Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Timothy Daly - A Lapse In Behaviour

A black comedy for radio

Harold Carpenter is a piano teacher. Middle-aged, mild-mannered, he leads a pleasant, predictable and ordered life. There's the neat house, the beautiful garden and a modest selection of teas and biscuits for favoured pupils. But his peaceful existence is shattered by the arrival of Lois Rowntree - the new music pupil from hell! Lois will not take no for an answer, has more than a bit of 'attitude' and a past scattered with a succession of exasperated teachers. 

Harold Carpenter: Peter Carroll
Lois Rowntree: Judi Farr
Colin Rowntree: Neil Fitzpatrick

Technical Producer, Steven Tilley
Associate Producer, Anne Wynter
Produced and directed by David Chandler

Hey, if you can't take bad playing you should never get in the music teaching racket.  You had better be in it for what your students want out of it or you shouldn't even start.  Not unless you're world famous and can afford to dump bad students.   I'm not the tea and cookies kind of teacher, though I have been known to lower my fee for good students who can't afford full price.

There is a long intro which is interesting but the actual play starts a few minutes into the recording.  It does talk about just about everything that makes me prefer radio drama over movies or TV and even most of the stage plays I've seen.  It's a writers and actors medium more about ideas, when it has ideas.  Of course it can be fun, too.

Update:  I'm not surprised Simps doesn't like radio plays, they require imagination and that's something that requires intelligence.  Whatever he imagines is certain to have one quality, it's already been seen a jillion times on TV, everything in his mind is "As Seen on TV". 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Boclé Brothers Band - 007

Dave Liebman, soprano saxophone
Jean-Baptiste Boclé, vibes, kat (mallet midi controller)
Gildas Boclé, bass (composer)
Marcello Pellitteri, drums


I wish the video of Giles Boclé playing these with the guitarist Nelson Veras was still up.  I copied the video of them playing both quite a while ago, they were great performances.

More Hate Mail

How stupid does a website have to be to carry the comments of Steve Simels who seems to most days of the year attribute opinions to me which I've never expressed or ever had?   I don't even know who William Goldman was and have no opinion about his work.  The only movie of his that I recall seeing was All the Presidents Men and all I can say is that I'll take history over the movie.   Looking him up to see who I'm accused of hating, I read he said this most un-Simels of things,  "Many movies that get made are not long on art and are long on commerce,"  which if I'd said Simps would have a hissy fit.

I do know enough of who Steve Simels is to know he's an idiot who doesn't understand the distinction between real and artificial, logical and fanciful and truth and lies.  Like most people who can't make that last distinction, he invariably falls on the side of lying, proving, again, that lies are easier to tell than the truth because they don't have to conform to reality.  In a contest of easy or hard, the Eschaton preference is generally for EZ.   The kind who watch the movie instead of reading the history or value accuracy.

I didn't see Butch Cassidy because I don't like horse operas and I didn't see  Charley because I read Flowers for Algenon and didn't like it.  I was vaguely aware of something called The Princess Bride but it sounded kind of 7-year-old girl to me so I never looked into it.   Looking him up just now to find out who Simps is accusing me of hating, I read he said of his own work,

"I [don’t] like my writing. I wrote a movie called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I wrote a novel called The Princess Bride and those are the only two things I’ve ever written, not that I’m proud of, but that I can look at without humiliation."

Looks like Simps is going to have to slam the guy for hating his own stuff.   All I can say is he should know, I don't since I never read and saw almost none of it.

Update:  The reason Simps doesn't understand what I said about the movie All The Presidents Men, that I preferred history to the movie is that Simps has never read any history, though he skimmed Berlin Diary once.

Stupid Mail

Oh, good heavens, there are  better names than "ranked choice voting". 

- Rachel Maddow had the idea of  "1, 2, 3, voting"  which is pretty good.

How about:

- Choose second best or get the worst voting,

- Vanilla or chocolate instead of crap voting,

- No more 38% governors voting (the percentage that gave Maine the worst governor in our history, Paul LePage.

There must be dozens of ways to let people know that it just means you get to put your second and third choices down and have them count sometimes. 

If people don't want to do ranked choice voting, their vote won't get thrown out if they just mark one of them.  Why should people who don't like it get to deprive people of what should be a right in voting?   If they're so stupid that they'd rather get their last choice over their second choice why should we all suffer for their stupidity?  Or that of judges. 

Modern Living Just Gets Stupider and Stupider

I had somehow avoided knowing that "gender reveal parties" was a thing until I listened to Colbert's piece on it from last night.  I'm too disgusted to include the video or a link.   

Jeeesh.  As if the number of occasions on which to be an idiot wasn't big enough before.  I had to search it online to make sure it wasn't something Colbert's writing team was making up.  It wasn't. 

Ranked Choice Voting Threw A Real Bum Out In Maine's Second District!

Having done it twice, I LOVE "RANKED CHOICE VOTING".  In practice it is as simple as voting for your first choice to win an election, and your second choice. If you don't get your first choice, you stand a better chance of getting your second choice instead of your last choice.  That's all a voter needs to know about how it works, making it work is the job of those whose job it is to make it work and it has not been ridiculously complicated or expensive.  In Maine ranked choice voting got rid of the last Republican House member in New England and elected a very promising young man, Jared Golden, though the vile Republican-fascist, Bruce Poliquin, is going to try to get the courts to install him - Republicans have no problem with judges installing them when The People reject them.

I agree with Rachel Maddow that "ranked-choice voting" is a stupidly opaque name for what, when you do it is a simple thing.   Geeks should never be put in charge of naming things, they'll always name it something stupid.  Poli-sci geeks are a danger to democracy even with the best of will, even when their ideas are good they'll fuck up in explaining it.

On the ballot, instead of one column in which you mark your only choice under the old system, there are a first, second and third column (if they give you a third choice). 

- You vote for your first choice in the "First Choice" column after the names of the candidates for an office. 

- You vote for your second choice in the "Second Choice" column after the names of the candidates for an office.  

That's as much as a voter needs to do, from there on it's the elections official's job to figure it out, just like it is under any vote count.

- If none of the "First Choices" gets to fifty-percent of the votes cast, it's a contest between the top two "First Choice" candidates.

- They count the "Second Choice" vote choices for those top two candidates and add those "Second Choice" totals to the First Choice vote totals which will almost certainly add up to 50% or more for one of the top two candidates.

For those who are counting the votes it's slightly more complicated but not very complicated.  Considering the consequences of having an office holder who has the approval of fewer than 50% of voters, who is very likely THE LAST CHOICE OF A MAJORITY OF VOTERS those complications are a brief and easy way to avoid something much worse that goes on much longer.

Again, what a voter needs to know is that if they don't get their first choice they stand a better chance of getting their second choice instead of their last choice.  

That's really all any voter needs to know about how it works.   If Maine had "ranked-choice voting" for governor eight years ago we would never have had Paul LePage as governor, I am absolutely certain of that, there would be Maine residents alive, today who certainly died when LePage and the goddamned Republicans in the legislature blocked medicaid expansion.  It is a life and death issue.  The Republicans have been doing everything they can to keep that from happening because they know they stand a far lower chance of winning elections here if people get to vote for their second choice. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Buffy Sainte Marie - Summer Boy

This song's been going through my head for the past several days.  I have no idea why.  I really like some of Buffy Sainte Marie's songs, a lot of them have more in common with Latin American nueva canción than American style singer-songwriter style.  I think she was one of the best of the group she was often put in with, like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. 

As The Republican-Fascists Are Stealing Even More Elections

The current effort by Republican-fascists to steal elections in Florida, Georgia and elsewhere by the same kind of Brooks Brothers riot tactics which they stole the 2000 election proves that one of the biggest acts of malfeasance by Democrats during the brief years they controlled the federal government under Barack Obama was that they didn't adopt laws to prevent the stealing of federal elections*.

Here are some ideas I proposed in June 2006 that I think are still worth considering.

- We need one national ballot form for the national constitutional offices, President, Vice-President, Senator, Congressman. These are the only four offices that have a direct impact on us all. The citizens of the entire country have a right to these four offices being filled in a completely honest way. Everyone has a right to know that every congressman was chosen honestly, even in the district farthest from where they live. There is an overriding interest in the citizens of the entire country having an honestly chosen government strong enough to overcome constitutional objections. This is THE question of national integrity, not a detail of petty federalism.

- We need one form of ballot for those offices, no butterflies, no esthetic tampering. One form that a child learns in fourth grade and that doesn't change for as long as our form of government doesn't change. President, Vice-President, Congressman, Senator. One ballot for each office if there are that many candidates in a district but one form that is as familiar to a voter as a Lincoln penny.

- We need those ballots to be on paper, marked clearly by hand with an X or a check mark, either a valid mark. One ballot form, one thing for the voter to do. Both have worked for decades and there is no reason to fool with it.

- We need them to be counted by hand with observers from all parties. Those ballots are to be counted honestly, everywhere, every time. If local officials can't run a clean election it will be run by a higher level of government. If you don't like that, look at those clean, honest, simple and quick elections they've got in Canada run by Elections Canada. You can go to their web site and see how those practical people have managed simple methods for dealing with problems of disabled voters. Look now before the Conservative government starts trying to copy cat the United States to steal elections for themselves.

No electronic voting for the federal constitutional offices is to be tolerated. We have seen that electronic voting and vote tabulation is certain to give an inaccurate count and that's even when it isn't rigged to steal the election.

The results of two stolen presidential elections in a row are all the proof anyone needs that a crooked election gives us a crooked government. We might get a crook in an honest election, we are certain to get one from a crooked election. The elections of 2000 and 2004 have given us the disaster of Iraq and will produce at least one more disaster, probably in Iran. The Republicans who stole these elections are costing us in blood, in honor and in money. We cannot afford to nickel and dime democracy, the cost is staggeringly high if we continue to cheat ourselves out of honest elections.

Computers and modern research have allowed the Republican Party to destroy the last and best hope for a free people to govern themselves. We aren't living in an age where genteel comity and a bit of indulgence of petty theft can be smiled at. If the DC-NY scribblers and the law professors had the blood of their children and themselves at risk they might see it more clearly. There is nothing ironically amusing about it.

I should add that the kind of billionaire, domestic and foreign, funded thuggery that we've seen them both plan and conduct should be added to the fascist tactics of stealing elections.   A big part of that is meant to be carried in Republican-fascist media and the range of Republican-fascist friendly to the willing dupes of then.  I would put pretty much the entire corporate media in one or another of those categories.  Since 2000's edition of the Florida elections stealing by Republicans succeeded, it's been clear that one of the things we have to protect our elections, our government from is the corruption of much of the media and the lazy indifference of more of it.

Another thing we need to protect it from is the negligence of even Democrats on those increasingly rare occasions that Democrats hold office.  I remember pushing this again in 2009 but got the feeling that the Obama administration would think it was beneath them to do such unremarkable things while doing things like courting Republicans like love sick teenagers.

*  I don't know if the corrupted Republican dominated courts would allow them to force states to run clean elections from the federal government but it is indisputable that the entire country has an interest in having the federal government run by the actual winners of elections.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dukas, La plainte, au loin, du faune...

Lazare Levy, piano

The other day I came across the less often heard piano original of Manuel de Falla - Homenaje "Pour Le tombeau de Claude Debussy". and decided to look for the other pieces from the memorial project which a number of composers alive at the time Debussy died were asked to contribute a piece for.  This one by Paul Dukas is wonderful and it is played by one of the greatest little remembered pianists of the young generation of that time, Lazare Levy.   I consider his too few recordings of Debussy some of the greatest performances of that music I've ever heard, his recording of Masques strikes me as the single greatest performance of a piece of Debussy's music I've ever heard. 

Anyway, here it is.


Stupid Mail

Don't know much of anything about Stan Lee, I'm not interested in comic books.  I could name many authors, composers, artists, musicians, actors, etc. who died and no one seems to much have noticed.   My very fondly remembered teacher the distinguished American composer Marilyn J. Ziffrin died in April and I don't recall anyone being faulted for not mentioning that.  I'm sure she'd much rather have been remembered for her life than for her death.

I see that not everyone is unanimous in the, I assure you, very temporary deification of Lee. I would remind you of how everyone at Baby Blue went on when Steve Jobs kicked the socket, his deification lasted about a week until his official biography came out and you were all horrified that he'd indulged in alternative medicine, to be angrily demoted from i-god (as I teased you guys at the time) to a devotee of "woo".   Sic transit gloria schlocki

This frequently mounted ritual of pretended grief on the part of you guys is kind of disgusting.  It's like you're all auditioning to be hired as professional mourners.

Update:  Not to mention that I just found out that the eminent composer George Walker died in August and I didn't know it till just now.  Considering he's the first African American winner of a Pulitzer for composition, not to mention numerous other accomplishments derived from his own work, not by claiming that of others, I'm pretty pissed off that this is how I found out about it.

If You Need To Be Convinced We Are In Big Trouble - Yes, This Insane 'Trumpy Bear' Ad Is 100% Real

The discussion among the Majority Report crew as to whether or not it's a joke from the marketers - mentioning that real ads for it have run on FOX "News" indicates it's something that some opportunistic hucksters are marketing to the audience driven to psychosis by FOX, but that only makes it more real.   How many of the ads in sleazy publications do you think are put there by people who really believe in their products? 

Why We Have To Crush The Cult Of The Founders Out Of Our Future

I heard while sitting at my brother's yesterday evening something that points out the danger of the pseudo-historical idiocy of Hamilton, the musical,  On Ari Melber's show last night Republican-fascist hack lawyer Guy Lewis humorously  cited the musical to point out that Alexander Hamilton's view of the presidency has a lot more in common with Donald Trump's imperial view of it than Lin Manuel-Miranda and the idiots who like to recite and jiggle around to the cast recording would ever like anyone to know, to more than just imply that Donald Trump should be above the law as applied by the courts.  He was seriously arguing that the president, certainly in his case a Republican-fascist president not a Democratic one, should be above the law.

It's not a huge point in itself but it does point out the danger of the cult of the Founders as some kinds of gods or at least prophets whose words should trump the aspirations of the people who the Founders kept in slavery, disadvantaged economically and otherwise robbed in perpetuity just because those slaver-holders and crooks said so. 

It should be a rule of life that everything that happens in musicals is taken as escapist make believe, not to be taken as anything you should base anything on in real life.   If I had the power to do so, I'd ban the use of real historical figures and events from musicals because it's obvious that even college-credentialed people don't seem to be able to navigate the difference between show-biz bull-shit make believe and actual history.  That's something I learned from interacting with college-credentialed people online.  A big part of why I don't generally use the term "college-educated" anymore because people like that aren't educated no matter how many letters you put after their names.   It's pretty discouraging.  If you want to know how discouraging, look at how many people who graduated from college voted for Trump and the Republican-fascists.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Speaking Up As A Commandment And As A Necessity In Many Other Ways

As felicitous an instance of futile classicism as can well be found, outside of the Far East, is the conventional spelling of the English language. A breach of the proprieties in spelling is extremely annoying and will discredit any writer in the eyes of all persons who are possessed of a developed sense of the true and beautiful. English orthography satisfies all the requirements of the canons of reputability under the law of conspicuous waste. It is archaic, cumbrous, and ineffective; its acquisition consumes much time and effort; failure to acquire it is easy of detection. Therefore it is the first and readiest test of reputability in learning, and conformity to its ritual is indispensable to a blameless scholastic life.

Thorstein Veblen 

I have only read as much of Interrupting Silence: God's Command to Speak OutWalter Brueggemann's latest (*) book as can be read free online, I'm considering doing something I seldom do, buy the book new at full price so I can read it now.  From what I can see it is Brueggemann's prophetic attempt to rattle awake the kind of Christians who have fallen into a sort of middle-class comfortable quietism so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable with what they are supposed to take as the truth.  That truth being the basis of American liberalism, the polite quiescence of such as should be liberal activists is a social and economic and political catastrophe, a vacuum which fascism has eagerly occupied.  Quiescence inescapably leads to acquiescence.  That's certainly the substance of much of Brueggemann's series of prophetic lectures as can be heard for free on Youtubes and other places, if I posted one a day it would take months to exhaust them.  

In other works Brueggemann has pointed out that the entire Bible revolves around the Exodus narrative, in which the Pharaoh's enslaving economy of extraction grows to the point where the Children of Israel, enslaved and oppressed ever more severely, cry out against their oppression.  He points out that that crying out is the actual initiation of the story, that God comes into the story in Exodus several pages into it when God hears the cries of the slaves and - using the agency of Moses - God frees them from their slavery.  As I pointed out over a course of months a year ago, in his early book The Bible Makes Sense, Brueggemann makes a very good case that literally everything in the Bible revolves around and refers to and comments on that narrative of slaves crying out and become free in speaking out against and struggling against slavery.   

A large part of the Bible, such as the tales of the kings and kingdoms that the Mosaic alternative decayed into, is a story of what happens when people forget that they too were slaves in Egypt and in the Prophetic books, the cry of the slaves who started it all, is taken up in protest to the now domestic Pharoah style oppression of the Kings of Israel and Judah.   In many of his lectures Walter Brueggemann notes how the Prophets were "non-credentialed poets who have no pedigree", some of them country bumpkins, hillbillies.  He notes that they open up space in the imagination so that people, entrenched in a well-established habit of life, as part of a well-established social order, so that they can imagine that life might be better than that, that life can be just, that it can be based in neighborliness and generosity instead of commercial transaction.  That is something which you're still far more likley to get from non-credentialed poets, hillbillies, bumpkins, than you're going to get from the college-credentialed, those who have been either staff or feature writers, the kind of writers and scribblers who seem to spend most of their time on talk-shows and giving awards to each other.   I think a lot of, especially the First Testament, can be read as a juxtaposition of the official, approved, credentialed, educated classes of people and the unofficial, unapproved, non-credentialed, un-educated classes of people.  I will note that when the First Testament is most useful to the enemies of God and morality, it's generally the credentialed, educated writings that are useful to them, not the country-bumpkin and déclassé poet-Prophets. 


You might wonder why I started this with that quote by Thorstein Veblen, one of my favorite quotes from him.  I suppose it's a self-indulgence but I wondered how many times various people have complained that I'm not a writer yet I still persist in writing.  As if the written form of the language, by right, was the property of some kind of self-defined guild of writers, those who have some kind of proprietary right to write words, or type words, as is the case.   

My usual response is that I've never claimed to be "a writer" that is someone who tries to produce piss elegant phrases and clauses and sentences and paragraphs and compositions in official proper style so as to be printed (for so many cents a word) and that might be read through and forgotten by the ever diminishing number of people who read in the electronics polluted world to be talked about by them and have no impact on the wider world.  Or that would risk writing the kind of thing that would upset things and risk having an impact on the wider world.  

That first one was never my purpose in writing the pieces I post online or in any other part of life, I don't want the respect of people who would be impressed with those kinds of impotent repetitions of the common received POV so as to claim team-fandom (right-left, conservative-lefty, etc.) and find a tiny little but comfortable niche, in reality probably no bigger than their imagination.  

Thinking about that last night, I decided I've been giving the wrong answer.  A writer is anyone who writes something.  Someone who speaks a language has as much right to write it as to say it.   So I'm owning up to it, I'm a writer and am proclaiming the right of any other speaker of English to the right of being an English writer if they choose to write something.   I mean, they've got as much of a right to do that to their abilities as some bull-shit pop guitar-strummer and intoner has to be a musician. 

One of the things I wrote a long time ago, which pissed off a lot of the kinds of nice people who read the blog where I posted it, used Veblen's quote to answer someone who complained that I used a variant spelling for a word, I don't remember which one it was, but which I was able to point out is given in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.   It was a slightly less 1st grade level brawl than the one I instigated when I used the spelling "cooky" here a few months back.   I noted that some of the best writers in the English language never much had any use for standardized spelling, some such as Jefferson disdained the novel introduction of standardized spelling, others, like Emily Dickinson, didn't much publish but seem to be either unaware of it or unconcerned in what they did write.   I didn't know that ol' Em was one of us till I read some idiot English prof who criticized her spelling in a paper which I wouldn't be surprised if I was one of tens who read it indifferently as opposed to the millions who read and love Dickinson's poetry and letters. 

What is the motive of the tireless little meter-maids of the kind who police other peoples' writing?  Those who set themselves up as judges of writing and who are always giving out their unasked for and non-authoritative judgments on it?  

Is it a demand of silence?  Of course it is.  It is a demand that people not credentialed (by, them, or someone they choose to acknowledge has that power) not speak, not present their ideas, not express them.   To which anyone has a perfect right to ask, who died and made them God?  

One of the huge problems with Americans, probably with way too many people in the English speaking people and, no doubt, others, is that they are inhibited from writing their own language by such tin-pot, bullshitting speech police.   

I am in favor of people writing every day, for themselves or for posting or publication because writing is such a useful way of taking a good hard look at your own thinking.   

One of the best things that could be done with the superfluity of computers that are in the hands of American students would be to set aside twenty minutes or so, every school day to require them to type whatever they thought on whatever topic with whatever spelling and punctuation and requiring them to read it, to themselves or have the teacher read it (maybe they could read one of them a day at random to make sure the brats were doing it).   If students did that every day for 180 days a year, I think most of them would come out of the experience more articulate, more critical of their own thinking, more open to changing their thinking, than they'll ever get from writing the kind of dreary compositions in approved form, with approved sentence structure and approved spelling.   The written form of language is too important for too many things, learning how to think, inspiring conscience, on whether or not you're being an asshole to let the assholes who want to stop that have their way.   

One of the greatest lessons I've found from making my writing public is to find that other people have other lives and even things that I care deeply about, they might not.  The world isn't necessarily holding their breath waiting for what opinion I hold.   That's clearly something the writing police have yet to learn.  Maybe they should write more and read in their own words what assholes they're being.   There's the world of difference between speaking up against injustice and just being an asshole.  The American left, especially those with college-credentials, has too many of the latter. 

*  I wouldn't be surprised if Brueggemann, who writes as much as he writes with excellence and, most importantly, relevance , has another one about to come out. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Century On It's Not Even Past

An unanticipated effect of my research into Darwinism as it really has been instead of according to the post-war plaster St. Darwin lie was that the scientific and general culture which included Darwinism, the belief that natural selection was the supreme law of biology made World War I and World War II inevitable.  That those were products of a belief in natural selection as a supreme law of biology, including that which governed the human species is undeniable to any honest evaluation of the evidence.   I'll get to the evidence of that about the Darwinian character of WWI.  But even before that, in the widely forgotten, unknown German military-scientific genocide against the Herero and Nama people in what is now Namibia in 1904-1908 served as a template for the Nazi genocides of 1939-1945.  I read things like the Germans driving the women and children they didn't summarily murder into the desert to die of thirst and remember the disgusting brother-in-law of Eva Braun, Hermann Fegelein* murdering Polish women and children by driving them into swamps to drown.  That it was a template is obvious since, other than the use of gas to murder large numbers of people**, virtually every feature of the later genocide was present in the earlier one, even some of the same people, such as the mainstream figure of science, Eugen Fischer, were participants and figures in both, many of whom escaped ever having to answer for their genocidal murders.

But this is about World War I, the end of which a hundred years ago is commemorated this long weekend.  About the Darwinian aspects of that war, we have the documentation and testimony of the eminent American biologist Vernon Kellogg, who went to Germany as an American pacifist on a peace mission to try to stop the war.  He spoke German, having gotten a good part of his education in Germany and he knew a number of German scientists, some of them from when he was in school and a number of whom were members of the German military as well as being scientists.  Vernon Kellogg was an expert and proponent of Darwinism as it was known in his day** so when he identified the Darwinian nature of the German scientist-soldiers thinking about the war they were conducting, he was entirely qualified to make that assessment.  And he did.  Here is a post I wrote about that.

Vernon Kellogg was a distinguished American biologist of the early 20th century.  He is most remembered today for "Headquarters Nights,"  his memoir of a sort of peace mission-fact finding trip he made before the United States entered the First World War, especially for what he found out about the beliefs of the German military.  What he discovered about their motives and beliefs shocked him so much that he abandoned his fully believed in pacifism and came back advocating that the United States enter the war because he became convinced that Germany, under the influence of prevailing thinking, was extremely dangerous.

Of course, with what I've been posting lately, Darwinism figured into that.  Kellogg was no opponent of evolution or of Darwin, he cited Darwin very favorably in a number of his books and papers and wrote what was probably one of the more serious texts on evolutionary biology at the time.  There is no way to paint his horror of what he already called "neo-Darwinism," as being opposed to either evolution or even natural selection.  Though, as can be seen, since both Darwin and Huxley gave their full endorsement of Haeckel's and other originators of the ideas that shocked Kellogg, there was nothing "neo" about it.   All of the things Kellogg recounts as having been said by his pseudonymous colonel-professor von Flussen were present in Haeckel by 1870, certainly by the time of Haeckel's somewhat ironically named,  "Freedom in Science and Teaching" which both Darwin and Huxley gave their fullest endorsement.

Haeckel was still alive at the time of Kellog's trip and, from what I've read, still the most influential voice in matters Darwinian, in Germany.  By this time the influence of his students, such as Plotze and Rudin and also such people as Schallmeyer were also important.  I believe both Haeckel and Schallmeyer died in 1919.   Any "neo-Darwinism" that Kellogg encountered in the German establishment would certainly have been influenced by them, though Darwin was also widely read and his natural selection was the basis all of it, directly taken from him or not.

Well, I say it dispassionately but with conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a point of view that will never allow any land or people controlled by it to exist peacefully by the side of a people governed by our point of view. For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism, the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur. 

Professor von Flussen — that is not his name — is a biologist. So am I. So we talked out the biological argument for war, and especially for this war. The captain-professor has a logically constructed argument why, for the good of the world, there should be this war, and why, for the good of the world, the Germans should win it, win it completely and terribly. Perhaps I can state his argument clearly enough, so that others may see and accept his reasons, too. Unfortunately for the peace of our evenings, I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly. I was convinced, however, that this war, once begun, must be fought to a finish of decision — a finish that will determine whether or not Germany's point of view is to rule the world. And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end — that end to be Germany's conversion to be a good Germany, or not much of any Germany at all. My 'Headquarters Nights' are the confessions of a converted pacifist. 

In talking it out biologically, we agreed that the human race is subject to the influence of the fundamental biologic laws of variation, heredity, selection, and so forth, just as are all other animal — and plant — kinds. The factors of organic evolution, generally, are factors in human natural evolution. Man has risen from his primitive bestial stage of glacial time, a hundred or several hundred thousand years ago, when he was animal among animals, to the stage of to-day, always under the influence of these great evolutionary factors, and partly by virtue of them. 

But he does not owe all of his progress to these factors, or, least of all, to any one of them, as natural selection, a thesis Professor von Flussen seemed ready to maintain. 

Natural selection depends for its working on a rigorous and ruthless struggle for existence. Yet this struggle has its ameliorations, even as regards the lower animals, let alone man. 

There are three general phases of this struggle: — 

1. An inter-specific struggle, or the lethal competition among different animal kinds for food, space, and opportunity to increase; 

2. An intra-specific struggle, or lethal competition among the individuals of a single species, resultant on the over-production due to natural multiplication by geometric progression; and, 

3. The constant struggle of individuals and species against the rigors of climate, the danger of storm, flood, drought, cold, and heat. 

Now any animal kind and its individuals may be continually exposed to all of these phases of the struggle for existence, or, on the other hand, any one or more of these phases may be largely ameliorated or even abolished for a given species and its individuals. This amelioration may come about through a happy accident of time or place, or because of the adoption by the species of a habit or mode of life that continually protects it from a certain phase of the struggle. 

For example, the voluntary or involuntary migration of representatives of a species hard pressed to exist in its native habitat, may release it from the too severe rigors of a destructive climate, or take it beyond the habitat of its most dangerous enemies, or give it the needed space and food for the support of a numerous progeny. Thus, such a single phenomenon as migration might ameliorate any one or more of the several phases of the struggle for existence. 

Again, the adoption by two widely distinct and perhaps antagonistic species of a commensal or symbiotic life, based on the mutual-aid principle — thousands of such cases are familiar to naturalists — would ameliorate or abolish the interspecific struggle between these two species. Even more effective in the modification of the influence due to a bitter struggle for existence, is the adoption by a species of an altruistic or communistic mode of existence so far as its own individuals are concerned. This, of course, would largely ameliorate for that species the intra-specific phase of its struggle for life. Such animal altruism, and the biological success of the species exhibiting it, is familiarly exemplified by the social insects (ants, bees, and wasps). 

As a matter of fact, this reliance by animal kinds for success in the world upon a more or less extreme adoption of the mutual-aid principle, as contrasted with the mutual-fight principle, is much more widely spread among the lower animals than familiarly recognized, while in the case of man, it has been the greatest single factor in the achievement of his proud biological position as king of living creatures. 

Altruism — or mutual aid, as the biologists prefer to call it, to escape the implication of assuming too much consciousness in it — is just as truly a fundamental biologic factor of evolution as is the cruel, strictly self-regarding, exterminating kind of struggle for existence with which the Neo-Darwinists try to fill our eyes and ears, to the exclusion of the recognition of all other factors. 

Professor von Flussen is Neo-Darwinian, as are most German biologists and natural philosophers. The creed of the Allmacht of a natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema. The mutual-aid principle is recognized only as restricted to its application within limited groups. For instance, it may and does exist, and to positive biological benefit, within single ant communities, but the different ant kinds fight desperately with each other, the stronger destroying or enslaving the weaker. Similarly, it may exist to advantage within the limits of organized human groups — as those which are ethnographically, nationally, or otherwise variously delimited. But as with the different ant species, struggle — bitter, ruthless struggle — is the rule among the different human groups. This struggle not only must go on, for that is the natural law, but it should go on, so that this natural law may work out in its cruel, inevitable way the salvation of the human species. By its salvation is meant its desirable natural evolution. That human group which is in the most advanced evolutionary stage as regards internal organization and form of social relationship is best, and should, for the sake of the species, be preserved at the expense of the less advanced, the less effective. It should win in the struggle for existence, and this struggle should occur precisely that the various types may be tested, and the best not only preserved, but put in position to impose its kind of social organization — its Kultur — on the others, or, alternatively, to destroy and replace them. 

This is the disheartening kind of argument that I faced at Headquarters - argument logically constructed on premises chosen by the other fellow. Add to these assumed premises of the Allmacht of struggle and selection based on it, and the contemplation of mankind as a congeries of different, mutually irreconcilable kinds, like the different ant species, the additional assumption that the Germans are the chosen race, and German social and political organization the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter — by headwork. You long for the muscles of Samson.

Of course, Kellogg's hope that Germany could be defeated and converted to giving up neo-Darwinism was shattered by the falling of the Weimar government***, the rise of the Nazis, the adoption of eugenics and its extension into industrial scale murder of the kind that what can only be called degenerate intellectuals had been fantasizing about since the beginning of the century.  All of that began in the imaginations of people, the belief in a biological elite, the danger to it of a biological underclass, both defined by class and ethnicity, and the right of the superior to keep them from, first breeding, and then living.  All of that was present in Darwinian terms by the turn of the century, beginning with Haeckel in Germany and much of it even in such Darwinians as Galton and Huxley by the 1870s.  Darwin added his voice with the publication of The Descent of Man in 1872.   Whatever excellence Kellogg found in the papers of Darwin on entomology and other topics - he seems to cite mostly Darwin's papers - he must have been aware of his second most important book.  Why he overlooked that, I don't know but scientists and intellectuals who don't agree with it have been overlooking it consistently since, now, the 1910s.

Update:  From Haeckel's Freedom in Science and Teaching: English translation, 1879

"Darwinism, I say, is anything rather than socialist! If this English hypothesis is to be compared to any definite political tendency—as is, no doubt, possible—that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic, and least of all socialist. The theory of selection teaches that in human life, as in animal and plant life everywhere, and at all times, only a small and chosen minority can exist and flourish, while the enormous majority starve and perish miserably and more or less prematurely. The germs of every species of animal and plant and the young individuals which spring from them are innumerable, while the number of those fortunate individuals which develop to maturity and actually reach their hardly-won life's goal is out of all proportion trifling. The cruel and merciless struggle for existence which rages throughout all living nature, and in the course of nature must rage, this unceasing and inexorable competition of all living creatures, is an incontestable fact; only the picked minority of the qualified "fittest" is in a position to resist it successfully, while the great majority of the competitors must necessarily perish miserably. We may profoundly lament this tragical state of things, but we can neither controvert it nor alter it. "Many are called but few are chosen." The selection, the picking out of these "chosen ones," is inevitably connected with the arrest and destruction of the remaining majority. Another English naturalist, therefore, designates the kernel of Darwinism very frankly as the "survival of the fittest," as the "victory of the best." At any rate, this principle of selection is nothing less than democratic, on the contrary, it is aristocratic in the strictest sense of the word. If, therefore, Darwinism, logically carried out, has, according to Virchow, "an uncommonly suspicious aspect," this can only be found in the idea that it offers a helping hand to the efforts of the aristocrats. 

"That tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic, and least of all socialist."   And this was a book that Thomas Huxley wrote a preface and Darwin wrote to Haeckel, praising it and saying that he agreed with all of it.   Note Haeckel's pretty disgusting turn around of the concepts democracy and aristocracy at the end of the paragraph.  It's no wonder that by the time of Kellogg's trip the German elite was already giving people reason to worry in this way.

I despise war and think it's generally the worst idea for solving problems, as I've said a number of times, the fetish for fantasizing about revolutions on the left is one of the stupidest ideas that is prevalent on the left, Revolutions have seldom if ever worked to do anything but make things as bad after as before.  If they solve some problems, they either substitute others or merely put off the day when a real reckoning with those has to happen.

Reading the history of Darwinism has, in fact, convinced me that the Darwinism of European and American culture by that time had made World War I an inevitability.  I was taught in my high school classes that World War II was one of the consequences of WWI, which is true in so far as the Anglo-French settlement of it led to German resentments.  But if that treaty had been better, less stupidly and counter-productively recriminatory and opportunistic, a subsequent war would have been inevitable due to the currents of European-American thought.

Since imagining a world in which a major war might not have happened is an exercise in rather free fantasy, I wonder what a world in which the exposure of the crimes of the Nazis hadn't discredited eugenics would be like.  I doubt that the eugenics which was to be discredited wouldn't have developed as even some of the major figures in science, such as Karl Pearson, asserted without mass murder being more general, if not by the means the Nazis employed then by other means.  I think we are still living with the results of that view of human beings, both in resurgent neo-eugenics and in scientific and quasi-para-scientific assertions of it.

Just as I came to realize in reading about the Genocides of 1904-1908 that the later genocides were not an isolated phenomenon in history but were part of what Vernon Kellogg found out about, I came to realize both that the forces that produced those by speakers of German were rampant in the intelligentsia who spoke English and other languages.  And those forces are not basically altered now, though their expressions might be modified.

*  It is one of the few bad things I can say about the otherwise excellent movie Der Untergang, as excerpted to humorous effect in so many "Hitler finds out . . . " videos, that it has led a lot of people to see Fegelein as a figure of fun, as less of an amoral and disgusting murderer than he certainly was.  He was disgusting enough that Albert Speer called him the most disgusting and immoral member of the Hitler inner circle.  It is credible that the other disgusting and immoral members of that inner circle who hunted him down and shot him two days before Hitler killed himself got some satisfaction out of doing so.  He was truly vile even by Nazi standards.

** Though poisoning wells was a means of killing large numbers in the arid, desert region.

*** I'm not so sure I'd think that even if the Weimar Republic had stood that some form of Darwinian atrocity would have been avoided.  American and British politicians, jurists, scientists, social thinkers, even social workers were all set on eliminating entire groups of people from the future, the Nazis learned a lot from American eugenicists, Winston Churchill was just one of those held to be heroes of Britain who advocated mass gassing as a means of extermination of named ethnic groups.  His words, even those given as part of official documents sound genocidal in ways that Hitler hasn't been documented as sounding.  And there are Americans who are held up as heroes who said things about as bad as that.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Small War Cemetery In Music - Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin

Vlado Perlemutter

Prelude: In memory of First Lieutenant Jacques Charlot
Fugue: In memory of Second Lieutenant Jean Cruppi
Forlane: In memory of First Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc
Rigaudon: In memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin
Minuet: In memory of Jean Dreyfus
Toccata: In memory of Captain Joseph de Marliave

When I first came round to studying Ravel's often played Tombeau de Couperin, I was young enough so I hadn't learned that it wasn't the light breezy bit of musical prettiness, as it is usually played as being.  It is a  collection of memorial pieces written during the First World War by Ravel to commemorate young men he knew who died during the war.   It had a deep effect on how I played the several of the pieces I played in recital, I've never played them as a whole set and doubt I will.  as is usual with Ravel there is an underlying sadness beneath the surface but knowing that the pieces were dedicated to young men who died in a terrible war has to have an effect on how you think of them.

Vlado Perlemutter studied Ravel's music with him and played what I believe is the first complete performances of Ravel's piano music in two concerts BEFORE THE COMPOSER.  Though Ravel could be extremely critical of his students he must have liked the way Perlemutter played his music because he asked him to perform Ma mère l'Oye with him.  I like this recording because it's sort of a mix of the harpsichord like clarity of Monique Haas and the more romantic treatment these pieces are often given.  It's always interesting to hear how someone who studied with a composer plays their music, wondering if this or that point you don't think you'd imitate and which isn't indicated in the score is something they got directly from the composer or not.   For me in these pieces it's always the contrast between the slower part of the Rigaudon and the return to the first theme of it, between those who prepare that and those who spring it on you.  If I were going to play it again I'd have to reconsider the way I played it before having heard this recording.


Someone Doesn't Like Me Using The Term "Britatheist"

As Britain is an artificial collection of a number of different ethnicities, regions and groups, none of them uniform, as all national groupings are, it would be rather stupid of me to maintain a blanket dislike of all of them.   I don't dislike "the British" in the same way that so many Brits dislike the Irish, I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of Brits, especially one of the largest groups of victims of the all too real British class system, the poor living in Britain.  I am especially sympathetic because the elite here would like to set things up to mimic their idea of a class ridden society, including the snobbery of it. 

When I dope-slap specific Brits it's a response to several things, the anti-Irish bigotry, the anti-Catholic bigotry, the snobbery of the British elites or the many who would like to either join or at least be taken as a part of the British elite or a Brit-style elite - something apparently especially common among the snootier ex-pats living in Canada, which is funny seeing as how they couldn't make it in Britland - and the such.  And I think it's valuable for Brits to understand that they don't get a carte blanche from the kind of stereotyping they insist on imposing on others.  If there's something funny, it's a Brit bigot who is given a bit of their own back - for educational purposes, only.   They tend to froth in fury. 

There is a group of especially snobbish Brits who tend to be university grads and who use their atheism as another excuse for them to feel superior to other people.  It's often an empty pose of sciency erudition on the bargain-basement cheap, no maths required.  As that's something that's easier to maintain than an actual education and far easier to obtain than membership of an old family or a favored ethnic group,it's one of the more often encountered type of Brit snobs.   Though that is hardly confined to British atheists.  Atheists all round tend to do that. 

I have never met an actual Scot who I disliked though I've disliked a number of New England yankees who had Scottish names.  But, then, I've disliked a lot of New Englanders who have Irish names, too.   And I've met English-Brits who I really like, though they've almost always been distinctly from the lower economic class.  I detest the affected sound of the British received  accent, something which I've talked about before.  I've heard Brits who make fun of it rather well. 

If you want to annoy me, accuse me of being a "Yankee" which here means a white-Protestant (though lots of them are either atheists or nothings* these days) of English or Scottish ancestry whose ancestors either came here and murdered Indians to steal their land or who were brought here in bondage after one of the failed Scottish rebellions in chains but who assimilated over the centuries, creating a sort of elite.  Especially those of the prep-school to Ivy class.   Though there are people of Irish ancestry who aren't far behind in that, people who like most white people benefit from the American form of indigenous evil, racism to assimilate to a higher status. 

* Don't get me started on Unitarians.