Friday, April 18, 2014

Lord Percival, Good Friday, and some other stuff

Lord Percival - Parsifal
Cut me a little slack here. To me this makes sense, albeit obscure but if Donald Trump can convince 45% of republicans that the President of the United States is a foreign born citizen and not really president - well I can try this.

Wagner, the German composer of the 19th century (yes him!) wrote an opera of sorts - more likely a staged oratorio but that makes this too complicated - titled Parsifal.  Not to go nuts on you but there is a medieval epic poem called Percival or however it is spelled in our modern notation dating from the 13th century.  Wagner got the commission to write this work on "Good Friday" in 1859...

"... on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise. Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram's Parzival. Since the sojourn in Marienbad  where I had conceived Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts."

So that was this morning 155 or so years ago.  There is a part of it called the Good Friday Spell in Act III which for some reason plops this Wagner work into the middle of the Easter days.  You can listen to it at the end of this little diatribe.

Wagner, who I studied ad naseum in grad school, wasn't the best of persons.  He honored marriage as much or as little as Newt, was more in and out of debt than "the Donald", and generally wasn't consumed by conscience like Ms. Palin.  He was a genius. He was also a racist first rate but - and this is a long pause - was not outside his society which felt that Jew-baiting was a national sport.  Hitler, who loved his stuff, didn't love him because he was a Jew-baiter, he loved him because of his "epic" qualities.  That he was a racist was a given and I just point you to Vienna - the crown jewel of European arts and enlightenment - and look for yourself how the Christian world regarded the Jews.

Ms. Palin enters into this because of her "blood libel" comment of a few years back that still sets my hair on fire.  The phrase goes well before Wagner and his anti-semitisim/racism but it would have been easily said by him and others of his society.  Just a bon bon of thought or lack of it...just the way things are or were.  

I have a friend in the Israel Philharmonic.  For decades they would play no "Wagner" in concerts due to the associations with German/Hitlerian/anti-semitism.  That Passover is intertwined with Easter is something for discussion and that Parsifal is intertwined with Good Friday is also of note.  That an anti-Semite is dead in the middle of epic poetry, passover, Jew baiting, Hitler, and the day of days for Christians is, in effect, the microcosm that is our current society of which Ms. Palin contributes both so much and so little.  

We call ourselves a Christian nation with the vaunted "Judeo-Christian" ethic ( a complete and utter falsehood as the term 'Judeo-Christian" is an invention of scant 100 years ago to bring the Jews into the fold in opposition to the black population - and yes you can look it up) yet we permit slips into "blood libel" and Wagner on Good Friday and because the most evil person in history loved his music and we can amply point to Wagner as a Jew hater endemic to his time in history - well it is of confusion to say the least.

That there was a Lord Perzival in German epic poetry and that he was really the Percival of Arthur's Round Table and Wagner gets a commission on Good Friday and works it into a stage production that is strongly associated with Good Friday and also with Hitler and Jew baiting and blood libel and Palin...

It is what it the way, "fal parsi" (parsifal) means "perfect fool" in Pharsi...just saying.

Requiem (Fauré)

          Requiem (Fauré)

Good Friday.  Not have a good Friday. 
A requiem is a mass for the dead - a "proper" not an "ordinary" mass. I won't get into the tall weeds on the difference other than an observing the "ordinary" is following the normal mass or service flow and a "proper" is parts of the mass "not ordinarily" observed Sunday to Sunday (or Saturday at 4p)
The French composer, Gabriel Faure, wrote this beauty in the 1890s.  That period in Paris, those ten
years, was my dissertation area and one piece by Debussy from that time, took up about 20 years of my life.  If I could see the watermark on the music paper (above) I could tell you which music store he bought it from and what year.  Useless trivia at this point in my life; stuff that clogs my brain up so I miss the important things.  Oh well.
The piece has a duration of about 35 minutes. It consists of seven movements:
  1. Introït et Kyrie (D minor)
  2. Offertoire (B minor)
  3. Sanctus (E-flat major)
  4. Pie Jesu (B-flat major)
  5. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna (F major)
  6. Libera Me (D minor)
  7. In Paradisum (D major)

That last movement, "In Paradisum" (in Paradise), is, well, how can I say it other than a few minutes of absolute beauty.  On this Good Friday, 2014 at sunrise, takes my breath.  I'll post below that section that is performed best in my mind and the full Requiem below it. 

Listen some and go about your might put you, however, in a gentler frame of mind.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Near miss on the way - perhaps

high highways
I'm thinking about the soon to be war in Ukraine and how terrible it must be to be there; the unsettledness of it all.  Ukrainians understand things full well.  We don't.  They get it that the Russians like to play a brand of "chicken" where they run full tilt forward toward something or somebody and wait until the last minute to divert course before collision. They don't want to "head on" anyone but it is a show of "character" that the other fella will blink first and swerve.  In the end, they are content to avoid rather than crash but you'd never know it.

About a quarter century ago, my wife and I were flying out of Moscow on our way to London. We somehow scored seats 1A and 1B on a big British Airways jet and after a month in Mother Russia, well, we had "wound down" on some pretty good stuff as we approached the Baltic.

On board were, of all things, a group of Germans who were the offspring of German families caught up in WWII and living in Siberian villages until even the Russians grew tired of them and let them out.  Germany wouldn't take them. England would.  The pilot announced we were just about out of Russian airspace and there was a big cheer and British Airways treated the whole lot of them to some pretty decent hooch.

I looked out the window to see what I could see, prompted by the announcement and whooosh, a Lufthansa jet seemed to pass by about a foot away.  It was actually pretty scary....I think I could see the rivets in the wing.  I mentioned this to the attendant who went into the cockpit and soon came back and asked if I would like to join the pilots for a bit and talk about it. I had some diplomatic status but nothing like this, so, martini in hand, up I went.

Seems as just about the instant when Moscow air traffic control is about to hand off to Tallinn, Estonia and radio contact is switched off or over, the pilots of oncoming planes liked to scare the Russian controllers half to death and "stage" a close call. 1,000 feet not 100 like it seemed, but on radar, it looked like a smash sure to happen.

It puts Ukraine into some context.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How could you possibly think this is OK?

Gov. Mary Fallin, Shrew of Oklahoma (R)
Oklahoma is knee deep in oil and natural gas - well nose deep in the later. It has a couple big towns that give urban renewal a bad rap - acres of parking lots where buildings once stood. Tulsa looks like Hiroshima. The Okies don't have much of a chance; caught between BIG energy and a lunatic right wing that behaves shamefully.  She hasn't lived on $7/hr. and change since she took office.

Ms. Fallin just signed a bill "BANNING" municipalities in her dust bowl state from setting minimum wage and compensation laws. She gets to do it or no one. No one has a say but her. I enjoy it when she says she wants "less intrusive government"....unless, of course, it is her own intrusion.  Keep 'em poor Mary...they'll love ya'.

Beginning and end to a night in the City

I can image it being the late 20s, fancydan car with a driver decked out in a uniform and cap, stylish blond in a black dress and carefully slung fur. Her companion in white tie and tails..bright, energetic streets bathed in off white lights, the steps to the doorman and into the supper club....
Lullaby by Gershwin
 After, a walk in the park, perhaps a nightcap in a piano bar or perhaps a quartet at the Algonquin...martini glasses clicking and all hushed tones.  A film noir in detail and soft edges...

You don't have to do a thing....I'll take you there. It's just down the block around the corner.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Both a Senator and an Ass

Proving you can be BOTH a Senator and an Ass
Captain Insano is all a twitter of late...he and some of the other Texas Dufuss Brothers.  They are out to get Ms. Lerner of the IRS for doing her job and now they have included the Attorney General for not prosecuting everyone but the scullery maid. 

Calling Holder the “most partisan attorney general in the country,” Cruz noted that despite reassurances from President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice has not indicted a single person in the months following a Department of Treasury inspector general report that found the IRS had scrutinized conservative and Tea Party groups.

“In the eight months that have transpired, not a single person has been indicted,” Cruz said. “In the eight months that have transpired, most of the victims of wrongful targeting haven’t even been interviewed.”
At the root of it, the  little Tea Party is blowing its top over the IRS taking a closer look and making them jump through hoops to get their 501(c)(3) status. Let's start there.

501(c)(3) standing is given to non-profits who do work "for the common good".  That is, they are non-partisan and show no favoritism to one sector of the public over another. You can't get 501(c)(3) or (c)(4) status if, for instance, you raised money and part of your funds went to support "white only buses and restrooms". That would be an instance and example of "not for the common good".

“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.  The prohibition applies to all campaigns including campaigns at the federal, state and local level.  Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

People who donate to 501(c)(3)s are permitted to write off their donations 100% on their tax returns. Not a huge deal but about $25-50 billion dollars of donations are written off every year so it adds up.

Around 2009 or so, about 296 applications for 501(c)(3) status were received by the IRS from the Tea Party and their local chapters. It was as if this huge charity sprung up out of nowhere. OK so far. The IRS investigated them as 296 of anything would have and should have raised a flag. None were denied although it is certainly true that some had a bit of a struggle getting approved. And why shouldn't they have a struggle?
You might to read about it here. The facts are that many of the Tea Party chapters who swore and affirmed that they worked for the common good, were, at the very least, partisan political action groups who you and I "pay for".  

This is all a bunch of jive.

Hell's Half Acre

I give you the exit to Perry, Oklahoma. Population about 5,200. It is nestled in north central Oklahoma about 30-40 some miles south of the Kansas border.  The water coming out of the tap in resident's homes catches fire from the methane More interestingly, the ground shakes with 3.0+ earthquakes 3-4 times a day.

It started out as Wharton, OK as a train stop.  The infamous Dalton Gang robbed a train there. That was 130+ years ago.  121 years ago, 1893 to be exact, a strip of land was opened up for settlement (the Cherokees didn't get a vote).

"At noon on September 16, 1893, "a run" for land within "the Strip" was opened. An estimated 100,000 men, women, and children took part and by nightfall 40,000 had erected tents in Perry. Jack Tearney started at the county line and reached Perry within 31 minutes. By 4:00 p.m. he had erected and opened the "Blue Bell" saloon selling beer the first day for $1.00 a bottle, due to the scarcity of water. He would sell 38,000 glasses".

Named "Hell's Half Acre", the original town's perimeter included A & F streets and 1st and 9th streets. About 110 saloons and gambling houses were in operation with many of them set up 1/2 block east of the east side of the now existing square.

A new Hell's half acre has sprung up in the outskirts.  Water is still scarce but what there is is pumped
A fracking tower in 'campo aperto"
down holes under a lot of pressure.  I might add that there are some chemicals added to the process but let's save that for another day as the water that flows in the region tends to catch on fire so the chemicals take kinda a back burner.  Anyway, this is a fracking tower.  They are growing like corn; big, noisy corn.  There are a lot of them around the area busy fracking away.

From these tower's efforts, we get natural gas, a lot of pollution and water that burns....well "ignites" is a better term. We also get a bonus:  earthquakes.  Lots of them.  In fact, we get more in an area that has no fault lines than occur on the San Andreas fault on our west coast.  Here is a summary of the last few hours:

I don't want to be a nudge.But let's see what we have here. We build these mechanical messes all over the place.  They foul the land. They cause water to ignite when it comes out of the tap and they cause earthquakes where there shouldn't be one a lifetime.

Just a visit to Perry Oklahoma on a nice spring morning.