Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mary Lou Williams Lullaby of the Leaves

Mary Lou Williams 

Lullaby of the Leaves

With a really wonderful arrangement which sounds like her style.  I can't find who the band is.

And here in what I believe is a later and more intimate interpretation

with Don Byas

Mary Lou Williams Waltz Boogie

I love this so much.  Mary Lou Williams was a great composer, easily as good as many of the men who are more famous, at times reaching up to the top with people like Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus.

A Grand Night For Swinging

Hesitation Boogie

I'd cut off my right arm for her technique.  Lord knows what I'd do for her compositional genius. 

A Quick Lunch Hour Post

Just when you thought that the Salon, Alternet, etc. sex articles couldn't get any stupider.

"Why do so many straight women prefer penetration to oral sex?
Vlogger Arielle Scarcella wants to know: Are lesbian vaginas somehow different from straight ones?

Oh, but wait, it's not just any brand of stupid, it's sciency.

Scarcella did a bit of background research in the weeks before she released her new “Straight Girls Explain” video, asking 500 of her straight-identifying female viewers and 500 lesbian viewers whether they prefer oral sex to penetration. She found that while 55 percent of straight women preferred penetration, just 25 percent of lesbian viewers felt the same. So, for her follow up, Scarcella tried to figure out why.

I would suggest that no one ever be allowed to post something this clueless pretending it was anything that should be called research, science and statistics unless they can prove they have mastered the material in the first two chapters of Jessica Utt's absolutely useful book "Seeing Through Statistics" which would give them enough knowledge so they would never even try to do something so stupid, so full of flaws and follies and faddish stupidity and put their name on it.  Not to mention an editor of a magazine publishing it. 

And the only reason I posted that at 96 points is that my word processor doesn't have 128 point fonts.

A Book Read Fifty Years Too Late

I am going to have to work today so here's an old piece I wrote for Echidne of the Snakes in March of 2009.   

My thanks to the anonymous e-mailer who recommended that I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave new World Revisited. Having admired the novel, which I think is a lot more impressive than 1984 in its vision of domestic social and political trends, I’m ashamed to admit to never having read Aldous Huxley’s essays. There are points on which we differ, some sharply, but he said a lot of the things I have been harping on about fifty years earlier. And a lot better. 

Here’s a link to the book online, The Art of Selling is the chapter that was pointed out to me as being very similar to some of the things I’ve written. .

- The survival of democracy depends on the ability of large numbers of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information.

- Effective rational propaganda becomes possible only when there is a clear understanding, on the part of all concerned, of the nature of symbols and of their relations to the things and events symbolized. Irrational propaganda depends for its effectiveness on a general failure to understand the nature of symbols.

- But unfortunately propaganda in the Western democracies, above all in America, has two faces and a divided personality. In charge of the editorial department there is often a democratic Dr. Jekyll -- a propagandist who would be very happy to prove that John Dewey had been right about the ability of human nature to respond to truth and reason. But this worthy man controls only a part of the machinery of mass communication. In charge of advertising we find an anti-democratic, because anti-rational, Mr. Hyde -- or rather a Dr. Hyde, for Hyde is now a Ph.D. in psychology and has a master's degree as well in the social sciences. This Dr. Hyde would be very unhappy indeed if everybody always lived up to John Dewey's faith in human nature. Truth and reason are Jekyll's affair, not his. Hyde is a motivation analyst, and his business is to study human weaknesses and failings, to investigate those unconscious desires and fears by which so much of men's conscious thinking and overt doing is determined. And he does this, not in the spirit of the moralist who would like to make people better, or of the physician who would like to improve their health, but simply in order to find out the best way to take advantage of their ignorance and to exploit their irrationality for the pecuniary benefit of his employers.

And from the previous chapter:

- Human beings act in a great variety of irrational ways, but all of them seem to be capable, if given a fair chance, of making a reasonable choice in the light of available evidence. Democratic institutions can be made to work only if all concerned do their best to impart knowledge and to encourage rationality. But today, in the world's most powerful democracy, the politicians and their propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors.

I was afraid that Huxley wouldn’t go as far as I’m afraid we’ll have to in order to save democracy but as he states the obvious truth that the prerequisites for The People to govern themselves by a representative democracy are not optional but are, in fact, absolutely mandatory, democracy won’t survive without legislation preventing mass marketed lies. From the last chapter, What Can Be Done?

- No, I repeat, there can never be such a thing as a writ of habeas mentem. But there can be preventive legislation -- an outlawing of the psychological slave trade, a statute for the protection of minds against the unscrupulous purveyors of poisonous propaganda, modeled on the statutes for the protection of bodies against the unscrupulous purveyors of adulterated food and dangerous drugs. For example, there could and, I think, there should be legislation limiting the right of public officials, civil or military, to subject the captive audiences under their command or in their custody to sleep-teaching. There could and, I think, there should be legislation prohibiting the use of subliminal projection in public places or on television screens. There could and, I think, there should be legislation to prevent political candidates not merely from spending more than a certain amount of money on their election campaigns, but also to prevent them from resorting to the kind of anti-rational propaganda that makes nonsense of the whole democratic process.

Such preventive legislation might do some good; but if the great impersonal forces now menacing freedom continue to gather momentum, they cannot do much good for very long. The best of constitutions and preventive laws will be powerless against the steadily increasing pressures of over-population and of the over-organization imposed by growing numbers and advancing technology. The constitutions will not be abrogated and the good laws will remain on the statute book; but these liberal forms will merely serve to mask and adorn a profoundly illiberal substance. Given unchecked over-population and over-organization, we may expect to see in the democratic countries a reversal of the process which transformed England into a democracy, while retaining all the outward forms of a monarchy. Under the relentless thrust of accelerating overpopulation and increasing over-organization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms -- elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest -- will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial -- but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

The fifty years since the book was published prove that we are living out what Huxley saw with such impressive insight. Maybe, due to his family heritage, he realized that the mass media had fundamentally changed the political environment to the extent that the old guarantees which would have provided the possibility of an informed vote no longer hold. We can only look back at the developments in politics and the media and see the reality of what Huxley saw made true.

Last year the possibility of democracy was saved, for a time, by the disgust of the public over the Bush regime or, less optimistically, by the results of his economic pillage catching up with his party. It wasn’t the “free press” that saved us from four more years, it was reality going over the heads of the press. As the biological environment won’t survive delay in facing up to the ruinous environmental results of corporate libertarianism, democracy won’t survive with the media we’ve got today. I don’t think the new media will prove to be the savior many are confident it will be. If anything lies are more easily spread online than before. We risk too much if their hunch is wrong. The dangers of requiring the press to serve the essential needs of a democratic society are real, abuses of any kind of regulation will arise. But those dangers are prospective, uncertain and remedial. The dangers of the media we have now are a clear danger to the life of a democracy and the free people it serves.

I Prefer to Think You Are Polite

I noticed, just now, that either I've got the most indifferent or the most polite readers online.  No one has pointed out that I provided everyone with an "Ear Wrom" in a headline yesterday.  Or maybe that's one of the products of online, unedited writing, that people take typos, misspellings, and other accidents in the mechanics of writing in stride. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Peggy Lee Goody Goody Your Friday Afternoon Ear Wrom

Pseudo-Science The Right Likes and Pseudo-Science The Left Likes Is Sometimes Just About The Same Science

One of the worst things about an ignorance of science while holding that science is the very embodiment of all that is good and great and wonderful, the ultimate source of knowledge and progress, is that it leads to uncritical acceptance of anything that gets the label SCIENCE attached to it.  "Science" as a category in the wider society, isn't a methodology invented to increase the chances that what is presented is of enhanced reliability,  it isn't a rigorous practice of controlled and rigorously reviewed research, it is a slogan, a sort of trade mark.

Even among science journalists as good as Chris Mooney can be, the emotional attachment to science can override what they know science requires.  In his case I suspect it isn't unrelated to the ideological involvement he has had with the atheist promotion unit, Center for Inquiry.  Though I do respect some of his work, especially his books, and he has shown he is able to exercise some critical judgement, in other cases that seems to give way as he looks at that word "science" on the label and critical judgement stops*.

But Chris Mooney is certainly far more knowledgeable than most of the sci-ranger scribblers for the online magazines, many of them, also, with a professional attachment to CFI and other Kurtz originated groups, and even some without that. Many of them are engaged primarily in the promotion of their latest celeb-sci-guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson or some other cable TV sci-shows.  Most of those don't share either Mooney's dedication to research or have anywhere near his appreciation of what science is supposed to be and what it is not.  Chris Mooney is, after all, a journalist of the kind who actually does some research, something I'd never accuse most of them of being. Though, as I said, he does have some of the same blind spots his journalistic colleagues do, some of them only have blind spots.

There is an article on Salon by Paul Rosenberg this week, pushing the same pseudo-scientific paper, produced by three political scientists, not even real scientists, that Chris Mooney was promoting a couple of weeks ago.  It insists that there are differences in the brains of "conservatives" that make them different from "liberals" and that those are to an extent, innate, genetic.  I noted some huge problems with that idea, not the least of which is that the definition of what a "conservative" or "liberal" is changes over time and that people change their political identity, quite often.  Attributing political differences to differences in the physical organ, the brain, is entirely in line with materialist ideology, it doesn't match the known reality of what political position is in real life, in the MINDS of real people.

If Mooney and Rosenberg had stated it unfashionably, that there were differences in THE MINDS of liberals and conservatives, they could have avoided the problems with pretending that was a physical difference with biological and even genetic causes brings but they'd have violated the code of materialism that you must always pretend to have reduced a problem to a physical cause.  Of course, the observation that the minds of conservatives and liberals aren't the same is hardly news, it's what constitutes an actual difference that the imaginary act of positioning them on an imaginary line notes. So, no publishable article stating that fact.   In the case of Rosenberg it also would save him from the potentially embarrassing explanation of how he squares what he promotes in this week's article with one he posted TWO DAYS EARLIER!,  Right wing’s worst nightmare: The master stroke that turns red states blue.  Apparently he thinks it's easier to change a state's collective "brain" than it would be to change an individual conservative's brain.  Or something like that.   I'm having a really hard time coming to an understanding of how his "brain" could have produced those two articles within two days.

The thinking of the science scribbling community on this stuff would seem to be rather muddled, though I don't think there is a physiological or genetic explanation for that.   I think their even more ignorant or indifferent editors and publishers don't much care what they write as long as people click on it.  So, it's a purely profit motivated phenomenon, in the end, not different in kind from the pseudo-science that the extraction industries push because the real science of climate change is unprofitable for them, just far less catastrophic in the short and long term.

And there is far worse on even the high end magazines of the alleged and even the real left that shows that it is no less gullible about what science is and what it isn't, what is and isn't science.  Both sides have science it rejects and science it adores, in the case of biological determinism, both sides seem to buy that, though for different reasons.**

*  I've noticed one area, GMO foods, where a suspicious number of people related to CFI and other Paul Kurtz originated groups are really big proponents of GMO and the clear online effort to suppress criticism of it.   It's pretty clear that there is paid trolling of comment threads on that issue and, since there is enormous money to be made by GMO corporations, I believe they are funding the suppression of the criticism.  I believe Chris Mooney has entirely more integrity than to push a position for his own profit but I suspect he has been influenced by the AstroTurf propaganda and coersion.  Though it might just be that he has a blind spot when it comes to genetics as popularly understood these days.

**  My comment on Rosenberg's "brain" article.

This article is an example of how as liable what is identified as "the left" is to buy into pseudo-science as "the right" is.  This is junk science at its worst, beginning by coming up with phony definitions of "things" that aren't really things, two alleged political positions and pretending to use that to create "different brains" and some kind of genetic basis for those.  Since the first "thing" produced by those "genes" isn't really a thing but an intentionally manufactured construct, the "genes" aren't really there.  Neither are the "different brains", even easier to debunk because 1. political positioning isn't fixed in any individuals life but is liable to real and effective change, 2. the definition of what is "conservative" and what is "liberal" changes over time.  Free speech absolutism used to be the reserve of liberals who wanted to overturn laws banning pornography, now it's used by the far right on the Supreme Court and by corporate funded lawyers to overturn the largely liberally adopted campaign finance laws.

This is as totally pseudo-scientific as scientific racism, sharing with it many of the same bad habits of thought, and even more so eugenics, two things that are generally believed today are "conservative" attributes, though plenty of those considered "liberal" and "modernistic" explicitly advocated both scientific racism and eugenics.  Such "liberal" icons as Karl Pearson (who certainly should have known better) George Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence (both early advocates of gassing "biologically inferior people",  H. G. Wells (an enthusiast of racial genocide in the name of progress) and up to today with people like Watson and Crick, both of whom were flagrant eugenicists and scientific racists.

It is really troubling how attaching the label "science" to stuff like this that is such obvious pseudo-science, making reference to genetics and made up scenarios under natural selection, the very basis of eugenics that got millions killed in the last century, sells it to people on the alleged left with the same ease similar junk has been sold to the alleged right.  Only, people who have bought that junk aren't nearly as different as they like to believe they are.  As proven by those two alleged political adversaries, representing the imaginary "right" and "left" ends of the imaginary spectrum during their time, Hitler and Stalin both produced what were among the greatest mass murders in history.  Those bodies are what really determines their political positioning, those are real, the stories and alleged biological differences they depended on were entirely imaginary.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Akua Tuta Kashtin: Your Thursday Afternoon Ear Worm

Akua Tuta (Take Care)
by Kashtin

Be careful what you do
Be careful what you do with
the things that has given to you.

Be careful what you do..
Be careful what you do..
the way you were raised..

Be careful what you do
Be careful what you do.
with the things you protect...
Be careful what you do
Be careful what you do
the things which has helped you.

Take care of our land..
Be careful what you do--
the way you were raised..

Take care of our grandfathers.
Take care of our grandmothers too..
Take care of you children..
And your brothers and
sister's children too..


Kashtin:  Claude McKenzie,  Florent Vollant

Odetta At Noon

On Opening Weber's Essays in Sociology

It was easy for the intellectual con men to con a naive country kid like me in my Freshman year of college.  I was always feeling intimidated by them.  The kind who seemed to have read ever so much more than you had.  The kind who seemed to be so much better read and who could discuss with what you believed was erudition since the teachers seemed to appreciate what you thought was their erudite questioning and discussion.

Today I wonder if I would have kept being impressed and intimidated by them if I hadn't majored in music, something in which you have to actually produce a demonstration of an acceptable level of actual mastery of individual pieces and perform them in a way to communicate their substance.   As one of my teachers pointed out, like a math major, a musician has to show that they can do it.

Only you knew that the reality was that you weren't mastering a piece, you were merely striving to reproduce it according the stated instructions left by the composer.   And this has already gotten out of hand because I'm trying to describe in an abstract manner things that are as incredibly varied as the literature of my instrument which exists in what are hardly precise scores.   Even the most precisely and helpfully notated pieces are open to a wide range of legitimate interpretation*.   In music that situation is made obvious by the need of performance, of presenting pieces, in full, from start to finish and being presented with a continual reminder that your understanding of it is not really the composer's full understanding of it** nor the only understanding of it.  And you will never, ever master the entire repertoire of any single instrument, needless to say, the entire literature.  At best you can become good at playing a range of music often having to come to a knowledge of the differences in expectations of different composers.  Sometimes the details are spelled out better than others,  Couperin's instructions for playing the trill are, presumably, different from Bach's, though Bach wasn't as specific in any document I've seen.  I take what his son and Quantz said as probably or, rather, perhaps, more reliable.   And I am probably basing that on what Ralph Kirkpatrick said on the matter, just to come completely clean.

Adding to that problem, the improvisational aspects of ornamentation in that music only multiplies the ambiguity of reproducing intentions. That was one of the great obsessions of music in my life, to be as accurate as possible in being true to the intentions of the composer, which you had to admit you might be wrong about.

Clearly, I could go on about that longer than you want to read about it.

But what music provided was a confrontation with the fact that an academic career doesn't provide universal mastery, a pretense of which is practically required by stature in academic and intellectual life at its highest reaches.  To achieve the highest stature in academic repute, you have to successfully gull people into believing you have either mastered more than you possibly can or to assume a more pedestrian position as a specialist.  Competition in academic life often means conning the dean into thinking you know what you don't or perhaps intimidating him or her.  It's often a matter of people not admitting that there are no clothes on the emperor or that the clothes have rather large holes in them.  Or that's how it looked to me, one of the reasons I gave up on the idea of teaching at that level.  Often the means of doing that is to skim the subject matter or make rather shady generalizations about what are, in reality, extremely specific and different things and subjecting them to your announced methodology, producing a result.

It is one of the great advantages of science in its more classical period, when science meant, mostly, physics and chemistry that dealt with fairly basic and simple objects and phenomena, that its intellectual claims were able to be held up against physical reality and rather definitely tested.  The enormous success of that kind of science and the practical products of it account for the enormous repute that science earned.   Academics in other areas could only envy their success until they began to pretend that they, in studying their subject matter, could follow the same methods and pretend that the result could be relied on more generally in the area of their study when those almost always included both individual things and situations that are more complex and open to more influences than operate on inanimate objects and within chemical bonding.   Some aspects of some of those other subjects are quite a bit more successful in that application, many aspects of biology, for example.  Quite often the success of biology, though, requires the same comparison of what is claimed by the scientist with physical reality as it can be reliably discerned.   When it can't be, as in so many claims made about natural selection, the success is far less, when not, actually, an illusion.

As I've pointed out before, as full a believer in natural selection as Richard Lewontin has admitted that its invocation is quite often, not only detached from actual comparisons with reality, but that it is impossible to even observe or quantify the claimed phenomena, either today or in the lost past.  It didn't occur to me until I read it again for this piece, that I realized he said what I thought yesterday as I looked at Max Weber again, only he said it in the opposite way.

It is not only in the investigation of human society that the truth is sometimes unavailable.  Natural scientists, in their overweening pride, have come to believe that eventually everything we want to know will be known.  But that is not true.  For some things there is simply not world enough and time.  It may be, given the necessary constraints on time and resources available to the natural sciences, that we will never have more than a rudimentary understanding of the central nervous system.  For other things, especially in biology where so many of the multitude of forces operating are individually so weak, no conceivable technique of observation can measure them.  In evolutionary biology, for example, there is no possibility of measuring the selective forces operating on most genes because those forces are so weak, yet the eventual evolution of the organisms is governed by them.  Worse, there is no way to confirm or reject stories about the selective forces that operated in the past to bring traits to their present state, no matter how strong those forces were. Over and over, in these essays reproduced here, I have tried to give an impression of the limitations on the possibility of our knowledge.  Science is a social activity carried out by a remarkable, but by no means omnipotent species.  Even the Olympians were limited in their powers. 

Dipping into Max Weber after many, many years, I'm struck by how even those things,  he said that I agreed with weren't actually based on reliably generalized "things".  In fact, a number of the "things" he talks about aren't reliably things but ideas about things that have a good chance of being entirely the product of Weber's or Kant's or someones imagination***.  Weber's generalizations are exactly the kinds that the allegedly scientific treatment of history and societies and politics require be done, pretend that those things are reducible to things like inanimate objects moved by physical forces and rather simple molecules and atoms, or rather the bonding of them into larger molecules and the breaking apart of those.  Whatever good comes from pretending that people, the fluctuations of their interactions with other people and their environment and in documented history are subject to methods invented to come up with reliable observations of inert objects, a lot of relevant information, relevant both on a larger and an individual scale, is simply pretended to not be there and relevant to the truth.   Yet Webers' greatest claim to fame, sociology, is based on making those kinds of pretenses in some of the grossest forms that have attained academic respectability and legal and political power.  In other social sciences those pretenses of reliable knowledge extend into the remote and undocumented past, sometimes based on the slightest of physical evidence filled in with, often ideological, conjecture.

The pretense that what these people are doing is anything like classical physics and chemistry is ubiquitous in academic life.  It is most potentially dangerous when it is given political and legal power, to actually effect lives, especially in the ability of those with that power to be merely following fashions and avoiding unpleasantness and difficulty in their work life.

In the end, I'm left to think that people today are far more likely to like what Max Weber said because he said things they liked.  Or, more often, that they know they're supposed to like what he said, often based on nothing more solid than that they were taught they were supposed to like it.  I would bet that most of the invocations of Weber are by those who have read little to nothing of him, though they probably know a few of the aphoristic slogans from him as well as that he is the great hero of modernism, and they know that they are supposed to like modernism and that not being modernistic is the road to disrepute and rejection. The extent to which academic reputability and, even more so, journalistic reputability is based on that kind of stuff that people should have seen through by their Sophomore year should be considered more.

To which I can't resist adding:

*  The limits are often determined by nothing more reliable than the popular acceptance of what's produced, which can often rely on nothing more than the good looks of a performer, their ability to produce a ringing high note or on someone else saying they liked or disliked their performance.

**  A composer's understanding of even their own music isn't a fixed and set thing.  And a composer is often not entirely aware of "what they did".  There's a story that Bartok was talking to a graduate student who pointed out that he'd composed a piece in conformity with some mathematical structure.  The story I was told is Bartok said,  "I did"?   My skepticism of theory, in general, is probably based in my disillusionment with the teaching of music theory as opposed to teaching the practice of musical practice.   It's a difference between an apprenticeship model and one of producing words about music.  Apprenticeship is more appropriate for a lot of fields, though it isn't as reputable in academic terms.

*** A lot of reputability in this stuff, it seems to me, is based in the successful pretense that you've succeeded in dealing with some of the most varied and complex of realities by abstracting a few ideas about them and plugging them into or putting them together into an edifice reproducing your chosen philosophical ideology.  I think it's a bit ironic, today, that Weber's is derived from Kant but I've got to get to work.  None of this is especially important in retail, the fate of those who reject the academic game.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Pastoral Letter on Child Refugees from the National Leaders of the United Church of Christ

An Open Letter on Child Refugees

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Council of Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ and the Collegium of Officers offer this open letter to the church in response to the flood of child refugees coming to the United States from Central America. We write it in solidarity with our sister churches in the Southern California/Nevada Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the South Central Conference whose boundaries are coterminous with our neighbors to the South.

We have all been watching over the last weeks child refugees by the tens of thousands risk life and limb to flee violence and poverty in their homeland, hoping to find safety in America. The story of this land being rich with possibility can be heard even by children in far away lands. It is the same story that we heard with pride when we were children. It stirs their hearts, as it did ours, and compels them to leave everything behind except for the hope that it might be true.

It is fast becoming apparent, however, that the collective will to care for these children is far below whatever expectations they might have had. For them, the story that fostered such hope is met with profound disappointment as once in the US they are being detained, disgraced, and deported – treated more like criminals, terrorists, and threats than children, refugees, and victims of unspeakable horror.

As leaders in this denomination, we stand in solidarity with the children who seek refuge here. Our churches are fast becoming part of a network built to respond to these overwhelming needs. We cannot meet these needs alone. We are seeking to forge partnerships with those who are just as moved by the courage and suffering of these children, and who wish to extend to them love, comfort, and justice.

Deeply aware not just of our own immigrant stories and roots, but also of the clear biblical imperative to care for the stranger in our midst, we invite all settings and all leaders of the United Church of Christ to respond in any of the following ways:

• Pray for the children who seek refuge across our southern border, and see in them the face of Christ;
• Support with your donations organizations that house, clothe, feed, educate, and provide medical care to the refugee children;
• Write to your elected Representatives and share with them your concern for these children, asking them not to see them as a threat to us or as criminals;
• Stay alert to emerging opportunities to respond to the needs of the refugee children. One good source can be found here on the UCC website.
• Prayerfully consider sermons, newsletter articles, adult and youth classes that articulate a narrative of care for the stranger and alien among us.

The United Church of Christ has a long and proud history of demonstrating courage in the struggle for justice and peace. Now, as ever, our resolve is being tested. It is with a good deal of hope and courage that we face this injustice. Let the actions forged by our compassion silence the voices of hatred and fear that ring right now in the ears of these precious children of God. Let them know we are Christians by our love.

We are one with you in Christ.


The United Church of Christ Collegium of Officers and the Council of Conference Ministers

The Great Martha And The Vandellas: You've Been In Love Too Long: Your Wednesday Afternoon Ear Wrom

And this is one rare case when the cover was pretty good too.

Pre-post update:  Got sent home so I won't cough on the customers anymore.   I'll post this, take a pill to knock myself out with and go to bed.

John Coltrane At Noon

The notes say that this is the only surviving footage of the one time that John Coltrane performed his great meditation, A Love Supreme, in a public concert.

Here he is with a septet including Theolius Monk playing Abide With Me

And for no reason other than I just thought of it,  Carl Ruggle's one and only extant hymn tune, Exaltation, sung with the words to O God Our Help In Ages Past, as he suggested.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bela Bartok

Joyce Yang Joseph Kalichstein Pianos
Markus Rhoten Timpany Steven Schick Percussion

Listening to this again right now, I'm struck that Steven Schick played the xylophone more subtly than in any other performance of this I've heard. I love being able to watch all of them play.  Really virtuoso playing for all of them. 

Jimmy Webb At Noon

Somewhere Jimmy Webb said, Well, I didn't want it to be about a rich guy!  I wanted it to be about an ordinary fellow. Billy Joel came pretty close one time when he said 'Wichita Lineman' is 'a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.' That got to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I had never really told anybody how close to the truth that was... you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what's going on inside him, but you don't. You can't assume that just because someone's in a menial job that they don't have dreams ... or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like 'I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.' You can't assume that a man isn't a poet. And that's really what the song is about.".  

Far as I'm concerned, seeing people as something other than objects of utility is what real religion is all about.   Here it is simple and extraordinary.

From his album Ten Easy Pieces.

Update:  Make that " as someONE other than objects of utility is what real religion is all about."   Bad habits of speech die hard.

Modernism As The Great Savior Is Total Crap Blessed By Academia

Salon magazine has a piece by Stephen Eric Bronner, in praise of modernism as the great bulwark against bigotry.   The piece, presenting modernism, claimed to be the descendent of "the enlightenment," is big on broad brushed generalities and short on specifics.  Typical of the generic praise of modernism,  Bronner paints with the broadest of brushes, in this essay, taken from a book, he depends on Max Weber, not on primary sources of information.   Reading his piece I couldn't help but think that his view of modernism has a lot in common with the kind of color field abstraction in which nothing is represented but you have some kind of emotional response, or are supposed to, or, among the enlightened, modernists, know that you are supposed to have a reaction and - informed by critics of a kind not unlike Max Weber - what that reaction is supposed to be.  Much as I like Mark Rothko, talking honesty about his work requires admitting that it makes no reference to real life and carries nothing back to it that increases an understanding of it.  You can't figure out what modernism's place in the world really is without going into the details of what the modernists said and did, in full detail.

Here is what I said about his piece at Salon, with some additions.  Long time readers will notice it recapitulates things I've written about, things I've researched through primary sources, of what some of the greatest heroes of modernism have, themselves said, instead of the secondary and often ideological sources said they said.

So many of the heroes of modernism have been bigots, many of them publicly, many of them in the very books in which their claim to moderny fame rests, Bronners theory depends on pretending that isn't the case.   Having studied the history of eugenics, the establishment of racism and class bigotry as science, on its massive acceptance by the most modern people of the late 19th and 20th century, persisting today and popularized in evolutionary psychology, pushed by the folks among us who consider themselves the most "modern" of people, Bronner's idea is half-baked, at best.   You have to go back and read the primary documents, written by those heroes of modernism, themselves, to discover that racism and bigotry was intrinsic to their "modern" scientific bigotry, you won't get that from the secondary crap that was written to cover up that fact.

The enlightenment didn't end slavery, many of its great figures kept slaves.
As much as modern, fashionable atheists hate the fact, slavery was ended largely at the behest of people arguing on the basis of the religious demand for justice. That's also something you can learn from reading what the abolitionists said instead of the secondary and tertiary sources that twist that to serve their ideology.

It's also telling how many of the heroes of modern literature, especially in the first half of the 20th century either flirted with or were enthusiastic for fascism and even Nazism.  Gertrude Stein, as moderny as they get, was enthusiastic about Hitler and she actively promoted and produced pro-Vichy propaganda for sale to the American market.   Stein, like many of her fellow modernists, was a rather flaming bigot, herself.  The list given by Barbara Will in her article on Gertrude Stein's fascism is rather conclusive on that point

Why were so many prominent modernist writers and philosophers attracted to fascist or authoritarian regimes in the first half of the twentieth century? A list of those who were not—Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, and Robert Musil—pales in comparison to a list of those who were—Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Knut Hamsun, Paul de Man, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Filippo Marinetti, Martin Heidegger, Robert Brasillach, and a host of others. 

Adding to those,  Gabriele D'Annunzio was hailed by no less an authority than Mussolini as the "John the Baptist" of fascism.  And  I'd mention Gerhart Hauptmann, and could name many others if I weren't pressed for time.   In an interview published in Perspectives on New Music, the great pianist and associate of Arnold Schoenberg, Eduard Steuermann, talked about how some guy campaigned with him to get an introduction to Schoenberg because he was so eager to study counterpoint with him while, at the same time, being a dedicated Nazi.  He called that kind of thing "Viennese double counterpoint".  In so far as the attachment of modernism to notably brutal, oppressive dictatorships*, scientific theories of racism and bigotry, while at the same time expressing full faith in science and "the enlightenment" such stuff is endemic to modernism.  Sometimes, as in the faithfulness of Ezra Pound's friends after and even during his disgraceful promotion of fascism, it was based in nothing higher than personal and professional attachment.

I agree with the great radical painter, Jack Levine. "It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."  It also leads to this kind of B.S. published by major university publishing houses.  Jack Levine was something of an unfashionable painter because he didn't abandon depiction of people, his art was entirely up to date and provided information about the real world of politics, society, arts, morals and a savage critique on religious as well as all other forms of corruption and hypocrisy.  One of his later paintings shows two women sitting in a cafe.  To me it is a perfect image of the entire business of social commentary as practiced by social critics and its place in the world.

Science, modern theories (modernism just adores theory, placing its study over that of reality) of everything are engaged in the business of destroying the planet we live on.  The resurgence of scientific racism, something that never went away, is presented as being a flower of modernism, its mouthing is one of the more up-to-date and modern things the media does.  The entire attitude of the modern is bound up in thinking and acting as superficial as any other identified movement of culture as dreamed up by university based scribblers.  It shares in the same human weaknesses as any religion or political theory, racism, sexism, ethnic and race bigotry.  It is especially prone to lapsing into those because, lacking any sense of moral absolutes, it has nothing in it to act as a break on those.  Its short-lived rejection of that was based in old-fashioned, unmodernistic horror at the products of modernism in the 20th century, the scientific mass murder in Europe and, to a far lesser extent, elsewhere in the world, the horrific wars made possible by the products of the enlightenment, science, social organization, record keeping, the enormous wealth extracted through technology, etc.  As the anti-political correctness stand - based in that most moderny of all slogans, "free speech" - proves, any correction of modernism of that sort is easily overturned by fashion and the "more speech" found to be profitable by corporations.  Corporations, themselves, are a product of modernism.

No, modernism, unsentimental, cold, calculating, measuring modernism, stripped of its inconvenient history isn't going to save us.  I'll put my bets on that most unmoderny thing of all, the Jewish prophetic tradition to do that.

* In light of what I said yesterday, I'll add the modernist enthusiasts for Marxist regimes, who conducted some of the most nearly successful genocides in history.

Update:  From the comments at Salon

GeekMommaRants 23 hours ago
At some point bigotry is some special faith one has with their own in-group.  This faith works the way religion does.

Anthony_McCarthy just now
@GeekMommaRants You do understand that your assertion about religion is a bigoted example of special faith in the holding of your in-group.  Or don't you? Edit (in 5 minutes)


LARMARCH5 21 hours ago
Archie Bunker

Family man

Union member

Knew his, and everyone else's, place

Concerned with maintaining hierarchy and tradition

Suspicious of education

Justified in his beliefs

Threatened by anyone different

Fear transposed into anger


Anthony_McCarthy 3 minutes ago

Archie Bunker

A totally fictitious person invented to assert a stereotype of white blue-collar working class people for the entertainment [and smug self-satisfaction] of other people.

Edit (in 2 minutes)


Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm Just Wild About James Markey

A while back I posted a trombone duet played by Michael Davis and James Markey.  Since listening more to James Markey I have to say he may be the best trombone player I've ever heard.   It was sad when the great Douglas Yeo retired from the Boston Symphony because he is such a good musician.  Though it is kind of pointless making comparisons of musicians who play at that highest level, Markey is a spectacular addition to that brass section.

Here he is playing

Henri Dutilleux 

Choral, Cadence et Fugato from a masterclass with Christian Lindberg.  He was 17, already pretty great back then.

Here's a piece he played a little while back which has some of the best brass playing I've ever heard.

Capriccio by Steven Verhelst 

If I were a composer I'd be writing something to send to him, praying he would be interested in it.

Here's a Youtube where he talks about playing the trombone and music, in general and his musical history and how he took up knitting and why a musician might make a good knitter (I don't knit, just for the record, or crochet or do tatting, though I can sew on a patch pretty well).   I especially like how he points out the practical usefulness of a musician being able to play the organ, professionally at a young age.  Which is one of the things I wish I'd done when I was a kid and which I suggest to young keyboard players.

And here he is playing

J. S. Bach 

Sarabande Second Cello Suite

You can hear him on this CD, playing the Verhelst piece, which I have ordered within the past hour and this one, which I'll order as soon as I can find it.  He may be the best trombone player I've ever heard and I'm a bit of a trombone fan.

They're saying we're due for some bad thunderstorms tonight, so I'll post this a bit early.

Leon Russell: Tight Rope: Your Monday Afternoon Ear Worm

I haven't played a Leon Russell record in so long that it's going to have to literally be the record, Carney, if I can get my 18-year-old post-hipster niece to let me use her turntable.   Don't know why it's been so long, I really like his music.

She's good with it, I've been playing music for her since she was an infant, "Off Minor" was once her favorite piece.  Now she's past her angry teenager music phase, we listen to a lot of the same things.  I almost fainted when she came home with a Sun Ra disc she paid more than thirty dollars for.  "It's a limited edition," she said.  Ah, to be young with disposable income.

The notes say that the song was written by Stan Kenton.  That Stan Kenton?

You have my promise I will only try to implant songs I like and respect in this series.

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet At Noon

You Can't Save Democracy Without Breaking A Few Sacred Cows So I'll Break Some More

Now that the mixed metaphor is out of the way, apparently someone is upset that I compared sacred  Marxism with the far right the other day.

The easiest way to make my point is by saying my moment of revelation came the second I realized that any of the millions of people murdered by Stalin were as murdered as any of the people murdered by Hitler.  And the same was true of those murdered by Mao and those murdered by any of the myriad fascist regimes supported by the United States during the 1950s and 60s.  That the brutal, murdering puppet governments set up in the Eastern European countries under the banner of Marxism were as much violent occupation governments as the Central American or Iranian corporate-fascist dictatorships set up under the CIA.  In short, I'd broken through the damnably amoral and so immoral, not to mention entirely absurd, identification of alleged political positioning based on abstract economic theory as expounded in universities and learned texts and looked at the mountains of bodies of real people really murdered as if they were who really mattered.

The real measure of a governments worthiness of existing or being overturned and replaced is their propensity to prevent instead of produce murder victims.  The dead of Lenin, Stalin Mao, ... and even up to the merely relatively less bad Castro stared me straight in the eye as horrifyingly as those of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, the fascist dictatorships supported by the United States, Britain, France, etc.

And with that came the insight that different systems of economics were only important the extent to which they produced economic justice because the distribution of wealth is also a means by which governments and societies and, increasingly under the regime of corporate fascism developing here, corporate fiefdoms, kill and enslave people for the benefits of elites.  It is the difference between them killing and enslaving people or The People instituting the forms of everyday justice when life isn't in immediate crisis.   And history proves that it is only government of The people, by The People and for The People which will produce justice in anything like an equal distribution, just as it proves that the proposed alternative of Marxism will not.  Marxism will not because it, as an atheistic system, lacks sufficient belief in or respect for the moral imperatives that underlie even the concept of justice.   Any system, atheistic or non-atheistic that denies or ignores those moral imperatives will never produce a just society, those neither believe in nor produce equal justice, legal and economic,  which is the only thing that holds together a society in peace sufficient to get the body count down.

Those insights were bound to have an effect, first and foremost in looking, hard, at the political positions I'd taken for almost all of my adult life.  Though the nuclear standoff and the truly awful things that the corporate American state under the elite that ran it also informed those, the body counts amassed by"leftist" rule should have shown me that they were nothing to believe in, either.   Ignoring that made me as complicit in those deaths as any fascist is.  And I won't be that, not any more. Not even for all of those colorful, legendary, lovable lefties we are all supposed to love as we all ignore those corpses together.


In the United States, today, I see an increasing descent into fascism, largely by means of Supreme Court rulings that purposely increase the paranoia of the beleaguered white underclass which the Supreme Court is purposely arming to the teeth.  As I have often pointed out to my fellow would-be leftists, those arsenals aren't being amassed without thought of using them against people, us, to be exact.  In that the Roberts and the Rehnquist courts are recapitulating the old pattern of the oligarchic elite, playing one part of the underclass of against another part of it, most typically along racial lines, first, but also along class lines.  The traditional white underclass who are their pawns make the irrational calculation that they will benefit more from not fighting the oligarchs but hope for a bigger share of what they leave to be struggled over among the lower classes.  White men, in particular, are the pawns of the oligarchs, instructed by hate-talk radio and cabloid TV in who to hate and how and to buy more guns and ammo, under the "free speech-free press" permission given to them by the Supreme Courts and the Ivy law school elites who have made that the most effective tool in setting up this scenario.

I am becoming more convinced that the Roberts court may, actually, be the worst court in our history.   Some believe that the horrible Taney court that produced the truly evil Dred Scott decision was afraid of initiating a civil war, though I think it was unlikely they would have abolished slavery even if that wouldn't be a necessary hell to pass through for the slave power to be defeated.  Today's court, with that historical example is creating the conditions that not only risk a far more horrific civil war, not one largely restricted to fighting by standing armies but by general insurrection in the civilian population, with modern, automatic weapons and explosives.   The perfumed men and woman - Sandra Day O'Connor - who have produced this danger are some of the most dangerous people ever to hold office in our government, in the entirely undemocratic Supreme Court appointed, not elected, confirmed by the least democratic part of our government, the Senate. I think the logic of the greatest danger to democracy arising from that least democratic of bodies, staffed with lawyers trained at the training schools of the elite, the Ivies, is clear.   That several of them belong to a fascist cult, nominally Catholic, but which is far more in line with some kind of anti-Christ philosophy than the teachings of Jesus, is pretty much a distraction from where the real danger lies*,

And in that effort they have had no greater assistance than from those pseudo-leftists who handed them the cult of the First Amendment, free speech absolutism without regard for the truth, free press without the absolute requirement that it doesn't lie and that it serve The People in their need for accurate information instead of racist propaganda with incitement to kill.  I don't believe that either the corporate, mass media and its champions in the free speech industry or the right wing that has adopted the slogans originated by them to destroy effective self-government by an informed electorate has any real belief in democracy, equality and the moral obligation to keep and protect it.   They are worshipers of Mammon and those things don't come from that god, the patron of wealth and power and the blessing of its concentration.   When the disaster comes, it will come from that direction, which is the equivalent in the American vernacular, which is the exact same thing that produces other forms in other societies with other languages and traditions and habits of expression.  If we are going to prevent it, we have to destroy those idols and they are deeply embedded in contemporary thought as deeply as the fashionable slogans of "free press", "free speech" and "the Second Amendment".   That realization that the first two were, for the ineffective substitute "left" that has brought us to complete impotence, the equivalent of the latter for those they have enabled was also an eye-opener for me.

*  I think that the Supreme Court members are about as influenced by the Catholic Church as the Papal Knight of St. Gregory, the pornographer and promoter of fascism and violence, Rupert Murdoch is.   The most rational explanation of their religion is that it is window dressing for the rubes as they all bow low to Mammon.