Monday, May 23, 2016

Thelonious Monk Piano Solo - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

A good friend of mine is wild about this song. I thought that I'd give her a sense of how many different acts have done the song since it appeared in the Broadway show "Roberta" in 1933. Guess which version she liked best (after the Platters 1958 hit that is)?

That's right. Mr. T. Monk!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Brother-In-Law Is A Reader

This month I paid a visit to my sister and her husband in Arizona. I like my brother-in-law; he’s a good little reader. In fact, he’s a BIG reader, the biggest reader that I know. He’s big in both volume and content. As a reader, to paraphrase Wes Montgomery talking about jazz, he “goes way up and stays there.”

Here are some book titles that I picked off of his shelves:

Schopenhauer-Essays and Aphorisms.

General Economic History, by Max Weber.

Theory and Application of Infinite Series, by Knapp.

Engineering in the Ancient World, by Landels.

The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus, by Burney and Lang.

Introduction to Semimicro Qualitative Analysis, by Sorum

A History of the Ostrogoths, by Burns.

Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology, by Hess.

Who’s Afraid of Schroedinger’s Cat? By John Gribbin.

A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (Volumes One and Two).

Frederick II, by David Abulafia.

Mohammed and Charlemagne.

The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia.

Elementary Matrix Theory, by Eves

Teach Yourself Sanskrit (!!!)

Arabic Grammar (Two of them, big ones).

Towards a New Philosophy of Biology.


He has a science background, and he’s always been interested in history and languages. “Interested” sounds too mild; he swims pretty deep in his interests. Nice guy, too, and a good husband to my sister. All in all, he’s worked out pretty well for the family. 

Lloyd Price - Just Because

Not only a charming pop hit, but also an almost unique melody line. Almost any song that you will hear has a melody line in the vocal that starts somewhere, goes up a bit, and comes back down. This little gem starts at the top of the melody and comes exclusively down.

Please forgive me if I have already pointed this out to you. I'm famous for repeating myself.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Our Different Worlds

Everyone’s world is different from everyone else’s. We all see the world differently; we experience it differently. As a result, all judgments are subjective, and personal.

No two people outside of ourselves see us quite the same way, and none of the outsiders see us the way that we see ourselves. This can lead to social and psychological tensions.

In my world, in my own view, I am a reasonable man; responsible, if not overly so; neither particularly lazy nor energetic; not, perhaps, the sharpest tool in the shed, but more useful than many in intellectual matters; more friendly and considerate than most; and deserving of a place at the table of men. In your world, I would probably rate less.

Recently I was again reminded of what some other people think of me. It was not pleasant. My wife and I divorced about a year ago, and it has led to a shit-storm of obloquy being directed at me.

I’d like it to stop, but it’s got a lot of wind in its sails. I don’t try to fight it, because it’s not a war, after all. I love the woman, she’s great. I deeply appreciate all of the things that she has done for me over the decades. We got divorced, which is certainly not unusual these days, even among people our age. Why must it be an opportunity to place blame?

Somewhere it says, “judge not, lest ye be judged,” or words to that effect. It’s a good sentiment, and one need not be religious to catch the rhythm of it.

So I say to my detractors, please lay off. Recall that no one knows what goes on in a marriage but the two spouses. I’m not some social science experiment that must be commented on. We all make our own way in the world, and I do the best that I can. Isn’t that all that any of us can do?

Now forgive me if I go back to my real life and try to be happy. Living well would be the best revenge, now wouldn’t it? 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Foster Brooks Roasts Don Rickles

These "Friars' Club Roasts" were the rage about forty years ago, and Foster Brooks was a regular.

Take a minute to get past the now declasse drunk act. The guy's hysterically funny. The jokes are great. He totally kills this stage full of pros.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Common Complaint, Revisited

Our leaders, what are they good for? I always complain about how our political leaders do nothing to help us. They always seem to me to take baby steps when a good idea comes up, and they always seem to react too slowly when something dangerous presents itself. They spend our money foolishly. A large portion of them seem to work only on self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement.  The world is rushing off to hell in a handbasket, and they, after all, are in charge of day-to-day operations. Maybe it’s a fair complaint, but maybe it’s possible that they do all that they can do, all that is in their power. Clumsily, usually, but maybe I’m overestimating their ability to affect change or control events. Perhaps it’s all out of control for another reason altogether.  

Question: who performs the actions that really form, or could affect change in, the world?

It occurred to me that the flow of history may be formed by a much larger group of entities, including individuals and groups from not only politics, but also from the business community and from society itself. It may be formed by the actions of selfish, local entities of all types, acting individually and reacting to the same or similar stimuli.

Identifying these groups gets out of hand quickly. It doesn’t have to be limited to political or economic groups that wield real power. It wouldn’t be only governments and corporations. Any individual who is truly rich would certainly qualify. So would powerful families. But why stop there?

It might be all of us that share collective guilt for the mess our society is in. I mean the society of human beings here on the earth. Autonomous humans, acting in what they perceive to be their own best interests, doing things.

Things like eating steaks; electing foolish politicians; having children; playing golf; discarding unpleasant facts; keeping a lawn; driving an automobile; embracing supernaturalism; flying commercial; fighting zero-sum battles for resources; backing wars; embracing nationalism. Just about everything that we do has a consequence in environmental terms, it all has some impact on the future.

What would it take to impose order on this chaos? Authoritarian solutions always seem to bring their own chaos, becoming counterproductive rather quickly. Democracy can’t do it, because it lacks the power to accomplish anything that would be unpopular with powerful interests or a recalcitrant general public. Enlightened rulers come along occasionally, but they are usually treated with love but not respect by their unenlightened subjects. Could we turn the world into one vast Denmark? Probably not, because there would be too many competing groups that would be too suspicious of one another.

I wonder how they did it on Star Trek. That Star Trek universe is certainly a dream of order, until the Ferengi or the Borg show up, anyway. Left to its own devices, the Star Trek world is a peaceful, prosperous place. Everyone is working, and happily, too. People have children. Diversity is embraced. There’s general health and income security. The environment seems clean and healthy. There doesn’t seem to be much of a government at all. But didn’t they build that world only after some vast military/environmental catastrophe? After enormous violence and loss of life? Maybe they started an authoritarian technocracy of philosopher-scientists. That might work in a fictional narrative, but it wouldn’t in the real world. Absolute power really does corrupt, absolutely. We’ve seen that happen often enough.

The only possible conclusion in all of this is darkly pessimistic. The train is out of control, speeding up at an alarming rate, and closing in on the final collision with the inevitable solid object. The current plan is obviously to push the pieces forward slightly from where they were yesterday, and I don’t think that anyone believes that that will work out well at all.

So, pessimism then. Not a bad way to go, after all. If anything but the worst happens, it’ll be a pleasant surprise!