Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Music! Music! Music!

In a very good blog called About Last Night I was  reading a reminiscence of childhood and found this line:
I miss waiting impatiently to hear a good song on the radio for the second time."
Oh boy, I thought, do I know what he means.  He writes of that time when music didn't obliterate the barriers of time and space as it does now.  Today we can hear a song over and over and over again.  On demand.  Any hour of the day or night.  We are our own disc jockey.

The enjoyment is not the same.  The magic of a 'new' song is stillborn.  Disappointment comes way too soon.  Boredom is the result of limitless choices.

Irish author James Joyce wrote a famous short story titled The Dead in which a song reveals a devastating secret in the life of Gretta, wife to Gabriel.  The song is "The Lass Of Aughrim" and it is sung at a gathering that includes this husband and wife.  Gretta is greatly affected by the music and this effect is not lost upon her husband.  When they are alone, he questions her and she responds by giving way to her emotions, revealing that the song was sung by a young man in her past whom she loved.  The young man died and Gabriel learns that he has never been and will never be loved like that by this woman.
Today, I fear, "The Lass of Aughrim" could and would be played so many times that Gretta would grow sick of it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Late apology

I can't let this month slip by without at least one post.  I apologise to any who have been coming here lately, looking for a post of some kind.
There have been days when an idea came to me and I began a post only to abandon it.  Why and wherefor should I do this, I would ask myself, and got no answer. 
I live with disorientation.  America today is changed so much from the America I knew that I feel like a stranger in my own land.  How do you defend something that no longer exists?  How can you love a vanished world?

The picture on the left was taken in winter of 1943-1944 when I was ten years old.  On the back of the photo, my older brother wrote: "Here are the ten little porkies (some on other side) enjoying their meal.  I took this when they were  6 weeks old.  The pen in background is the one I built for her of the lumber from camp.  Notice the 'runt' in the back end after her meal."   This photo and note were for my father who was working on the Al-Can Highway in Yukon territory, Canada.
The photo on the right was taken in early summer of 1944.  My brother Alan and I were feeding the kids.  Notice the patches on the knees of my pants.
The 'camp' that my older brother referred to was built by the government on my grandmother's dairy farm during the Great Depression.  The building lacked insulation, electricity and plumbing.  It served as living quarters for a crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps  sent there to clear brush from Seely Creek and build wooden bridges at each farm to provide access to the Goose Pond mountain range which ran along the north side of the valley.

From 1948 to 1950 (sophmore & junior high school years) I ran a trapline during the winter to catch wild animal pelts to sell for extra money.  Every morning before school, I dressed for winter and walked the trapline regardless of weather.  Trapping is one part of my youth which I would not repeat but these examples show how markedly different life is today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

On my mind tonight

The so-called "right to own property" is an empty right.   The Hollywood scenario wherein we see the family gather at the fireplace to observe the burning of the mortgage papers is only half the story.  Every property has real estate taxes levied upon it.  If these taxes are not paid annually one's private property is subject to tax sale and ownership is gone.   Real estate taxes are never paid off;  they are only paid currently. and forever.   One's property is owned by the State

Monday, June 30, 2014

Some remarks on Truth, Fiction and Journalism

About 25 or 30 years ago, I remember a period of reading weekly columns by journalists I admired (or respected) and being very disappointed in the content of this one or that one.  Suddenly a couple of very good columns appeared and my faith in them was restored.  I concluded that the problem was the need, the corporate imperative, to provide one column (in some cases, two columns) per week.  Captured by the relentless advance of time,  many columns were little more than filler.  The content suffered from the power of the clock. 

Researching the situation I learned that many famous columnists had a staff of researchers and checkers.  These people were used by the columnist to check  facts, and sometimes provide quotations from other sources to strengthen or deepen the the premise of that week's work.

This practice sometime led to minor instances of plagiarism or failures of attribution that were more comical than serious.  I remember one column by George Will in 1998.  The column opened as follows:

"Wednesday morning, when the black bat, night, has fled, professional Republicans and Democrats - almost the only people who will care - will pronounce themselves pleased as punch by the election results." 
Immediately I recognized the night metaphor lifted from the poem "Come into the garden, Maud" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
 "Come into the garden, Maud/ the black bat, night, has flown /  come into the garden, Maud / I am here at the gate alone."
The typist even put the commas on either side of 'night.'  I had to smile.  Poor George.

About two years ago, a blogger stirred up some anxiety when he charged that John Steinbeck had not traveled to all the places mentioned in the book "Travels With Charlie."  At least, not with Charlie, and maybe not in the same sequence as represented in the book.  He had 'charges' and he had 'allegations' and he had 'proof.'  The book was fiction, he said, and should be sold in the fiction section of book stores.  This was 60 years after the book's publication!  Well, who cared?  Not me.
I recalled William Faulkner's comment that "The best fiction is far more true than any journalism."

Historians are another category of scholar who have to be aware of attribution and acknowledgement of  the work of others.  Historians require assistance in the preparation of transforming their manuscript into a book.  They have staffs that check for errors and attribution.  Still things can go wrong.
In 2002, the historians Doris Kearns Goodwin  (The Fitzgerald and the Kennedys) and Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers) were charged with plagiarism.  A review of that painful time can be read here

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said that "Good artists copy.  Great artists steal."  That quote is not a pass for laziness or dishonesty.  I believe he is referring not to paint, or words, but to ideas.  All thinkers, all artists, all writers read and absorb and use and expand and pass on the ideas from generation to generation.

I'm not sure I have written all I want to say here but I will post it before I forget how to do it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Joe Bageant on fathers

This is from a column that Joe Bageant wrote in May, 1990 for the Idahoan Newspaper.   May he be resting in peace.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quotations from Neil Postman

"Voting...is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent.  The last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then will submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into - what else? - another piece of news.  Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence.  The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing."

"There is no more disturbing consequence of the electronic and graphic revolution than this:  that the world as given to us through television seems natural, not bizarre.  For the loss of the sense of the strange is a sign of adjustment, and the extent to which we have adjusted is a measure of the extent to which we have been changed.  Our culture's adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now all but complete;  we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge, and reali ty that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane.  And if some of our institutions seem not to fit the template of the times, why it is they, and not the template, that seem to us disordered and strange."


Amusing Ourselves To Death, by Neil Postman. 
Penguin Books edition, 1986
Part 1, Chapter 5