Friday, May 31, 2002
Blogging Overload

There has been so much going on in the past day or two that I want to comment on, but everything's too jumbled up to sort out right now. With the official end of the clean up in NYC it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on September 11 and the months since then. I have lots of reflections - too many. Then there's the exchange going on between John Braue and Demosthenes and Andrea Harris that I'm sort of tempted to dive into even though I'm not totally clear on everything invovled there and how I feel about it.

I also had some choice words about the FBI, "Intelligence" and the whole culture of back-scratching, ass-covering government bureaucracy. But screw it for now. Unless I have a sudden epiphany I'm taking the weekend off.

What is WRONG with these people?

Late last night someone found this page with the following Google search: conspiracy oklahoma bridge collapse

Conpiracy? Conspiracy????? Look folks....the barge pilot fell asleep, hit the bridge and it collapsed, dumping cars and trucks into the water. Fourteen men, women and children died. End of story. Freak accidents happen.

Thursday, May 30, 2002
A Great Day in the Blogosphere

A new record for me today: 36 visits so far and the day isn't over yet. That's more than twice my usual "average." Quite a few of those visits were via the Long Haired Country Boy who gave me a nice plug today.

I also got two referrals from this blog. (hmmmm.....very curious) I can't read it but anyone who has pictures of dogs and kids on their weblog has gotta be okay.

A plug in return

Thanks to Rich of Brain Squeezings for the nice plug. Brain Squeezings is similar to Lynn Unleashed in some ways. No single focus, just comments on life in general. Check it out.

Which is the real No.15?

In the complete set of Mozart's Piano Sonatas performed by Klara Wurtz on the Brilliant Classics label the little Piano Sonata in C major K545 (come on...you know which one it is...yes that one) is listed as No.16. On almost all other sets and individual recordings it is No.15. I haven't researched this at all (I mostly just listen) but as far as I can tell, the "extra" sonata in the Brilliant Classics set is the F Major K533, which is listed as No.15. Hmmm....very intriguing. K533 is certainly as beautiful as any of the others, especially the andante.

By the way this whole set, which is available from Berkshire is fantastic. Klara Wurtz deserves to be more well known. These are absolutely my favorite performances of Mozart's Piano Sonatas, far ahead of anything I've heard by the big name pianists. Don't let the incredible bargain price fool you. No I'm not advertising. I just love this set and think everybody should hear it!

Note to Conspiracy Theorists

I found this very timely quote on Brain Squeezings:

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Come to think of it...when has that advice ever not been timely?

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Goodbye Vocabula Review

I have deleted the post that I made impulsively just minutes after I discovered that one of my favorite websites, The Vocabula Review, now charges a subscriber fee. Honestly, I know that even in the fantasy universe of the Internet, you have to have money to survive. I've gotten used to paying one negligible monthly fee to have the world at my fingertips - like an infinitely vast library.

The Vocabula Review is a very worthwhile site, but I doubt it could ever be a very popular one. They've tried to avoid charging a fee. They sell books and coffee mugs and beg for donations. I guess it hasn't been enough. I'm sure the only people who read The Vocabula Review are English teachers and a few wackos like me who actually think good language skills are important. I have my doubts that charging a subscription fee is going to save the site. How many people will be willing to pay?

Sadly, it seems that it is mostly the worthwhile sites that are starting to charge fees. Will the "free" Internet eventually be reduced to trash sites and sites run by big corporations who have the money to support them? The same wasteland of bland conformity as commercial TV?

A few months ago a classical music site that I visited daily went down. The site had been struggling to survive financially since the beginning but in the end it was the immaturity of the webmaster, not financial woes that killed the site. He had done well, securing commercial backing, but this had made the site far less worthwhile. There was still good content but the front page looked like a billboard, with promotional material thinly veiled as "articles."

I've got the feeling of having written myself into a corner. I'm not sure how to wind this up. Some profound musings about the future of the Internet? Try to end on a positive note? Or end with a pathetic whine? I'm generally an optimist but I'm not feeling very positve right now. The corporations are winning and the little guys and the intellectuals are selling out, in most cases out of necessity. I've sort of gotten used to this whole Internet thing. I like it just the way it is, but I'm awfully afraid they're going to burn down the library and replace it with 21st century television.

But what does it SAY?

Just found in the Most Recently Updated List - "I will be happy when I hear about..." Some great pictures but the posts are in Farsi. (at least I think that's what it is)

Most Valuable Piece of Paper Ever Sold

I have mixed feelings about this. I am disgusted when I think of all the money that is spent on historical artifacts when there are millions of people homeless and starving and yet, I understand. If I could I would pay anything just for the privilege of holding something like this in my hands for a minute.

Not just another blog

Here is another unique idea in blogging. To be honest I got tired of waiting for all the pictures to load, (maybe later) but I'm blogging with stone knives and bear skins here and I do like the idea. More techologically advanced surfers might have better luck.

"A very large hole..."

The Suburban Limbo has some good pictures of the WTC site and some original and worthwhile comments. For example:

What surprises me is how the endgame of this incident has devolved into catfights between politicians, insulted construction workers and the families of dead firemen while rarely mentioned are the most numerous victims - 2,500 office drones who showed up for work one autumn day and got wacked.

Positive Outlook

My favorite columnist, Mark Steyn, comments on doomsday predictions:

In 1968, in his best-selling book The Population Bomb, scientist Paul Ehrlich declared: "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death."

In 1972, in their influential landmark study The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome announced that the world would run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead, and gas by 1993.

In 1977, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States incredible as it may seem, confidently predicted that "we could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade."

Having been proven wrong time after time you would think that the doomsayers would be afraid to risk further embarrassment. Not so. Apparently they have short memories. The new date for the End of the World is 2032. I think we'd do better to look to Mark Steyn for accurate prophesies:

Well, here's my prediction for 2032: Jean Chrétien will be the oldest serving Prime Minister in Commonwealth history. Other than that, I'm inclined to be cautious. But, at the risk of scaremongering, let me say this: unless we change our ways the world faces a future ... where things look pretty darn good. If we change our ways along the lines advocated by the UN, all bets are off.

Personally I don't count on an entirely rosy future but dates for the "End of the World" have passed without incident too many times to take doomsday predictions seriously. I consider myself a sensible optimist. Things usually turn out to be neither as good nor as bad as predicted.

testing. What is "Error 100"?

Nothing to Fear

Get those dystopic nightmares about genetically enhanced clone armies out of your sci-fi addled brain. Wipe the chilling phrase "designer baby" out of your short-term memory bank, and at least entertain the possibility that tinkering with our genes might make life longer, healthier, happier and better.
--from Salon.

My opinion - genetic engineering will happen whether we like it or not. By trying to block scientific advancement, Bush and his medieval crusaders will accomplish nothing but to put America behind the rest of the civilized world, and sacrifice any ability we have to control how things progress.

It's over/It's just beginning

The cleanup of the WTC site has been completed with the removal of the last standing girder. Now plans for rebuilding begin and things are moving forward swiftly, which is as it should be.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Tragedy in Oklahoma

The death toll from the I-40 bridge collapse has risen to 13.

The Blogosphere

The Long Haired Country Boy posted a link to this long article about blogs and journalism. A good read with dozens of links.

Don't expect something for nothing

Sometimes I need to remind myself of that. The Internet is a vast universe of freebies so it's easy to start feeling "entitled." I have four email addresses, three of them free. I suppose I have no right to expect much from these accounts but when they have an address that contains the word "support," which is supposedly there for when you have problems with your account, I can't help expecting that any email I send to that address will eventually be read by a human being.

That is certainly not the case with email.com. Recently I have received several "failed delivery" notices for emails that I never sent - emails to people like the "condomwarehouse" for example. Of course I complained about this but email.com merely sent two automated responses, the first saying that I would receive a response within 48 hours and the second telling me to forward them a copy of the email in question, complete with full header - something which I had already done.

That sort of thing just makes me so freakin' mad! Why even bother to have a "support" address if they aren't going to give any "support." Why the hell can't they just be honest about it and say "It's free email. No support. Take it or leave it."? That I could accept.

Bridge Collapse on I-40

I'm sure everyone has heard about the bridge collapse on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma by now. Scary stuff. Most of us drive over bridges almost every day and think nothing of it. Bridge collapses are rare but when something like this does happen it makes me extremely nervous. You just never know when a freak accident is going to happen.

"...and stuff.

I just found Yeah. And Stuff. in the Most Recently Updated Blogs. As I suspected it's another one of those "what's the point?" kind of blogs, but I just had to click on it because of the title. I know someone who ends almost every sentence with the words "...and stuff." He draws it out really long though - "I wuz jus wonderin' whut ya'll wuz doin' this weekend, an' stuuuuuuuuufff." "Sure has been rainin' a lot lately, and stuuuuuffff." (I'm not exaggerating - almost every sentence!)Very annoying person to talk to, especially on the phone.

Anyway, that's my trivial rant for today - a pet peeve I've always wanted to get off my chest. I suppose I probably have some habits that drive other people up the wall too. (such as starting too many sentences with "anyway" and using too many cliches)

Sunday, May 26, 2002
Two Thoughts for Memorial Day

...or a thought expressed two different ways:

The marble keeps merely a cold and sad memory of a man who would else be forgotten. No man who needs a monument ever ought to have one.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Those only deserve a monument who do not need one.
-- William Hazlitt

My Most Interesting Google Referral Yet:

massive muscle female wrestlers

I have the feeling that this person did not find what he (or she) was looking for.

Saturday, May 25, 2002
The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings.
-- Henri Frederic Amiel

Having Fun?

One member of my family frequently walks by when I'm on the computer and asks, "Having fun?" I never know how to answer. Considering what I like to do on the computer it seems like a strange question. I think of "having fun" as an experience associated with playing games or light conversation, trading stories and jokes. I like having fun as much as anyone but generally I enjoy serious pursuits a great deal more. "Fun" becomes boring after a while and so ceases to be fun.

When I'm on the computer I'm usually reading articles or books, writing, sometimes browsing art sites or participating in message board discussions, usually of a serious nature. All of this is enjoyable, fascinating and satisfying, but the word "fun" just doesn't seem to apply. But I can't simply answer "no" to the question "are you having fun?" If it's not fun then why am I doing it? There's nothing better than fun, right?

I'm constantly seeing little tidbits of "wisdom" urging people not to take life too seriously, and above all not to take oneself too seriously. So many people assume that anyone who is serious does not enjoy life. Nonsense! I can't imagine spending life in pursuit of fun - taking it all lightly, tossing off everything with a smile and a quip. How boring! Yeah, I do have fun sometimes....when I don't have anything better to do.

I have never advocated war except as a means of peace. -- Ulysses S. Grant

The Power of Being Soft

This is the time of year when my allergies are worst. It starts around the beginning of May and begins to ease up sometime in July. Yesterday I went through the usual ordeal of walking to the mailbox and back. It's a long walk compared to the distance most city folks have to go for their mail; I'm guessing about 200 yards. (or similar distance in meters) I could send one of my kids but I usually enjoy the walk. This time of year though, before I'm half-way back I'm sneezing violently and my eyes are watering and stinging painfully.

So anyway, yestderday I came back in the house groped blindly for the Benadryl then splashed water in my face for 10 or 15 minutes wondering how people ever managed to live without Benadryl. That's when it occurred to me that there are still millions of people in the world who not only have to live without antihistamines of any kind, but also have to suffer far worse deprivation.

There is nothing we Americans dread so much as discomfort. Feel a little discomfort, rush to the medicine cabinet for a pill to fix it. And if it's not the kind of discomfort that can be eased by taking a pill, there is usually some other kind of technology to take care of the problem. We demand that our homes be dry and the perfect temperature. Our beds must be the perfect firmness, never too soft or too hard. Bathrooms must be indoors and hospital clean. And nothing is of more concern than our food. While in much of the world people would be ecstatic to have food that was free of visible vermin, here in America everything must be cooked and seasoned to perfection and visually appealing. We have entire industries devoted solely to insuring our comfort.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking this attitude. I like my lifestyle. I like my air-conditioning, indoor bathrooms, comfortable waterbed and appetizing food. And don't get between me and my Benadryl! But this luxurious lifestyle that we take for granted leads our enemies to believe that we are spoiled and soft. And often we even believe it ourselves. In the first weeks after September 11, didn't many of us worry that we were too accustomed to peace to fight a successful war?

I admit it - I had moments when I feared that before the year was out America as we know it would be no more. But our dread of even minor discomfort - our "softness" - is our greatest motivator. We are willing to make virtually any sacrifice because we cannot bear the thought of living any other way. Our "softness" for which we are so often criticized, far from making us weak, actually makes us strong.

Friday, May 24, 2002
How to Fill the Emptiness

Philip Murphy writes about the plans to rebuild on the WTC site:

What is needed is a building that commemorates the site unflinchingly. A proud muscular building that rises defiantly from the ashes and embraces the future while it pays respect to its legacy. In other words . . . a New York building like they used to make.

I agree wholeheartedly. Against the loss of human life the loss of mere property, no matter how huge, is petty. And yet I can't help feeling the loss of the Towers themselves as a personal loss. Maybe because of all they represent, the whole American way of life. I live far from New York so part of me feels that I have no right to put my two cents worth in on the matter. But I have been anxious about what will be built on the site. I know that many believe that nothing should be built there but a memorial and I can sort of understand that. How could people go about business as usual on the exact place where so many people died? But I believe that to build only a memorial would be wallowing in victimhood. It would be defeatist and un-American. I would like to see a building that rises proudly and defiantly above the Manhatten skyline, perhaps not as tall as the Twin Towers - or perhaps even taller. Whatever is built there, it should be something special and truly beautiful - the most glorious architectural creation ever built in America.


From an article by Robert Fulford in the National Post:

As Schwarz writes in the catalogue, Dali was "an ephemeral, marginal presence" in the movement, and his success created a false public image. In truth, he was the worst calamity that ever befell surrealism.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this statement even though I've always sort of liked Dali. The artists who are the most well-known amoung the general public are rarely the best. As I've started to explore other surrealists I'm finding this to be true. I'm certainly no art expert. I'm still new at this but it seems to me that Margritte and Tanguy (for example) both have much more interesting things to say.

Art and Science, Sometimes Inseperable

As the science writer Philip Ball makes clear in his new book Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color, without a knowledge of the history, composition, and cultural conventions of painterly color, much can elude even the most observant and otherwise well-informed art critic. Inseparable from the story of art, he argues, is the story of the development of artistic color.

Interesting article. Read it all here.

Thursday, May 23, 2002
Two Quotes

Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself.
-- Potter Stewart

The internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it.
-- John Perry Barlow

A Thought on Spam

Attention all geeks: (my heros!) Could someone please invent a "return to sender" feature for email? I want it to be undefeatable. It has to work even if the person who sent the mail hides his real address or blocks incoming mail. Do you see how this might be useful? Imagine a spammer sending out an email to 5000 people and getting it sent back to him by most of the recipients. :-)

Everyone has a dream.

What Revolution?

I see another article about the “blogging revolution” almost every day, but whenever I emerge from cyberspace to take a look at what’s going on in real-space I find that nobody out there has even heard of blogging. Even online it seems that the only people who know about blogs are bloggers and jornalists. Most of the people I know from online discussion forums have either never heard of weblogs or don’t understand how a weblog is different from any other website.

Maybe the reason only bloggers know about blogs is that as soon as people learn about blogs they have to start one of their own. I know that’s what happened to me. I read an article about weblogs, that had a link to Blogger.com and I just couldn’t wait to start my own. When I first got started I didn’t even realize that there was a “blogging community.” I started it because I thought it would be a good way to practice writing, and to occasionally rant about the world’s stupidity or publish any outrageous idea that happens to pop into my head.

Fortunately I caught on to the community aspect of blogging almost right away. Lately I’ve seen a lot of criticism of bloggers who don’t link. I’m not sure I agree with all of it. Isn’t having your own webpage all about the freedom to do your own thing? Still, it has always seemed to me that “community” is an important aspect of the Web. The day I got the most visits so far (30) was two days after I added the list of links on the left side of the screen. I guess the big guys like Andrew Sullivan who get hundreds, or even thousands, of hits a day don’t need to be a part of the community. To me they seem the same as the big talking heads in the physical world – too far above us all to actually be a part of us.

I have to admit that I have fantasies of greatness. Yes I want to be one of the big guys. I want hundreds of visits a day. I want to get email….even hate mail. But I know I’m far from having what it takes. About half my hits come from Google searches – mostly people who didn’t find what they were looking for and so never came back. I think most bloggers are just like me and that the “blogging revolution” isn’t about creating new media superstars. It’s about giving everyone a voice even if only five or six people “hear” that voice. It’s about sharing and interaction. This weekend I will, as usual on Memorial Day, go to a family cookout. That’s what the online community is – one great big picnic, where everyone talks to just a few other people at a time. Which is a lot more interesting than having only a few people talking while everyone else just listens.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002
Wow. Somebody tell the National Enquirer

Here is more proof that some people have way too much time on their hands.

Useful New Word

I don't know if Philip Murphy is actually the one who invented the word ignorati but I'm happy to give him credit since I saw it there first. I like it. You can insult people and at the same time make it sound like they are members of some kind of exclusive club. "Sorry, you're just not Ignorati material. You know too much and...um...sorry, I don't mean to be insulting but sometimes you almost seem to be thinking for yourself. Such tendencies are clearly against the guiding principles of the Ignorati."

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.

-- Paul Tillich

Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Blogspot Blackout

Most of the blogs on Blogspot.com have been down all day. Mac suggests re-publishing. I have doubts about this working but here goes.

By the way, this got me to thinking about how much greater a tragedy it seems to be when computers go down than when other things we depend on quit, such as electricity or the car or the TV. If the car quits, big fat hairy deal; I can stay home and surf. The TV goes quits; yeah! Who needs it anyway? If there's a power failure that does cut me off from the Internet but I at least have the comfort of knowing that all those wonderful websites are still waiting for me when it comes back on. But when a website goes down it's a cause for major concern. Classical Insites became the victim of a corporate merger three (or is it four) years ago and I'm still boycotting CDNow in protest against their failure to save the message boards like they promised to. (Yes, they did promise. I think I still have the email) Now whenever one of my favorite sites is down I (a confirmed agnostic) suddenly get religion and start praying "Oh please God let it be only temporary!"

It's the same with networks. I used to work at a place with a LAN. Whenever there was a power failure we celebrated. 'Cool! We get to take a break from work and sit in the dark and do nothing.' But let the network go down and it was 'OH MY GOD! THE NETWORK'S DOWN! Do something, quick! How long will it take to get it back up? Oh hurry, hurry! We have to get the network back up NOW!' and so on.

Well, anyway....here's hoping this works.

Monday, May 20, 2002
June 2002: Sony Lobbies to Ban Magic Markers

Laughing too hard to comment on this.

Thanks Mike.

Just Discovered...

Another art blog! Modern Art Notes. This is only the second one I've found. The other is Reflections (formerly Art Notes) I'll be keeping an eye on MAN and will probably add it to my list. I just took a quick look but so far I like it.


I finished reading The Burning City by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I highly recommend it to everyone, even those who don't usually get excited about sci-fi and fantasy. The characters are fairly well-developed and believable. The story is unique and interesting but easy to follow and the social commentary is not heavy-handed.

Now my problem is which book to start next.

Back to the Beginning

A short history of medicine. "I have earache..." 2000BC: Here, eat this root. 1000AD: That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer. 1850AD: Prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion. 1940AD: That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill. 1985AD: That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic. 2000AD: That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

More on alternative medice and the medical establishment

And speaking of the X-Files...

Does anyone else out there wish that Fox would give agents Doggett and Reas their own show? I don't mean an X-Files clone. I'd like to see them investigating "normal" cases of domestic terrorism and postal fraud and what-have-you, with one or two paranormal cases thrown in every year so they can whine about how the X-Files will follow them around for the rest of their careers. But most of all, NO more boring, tiresome government conspiracy crap.

Sunday, May 19, 2002
Well, now that all those loose ends are tied up...

I just finished watching the X-Files series finale a few minutes ago. No surprises - just a "trial" as an excuse to re-hash the whole alien/government conspiracy story line and "explain" what has really been going on. The best part was the mildly amusing reappearance near the end of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Amusing because he had to smoke his cigarette through a hole in his throat and yet was somehow able to talk normally!

After Mulder was visited by the ghosts of the Lone Gunmen (a little while before the CSM showed up) I half jokingly suggested to those watching with me that at the end it would be revealed that Mulder had actually spent the past nine years in a padded cell. Dr. Dana Scully would have been his psychiatrist and all the other characters, as well as everything that happened during the entire nine seasons, merely figments of his imagination.

Of course I would have been seriously pissed off if the series had ended like that but it would hardly have been any more of a rip off than the actual ending. So, now I'm left wondering two things: 1) When will the next X-Files movie come out? and 2) How many movies will there be before we get to the "Alien Invasion: 12/22/12"?

Welcome to My List

I just added Long-Haired Country Boy to my list of weblogs. This morning he had this to say:

All of the usual suspects in DC pointing fingers and trying to make political hay out of this---all of them are guilty of not "preventing" 9/11 to one degree or another, and as such, they should all admit their culpability, shuts their yaps, and get flipping serious about protecting this nation.

AMEN! And there's a lot more where that came from.

Cutting Wagner Down to Size

HOW big does Wagner have to be in order to be great? The question is posed by the Eos Orchestra, which presents "The Rhinegold" on Thursday and Saturday at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Conducting the imposing prologue to the "Ring" cycle, in an English-language production staged by Christopher Alden, Jonathan Sheffer will have before him not the original immense forces but just 18 or so players, performing an arrangement of the score by the British composer Jonathan Dove. Here, for once, is chamber Wagner.

Hmmm.... Only 18 players? Leave it in the original language and perhaps I could learn to like Wagner after all.


I want to comment on this, but I am too stunned to say anything.

Colorful Ancient Greece

I have read before that the ancient Greeks painted their statues and buildings, but I've never been able to get out of my head the images of an ancient Greece filled with clean white marble. This helps just a little. Archeologists have discovered a marble sarcophagus with much of the original paint still intact. There are a couple of pictures with the article.

Saturday, May 18, 2002
Goodbye, Anne Robinson

So Anne Robinson, host of the NBC gameshow The Weakest Link, thinks Americans are dumb. What a brilliant observation! At times I tend to agree. But we're talking about a freakin' game show! Did it never occur to the intellectually superior Ms. Robinson that they probably chose dumb people for the show on purpose because we love to hear her deliver those scathing insults in that cute British accent? Not to mention the fact that even the most intelligent people can freeze under pressure. Is she really judging all Americans based on the handful of nervous bubbleheads who got picked for her show? How much intelligence does that take?

If I had been unlucky enough to appear on The Weakest Link Her Braininess would have really thought I was dumb! I at least know how many minutes are in a half-hour but I haven't a clue when it comes to all the lame pop culture questions about movies I've never seen, best-sellers I've never read, and pop bands I've never heard of, that made up the bulk of the questions asked on the show.

As further evidence that Americans are dumb Anne offers the fact that only five percent of Americans have passports. Well, why would most of us need passports? I can drive from one coast to the other with no document other than a driver's license, and those nice folks up in Canada are pretty agreeable about letting us in and out of their country whenever we want to visit. Tell me, Anne, what percent of Europeans have been to America? I can imagine what the reaction would be if I suggested that any European who had not visited America is a dummy.

I sort of got a kick out of watching Anne viciously attack contestants on The Weakest Link. That is what the show was all about, not a display of intelligence. When I want to watch an intelligent game show I'll watch Jeopardy, or even Wheel of Fortune. You know....I wonder how Anne would do as a contestant on Jeopardy.

Music for Saturday Morning

Lately I have been wallowing in requiems and Stabat Maters, but Saturday morning seems to demand something light and cheerful. A perfect time for Josef Myslivecek. What? You've never heard of Myslivecek? Oh you poor deprived soul! I have been listening to his Violin Concerti. (Vol. 2 on the Supraphon label) Myslivecek's music sounds like what Vivaldi might have written if he had lived in the Classical era. According to the liner notes for the recording I'm listening to, these violin concerti were only rediscovered in the 1980's. These delightful works deserve a much bigger audience.

By the way, Musica Bona, based in Prague, is one of my favorite online stores. They have a unique selection, good prices and great service. Credit card orders from the United States take about a week and half to two weeks for delivery. (No I don't get anything out of this plug. I just wanted to let you know about another source for great music)

Thursday, May 16, 2002
What will it take?

There have been hints before but suddenly it's all over the place - some people "knew" before September 11 that the attacks on the World Trade Center were being planned. Even as I was watching it happen on TV, the thought crossed my mind that somewhere down the road someone would come up with evidence that "people in our government knew and did nothing."

I've read it so many places today I don't know which link to post. What really bothers me is this:

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have received information suggesting terrorists are planning an attack July 4 on a nuclear power plant, but they do not consider the threat credible enough to warrant a new alert, authorities said yesterday.

I suppose that the people who received information suggesting terrorists were planning the attack on the WTC believed it was "not credible enough" to try and do something about it. Okay, I can forgive them for that. How could any sane person conceive of such a horrible act? I can understand how someone might let themselves believe that it "couldn't really happen." But that was before September 11. Aren't things different now? What ever happened to "sadder but wiser"?

From the Boston Herald:

Markey warned the government to move quickly to safeguard the nation's nuclear plants. National Guard units should be deployed immediately at nuke plants, the congressman wrote in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Markey said the 10-mile no-fly zone around the plants, used briefly after the Sept. 11 attacks, should be restored. Markey also wants the federal government to take over security at the plants.

Well doesn't that sound like a good idea? Why the hell isn't there a permanent no-fly zone around nuclear power plants? Look boys and girls, the world isn't safe. There are some really nasty people living in it and some of them may be closer than we thought. What will it take before some people finally get that fact through their heads?


John Braue comments on With Every Regret:

"Is this level of angst normal among teen-aged girls? …There's evidently a lot of pain there, but I can't tell if it's normal or abnormal, self-inflicted ot other-inflicted.

When I come across these teenage diaries I usually leave as quickly as I can, but this does seem fairly typical. Compared to many the level of pain doesn’t seem especially high. Teenagers are dealing with a lot of things for the first time and things that adults know are trivial seem very very important to teenagers. I don’t think adults are emotionally all that different from teenagers; the difference is that we are concerned about different things. And most of us eventually grow up and realize that no one wants to hear or read about our feelings.

It’s sort of funny… if these teenagers who keep online diaries had an old-fashioned diary in a book and someone read it they would go ballistic, and yet they have no problem publishing their innermost thoughts on the Web for the whole world to see. But in a way, I can sort of understand. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone who understands your feelings and it’s easier to open up to people online.

I don’t think I was a typical teenager. I know, everybody wants to think they are different, but I've never fit in. For most of my life I’ve felt that the people of my generation are mostly shallow and petty. That's probably a wrong impression. Since I tend to talk about trivia most of the time just like everyone else I probably seem pretty shallow in person too.

I have always preferred being around people a generation older than me. Interestingly, since I started talking to people online the people I enjoy talking to the most are all young men in their late teens and early 20s. I’m not sure why that is, just the individuals themselves I think. Sadly, partly due to the break-up of my favorite online community, I have drifted away from or lost track of several online friends who meant the most to me. Sometimes I do feel like pouring out my emotions on this page or on some message board where I don’t know anyone very well but then I think how juvenile and self-indulgent it would seem and just tell myself “Grow up!”

Wednesday, May 15, 2002
The Wobbly Line Between Tacky and Tasteful

I have to amend my earlier comment that “nature and the Arts are the only things left in the world that are worthy of reverence.“ On occasion I feel considerable reverence for the American Flag and the ideas on which my country was founded, and although we Americans have at times made a huge mess of things, I would like to believe that at least the ideas are worthy of reverence.

In the first weeks after September 11 one of the most hurtful things I encountered were the disparaging comments denouncing “flag waving.” I can’t explain it to anyone who doesn’t already understand but just seeing the American Flag makes me feel better. I love to see it flying from flag-poles nearly everywhere I go and wearing it and seeing other people wear it on shirts and lapels gives me a sense of sharing.

And yet, some displays of the Flag do seem disrespectful. I’m not particularly bothered by the use of the Flag or the American colors in advertising, a practice that did not just suddenly begin as a response to the surge of patriotism after the Attack on America. Chevrolet has been proclaiming that they are the “heartbeat of America” for years, and red, white and blue have always been popular colors in a lot of advertising. However, the sign I saw last fall in the window of a local Sonic advertising their “Tuesday Special” in large red, white and blue lettering was sickening. Perhaps it was only coincidence that they decided that Tuesday was a good day to have a special, but the paint was too obviously fresh. I have several patriotic t-shirts, but I’m sometimes bothered by uses of the Flag that seem merely decorative, such as the bath towels that I saw at Wal-mart recently.

I have been terribly domestic today. I’m sewing kitchen curtains. We had to do emergency repairs on the kitchen floor this past weekend. In addition to the new vinyl flooring we bought new countertops. Both are blue – the countertop a mottled medium-light blue and the floor more of a blue-gray. Before everything was some shade of brown and I was getting tired of it. Of course I had to have colorful new curtains too. The fabric I chose is a patriotic print. (You thought I was wandering off track didn’t you?) I experienced only a moment’s hesitation as I wondered if I might be violating my principles of not using the flag for strictly decorative purposes? The fabric has a lot of red, white and blue but it also has equal amounts of brown, tan, green and lighter blue in American scenic pictures and little maps of American places. The only actual flags on it are very small, though there are a lot of stars and stripes in heart shapes and there’s red, white and blue lettering. The description of it probably sounds pretty tacky but it doesn’t seem that way to me. Before September 11 I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but nowdays I often stop to consider such things.

Peace and Reverence

This morning I started the day with Rachmaninov's Music for Unaccompanied Choir, a three disc set on the Brilliant Classics label. Once I get started on this kind of music I find it hard to move on to something else - I always hate to break the mood - so next I chose Palestrina's Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. Centuries apart, both share the timelessness of reverent human voices.

Timeless? In our time most people seem to have lost the ability or the desire to feel reverence. Irreverence rules the day. Maybe that's why so many people want to de-value the fine arts and bring them down to the level of mere entertainment. Reverence is associated with religion but is there any true reverence in the churches anymore? They mix religion with politics and try to popularize religion with catchy slogans like "What Would Jesus Do?" Nature and the Arts are the only things left in the world that are worthy of reverence.

Don't fear reverence. It might be the only peace you will ever find.

Blog Trek

James Wolcott first compares bloggers to tribbles, then to The Borg. I can't decide which I would rather be... a cute furry Borg, maybe?

Thanks to the World Wide Rant for this one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002
The Glass Half Full?

Gerald Brennan writes:

Enough already about the Immanent Demise of Classical Music. That the major recording companies are finally abandoning classical music is the best news we could possibly have. They can't lead, they won't follow, so they have to get the hell out of the way.
. . .
The major recording companies see no big profits in moving beyond the over-recorded blockbuster music from the Baroque through the Romantic era into earlier or later music, or into the more intimate music of the blockbuster composers. What they are ignoring is not the music of traditional mass appeal -- the 'timeless classics' and 'beloved melodies' -- but an immense and rich repository of first-rate music that will become a goldmine for small, independent, and on-line music labels. This is the future of classical music recording. These new small companies will usher in a fresh golden age of music appreciation, wider and deeper than anything that has come before. What we witness now is merely the confusing times between these two paradigms, after the crash of the majors (look around you -- it's already happened) and before the rise of the hoard of smaller specialists.

Well, this is what we want to believe, but it's sometimes hard to maintain a positive outlook when you keep running into people who think that what Charlotte Church and Vanessa-Mae do is classical music just because Sony says it is, and if you try to educate them you're automatically dismissed as a snob. But, on the bright side, things have never been better for serious classical music lovers. From obscure Baroque and Classical-era composers to the latest offerings of living composers, there is an overwhelming amount of music available. I think the biggest thing we fear is that many of these choices will go away. We are at a high point and are enjoying the ride immensely. We don't want it to end. But if Gerald Brennan is right the ride is not about to end; it's only just beginning.

Monday, May 13, 2002
Cheers to Lileks' Screed

Just a sample:

Remember, all wars in the world are waged by, or are the fault of, the United States. Rwanda: our fault. Kashmir: our fault. Columbia: our fault. The coming war on Mars Colony #42, founded entirely by Moldavian Copts in the year 2856: our fault. Careful reading of the Star Wars scripts indicates that America was behind the Trade Federation’s machinations, even though they took place in another galaxy several hundred thousand years ago.

I love James Lileks' way with words, especially when he gets sarcastic. Be sure to read all of this entertaining rant about yet another meeting of people who still just don't get it.

Found While Browsing

I clicked on John Malay's SubLunar Orbit when it appeared in the "Most Recently Udated" list a few minutes ago. First impressions: well-written and he has some good links. I can't tell yet how much I have in common with John but here's one thing I can at least partially relate to:

I am definitely not mass media! But I do have some readers and that's fun. I might get more readers if I kept commenting on current affairs (i.e. warblogging) but I lose patience with that. How many calumnys from the Middle East can you catalog before it starts getting repetitive. Oh, look, the Saudis have lied again, or the Iraqis have threatened someone again. Them what ain't got the picture by now ain't gonna ever get it, and adding my tiny voice to Instapundit or Little Green Footballs isn't going to change that.

I don't so much lose patience with "warblogging" as I feel I'm not very good at it. I'm frequently tempted to put my two cents worth in, but by the time I read about something new happening I'm already behind. The big voices have already spoken and are looking ahead to the next thing. I think I will have more success trying to be something different. That doesn't mean I won't still give in to the temptation sometimes.

Does anything ever really change?

Doc Searls quotes Cintra Wilson: After the reality check of Sept. 11 and its sobering aftermath, many people looked at the glitterati of Hollywood and said, "Can you explain why the fuck any of us ever thought YOU were so important?"

Cintra goes on with a flaming hot attack on the Oscars and Hollywood in general. Entertaining reading which I tend to agree with in principle, yet at the same time feel is a little over the top. After all, we do need to escape once in a while and Hollywood is just giving the public what they ask for. In the movies everything works out okay in the end and we get the satisfaction of seeing the bad guys blown to kingdom come. Everything is so much simpler than in the real world.

Cintra's opening lines, quoted above, are a fantasy. It was a fantasy I shared for a short while - the fantasy that now things would change. People would finally learn to focus on what's important and at the same time learn to appreciate the real beauty in the world instead of focusing so much on shallow Hollywood glitz. I thought that maybe Hollywood would sense the new mood of the nation and ease up on the violence and give us at least a few movies with some real depth. But "reality checks" only last for an instant, and after the huge reality check of September 11 came another reality check, saying to us: "You fools! What made you think anything could ever really change?"

Saturday, May 11, 2002
Birthday of African-American Composer

William Grant Still was born on today's date in 1895.

Born in Woodville, Mississippi, and reared in Little Rock, Arkansas, William Grant Still (1895-1978) became the first African American composer to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra. Mr. Still's Afro-American Symphony was premiered by the Eastman Rochester Philharmonic with Howard Hanson in 1931. The symphony was performed by 34 other American and European orchestras during the 1930s.

Read more about Still.

Friday, May 10, 2002
Bitten By the Multiple Recordings Bug

For many of the classical music fans I know, collecting recordings seems to be as much of a passion as the music itself. They must have multiple recordings of all the greatest works. Ten complete sets of Beethoven’s symphonies is barely a start. Some of these collectors can be a bit full of themselves, having the attitude that you don’t have the right to an opinion on a particular piece of music unless you’ve heard every recording available – or at least every recording they have heard.

I’m not much of a collector, myself. I would rather spend my time and money on works that I haven’t heard before, but I have to admit, sometimes the temptation is irresistable. There are a couple of different reasons for wanting more than one recording of the same work. One is that some works seem to beg for different interpretations. Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 is one example. At the extremes are Neville Marriner’s light, bland performance and Herbert von Karajan’s unclassically heavy (and exciting) interpretation. Neither one is necessarily “better” than the other. It’s fascinating to hear how different the same music can sound under different conductors. Another reason for buying multiple recordings is dissatisfaction with the one I have – chasing after that “perfect” performance. For me the prime example of this is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which I will get back to later.

With Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola it’s a little of both. I first bought the same recording of this that I heard on the radio. Anne-Sofie Mutter was the violinist; the orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Soon after that a friend sent me a tape of a performance by the Prague Chamber Orchestra with Josef Suk on violin and Josef Kodausek on viola. Unfortunately this wonderful performance is not available on CD, a fact that has been a source of frustration since the first time I heard it. (Why is the perfect performance always one that is out of print?) Later I bought a complete set of Mozart’s Violin Concerti which also included the Sinfonia, with Yehudi Menuhin on violin. This is a very good recording also and for a while was the one I listened to most often. Next I came across an unusual recording on which Josef Suk plays both violin and viola. My curiosity would not be denied. Just based on listening alone I would say that this is my favorite recording on CD. The solo parts stand out well, and in particular I love the remarkably warm tone of the viola. But I’m just enough of a purist to be bothered by the digital creation of a performance that would not be possible live. After this I got the notion to collect every recording of the Sinfonia Concertante on which Josef Suk was a performer. I found a recording with Suk on viola with the Prague Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiri Belohlavek. This is absolutely the worst I’ve ever heard. The tempo is way too fast, which completely spoils the mood. I haven’t bought any more recordings of this work since then but I’m still tempted occasionally.

One of the first CDs I bought when I was first starting to listen to classical music was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, by pianist Daniel Barenboim. Generally, classical newbies are not very open to different interpretations and I was no exception. Barenboim’s tempo is extremely slow. To my inexperienced ears it just sounded wrong. I only listened to it a couple of times. Then several years later, after much listening experience I tried it again and to my surprise I loved it. I became addicted to it for a while, playing it once or twice a day for a two or three weeks before moving on to my next obsession. I’m still looking for a more “perfect” version though. I bought Ashkenazy’s and have no complaints about the performance but the tone of the piano is so unbearably hard (possibly due to being too closely miked) that I can’t bear to listen to it. I’ve heard Richard Goode’s recording on the radio and consider it excellent but I haven’t bought it because it’s still not quite “perfect.” It’s quite possible that the ideal performance that I imagine does not exist, and I’m torn between wanting to find it and not wanting to end up with a stack of unsatisfactory Moolight Sonatas sitting around.

Dvorak’s Stabat Mater is a problem for me. I have bought one recording of this so far – Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle. The chorus and soloists are excellent, especially bass, Roberto Scandiuzzi, whose meltingly beautiful voice could raise goosebumps on a marble statue. But unfortunately, in the more dense passages the orchestra comes across as little more than a solid wall of indistinct noise. So I consider buying another recording of this work but I know that without Mr. Scandiuzzi I could never be satisfied.

Another frustrating situation is wanting another recording when there are none available. I have one recording of Chaminade’s Piano Trio in G minor, a lackluster performance by the Macalester Trio. This lovely piece, with that haunting melody, in the first movement, which somehow manages to be both perky and melancholy at the same time, deserves a great performance. Admittedly I haven’t looked very hard but recordings of this piece, if others exisit, are not common.

I have a few other multiples, mostly not on purpose. There are some works that it seems impossible not to get multiple recordings of whether you actually want them or not – popular short works like Pachelbel’s Canon, used for filler on just about every Baroque collection ever made. I don’t count recordings of the same work on different instruments – the Goldberg Variations on both piano and harpsichord, for example – as “multiple recordings.” Generally, the temptation is not too hard to resist. All I have to do is think of all the great music that I don’t have at all yet. There is enough of that to fill several lifetimes.

Thursday, May 09, 2002
Brand New Blog

Getting off to a good start, Where's My Thing? has a link to this creepily fascinating story about Mike the Headless Chicken. J.L. of Where's My Thing? comments: "This "article" touched so many nerves that I can't even begin to discuss how disgusted I am that some people, let alone an entire community, would think this is cool." Well....I agree, it's seriously disgusting but at the same time I can sort of understand. People in small towns will grasp at anything that sets their town apart from all the other small towns in the country. For most towns a winning high school football team will suffice but if something comes along that's really "special," something that nobody else has, most people can't pass up the chance for a teensy little taste of fame. This impulse must be even worse now than it was in the 1940s. With TV, the Internet, better highways and faster cars bringing the outside world closer, small town folks have even more reason to feel insignificant. Of course, the gross-out factor is a strong attraction for a lot of people, a fact which I personally feel is very sad considering all the beauty there is in the world if you're just willing to look for it.

By the way, J.L. and I do have two things in common - classical music and the color yellow.

One Vote FOR the New EU Flag

The proposed new EU flag has been taking a beating but, speaking as an American, I'm all for it. It would give us a reason to make fun of them for a change.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002
History and the Future

John Braue recommends John J. Reilly's Spengler's Future. Excellent timing! I really need something else to read - especially now, when I have decided to make a serious effort to catch up on the classics so that I might really be half as educated as some people assume I am. Not to mention the small stack of sci-fi paperbacks that keep calling to me, and Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, which keeps getting pushed back even though I've been dying to read it for the longest time. (I'm not complaining...really!) Anyhow....I started reading Spengler's Future this evening. The first part of the introduction was not encouraging. (Don't believe what they tell you.... The brain can so feel pain) But reading the second half of the introduction I started to get just a hint of that strange excitement I experience when I read something fantastically mind expanding. I need to just calm down; it's too early get all worked up about this, but I will continue. Don't hold your breath waiting for my review though. I can't abandon Niven and Pournelle yet.

Community and Family

For several years I have been mildly fascinated by online communities. I’m sort of a message board junkie, and I’ve always thought someone should do a study of the psychology of online communities. There is one particular online “community” that has been a learning experience for me in more ways than one. I might tell the whole tragic melodrama someday but the short version is that this group of passionate classical music lovers from all over the world have been following each other around the Net for several years in an effort to stay together as one message board after another went down for various different reasons including a corporate take over, technical problems and simple teeange petulance. With each move a number of members were lost. Now all that remains is a small core group of die hards determined to stay together even though we’ve almost run out of anything to talk about. Lately I have been a bit soured on message boards, but I wonder if all successful message board communities are ultimately doomed.

I’m not sure if “community” is the best word to describe the groups of people who inhabit message boards. "Tribe” might be more accurate. The situation on message boards is more like the situation at a school, place of employment or a never-ending family picnic from Hell. The cast of characters is always the same. A few people always emerge as natural leaders because their intelligence, personal integrity and sensible attitudes earn the respect of most community members. Below these you have the queen-bee types who picture themselves as leaders but, lacking genuine leadership qualities, use bullying, ridicule and petty sniping to maintain the upper hand. They’re one of my favorite subjects for online people watching. Invariable they accuse others of exactly what they themselves are guilty of with lines like: “This is not your private clubhouse (or living-room or back yard)” Then there are the peacemakers. I have peacemaker tendencies but I try to control the impulse because peacemakers are a favorite target of just about everybody else, so they invariably do more to feed the flames than those who start the fights in the first place.

Most message boards are also plagued by pure trouble-makers – individuals who have no interest in being part of a community. They just get off on stirring up trouble. It only takes one person with too much time on their hands to completely destroy a community, simply by posting a large number of off topic messages thus making it impossible to continue any kind of meaningful discussion. There is little that message board administrators can do about a truly determined trouble-maker. A number of community members working together could overcome such an attack but most quickly give up and leave or at best lie low until the trouble-maker gets bored and moves on.

Finally there are a large number of message board members who are mainly passive. If they participate at all they stay strictly on topic, keeping comments short and to the point and revealing little about themselves. They let nothing of their personalities show and so are difficult to get to know. Perhaps these people are the wisest of all. They enjoy observing and occasionally participating without getting personally involved. But as for myself, I enjoy the personal involvement. I want to get to know people and I want them to know me. I have developed a genuine deep affection for several people I’ve gotten to know on message boards and a more casual but just as genuine affection for many more. There is heartache sometimes, just as in the physical world, but for better or worse, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Weblogs form an entirely different kind of community. I’m still very new to this community but my first impression is that weblog communities have more in common with communities in the physical world (I refuse to use the term “real world” as I consider cyberspace to be just as real) than do message board “communities”. Bloggers are like neighbors who sometimes gossip over the back fence. We each have our own place and do our own thing but we do interact with other bloggers. Like other online communities though, we tend to “let it all hang out” more than we would in physical communities. That’s the good thing and the bad thing about life online...but mostly, I think, a good thing.

Thanks to John Fodge for the email cluing me in on one of Sitemeter's little quirks. It now appears that the 14-17 visitors per day that I mentioned previously actually are real readers. Thank you all for reading.

And speaking of "quality" entertainment, Southern style, check this out. It takes a couple of minutes to load so be patient. Hmmm....I've got a feeling I know these two guys.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Wrestlers Taken Down by Tree Huggers

I cannot tell a lie - I stole that headline from ABC News. It was so delicious I just couldn't resist. The World Wrestling Federation is changing it's name to World Wrestling Entertainment.

The company began considering dropping the word "Federation" from its name when World Wildlife Fund prevailed in a recent court action in London. The court ruling prevents the World Wrestling Federation from using the logo it adopted in 1998 and the letters WWF in specified circumstances.

"Our new name puts the emphasis on the 'E' for entertainment, what our company does best," said Linda McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. "WWE provides us with a global identity that is distinct and unencumbered, which is critical to our U.S. and international growth plans."

I'm feeling quite smug about this. I live in a part of the country where some people actually think professional wrestling is a sport. Now the wrestling folks themselves finally have to admit what some of us knew all along - it's entertainment! Keep in mind of course, a six pack and a bug zapper is also considered entertainment by some.

Two Birthdays

Two great Romantic composers, Johannes Brahms and Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky were both born on May 7th. A date worth celebrating.

Classical Music, Sci-fi and Ducks

Take a look at Matthew B. Tepper's Home Page and the many interesting links you'll find there.

Monday, May 06, 2002
Colors and Music

You've seen James McNeill Whistler's Arrangment in Gray and Black, better known as "Whistler's Mother." But have you seen these?

Symphony in White No. 2
Symphony in White No. 3
Symphony in Grey and Green: The Ocean
Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket

Take the time to contemplate each one. Music shouldn't be rushed.

Maybe I didn't really want to know

It's been a little over a week since I added Sitemeter to this blog. I'm not really surprised to see that I have only one or two readers a day but actually seeing the numbers is depressing. I am very puzzled about my statistics. Sitemeter shows that I'm getting about 14-17 visits a day but most of them show a visit length of "0:00." How can anyone visit for less than than one second?

Oh well...all I can do is to keep blogging away.

The Reason Why I Didn't Blog This Weekend (as if anyone cared)

These days most people have heard of Branson, Missouri, if only as an occasional target of sitcom humor. On The Simpsons, Homer once said that Banson is “like Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders.” That’s actually a pretty good description. It’s the Bible Belt version of Vegas, with lots of squeaky clean shows and no gambling or alcohol. I don’t say that as a put down. I have no respect for Bible obsessed fundies but, regardless of whether you are devoutly religious or an aethiest, if you can’t have fun without getting drunk or throwing away money you’re pretty sorry, in my opinion. Anyway – moving on – I have no intention of sermonizing.

It seems like every has-been country or pop star eventually ends up in Branson at least temporarily. When you start getting near Branson you see billboards for everyone from Charley Pride to the Osmonds. Yep, that’s right. Those brothers that teenage girls of my generation used to swoon over now do regular shows in Branson. Next time you find yourself asking “Whatever happened to […insert name…]” just look in Branson; you’ll probably find them there.

Branson is also the home of the biggest traffic jam in the country. It normally takes over two hours to drive the three or four miles through Branson along highway 76 where most of the theaters and other tourist attractions are located. It wasn’t always like that. When I first visited Branson a little over twenty years ago it was strictly a local attraction. There were just a couple of theaters featuring local talent, a wax museum, a few other minor tourist attractions, and a few souvenir shops and restaurants. In those days Branson was little more than just a small town on the way to Silver Dollar City, which is what I really wanted to talk about.

Silver Dollar City is a theme park of a very different kind from the more famous Six Flags and Disney theme parks. A number of rides have been added in recent years but the main attraction at Silver Dollar City are the arts and crafts. You can watch craftsmen at work and purchase the items, both practical and decorative, made the old-fashioned way. The blacksmith shop and the glassblowers have long been visitor favorites. There are also woodcarvers, leatherworkers, candlemakers, a grist mill and lots more.

There is of course lots of food in the park also and all that I’ve tried so far is fantastic. My favorite place to eat is called Big Jack’s Sandwich Shop. In addition to huge sandwiches on sourdough buns, they serve 3 inch tall slices of homestyle pie. Most of the food in the park is reasonably priced for what you get. The drinks, on the other hand, are a different matter entirely - $2 or more for a medium sized Coke.

I spent this past Saturday at Silver Dollar City with my family including my two year old grandson. The trip was mainly for him so we didn’t spend much time watching the craftsmen at work or looking through the shops. There is a huge multi-level construction for kids to play in, which includes a special area for kids under five. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to describe it or even what to call it. There are ropes, nets and ladders, ball pits and all sorts of other things I wish had existed when I was a kid.

Overall, in spite of crowds, Silver Dollar City is a very pleasant place to just walk around and spend the day, if you don’t mind a little exercise. It’s built in the hills and there’s not a level path in the whole place. Everything is charming and rustic, with buildings nestled amoung the native trees almost as if they grew there like the trees themselves.

This year we bought season tickets so don’t be surprised to see more reports from Silver Dollar City later this summer and fall. It is, believe it or not, a very artsy place.

Sunday, May 05, 2002
Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life -
the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it-
can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity
into the absorbing, soul-wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.

~George Eliot (1819-1880)

Thursday, May 02, 2002
Interested in becoming a philosopher? Click here.

A Simple Miracle

Getting new eyeglasses is always a slightly amazing experience. I get used to things in the distance being fuzzy and forget what it’s like to be able to really see. The optical where I get my glasses is in a mall, which is an excellent place to test new glasses. I walk out of the optical and things at the far end of the mall are in sharp focus. Wow.

There was one thing about this time that was different though. For several months I’ve been having increasing difficulty seeing close up. Surprisingly, reading on the computer hasn’t been a problem even on sites with tiny print, but books have been a problem. I have been warned several times that bifocals, even the no line kind which I got, take some getting used to. So far not much of a problem. It does take a second or two to find exactly how I need to hold my head and exactly the right distance to hold the book, but hey…I can read the small print again!

Since I was feeling thankful that I live in an age when we can do something about poor eyesight I decided to look up the history of eyeglasses. Reading glasses have been around longer than I thought.

. In the year 1268, Roger Bacon, the English philosopher, wrote in his Opus Majus: "If anyone examine letters or other minute objects through the medium of crystal or glass or other transparent substance, if it be shaped like the lesser segment of a sphere, with the convex side toward the eye, he will see the letters far better and they will seem larger to him. For this reason such an instrument is useful to all persons and to those with weak eyes for they can see any letter, however small, if magnifier enough". In 1289 in a manuscript entitled Traite de con uite de la famille, di Popozo wrote: "I am so debilita-ted-by age that ithout the glasses known as spectacles, I would no longer be able to read or write. These have recently been invented for the benefit of poor old people whose sight has become weak". Thus it appears that the first spectacles were made between 1268 and 1289.

Glasses for the nearsighted were not invented until the 16th century. Benjamin Franklin is credited with inventing bifocals but others were already experimenting with the idea at the time. Getting eyeglasses to stay on the face was an interesting problem that people wrestled with for centuries.

This page has a much shorter history of eyeglasses which doesn’t agree exaclty on the dates but there are details of several early paintings showing people wearing eyeglasses. And here’s one more picture.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002
I wish I could be at the upcoming Royal Philharmonic Society dinner to hear Sir Thomas Allen's planned speech attacking the dumbing down and sexing up of classical music. Just reading the article made me want to cheer.

Of course, the speech will not make any difference nor would a thousand other such speeches. Anyone who truly loves classical music and wishes to preserve its integrity as an art form is automatically labeled an elitist and a snob. But isn't a true snob someone who wants to maintain exclusivity and keep out "the masses," someone who believes that "ordinary" people are not good enough or smart enough to enjoy the same things they enjoy? Almost all of the classical music fans I know want to share their love of classical music not keep everyone out!

It is, in fact, the major recording labels who are keeping more people from enjoying classical music. They put millions of dollars into marketing pop send-ups of classical music instead of educating the public about the real thing. The real snobs are the people who are trying to sell this crap. They think the general public isn't smart enough enjoy anything but dumbed down versions of classical music. True classical music fans - the people who are usually labeled snobs - believe that everyone should have the chance to enjoy the best of classical music.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people enjoying Bond and Vanessa-Mae. What I have a problem with is the major recording companies labeling this stuff as classical, and with local stores filling up their classical sections with it. If people enjoy Bond that's great. I enjoy Styx, Three Dog Night, CCR and Johnny Cash but I certainly don't expect to find any of those in the classical section and Bond should not be there either.

Read another article on this topic here.

What has happened to my archives?

In this month's Smithsonian Magazine

"Artemisia Gentileschi was the most accomplished female painter of her time and one of the very few bold enough to tackle historical and allegorical themes. "
Unfortunately the online version of this article is only a short summary of the print version and includes no pictures, but you can see three of Artemisia's paintings here, including this one which was one of several shown in the magazine.

These ancient paintings in Baja, Mexico were undocumented until the 1970s. This 500 ft long mural is exceptionally well preserved. This picture is featured in the print version of Smithsonian Mag as a glorious two page title spread.