Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hate Mail - This Is How Stupid They Are

This morning, in response to, I suspect, one of Steve Simels' idiot friends if not one of his many sock puppets I wrote 1,577 words noting that I did not cite Richard Weikart in coming to any of my conclusions about Charles Darwin's relationship to eugenics and through eugenics and his disciple and professional colleague, Ernst Haeckel to German and, so, Nazi eugenics.  

Just now I got an e-mail telling me that Simels and his idiot side kick, "Skeptic Tank" whose stupidity I answered most of the day are saying that I cited Richard Weikart.  

I don't know how much clearer I could be that in nothing I concluded did I rely on what Richard Weikart or Edwin Black or Hanna Arednt or any other secondary source on those topics say, 


I know that the Darwin fan club has a lot of trouble with reading comprehension and the minimal standards of thought, primarily because they don't find the truth convenient and, in any case, doing that much reading is haaaarrRRRRRD!  but the fact remains, I have not cited Richard Weikart in reaching any conclusion in anything I've said AND I HAVE NOT RELIED ON ANYTHING HE SAID WITHOUT VERIFYING IT THROUGH THE PRIMARY DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE.   

Really, you are the stupidest brain trust outside of FOX "news" as well as an interesting cluster of Baron von Munchausen syndrome.   Which, considering your ideology doesn't believe it's a sin to tell a lie is probably less interesting, on second thought. 

Update:  Skepsy, I've answered enough of your stupidity already today, go post it on Duncan's blog, he doesn't care how much you guys make an ass of yourselves there.

Aaron Copland - 3rd Symphony

Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra
Victor Yampolsky, conductor

Aaron Copland's 3rd Symphony is probably his most neglected work and likely his greatest work. Among all of the many performances of the suites from his ballets, the movie music, .... the absence of this great work is the biggest hole in the common understanding of Aaron Copland.   It is probably known most for the last movement which is based on his Fanfare for the Common Man, which is certainly noteworthy but no more than what precedes it.    But to extract that movement from the Symphony is an abomination because by the time he introduces it in the winds he has prepared that moment throughout the preceding music.  The whole symphony can be analyzed as being based on that well known theme. The real meaning of that music can best be found in its composer's treatment of it in the full context of this symphony, composed as World War Two was ending and in its immediate aftermath.   If your eyes are dry when you hear that first statement, in the winds and especially after the percussion and brass come in after hearing what came before that, there's something wrong with you.

Among symphonies by American composers only the 4th of Charles Ives and several of those by Roger Sessions and William Bolcom are worth mentioning in association with Copland's 3rd.   There aren't many symphonies from any composers of the time that could be considered as its possible equals or betters. I used to wonder why Copland, able to produce a symphony like this didn't produce a 4th.  Maybe he didn't think he could top his achievement in this one.  The context of it, the magnitude of the context of its creation would certainly be hard to match.   I think he might have been wise not to try to outdo it, though you can't help wishing he could have at least matched it, again.

Pulling the Weikart Card Out Of Your Sleeve, Are You?

Well, finally, someone who knows even enough to accuse me of copying Richard Weikart has come in, I doubt most of the people who have been sending the hate my way are aware enough of these controversies to even know the name, unless they read the hate heaped on him on atheist websites.

Well, the fact is I haven't relied on anything any secondary source has said without checking it against the primary documentation in any of this, with the possible exception of what Charles Darwin's children said about what he thought and I wouldn't have used any of that if they hadn't, in every case I found where they wrote or spoke on that, agreed as to the support of their father for eugenics.   When four of a man's children agree that their father was a supporter of eugenics and there is massive evidence he supported the eugenic writing of one of them, that is as good as you can get, especially as it is consonant with both what the man wrote and endorsed in his scientific writing and is in accord with what his closest scientific associates have said.

Obviously, I don't agree with much of Richard Weikart's conclusions.  I believe completely in evolution and that people evolved from a previous line of ancestors who would not be classified as human.  I do agree that there are enormous problems with natural selection as the supreme explanation of that and, as I've looked into this farther, I've become ever more skeptical that natural selection is either a good theory or more than a required conventional framing adopted largely for non-scientific reasons.  That's way far from being anything like a creationist who makes the mistake of believing the Bible is either a literal history of creation or a scientific description of that creation. I think the texts are robbed of their value as moral documents when treated that way.

That said, in every case, when I've checked into what Richard Weikart has said about any document or issues of translation, he hasn't lied about it.   In the various squabbles over translations of words or what the texts say with those promoting the post-war mythical Darwin, he has proven to be both a superior scholar of languages and a more honest historian.   That last word is important, he is an historian, he is not a scientist and he's a far better historian than his critics generally are.  As with what I said above, the proof of that is in the consultation of the original documents.   In exactly the same way that David Irving was undone by looking at those original texts, in their original language, anyone who looks into this will be liable to having their claims matched against those texts.  In every case I can think of, what I've used of secondary material has always been checked against the original texts in so far as I've been able to read them.

I can't claim to be as good a German scholar as Weikart, though I can, slowly and with a couple of good German-English dictionaries, make my way through the relevant passages.   Though, having seen the venue of dishonest refutation that quibbling over a single word has been for Darwin's defenders, I have not attempted any translation.  I have tried to work around that stalling and obfuscation in the case of Haeckel's writing by only citing the translation by Ray Lankester one of Darwin's closest associates which Darwin both knew was being translated during his lifetime and expressed approval of.  I have every confidence that on any point which might have mattered to Darwin, Lankester would have been both very careful and, if not certain, he would have checked with Darwin.   That passage about the final triumph of Haeckel's monism being the highest achievement of Charles Darwin was certainly known to Darwin in the German original as his citations of the book in which it was made, before it was translated, are extensive, gushingly complementary and in entire agreement.  The confirmation of that being Darwin's opinion of Haeckel's work is also found in Darwin's letters to Haeckel and it is confirmed by his closest British associate, Thomas Huxley and Darwin's son, Francis Darwin who was also privy to private discussions between his father and Haeckl on some of the several visits that Haeckel made to Darwin at his home.

I do think that the campaign of character assassination waged against Richard Weikart in lieu of refuting his historical publication is evidence that his enemies can't really do much in refutation of his historical writing.   Which is odd because while his scientific ideas are quite vulnerable to attack his conduct as an historian has been far better than that of his enemies.   I don't think that's very wise and wonder if they do it because they are afraid of violating the requisite neo-Darwinian orthodoxy as they are afraid to admit the role that natural selection played and still plays in eugenics and other campaigns to devalue human life.   There is obviously something wrong with an academic side when they have to stoop to the level of dishonesty that the champions of the post-war Darwin regularly do. And the lies and cover ups of the primary record have been going on since about 1945.  Though not all of the academic establishment has been willing to go along with that.   Weikart's historical writings aren't generally taken as bad history among historians that I've been able to see.  He has been published by reputable academic presses and reviews and included in anthologies by other reputable historians.  I assume there is professional review of his claims at least to the extent that I've checked claims in the secondary literature against its citations.

There is absolutely nothing unfair about a person who is wrong about science doing good and honest history.

When I began this it was with the full expectation that those people who claimed that Charles Darwin had nothing to do with social Darwinism and eugenics had told the truth about that, it began with me reading the most relevant of his books on the topic, The Descent of Man, only to find him citing the inventor of eugenics, Francis Galton and in the first articles and book in which Galton developed his eugenics, Hereditary Genius as not only scientifically valid but important milestones in the development of his theory of natural selection.  The next citations that were unmistakable support of eugenics and scientific racism were those of Ernst Haeckel, which caused me to read the books which Darwin cited.  That led me to look at his other citations and into the confirmation of his support for eugenics by those who knew him best, his family and his scientific associates and in every single case they revealed that the people who proclaimed Darwin's innocence in all matters of eugenics and social Darwinism (see the fifth and sixth editions of Origin of Species), academic and popular, were selling one of the most blatant of lies ever bought by people who were alleged intellectuals and competent college graduates.   I have to say that the extent to which the lie was so simply disproved by doing that most pedestrian of intellectual responsibilities READING WHAT THE MAN SAID was staggering.  It led me to be far, far more skeptical of the people who were telling that lie and the people who so willingly bought that lie.   If they were prepared to sell and tell a lie that was so obviously and blatantly false, they weren't credible without fact checking on anything.

This has all been a great revelation to me and, as a liberal in the traditional American meaning of that word, it has given me an important insight into why the left lost the confidence of the American people and why the left so badly failed to maintain the tradition of American liberalism.   I am, if anything, far, far more liberal than I was before I looked into this and far more liberal than the poeple who maintain the lyin' curtain that prevents things like the real history of eugenics, the real history of the Communists and other famous reds being looked at honestly, critically and based on the primary evidence.   It has also been a revelation of the generally bad effect that can come with the lazy reading and casual acceptance of people on the basis of their academic reputation and their creation of narratives and lines of thinking on the basis of preference instead of intellectual rigor.

So, no, I have read things by Richard Weikart* but my case here is made on the primary documents. That is why of all the things Edwin Black said in his article which I linked to, yesterday,  I used two of those things in which I looked at what the people he was talking about said, in their own words. It's how I've done all of this.  Edwin Black has also, every time I've checked his citations, characterized those honestly.  If anything the originals, read more fully than can be cited, generally show more depraved thinking than can be fit into a citation.

*  I will say that having read Weikart  I get the distinct feeling you haven't read him but have relied on what the people who are bashing him have said about him.   Don't be such a lazy-assed jerk, read what the man says and check his claims against the original, you slacker.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Aaron Copland - Canticle of Freedom

Seattle Symphony and Chroale
Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Since I mentioned the 1955 piece, Canticle of Freedom in my piece yesterday, it seemed like a good thing to post, today.   I will admit it isn't my favorite Copland though it is interesting in that it is so blatant and brash, a kind of expression you don't usually associate with him unless he's cribbing Bonaparte's Retreat from a mountain fiddler.  There are interesting things to hear in all of that percussion.

The piece was commissioned by MIT for the dedication of the great Kresge auditorium and Chapel.

Even if Copland escaped largely unharmed from getting called before the McCarthy hearings, he did get some negative fallout and consequences from the experience.  He was named  one of the "Dupes and Fellow Travelers Dress Up Communist Fronts"  by that magazine for people who can't read, Life. Was mentioned in other venues of blacklisting and, I've read, had the affront of having his most blatantly patriotic piece, A Lincoln Portrait removed from the list of works performed at Eisenhower's inaugural concert.   Lord help us, you wonder which celebrity they'd have found acceptable to do the narration.  I have, by the way, never heard it done well except by an experienced musician and singer.  The results are generally unfortunate, cloying and embarrassing, even when a good actor does it.   I think the best one I remember was a radio performance, I believe it was the great baritone Tod Duncan who did the narration.  I remember he was the only one I've heard who gave the correct emphasis to "of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE ....

Anyway,  the poem is a modern English version of the poem "Freedom" by the 14th century Scot poet  John Barbour, which was set rather simply for the student chorus which would be singing it.  The words are about as clear as could be as was the message that Aaron Copland was sending.  The extent to which he was defying the folks at Red Channels and the House Unamerican Activities Committee is clear, though I think, especially considering his devotion to the belated enemy of communism,  Andre Gide, he might have been saying as much to the Marxists.   He must have read those late writings, since he read just about everything else that Gide wrote.

It has always been so odd whenever Communists complained about the violations of their First Amendment, Fifth Amendment and other rights because the government they championed violated those and so many other rights with no recourse.  I remember thinking that during one of my readings of the great book Naming Names by Victor Navasky.  I think it was something about Lester Cole but it was a long time ago.   The next year would contain Khrushchev's first indication that it was all right for Communists to stop lying about Stalin, as the mountain of those he'd murdered and who were murdered by his lackeys were being exposed.  It's a lot like the Republican-fascists of today doing much the same thing even as they support doing that to other people, here.  They've got a lot more in common with the Stalinists than they'd ever want people to know.

As an aside, one of those other names named by Life magazine as the denounced Copland was Leonard Bernstein who, like Copland, doesn't seem to have suffered much damage to his subsequent career.   It makes the fact of his very late career that, as he conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall,  he changed the word Freude (joy) of Schiller's Ode to Joy, to Freiheit ( freedom) and made a big thing of it on that occasion. It makes you wonder what the 1949 milieu in which he lived would have made of that.   I don't see that the folks in many of the former Communist states are eager to repeat the experiment, the romance of communism seems to be most alive in the intellectual circles which never experienced it or were in danger of experiencing it.

Some people, learning that they've been duped, that they've been lied to, change their ideas to take that into account.  As critical as I've of Bernstein this week, I'll give him that. Other people prefer to stick with the lies.

Mandatory Lies

I am told that one "Gummo" over at Duncan Black's "brain trust" has called my post this morning "Nazi apologetics".  Which is, by any measure, libel.   I doubt the dolt has read what I wrote, relying on a passage taken out of context to be posted there.   Duncan Black doesn't mind being a venue of lying, which makes me wonder why anyone takes him seriously. 

There is something really perverted about the way in which one is required to lie about these things in the genteel world of the college educated pseudo-left and if you don't lie about it in just the right way you can be called a "Nazi apologist" even as you are citing the mass murders and crimes against humanity that the Nazis perpetrated.  

The fact is, by refusing to pretend that much of the entire range of mass murder committed by the Nazis is insignificant in order to assign unique and higher status to their crimes against Jews, is to say that they were more evil, not less evil.  

The motives behind that lie are a. to excuse the scientific basis on which the Nazis based their theories of the hygienic effect of mass murder and b. to exonerate the scientists and philosophers who Viktor Frankl identified as the origin of the death camps he was held in, which he escaped only because they didn't get round to killing him yet.  The reason for a lot of that  is c. atheists need to lie about those things for various reasons and d. the central role of the theory of natural selection in the Nazi's mass murders has to be covered up.   Well, as I said, it won't be because the evidence is absolutely conclusive on that count and it will be as long as the primary documentation exists.  

I, by the way, wouldn't have written that post unless one of Gummo's good buddies hadn't demanded that I supported what I'd said. I could write another whole series using material I haven't used yet which would support the same conclusions.  Which I did and could support with evidence and which the rump remnant of the Eschaton "brain trust" didn't. 

Answer to A Challenge

I could go on and on, answering the non-evidenced and ignorant retorts, refusing to look at the evidence and documentation that ties Darwin's natural selection to eugenics in both English speaking countries and Germany and the ties of the active eugenics programs of the United States directly to the Nazi eugenic-mass murders, every single time I have looked into this the number of direct, primary documents in my notes grows larger.  Virtually every scientific eugenicist I've ever read directly ties their eugenics to their reading of The Origin of Species and, even more so, The Descent of Man.  I would, of course, include the proto-Nazi Ernst Haeckel* to that list, the man named by Darwin and his closest associates such as Thomas Huxley and his son Francis Darwin as the foremost champion of Charles Darwin's work in Germany or, in fact, on the continent of Europe.

But this isn't about what the evidence shows, what it shows is neither ambiguous nor is it going to go away.  Eventually it is going to have to be faced by those who deny it now.   That is the thing about primary evidence, in the words of the principles, it doesn't go away, it can't be overcome except through lying and the lies are always vulnerable to people reading that primary documentation.

This article by the expert on these issues, Edwin Black, makes an irrefutable case that the Nazis learned a lot of what they did from Americans, including such ideas as murdering "undesirables" in gas chambers,

Eighteen solutions were explored in a Carnegie-supported 1911 "Preliminary Report of the Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeder's Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population." Point No. 8 was euthanasia.

The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in the United States was a "lethal chamber" or public, locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, Popenoe, the Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, co-wrote the widely used textbook, "Applied Eugenics," which argued, "From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution . . . Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated." "Applied Eugenics" also devoted a chapter to "Lethal Selection," which operated "through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency."

Applied Eugenics was unambiguous as to where the idea of eugenics came from,

The science of eugenics is the natural result of the spread and acceptance of organic evolution, following the publication of Darwin's work on The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in 1859. It took a generation for his ideas to win the day; but then they revolutionized the intellectual life of the civilized world. Man came to realize that the course of nature is regular; that the observed sequences of events can be described in formulas which are called natural laws; he learned that he could achieve great results in plant and animal breeding by working in harmony with these laws. Then the question logically arose, "Is not man himself subject to these same laws?[Pg 148] Can he not use his knowledge of them to improve his own species, as he has been more or less consciously improving the plants and animals that were of most value to him, for many centuries?"

The evolutionist* answered both these questions affirmatively. However great may be the superiority of his mind, man is first of all an animal, subject to the natural laws that govern other animals. He can learn to comply with these laws; he can, therefore, take an active share in furthering the process of evolution toward a higher life.

... It is really on Darwin's work that the modern science of eugenics is based, and it owes its beginning to Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton.

Or that the mechanism of selection was, in fact, death.

The lethal factor is the one which Darwin himself most emphasized. Obviously a race will be steadily improved, if the worst stock in it is cut off before it has a chance to reproduce, and if the best stock survives to perpetuate its kind. "This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called natural selection, or the survival of the fittest," Darwin wrote; and he went on to show that the principal checks on increase were overcrowding, the difficulty of obtaining food, destruction by enemies, and the lethal effects of climate. These causes may be conveniently divided as in the above diagram, into sustentative and non-sustentative. The sustentative factor has acquired particular prominence in the human species, since Malthus wrote his essay on population—that essay which both Darwin and Wallace confess was the starting point of their discovery of natural selection.

Paul Popenoe:  Applied Eugenics

So, there, the link from Darwin to the proposal to improve the human species through mass gassing of those considered undesirable, all in the person of Paul Popenoe, one of the foremost and respected of the American eugenicists, who, by the way, was quoted by Baur, Lenz and Fischer in the book Hitler was reading while he was spewing Mein Kampf.   The Americans (not to mention British eugenicists) were openly talking about the possible benefits of Darwinian murder of undesirables in gas chambers more than two decades before the Germans built the first of those.  The first of which, by the way, was not used to murder Jews, Roma, Pols and others on the basis of ethnicity but it was at Hadamar Hospital, constructed to murder people who were disabled, many of them Germans, the transports to it were on special buses, not trains, but the victims were just as murdered before their bodies were cremated at the crematorium constructed as part of that mass murder program.  It was certainly a small scale model of what the Nazis would later construct, in which they gassed and burned millions of Jews, Pols, Roma, members of religious minorities, political opponents, etc.

As I said, every time I look at the words of eugenicists, whenever they talk about what inspired their eugenic thinking, they inevitably mention the writings of Charles Darwin.   Another originator of an idea the Nazis made their own mentioned by Black in the article was the eminent American scientist David Starr Jordan.

Stanford President David Starr Jordan originated the notion of "race and blood" in his 1902 racial epistle "Blood of a Nation," in which the university scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were passed through the blood.

In 1904, the Carnegie Institution established a laboratory complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island that stockpiled millions of index cards on ordinary Americans, as researchers carefully plotted the removal of families, bloodlines and whole peoples. From Cold Spring Harbor, eugenics advocates agitated in the legislatures of America, as well as the nation's social service agencies and associations.

And Jordan, as well, was explicit about the role that Charles Darwin played in all of his thinking as a biologist.

The law of descent, with change through “natural selection,” brings into organic connection a host of facts hitherto isolated.  Each one considered by itself would be without meaning or explanation.  The essential argument in favor of Darwinism is that it brings all biological facts into unison from whatever field of investigation these facts may be derived.  However much evolutionists have at times seemed to drift away from Darwin's conclusions, it is always the most accurate research and the sanest thought which comes nearest the opinions set forth in the Origin of Species.  The body of facts has grown enormously year by year, but the conclusions we must accept are substantially those laid down by Darwin himself.

David Starr Jordan:  Footnotes to Evolution

There is no possibility in mistaking the source of Jordan's inspiration whenever he talked as a biologist and a eugenicist.

Considering all of this pre-Nazi eugenics by founding presidents of universities like Jordan, whose work informed the millionaires and great philanthropic institutions who were up to their necks in promoting eugenics in pre-Nazi Germany and who funded the very institutions which provided the scientific justifications and methods to the Nazis, even employing the pioneer in using people in death camps for medical experiments and scientific research,  Eugen Fischer, reminds me of another quote, one from the survivor of the death camps and the Nazi mass murders,  Viktor Frankl

If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him.  When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity, and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. 

I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz.  The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or as the Nazi liked to say, of “Blood and Soil.”  I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.  

Viktor E. Frankl:  The Doctor and the Soul

Which, in turn, reminds me of that foremost of all Darwinists in Germany up to the very year the Nazi party formed, 1919,  Ernst Haeckel

By the Theory of Descent we are for the first time enabled to conceive of the unity of nature in such a manner that a mechanico-causal explanation of even the most intricate organic phenomena, for example, the origin and structure of the organs of sense, is no more difficult (in a general way) than is the mechanical explanation of any physical process; as, for example, earthquakes, the courses of the wind, or the currents of the ocean. We thus arrive at the extremely important conviction that all natural bodies which are known to us are equally animated, that the distinction which has been made between animate and inanimate bodies does not exist. When a stone is thrown into the air, and falls to earth according to definite laws, or when in a solution of salt a crystal is formed, the phenomenon is neither more nor less a mechanical manifestation of life than the growth and flowering of plants, than the propagation of animals or the activity of their senses, than the perception or the formation of thought in man. This final triumph of the monistic conception of nature constitutes the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin.

Ernst Haeckel:  Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte  vol. 1 (translated by Ray Lankster)

*  [Haeckel's] evolutionary racism; his call to the German people for racial purity and unflinching devotion to a “just” state; his belief that harsh, inexorable laws of evolution ruled human civilization and nature alike, conferring upon favored races the right to dominate others; the irrational mysticism that had always stood in strange communion with his grave words about objective science—all contributed to the rise of Nazism,

Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hate Mail - To Counter Citations and Evidence They Use Novels and TV Shows

I gave massive documentation that shows the Nazi mass murders were a product of Darwinism, massive evidence and documentation that, as could be guessed by the pro-Germanic and antisemitic content of his writing, that they were influenced by and promoted the reading of Tacitus.   To which a novel about something that didn't happen and a TV show made about that is considered to be conclusive refutation by what is taken as a group of educated folk of the English Speaking Peoples.   

Welcome to the Unlightenment, also a product of the Enlightenment as ignorant dummies bash by night.  

Screw the STEM subjects, I think that a knowledge of history and basic rhetoric as well as valuing the truth are more pressing needs if we're going to avoid a total disaster.  

The First Casualty of War Is The Truth: Aaron Copland - The North Star

Note:  I almost wasn't going to write about this because I haven't sorted out my ideas and feelings about it. But the issues involved are what I've been writing about.   The devaluing of some mass murders, even those of many millions of people on the basis of who were the ones murdered and who was doing the murdering,  the moral relativism that holds the unstated position that there are "good" and "bad" mass murderers, is the most serious of those.   Also the complications of science in the service of bad and even the worst people, though that is too big an issue not to handle separate from this one movie.

And then there are the themes of misplaced confidence in figures of the old and new lefts whose devotion to various Marxist sides, especially the Stalinist side, did so much to damage and discredit the rest of the left who, foolishly, didn't just kick them out and have nothing to do with them.  I would count myself among those fools, by the way, up through the first years of this century.   The history of communism in the United States, as elsewhere, contains the story of the most idealistic of people with the best of intentions, frustrated by the glacial pace of progress against injustice and evil in the United States and elsewhere, going for the promises of a speedy and magical change through communist revolution.   It was, of course, as we know now, a complete delusion, the greatest proof of that what happened in those places which had that revolution.  The number of lies that were required to dupe those good people who bought those lines might constitute a test of how many someone can endure before the burden of lies breaks that delusion.  For a lot of people, even today, that number has not been reached.  I'm hesitant to judge those who bought those lines way back in the history of that campaign, in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, before the truth of the reports about Stalin were confirmed, even by the Soviet Government.


The most troubling thing in Aaron Copland's professional work is his involvement in a piece of wartime propaganda, the movie The North Star, purported to be the story of Ukranian resistance to the Nazi invasion, which is such a mix of truth and massive lies that it is best seen, today, as being the kind of convenient lie that comes with the evil that war is.  The hard fact that the Allies needed to work with the Soviet Union to defeat their common enemy, the Nazis,  when they were hardly natural allies.

I will admit I have been unable to sit through it, knowing about the mass murder of the Ukrainians in the 1930s, I can't bear to watch it, though I've watched entire clips of it.  Just Dana Andrews in Soviet uniform air-playing a balalaika as a group of Hollywood actors play a bunch of young Ukrainians singing Copland's music with Ira Gershwin's lyrics about the generation gap almost proved too much to take.   It is more surreal than Springtime for Hitler if you've read about the reality of it.  But this was wartime propaganda, having little to do with actual truth and everything to do with political exigency and expediency.

The hard truth is that Stalin was as evil as Hitler, an even more accomplished mass murderer by most reckonings, one whose grip on power was even tighter than Hitler's.   That makes any handling of Ukraine in the hands of the Nazis as opposed to the Soviet Union fraught with the most awful of choices.

The fact is that by the time Hitler invaded Ukraine as part of his invasion of the Soviet Union, that nation had already undergone its own mass murder campaign under Stalin in which many millions of people were purposefully starved to death or outright killed.  It was a planned, purposefully carried out slaughter that could match anything the Nazis did and it was reported in the West in the early 1930s by fairly reliable reporters.  The planned famine was known about, it was certainly something that the author of the script,  Lillian Hellman, a Stalinst, would have read about in the American press, no doubt dismissing those reports - quite accurate in some cases, we now know - as anti-communist propaganda.   Though I'm not an indepth scholar of that matter, I don't know of how anyone who wasn't totally depraved could remain a Stalinist if they had read those reports.  Though, on some cases, I think total depravity is, actually, the most likely explanation.

Certainly Franklin Roosevelt knew what Stalin had done and was doing when he made the horrible and necessary choice of working with him to defeat Hitler, not that he had much of a choice.  As we are finding out in the Middle East broken by George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, you sometimes have to work with really evil people to defeat a greater evil or just an evil which might be defeated as opposed to one which won't be or whose defeat could lead to even worse.   There was no prospect that the West could have deposed Stalin, there was every prospect of deposing Hitler.  Beside that, it was the Nazi government that declared war on the United States in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the American declaration of war against the Nazi's ally Imperial Japan.

In the messy and seldom cited things I've read about the production of The North Star, I've seen people who say that the Roosevelt administration was aware of and approved of its being made.  I don't have any way to know if that were the case, thought apparently the resources put into the movie were large for a movie of that type.   Another thing I read is that Lillian Hellman got into a snit over the production turning into more of a Hollywood movie musical than she had envisioned and she tried to pull out of the thing, though they used her script.  One thing I read said that the hiring of a choreographer was the final straw.  It would be nice to know how such intellectuals as Hellman and Copland saw what they were doing but I wasn't able to find anything much about them saying that in the brief time I've had to research this post.

From some accounts the Soviets and, especially, Ukrainians thought the piece of American propaganda was ridiculous.  But they wouldn't have been the intended audience for the movie, it was Western war propaganda.  One of Aaron Copland's reported means of achieving a measure of authenticity, of using actual folk music as thematic material, went wrong when he used Russian folk music which the Ukrainians and the Russians would have distinguished from Ukrainian folk music.

The script, as well, made use of some of the horrific stories of what the Germans did to people in the places they occupied.  There is an evil German doctor played by Erich von Stroheim bleeding Ukrainian children to death in transfusions to German soldiers - he gets shot by a Russian doctor played by Walter Huston.   I find it as satisfying as anyone to see a Nazi get their due in a movie and wouldn't have been troubled by that satisfaction, which is, probably, a character flaw.  The Nazis were a massively evil bunch and I'm prepared to believe anything evil about them was at least possible if not probable.  The problem is that I also know the same was true about the Soviet apparatus under Stalin, and especially in Ukraine where he had rivaled Hitler as a mass murderer and before Hitler had even consolidated his power. What Walter Huston says before he shoots the Nazi in that scene was as true of many of the civilized people who supported Stalin and other communist mass murderers.

I doubt that Hitler was unaware of the slaughter happening one country away from Germany and the failure of anyone to do anything about it.  That he took that as encouragement, as he is reported to have taken the mass murder of Armenians earlier in the same century and as the German government and aslo committed in their colony in Africa is, I think, a reasonable conjecture.

I wonder what Aaron Copland thought of any of these issues.  Some of the biographical material I've read of him said that he was most influenced by his reading of Andre Gide,  who, during those same years, and unlike Copland, joined a Stalinist Communist party.  Gide was invited to tour the Soviet Union as a celebrity guest of the government, the experience of seeing what he saw horrified him and, on his return he became very strongly anti-communist, even saying that under Stalin communism was worse than the Nazi state.  He was one of the six former-communist intellectuals who wrote in The God That Failed in 1949,

It is impermissible under any circumstances for morals to sink as low as communism has done. No one can begin to imagine the tragedy of humanity, of morality, of religion and of freedoms in the land of communism, where man has been debased beyond belief.

Copland was and remains, in many ways, frustratingly silent about his thoughts about anything but music.  The composer, Ned Rorem, said he was "the most circumspect person I've ever known".    In no other issue is that taciturnity more frustrating than in this one because it is the most morally exigent issue of his lifetime.  The mass murders of the 20th century are a huge issue in any thinking person's life, even all of these decades later.   If he hadn't written the music for this movie it might not feel like such an urgent matter in thinking about him and his music.  What did he think about it, what did he know about Stalin's mass murder of the Ukrainians, by some estimates as large in numbers of millions, perhaps more, than Hitler's mass murder of Jews?

Maybe he quite fully understood the exigencies of the war that made the immoral relatively moral, lies, while unable to be transmuted into truth, at least temporarily necessary.

With all of the evil that the Nazis did that a script could have been made from, I have to believe the choice of using Ukraine had to have had some really intentional intent behind it.  Perhaps they understood that in making an alliance with Stalin that his mass murder of Ukrainians could be brought up and so it needed to be glossed over for at least the duration of the war.  I don't know, I'm speculating.  That wartime alliance certainly didn't last for about two minutes after the final surrender of the Nazi state, There is some speculation that the moral atrocity of the atomic bombing of two cities instead of uninhabited land by the United States military was as much a warning to Stalin as it was a means of forcing the Imperial Japanese war machine to surrender.

Even the "good war" is a gigantic collection of moral catastrophes, there is always a huge price to be paid, even by the less evil side of it.

I look at the pattern of his compositions in the next years and wonder if his choices of texts to set and themes indicates anything,  the Canticle of Freedom,  In the Beginning, etc.  But, unless he wrote about his thoughts, specifically - and I haven't found any indications he did - it's likely to remain a mystery.  I have to believe that Aaron Copland had some kind of reaction against Stalinism with the revelations of the coming years, when even the Soviet apparatus began to admit that some of those pre-war stories of atrocities and horror were, in fact, true.  He was enough of a lefty to have gotten hauled before Senator McCarthy but, without naming names, he escaped in ways that someone with more of an official communist past couldn't have.  The extent of his support for communism is, I believe, sometimes exaggerated.   But those are all details out of which surmise about his real thoughts can be constructed.   I would love to know what he really thought about those things in depth.

Update:  It just occurred to me that Walter Huston, playing the good Russian doctor looks remarkably like Stalin in some pictures.  Which is creepy, even if they didn't do it intentionally. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Annoying My Opponents At Noon - All Souls Day

The passage in Antonia Fraser's mystery Quiet As A Nun, in which her heroine, Jemima Shore, talks about the beauty of the chapel service at the Catholic girls school for All Saints Day with lights and fine singing and masses of white flowers which gives way to the somber mass for All Souls Day the next day is something I think about from time to time.  I always liked those two feast days, the first and second of November, respectively.  I grew up near a cemetery and the presence of the dead has always been strong in my experience.  Go on, call me morbid, see if I care. Only the morbid aspects of it are something I associate with funeral homes, not the cemetery which has always been a place of quiet and thinking of the mystery of death.

I was planning on holding this recording about All Souls Day for the 2nd of November but am sufficiently desirous of annoying the usual dust specs today that I'm posting it now.  I'll try to find something else to annoy them with on the day.   The audio is of a dialogue between the eminent, heretic scientist, Rupert Sheldrake and Marc Andrus, the Eighth Episcopal Bishop of California about the Christian feast day and related issues.  I think their idea about incorporating the memory of dead species in Halloween is good, more useful and interesting than buying some Disney - TV commercial costume and poisonous extra calories to further decrease the life span of America's obese, otiose children, what American Halloween has degenerated into.   

I hope it informs and inspires those who will find it inspiring and really annoys those who will be annoyed by it.

Aaron Copland - Letter from Home

After he had retired from composing in the early 1970s, Aaron Copland turned largely to conducting. As if people suddenly realized what they'd lost, even as they were ignoring his last major works because they found them "difficult"* they started paying more attention to his work.   There were endless performances of Appalachian Spring, the suites from his other ballet scores, the even more endless and generally vulgar use of his Fanfare For The Common Man and celebrity narrations of A Lincoln Portrait, most of his work, even that which was far from "difficult" was ignored.  

There was a concert of his works, probably for a birthday ending in a five or a zero, where someone had the idea of asking him what he'd like them to play.  As I recall, he chose pieces which were seldom played,  the wartime piece, Letter from Home was one of those.   I can't, for the life of me, understand how it could have fallen into obscurity, it's one of his best and most moving and meaningful pieces.  I wish he'd done a piano version of it, if anyone knows of how to get one he approved of, I'd love to have it. 

London Symphony Orchestra
Aaron Copland, conductor

Aaron Copland's last years were increasingly dominated by the dementia which, eventually robbed him of his memory and then his life.   He conducted, successfully, well into that period, one thing I read said that he could have conducted some of his pieces even after the disease had robbed him of most of his other memories.  Which would indicate how important the work was to him, how thoroughly it was an expression of the inner most man.  They say that his generally kind and gracious personality remained, as well.  Everything I've ever read about him talks about what a really nice guy he was. 

*  Contrary to what a lot of ignorant folk have said about works like Connotations and Inscape and the Piano Fantasy being futile attempts of Copland at trying to fit into the alleged post-war serialist hegemony, a myth, in itself, he had been writing "difficult" and atonal pieces all along.  The Piano Variations, the Passacaglia, are fairly early and major works.   I don't know the extent to which Copland was aware of Charles Ives, who was still alive and who some of Copland's friends and colleagues were promoting as the genius he was, but he might have noticed that Ives, as well, produced both the most pioneering of polytonal, atonal, even proto-serial works as he was composing the most conventional seeming of tonal works.  Why a composer would feel they were restricted to choosing some kind of ideological camp when they could do whatever they wanted, when they wanted to do it is something I don't get.  The ideologues of the serial vs. neo-tonal camps during Copland's last years of active composition was probably something he didn't see any point in.  

There were some snarky remarks, some by composers as fine and as generally sensible as Milton Babbitt who mocked Copland's excitement in discovering some new chords that he liked and hoped to use, making fun of his time with Nadia Boulanger on that count.   He called her harmony classes "the boulangerie".  I always think of a remark the great avant garde composer Edgar Varse to someone pointing out that some other composer's music "lacked counterpoint," he asked why a composer should write counterpoint if he chose to write something else.  The idea that music has to be one thing or another thing and that if it is that other thing it is bad is ridiculous.  A composers music should be what they make it, second guessing their choices is ridiculous.   But the idea that the serialists "ran music" in the 50s and 60s was even more ridiculous than that, an silly idea spread largely by the neo-tonalists who didn't tend to write music that proved to be much more popular than that of the serialists they had been and who they were now "opposed to".  The music scene at any particular time can get to be pretty silly.  

You Tell Me I Bite So I'll Bite

A vague, taunting challenge to me came in based on this story which asserts:

Researchers convert brain scans into “wiring diagrams” of connections between brain regions to show which parts exert most “cognitive control” over thoughts and actions.

How does the brain determine which direction to let its thoughts fly? Looking for the mechanisms behind cognitive control of thought, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Riverside and Santa Barbara and United States Army Research Laboratory have used brain scans to shed new light on this question.

By using structural imaging techniques to convert brain scans into “wiring diagrams” of connections between brain regions, the researchers used the structure of these neural networks to reveal the fundamental rules that govern which parts of the brain are most able to exert “cognitive control” over thoughts and actions.

In the following, I am basing everything I say on the short report linked to above, since that's what was thrown at me.  Which I don't understand why that's supposed to upset me.   Well, other than the phrase "wiring diagrams" which I am on record as calling a bad metaphor about which all evidence shows will be a metaphor mistaken as a literal fact.  

The question assumes far too much, that the brain determines which directions to let its thoughts fly.  I don't think "the brain" determines that and suspect that hard thinking about that idea will produce problems similar to the one I've been issuing as a challenge to materialists about how the brain could make new ideas if those ideas aren't already in the brain.   I think to talk about the brain deciding to do things and making things is about as silly as the idea that a TV determines what the program it runs will contain.  While I suspect the metaphor of a TV is inadequate to describe what the relationship of the mind and the brain are, I suspect it's a lot closer than the bizarre idea that the mind arises from and is the epiphenomenon of chemistry and physics.

I am skeptical of both the brain imaging and the mere translation of those into "wiring diagrams" which are likely not without their entirely arbitrary and reductionist features.  A brain scan shows what the researchers have chosen to look for, it is based on previous choices about what to choose to look for and choices of how that is to be done, of ranges of possible information.   I can easily suspect that a. those choices will be based on what is desired to be found and b. will, to a large extent, determine what the mapping shows.  I suspect that most of the real and essential events of thinking will be more subtle than can be determined in that way, though, in the mean time, before those are found to be inadequate, the interim  report will be purported to be the last word in it and wreak all kinds of havoc, as seems to happen whenever science purports to deal with minds.

This assertion in the article sent up all kinds of red flags to me.

“Surprisingly,” Bassett said, “our results suggest that the human brain resembles a flock of birds. The flock comes to a consensus about which way to fly based on how close the birds are to one another and in what formation. Birds that fly at specific places in the flock can drive changes in the flock’s direction, being leaders in a so-called multi-agent system.

I am assuming Bassett is talking about the oddly formed, large flocks of birds and not the kind of formations that a flock of Canada geese fly in on their migrations.   Flocks that assume an enormous, perhaps infinite number of shapes, conformations, formations and sizes.  I would like to know what that is based on, it looks like a computer model asserted to be an explanation of what happens in nature when I doubt it is even possible to describe a real flock of birds, in flight, in order to put an accurate representation into numbers or some other form that could be manipulated with a computer.   The form and method of the manipulation would, itself, not reliably represent what was happening in real flocks of birds in real life, certainly not even approaching the real thinking of real birds which would not necessarily be any more uniform or constant anymore than the flocking-flying context in which that thinking was done.

If this is not based on computer modeling but on some kind of purported description of a flock of birds in flight, I would like to know how they came up with the information to study that could lead them to those conclusions.   Has there ever been even one comprehensive and dynamic mapping of a large flock of birds in flight, taking all of the likely sensory information that could well determine the decisions of any of the birds into account?   Sensory information that they could perceive accurately or inaccurately with their bird-minds?   And if that enormous body of data has ever been collected for even one flock of birds, why can it be assumed to be relevant to all other flocks of birds, or even just one other one?  I will go so far as to doubt that there have ever been two flocks of birds with the same numbers of members with the same form so that there have been birds in even a close match.  And even if there were two such flocks – among the enormous number of such flocks in the history of bird flight - and that any two birds in such positions in such equal positions that they would have the same pattern of thought.   They would certainly notice different things, be looking in different places at any given time, noticing any terrain or position of the sun, clouds, other birds or forces of wind.

The problem of doing that would be enormous, I fully believe an impossible task to actually do in a real life flock of birds for the course of its existence as that flock.  Not to mention the inability to account for the thinking of all of the birds in that flock, taking in what they may have learned in their experience of their individual lives and their perceptions during the course of the existence of that flock.  Any stories made up about that will be of merely illusory value.

I think that when dealing with a few relatively simple entities which can behave predictably, such as is involved in even the very complex matter of climate change, you can have some assurance that your model making and manipulating has some real relationship to reality.  But when you introduce the choices of conscious agents acting in an effective infinity of contexts any results you get are likely to be an illusion of reality and a seemingly plausible story.   I think the results might be useful for coming up with a more plausible seeming animation of birds in a cartoon, I doubt they've described much about the reality of bird flights.  Though, considering the entire exercise would be governed by the choices made in the modeling and in the manipulation, that they might find what they hope to find.   I think what they've possibly done is come up with a story of seeming, though likely deceptive, plausibility.

From the description of the study, it would seem that they've expressed the multi-color images of brain imaging  with another form of modeling, calling the results confirmation of their preferred results.  I wonder if its really much different from the choice of using color pencils or oil paints to make the same picture.  

But, then, that's what I get from the report of the science reporter in this story and I wouldn't bet on the accuracy of the average science reporter to have gotten it right.   I have a strong suspicion that he didn't really understand what he was reading and being told.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Aaron Copland - Four Piano Blues

1. Freely Poetic (for Leo Smit)

2. Soft and Languid (for Andor Foldes)

3. Muted and Sensuous (for William Kapell)

4. With Bounce (for John Kirkpatrick)

Leo Smit, piano

And as played by the composer

If the quality of the recording had been better I wouldn't have posted the performances by Leo Smit, excellent as those are.   There is something special about hearing a composer play their own music on their own instrument.

It strikes me as a good strategy to get four first-rate piano players to play your work if you dedicate a set of four pieces to them.  I don't know if any of the others recorded them,  William Kapell died in a plane crash in 1953, though Foldes and Kirkpatrick as well as Smit lived for quite a long time after.    It's interesting to note the difference between the fourth piece dedicated to John Kirkpatrick and the second of Carl Ruggles' Evocations, also dedicated to Kirkpatrick but which could hardly be different in tone and content.  I believe it is John Kirkpatrick playing, though that isn't indicated.  

The Unbearable Beauty of Not Quite Belonging: Aaron Copland - Our Town

I have a love hate relationship with the play Our Town, originally with the movie they made of it.  I don't remember if that's the first time I ever saw anything of it but I hated the movie on first viewing and I've never seen a really good production of the play.  There was a really bad TV performance with Hollywood actors who didn't get that it wasn't a TV show and another production I saw on PBS was the absolute bottom, it played like everyone was strung out on quaaludes or on some idiotic idea of how New Englanders were undemonstrative and cold.  You tell some actors that and the results will be like a stage full of victims of lobotomy.   And the school and amateur productions of it, while, actually, not all as bad as those, seemed to miss something.  The play has things in it that I doubt many local players would dare to present, something that isn't quite respectable or facile about the play.

Perhaps it's because I've got family who live in Peterborough, NH, the town Grover's Corners was modeled on and can remember the town when it still had the vestiges of the people who would have been in it as Wilder knew it.  And I grew up in a town probably more like the one in the play than Peterborough was then.  I don't know.

The play reads a lot better on page than I've ever seen it done on stage.  It does have one of Thornton Wilder's problems in several of his major works, like The Eighth Day, a book that starts out with you thinking it's going to be one of the really great novels of the American language only to have him seem to lose control of the threads of narrative and he solves the problem by having everyone just die.  Somehow, By The Skin of Our Teeth seems like a more complete and satisfying piece.

Much as I hated the movie, I loved the music Aaron Copland wrote for it.  It is, perhaps, his one work which has just skirted the danger of too many performances and too many of those being too precious but which can still be heard as great music.  For a long time I preferred the three pieces he arranged for piano over his orchestrated version because there were too many of those too precious performances in the air.

It's easy for a man who, like Copland, is gay, though of a far different generation to think he understands the terrible yearning that is an intrinsic part of Copland's style and it's easy for a gay man to assume that their shared experiences gives him some insight into Copland's clear yearning for a place in the normal family life and community life that was always far more an ideal than a reality even for straight folk.   I think it's what makes Our Town great as a play, and it is a great play, what is taken to be a look back at the unremarkable experience of life in a small, rural town in New England which was certainly, even by the time of Wilder's composition of the play, gone forever.  Wilder was also a gay man who even more than Copland felt compelled to hide the fact from the public.  Gore Vidal once said that Wilder was absolutely terrified that his fame would cause his outing which, in 1930s-60s America would have killed any chance for a successful career in most of the arts.  My reading of the play has the sobering character of Simon Stimson who as the town musician would probably fit the image of a gay man in small town life, though he might be a warning of thwarted artistic ambition, if Wilder saw them as distinct.  He certainly ends up as an unhappy shade even in the New England Hades Wilder wrote, hardly an optimistic view of ultimate reality, one which seems to go unnoticed by so many who have seen and expressed a love of the play.

It would be possible to take the beginning three bars, the part of the score that everyone knows and could sort of hum.  The first two measures (I'm looking at the piano score online, mine is in a box somewhere) of a melody consisting of a G Major arpeggio in 4/4 supported by a C Major triad, or perhaps the arpeggio suspended over it would be a better description, resolved to a G Major chord, that repeated and then a change of time to 3/2 with an A Major arpeggio suspended over a Bb Major 7th chord which resolves irregularly, though with strange effectiveness to a repetition of the material of the first two measures.   The effect of that in hearing of it is of the most normal sounding of music but also music which is both normal but strange, giving way to the pattern set.

But that description tells you nothing as the music tells you more than you can express about the wonderfulness of every day life and, at the same time, the inevitable alienation from it if you aren't quite part of that beloved pattern.   Of belonging and not quite belonging, of wanting and not quite wanting because you can't both be true to those things that you do love and to yourself.  And that's only the first three measures.

That's enough of me, for now.  Here is the music selected by Copland as he conducted it.

London Symphony Orchestra,  Aaron Copland, conductor

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stupid Materialist Tricks Of The Mind

So you totally reject metaphysics, you assert that materialism is the only basis of reality and the choice to accept a metaphysical explanation of consciousness is wrong and is inferior to the choice to accept a materialist explanation of consciousness.   People who assert a choice for metaphysics are wrong and bad and stinky,  and gave cooties, etc. 

Only problem, kid, is that your assertion of the superiority of materialism over metaphysics is, itself, a state of mind which is inconsistent with materialism. Your anti-metaphysical, materialist preference is an assertion of metaphysics.   

If our consciousness is the product of chemistry and physics present in our brain then there is no basis on which a brain, working out its particular physical prerequisites and ending up with metaphysics and a brain which ends up with materialism, there is no materialistic explanation of how one of those is wrong and one is right to support your preference.   Both are doing what is pre-ordained by the chemistry and physics of those particular brains, neither can be more wrong or more right than acetic acid and bicarbonate of soda reacting to do what it does or a photographic plate reacting with the light hitting it, producing the result it does.   

A person who prefers a metaphysical explanation of consciousness doesn't start out with that internal contradiction.  Metaphysics is not, necessarily, rigidly monist.  

Materialism is, literally, a philosophical framing that can only be right if it is wrong at its most basic and at every other level.  Oh, and, by the way, you are also asserting a philosophical expression only you don't realize that.  Materialism is a philosophical position. 

If you have an explanation of how a preference of that kind is consistent with your anti-metaphysical materialist stand, go for it. 

Aaron Copland - In The Beginning

Dr. Holly Janz,  solois
Concordia Chapel Choir,  Michael Culloton 

I'd never heard this setting of the first part of Genesis before and was a bit surprised to find that Copland had set it.  It is not one of his best known or more performed works, not least of which because it's quite a hard one.  The performers at Concordia handled it about as well as could be imagined, the chorus performing from memory.  It's the kind of thing you hear and wish you'd been there. 

Hate Mail - The Definitive Break

I don't want to be part of any left that makes jokes about the mass murders of Cambodians.   Nor the right which supported those murdered under the American bombardment of Nixon and Kissinger, nor the ones murdered under the insane Marxist regime which was excused by opponents of Nixon and Kissinger on the basis of opposition to imperialism.  There were other opponents of Nixon and Kissinger, a real left, who never made excuses for those "good" mass murderers.  I'll be a part of that left. 

More Hate Update:   Yeah, I figured the comment about geezer whoopie pills would be the thing that really upset you.   With a left like yours there is no need for a right. 

Hate Mail 3:  I don't care if Simples wants to give me free publicity.  It's not as if anyone at Duncan's Jr. High on the Delaware is going to read anything I write.   

I wonder if I should tell him that the dolt has had my old blog and the blogs of RMJ and NTodd on the blog list of his blog for the whole time he's been scribbling his dribble on it.   I noticed those were still up from the time when it was NY Mary's blog and the ass was too wrapped up in himself to even be aware of it. 

Aaron Copland - 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson

Saira Frank, soprano
Ruben, Piirainen, piano

1. Nature, the gentlest mother
2. There came a wind like a bugle
3. Why do they shut me out of Heaven?
4. The world feels dusty
5. Heart, we will forget him
6. Dear March, come in!
7. Sleep is supposed to be
8. When they come back
9. I felt a funeral in my brain
10. I've heard an organ talk sometimes
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot

Like the Piano Sonata, these songs are often performed because singers know their value, though less often as a whole cycle.  Which is too bad because it is a very effective cycle, poems by about America's greatest poet set to music by one of the greatest American composers.   I think there is a lot in common between them, their ability to find deep and disturbing and new insights into life through common seeming material, high among those.  Both are frequently misunderstood because of their use of what can easily be mistaken as the superficially conventional aspects of life and artistic material.   Both were entirely more than the superficial reading or hearing of their work could find.

I believe the more familiar of these poems, The Chariot, Going to Heaven, I Felt a Funeral in My Brain were probably a lot less familiar when Copland set them.  I have a feeling they weren't so frequently found in school anthologies of that time.   I also believe he used the earlier editions of her poems instead of the Johnson edition of them that was what my generation read but I don't own the score to these.  Not yet.

I like this performance a lot, I wish the recording were of a better quality because I suspect she pronounced the texts better than it sounds.   It makes me wonder if the great master of English articulation, Joan Morris ever performed them.   This kind of recording, of fine performers you would otherwise never hear or know about, is what I like about the internet the most.  Let's hope for better sound fidelity, soon.

Hate Mail - Science Is A Two Edged Sword The Enlightenment Was Based On A Convenient Lie

Chris Hedges, another skeptic of the value of the Enlightenment, has noted that its rejection of the idea of original sin, of the absolutely proven capacity of people to do evil, was what made it so dangerous.  The utopian vision of science and reason curing all the ills of human society that so easily and quickly leads to the decision by those utopians that anyone who either doesn't cooperate with their scientifically, reasoned out plan for a better if not perfect world has to either be made to or, more typically, to be killed has certainly been a notable feature of so many efforts to improve the world since the alleged triumph of science and reason in the 18th century.  It is what I noted in its first try out as applied science in the French Revolution and in its more developed and potently homicidal forms in the Nazi and Marxist applications of science in the 20th century.

For myself, I'd agree with Hedges on that point but I think there is an even more basic irrationality in the idea that science is going to cure the disasters of human behavior, especially those of large groups of people.   Those are not failures of science or reason.   Science, from its earliest applied forms in physics and chemistry were used to make weapons and war more effective in killing and controlling people through terror.   Guns and big guns, cannons, were early products of science, science and the scientists who do it have had a continued responsibility in making both far more potent killing machines, in the hire of those who wanted to use them to kill and terrorize and, therefore, get what they wanted, more wealth, more power, more of the satisfaction that the depraved get from killing and destroying.

Killing, stealing, enjoying causing pain and fear are not issues of science and reason, those are issues of morality.   It is a lack of morality that has been responsible for those throughout human history.  I mentioned last week the idiocy of allowing science to be invented with an in-built exemption from considerations of the morality of its methods and results.  I don't think that was done for any rational reason, its absence has certainly not been a boon to humanity, though it certainly is for those who want to use it for those purposes.  The stupidity and hypocrisy of Steven Weinberg's snarky comment about religion being what makes good people do bad things got it entirely backward, science is the excuse for those who are required to be taken as good people to do the worst things in the employ of the worst people.   And science has been the camp follower, the prostitute of the worst people from the time the earliest scientists built better armaments for the princes and kings of Europe and elsewhere.  Science made the automatic weapons that murder our school children, science makes atomic and nuclear killing machines, science will build the computerized drone weapons which promise to be the next horror that scientists, exempted of any moral consideration as they build ever more potent killing machines for whoever they work for, build for their patrons.  In the west and in almost every other country, those guys aren't religious in either their inclinations or their conduct, they are as secular as they get as were the champion murderers of our modern history.

The good that science does is certainly offset by the bad.  Vaccine creation is not where most of the science dollars are spent.  The science of creating new medications is far less likely to produce safe and effective medications, these days, they're more likely to create new means of drugging people oppressed by the horrors of modern life and the imaginary problems they get from consuming too much TV and other media.  Or in the dubiously good idea of geezers being able to have more sex with more people.  If scientists would like to be curing more diseases or at least treating or even preventing them, science, as a corporate activity follows the money.   The idealistic view of science is sadly, not realistic in the large majority of cases, it never was.  The use of science to produce death and misery was already well established by the time of the French Philosophes, their view was always the opposite of realism, it was romantic and a self-serving lie in service to their ideology.

Materialism, science, atheism are, all of them are means of denying the necessity of morality strong enough to overcome the desire to use evil to get what you want.  The fact is that intelligent people who are so inclined can use their intelligence to multiply their power to more effectively get what they want and to find means of doing that while talking themselves out of any kind of moral restrictions against doing what they want to do.    Knowlege without moral restraint is more dangerous than stupidity without moral restraint because knowledge has that multiplying effect and science is our most potent means of optimizing that factor.  The idea that it was the key to a more moral world as opposed to those religions that contain ideas that you shouldn't do to other people what you wouldn't want done to you was always a stupid idea, one which would take some very clever double talk to allow you to pretend it was what it so clearly wasn't and which scientists had, by their own agreed to choice, exempted from that moral consideration.

Update:  Well, you could have looked for Hedges saying that, yourself, I'm not lying about it.   You can hear that he is a lot less critical of Freud and Darwin than I've been, adults can agree to disagree about some things, the idea that anyone who doesn't conform to your thinking is totally discredited is jr. high thinking, not adult thinking.  Grow up.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Aaron Copland - Something Wild

About as different a film score from The Cummington Story as could be imagined.   "Something Wild" was probably not a very widely seen movie but I would bet that more people heard Copland's music for that move than heard his recasting of some of it as Music For A Great City three years later.   When I listened to this yesterday I wondered if maybe Copland was getting a bit back by copying some of Bernstein's stuff from On The Waterfront, but then I realized Bernstein was likely borrowing some of that from Copland and others.  Even with some superficial similarities, Copland was writing Copland's music, even if it isn't the Copland that you get from listening to the big five or so pieces.

Aaron Copland, conductor

Update:   Now I'm sure more people heard the music while watching the film.   A memory of seeing Something Wild on one of the few good things on TV during the 60s,  Saturday Night At The Movies was gnawing at me and, in an example of one of the few good things about the internet,  I can confirm that.   I can't imagine network TV doing anything that close to being intellectually responsible, these days.

Update 2:  Sims is making such such a stupid substitute for an argument trying to link NBC TV in the 1960s to Rupert Murdoch's purchase of 20th Century Fox two decades later that I'm tempted to post it.  It's tempting to post it but since it could either be lazy stupidity or incipient dementia that I'll resist temptation.  I don't have any doubt that his good buddies think it's brilliant.   So far none of them has argued with anything I said above nor do I expect them to because that would require some attention. And, remember, they're the fans of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment Is A Dangerous Myth

In thinking about the events here of the past couple of weeks, I've come to believe that our world is haunted by the ghosts of those murdered in the mass murders of the 20th century, far more than we admit and far more than we realize.   Which has certainly been the overarching topic of all of those posts dealing with the role that biological science played in the mass murders the Nazis committed.   Instead of being a topic to be dealt with and laid aside, having learned the ultimate lessons of them, that can't be done.  That it is the mass murders of the Nazis which are the focus when those are only a part of the far larger number of mass murders under dictatorships and other governments within living memory is, in itself, worth considering with the utmost seriousness.   Why not the mass murders of Stalin and Mao as well as those of Hitler?  How did we come to make a ranking that elevates one or another of those epic murderers above another?   The numbers are so big that how many millions whose deaths they are responsible for can only be estimated.  And those numbers are so big that even the millions murdered by such as Pol Pot don't win him a place as the world's most evil.

While it certainly has not, the 20th century was the century that should have, once and for all, ended the lunatic belief in The Enlightenment, the idea that science and reason had enlightened the world, casting aside the darkness of religion and tradition with the pure light of knowledge.  That 18th century faith in science was first given and rapidly failed the test of time in the French Revolution as rule by the Philosophes quickly devolved into power struggles and the Reign of Terror, only to be ended by the military-imperialism of Napoleon and the subsequent series of chaotic French governments of the 19th century and repeated episodes of violence and chaos.  Ah, but the alternative to that, the one cited by Byron in the end of Ode to Napoleon,  

Where may the wearied eye repose
  When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,         
  Nor despicable state?
Yes—one—the first—the last—the best—
The Cincinnatus of the West,
  Whom envy dared not hate,
Bequeath’d the name of Washington,         
To make man blush there was but one!

is not unproblematic as the slave holding Washington quickly was succeeded by John Adams, Jefferson (slaveholder) Madison (slaveholder) etc. into the epic corruptions of the antibellum period, not ending slavery but increasing it, not ending mass murder and theft of a continent but buying, effectively, the legal fiction of a right to the rest of it from French despots and stealing the rest of it from Mexico.  Punctuated by the Civil War, followed by the even more massive corruption of the gilded age to be followed on by the evils done by American governments of the 20th century.   

And that was a piece with the horrific imperial regimes in 19th and 20th century Europe, The Enlightenment didn't prevent them from committing mass murders all over the world, in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and on many islands.  France, Belgium, England, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, all of them, officially Enlightened or not were as soaked in blood as any 14th, 15th, or 16th century regimes pointed to as superstitious, unenlightened hell holes.   Perhaps the reason we focus so much on the Nazis is that their mass murder was largely confined to white Europeans.  We are guilty of still practicing that kind of racial and geographic discrimination, the Enlightenment has done absolutely nothing to drive that out of us. 

Just as the reputed religious wars haunted those who bought the fictions of the Enlightenment, even as those blighted the reputation of religion and required such naive faith in the power of science as a replacement, perhaps today, we have to face the fact of our own recent history and its own false religion. 

The murderous regimes of the past century were a product of the Enlightenment regimes.   There was no country which was more scientifically sophisticated and advanced than Germany.   The malignant use of that science preceded the Nazis, it was commented on with horror by the eminent American biologist Vernon Kellogg in his documentation of his conversations with German military officers, a number of them trained in science, during the First World War.   As noted here last week, science was active in the death camps of German South-West Africa in the decade before that.  The Nazis, repeatedly gave scientific justifications and explanations for their mass murders.   Nazism was presented as applied science.   And what they claimed was their scientific basis was second only as compared to the claims of Marxists who claimed the scientific nature of their own political, economic and social theories and practices.   A good example to look at for that is the Lysenko affair, in which the Marxists were confident of the rightness of Lysenkoism because it was in accord with the scientific monism which their political system was based on.  

I wouldn't necessarily claim that the extent to which the United States avoided some of these disasters was due to the lack of scientific pretensions of its founders, though that is certainly worth thinking about. 

So I don't think it's either possible or desirable to put this all aside because there is no escaping it. The mass murders continue, the thinking that leads to them continues and, I am afraid, is ever more common and ever more demanded to be the default framing of reality.   The Enlightenment is clearly not what it was billed as being, it didn't bring light, it sure as hell didn't bring peace and equality.  It might be the ultimate myth that kills us all. 

Update:  If That's Enlightenment Who Needs Benightedment?

Yeah, defending the Enlightenment on the lower-mid-brow blogs is so convincing.   It would be more convincing if they showed some signs of being more than functionally literate or cared even slightly about the truth.

So, that Reign of Terror thing was OK by you.  

Hate Mail

Oh, I don't ever let you guys worry me, I just remember what William Blake said about cherishing the fool's reproach.   

It's one thing I concluded by the hate mail I get, I've been very fortunate in the quality of my detractors.  

Well, in so far as it doesn't take much time to refute them.  If they told the truth and could back it up, that might be something like work.