-pad, with a little burned-out circle in the paper. I almost burned my house down because I got upset about being wrong.

It’s partly the chairs’ fault—you don’t usually get a parade of new chairs coming through the front door, which I’m sitting next to. So, stunned by being wrong and confused by a shower of furniture, I walked away from a lit cigarette—but I was lucky. The house abides.

Then I misspelled “Haydn” on my video graphics, and had to go back and correct all that—it’s just my day for screwing up, I guess. Day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving—there’s a pressure (for me at least) building from the approaching holidays—opening ourselves to feelings, in the tradition of the season, makes the thought of trouble more intimidating. When things go wrong during the holidays, they don’t just go wrong—they ruin the holiday. Not that I expect things to go wrong—but bustling shoppers and stressed-out parents and heavy store traffic, all together, just need a little complication, like bad weather for example, and the whole thing becomes a nail-biter. I kinda feel like ducking, until January 2nd makes it all go away—I love January 2nd—it’s like that day you come home from vacation—the good times are over, but it’s nice to just settle in again.

Well, next blogpost, I hope to know what I’m talking about—if that was ever the case.

I’m Lucky That Way (2015Nov23)

Monday, November 23, 2015                                           12:44 AM

I noticed that today’s YouTube-posted improv was exactly one week after the last one—I used to post almost once a day—am I now going to post only once a week? Am I slowing down because my sixtieth birthday is only three months away? I think it’s more likely that I’ve finally accepted that I’m my own biggest fan and other listeners are not eagerly awaiting my next post.

It’s true that I like my own music—it’d be a pretty sad state of affairs if I didn’t, I guess. And I am one of those few people that enjoyed classical music right from childhood, without being told it was important or impressive—or without having to be taught to ‘appreciate music’ in school—though I did enjoy those classes. So I’m used to liking music that doesn’t interest a lot of other people—music that is more (and less) than just something to dance to. So, for a long time I figured that I might just be ‘inaccessible’, like classical music—but now I think I have to give that up—I am not going to draw a crowd—ever.

My big ‘idols’ are Glenn Gould, George Winston, and Keith Jarrett—and since I’ve never surpassed any of them in any way, I can’t really call them ‘influences’. I think I’d have to go past them in some way before I could relegate them to ‘influence’ status—they remain my idols, people far more talented than I. So, if recorded musicians of forty or fifty years ago are still unreached targets—if I still think of myself in terms of someone who’s trying to get started in music—then I take it as given that my dreams of being notable in music will never be more than dreams.

Not that they were ever very promising dreams—I never received the slightest encouragement from parents, teachers, friends or loved ones—more like discouragement, in many cases. I stuck with music through plain stubbornness—I wasn’t about to let myself be excluded from something that great. And if I had to be a lousy musician, then so be it—I was not about to spend my entire life just listening to other people have all the fun.

Anyway, I stuck to it for a long, long time and now I’m liking my own recordings—some more than others, but that’s how that goes—a few I’m quite pleased with. I have the luxury of having my own music—other people aren’t interested in listening to it, but that doesn’t change the fact that very few people have their own personal music soundtrack they can switch on whenever they get tired of pop music. Just another luxury—did I tell you I have my own library? I am so rich—and on so little money—I must be pretty clever.

I used to make a decent wage—we had very big bills back then, but we didn’t have half so comfortable a lifestyle. Sometimes mo’ money is mo’ problems. Sometimes being able to indulge your whims isn’t healthy. I’ll never be wealthy but I’ll always be rich. I’m lucky that way.

There, that’s better–two days in a row….

Now The News (2015Nov21)

Saturday, November 21, 2015                                          10:28 AM

Here we are—all together for the holidays. America, Syria, France, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Israel, Jordan, Mali, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Italy, Turkey, Afghanistan, Mexico, China, Myanmar—well, ‘countries recently in the news’ is a list too long for me to type here. And in some senses, it doesn’t matter—the places unmentioned in the news are experiencing their own difficulties—there’s just no sensational story there—or it’s too hot to report from—but you can find troubles everywhere. Trouble for the holidays—just what everybody put on their Christmas lists!

I’m tempted to stop watching the news on TV—it’s not that I don’t care—I care a lot—it’s just that I don’t approve of the way they’re telling the story. The media leaves out too much of importance and focuses too much (and for too long) on the unimportant. It’s a stupid way to tell a story—and when the story is of civilization’s progress through time, I judge it worthy of some care in the telling.

I see journalists—and whole news networks—filtering their output through self-interest and sensationalism. When the whole point of journalism is to give us ‘just the facts’, these reporters insult our intelligence and abuse our trust by reporting on a bias. News stories often focus on how the people ‘felt’—“What did it feel like to be there?”—“What are your feelings now that’s it’s over?”—that sort of thing—it’s called ‘human interest’. Human interest stories used to be what the newspapers used for filler on a slow news day, when they had no actual facts to report. But now, we’re lucky if any facts get through at all.

Do I care about how people feel? Yes, I do. In a democracy, the ‘feelings’ of the majority determine who is elected and what laws are passed (theoretically). Plus, we all want to know where we stand in relation to the views of the majority. Everyone’s feelings about everything, however, should oughta be based on what we know—and we rely on the news to inform us, not to consolidate our ‘feelings’ about our ignorance.

We have specialty news outlets that lean left or right—catering to our existing emotional biases—or confine themselves to business (the rich people channel, I call it) or confine themselves to sports (adults getting paid to play games). Here are the specialties by which I think the news should be diversified. There should be a Statistics news channel that shows graphs of data, changes over time, projections of future trends, and comparisons of one set of indices against another. There should be a Global news channel that gives the status of every country in the world, whether it’s currently a hot news spot or not—who’s in charge of each country, how their economy is doing, what their human rights status is, and what their least-represented citizens are having to endure. It should also give us a sense of which countries are cooperating with each other, which countries are opposed to each other, and whether that conflict is one of arms, jihad, genocide, economic pressure, or environmental threat.

And there should be a Political news channel—but not for a bunch of speeches and photo-ops—it should report on new legislation being passed on the federal level, the state level, and locally. The overall effect of the legislation should be examined, of good or bad potential—and it should report on which lobby pushed for the legislation and what the motives behind it are—and there should be some notice taken of the effects of any new legislation on the people who had no desire for it, but had it imposed on them. They could even have a ‘fun’ segment that listed all the lies told that day by politicians of either party—and maybe even a ‘heroes’ segment once a week that touts a politician who speaks an unpopular truth (though that may have to be just once a month, or even once a year).

I wouldn’t mind a Disenfranchised news channel, reporting on how things look from the bottom of the heap—the ad revenue for such a channel would be abysmal, but the viewership would be enormous. Science-based news would be good too—but not to report on new gadgets and spacecraft launches—it should report on the connections between scientist and funding, corporations and universities connecting, government and research being influenced by lobbyists—and all that sort of thing. You could throw in some stuff about education too—new educational methods and their implementation, or the barriers against education raised by fundamentalists, prudes, and special interests.

I could go on about all the important content that is presently ignored by the ‘news’, but you get my drift. People have been talking about the monopolization of media by the wealthy; about the surrender of journalism to capitalism, for decades—but now it’s really coming home to roost. Democracy can’t function without free speech and an informed constituency—and while free speech abides, we are no longer being properly informed. The popularity of presidential candidates with no experience in governing and no knowledge of American history gives some small indication of that.

Letter from Paris – You will not have my hatred


Shared from “Kurt Nemes’ Classical Music Almanac”

Originally posted on Kurt Nemes' Classical Music Almanac:

A friend of mine in Paris sent this to me yesterday.  It’s already an internet meme, but I find it really powerful.

You will not have my hatred.
Friday night you took the life an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his own image, each bullet in my wife’s body, is a wound in his heart. Therefore, no I won’t give you this present of hating you. You have really tried, but to respond to hate with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance which made you who you are. You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow citizens with suspicion, that I give up…

View original 488 more words

Paul Ryan – What A Jackass (2015Nov17)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015                       10:50 AM

I’m so mad I could spit. Obama spoke at the G20 yesterday, making several sensible points about dealing with Daesh. Among those points was his conviction that humanitarian concern for the refugees was not only a responsibility of the world’s governments, including the USA—but that caring for these helpless victims, without questions about their faiths, is what separates us from Daesh.

In response, a crowd of jackass GOP governors have announced that they will not accept refugees from Syria in their states. That they have no authority to do that is something they choose to ignore—apparently, the political effect of announcing their cowardice and prejudice is enough to satisfy their ostrich-like followers.

Then this morning Paul Ryan was on CNN talking about being ‘prudent’—about how, in the case of Syrian refugees, it is “better to be safe than sorry”. What a cowardly, un-American, xenophobic jackass. He spoke about halting the flow of refugees until we can verify that they are safe to accept into our homeland—ignoring the fact that America’s vetting of refugees is lightyears more involved than any other country’s—that it could not possibly be any more thorough. He just wants to halt the flow—and the rest is all BS excuses.

Is he really afraid of a bunch of dazed, victimized, mostly women and children refugees—or is he simply another GOP knee-jerk, anti-whatever-Obama-wants idiot? Either way, he’s no American. Not the kind of American who leaps, unarmed, to defend a train-full of people from a gun-toting terrorist. Not the kind of American that says, “Give me…the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”. Paul Ryan is an elitist, anti-American coward.

And if he and his band of mouse-panicked elephants weren’t bad enough, we have CNN and all the other news outlets making hay out of terror, digging their heels in on the terror aspect of all this and blocking out all the defiance that real men and women feel, far more than any intimidation these thugs wish to engender. I’d rather deal with a suicide bomber than these mealy-mouthed, chicken-hearted, entitled scaredy-cats—they make me sick. And Paul Ryan—you should be ashamed of yourself, you dick.

Time Passes Slowly (2015Nov15)

Sunday, November 15, 2015                                            12:12 PM

“Time Passes Slowly” was one of my favorite Judy Collins songs when I was a teenager—I only wish I could still sense that stillness of time. Here in my aged future, time passes far too quickly—and with less happening in it, to boot. At the moment, it seems last spring was only a few weeks back, that last summer was yesterday, that Halloween came and went while I was glancing at something else—and Thanksgiving is only seconds away, to be followed an hour later by Christmas. That’s what being old feels like (in between the groans and the wheezing, of course) a maelstrom of time that gives not a moment’s rest.

As promised, I purchased Amazon’s only listed biography of Joseph Henry, the American discoverer of electromagnetic induction (Michael Faraday is given the historical credit, in the cliff-notes version). If you remember, I wanted to discover why his name is so unknown today, when he was so revered by scientists for over a century. While that project is still under weigh, I have come up with one thought to share.

Joseph Henry was born in 1797—George Washington was still alive. Henry lived in Albany, New York—recently made the new capital city of New York State. Sloops made regular trips up and down the Hudson River to New York City though by 1807, Fulton’s “Clermont” was steaming over the same route—to be followed by numerous other steam-powered vessels throughout Henry’s youth. As a young teacher-to-be, he made a trip down to West Point to attend a teacher’s conference and learned there of a new invention for the classroom—a black board, which could be written on with chalk, then wiped down and used again—it was a breakthrough in classroom demonstration—the i-pad of its day, if you will.

Henry would continue his experiments with magnetism while teaching Chemistry—Physics would not be recognized as a separate study for some time. And native Americans still lived in the Albany area when he was young—many pioneers passed through Albany on their way west—the North American interior was still very much a separate world. Both the United States and science would grow, slowly but surely, over the years.

It occurred to me that science progresses quite slowly. Euclid’s geometry was written down in the third century BC. Alchemists would work with metalworking, refining, colored dyes, pigments, and other useful materials for centuries, providing the foundation for the Chemistry to come, while being hunted as Satanists. Medical science and astronomy would work through similar resistance from religious institutions to reach understandings of basic human anatomy or the course of the planets through the heavens. Men like Ben Franklin, Alessandro Volta, and Luigi Galvani would spend lifetimes studying electricity without even connecting it with magnetism.

Likewise, it would be almost a century before Henry’s own discovery of induction would produce practical devices such as Morse’s telegraph, Bell’s telephone, or Edison’s dynamo. All of science and technology would crawl along, taking years, or even centuries, to take a single step.

But here’s the thing—as a student in the 1960s and 1970s, I was taught all of these wonders in the space of a handful of semesters. They were not presented as a ‘story of us’—rather as a mere list of rules and functions. It would take me years more to discover the story of humankind implied behind the bare bones of chemistry, calculus, and physics as taught in school.

As I read history, I learned of the life stories of these men and women, of how they lived and died, of the cultures they inhabited while ferreting out these secrets of the universe. I saw the steps taken, one person standing on the shoulders of all who came before—and becoming a foundation for those who would come after. I imagined the changing lives of people who went from caves to indoor plumbing, from horses to steam engines, from papyrus to Gutenberg’s printing-press, from leeches to open-heart surgery.

But I also realized that these giants of human knowledge were all geniuses of some degree—that the principles, the formulas, the mathematics that make up the education of modern children take time to teach because they are all gems of perfect understanding, insights that only our greatest minds could reveal. Their greatness is obvious in the sheer effort required by mortal minds such as my own to grasp what they saw—what they had the genius to recognize and to communicate to the rest of the world (no small feat of its own).

So, yes, it takes time to acquire a good education—because we are climbing on the shoulders of a crowd of intellectual giants. Even so, we are only learning the barest highlights of what they did—without even the names of the people who mined this treasure, much less their stories, or the story of how this knowledge percolated through civilization to yield the wonders of our modern age—no wonder children ask why they need to know these things—they are never told of the richness of humanity’s struggle to wrest understanding from an opaque existence. It’s as if we are loading their knapsacks with gold bars—and never telling them of its value.

So, to begin with, the story of Joseph Henry’s invisibility is the same as the story of the death of a liberal arts education—many people don’t appreciate the context of information as being of equal value to the information itself. We used to teach scholars ancient Greek and Latin—dead languages with no apparent face-value—but when using these old terms, by knowing their origins, we are reminded that some things are as old as ancient Athens or Rome, and that the people of that time were no different from ourselves. Context is its own wisdom—its own information.

Now we are inclined to pare down education even further, by renouncing the creative arts—a sure sign that we don’t appreciate the connection between music and mathematics, painting and chemistry, or dance and physics. We are educating ourselves as if we are machines being prepared to be slotted into a job after our training is over—not as if we want to raise humans with hearts and minds that find fulfilment and wonder in the world around them. Context is everything. I will continue reading Joseph Henry’s biography and I’ll keep you all informed of what I find.

Had a windy day yesterday:

Not Superstitious   (2015Nov13)

Friday, November 13, 2015                                              6:23 PM

Pete came by today—we had lots of fun!

Pete and Me On Friday the 13th of November 2015

Five (5) Song Covers:

“A Time For Love”, “The Sweetest Sound”, “Society’s Child”

“Corcovado (Quiet Night of Quiet Stars)”, & “Moon River”

Song Cover:

“Eleanor Rigby”

Two Improvs

And here’s a bit of doggerel:

Let’s make music. Let’s make love. Why we waiting? Let’s get going.

Dance beneath the stars above, Sing just like the wind is blowing.

Shake your body, ring your bell, paint your face with many colors.

Think up stories fun to tell of treasure, travel, first-sight lovers.