06 December 2012

Quotation of the Day

I’ve been having some … oh, call it “nuanced views” of our hallowed Freedom of  Speech in the past year or so.

I feel strongly that all we INDIVIDUALS must have it. But I’m feeling less and less that any entity other than an individual human should be granted that same freedom. That Constitutional rights were never intended to be granted to corporations and companies, to THINGS.

05 December 2012

Time Out in the Great Beyond

When I was a child there were certain records we weren’t allowed to touch. We had a cornucopia of recordings of all kinds—45s, LPs, 78s, 7ips reel-to-reel tapes—that we could play, but there were a handful that were off limits. Most of them belonged to my mother, and, frankly, most of them didn’t interest me—Edith Piaf, Django Reinhardt, and the like. But there was one that did—a jazz album called Time Out featuring jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.

My musical interests as a young person were primitive, bizarre, and eclectic. I liked things that stood out from the ordinary wash of music that formed the background track to our suburban post-WWII lives. The rock n roll that enamored the kids I went to school with left me cold. I liked stuff that incorporated noise, unusual instruments, exotic-sounding rhythms…

It was probably the unusual time-signatures that made me like Time Out. Most of everything playing on the radio was in the same 4/4 time, with with occasional 3/4, 6/8, or 2/4 thrown in. The 5/4, 9/8, and alternating signatures were interesting, at least, and the feeling that the music gave at times that it was just about to head over the edge into pure madness, was, well, refreshing.

For reasons that remain obscure to me I didn’t ever buy my own copy of it on vinyl, though I did acquire some other Dave Brubeck albums. I bought my first copy of Time Out decades later, when the CD era was upon us, and I replaced a lot of my old vinyl, and consciously sought out music I’d liked but never owned. I still enjoy it, even though I’ve long given up my childish ambition of playing piano like Brubeck.

Anyway, I see in the news that Dave Brubeck has passed on. His heart stopped earlier today on his way to a doctor’s appointment. Tomorrow will be his 92nd birthday. Damn it.

04 December 2012

Quotation of the Day

Let us be clear what is going on. The oligarchy thinks that money spent on old and poor and sick people is money that they could have instead. They have long had their eyes on cutting spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government services and regulatory agencies so that the savings generated could be used to continue their tax cuts or give them even more. In addition, they have long wanted to get their hands on the Social Security trust funds to invest in the modern casino that is the stock market. Such a massive influx of capital will undoubtedly boost stock prices and make a lot of wealthy people even more wealthy. Hence we see the repeated calls for the privatization of Social Security, the raising of the age for eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, and cuts in government programs and services. In this ‘debate’, they are aided by the media in that a proposal is only described as ‘serious’ and even ‘courageous’ if it harms a lot of poor and vulnerable people…

02 December 2012

The Perils of Research

So, it seems that Chris Rodda has got her copy of the new edition of David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies only to find that not only was it not published by a bigger outfit than Thomas Nelson, not only did it not contain the promised pages of new documentation for his outlandish claims, but it wasn’t even a new edition. Yes, the new edition of Barton’s work announced at Amazon was nothing but leftover copies of the Thomas Nelson edition. Chris Rodda went over it page by page and literally nothing had been changed.

God, what a disappointment. I feel quite confident that those couple dozen pages of documentation would have cleared everything up, made it all plain, and revealed to us that what he was writing was actually reasonable, rather than a dish of moldy cabbage that somehow got pushed to the back of the refrigerator. Research is like that sometimes; you expect a diamond and you get cubic zirconium; you expect enlightenment and you get Carlos Castaneda’s dissertation.

Think of the feelings of those Beatle enthusiasts when the long-lost first recording of “Please Please Me” turned up (in the back of somebody’s closet as I recall. No, that was the newspaper I kept of the first landing on the moon …) It should have been a slower, blusier, Roy Orbisonesque arrangement—but instead it was essentially identical to the version found on their second single. (The drummer was different—the moody magnificent Pete Best had been replaced by some interloper—but the same essential feel.) That must have been a real disappointment—it was for me, anyway. And so the slow version recedes into the mists of prehistory, an artefact like Jane Austen’s First Impressions, intriguing to think about, but perpetually out of reach.

Am I making sense this first Sunday of Advent in the year twelve thousand twelve of the Holocene era? I doubt it very much. We live in senseless times. Uganda fires a blow in the War on Xmas with a promise of new anti-gay laws in time for the holidays—as if the old ones weren’t severe enough. Republicans in the US Congress unveil more plans to increase the wealth of the idle bloodsucking class (or “job-creators” as they like to ironically call themselves) by robbing the nation pension fund that employees have paid into all their lives. We live in senseless times; why should I be immune to the zeitgeist?

And speaking of senseless, ever tried to follow a David Barton footnote? Footnotes are supposed to be helpful guides pointing to sources, not joke roadsigns that point you to nowhere, or useless decorations put in to give the appearance of research in the absence of evidence. Of course real research takes you off those convenient well-lit roads into the shadowy hinterland of unexamined sources. You read that such-and-such paper had a reporter at the front, you open the crumbling pages with excitement—and it turns out that the so-called reporter was only sending out political diatribes from a point some fifty miles away from the scene of action. Can’t be helped; research is like that.

Many years ago I spent considerable time and money running down a copy of the first (unrevised) edition Alfred Meacham’s Wigwam and War Path only to find that there really was no such thing. The so-called first edition is nothing but early copies of the supposedly revised edition with an errata sheet and no signature on the author’s picture in the front of the volume. There are numerous minor corrections throughout, some of which are identical to those on the errata sheet, and some of which are not, but it is manifestly the same edition, and the editorial confusion that is manifest in the volume is the same no matter which printing you use. That was a disappointment—but, as I say, research is all too often like that.

So, to recap on the David Barton saga: first, when Thomas Nelson pulled The Jefferson Lies for its inaccuracies, Barton announced that he had a bigger publisher for the book, and that it would be new and improved. Second, when a new edition was announced, the new publisher is (apparently) Barton himself, through his own Wallbuilders press. Third, when the book is actually delivered, it turns out to be published by Thomas Nelson, not by a new and bigger publisher, and it is the same old book, not new and improved. Pretty much a clean miss all the way around.

01 December 2012

Quotation of the Day

Many mysteries remain about the origins of the universe; how rapidly it has expanded, and how all the atomic parts fit together. There is a lot left to learn. But not about whether or not the universe was created in seven days. It wasn’t. Rubio is wrong—it is not a dispute for theologians. It is not a dispute at all.
There are not two sides to every issue. Some have thirteen sides and others have one.
Michael Specter (“Mario Rubio Needs Evolution”)
(h/t Paul Fidalgo)
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