"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Review: Terry Riley: Requiem for Adam

It appears that eBay has taken the final step and eliminated all reviews: the links for Epinions reviews in my "Reviews" pages go to Shopping.com, which claims that it can't find the page. So, expect a lot of recycling here. I will be updating links on the "Reviews" pages as material is republished.

And since Terry Riley is in the air today (see the GMR post below), here's a review of his Requiem for Adam:

Terry Riley’s Requiem for Adam was written as a memorial to Adam Harrington, son of David Harrington, of the Kronos Quartet, and Regan Harrington, who died suddenly at the age of 16 of a coronary thrombosis while walking with his family on Mt. Diablo, near San Francisco. Riley is a close friend of the Harringtons, and Adam shared a birthday with his own son.

The Requiem is cast in three movements: “Ascending the Heaven Ladder,” “Cortejo Funebre en el Monte Diablo,” and “Requiem for Adam.” “Ascending the Heaven Ladder” opens with a quiet, spare passage that is quite funereal; there are small quivers of dissonance in this section, often unexpected and unsettling, as it rises to passages that are quite ethereal and that somehow, without our really noticing it, begin to incorporate dance rhythms, and then progressing with some intensity to another ascent and again, quiet. In the “Cortejo,” the quartet is joined by an electronic soundtrack of horns, bells, electronic percussion and gongs for an opening that establishes the feeling of a processional – the image in the first measures recalls nothing so much as the Third Movement of Mahler’s First Symphony, with its broken fugato treatment of the traditional children’s song, “Frere Jacques.” Like the Mahler, the “Cortejo” gets a bit raucous; Riley himself says that this is “funeral music more in the tradition of New Orleans Dixieland than Beethoven,” which is certainly an accurate assessment. The movement gradually takes on a driving, almost frantic rhythm that comes dangerously close to that characteristic of contemporary music that I call “urban Weltschmerz,” a holdover from the days when dissonance was all the rage – and then, the music stops, abruptly. The “Requiem” opens with another quiet, contemplative passage that calls to mind long vistas viewed with only the wind for company, the quiet of wild, lonely places, the deep silence of grief, which moves into a a pulsing, 7/8 dance rhythm, building to an intensity that suddenly catapults itself back into a very quiet, almost tenuous passage that echoes the similar sections in the first movement, and leaves us hearing an afterimage as the final resolution.

Riley captures, in these three movements, all the energy and passion of a young man who, as Riley says, “had music raging in him – the pulsations of a young life with its longings for freedom, to see as far as one can see, from the top.”

The Philosopher’s Hand, which finishes off the album, is a short (app. 5 minutes) track of Riley improvising at the piano on a suggestion by David Harrington that he play something for four or five minutes “thinking of Pandit Pran Nath,” a philosopher and friend of Harrington and Riley. The result is serene, thoughtful, and elegant, recalling is some measure that combination of fluidity and edginess in the piano music of Erik Satie.

Riley is an astonishing composer, formally considered a Minimalist along with Philip Glass and Steve Reich, but one who exhibits a very broad range and moves in other modes quite comfortably – I attended a concert by Riley a number of years ago here in Chicago; in the first half, he performed a classical Indian raga, followed by a shorter, informal raga; the second half was devoted to a work for altered piano, sitar and drums, which brought down the house. His availability on CD is, unfortunately, quite limited commercially. (Note: Since this was written, Riley's music has become much more available.) He certainly deserves wider exposure, although his music is certainly not material for W-Rock-R-Us FM.

The liner notes for this CD, written by Riley and Bob Gilmore, are very well done and quite informative. (The booklet is also quite beautiful, illustrated by photographs from the “Black Pulse” series by Mike and Doug Starn.) Riley talks about Adam Harrington and the technical design of the Requiem. Gilmore talks about Riley and his impact on contemporary music, crediting him with inventing repetitive minimalism, further developed by Reich and Glass, and tracing the development of Riley’s style through the 1960s and 70s. It was while teaching at Mills College in Oakland, California, that Riley met four young people in the fall of 1978, a string quartet on the lookout for “new” music to add to their repertoire – the Kronos Quartet. This has been a relationship that has been important to the development of both partners, and only underscores the point that, aside from personal considerations, Kronos was the only possible group to record Requiem for Adam.

I admire Terry Riley immensely, and I love his music. I admire the Kronos Quartet, and they occupy a significant place in my music collection. Quite frankly, if you are not familiar with Terry Riley, I’d suggest you find an opportunity to listen to this music first. But, with the full realization that this music is not for everyone, I recommend Requiem for Adam very highly.

It's Sunday Again

and time to check out What's New at Green Man Review:

Some Terry Riley works for string quartet, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a Charles de Lint novel and video fiction, a new Fairport album, Mast Sea Salt Chocolate and other matters

And there are lots of other matters, so click through and check it out.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Month's School Shooting

Like Digby, I have nothing to say, so I'm just going to borrow her post:

She also includes a comment from David Hogg:

Just recently saw a comment that we're twenty weeks into 2018 and there have been 22 mass shootings.

Welcome to Trump's America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA.

Friday, May 18, 2018

We're Not Going to Disappear

No matter how hard the Trump regime tries to make it happen:

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official disclosed that the agency will roll back support for the collection of data on the health and well-being of LGBT people through the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

“The BRFSS is one of the few federally-supported data collection activities that make the needs of LGBT people known to governmental agencies responsible for the safety, health and welfare of the public,” said Kerith J. Conron, the Research Director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. “By removing LGBT measures from the BRFSS, the federal government is shirking its responsibility to LGBT Americans.”

Today, at the conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research in Denver, Colo., a CDC official disclosed that the BRFSS module on sexual orientation and gender identity that the CDC provides to states will no longer be included among BRFSS optional modules starting in 2019. The sexual orientation and gender identity module has been an optional module since 2014 and has been used by over 30 states and territories.

According to the CDC, “[The BRFSS] is the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions and use of preventive services.” The BRFSS is a federal-state partnership, and it “collects data in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. BRFSS completes more than 400,000 adult interviews each year, making it the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world.”

This is evangelical "Christian" thinking: if you pretend they don't exist, then they don't exist. And if you wonder about that connection, Joe.My.God. has more on Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, at the link. He's a real piece of work.

Idiot(s) du Jour

The Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. According to them:

The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet.

Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming.

Some of the specific comments are hair-raising:

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) questioned Duffy on the factors that contribute to sea-level rise, pointing out that land subsidence plays a role, as well as human activity.

Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world's major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise.

"Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up," Brooks said.

Considering that the earth's surface is about 70% ocean, that the depth of the oceans averages just over 12,000 feet (the deepest part is over 36,000 feet, or just shy of seven miles), the oceans could easily swallow all the land on earth. Of course, at that point rise in sea level becomes irrelevant.

However, back to Brooks' comments; sorry, but erosion has minimal impact on sea level. As noted above, there's a lot more ocean than land on this planet, and the rate of deposition of sediment is insignificant in relation to sea level.

There's more, including the committee accusing federal climate scientists of fraudulently manipulating climate data. Read the whole thing.

One can't help but wonder how much money Big Oil has pumped into their campaign chests.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Today in Disgusting People: Of Course He Does


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said on Wednesday that he now has a legal fund in place to help him fight off a growing list of allegations against him related to his spending and reported ethical missteps in office.

“It has been set up,” Pruitt told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies about the fund. He was speaking during a hearing that was meant to focus on the EPA’s 2019 budget but that centered on questions about his conduct – including an allegation he had sought to be transported through traffic with flashing lights and sirens.

Pruitt has been under pressure from lawmakers in recent weeks over reports about his routine use of first-class travel, his 24/7 security detail, costly office renovations, and ties to industry – criticisms he called overblown on Wednesday.

"Overblown"? What? Not "Fake News"?

He is still supported by President Donald Trump and most Republicans lawmakers, who have welcomed his efforts to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations that are seen by industry as overly burdensome.

So, "industry" sees drinkable water and breathable air as "overly burdensome."

Out of all the crooks and grifters Trump has shoveled into his regime, Pruitt is undoubtedly among the two or three worst. And that's some pretty stiff competition.

Read the whole thing -- Pruitt is even worse than you imagined.

A Step At a Time

Thinking back over the past forty years or so, it's really remarkable how far we've come in society's acceptance of gays. And it shows up in unexpected ways:

Theodore Vidal and his boyfriend Colin Beyers were walking the Seaside Heights boardwalk on Friday after having spent the past few hours at Lacey High School. It was on that boardwalk that their story would become a national headline.

The bow-tie wearing teens had just attended Vidal's junior prom.

There's video at the link, which for some reason won't display in this format. However, via Towleroad, there's this description of the event:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Culture Break: Colin McPhee: Balinese Ceremonial Music

This popped up on this morning's playlist (yeah, I listen to all sorts of stuff in the morning). McPhee is a fascinating figure in American music, more because of his influence than his actual compositions, which weren't often performed during his lifetime. His book, Music in Bali was tremendously influential on people such as Lou Harrison and Terry Riley. It's somewhat ironic that discussions of Riley's music focus on the influence of Indian raga and tend to ignore Balinese gamelan.

At any rate, here it is. From the introduction on YouTube:

While Canadian composer Colin McPhee lived in Bali only for the decade of the 1930s, he was so enamored of the music of the island's local percussion orchestra, the gamelan, that it shaped his entire compositional style. His Balinese musician friends were, for their part, intrigued when his piano arrived. As described in his book, A House in Bali, they were puzzled by the thick-sounding Western-style chords, but they quickly were impressed by the way one or two people at the keyboard could imitate the multi-layered simultaneous patterns of their own music. While in Bali, McPhee made over 40 direct transcriptions of Balinese gamelan compositions. His partner was the young British expatriate composer, Benjamin Britten. The set of transcriptions comprises three works, arranged in a typically Western fast/slow/fast suite. Since Balinese music with its patterns was an inspiration for minimalism (which McPhee, who died in 1964, did not quite live to witness) this music sounds surprisingly modern.

Somehow, I'm Not Surprised

I get the feeling Trump has been played:

Donald Trump’s historic meeting with Kim Jong-un has been thrown into uncertainty as North Korea warned it could be cancelled over US military exercises and if Washington presses ahead with its one-sided demand for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's deputy foreign minister, warned on Wednesday that Pyongyang was not interested in talks that would pressure the rogue state to "unilaterally" give up its nuclear programme, taking aim at "unbridled remarks" by John Bolton, the US national security adviser, and other high-ranking White House officials.

In a statement issued by the North Korean Central News Agency [KCNA], Mr Kim took issue in particular with Mr Bolton's references to the so-called Libya model of nuclear abandonment and his statements on "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation."

Mr Kim claimed the remarks cast doubt on America's sincerity, underlining that his country was not Libya, which met a "miserable fate."

He added: "This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister moves to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had [sic] been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers."

Trust Bolton to stick his foot in it, but I think Kim was just looking for an excuse -- and sure enough, Trump gave it to him.

There goes the Nobel Prize (pfft!).

Via Joe.My.God.

Hide Your Irony Meter

or you're going to have to replace it:

Via press release from the Family Research Council:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today announced the appointment of Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as its newest commissioner, for a two-year term. Mr. Perkins will remain FRC president during his time with USCIRF.

Perkins must have written that release himself -- it goes on to turn reality on its head with its glowing description of Perkins' advocacy on behalf of "religious minorities" (trans: Christians in majority-Muslim countries).

All in all, it's just payback to the evangelicals to keep them in the fold.

Monday, May 14, 2018

We Can Make It Work If We Want To

Case in point: this story, which comes hard on the heels of John Kelly's remarks on immigrants.

First, the lead-in:

And then the story itself:

It was my second day at the biology class. There was a quiz. My bio teacher, Ms. Gallagher, told me I didn’t have to worry about the quiz since I just got to the class, but gave me the quiz sheet anyway.

This is more than 20 years ago, but I still very clearly remember every detail of that quiz sheet. The quiz was about photosynthesis. It had a diagram of a leaf, and I was supposed to write what kind of gas comes to the leaf, what is expelled, etc.

I remember staring at it for about five minutes, slowly getting angry with frustration. I was mad because the quiz was easy. I learned about photosynthesis in Korea as a 7th grade. I knew all the answers. Just not in English.

The quiz was my new reality. I hope you all have a chance to experience this: the experience of suddenly becoming stupid, suddenly having all of your knowledge turning into dust, useless and inaccessible in a new environment with new language.

After five minutes, I just decided to write in the quiz in Korean. It didn’t matter that Ms. Gallagher told me the quiz wouldn’t count; I wasn’t going to turn in a blank quiz sheet. I just had to prove to myself that I didn’t suddenly become stupid.

Two days later, Ms. Gallagher handed out the graded quiz. Then she announced to the class: “[TK] has the highest grade. He had the perfect score.” What – I looked at my quiz sheet. She graded my quiz in Korean, and gave me all the check marks.

I asked Ms. Gallagher (somehow) how she managed to grade my paper. Turned out Ms. Gallagher took my quiz to a Korean Am math teacher at my school. The math teacher’s Korean wasn’t great either, but she looked up the dictionary to help my bio teacher grade my quiz.

I get more emotional each time I think about this. Because the older I get, the more I realize what an extraordinary step Ms. Gallagher took for the sake of her student. She already told me the quiz wouldn’t count. She didn’t have to go through the trouble of grading my quiz.

But Ms. Gallagher graded my quiz. I truly believe that moment changed the trajectory of my immigrant life in the United States. Thanks to my teacher, I was able to prove to myself that I didn’t suddenly turn stupid. I just had to learn the new language.

So I did. I learned English, I studied hard, and graduated second of my class. My graduation speech was like a scene out of Napoleon Dynamite–it was so rambling and so terrible and so accented, my classmates were so confused. They were kind enough not to boo me off the stage.

I moved onto a good college, then a good law school. Now I’m a lawyer and writer who engages the world via my writing. I’ve had writing professors telling me they use my English writing as a model for their students. That blows my mind every time I hear it.

So. Every time a fuckshit like John Kelly talks about non-English speaking immigrants not assimilating to America, I think back to Ms. Gallagher. I remind myself that America has way more Ms. Gallaghers than John Kellys.

I don't think I need to add anything, except to note that the last comment is right: we do have a lot more Ms. Gallaghers than John Kellys. The problem is that assholes like Kelly and his boss are in charge -- at least for the time being.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and quite a mix of things at Green Man Review:

Nietzsche, Stephen King considered, chocolate of course and other matters

Nietzsche? Yes, you read that right. But it's the "other matters" that get really interesting, so pop over and take a look.