Friday, March 31, 2006

1/4 review of Kindred

A few years ago I watched pro- & anti- Lincoln debaters at the Independent Institute argue over whether Lincoln was a good guy or not. Concerning slavery, Thomas DiLorenzo, the anti-Lincoln presenter, stated:
...the rest of the world did find a way. It wouldn't have happened immediately, but England did it in six years. It took six years to end slavery in the British Empire. And, as I said, I think, African-Americans didn't really achieve justice in this country until 30 or 40 years ago, in my opinion, and that would have come much, much sooner had we done what England did.

I've heard a similar argument from the Ginger Haired Yank's old boss as well - slavery would have gone away within another generation in the US of its own accord. Still hard for me to believe given how long it took for blacks to gain equal rights in the states, and how accepted slavery was for millennia, but that would make for an interesting "what if..." What if a modern black female went back in time to New York and became an outspoken abolitionist in 1815 & married a white man and helped for a peaceful elimination of slavery? That's not the novel I'm reading, but it would be a novel riff on the theme of alternate histories.

In Kindred, we find out that the protagonist's husband is white - easy assumption to make that he'd be black since even now black women married to white men aren't that common - and by grabbing hold of her as she was dissapirating, he goes back in time along with her, so helps provide some protection for her. Instead of being presumed runaway, she's now the property of her white owner - miscegenation being outlawed in Maryland back in that day - and runs little risk of being beaten and possibly raped as happened to her when she went back to save her ancestor from accidental self-immolation.

No inkling of how she's dragged back-and-forth through time-space, and her female ancestor doesn't show up in this reel.

Tape 3 posting may have to wait until Monday's commute...oh, DiLorenzo's argument how life today would be better for blacks if they had remained slaves for another 30 or so years was not especially cogent. It's pretty dang easier to make that comment in a debate in Oakland, but he should try living the lifestyle before making that argument again.

Friday Night Pelligrino & Janis blogging

I'm pacing myself by only opening 1 new classical CD each Friday (Schumann & Grieg piano concertos), but now Janis is belting Gershwin, so this posting is dedicated to her rendition of Summertime.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

1/8th review of Kindred

Perhaps that's the disadvantage of reading Amazon reviews before listening to a book. Through the first tape, Dana has saved Rufus's life twice - drowning & fire - and stuck up a bit of a friendship with him, even convincing him to call her "Black woman" instead of nigger. I might have thought Dana was brought back to teach enlightenment to whites of that era, but reading the description below gives away almost the entire plot of the novel.

Kindred utilizes the devices of science fiction in order to answer the question "how could anybody be a slave?" A woman from the twentieth century, Dana is repeatedly brought back in time by her slave-owning ancestor Rufus when his life is endangered. She chooses to save him, knowing that because of her actions a free-born black woman will eventually become his slave and her own grandmother. When forced to live the life of a slave, Dana realizes she is not as strong as her ancestors. Unable to will herself back to her own time and unable to tolerate the institution of slavery, she attempts to run away and is caught within a few hours. Her illiterate ancestor Alice succeeds in eluding capture for four days even though "She knew only the area she'd been born and raised in, and she couldn't read a map." Alice is captured, beaten, and sold as a slave to Rufus. As Dana is sent back and forth through time, she continues to save Rufus's life, attempting during each visit to care for Alice, even as she is encouraging Alice to allow Rufus to rape her and thus ensure Dana's own birth. As a twentieth-century African-American woman trying to endure the brutalities of nineteenth-century slavery, Dana answers the question, "See how easily slaves are made?" For Dana, to choose to preserve an institution, to save a life, and nurture victimization is to choose to survive.

I had never heard of Octavia Butler until she died, when the obituaries all mentioned how rare black female science fiction writer are. Had never struck me what a white boy domain sci-fi is until that moment. Thinking back, the only female sci-fi authour that I've read is Ursula K. LeGuin, who wrote the fine "what if" novel Lathe of Heaven. However, even though both novels use the "what if" we tinker with the fabric of time motif, Kindred did not bring to mind LeGuin, but rather The Butterfly Effect during Dana's first saving of her ancestor's life.

Now that Dana is remaining in the past for an extended period, the reality of black existence in Maryland in 1815 is taking hold. Even free blacks had precarious existences living in "border" states in the ante bellum era, so chaos theory doesn't really apply to the rest of the novel.

Will be curious if any explanation of how Dana is transported through time/space is given - obviously every time Rufus's life is in danger he can call her back across a continent and 1½ centuries.

Tape 2 tomorrow....

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday Night Jigsaw puzzle blogging

Mardi Gras theme - have had this gift from sister for a few years, so finally time to break it out.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday Evening Classical Music blogging

Not sure if blogspot allows me to link MP3 clips, so this posting will be text only. All 13 classical CD's have now arrived, but i'm pacing myself still. Just decided to open the last 5 - 1 per week for Friday night dinner.

Opinions so far?

Would consider Chopin Piano Concerto #1 to be a wasted purchase, in part because the Barcarolle, Berceuse, and Fantasy on the disc are duplicated on the Impromptus CD, but also because Chopin's orchestral work is simply unimaginative filler. Frankly, neither piano concerto is really worth having - Chopin wrote great piano music (consider his ballade #2 & funeral march to be perhaps the greatest piano compositions of all time), but did not invest his creativity in his orchestral backing. I've noticed that I continue to put on the Impromptus CD & skip past the 3 impromtus. Ultimately the only judgment of a piece of music is how often you'll return for repeated listens.

Bach's Art of the Fugue is superior to his variations on a theme by Frederick the Great - ironically I made this purchase for the Musical Offering, not the art of the fugue, but there's little doubt which is the more impressive composition.

Partly out of curiosity I purchased Bruckner's 7th symphony (called his most beloved), but have been disappointed. Keep thinking that i've heard it before, but believe that it's largely a derivative piece of music with no outstanding movement such as the 2nd movement of the 9th or 3rd movement of Ludwig Van's masterful 7th symphony. Actually reviewing my collection, I have very few symphonies, perhaps I'm just spoiled my Beethoven's best works - Motzart's symphonies (and Haydn's) are puff-balls by comparison.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Night Pelligrino & filtered water blogging

lacks the depth of wine

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

14 down - 34 to go

Bush's 2nd term is proving to be amazing listless. Little more than a rehash of the arguments that have been going on for the past few years, with Bush playing defence and problems being kicked downstream. Can't believe that I'm the only American who wants to hit the fast forward button until 2 years have past because nothing substantive is going to happen before the next president takes office.

What has surprised me is how Bush has lost his deft political touch of his first term. Even admitting that tax cuts, drug entitlements & war are easy sells to our populace, Bush showed legislative acumen gaining approval for the Medicare drug entitlement and tax cuts - an acumen that seems to have completely deserted him in his second term. The UAE ports deal showed an incredible tin ear - how could your staff have not let you know that here's an issue that might kick up a shitstorm. Perhaps Bush was spoiled by the success of his first term & believed that he could continue to have his way with Congress and popular opinion, and now doesn't know how to adopt beyond staunching the bleeding.

By contrast Reagan's 2nd term had tax reform, Iran-Contra, and the INF treaty. Clinton's had his impeachment and Kosovo. Something positive and something entertaining for both presidents if not historic.

Iraq: not sure why the 3 year anniversary has prompted so many retrospective postings compared to the previous anniversaries, but the words have bleed out for days now. US soldier death tolls are down, but Iraq itself is in a low level civil war, and we'll be along for the ride for at least the next 3 years. After that I'll have to predict some peace with honor approach from Bush's successor (see wager below) while leaving some token force for appearances.

Wagers: The NYTimes magazine section had a cover article on my boy Mark Warner. Overall mixed article - basically saying that Hillary's money & Q-factor only allowed 1 serious Dem challenger. Very unappealing photo on the front cover of the magazine as well that oddly "rendered colors incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor who is a possible candidate for the presidency. The jacket was charcoal, not maroon; the shirt was light blue, not pink; the tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon."

Bush's recent comment gives me confidence that I'll win the wager on troop size (minimum of 50,000) by the end of his term.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Time to abolish the jury system

Don't know alot about Britain's 3-judge system, but all in favor of replacing today's amateur jury system with professional judges. Finished wasting 2 days for a DUI trial. According to the judge, he realized that El Segundo cops often video tape DUI stops, so he asked for the tape & the attorneys settled the case after we cooled our heels for 1 hour out in the hallway.

My biggest argument is the waste of productivity. Wednesday a group of 120 of us piffled away the day. Seemed like a good cross-section: i chatted with a doctor, another fellow was a sole proprietor of a business, a lady was 1 of 2 office workers and asked to be excused because the other lady in the office was on vacation (judge refused). Total up how many wasted manhours are sucked up by a DUI case. At least make some distinction between types of crimes and for lessor offences such as a DUI make them a judge, not jury, case.

The argument given by a judge in her pep talk had to do with conditions in Britain back in 1780 (abuses by a judge pushed Patrick Henry to push for part of current system: well times have changed - our legal system should adopt.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gorging on classical music

10 classical CD's arrived in the mail today, so pacing myself. Initial observations:

  1. Debussy's orchestral music is superior to his piano solo works.
  2. The Art of the Fugue is more engaging than The Musical Offering.
  3. Wonderful reading De Tweeling while Bach's melodies interleave in the background.

Perhaps it's unfair to state that times have changed since we no longer have Frederick the Greats offering themes to Bachs for musical compositions - closest artist politician this era would be Havel, and even he just held the quasi-ceremonial post of president - given that thinking back on history, I can recall many ruler-patrons of the art, but can't recall any other examples of leaders giving the kernel of an idea to a great artist.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Long delayed annotation to tigerhawk's response to USS Clueless

Intro: A few months ago, I had planned to write a response to tigerhawk's annotation to Steven Den Beste's widely site strategic overview of the Iraq War written back in November. Not sure why it's taken me 3+ months since I started, but my original goal was to send a copy to tigerhawk - now months later, that seems a bit silly.

Originally when I read Tigerhawk's posting, I wished that instead of a point-by-point update to Beste's original post, Tigerhawk had just addressed the most important arguments. I had considered making that suggestion, but I remember Beste's statement in his final post concerning "helpful Email"

Far too much of it was from people who knew better than me what I should have
written, and wanted to tell me how to rewrite it.
in that spirit, here's my annotation.

Argument: The key issues addressed by Beste were:
  1. What is the root cause of the war? Why is the US fighting the war? Why were we attacked?
  2. Our response
What is the root cause of the war? Why were we attacked? Beste's arguments are correct....
...but a key factor not mentioned was our meddling - nations do resent the US being the arbiter of how folks should live.


This is the weakest part of the argument. Stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is not dead.

To be fair, Bush has given both rhetoric and some soft power support to democratization in Egypt, Lebanon, and other countries, but on balance, the status quo still holds, and no sham election in Egypt can change that fact.

What we should have done:
  1. End foreign aid. If we really do believe that the status quo must change, then we should stop supporting non-democratic governments. Ending foreign aid would hardly mean that we should "stop supporting Israel and throw it to the wolves". Israel can survive without our aid- they now have peace treaties with both Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq is no longer a threat to them. We would no longer be in a position of supporting non-democratic rulers, and Israel would be forced to make some quick & hard decisions concerning their occupation of Palestine. Any debt owed to our government should be written off as part of ending foreign aid.
  2. For Iraq - if you were honestly worried that our containment was no longer successful - we could have kept UN inspectors there for years & time has shown that Beste was wrong to state "the new inspections were a joke." Blix & his team used the best of our intelligence to find no NBC weaponry, and at most the likelihood that Saddam had stored some Chemical and Biological weapons. What we found out after the war was that the only CBW's he possessed were some left over artillery shells from the late 80's. We could also have expanded the no-fly zone to cover the entire country if we wished, and pushed for international recognition of Kurdistan.
  3. We moved our troops out of Saudi Arabia to appease Bin Laden & his followers. No more infidel troops on holy soil. But we could have accomplished this goal without a war. Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar and the UAE would have hosted our troops if necessary.

What we should do now:

  1. Give 1 year notice that we'll be leaving Iraq. The existing government then has to figure out what they'll need to survive. As part of our farewell, a lump sum payment of $100B line of credit to help them get on their feet.
  2. End foreign aid ($100B above is a one time payment for damages incurred).
  3. End the legal limbo for detainees in Gitmo.
  4. Stop holding hands and blowing air kisses to leaders of countries that are not free.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Why I don't like Rachmaninoff (piano concerto #2)

Showy for the sake of being showy.
Flashy for the sake of being flashy.
Tries too hard to impress.

Listening to him makes me want to paraphrase Ray Davies "you keep all your smart modern composers, give me Frédéric Chopin"

Friday Night Pelligrino blogging

Ginger Haired Yank thinks Perrier tastes better

Thursday, March 09, 2006

$150 worth of music starting to trickle in

Chopin's Piano Concerto #1 & his impromptus showed up today. A bit ticked off, or possibly pissed at myself for not looking closer. Roughly 1/3 of the CD's overlap - fantaise (Op. 49, Barcarolle, and Berceuse. Damn. Hate it when the same music is repackaged. Made the same mistake on a couple of Thelonious Monk CD's w/John Coltrane.

On the positive side, I'm enjoying the Concerto more than #2 and the Impromptus seem to be good reading music as Luigi stated. Generally I don't like background music of any kind, but have realized that much of my classical collection is not suited for reading.

I guess you could listen to Shostakovich's string quartets with their pervasive sense of foreboding and paranoia, while reading A Problem From Hell: America and the age of Genocide, but if you're not learning more about the killing fields and Armenian massacre and ethnic cleansing, then neither Shostakovich nor Bartok is really decent reading music.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

tunes for cruising

The best of the DFM's i purchased recently, and a perfect album for cruising down the 101 at 2 a.m. on your way to catch the ferry out to the channel islands. something about the beat just meshes with driving along the ocean at a high speed.

now the perfect freeway song will always be radar love. a gal i knew from high school told me how she was driving back from florida with Radar Love blasting & found that the beat would syncopate with the road at 85. unfortunately, a policeman quickly pulled her over, which she then talked her way out of (forget the rationale, but syncopating Golden Ear ring wasn't it).

not sure why, but driving across the Sierra Nevadas to visit Manzanar was a perfect back drop for Bartok's string quartets - normally string quartets are never driving music. perhaps the underlying paranoia matched a visit to a japanese interment camp.

guess that only leaves choosing the perfect tune for driving from Yellowstone across the mountains to Cody, Wyoming. don't think Cat Power, Beth Orton, or Patty Larkin can fill that bill.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spending $150 on CD's

I would know what to buy. When scanning the 20 gig on my ipod the following CD's are the ones I keep returning to and would really like to own.

Film Music:
Music from the OC
Great compilations, the show is fun to watch too. The script writers must really have fun. Must be an ideal job.

Ali Farka Toure
All albums, One of the best out of Africa and probably best in Mali

Babyshambles: Down in Albion
That bass line. Beautiful

M.I.A.: Arular
shrilankan, British pop; unbelievable good pop music.

Zoe: exile African
You cannot get more bubbly music than Zoe. Just listen to my favorite number: Afro Cut

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's: fever to tell
Punk, Garage at its best. Gets your adrenaline level up.

Souad Massi: Deb
Moroccan music, excellent. First time I heard this I suddenly recognized a melody (my Moroccan is pretty bad) and suddenly I remembered the song: They play a cover of Bow, Wow, Wow (obscure '80's band with lyrics like: Go wild wild wild, Go wild in the country, where snakes in the grass are absolutely free (even after 25 years I have not gotten that tune out of my head)) Unbelievable.

Bright Eyes
Over here the press it telling us that this is IT in the US. So the next remarks may all be superfluous. Great music. It has to grow on you but than a whole world opens up for you.

Missy Elliott
All albums, this woman is a genius. The Frank Zappa of Rap (or whatever you call it)

Gillian Welch
The Arvo Part of Folk music. Beautiful music. Great when you feel like curling up in fetus posture in a corner of the room. And for snow covered Sunday mornings.

Talk about 'lamenting female singers". She redefines the genre. Existential Topless Bar Music (Simone de Beauvoir would love it). Great for in your car on a Friday Evening when you are feeling really lousy. Who else could write a number like "fxxk the pain away". Not all numbers are up to par, but the best numbers are pure genius.

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