Tuesday, April 30, 2002
I'm a little behind in weblog reading so I'm just now getting around to the Real Joe response to my earlier comments on defining womanhood. Griff writes:

My hunch at the time I wrote that was that it probably wasn't physical objects like makeup, shoes, purse, etc. that women use to partially define their womanhood. "What in life" leaves it open.

Giving some thought to internal qualities that might define womanhood I did come up with a few that most women would probably be willing to admit to - practicality, intuition, people skills. Most women I know would say that, in general, women have these qualities in greater measure than do men, therefore I suppose it would be fair to say that womanhood is partially defined by practicality, intuition and people skills.

This exchange started with a commentary on pit bulls and the people (not necessarily men) who own them. I would guess that most pit bulls and other large agressive dogs are owned by men. By contrast, women tend to prefer cats and cute, docile lap dogs. So I guess I will have to conceed Griff's point. (Letting guys win is one of those people skills I was talking about)

Another fun link found at Doc Searls weblog - a test to determine "What Blogging Archetype are you most like?" The test consists of five multiple choice questions and, as is usually the case with multiple choice personality quizzes, either none of the choices come even close to fitting me or more than one fits. Well, I did my best to pick the answers that were as close as possible to the real me and came up with the same archetype as Doc - David Weinberger. I like to think of myself as an original. As soon as I am "discovered" I'm certain that I will be one of the archetypes. But I visited David's blog and, as long as I'm still a nobody, I guess I don't mind having my blog compared to his....or to Doc's.

Transporter of the Mind

In this New York Times article George Packer writes:

The globalization of the media was supposed to knit the world together. The more information we receive about one another, the thinking went, the more international understanding will prevail. An injustice in Thailand will be instantly known and ultimately remedied by people in London or San Francisco. …

But this technological togetherness has not created the human bonds that were promised. In some ways, global satellite TV and Internet access have actually made the world a less understanding, less tolerant place. What the media provide is superficial familiarity -- images without context, indignation without remedy.

Since he only mentioned the Internet once in passing, I would guess that he just threw it in so everyone will know that he’s up to date on the latest technology, but his throwing it together with TV is more evidence that there are a great many people out there who just don’t get the Internet.

Oh, everyone knows that the Internet is interactive, mainly because they’ve heard the word “interactive” thrown around so much, but their brains are still in passive mode. The concept of Global Community is beyond them. Furthermore, they dismiss those of us who do get it with learned sounding nonsense suggesting that the reason we spend so much time online is because we are mental defectives, unable to deal with the “real world.”

Well, I’ve got news for you! The Internet is the real world – all of it at once. We don’t have to wait for Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings to tell us what’s going on on the other side of the planet. We can be there and get it first hand. Last year while TV news in the U.S. hardly even bothered to mention that Australia was having a serious problem with grass fires I was talking to individuals there whose homes were being threatened. Last week I first heard news of the violence in Gujarat, India not from TV but, once again, from the Internet.

But, so what? You could just say that the Internet delivers news faster and that it delivers the news from many different viewpoints. But that still doesn’t quite explain what the Internet is all about. The Interent is the world – the real world – delivered to a magic box right in your own home. It has been said that TV does this. It does not. TV only shows us carefully selected slices of the world. The Internet doesn’t just show us the world; it brings the world to us and us to the world. It is real. Don’t speak of the “real world” as if the Internet is somehow “unreal.” Think of it as a device like the “transporters” on Star Trek, except that it can only transport our minds, not our physical bodies.

There is a problem with the Internet, but it is a problem that can be fixed. The problem is that only a small percentage of the world is connected. I frequently talk to people in Canada, England, and Australia. I’ve even talked to two people in Israel. Only two. I’ve never talked to anyone in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and many many other Asian and African countries. The governments of many countries do not want their people to be connected. Many more countries are just too poor.

I would like to see the entire world connected. I have no illusions that this would bring international understanding. There would be flame wars in cyberspace not instead of but in addition to real wars. But what if, instead of hearing on TV or reading in the newspaper “how the enemy thinks,” we could talk to the enemy themselves, one individual at a time, and find out directly from those individuals how they think? Would it change anything? Not immediately, but it seems like a good first step.

John of the Rats Nest called my attention to this painting, Young Lady in a Boat by Tissot. The expression on her face makes me wonder what she is thinking. I searched for more paintings by Tissot and found this charming scene, Hide and Seek. I wish this one was a larger image.

Monday, April 29, 2002
Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who is almost as well known for his sharp wit as for his conducting, was born on today's date in 1879. Below are a few of my favorite Beecham quotes. (Please note: these quotes have been repeated and mis-repeated many times. Here they are as I have most often read them but I cannot guarantee their authenticity.)

The English do not like music but love the noise it makes.

A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it.

Asked if he had ever played any Stockhausen: No but I have trodden in some.

Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors and several miles away.

About the harpsichord:It sounds like two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a hailstorm.

To a woman cellist: You have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands and all you can do is scratch it.

There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn't give a damn what goes on in between.

Sunday, April 28, 2002
Why are WE the only ones who have to be "culturally sensitive."

The World Wide Rant had a link to this CNN article. Here's an excerpt:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah requested that no women air traffic controllers direct his flight on his way to visit President Bush at his Texas ranch earlier this week, according to regional and national aviation officials.

A Saudi official and a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration denied such a formal request was made, but another FAA official and an air traffic controllers' union leader said the request was conveyed to one airport and three FAA facilities.


"Obviously our controllers are very upset -- not just the females," said Mark Pallone, regional vice president for the National Air Traffic Controllers' Association. "The males are upset, too, as are we. The union's upset too.

"It's ridiculous the request made it that far. It should have been stopped in the beginning and never made to the facilities."

Texas State Technical College airport complied with the request, guiding Abdullah's aircraft Thursday to a private airport in Waco, Texas, near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Pallone said.

This sort of thing really sets me off. Why do we cooperate with these misogynist bastards? Okay, I know why but I think it's past time we say "Enough!" When we go to their country they expect us to respect their ridiculously outdated customs. Why should we not insist that they respect OUR customs when they visit us?

And what has happened to all of the feminists? Not that I ever had much respect for feminists. All these years they've been whining about men being men here in the U.S. where women have it better than anywhere else in the world, while women are treated worse than livestock in many countries. Sure, there are feeble protests but it's never enough to make any difference. American feminists are good at giving lip-service to women's equality everywhere in the world but lip-service is as far as it goes.

Last fall I received the following in an email. It was meant to be humorous but....

Take all American women who are within five years of menopause - train for a few weeks, outfit us with automatic weapons, grenades, gas masks, moisturizer with SPF15, Prozac, hormones, chocolate, and canned tuna - drop us (parachuted, preferably) across the landscape of Afghanistan, and let us do what comes naturally.

Think about it. Our anger quotient alone, even when doing standard stuff like grocery shopping and paying bills, is formidable enough to make even armed men in turbans tremble.

We've had our children; we would gladly suffer or die to protect them and their future. We'd like to get away from our husbands, if they haven't left already. And for those of us who are single, the prospect of finding a
good man with whom to share life is about as likely as being struck by lightning.We have nothing to lose.

We've survived the water diet, the protein diet, the carbohydrate diet, and the grapefruit diet in gyms and saunas across America and never lost a pound. We can easily survive months in the hostile terrain of Afghanistan with no food at all!

We've spent years tracking down our husbands or lovers in bars, hardware stores, or sporting events...finding bin Laden in some cave will be no problem.

Uniting all the warring tribes of Afghanistan in a new government? Oh, please... we've planned the seating arrangements for in-laws and extended families at Thanksgiving dinners for years ... we understand tribal warfare.

Between us, we've divorced enough husbands to know every trick there is for how they hide, launder, or cover up bank accounts and money sources. We know how to find that money and we know how to seize it ... with or without the government's help!

Let us go and fight. The Taliban hates women. Imagine their terror as we crawl like ants with hot flashes over their godforsaken terrain.

I'm going to write my Congresswoman. You should, too!
* * *

This idea could be adapted for Saudi Arabia or any other backward culture that needs a lesson on women's real place in society. I'm just a little younger than the author had in mind but I can work up a good deal of anger. Where do I sign up?

Saturday, April 27, 2002
Technical pet peeve for today - I hate it when I'm trying to send an email in Outlook Express and after waiting for several minutes I get this little pop-up telling me there's a problem and asking me if I want to wait another 60 seconds. Experience tells me that waiting another 60 seconds never makes any difference so I give up for the time being and log out. Then I get another pop-up telling me I have unsent mail in my outbox and asking if I would like to send it now. YES I KNOW I HAVE UNSENT MAIL IN MY OUTBOX YOU SORRY #*@$!#& PIECE OF $!@! I JUST TRIED TO SEND IT LESS THAN A MINUTE AGO! SHEESH!

Friday, April 26, 2002
A HUGE thank you to Griff of Real Joe for pointing out an error in my template. Until tonight I had no idea that the email link in the left hand column did not go to my email. I know just enough about computers to impress people who don't know anything at all, and just daring enough to mess things up or embarrass myself. I think I have the email link fixed now so I will be expecting a flood of mail in the next few hours. ;-)

Real Jane?

Real Joe, commenting on Jacquelyn Mitchard’s column on vicious dogs and her follow-up on the reaction to that column, suggested that she “write a column about what in life women use to partially define their womanhood that would upset them if a man suggested that they do without.” Well, I’m not Jacuelyn Mitchard but I thought it was a good idea so I decided I would give it a try. Unfortunately, after thinking about it for a few hours and considering a number of uniquely female things, I’m still having trouble coming up with anything that means the same to women as bad dogs and muscle cars seem to mean to men.

Starting at the top, there’s make-up. We’re told that we do this to be attractive to men. I’m not so sure. It seems to me that we do it more to measure up to other women. Would we give it up if asked. I’m not all that fond of make-up myself and only wear it when I get “dressed-up” but most women probably wouldn’t. I have read stories of Afghan women who risked beatings and worse rather than give up wearing nail polish. But does make-up “define womanhood”? The notion seems kind of silly.

Next item to consider: carrying a purse. Frankly, I would gladly give up carrying a purse if I didn’t have so much stuff to carry around everywhere I go, even without carrying make-up around. Women’s wallets are always fatter than men’s. They’re just made that way. Most of them have a change compartment and more space for pictures than men’s wallets have. A small hairbrush, or at least a comb is essential. A pen and small notepad is always good to have. There are a number of items that moms have to have at all times. And of course there are those other, unmentionable, items that we sometimes need to keep handy. So, no we probably would not give up our purses but that’s only because we wouldn’t know what else to do with all this junk.

Shoes. Ah…here we go. We women are infamous for our shoe fetishes. Gotta have a pair for each outfit and sometimes we just happen to see a pair that are so darn cute we just can’t live without them. Well…that’s the rep we have anyhow. Doing a quick mental tally, I’m a little surprised to realize that I own eight pairs of shoes, including the well-worn and no longer fit to be seen in public pair of L.L Bean “bluchers” that I’ve had for about 10 years and now use for puttering around the yard. Oh wait…do waterproof winter boots count? That would make it nine pair. I didn’t think I had that many. The last time I bought a pair of shoes was almost a year ago. And the last time before that was more than 5 years. Yes, it’s the truth, I swear! I normally buy fairly expensive shoes so they last and look good for years. It’s not that shoes don’t tempt me. It’s just that I have other, more compelling addictions, foremost amoung them being CDs. Whenever I look at a pair of shoes I can’t help thinking how many CDs I could buy for the same price and suddenly they don’t look so attractive anymore.

But I’ve started rambling and I still haven’t really answered the question: What do we women use to partially define our womanhood, that we would be upset if a man suggested that we do without? Well, personally, I would be upset whatever a man suggested I do without. I mean, who does he think he is telling me not to wear makeup or that I don’t need another pair of shoes? I suppose you could say that these uniquely feminine things that we would hate to give up “define” our womanhood but I don’t see it that way.

The need to define oneself seems to be a uniquely male characteristic which men extend to females as well. I recall a mildly entertaining flame war on the Yahoo messge boards a couple of years ago that started when a guy posted a message saying that women should not drive trucks because it’s unfeminine. Interestingly, not a single woman agreed with him. If we defined womanhood by external things wouldn’t women agree that it is more feminine to drive either mini-vans or some kind of cute, feminine car?

I’m having trouble coming to a conclusion, probably because I don’t have one other than: Men and women are different and we will never completely understand each other. But isn’t that what makes life fun? Besides, getting back to the column that started all this, I didn’t think that Jacquelyn Mitchard’s main point had much to do with male vs. female. She wrote: “Though I'm no psychologist, I'd wager that people who have them identify with their dogs, just as people who drive Corvettes identify with their cars. The dogs may make up for something the owner feels he or she is lacking - perhaps power.” Note the "he or she." The violently negative reaction to the column (2300 emails) just seems to prove her point.

What a Way to Go!

Norman LeBrecht bashes Chopin's Funeral March. Personally, I don't hate the piece. I think it's a morbidly cute little tune, and that's exactly why I have to agree that it's the last thing I would want to hear at an actual funeral. People mourning the loss of a loved one do not need to hear something that is morbid to the point of being Halloweenish. Music that is sad, yet at the same time comforting and uplifting is more appropriate. I have doubts about some of LeBrecht's suggestions of contemporary music. Music for mourning should be comfortingly familiar, not necessarly something that everyone has heard before, like Barber's Adagio, but whether new or old it should have a timeless spirituality.

Thursday, April 25, 2002
"How can music ever be a mere intellectual speculation or a series of curious combinations of sound that can be classified like the articles of a grocer's shop? Music is an outburst of the soul." --Delius

This familiar scene caught my eye today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Clearing Out Closets

I am one of those people whose closets must be opened with extreme caution, like those you see on sitcoms where someone opens the door and ends up buried under the truckload of junk that comes tumbling out. Every year or so I make a feeble effort to clean them out but when I find things I haven't seen for years my reaction is not the logical one of reasoning that since I haven't seen it for years I obviously don't need it. Instead I feel like I have found buried treasure.

I am just as much of a pack-rat with my "cyber-closets." I have emails that are over four years old. I go through my email accounts a few times a year determined to do a massive deletion. But of course I have to look at every single email just to make sure I'm not deleting something I need. I always find emails from people I haven't heard from for a while. Their emails are all I have of these good friends who have moved on. I must keep every single one of them.

Blogging has given me one more overflowing closet. But this is a bigger problem because the items in this closet are not put away for months and forgotten about. Whenever I visit Blogger I check out the Most Recently Updated Blogs and the Blogs of Note and bookmark anything that looks interesting. And I try to visit every single one of them at least several times a week, and many of them every day. It's getting so that I don't have time for anything else. Even just skiming through them all without clicking on links takes around an hour. I have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that I must give up some of them.

The first I consider giving up is Because I Say So! because it's one of those blogs that isn't really about anything. But, the lady who writes this blog is a very good writer. She makes the ordinary interesting and her "tender bitchiness" is pleasantly familiar. Gotta keep this one.

The Suburban Limbo is another one that isn't about anything in particular but I can't give up this one either. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm jealous of all the attention it's getting and I keep reading to see if I can learn RG's secret. Anyway, it's another keeper.

Next up is Hydragenic. I don't read this one as often as I did at first but still...it's a pretty good blog. Maybe I'll wait before making any hasty decisions. Hydragenic stays for now.

Letter From Gotham is another one that I haven't been reading as much lately, but it is a good warblog. It would be a shame to give it up. I should try to visit this one more often.

The End of Free - Depressing. Even the title is depressing. However, this might be useful information. Keep.

There are a couple of blogs that I bookmarked fairly recently, Art Notes and Brainduster, when they appeared in the Recently Updated list, then there was nothing new for over a week. I decided that if they weren't updated soon I would drop them but they have both been updated in the past 2 days and they look interesting so I'll keep these two for a while.

Now here's one that I think I might be able to live without. Eddie's Head. I clicked on it and bookmarked without really looking at it because it's an art blog. But this really isn't my kind of art. (besides...this URL will be easy enough to remember in case I change my mind)

So...I have managed to give up (maybe) one blog on my list. There are several times that many in my bookmarks that I would never even consider giving up. (I really need to add a list of permanent links to those but I haven't figured out how to do that yet) Whew! I'm sure glad that chore is over! I hate cleaning closets.

Have I posted a link to this site before? If so here it is again. Drag your mouse over the image. It's strangely addictive but don't get stuck on this one page. There are many more fascinating pictures so, as it says, follow the path. For those who appreciate good poetry do yourself a favor and don't read the text; just look at the pictures.

Besides the "poetry" I have one more complaint about the site. I hate sites where right clicking is disabled. Hey folks, not everyone who right clicks is trying to copy your stuff. Some of us just want to open a new window!

Yes! Larry Miller, tell it like it IS! I love a great rant.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Sex and....Classical Music?

According to Norman LeBrecht "Conductors have the liveliest, longest and most rewarding sex lives of any human organism."

"Toscanini, who died in 1957, weeks short of his 90th birthday, permitted no cracks in his privacy. He never gave an interview and left no memoirs. Even biographers with access to his papers were left groping in the dark. His letters, wrote Harvey Sachs in 1978, "are relatively few and uninformative".

Barely had these words appeared between hard covers than correspondence began tumbling out of bottom drawers where they had been tenderly stored by former lovers and their heirs. One mistress kept 1,000 letters and telegrams from the peripatetic maestro, some of them filled with detailed anatomical endearments.

Another reason to stick with those music lessons, kids.

A statue has never been set up in honor of a critic. --Jean Sibelius

Monday, April 22, 2002
You see things and you say "Why?"; but I dream things that never were and I say "Why not?"
-- George Bernard Shaw

Excerpt from the Declaration of the Indepence of Cyberspace:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

...increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

A very soul-stirring document. Read the rest of it here. Oh, if only it could be true! But I fear that governments, especially the U.S., with the cooperation of giant corporations like Microsoft and AOL/Time Warner will continue to try to rule the World Wide Web. At some point in the future there will be an international conference to agree on a set of laws governing cyberspace, and the corporations will be ready with the technology to enforce these laws. Still...we should fight with everything we've got while we still can. You might start by sending a copy of the Declaration to your congressman.

I will not do any more warblogging....I will not do any more warblogging...I will not do any..... Well, maybe just one more.

Douglas Rushkoff says "In my reality tunnel, the Palestinians and Israelis are basically looking in the mirror. The religions are quite quite similar, and the false notions of state-hood imported from Europe have the people acting out insanely unfounded mythologies of national identity."

That's somewhat similar to my thinking, though I don't think that Douglas and I are in quite the same "reality tunnel." As an American I'm rather proud of my "national identity" and I see no reason why other people should not have a national identity and be proud of it. However, I have often thought that the basic problem with the Israelis and the Palestinians is that they're all bigots. Here in the U.S.A people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds work together and live in the same neighborhoods. Yes we still have some problems but generally we can go to the mall without worrying about being blown up by a suicide bomber. There is no reason why the Israelis and the Palestinians couldn't live in the same neighborhoods, work in the same places, go to the same shopping centers and get along with each other. The only thing keeping them from doing so is widespread bigotry in both groups. But of course saying that makes me a bigot because as we all know only Americans of northern European descent can be labelled bigots. If anyone else seems to be bigotted it's just because we're not culturally sensitive enough. We're not trying to understand. I refuse to accept that.

Saturday, April 20, 2002
I'm not a real writer but I play one on the Internet.

Yesterday I was possessed by the writing spirit that visits me occasionally and fills my head with ideas and demands that I write them down. Unfortunately, just as I was getting started a sudden thunderstorm came up and I quickly shut down the computer in anticipation of the almost inevitable power failure. By the time I was able to get back to the computer the distractions of ordinary life had driven the shy writing spirit away.

Professional writers have better command of their writing spirits. They have the ability to capture them whenever they are needed and compel them to stick around long enough to meet deadlines. My writing spirit is a tease. She shows up whenever I read something well written and whispers to me “You could do that…you’re just as good as that guy,” but as soon as I start trying to write down the ideas that suddenly flood my mind the spirit starts trying to slip away.

When I first discovered weblogs I couldn’t wait to start my own. It would give me somewhere to put my ideas when the spirit comes, as well as serve as a soapbox for my rants about what’s wrong with the world and the people in it. But it has evolved since the beginning – is still evolving. I’m thinking of changing the title. “Unleashed” is connected with the soapbox aspect of it. I think now I’d rather change the focus. I want something artsy but not too pretentious. On the other hand, maybe a little pretentiousness isn’t entirely a bad thing.

I’ve seen so many clever weblog names. I like There’s Nothing to Not Be Amazed At, an excellent weblog that I just discovered a couple of days ago. It’s the one that started me thinking about writing yesterday. Every time I visit Blogger.com I look at the Most Recently Updated Blogs. Most are a disappointment - poorly written diaries, often full of very personal details of the blogger’s life - not worthy of their clever titles. I want a title that will make people click on it but will not lead to disappointment. But of course the only way to insure that is better writing.

Friday, April 19, 2002
Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war.
-- Thucydides

* * *

What a disturbing painting by Magritte. Is this supposed to illustrate what men see when they look at a woman, or am I being too simplistic?

Thursday, April 18, 2002
Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions. --John Randolph

Tuesday, April 16, 2002
All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.
--Samuel Butler

* * *

Yesterday I was having problems with the the pop-up ad from hell (see below) and since the problem was happening every time I opened a new window, I decided it would be just too much a of a bother to browse around looking for links to post. Sunday was much too nice a day to spend sitting in front of the computer. I thought of posting a link to a painting that would give an idea what kind of day it was, so I spent about an hour looking at landscapes. I couldn't find one that fit the bill. Trying to get back to the daily art routine today, I'll just direct you to seven pages of paintings by Albert Bierstadt. Please note the size of some of these. I've actually seen "Amoung the Sierra Nevada Mountains" and one other that I haven't found online. They are truly magnificent. I can't tell you how overwhelming it is to stand in front of such a huge painting, full of so many details.

* * *

Doc Searls posted a link to Marc Rotenberg's essay on censorship and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit:451. It made me remember this outstanding rant by Ray Bradbury himself.

Monday, April 15, 2002
Thanks to John Braue of the Rat’s Nest for the link. I really needed that. I am now forced reveal more about myself. John said that I "[know] everything worth knowing about the visual arts and classical music." I have to be honest…there’s a lot that I don’t know about classical music and the visual arts that is worth knowing.

There is so much to know about classical music that it’s quite easy to look like a know-it-all. Two or three Classical Greatest Hits CDs are usually enough to enable you to identify all of the most commonly heard pieces. A few years ago I was at my (now ex) sister-in-law’s house and she had the TV on as usual. As she surfed through some 50 or more channels, my oldest son and I recognized several pieces of classical music in commercials and named them out loud. Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain; Rossini, William Tell Overture; Grieg, In the Hall of the Mountain King; and so on. After half a dozen or more of these she got annoyed and practically screamed, “How the hell do you two know all that stuff?” (It's so much fun remembering that)

My “education” in music has been informal and haphazard. I don’t play any instrument. I can read music a little bit….about like an average 7 year old reads Shakespeare. I grew up listening to country music. My dad watched The Porter Wagner Show and the Buck Owens show every Saturday afternoon. I was a teenager in the 70’s and I liked all of the 70’s songs that everyone loves to hate. Soon after high school, music started to get less interesting. I listened to some oldies and a lot of “adult contemporary” but by the late 70’s I had stopped listening. It was just background music.

I finally got around to trying classical music about 10 years ago. I bought a few of those Greatest Hits CDs, but right from the start I was interested in hearing complete works so I outgrew those fairly early, but it was very slow going at first. I didn’t know anyone else who listened to classical music and I wasn’t sure what to try. Two things really made my interest take off. The first was a new classical radio station. They weren’t very good; they played mostly short pieces and single movements but it did enable me to hear a lot more. The second and more important thing was getting connected to the Internet.

I found the message board at Classical Insites with the liveliest and most knowledgeable group of classical music lovers you are likely to find anywhere. They included professional musicians as well as avid recordings collectors, some with collections numbered well into 4 digits. To make a long sad story short, Classical Insites shut down almost exactly one year after I started posting there. You’ve never seen so much weeping and wailing as went on after we learned that the site would soon be gone. Some die hard members of the group have followed each other around the Web trying to stay together as one message board and then another went down. The refugees recently invaded Amazon.com’s classical board. We carry on but we're only a shadow of the old Classical Insites gang.

I feel very sentimental about this roving group of music lovers. I learned almost everything I know about classical music from them. They are also responsible for some of the bizarre directions I’ve taken. I have shamefully neglected some great composers, such as Schubert and Brahms to name just two. I’ve only heard two of Beethoven’s string quartets and only four of the piano sonatas. I have more Mozart recordings than any other but I have heard only one of his operas, the Marriage of Figaro in a live performance. And I am ashamed to admit to how little I’ve heard of Bach. On the other hand I have CDs by composers most people have never heard of. Not only have I been led down stange paths by my online friends, I have an addiction to the Berkshire Record Outlet catalog. I find things browsing through their paper catalog that I would never have known to search for online….and I can’t resist!

When it comes to visual art I am truly a beginner. I know nothing, but I am fascinated by art. Most of what I post here I have just discovered myself. I have visited a few art galleries. A few days ago when I posted the link to art by Yves Tanguy I was actually looking for a painting titled “The Doubters” that I saw years ago in D.C. I can’t even remember who the artist was. I only remember that he was French and the style looks similar to Tanguy.

I can’t explain it but I love learning stuff. Sometimes I feel like I’m possessed. Maybe I never grew up, or maybe I’m entering my second childhood. Whatever it is, I just can’t get enough of all this artsy stuff.

Today is the birthday of Sir Neville Marriner, conductor and founder of The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, one of my favorite orchestras. Marriner is not popular with most of the more sophisticated classical music afficianados, mostly because he has made more recordings than any other orchestra. This represents one half of a game that the classical elite love to play. If a performer has made few recordings they lament the fact that there are so few, but if an orchestra (or individual performer) makes lots of recordings the sophisticated listener is expected to make learned comments about sacrificing quality for quantity.

Honestly, Marriner is almost always good, though not often the best. I love his recording of Mozart’s Requiem. On the other hand, his recording of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 is good but rather bland. He’s best in the Baroque and Classical era repertoire. I highly recommend his recordings to anyone who’s just starting to listen to classical music. You might later find something you like better but for starters you can never go wrong with Marriner. Happy Birthday Sir Neville!

Quote for Today

I have always said that a conference was held for one reason only, to give everybody chance to get sore at everybody else. Sometimes it takes two or three conferences to scare up a war, but generally one will do it. -- Will Rogers

* * * * *

More later. (maybe) Other sites I wanted to link to are not cooperating this morning. I'm also having a problem with an especially annoying ad. It pops up every time I open a new window. It takes over my whole screen and covers the task bar and everything else. The only way to get rid of it is CTRL-ALT-DEL then End Task. Grrrr.... Would a public beating really be cruel and unusual punishment in this circumstance?

Sunday, April 14, 2002
It is NOT "relaxing" DAMMIT! Well...it IS but....

Few things annoy classical music lovers more than hearing classical music described as “relaxing.” Some poor innocent, merely wanting to make some kind of positive comment about classical music says, “I like classical music; it’s so relaxing,” and the negative response leaves them thinking “Classical music fans are such snobs!” And they are not likely to be inclined to listen to any future protestations that most classical music fans are driven by passion, not snobbery.

What is so bad about thinking classical music is relaxing? Isn’t it? And isn’t that a good thing? When I return to my car and Bach after shopping to the soft sounds of the 80’s and 90’s or turn off the TV and turn on Mozart the feeling is like the feeling of coming home after a long hard day and kicking off my shoes. Isn’t that what most people would consider relaxing?

Maybe the problem is that “It’s so relaxing, “ reminds us of another commonly heard line, “That stuff puts me to sleep,” which invariably comes from people who have never heard even so much as one complete symphony. Or maybe it’s the commercial packaging of classical music as an aural vitamin to cure stress or make your newborn child more intelligent. I see people who buy into this hype and know that they are missing the point. If relaxing is the first thing you think of when you think of classical music you are missing the joy, passion and breath-taking excitement.

More than anything, narrowly characterizing classical music as “relaxing” is perpetuating a stereotype that keeps millions of people from even trying classical music. Yes relaxing is a good thing but what about all of the people who do not want relaxing music? Will they believe anyone who tries to tell them that Beethoven’s most famous symphony, when turned up to a respectable volume and listened to in its entirety, is far from relaxing, or that there are dozens more symphonies that are equally anti-soporific? Will people who assume all classical music sounds like the opening bars of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, The Blue Danube or Pachelbel’s Canon be inclined to listen when you tell them that there have been hundreds of hours of classical music composed in the past century that is anything but pretty and soothing? After all, "everybody knows" classical music is relaxing.

I really blame Sony and other major recording labels for misleading the public and creating the “relaxing” stereotype. Classical music – all 1000+ years of it – cannot be reduced to a few words or clever catchphrases but this is what marketing requires. Instant gratification is easier to sell than long term rewards. Finding the true value of classical music takes a great deal of time exploring the many different styles to discover what one finds most appealing, and it takes many hours of attentive listening. How do you sell something like that? I would like to think there is a way but obviously no one who’s in a position to do so is willing to explore the possiblities. It’s easier to just keep selling people’s misconceptions back to them.

Saturday, April 13, 2002
Quote for Today

I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything. --Thomas H. Huxley [1900]

Art for Today

This painting, The Instant, by Kay Sage is fascinatingly complicated. There is a page of close up details. Sage was married to Yves Tanguy. Her biography tells quite a bit about both artists.

Link for Today

More art. Artshow.com is a site for living artists to display and sell their work. Art workshops and tours are also offerred.

Friday, April 12, 2002
The Democratic Party doesn't need this!

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, right? Not this time if AJC's online poll is any indication. Now more than ever we need liberals with some common sense. Rep. Cynthia McKinney has none. I hope Georgians have the good sense to throw this dumb broad out next election.

Quote for Today

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness. -- James Thurber

Art for Today

Last night I was browsing and found this beautiful patriotic painting by American painter Childe Hassam.

Link for Today

Skepticism merely for the sake of skepticism is no more intelligent than believing in every crackpot theory you come across, therefore I do not identify myself as a skeptic. However, The Skeptic's Dictionary, is a good source of common sense information. It should be called "the Skeptic's Encyclopedia." There are lengthy and interesting articles on the subconcious, spontaneous human combustion, wicca, alternative medicine and many other controversial topics.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

(That headline was designed to get Right-wing undies in a twist. Be sure and let me know if it works)

Bush is pushing for a ban on all cloning, even theraputic cloning, He claims to have moral authority on his side. I say most emphatically that he does not! To ban research that could ultimately save thousands, maybe even millions, of lives is EVIL, EVIL, EVIL. Moral authority? That sounds chillingly familiar. I seem to recall that someone else recently claimed to have the moral authority to knock down a couple of buildings with more than 3000 people inside. Any time someone claims to have "moral authority" we should be very afraid.

Quote for Today

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
--Albert Einstein

Art for Today

Painting by Yves Tanguy. I like the colors as well as the intriguing shapes. Take the time to really look at it. Here are more paintings by Tanguy and a short biography in French.

Link for Today

Thank you William F. Buckley! Buckley says that people who don't have telephone answering machine are rude and people who don't use email are Luddites. I'd like to add that people who have email but only use it to send links and forward chain mail just don't get it! Email is just the modern alternative to the Post Office, so sit down at the computer and write your friends and family a freakin' letter once in a while!

Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Quote for Today

It isn't the incompetent who destroy an organization - It is those who have achieved something and want to rest upon their achievements who are forever clogging things up. -- Charles Sorenson

That quote makes an excellent introduction for my Link for Today

Geeks built the Net. Deal with it. We put in the years of sweat to create the new industry. We put in the years of development time to invent the new technologies and write the software. We invested OUR OWN money when people looked at us and said, "whats an Internet?". The phone companies did not invent the Internet, but they were happy to sell us T1's to build our early networks and peering points. The broadcasters and studios did not invent the Net. Not ABC, CBS or NBC. Not Disney. Not Warner Brothers. Not United Artists. They would have stuck with their own alternative, the Cable TV industry, if the Net hadn't become ubiquitous on its own. Microsoft did not invent the Internet, Microsoft was actually a late comer to Net Development, (though it seems that Bill Gates likes to think he did). Not even Intel, IBM or Sun (which did *not* "put the dot in the dot com," as their advertising claimed). Geeks did. They did it at government agencies, the military, universities and some worked in businesses of their own making. But these Geeks were not building the Net just to serve their business alone, it was to build a concept as much as a tangeble thing, we buillt a place for communities, a commons. And no, NO politician (not even Al Gore) invented the Internet.

I found that one through Doc Searls, who is always up to date on the latest Geek news.

Art for Today

This woodcut, Puddle, is not what most of us usually think of when we think of M.C. Escher. Old Olive Tree, Corisica is another "non-typical" Escher picture that I liked. You can find 83 more M.C. Escher drawings here, including many of the fascinating illusions for which he is most well-known.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002
What am I doing here?

I detest whining, but sometimes I feel like whining. When I decided to start my own weblog I made several rules for myself. One was that I would not do what I’m doing right now. I vowed that I would try not to be too lame, I would not talk about myself, I would try to make my weblog appear to be at least an attempt at professionalism and I would try to have something to say at least two or three times a week.

Now I feel that I should have something to say almost every day. That leads to lameness. I started this weblog because I like to write, even though I know that, aside from being able to spell better than most people, I’m not very good at writing. I’m torn between wanting attention – having hundreds, maybe even thousands of readers – and hoping that nobody sees my lame, amateurish blatherings. So far I’ve been getting the latter of those two wishes. I have received only half a dozen emails since I started this about a month ago and only one of those was from someone I hadn't emailed first.

I wanted to “advertise” on Blogger.com’s discussion boards on a thread someone had started for that purpose but I cannot post on the boards at all. It would be nice to get to know some other bloggers and get some tips on how to do some things (like add a list of links to the left hand column) so I emailed Blogger.com (twice) about the problem of not being able to post on the discussion board but they’re ignoring me. Okay…I know maybe that’s not fair. I know they are probably busy with much more important things, but I’m feeling like I’m invisible. I don’t exist except in my own mind and everyone else out there is just a figment of my imagination.

Okay, enough of that! I’ve gone from whining to self-pity, but I just had to get that out.

Listening and musing

Yesterday I got a 7-CD set of Schubert’s chamber music. I’ll probably try to listen to all seven discs today, although I’m sure that’s not a good idea. I can listen to seven hours of Mozart, savor every note and still want more but I’m on the third Schubert CD this morning and it’s starting to become part of the general background noise. It’s not that I don’t like Schubert. I do. Some of his music is quite exciting but for some reason I just can’t develop a true passion for it.

I frequently play what-if games with Mozart. What if he had lived longer? What would his next few symphonies have been like? It would have been great to have one in D minor. A violin concerto in D minor would have been nice too. And what about all the other stuff he didn’t write – a cello concerto, a Stabat Mater? Pointless, I know but I can’t help thinking about stuff like that once in a while.

However, Schubert also died young and yet, except for wondering what the rest of the Unfinished Symphony would have sounded like if he had finished it, I almost never think about what might have been. If he had lived another 30 years would he have composed nine more symphonies? Was his greatest masterpiece yet to come? More pointless musing. Better to simply enjoy the many hours of great music that has been composed.

Saturday, April 06, 2002
Even more heavenly (see below)

"No TV?" Well, maybe just PBS and the Sci-Fi channel. And it wouldn't be heaven unless I could eat everything I like and have a body like Halle Berry.


From a review in the Telegraph of Heaven: A Travellers Guide to the Undiscovered Country by Peter Stanford:

IN almost every culture, people have responded to the certain knowledge of death by imagining some form of heavenly afterlife. Socrates's paradise was a place where he could bother the illustrious dead with difficult questions. My personal favourite is the Swedenborg-inspired heaven of William Blake. Only those capable of appreciating beauty are allowed into this dome of pleasure, Puritans and ascetics being unworthy of its splendours and the marvellous conversation of the angels.

Blake's Heaven sounds truly heavenly to me also. What's my personal idea of heaven? Just my life, much as it is now but with a few details changed. I'm sure you know what kind of details I'm talking about - just take out all the annoying stuff, maybe add a few extra little luxuries. Less time shopping. No TV. More time listening to music, more reading, more writing and more time outdoors.

We can do a lot to make our lives here on Earth more heavenly. Sometimes all it takes is a change in habits and attitude.

How "facts" spread

A few days ago I commented on an article in the NY Times that said the Web "isn't fun anymore." Now I see that ABC News has picked up on it. Hmmm....well.....I guess if both the NY Times and ABC News say it, then it must be true. The article is not entirely negative. It concludes by saying that the Web will grow "a whole lot more vital to modern life." This sort of thing bothers me though. Major media like ABC do a lot to shape public opinion. Most people will simply absorb the idea that "the Web isn't fun anymore," repeat it and in everyone's mind it becomes fact.

Thursday, April 04, 2002
I found this “Modest Post-Napster Proposal” through a link at Doc Searls Weblog. Modest indeed! Do you realize how much great music you are leaving out by limiting your proposal to songs that are 3 to 5 minutes in length? I believe Wagner’s operas run 3 to 4 hours (or do they only seem that long?) and I’ve read frightening rumors of contemporary works that are much longer, but never mind those. Some of the greatest choral works (Bach’s Mass in B minor, Brahms German Requiem, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater) and a few symphonies are in the 1 to 2 hour range. The most well known symphonies and concerti are generally 30 to 45 minutes long. Even popular short pieces like The 1812 Overture and the William Tell Overture are about 8 to 15 minutes long. (Although most of these are in the public domain the recordings are copyrighted) But of course I’m talking about lifetimes of computer time so if you want to leave out classical completely I understand. We classical fans will do just fine. If we are stuffy about anything it’s certainly not piracy. However, don’t forget great rock & roll classics like "In A Gadda Da Vida" and "Alice’s Restaurant." Even "American Pie," which gets frequent radio play, is about 7 minutes long.

Seriously…I had great fun reading that piece at Limited Pie. Brilliant! Are those folks at RIAA complete idiots? I have several friends with whom I trade “pirated” recordings, usually on cassette tape. This often leads to the purchase of a CD and when it doesn’t lead to a purchase I wouldn’t have bought the CD anyway. They claim they are losing millions of dollars because of pirating. Just wait till they see how much they lose if they succeed with all their copy-protection schemes.

Yippee! I just got my first "Nastygram." Or at least that's what the subject line of the email from John Braue said but his reponse at the Rats Nest didn't seem all that nasty. Essentially I think we are in agreement.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002
Evil Wal-mart?

The anti Wal-mart piece at OPENSEWER.com took me by surprise. I shop at Wal-mart two or three times a week. I can’t even imagine life without Wal-mart. But I had to take a minute to try to look at it objectively. Wal-mart is big and ugly and takes up an unreasonable amount of real estate. They don’t treat their employees well, but then unskilled labor is usually not treated well anywhere. One of my sons worked for one of those much romanticized “mom and pop” stores. He quit after only a couple of weeks and went to work for Wal-mart because Mom and Pop were slave drivers.

I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-mart. Shopping at Wal-mart is, to be honest, usually not a lot of fun. The store is noisy and crowded. There are 30 checkout lines but there are never more than six of them open at one time. Most of the employees are inattentive at best, and many of them seem fully deserving of the commonly heard insult “brain-dead.” The customers are even worse than the employees. It seems that many of them are there more to socialize than to shop and they clog up the aisles while they catch up on the latest gossip or have family discussions that they should not be having in public.

And yet, it’s still the best place in town to shop. It’s not only the low prices that draw me and millions of other people to Wal-mart. The main thing is convenience, being able to get most of the things I need from one store instead of having to run all over town. The selection is fairly good and the quality is consistent. I don’t miss the personal service, In fact, when I do go into a store where employees are attentive and try to help customers it makes me distinctly uncomfortable. I just want to be left alone while I shop. What some people consider a bad thing about Wal-mart is actually one of the things that I like best about it: no hovering sales people.

The whole “corporations are evil” mindset bothers me anyway. It’s an extreme oversimplification. Some people like to blame corporations for all that’s wrong in the world – damage to the environment, poverty, even September 11 – but the truth is that corporations are also responsible for a lot of what is right with the world. Rather than causing poverty they have done exactly the opposite – they have brought prosperity. Without them we would not have the luxurious lifestyle that most of us have come to expect. And contrary to what the rabid starry-eyed anti-corporate whiners and moaners say it is not at the expense of the poor in other nations. They would be poor anyway and without Wal-mart and other big corporations so would many more people.

That’s not to say that corporations don’t have their dark side also. The biggest problem I have with corporations is when these already powerful entities lobby for legislation that will protect them from their customers and from small businesses. Individual needs and even individual wants should always come before corporate "needs." In recent years our lawmakers have increasingly been giving individual needs a back seat.

Small business should also be given greater consideration than big corporations. Most innovation comes from small businesses or individuals. Companies like Microsoft, who became wealthy and powerful because of their innovativeness now try to stifle companies who are like they once were.

So, we need to stay on our toes. We need to stop Congress from giving so many goodies to the most powerful entities on Earth. But I won’t be boycotting Wal-mart anytime soon. I will, however, make it a point to visit some of those mom and pop stores. You can never have too much diversity.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Somebody do SOMETHING!

It seems that most people have made up their minds about who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are in the Middle East conflict. I’m not so sure. The acts of terrorism commited by the Palestinians are unconscionable no matter what the provocation, and the bigotry and hypocrisy from the entire Muslim world is so appallingly obvious it’s shocking that anyone could deny it. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that Israel is completely innocent and without fault. Come on! How many lives are you willing to pay for a little bit of land?

This morning I caught myself fantasizing – thinking that what is needed is a "Star Trek" solution. Remember those episodes where the Enterprise made contact with a world where there was a problem and Kirk or Picard would bend the “Prime Directive” and arrange things to suit himself? Problem solved in one hour. If only things were so simple in the real world!

Another thing I don’t understand is all the criticism of U.S. support for Israel. Support for Israel? What support for Israel? If you call repeatedly urging “restraint” support then I guess the U.S. supports Israel, but if we really supported Israel I’ll bet the whole mess would over with in no more time than it took to run the Taliban out of Afghanistan.

I’m not suggesting that’s what should be done. What do I think should be done? I don’t know. Apparently the folks in Washington don’t know either, “supporting” Israel on the one hand while on the other urging them to make peace with the folks who keep blowing themselves up in order to take a few Israelis with them to the hereafter. I don’t know what should be done but I hope someone will figure it out soon and just do it.

Monday, April 01, 2002
I just spent 30 minutes typing and completely lost everything when I tried to publish! I won't try to recreate it now, but from now on I'm typing everything offline and saving it first. In the last day and half it seems like every time I have time for blogging either Blogger.com or my ISP is down.

Don't insult me with stupid ad slogans

Yesterday I received an email from Delphi Forums with the subject line: "Congratulations! Delphi is now YOURS! Mine? Really? Just like that? Let's stop and analyze this. First of all: "Congratulations! This greeting normally signifies an accomplishment (graduation) a life changing event of a postive nature (marriage, birth) or an unexpected stroke of good luck (winning something). Then: "Delphi is now YOURS!" Well....that's all pretty clear and straightforward. Apparently I have "won" ownership of Delphi Forums. Gosh, I don't even remember entering the sweepstakes.

Actually, Delphi was merely advertising the new enhanced services that they are offering to anyone who is willing to pay for them. I have no problem with this. In fact I think it's a good idea. You can still post on their message boards for free, plus for a very reasonable annual fee you can get all sorts of cool features like posting in color. So why the stupid subject line? I won't even say misleading because, obviously no one who is smart enough to use a computer in the first place would actually believe that the line literally means what it says. Therefore it is just plain stupid. I am not impressed with stupidity. If any company wants to sell me something they'd do better by appealing to my intelligence, not insulting it.