Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thanks To Eric Jackson Just Playing A Different Cut From His New Album on WGBH

which is what I've got on the radio, I just learned of David Weiss within the past ten minutes, don't believe I ever came across him before.  He's very, very good.
This album is going on my to-buy list. 

David Weiss: trumpet
Myron Walden: alto sax
Marcus Strickland: tenor sax
Xavier Davis: piano
Dwayne Burno: bass
E.J. Strickland: drums

Live at the Phenix Chega de Saudade by Jobim

I can't remember if I've posted this before but it features the great bass player Gildas Bocle, the great young guitarist Nelson Veras and the fine drum player, Simon Bernier playing live.   It stands up to repeated listening.  I know I've posted this before and it definitely stands up.

Short Pieces

-  My brother, one of the few people in my offline life who knows I write this blog, told me that he put an old-fashioned antenna on his roof, cut out his cable, saves a lot of money and, with the alternate channels of the three PBS stations he gets etc. he gets more stations he actually watches without cable.   He still didn't sell me on letting that monkey back on my back.

-  A conservative columnist I've, thankfully, never heard of, has proposed changing the name of the Washington, D.C. football team to "The Reagans" after the second worst president of our lifetimes.  There is massive opposition but I think it is appropriate.  Here's my comment:

I totally ignore sports so i'm probably not the first to point out how appropriate it would be, the brain death associated with football, the violence, the sense of entitlement it gives to the males who play the game, the rapes, the sadistic bullying - including multiple incidents of boys being raped as torture and degradation -  The fact that it is massively dependent on welfare given by cash strapped local, state governments for the benefit of billionaire owners.... is something which is appropriately associated with Ronald Reagan.

Reagan is the embodiment of everything football stands for, most of all it's hypocritical poses of piety and sentimental nostalgia as it is a massive criminal enterprise in reality.

-  I happened to look at the hit count of different posts on my blog and see, to my surprise, that my brawls with various people have gotten a lot of hits.  I have to say I was surprised, figuring they were pretty boring.  I can't say that I'm proud of them, as I said, they make me feel a bit cheap even as I admit that I am and have always been rather scrappy.   A homely, short, skinny kid who will not pretend to be straight can develop that habit and, I like to think, I'm not bad at it.   Anyone who objects will convince me to not post those on this blog, keeping them to the ghetto I've made for them.  Speak now, please, save me from feeling cheap.

Update:  The sieve who keeps on dripping had something to say but I'll withhold it for now.

Been weeding datura out of my upper garden and it always makes me feel poisoned.  One of the nastiest, poisonous plants this side of hog weed.    Don't have any idea how anyone could ever eat the stuff, the fatal dose is so close to the intoxicating one it is one of the most dangerous of plant hallucinogens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Courts Making The Jobs of Public Servants Impossible

Thinking as I was weeding,  remembering how my family members who are and were public school teachers have chaffed under the idiotic requirements imposed on them, in their classrooms, by judges and justices, many of whom never, once, attended a public school,  thinking about the breezy insouciance of the declarations of how easy it is for the police to pick out potential mass murderers and even single murderers and assailants from a crowd of angry fanatics, I though about how these court rulings make the professions of public servants impossible for anyone who has good intentions and a sense of responsibility.   If I'd been closer to the members of my family who have been policemen - Somehow, I doubt that most of the Supremes could name members of their family who had been policemen, they don't usually come from that class of people.  - I bet I'd have heard similar issues aside from those which are reasonable requirements, reminding those arrested of their rights, the need to get a search warrant to search. It's as if the Supreme Court doesn't even care about the real-life working lives of real people doing jobs that can be anything from difficult to life threatening.   And by virtue of rulings that require that even dangerously violent, mentally ill kids be given equal access to a regular public school classroom, many times kids far bigger than the mostly women in that profession, AND ITS GUN RULINGS, teaching has become a job that often carries dangers that were once associated with policing.

I have known lots of people who tried teaching, found that teaching is impossible in all too many public schools and who gave it up for a better paid profession.  I've even heard one person who went from teaching to being a policeman and saying he was less fearful being a cop than he was in his classroom.   One person I heard gave up teaching when he was attacked by an habitually disruptive student who almost blinded him in one eye AND HE WAS THE ONE WHO GOT INTO TROUBLE FOR NOT KEEPING ORDER IN HIS CLASSROOM.   He found the life of a subway conductor to be a better use of his talents.   

I would like for lawyers, all of them, including the corporate lawyers from whom most of the judges and "justices" of courts are chosen, and also the academic lawyers who account for most of the others, to have to live with the real life consequences of their own rulings.   While defense lawyers have an obligation to get their clients the justice due them, a lot of them go a lot farther than that, using everything available to them to get even clients they know are guilty off with no restrictions on them at all.  A lot of lawyers who take cases of clients who want to assert that they or, frequently, their bratty kid has a case to make against what was, clearly, a reasonable effort by teachers or school administrators or the police to keep order or even to protect other people from being violently attacked, go home to their comfortable and expensive homes and their offices removed from their clients' violence and disruptions.  Judges, so often, believe that kind of safe cocoon that they lived in before they were judges is the real world.  There are exceptions, of course, quite a few judges, lawyers and others practice a quite different set of standards for members of racial or other minority groups.  I will acknowledge that the greatest permissions are almost always granted to rich, white people, parents, children etc.   "Justice" Alito's documented rulings on strip searches on poor children as opposed to rich adults, brought out during his confirmation by Professor Ronald S. Sullivan,  is a shameful piece of evidence of that.  Oddly, it doesn't seem to have lost him the nomination fight.  For which Democrats on the repulsive Senate Judiciary Committee share a large part of the responsibility. 

While electing judges brings a horror show in itself, so does giving them lifetime tenure with no, real requirements on them.   Scalia's and Thomas's serial instances of conflict of interest are illustrative of that.   But the real life of us all, living under their rulings, even the rulings of the liberals in that Olympian body are making civil service and the civil life that it exists to serve impossible.   I don't think anything short of forcing judges, justices, lawyers, and the entire legal profession be subjected to the results of their rulings and professional activities would do it.   

I think the rulings they make are one of the reasons that it is hard to attract and keep many good people who would like to go into teaching, policing and other fields who would be good at it.  I think they account for why so many people leave those professions for something that doesn't serve the public good.  I think they account for a lot of the burnout and discouragement, if not cynicism and even criminal conduct and violation of civil rights within those professions.  And, frankly, I think the judges, justices and lawyers, so many of them insulated from the real world result of their work, don't care.  Perhaps we need to get better judges and to get rid of the ones who don't care.   Getting rid of the politicians who appoint them and rubber stamp them is our job.

Safe In Their Alabaster Chambers The Supreme Court Exposes Women to The Beneficiaries of Their Gun Rulings

 “The police appear perfectly capable of singling out lawbreakers,”   John Roberts

Yeah, tell it to the survivors of Lee Ann Nichols and Shannon Lowney, the victims of John Salvi when he shot up the very clinics in the case.   Not to mention all the others murdered by anti-abortion fanatics. 

I don't own a television anymore,  when they made the switch to mandatory high-definition, I used that as an occasion to not update and so to finally give up TV.  I'd been intending to do so for decades,  it is an addiction.   Not that an addiction to being online isn't one, but it's actually possible to find worth-while content, if you look for it, as well as the ocean of crap, lies, porn, propaganda and lunacy that make it ever more doubtful that the breezy optimism about the "information age" that the internet was going to turn the world into a cosy global village, will be anything but about 98% wrong.

But don't get me started on that one.  The reason I brought up TV is that while taking care of my dying mother I was exposed to those TV spots meant to dissuade women from having an abortion.   The ones that could be a part of a campaign to influence society so the anti-abortion faction could muster a majority or an effective margin of the electorate, to outlaw abortion, again, with all of its attendant horrors of motel room abortions, women dying, a trade in infanticide - which was a hidden but regular feature of societies back then which was widely known of but, by tacit agreement, not discussed.  It could be that or it could be an entirely permissible effort to convince women to not have abortions, which, I guess, people have a right to do.   I might be suspicious at the motives and purpose of those ads but people do have as much of a right to appeal to women to not have abortions as they do to appeal to people to vote in order to keep abortions legal.

But that is entirely different from the idiocy that came out of the Supreme Court yesterday.  I assume that the new restrictions on protective zones around womens' health clinics and abortion clinics was a matter of the four "liberal" justices managing to get Roberts to join them to prevent the outright ban on protective zones which the other four right-wingers wanted.   Which is screwed up in results but such is the brilliance of our often outmoded and vague founding FATHERS.  When their vague, poetic words can be hidden behind, especially those of the first amendments to the Constitution, right wingers with an agenda can twist things into any form they desire on rare occasions to be used against their positions by other courts.*

The fact is the Massachusetts law requiring a 35 foot separation between any anti-abortion pickets and clinics was the result of murders at two clinics in Boston as well as continuing harassment of staff, clients and patients and the series of murders at other abortion clinics and of doctors who performed abortions

The 2000 law was the response to harassment and intimidation of the 1990s in Massachusetts, a state with a history of violence and intimidation at abortion clinics, including a shooting rampage in 1994 that left two staff dead.

Eight murders and 17 attempted murders have been committed against abortion clinic staff since 1991. Two clinic personnel at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston were killed by a gunman who also wounded five others in 1994.

For four Supreme Court Justices, in this case, it's as if that history didn't exist, that those lives didn't matter and were entirely unentitled to protection.  Conservatives have a long history of not caring about the lives of people, even those not yet born.**

As I rarely do, these days, I actually agree with what the American Civil Liberties Union said about the ruling.

We agree that a fixed buffer zone imposes serious first amendment costs, but we also think the court underestimated the proven difficulty of protecting the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions by enforcing other laws – especially regarding harassment – outside abortion clinics.

Today’s opinion makes it more important than ever that the police enforce the laws that do exist that in order to ensure that women and staff can safely enter and leave abortion clinics.

As if the Supremes have much if any real knowledge of police work in the real world.   I'd like to see them try to do what they assert is so easy.

The Supreme Court members have no problems with a far larger protective barrier around the Court and around themselves, they are the ultimate beneficiaries of a protective bubble, one which they would never consider giving up so that ordinary citizens can bother their contemplative tranquility as they figure out how to twist the words of the wretched Constitution and Bill of alleged Rights to their own ends, always political, always favoring the oligarchs in more than ninety percent of their decisions, these days.   If someone managed to break into the chamber and shoot at the bench I would imagine it might make some impression on them, but probably only to bar anyone from the room who hadn't been strip searched, if not seal the building from the public with an even wider corridor of protection for their bunker,  with massively armed guards to enforce those.   It wouldn't make them reconsider their casual assertions of the police being able to deal with full access to patients, staff and clinics by organized groups and lone psychopaths with a history of murder and arson against them.   It wouldn't make them reconsider the expansions of the ability of armed psychopaths to be loaded to the teeth with assault weapons.

I despise the Supreme Court in its stately removal from the hoi polloi it lords it over.   It needs to be exposed to far more interaction with the real world that it pretends to be addressing in these decisions.   I'd start with the homes of Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, the most absolutist of "free speech" libertarians, their persons and their families.  Let's see how well they like having to depend on the same access to them that they advocate for clinics and doctors who are being shot up now.

*  Apparently some other judges are citing Scalia in ways he didn't intend when he shot his mouth off in decisions and dissents.    Sort of like I figure he does the founding FATHERS.   This issue is exactly why it matters that the Constitution the Supremes use to impose their will on us was written exclusively by men, in Scalia's preferred framing, all of whom were born in the 18th century and dead before the 1830s.

**  I have yet to see a case in which conservatives have shown the same regard for fetuses harmed and killed by pollutants, poisons and pathogens found in food, water and air, etc. which probably account for more terminated pregnancies than abortion, legal or illegal.   It shouldn't ever be forgotten that a ban on abortion won't end abortions, it will only take them back to cheap motel rooms and worse.   That was the history of abortion in the years before Roe v Wade.  That and the trade in infanticide, which should be emphasized more.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Al Pacino on Hughie Part 1 and 2

Update:  And a different approach

Twice since yesterday,  I've watched the production, at the link, of Hughie with Andrew Schlessinger as the most believable Erie Smith I've ever seen or imagined and Joe Hulser as the night clerk. Though I've got to feel sorry for Hulser, they having cut the night clerk's speeches, mostly out, it does make it quite effective.   It is a fine piece of work and just what I needed to get out of the enhanced depression of The Iceman Cometh.   I hereby swear I will never read Eugene O'Neill while depressed, ever again.   Wallowing in despair is irresponsible, not a right.   It's anti-liberal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Iceman Melteth Redemption Of The World Is The Goal of Liberalism

LARRY--(grinning) I'll be glad to pay up--tomorrow. And I know my fellow inmates will promise the same. They've all a touching credulity concerning tomorrows. (a half-drunken mockery in his eyes) It'll be a great day for them, tomorrow--the Feast of All Fools, with brass bands playing! Their ships will come in, loaded to the gunwales with cancelled regrets and promises fulfilled and clean slates and new leases! 

ROCKY--(cynically) Yeah, and a ton of hop!

LARRY--(leans toward him, a comical intensity in his low voice) Don't mock the faith! Have you no respect for religion, you unregenerate Wop? What's it matter if the truth is that their favoring breeze has the stink of nickel whiskey on its breath, and their sea is a growler of lager and ale, and their ships are long since looted and scuttled and sunk on the bottom? To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It's irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober. And that's enough philosophic wisdom to give you for one drink of rot-gut.

ROCKY--(grins kiddingly) De old Foolosopher, like Hickey calls yuh, ain't yuh? I s'pose you don't fall for no pipe dream?

LARRY--(a bit stiffly) I don't, no. Mine are all dead and buried behind me. What's before me is the comforting fact that death is a fine long sleep, and I'm damned tired, and it can't come too soon for me.

From the beginning of The Iceman Cometh:  Eugene O'Neill

The statement I made a while back, that liberalism was all about moral absolutes got some objection on another blog.  After the reaction to previous posts on that topic,  I'm going to go a bit farther and point out that not only is liberalism about the far harder case to make, that people should personally sacrifice comfort and luxury to some extent for the good of other people,  it is about the far more difficult to achieve redemption of society.   Conservatism and libertarianism are far easier sells on the basis of both personal weakness, selfishness, and the cynical, lazy stand that all attempts to improve things is useless.

That cynical laziness is far different from the painful discouragement that plagues any real liberal, from time to time.  Cynics like to think the worse of people an society because it allows them to be off the hook for trying to make an effort to really change things in the way that the is required by liberalism.  If they don't find it, they make it up, attributing their cynicism to even the most obviously non-cynical, whose actions prove they are not cynics.    None of the great efforts to change things, abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, organized labor, etc. was accomplished without enormous sacrifice and an enormous effort to move public thought from where it was mired before.  Cynicism, a pose that has been the end of the effort as many a former alleged leftist has relaxed into the cynical conservatism that is such a small step from so much of what is mistaken for the left.  Christopher Hitchens' savaging of Mother Teresa would have been a giant step on his way to his neo conservatism if he had started from real liberalism.   From his pseudo-left it was just a tiny tip toe from that to where he ended up.


In the list of characters in his play, The Iceman Cometh,  Eugene O'Neill describes almost all of the customers at Harry Hope's bar other than the prostitutes and the Harvard lawyer as being "one-time" somethings or other.   At one point, what comes as close to being the hero of the play as it has, Larry Slade - one time syndicalist anarchist, describes them to the recently arrived young Don Parritt, whose mother was arrested with her anarchist cell which Larry was once a member of.

LARRY--(stares at him almost frightenedly--then looks away and grasps eagerly this chance to change the subject. He begins to describe the sleepers with sardonic relish but at the same time showing his affection for them.) That's Captain Lewis, a onetime hero of the British Army. He strips to display that scar on his back he got from a native spear whenever he's completely plastered. The bewhiskered bloke opposite him is General Wetjoen, who led a commando in the War. The two of them met when they came here to work in the Boer War spectacle at the St. Louis Fair and they've been bosom pals ever since. They dream the hours away in happy dispute over the brave days in South Africa when they tried to murder each other. The little guy between them was in it, too, as correspondent for some English paper. His nickname here is Jimmy Tomorrow. He's the leader of our Tomorrow Movement.

PARRITT--What do they do for a living?

LARRY--As little as possible. Once in a while one of them makes a successful touch somewhere, and some of them get a few dollars a month from connections at home who pay it on condition they never come back. For the rest, they live on free lunch and their old friend, Harry Hope, who doesn't give a damn what anyone does or doesn't do, as long as he likes you.

PARRITT--It must be a tough life.

LARRY--It's not. Don't waste your pity. They wouldn't thank you for it. They manage to get drunk, by hook or crook, and keep their pipe dreams, and that's all they ask of life. I've never known more contented men. It isn't often that men attain the true goal of their heart's desire. The same applies to Harry himself and his two cronies at the far table. He's so satisfied with life he's never set foot out of this place since his wife died twenty years ago. He has no need of the outside world at all. This place has a fine trade from the Market people across the street and the waterfront workers, so in spite of Harry's thirst and his generous heart, he comes out even. He never worries in hard times because there's always old friends from the days when he was a jitney Tammany politician, and a friendly brewery to tide him over. Don't ask me what his two pals work at because they don't. Except at being his lifetime guests. The one facing this way is his brother-in-law, Ed Mosher, who once worked for a circus in the ticket wagon. Pat McGloin, the other one, was a police lieutenant back in the flush times of graft when everything went. But he got too greedy and when the usual reform investigation came he was caught red-handed and thrown off the Force. (He nods at Joe.) Joe here has a yesterday in the same flush period. He ran a colored gambling house then and was a hell of a sport, so they say. Well, that's our whole family circle of inmates, except the two barkeeps and their girls, three ladies of the pavement that room on the third floor.

Nothing much changes in Harry Hopes' bar until one of their favorites, Theodore Hickey, a traveling salesman and a man of boundless enthusiasm and confidence, a good-time guy who makes periodic visits comes for his regular visit.  However, instead of the good time they expect, he upsets them with his new program of honesty, which he applies to their lives so as to set them free of their delusions.   His boundless good-time energy and sardonic wit has been converted to spreading The Truth, due to a conversion experience we don't find out about until the denouement of the play.

Only it makes them miserable because none of them really wants to be free and take some responsibility for even their own lives.  The play ends when it's revealed that Hickey murdered his religious wife because he was ashamed of having infected her with Syphilus he got on one of his sales trips.   What he couldn't stand her for was that she forgave him.   In his most honest speech of the play, he declares that he hated her for exactly the Christian act of her forgiving him,  the reason he murdered her, which he is horrified to have said as soon as the words are out of his mouth.

It is a double denouement of confessions because Parritt, who sought out Larry Slade as sort of a father figure ( he'd been Parritt's mother's lover at one time) commits suicide with Larrys encouragement after admitting to having turned her into the cops along with the entire cell of anarchists she had raised him in.   He hated her because she placed her devotion to her absurd cause over him and, in the inverted values of her faith, he gives her the gift of hating him for his betrayal of her, he knows she will take enormous pleasure in hating and not forgiving him.

PARRITT--(leans toward him--in a strange low insistent voice) Yes, but he isn't the only one who needs peace, Larry. I can't feel sorry for him. He's lucky. He's through, now. It's all decided for him. I wish it was decided for me. I've never been any good at deciding things. Even about selling out, it was the tart the detective agency got after me who put it in my mind. You remember what Mother's like, Larry. She makes all the decisions. She's always decided what I must do. She doesn't like anyone to be free but herself. (He pauses, as if waiting for comment, but Larry ignores him.) I suppose you think I ought to have made those dicks take me away with Hickey. But how could I prove it, Larry? They'd think I was nutty. Because she's still alive. You're the only one who can understand how guilty I am. Because you know her and what I've done to her. You know I'm really much guiltier than he is. You know what I did is a much worse murder. Because she is dead and yet she has to live. For a while. But she can't live long in jail. She loves freedom too much. And I can't kid myself like Hickey, that she's at peace. As long as she lives, she'll never be able to forget what I've done to her even in her sleep. She'll never have a second's peace. (He pauses--then bursts out) Jesus, Larry, can't you say something? (Larry is at the breaking point. Parritt goes on.) And I'm not putting up any bluff, either, that I was crazy afterwards when I laughed to myself and thought, "You know what you can do with your freedom pipe dream now, don't you, you damned old bitch!"

LARRY--(snaps and turns on him, his face convulsed with detestation. His quivering voice has a condemning command in it.) Go! Get the hell out of life, God damn you, before I choke it out of you! Go up--!

PARRITT--(His manner is at once transformed. He seems suddenly at peace with himself. He speaks simply and gratefully.) Thanks, Larry. I just wanted to be sure. I can see now it's the only possible way I can ever get free from her. I guess I've really known that all my life. (He pauses--then with a derisive smile) It ought to comfort Mother a little, too. It'll give her the chance to play the great incorruptible Mother of the Revolution, whose only child is the Proletariat. She'll be able to say: "Justice is done! So may all traitors die!" She'll be able to say: "I am glad he's dead! Long live the Revolution!" (He adds with a final implacable jeer) You know her, Larry! Always a ham!

LARRY--(pleads distractedly) Go, for the love of Christ, you mad tortured bastard, for your own sake! (Hugo is roused by this. He lifts his head and peers uncomprehendingly at Larry. Neither Larry nor Parritt notices him.)

The play ends when the miserable drunks of Harry Hope's bar, relieved of too much truth in their midst go back to their daily round of stagnant forgetting.   All except Larry who was the most miserable of them to start with.

LARRY--(in a whisper of horrified pity) Poor devil! (A long-forgotten faith returns to him for a moment and he mumbles) God rest his soul in peace. (He opens his eyes--with a bitter self-derision) Ah, the damned pity--the wrong kind, as Hickey said! Be God, there's no hope! I'll never be a success in the grandstand--or anywhere else! Life is too much for me! I'll be a weak fool looking with pity at the two sides of everything till the day I die! (with an intense bitter sincerity) May that day come soon! (He pauses startledly, surprised at himself--then with a sardonic grin) Be God, I'm the only real convert to death Hickey made here. From the bottom of my coward's heart I mean that now!

It's all so marvelously gloomy, though I prefer the one act Hughie that some say O'Neill wrote as an expurgation of all that despair.  But, as good as it might be as theater, he wrote about the worst prescription for a political program as possible.   No positive change could even be attempted by people so permitted to wallow in despair because everything is hopeless and useless and all aspirations to better things are a sign of stupidity or willful delusion.  O'Neill wrote the play during the Second World War, about the worst time there ever was to present the view of life which the play does, though I believe it wasn't produced until 1946.  It would be impossible to imagine any kind of progress in civil rights in the two decades after it was written coming out of it.  It's not what fought the misery of the depression in the previous decade and defeated fascism and Nazism on two fronts.

O'Neill was associated with a group of New York City radicals of two decades earlier (Jack Nicholson played him in the movie), most of whom came to bad ends, some, like Max Eastman, devolving into bitter right wingers.   One who stood out was the great saint,  Dorothy Day (I don't recall her being in the movie, but I may be forgetting something).  I would say that she turned out to be the most radical of all of those I'm familiar with, certainly doing more actual good in the world than just about any of them.   Her radicalism was found in the source which just about all of the would-be radicals she was associated with hated above all, religion, more so the Christian religion, perhaps most of all in Roman Catholicism. Despite the few things which her conversion imposed on her that would be considered conservative, even oppressive, it gave her actions, he life, a radicalism that none of her former associates could match in the real world, in real time.   Their better life was in some distant future,  either through their faith in what was their substitute for God, the dialectic, or some such thing, or in their incredibly unrealistic anarchism.   Day was an anarchist, too, in theory.  Though her follows in the Catholic Worker movement used to say that she was all for anarchism as long as she was the anarch.   I've read that she thought it was funny, too.

But it was in her actions, feeding, housing, caring for the destitute and poor, providing them with medical treatment, of struggling against war and oppression that her real political and moral stands found their most undeniably real form. That is something you rarely get with ideological radicals and I think the real difference is found in her religion, which demands real action in real time and not just some attendance at the Left Forum or some other such social event.*

It is an irony that the pseudo-left that makes the most fun of religion as pie-in-the-sky is the left that does the least in the real world for real people and real living beings.  It is the left that is constantly demoting people and living beings to being unimportant, ephemeral physical amalgamations of atoms, whose lives are merely the emergent phenomena of physical forces and random, chance combinations of those atoms and molecules.   Though it's not ironic, it's what that pseudo-left consists of, it has nothing in it to make anything more out of.   That ingredient that can power a real left is only found, is only available in a durable, effective form in religion, the thing that the pseudo-left hates the most.   I have never read an alternative proposed by that pseudo-left that could or has demonstrably and successfully substituted for it.   I think it is exactly the demands that religion places on the pseudo-leftists that they hate, the requirements it makes on them, their time, their resources and efforts that it requires of them, that makes them hate it just as much as any capitalist**.

And the thing they seem to hate the most, to disdain the most is the requirement to work for universal redemption in place of the crushing defeat of opponents or merely those who are other than themselves.   That may be the most difficult teaching of all found in the Abrahamic religions, that you can't look on even your enemies as objects, of things to be defeated, subjugated, destroyed and obliterated. I could go on and on about what that entails but I will leave it at this.   The entire faith of liberal politics is the faith, beyond any wisdom or council to despair or cynically give up, that society can be redeemed and a better life is possible.  Not only possible but the only really good reason for politics to exist, the highest reason for governments to exist, their only legitimate motive for their actions, the only legitimate goal that should be allowed.  I have asked, over and over again, in different forms for some other basis of liberalism and no one has yet provided me with one.

* I have come to the conclusion that almost ever conference of academics and many of those of scientists are, primarily, a way for them to have fun socializing and partying, often at the expense of institutions and governments.   Having attended a few, I'm entirely cynical about them.

** Just as natural selection is inevitably all about the strong or "more fit" defeating and destroying the weaker in a struggle of wills to survive, capitalism inevitably contains that made more enticing through the additional feature of using the law to benefit the capitalist through letting substitutes do the struggling and taking the risk for them.  Neither of them is compatible with Christianity or real liberalism or democracy.

The Far From Perfect Barack Obama's Actions Contradict The Atheists Claims on Him

George Carlin was a second rate stand up comic who tried a number of lackluster personas before settling onto the dead unfunny role as a loudmouth atheist scold who mined an audience who liked to believe they were superior to the majority of the population because they were atheists.   Bill Maher is an even less talented comic who pretty much didn't bother with the trial period before he copied Carlin's atheist scold to attract some of the audience that Carlin won.   Maher has a cable show “Real Time With Bill Maher,” which, from the little I've seen of it, could be modeled on the little I've seen of Pat Robertson's not all that dissimilar show.   It's a bunch of guests who gab with Maher but the topics are always an opportunity for Maher to promote his themes, that atheists rule and faith-heads drool.   It's really not much more sophisticated than that, at bottom.

Through RMJ's post yesterday I found out about his recent publicity round on other chat shows, specifically his appearance on Jon Stewart's show.   He made some rather absurd statements about atheists being the largest minority group in the country and that Barack Obama is a covert atheist pretending to be religious, a Christian.  RMJ disposes rather well of his claims about the number of atheists in the population so you should read his post on that.  I've written a number of times on the problem atheists face in winning elections due to their own insults of the vast majority of the population.  

Since Maher's shtick consists of those insults, based on claiming the intellectual superiority of atheists over the stupidity of religious people,  it would be rather difficult for Maher to face the simple fact that people don't tend to vote for people who insult them or who are associated with a group whose major, public activity is insulting them.   But  Maher doesn't get that, he rather stupidly doesn't really get what democracy kind of involves, getting the most votes from the most people and people seldom vote for those associated with insults to them.  A rather astonishing number of self-appointed geniuses among atheists don't seem to get that.  I looked around at some of the atheist online places about this and noticed that point being rather uniformly missed.  So much for the brilliance of atheists. 

I don't know the heart of hearts of Barack Obama, unlike Maher and what would seem to be most of his fellow atheists, I don't claim to be able to read his mind.*   Apparently in claiming him as one of their own, they rather miss the point that they hold him up as a politician who pretends to be a Christian for political purposes and so is a rather massive liar.  Why they would want to claim that the most powerful atheist in the world is a liar might be incomprehensible if they believed it was a sin to tell a lie but atheists don't believe in sin, so, perhaps, they're OK with having the most powerful atheist in the world having that position on the basis of a big lie.  I would point out that I've come to the conclusion that one of the most powerful criminals in history, Hitler, was, on the basis of his actions, telling exactly the lie they attribute to Barack Obama.   Hitler's every action in office betrayed his disbelief in the teachings of Jesus, The Law and the prophets, his actions spoke ever so much more reliably than any mealy mouthed lines he issued about his religious belief.   

The fact is,  Barack Obama has been nothing like the atheists with power who openly declared their atheism,  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha,.... and he has been nothing like Hitler who I am rather certain was an atheist, a belief which his second in command, Martin Bormann, just by holding that position but also by what he said, would definitely support.   The evidence from history of how openly self-declared atheists govern would indicate that they tend to try to amass power to themselves quite radically, when that is possible.   They are viciously and indiscriminately violent to anyone who might oppose them, they use hatred as a tool to enhance and keep their own power.   

Barack Obama has done none of those things, if anything he has imposed unnecessary restrictions on himself and his political position, reaching out, over and over again to his implacable opponents even over the objections and interests of his supporters.  While I think he is wrong, politically, one explanation of it could be the kind of charity to opponents that is noticeably not a feature of any atheism I'm familiar with.   

Perhaps, in the future, Barack Obama will say that he lied to everyone and he was an atheist all along, an atheist who lied about being a Christian in order to gain political office and the presidency.   If that's true his behavior in office will figure in the calculus of what atheists who hold power can be expected to be like.  Or he might be seen as an outlier as well as an outright liar.   Why atheists would want to claim someone who told a massive lie to gain political office is best known to them or it might indicate what I've said, that not believing that it is a sin to tell a lie accounts for why atheists play fast and loose with the facts.   It's a far smaller leap of logic to conclude that not believing it's a sin to lie will lead to lying than to understand how someone who believed it was could tell quite serious lies.   

Unless Barack Obama comes out as a lying, covert atheist with a thirst for power (the kind of power he has chosen not to exercise in office) I take him at his word that he is religious, that he is a Christian, which is a matter of facing the fact that we are all sinners, that we are all weak and imperfect, a confession that is as desirable in a leader even more than the most powerless of us.   Barack Obama has the right to be believed and I would rather believe that he is telling us the truth even as I acknowledge that, as every Christian who has ever held power, he falls far short of his professed faith.   Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world and it is doubtful that we, his mere followers, could expect to create one here more successfully than he didn't. 

*  I'm sure that most of those atheists who are Maher fans would mock any alleged psychic who made far more modest claims about their ability to read minds.   Another example of their habitual inconsistency and presumptions of their superior ability.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Won't They Do What We Want Them To Do? Politics As Doing The Possible Not The Impossible To Deliver

Another busy day so I may not get to write much that is new until tonight.  Here is one of the earliest things I wrote as a blogger, back in 2006.  While most of it I would stand by even more than I did then, one point was way wrong.  In 2006, mired in the sixth year of Bush II-Cheney, with no expectations that the mid-term elections would begin to turn around the awful all-Republican government we were suffering under, I expected the issue of marriage equality would take far longer than it has turned out to.  Which teaches me that being overly pessimistic can be dead wrong even if I am still convinced that we would be far ahead of where we are now if Bush II hadn't won the election in 2004.   Roberts and Alito wouldn't be sitting on the Supreme Court, for a start.   I've said before that it was the great Black Liberation theologian, James Cone, pointing out how issues that don't carry an economic cost to those with entrenched power that are the easiest ones to move forward that led to my understanding of how the marriage equality issue moved so quickly.  Which is something which I didn't really appreciate when I wrote this. The rapid march of "marriage protection laws" was the predominant fact I had to work with at the time.  It can be contrasted with the boldness of the Roberts' court in destroying the bases of even the most basic civil rights for beleaguered minority groups.

The part I still stand behind was based in lessons I learned by working as a volunteer in political campaigns, finding out how hard it was to elect liberals going against both the force of entrenched privilege and power and the insistence on risking gains by people who made unrealistic demands, even those of good issues being delivered immediately when that wasn't possible.  

Here it is.


Look at it from the position of a liberal to moderately liberal politician. They've done the hard work of winning an election. For liberals in most places just winning the office is proof of an enormous commitment to social change.

A politician has a lot of different constituents, supporters and those who would like to turn them out of office. In a district without a safe majority the office holder has to consider all potential supporters and opponents, trying to figure out how to please supporters and not anger the others sufficiently for the office to be lost. No politician out of office can make good political change. Even a moderately wishy-washy politician can sometimes do good in office. If only by preventing someone worse from holding the office. There are few Democratic politicians who do not believe that they are in it for the general good. It would be unwise for anyone who has fought a hard campaign to win office to act in ways they know will lose it to someone who is reliably worse. Few of ours are so stupid.

Given these facts, what can the left do to make itself a stronger factor. What can we do to change the situation? First, we can face the truth about the left's political weakness and its causes. Here are two examples.

Nader took on the mantle of the left in the last three presidential elections, two times with the support of the Green Party, explicitly a party to the left of the Democratic Party. He openly played spoiler and helped put the worst president in our history into office in 2000. In his typically modest fashion he claimed credit for electing Democrats lower down on the ballot while accepting no responsibility for the disaster he brought about. The exercise was an attempt to "move the agenda". Then he tried to do the same thing in 2004, well after any sane person could see how well that had "moved the agenda". Rational Greens had had enough of him by then but some Nader cultists formed a rump effort. Though less of a problem, they were certainly no help. In other races similar actions of "the left" have been less than helpful in the effort to prevent right wing hacks from taking office. I believe it was Ronnie Dugger who once commented on the folly of the race that had put John Tower into office. Given this personification of "the left" as back-stabbing spoiler, is it any wonder that Democrats who hold office would be somewhat ambivalent about working with "the left"?

Politics contain an agreement between the candidates and the people who support them. They promise to promote issues in the agenda of the people who put them into office. A politician has to hold office to do that, out of office they are powerless to make real change. Any politician knows that the entire agenda of their supporters won't be put into effect. And their supporters have to accept that as a given. Sometimes there are conflicts in what supporters want. Choices have to be made on the basis of possibility and practicality. Democrats in office have a good excuse to be skeptical of the support of "the left" even as they try to do what is impossible in the present situation of total Republican control, hold the gains of the past. The frankly bratty response of many leftists to just about anything Democrats do, even as they hopelessly support bills and amendments closer to what "the left" wants, must give our politicians pause. Given our recent history and the present situation "the left's" insisting, beyond any connection with reality, on having it all does nothing to help the situation. Anyone who doesn't start off realizing that we are not going to get more than a part of what we want should consider it now.

Any thinking leftist supports the right of gay people to marry. It is a personal right and a matter of equality and basic decency. But there isn't a single right people have, the exercise of which isn't conditioned by the situation they find themselves in. Many rights are impossible to exercise due to societal attitudes that take years or longer to change. That is a sad but plain truth. When the state court in Massachusetts forced the implementation of that right a lot of us knew it was a disaster for real progress on all issues, despite our agreeing with the decision. By that time it was clear that John Kerry was going to be the nominee and that this issue would be used by religio-fascists to defeat him, making it impossible to remove the worst president in our history. The rights of lesbians and gay men, not only to marry but in all areas, would be hurt around the country by this decision. And Bush staying in office would also hurt the rights of countless others. Even the decision of the court seemed to be a temporary victory and could be overturned by the voters, something that for the president seems to be less of a danger than it did then. Our fears about every other issue involved have turned out to be entirely true.

Short of the most drastic emergency, no politician in their right mind will attempt to do the impossible and end their career in the process. A few leftists in safe seats, almost all who happen to be in the congress, are able to push items that would spell political death for more moderate politicians. They provide a service to the truth but their ability to do more that raise the issues is limited by the publics' acceptance of them. Unlike the Supreme Court, or at least the long gone Warren court, the legislative branch can't go beyond the electorate's acceptance to do the right thing.

The supreme example, the Warren court's civil rights decisions, were obviously not that far ahead of the possible. Truman's integration of the army and the fact that it hadn't been destroyed by it must have given them the confidence to do what they knew was right. But even those decisions contained language that made the process much more gradual than it should have been. Black children always had the right to attend any school but it was not possible for them to exercise that right before conditions in the entire country allowed them to do so with some safety. Lesbians and gay men have had the right to marry for just as long but the conditions which will allow the exercise of that right are not here. The history of "marriage protection" laws around the country demonstrate that. It is worse than a waste of time to insist on our politicians falling on their swords over the issue. It prevents them from winning elections, doing part of what we want and so really "moving the agenda". The self-defeating attempt to force them to do the impossible deflects us from the hard work of laying the essential groundwork in the general public.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Two-faced, Baldly Hypocritical Call For The Supreme Court To Pretend That The Truth Cannot Be Discerned

I was never very impressed with the brilliance of Tom Keane as a minor politician, a member of the often rinky-dink Boston City Council, or as an op-ed scribbler for the Boston Globe.  Though I have to say even from the Boston City Council, a body that has managed to disgrace itself over the years,  becoming an "opinion journalist" is a few rungs down as far as I'm concerned.

He wrote yesterday about the issue of the Ohio law banning lying from political ads which I addressed last week.   Most of what he said was the same old libertarian BS which had a number of problems with reality.   Which might not be worth arguing about in a lot of cases but when it's a matter of subverting democracy with lies, of selling The People lies which will put people in office who will work against the common good, that makes it worth fighting against.

Rather cluelessly, especially for a "journalist" of any kind, Keane came up with a logical disconnect for both his profession and his assertion in this piece, a major problem for his premise.

He asked a question, which he answered

The real problems with Ohio’s law are these: Who knows what the truth is? And who gets to decide?.... 

The thrust of the First Amendment is that no one individual or government agency gets to decide the truth. If you think folks wrong, deceptive, or untruthful, speak up. Rebut them. Ultimately, speech competes against speech. If and when this case finally gets decided by the Supreme Court, Ohio will deservedly lose. The US Constitution protects lying because the alternative is worse.

Problem is, if what he claims is true, how would the Supreme Court decide this, or any other case, for that matter if IT DIDN'T MAKE A DETERMINATION AS TO WHAT IS TRUE IN THE MATTER?   

Though I think he's just being opportunistically disingenuous, hypocritical and cynical, perhaps he doesn't realize that he is talking out of both sides of his mouth but he both asserts that courts can't determine what is true while calling for the Supreme Court to make a finding of truth in this matter.   A judicial finding is either based in a determination of truth or it is an expression of whims and if it were impossible for any court to make a determination of truth, then no judicial decision could have that as a basis of its validity.   Keane can have it being impossible for governments or courts to determine truth, or he can have Supreme Court decisions he agrees with being valid but he can't have both.   

The assertion that the truth is not discernible, even with the rules of evidence in a court,  MADE BY A JOURNALIST IN A MAJOR NEWSPAPER, is symptomatic of the eutrophic decadence of our culture and why the news media is a stinking, shining dead fish in that brackish puddle.   

If courts and governments don't have the ability to determine truth then there is no reason to trust media corporations and the people they hire to do so, and, in fact, it would seem that the profession of journalism is ever more abandoning the pursuit of the truth, of facts, in order to uphold the standards of tabloids and the likes of P. J O’Rourke who he gives a nod to.

One of those opposed is satirist P.J. O’Rourke, who submitted a friend of the court brief that, in essence, maintained that lying is a hallowed part of American politics. O’Rourke opened his essay with a series of quotes: “I am not a crook,” “Read my lips: no new taxes,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” “Mission accomplished,” and, of course, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

Funny stuff. Yet are these lies we really want to defend? Wouldn’t we all be better off if Richard Nixon had admitted Watergate, George H.W. Bush had acknowledged the need to raise revenues, Bill Clinton had confessed infidelity, George W. Bush had said Iraq would be an interminable slog, and Barack Obama had described health care reform’s cons as wells as pros? Certainly our cynicism would have dropped a notch.

Ohio’s effort to promote honesty is far-reaching. Suppose you call your opponent a “nut”? The state prohibits falsely claiming someone has a “record of treatment or confinement for mental disorder.”

Well, I strongly suspect that O'Rourke or Keane would be eager to trust a court with determining if someone stole their work and called it his own, making a profit on it - that use of the truth discernment of courts is quite popular with the scribbling class, even those who make claims such as those Keane has.  And I can assure you if someone told the kind of lies told about, most typically, Democratic politicians, such as Hilary Clinton, about O'Rourke and Keane - lies which incited hatred and possibly violence, which could harm their careers and damage their personal lives, they would be unwilling to just let those continue and spread without papers being filed in court to stop them. 

So, maybe we should run the experiment and declare that, from now on, all lies, the pettiest to the worst, told about free speech libertarians are not only entirely permissible but, under their own stated doctrines and dogmas, they are demanded as an exercise of a right to lie.   Tom Keane is a pedophile rapist and swindler of mentally diminished old people who kills small animals for pleasure.   He's probably the one who murdered Vince Foster, as well.   P. J O'Rourke is a dead unfunny scribbler who gets his rich owners to bribe people to pretend he is funny as he is merely cynically stupid, sort of like how so many of his fellow right wingers get "best sellers" on the NYT list.  Oh, wait, that would be the truth, wouldn't it?  Though, if no one is able to discern the truth in a court of law, who's he to claim it isn't with lesser standards of evidence? 

I hereby and from now on declare that it is open season on free speech - free press, libertarians and anyone from now on should feel free to tell the most outrageous lies about them, even those which damage their careers, their personal lives and what used to be considered sacred honor, back in the quaint days when things like the truth, what sacred honor was reliably based in, were believed to be real and important. 

Facts Simelsy

Simels is still at it,  trying to shock me with the up to the minute news - well, as up to the minute as anything is to Sims - that, get ready for this, Bert Berns, a figure in New York pop music who died almost fifty years ago was, get ready for this,  was Jewish!    Imagine, that, actual Jewish people, and not only that but of Russian Jewish extraction involved in the pop music industry out of New York, in the 1950s and 60s.  I  know, the next thing you know he'll be telling us that mandolins were frequently played by Italians and lots of cops are Irish.   And he thinks that's supposed to be some kind of shocking news, that, you know, lots of the people in pop music in New York City were Jewish.  As if we didn't know and didn't care about that from before even either of us were born.

Considering he's spent a good part of the past four or more years mocking a number of my favorite composers who happen to be Jewish, going on like a member of the Reichskulturkammer over fine composers such as Arthur Berger and Stefan Wolpe (one of those whose music was specifically designated "entartete" by the Nazis) in the belief that he was making some clever points, while only proving he didn't know much more about 20th century classical music than he knew that there's a difference between Memphis and Detroit last week.  Really, New York City guys can be about the most provincial in the world.   Oh, and don't forget that Motown's biggest fan base were white racists and Marvin Gaye was a covert riot monger.   Next thing I expect he's going to tell me that Ladybird Johnson and Coretta Scott King were sisters and that fluoride is a commie plot to make Americans stupid.   Almost as stupid as a career as a pop music scribbler will make you, it would seem.

Don't you love it when someone widely taken as being smart and sophisticated .... well, narrowly taken, actually, turns out to be remarkably provincial and prone to gossip like a stereotypical tea room queen in a really bad movie from the 1950s.     The kind that Simels would praise as a great piece of art in   a bid to show how sophisticated a cineaste he is. Really, just to get some attention.

Well, actually, someone who tries to sell himself to a few people as being smart and sophisticated, in this case.

I can't help but imagine what it would be like for Soupy Sales to try to convince someone that he was the greatest interpreter of Eugene O'Neill's plays of his generation.   I suppose I should thank Sims for his provision of some unintended hilarity at his own expense.  Though, I have to confess, it makes me feel so cheap to do it.

Update:   Simple Simels has objected to my making fun of his comparison of Brian Wilson to George Gershwin by pointing out that the Gershwin estate has "commissioned Brian Wilson to complete to unfinished Gershwin songs".   Here's a video about Brian Wilson "Reimagining" George Gershwin which I wouldn't recommend a real Gershwin lover listen to because it is guaranteed to do damage to your understanding of George Gershwin.   The participation of George and Ira's grandnephew in this might constitute evidence that musical ability and taste isn't genetically inherited or it might represent what I hear, wanting to make money out of George Gershwin's music in every possible way before, finally, it enters the public domain, where anyone who wants to produce a musical atrocity with it will be free to do so without the permission of and tribute paid to the distant relations of George and Ira Gershwin.   Given a choice between listening to more Wilson-Gershwin and struggling with the horrible infestation of horse bane in my upper garden, I think I'll risk the nasty, painful spines in my hands.

Simels, the only taste you've got is when you put something in your mouth.

Update 2:  In a comment to this which I publish here in full, Simels says,  "What--too Jewish for you? :-)

Brian Wilson crapping all over George and Ira, too Jewish?   I'd have thought anyone promoting that would prove that the real thing was "too Jewish" for them.

You always know Simels will pull out the "Jew card" because it's all he's got, once his well worn bromides, sayings and lines are used up.

Update 3:  Stupid, anti-Semitic and deaf is no way to go through life, 

I fully acknowledge you speak with authority on the "deaf" and stupid parts of this but am surprised to find that you're admitting to knowing about the third one.   Though it would explain why you and the Nazi Culture Salon agree that Stefan Wolpe was a "degenerate" composer, not to mention so many others.

Update 4:  Simmie confirms what I said in Update 3.   The Beach Boys "This Whole World" (written by Brian Wilson) [Youtube address omitted out of concern for the well being of any people who already suffered enough for one day listening to Brian Wilson's "Re-imagining" earlier.] One of Brian's little pocket symphonies. 2:13 minutes of gorgeousness that's worth more than the entire Arthur Berger catalog. Ain't that a kick in the pants, Sparky? :-)

And here I'd thought that "This Whole World" was a symptom of Wilson's degenerating mental health due to drug use instead of mistaking it for a "symphony" all this time.   Something I'd never have gone to Simmie's pathetic pop music blog to say since I figure anyone who wants to stuff audio Sugar Babies in his ear all day has a right to do it.   Though, I think This Whole World would be more like musical Fruit Loops, really.  You want to listen to it, that's your right.   I don't think anyone has an actual right to do to the work of someone else what he did to poor George and Ira's work, though the law and the greedy holders of their estate might give them what's called a "right" to do that.

Update 5:   Steve Simels, OCD,  that stands for "Old Cranky Dodderer" or something to do with why he keeps providing material for these really easy to write posts.... anyway, he says, Keep digging, Sparkles. :-)

Or what?  You're going to pull the "antisemite" card on me for saying that Brian Wilson's distortion of the Gershwin Bros. music is a crime against their art?    Yeah, that's really going to get me trembling in my Chuck Taylors - had to go back to them, my last pair of No-Sweats finally gave up their soul.   Actually, it was the uppers that went, as always, but there wasn't as easy a pun in that.   And, you know what, Sims, Laura Nyro was about ten times the composer that the John Lennon was and an infinitely better performer than Mick "less sexy than a pissing toad" Jagger and it was only because she was a woman that you professional adolescent boys never admitted it.

I really needed that to get the Wilson-Gershwin crap out of my ear

Update the something:  Hey Sparky -- It's Brian Wilson versus Stefan Wolpe in a musical cage match of doom.[he gave the address for his lame-ass blog but I won't link to it]  I guarantee, you and Wolpe already lost. :-

To which I can't resist asking,  why would that be, Simmie, too Jewish?

Addendumb:   Sims, your poll, your Brian Wilson, Stefan Wolpe musical cage match of doom sort of fizzled, didn't it.  I mean one or is it two responses and you.  Though, what did you expect?   You required that they know how to read music, something which I doubt one percent of your readers can do, if you get enough readers to express a percentage of them by a whole number other than zero.   And I'm unaware of anyone who considers Wolpe's one piece that you know because he happened to be asked to provide music for a new school song when he was the head of the music department to be one of his many significant pieces.  Though, I'm sure you believe you know better than Russell Sherman, Peter Serkin, ... oh, dozens and dozens of the finest of classical musicians who have recorded his music and the hundreds and thousands who perform it all these years after his death.   Not to mention the composers influenced by him such as, and I'm sure you might possibly recall me documenting this, your hero of Hollywood composers, Bernard Hermann.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sylvia Cuenca Drums

I went looking for videos featuring Kyle Kohler last night and, in the process, was wowed by the drummer.  Sylvia Cuenca as a spectacular musician, some of the most brilliant drum playing I've ever heard.    Not that the other people she plays with don't also amaze me.   It's a crime more of these people aren't widely known by name.

Dan Wilson Guitar 

Jared Gold  Organ

Sylvia Cuenca Drums 




Halsey Stevens Sonata for Trombone and Piano

Halsey Stevens 

Sonata for Trombone and Piano

Halsey Stevens was one of those composers whose influences were apparent in his work but who was also there, adding his distinctive personality and musical choices into it.  You can often hear a bit of Bartok (he wrote a rather good biography and, if I recall correctly, translated and commented on series of his letters.   You can also hear touches of Paul Hindemith.  But you are also hearing Halsey Stevens.  I especially like this because, while it reminds you of Hindemith's Trombone Sonata, it's not really that much like it.  

Ronald Borrer  Trombone
Edmund Niemann  Piano

About The Superstition That "Xians Banned Thirds"

I talked with a friend of mine who pursued a degree in musicology and specialized in medieval music for a time, with the silly comment I addressed Friday.   My friend thought it was even funnier than I did, especially since I said that the person who made it is, by her report, something of a professional musician.

He said that, contrary to that statement, the third was never "banned", that the idea it could have been is ridiculous.  He notes that as soon as organum began to generate some linear independence, thirds appear harmonically in the manuscripts.  He notes that it was not used in a way that implies it is a perfect consonance for a couple of centuries but that's a far sight short of it being "banned".  

He said that he would look for a harmonic analysis of Perotin-Leonin style counterpoint he recalled reading that noted how often thirds and other intervals used as dissonances appeared in those pieces.  If I can find it online, I will note it in an update.   Here is Leonin, the earlier and more conservative of the two, his setting of a verse of Haec Dies, played on a portative organ.   As you can hear, there are quite a few thirds, I'd argue at least a few are treated more as consonances needing no resolution.


My friend found it as funny as I did that the claim was made as it was, indeed, Christians who first began to use thirds as consonant, harmonic intervals and, as musical practice developed, began to base harmony on them.

His extensive, practical experience with the Pythagorean tuning commonly advocated in medieval theoretical and practical texts (especially the famous musical treatise of Odo of Cluny that is sometimes, somewhat humorously translated,  "How to make a hurdy-gurdy" ) said that he thought the ranking of intervals as perfect consonances was directly the result of the acoustics of that tuning, based on the perfect fifth.  He said that the importance of that perfectly tuned interval and its inversion to the medieval ear was obviously one of the most important and satisfying of musical experiences and that the later affection for thirds, leading to the mean-tone systems, with an emphasis on justness of thirds and a distortion of fifths was an important stylistic feature based on changing taste in music.  Of course, there was a MUSICAL prohibition of the use of parallel fifths and related types of voice leading, perhaps because it was too associated with the religious practice of parallel organum.  Fourths, which had been considered a perfect consonance, became, officially, dissonant.

Finally, he noted that, while it is doubtful that an unaccompanied choral group would perform strictly in Pythagorean tuning, probably singing intervals more flexibly than can be done on a fixed-pitch instrument, the sound of perfect fifths would have been thoroughly embedded into their ears and their musical experience.  He said it was like musicians now having to learn to sing perfect fifths and just thirds since the slightly distorted fifths and thirds of equal temperament are the basis of our musical experience.

Now, aren't you glad I asked an expert?   And that I didn't use the rather bad pun on the name of the gal who made the ridiculous claim.