The Poetry Of Evil (2015May30)


Some of my Facebook friends think it’s fun to hijack my liberal posts with neo-con dogma. Let’s see how they like having their ugly nonsense shared with everyone:

Earlier this week, I shared a political Facebook meme from Americans Against The Republican Party.

It showed photos of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marc Rubio, and Lindsay Graham with a caption underneath them all reading:

“Every single Republican Senator running for president in 2016

just voted against paid sick leave.

Oh, and they’re hoping you’ll forget

by next year. Share if you won’t.”

The following Facebook comments from my ‘friends’ are cut-and-pasted verbatim:

Gerry_A:   _ Did you happen to notice 50 percent are Cuban American. There are 3 Hispanic Senators when you add melendez whose a democrat from New Jersey and all 3 are Cuban American and represent Texas, Florida and New Jersey. Isn’t America great!!! I am friends with all 3.

Xper Dunn:   _ I’m sure they’re lovely people, Gerry. But I disapprove of wealthy white men who oppose social service proposals. They have zero understanding of how ugly that makes them look. And, I’m sorry, but it reflects on their character, as well.

Gerry_A:   _ It is naive to think politics are run by evil men who do not have logical analyzed arguments for their opinions. Educated people all seek justice and the best for mankind. You can disagree with a conclusion, but you should never use wide brushstrokes in labelling their character. I recall your comment about your tax dollars concerning the military. I chose not to respond to you then, but found your comment completely inaccurate. Only 3 percent of income taxes pay all military salaries and of that only a small share are combat troops. I doubt you finance even a hundreth of one of their salaries, while their sacrifice protects your right to say whatever pleases you. Even if you are wrong.

Back to my Cuban American friends, it is interesting you are now delineating between race in judging hispanics. We do not. Ted Cruz is a Princeton alumni like you. Perhaps you should further divide out that niche group. We Princeton Cubans are even a smaller niche!

Xper Dunn:   _ I was referring to all of them–anyone who can become a conservative senator is as white as they need to be, whether they have Cuban heritage or whatever. I got nothing but love for hispanics, rich or poor. And I think the naivety is in thinking there are no evil men in politics. Reasoned arguments can be made about lots of stuff, but that doesn’t help a single working parent much—neither does it bring America any closer to the standards enjoyed in the rest of the developed world, vis-a-vis workplace conditions and benefits. As far as military spending goes—I wish their salaries WERE the lion’s share of the cost—I think you’ll find that Equipment Expenditures are the real budget-killers…but that’s another debate.

Xper Dunn:   _ But I do dislike it when people throw the military in my face when it comes to my sometimes liberal use of our freedom of speech. I respect the military plenty—but they don’t protect my rights, they protect our country. It’s up to me to decide whether I risk being confronted by others when I open my mouth. I sometimes say things that I’m well aware may attract violence from some crazy person–they might decide that people like me need killing–I say it anyway because freedom only exists if one is willing to die for it. There’s no military cordon around my house, last time I looked–it’s my ass on the line.

Gerry_A:   _ Chris , I am sorry I mixed a response to another friend with yours. The military reference was for him and something he wrote

Xper Dunn:   _ Ah. Nevermind.

Gerry_A:   _ The political response was for you!!! Sorry we do not always agree. Those like me who came here are thankful for the priviledge and tend to be very protective of the USA. I understand that to keep it special sometimes criticism and change are necessary.

Jerry_J:   _ The way the bill is currently written, I have to agree with them. I fully support sick leave but in some business’ the current system won’t work. I hire well over a hundred people a year – some of them may only work for us once. The way the bill is written; someone who works for me once will receive the same benefits from me as someone who works all year for me. The same thing happens in unemployment. The way the unemployment law is written, here in Florida folks who work for me once are able to collect unemployment (after just four hours of work).

Xper Dunn:   _ This isn’t a wealthy country anymore–it’s a country with a lot of wealthy people in it. When people can earn better wages and work less hours here than elsewhere, then we’ll be the richest country again. Now we are just fetishizing ownership over humanity–it may be American, but it isn’t very sensible. I don’t see how anyone can watch a news program and NOT think that criticism and change are called for. And Jerry_J:   _–all entrepreneurs and business owners take risks–let SOME of those risks be on the part of the people who you depend on to make your business work.

Gerry_A:   _ Jeryl, you are clear and concise with your argument. I agree with you and cannot understand how any educated intelligent person would not agree. It is the blind criticism that makes me disregard people where I would otherwise try to listen and analyze  their position. Unfortunately politics is deteriorating into sound bite mass opinion making. I built a 3000 employee media company from scratch and confronted the shananigans and theories of 2 unions which represented the lion’s share of my employees. Without entrepreneurs they would not have a job and yet the next day after getting the job of their dreams, many spend their efforts trying to demand the most compensation for the least amount of work. I no longer have union employees and would rather close businesses than deal with their counterproductive demands and disheartening blind theories. The bill you and these politicians challenge is absurd, yet they were labelled negatively for not allowing it to cause job losses.

Xper Dunn:   _ People are SO unreasonable when they’re not in charge, aren’t they?

Xper Dunn:   _ Gerry, you invite yourself to my Post, spouting your ‘money is everything–unions are evil’ nonsense–and then you have the nerve to say you don’t bother to ‘listen to or analyze’ people who disagree with you. Gee, I wish I was that smart.

Gerry_A:   _ The problem with your politics Chris is that you think only those not in power are reasonable! When you build a company you sacrifice alot. It is alot easier to let others work long hours, sacrifice their sleep, health and diet and then turn around and demand unjust compensation just because the owner has more. You act as if the owners abuse their employees when the truth is the reverse. Owners sacrifice their lives and suffer much more than a regular paycheck provides. Centuries ago unjust labor practices were anialated in the US. Our court system has become a redistribution center. Juries and often judges vote contrary to the laws in order to reallocate resources from a company to a litigant. You preach as if justice is unilateral. It should not be! Right now it discriminates against the business owner. Longterm it is terrible for the winners as a whole as businesses close, cut jobs, or relocate to friendlier markets. You are your own worst enemy! You will end up with what you are complaining about- more jobs disappearing, lousy work product and inflated prices. Try to deal with that environment. The hardworking studious entrepreneurs will continue to excell without you elsewhere! I love the USA and am sad to see it torn apart by those unwilling to make an effort

Jerry_J:   _ I love you, Xper Dunn:   _ – I so hope you will be at the Reservation this year for the reunion – do you think we should get podiums so we can debate or maybe just make do with both sides of a random picnic table, stone or tree?

Xper Dunn:   _ I don’t enjoy debates, Jeryl, I just can’t keep still when people champion Capitalism over community. We are all responsible for each other.

Jerry_J:   _ One must debate and be able and willing to back up ones opinion with action if they want to teach change.

Xper Dunn:   _ Jeryl—as a business owner, your actions speak for themselves. I don’t think of what I do as ‘teaching change’, I think of it as ‘advocating decency’.

Gerry_A:   _ I listen when they state analysis not blind rhetoric! I never spoke about money! You asked me to the party when you asked me to accept your friend request. You analyse our discussion the same as you do politics. Now you claim I invited myself when it was you who asked. If you do not want me to comment thats fine. It is your call. No hard feelings.

Xper Dunn:   _ Okay, Gerry—that last comment was just crazy. Business owners make all the sacrifices and the workers are the lazy, greedy bastards? Have you had your head checked recently? I think you might have suffered a blow.

Xper Dunn:   _ Stop all this defensive rationalizing–you’ve got a lot of money–isn’t that enough? Do you have to crap on those who work for you?

[At this point, things devolved into name-calling and other emotional responses having little to do with the subject at hand.]

Please Yourself   (2015May29)


Friday, May 29, 2015                                               11:48 AM

Yesterday I watched Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in “Reds” (1981). It reminded me that the USA’s initial renouncement of socialism was due to the Russian peoples’ poorly timed revolution—they overthrew their Czar just as he was allied to the US, England, and France during the first World War. Rather than accept that as an unfortunate piece of timing for a completely legitimate attempt to end the Russians’ starvation and suffering, our government chose to view their revolution as a betrayal of our efforts at ‘making the world safe for democracy’ and beating back ‘the Hun’.

As with the early struggles of the Union movements, this very public alternative to absolute Capitalist rule was demonized by our government—demonstrating that, no matter how idealistic our governmental system might be in the abstract, the people who are its elected officials invariably become the creatures of the wealthy and powerful. Any erosion of the absolute power of the dollar is a threat to the fat-cats’ status quo—and they see to it that any such proponents are labeled enemies of the state. Thus the rich, who fear nothing so much as change, managed to criminalize any philosophical discussions that question the weaponization of commerce, i.e. Capitalism, the source of their power.

They seek to disguise the communal aspect of Democracy—it’s okay for us to share our decisions through voting, but God forbid we share anything else—that’s treason. Meanwhile, the power of the wealthy and the owners overturns those communal decisions through influence on the elected individuals, who are supposed to represent all of us. These mental gymnastics are sheer lunacy to those who haven’t been incubated in the ‘greatest nation on Earth’. But we Americans see it as common sense. Common? Yes. Sense? I don’t think so.

But why do I torture myself, trying to reconcile the human race with rational thinking? I might as well try to make artillery out of paper mache. And why do I care if millions of people are suffering? Suffering and unfairness are a part of the human condition—some might even call it character-building. Perhaps people who never suffer aren’t worth a damn—maybe we need to suffer. And what’s so great about logic? Is a ‘correct answer’ as valuable as a kind word? Not to me. So do whatever you want—it probably doesn’t matter one little bit. We live, we die—nothing can change that. So, be a monster or a saint or a nobody or a somebody—what’s the difference? Please yourself.

Four Squirrelly Videos (2015May27)


Wednesday, May 27, 2015                                               8:25 PM

Oh–and just for laughs–I wrote a song lyric today, in honor of the season:

Spring Song

When the Spring is really greening

And the dog-flowers start to bloom

I can’t stand this crampy house.

I got to leave this musty room.

Outside, breezes float the pollen

And my nose begins to run

But it’s worth it for the freedom

And the warming of the sun.

Give me a Kleenex, baby

My nose in on the flow

Throw me a Kleenex, baby

I really got to blow.

I’d use my sleeve or spew it out but runny noses make me shout

Give me a Kleenex, baby

My nose in on the flow

Throw me a Kleenex, baby

I really got to blow.

 

Some days ago I threw a bag of birdseed onto the lawn outside the front door. It may not be for everyone, but I enjoy the racket every sunrise and sunset when the birds come to feed—and sing. The squirrels don’t sing much, but they do appreciate a bag of bird seed—boy, do they get chubby when I do this.

Bear suggested I place the video-camera outside the door for awhile and see what I got. That was a great idea—although I had to edit out a terrible amount of passing cars and idling or beeping trucks to get my final, idyllic background-footage. The remaining background sounds are mostly the breeze, the squirrels arguing, and the birds tweeting—I almost posted it all sans music.

Plus, I nearly didn’t post these two ‘cover songs’ videos—they’re terrible. But the squirrel is fun to watch. And the two ‘improvs’ videos are pretty good, for me—so I’m listing them first, in case any of you want to click on a video.

Enjoy, please.

Yesterday’s I-Phone   (2015May25)


Monday, May 25, 2015                                            2:56 PM

The rise of the digital age has many markers: the first PCs, the first off-the-shelf software suites, LANs, the Internet—but nothing singled out such a tectonic shift in society as the I-Phone. Hell, it even started a revolution in Egypt, not to mention the slew of new businesses, of whole new industries, it spawned.

In many ways, we can draw parallels in the rise of the Electric Age—it started with light-bulbs, phonographs, silent films, electromagnets, and dynamos—but nothing pulled the populace into the new age like the radio. Today, we view the radio as archaic and primitive. But it was really the first time that we used our burgeoning understanding of physics in a way which affected the whole population.

But what is radio? Pierre Gassendi proposed a theory of light as particles in the 1660s. Newton agreed with him. Robert Hooke proposed a “pulse theory” of light as waves in 1665. The argument over whether light was made of particles or waves would continue until the mid-19th century.

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In 1845, Michael Faraday discovered that light was related to electromagnetism. James Clerk Maxwell’s studies of electromagnetic radiation and light helped him conclude that light was a form of electromagnetic radiation and in 1873 he published A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Heinrich Hertz confirmed Maxwell’s theory by generating and detecting radio waves that behaved exactly like visible light, with properties like reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference. Maxwell’s theory and Hertz’s experiments led directly to the development of modern radio.

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Marconi

Marconi’s Law, concerning the relation between the transmission distance and the square of the height of an antenna, was tested in experiments made on Salisbury Plain in 1897. Guglielmo Marconi did pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission. His development of Marconi’s law and a radio telegraph system has him credited as the ‘inventor of radio’. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”. Braun also invented the first Cathode Ray Tube and the first Oscilloscope—but we are talking about the birth of radio, not television.

Einstein published his “Theory of General Relativity” in 1915, so we can see that ‘scientific’ progress has always been far ahead of commercial applications. But commercial applications are always the ‘stamp of approval’ that humanity gives to the occasional geek working in a back-room laboratory. For more than a century, great scientists had worked on these mysteries of physics while being dismissed as loonies by their more-practical peers. There’s a wonderful song by Gershwin, “They All Laughed”, which catalogs in its lyrics the many innovators who were laughed at until they literally changed the world. It includes the line: “They told Marconi wireless was a phony—it’s the same way now.” And boy, is that true.

Radio-telegraphy, i.e. early radio, had only maritime and military uses, the most notable being its use during the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. But World War I ‘goosed’ the development of military-communications radio, and the first vacuum tubes were used in radio transmitters and receivers. Electronic amplification was key in changing radio from an experts-only practice into a home appliance.

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Commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920s and exploded across American society, so that by the 1930s it had become ubiquitous–the first mass media, the first location-independent human interaction, and a characteristic that not only defined modern society, but had enormous power to change it.

Radio then spurred unstoppable growth in the new ‘broadcasting’ industry and the electric-manufacturing industry, which in turn gave rise to a variety of new entertainments—news broadcasts, radio serials, classical music for the masses—even an end-of-the-world, alien-invasion panic that swept the country on Halloween in 1938, following the infamous Orson Welles broadcast of a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. Seven years later, scientific research into the same physics of electromagnetism would lead to mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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It is strange beyond words how our understanding of electromagnetism has two lives—one of quiet, focused scientists working in anonymity, and the other a crazy story about what the mainstream of humanity does with specific applications that eventually catch our eye. And I think ‘crazy’ may be understating the case. Sometimes I think it might be better if we had mandatory inclusion in science—if the majority of humanity has no clue about the inner workings of our tools and machines, maybe we shouldn’t use them. Okay, idealism overload—never mind!

When television came along, in the 1950s, everyone imagined that it would supplant radio and the movies. Now, we can see that early TV, while wonderful, couldn’t quite replace the experience of a panoramic, full-color movie screen. Radio, too, had a quality that TV couldn’t quite replace—variety. The wealth of radio stations, and the diversity of radio programming, provided a wealth of audio-only entertainment that left radio in command of most of our attention, except for what came to be known as Prime Time, that work-is-done, after-dinner period when people naturally enjoyed a reason to sit around the family room and stare at the screen.

I can still remember when the time of day made a difference. At midnight, the TV stations would run the National Anthem and sign off “’til tomorrow” and if I woke up too early and switched on the TV, that test pattern would still be there, waiting for a decent hour before sending entertainment over the airwaves. Radio stations, too, designed their programming with the assumption that people slept at night—and that anyone in their broadcast range was in the same time zone. As the evening wore on, even in the 1960s, the number of entertainment options slowly dwindled down to zero.

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Also, radios had become a part of the automobile dashboard by the 1930s—something TV would never do, since driving requires one to look where they’re going. By the sixties, radio had been transistorized, as well, and tiny, hand-held radios were everywhere. I remember Jones Beach, on Long Island in summer, would be blanketed with sun-bathing families and friends—each with their own radio, but all tuned to Cousin Brucie—I could walk along the beach and hear “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…” from a hundred tiny speakers.

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By the 1970s, radio had matured from Amplitude Modulation (AM radio, with that annoying ‘carrier signal’ whine) to Frequency Modulation (FM radio, noiseless—and capable of stereo). Radio had finally equaled the sound fidelity of vinyl. TV wouldn’t match that sound quality until the 1980s, when retailers began to market ‘Entertainment Systems’ that re-routed the TV’s sound through multiple speakers using the Dolby system.

Even XM radio, which broadcasts not through the air, but over the Internet, has yet to overthrow broadcast radio, though it may be nearing that point, out of sheer market pressure—I don’t think anyone is building new radio transmitter stations anymore. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the original “Wireless”.

Memorial Day – Observed (2015May25)


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Monday, May 25, 2015                                            12:14 PM

Remembrances are tricky. There’s no critique in a eulogy. Why speak ill of the dead? They can’t hear you. I’m looking forward to my own eulogy—must be nice to have people talk about the good and overlook the bad.

Americans have little sense of soldiers as defenders of the homeland. We don’t have any borders to speak of—just oceans. Hence our navy is really the picket-line for the USA. But 9/11 changed even that—as have drones. The conservatives describe the modern military paradigm as ‘fighting over there so we don’t have to fight here’. Yet we are just as vulnerable to the keyboard of an angry teen hacker in Teaneck, perhaps more so, than any imaginary horde attempting a beachhead on Martha’s Vineyard.

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It’s become so tangled that many people have begun to see non-involvement in the Shia/Sunni civil-wars of Mid-East nations as a viable military strategy. Recent perusals of Bin-Laden’s archives show that he wanted to keep American targets as the terrorists’ focus—and he did succeed in virtually bankrupting this country by blowing up a single skyscraper. Lucky for us, he’s dead—and ISIS is a far more benign group of thugs who prefer to shoot at things closer to home. If we can just counteract their YouTube recruitment videos, they’re dead to us.

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Unfortunately, they have stumbled onto something that is almost as aggravating to Americans—they’re destroying the cultural history of our earliest civilizations. Human suffering is common—but these jerks are smashing museum artifacts—priceless, irreplaceable art from the dawn of humanity. But that is just for PR—they take most of their plunder and sell it on the black market to fund their armies.

So let’s not forget, on this Memorial Day, that Americans who get rich selling arms to the globe, and rich Americans who buy artifacts on the black market, are the support network for these ‘terrorists’. People say we should stop sending drones into the Middle East—I say we should stop sending money and arms there.

But today is about honoring sacrifice. Mothers who’ve lost one of their own children in battle are troubled by the paradox of glorifying something that could very well take another, or one of their children’s children. Young men who are proud to play their part in our military sense a dark message that their greatest glory will be found in death. Disabled veterans may find themselves bitterly reflecting that the dead have it much easier than some of the living—and get the lion’s share of respect and honor from their countrymen.

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To me, it’s a historical issue. To honor the dead from the two World Wars, the Civil War, the Revolution, et. al. is a straightforward sentiment. By comparison, all the ‘wars’ that followed the advent of the A-bomb—Korea and Viet Nam—became something less than ‘all out’ warfare—they were Political. We tempered our forces, fearing that ‘all out’ aggression would involve the Red Chinese—which would have transformed those ground wars into a nuclear World War III. The interpolation of politics into the fighting and dying became the kindling that sparked the anti-war movement.

Subsequent ‘wars’ drew even further away from the idea of fighting with all our might and resources—today’s military actions are a hodge-podge of nation-consensus-building and domestic opinion-polling. The boys and girls who are ‘sacrificed to our freedom’ today are just as likely to be the victims of one day’s poor polling points—or some cheap contractor’s shoddy manufacturing.

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Plus, there is no more ‘war at home’, as we had in WWII, with USO stations, fund drives, ration books, and flags in the windows. Part of the PTSD suffered by today’s returning veterans is the disorientation felt when they return to a country that’s barely aware of what they’re doing. They suffer, bleed, fight and die thousands of miles away, on the other side of an ocean—and come home to bored, sensation-seeking civilians who hardly knew they were gone.

If we’re going to have war in the Middle East, we should have a little Memorial Day every damn day. Failing that, we should stop sending our young people to die in places we don’t care about. Or maybe we should rename today “Oil Day”.

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Randy In The Afternoon (2015May23)


Saturday, May 23, 2015                                           9:46 AM

My old friend, Randy Bell, dropped by yesterday for a brief recording session. It had been three years since his last ascension from his Georgia home to visit his old stomping grounds and we had a lot of catching up to do. Inevitably, we turned to music—Randy, a one-time fervent ‘Dead-head’, has a very different musical perspective from mine, and our collaborations, while challenging, produce some very interesting results (for me, anyway).

It was a confusing afternoon in one sense—I have a tendency to improvise on basic chord progressions, and those chord progressions, being in some sense basic building blocks in a variety of tunes, can go in and out of the ‘cover’ domain. For instance, my favorite a-minor chord progression led Randy to start singing along, revealing those chords to be the basis of a Chris Issak hit, “Blue Spanish Sky”. However, as I said, some chords progressions are basic components to many pieces, of both classical and popular music. So if I have to credit Chris Issak, then Chris Issak has to credit basic music theory, as do the Beatles and the Turtles, who use the same chord progression in hit songs of theirs, and Vivaldi, who uses it in his “Four Seasons”.

Having crossed that line, I showed Randy how I had derived my favorite G-Major chord progression from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. It was weird—after a good half hour of ‘improvisation’, we had recorded two ‘covers’!

But my favorite part was Randy teaching me to play a cover of a song written by someone we both knew—“Hard Road Blues”, written by Randy’s lifelong friend and one-time collaborator, Burrie Jenkins. Burrie is a Massachusetts composer and guitarist best known for his “Dharma of the Leaves” . I hope he doesn’t mind too much that Randy and I ‘roughed up’ his tune—it was hella fun to play…

Beethoven’s Pastoral Sixth and Disney in Stereo (2015May22)


Friday, May 22, 2015                                               10:52 AM

When I was a boy, I liked to lie on the floor of a dark room and listen to classical music. My closed eyes became an IMAX screen for Rorschach-fueled fantasies—vague daydreams of struggle, passion, voyaging, and victory. Back then, I didn’t listen to music the way I do now—I simply heard a soundtrack to an invisible movie. Dvorak’s New World, Tchaikovsky’s 1812, Smetana’s Moldau, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter—they all suggested vague plotlines of grand adventures, terrific battles, and transporting joys—and Beethoven’s symphonies were right up there in my ‘top hits’ list. Classical music has always been the soundtrack to my daydreams.

Because I felt that classical music (mostly Romantic, and symphonic, at that time) was a ‘drug’ that would take me on a ‘trip’, I preferred listening to it on my bedroom record-player to sitting in the audience at Lincoln Center—a privilege that my public school provided as often as twice a year, thanks to the wonderful Mr. Freeman, our music teacher. Young people, and non-musicians of any age, I suppose, can hear music without truly appreciating that musicians have to make it. In a sense, music, to me, came from a flat, round piece of vinyl.

Walt Disney and I had that in common, sort of—but he was not a lifelong music-lover—he didn’t come to appreciate Classical Music until he had already become a successful filmmaker. But upon discovering these treasures, they became his passion. He began to use it in his “Silly Symphonies” animated shorts. While working on an extended Silly Symphony of Dumas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who was slipping in popularity) Disney determined to make it part of the full-length feature that came to be known as “Fantasia”, a set of eight animated classical works performed by Leopold Stokowski (the premiere conductor of the times).

I was in my late teens by the time I saw a reissue screening of what, by then, had become a classic film. The original 1940 release of “Fantasia” was marred by the start of World War II—the lack of European market revenue, and the mixed critical response, made the film seem a failure upon its opening. Plus, there were high costs involved in making an animated feature film—even more so in the case of “Fantasia”, as it was the first film shown in stereophonic sound, and ‘Fantasound’ equipment had to be installed in every theater that screened the film!

“Fantasia” is a treat—a celebration of both music and art, created by the world’s most beloved and successful commercial artist. Every musical piece in the film brings out special features of the individual pieces—and of music itself. For someone familiar with the music, the animation ‘accompaniment’ brought a whole new dimension to the works—and for those hearing them for the first time, it was an indelible, endearing introduction. The skill and effort of the creative teams, the innovations of artistry and technology used to achieve the film, gave the final collection of flickering images and sounds substance to rival the great pyramids of Egypt.

Now, having said all that, it’s not hard to imagine that today’s musicians could find “Fantasia” to be dated and superficial. It may be difficult for any of us today to appreciate the technical challenges of 1940—with the debut of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, we experienced the first CGI-generated animation (and the first animated film to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar). Yet, to me, the old Disney animated classics are still marvels of effort and organization—and the proof is in the enduring value of the surviving individual cels, as collectors’ items and as works of art suitable for framing and hanging on the wall. That’s what those old films were—a sequence of hundreds of thousands of hand-painted artistic masterpieces! In comparison, CGI animations are akin to pyramids built with modern construction vehicles—still impressive, but hardly the same effort.

More importantly, serious musicians focus on the pure sound—what else is there, in music? Music videos have been a part of our culture since the 1980s—with their tendency to push more-pedestrian music’s popularity using provocative visual accompaniment, they can make ‘adding visuals’ seem overly manipulative. Plus, there are now many serious composers who are known for their soundtrack compositions made specifically for film, such as Richard Stephen Robbins’ score to “The Remains of the Day” (1993)—or even Karl Jenkin’s score for the DeBeers diamonds ad (1994). It is understandable that today’s musician might see “Fantasia” as opportunistic or exploitative of the great composers. But that would be overlooking the educational and popularizing effect of those times.

It was only the previous decade, the 1930s, that public radio broadcasts of classical music had allowed the masses to hear concert music—prior to radio, classical music had remained as much a privilege of the ‘upper class’ as it had been in the days of noble patronage, centuries before. And Leopold Stokowski, José Iturbi and Arturo Toscanini were still freshly-minted radio stars—the NBC Symphony Orchestra gave its premiere broadcast in 1937. Classical music, in 1940, was in a certain sense, the ‘latest thing’.

Plus, Disney’s animations ‘closed the distance’ for new fans of classical—instead of seeing the mechanics—a film of the orchestra itself, playing—we see the kinds of fantasies that listening to such music can inspire. Disney’s “Fantasia” showed music from the listener’s perspective, not the performer’s.

So when we are tempted to dismiss the film as trite or silly, we ignore its historical context. I’m reminded of Owen Wister, the author of “The Virginian” in 1902. Today we laugh at the clichés of Westerns—the shootouts at high noon, the schoolmarm sweethearts, the strong, silent gunslingers—yet all of these memes were original ideas when Wister first penned them. They only became clichés because these images were so powerful that they were copied and varied ad infinitum, for a century. In the same way, Disney’s enormous influence on our modern viewpoint blinds us to the originality and impact of his work when it was first created. Respect must be shown.

Not that I don’t respect Beethoven. I loved his Sixth Symphony long before I saw “Fantasia” and I love it still, in spite of the fleeting mental image of bare-breasted, gamboling centaur-nymphs imprinted by the film. I also see dancing mushrooms whenever I hear Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and feel the urge to belly-laugh whenever I hear Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours—but I’m sure the composers themselves, if we could ask them, would be flattered to have received the loving attention of Walt Disney.