Great moments in civilization

From the comments at Isegoria:

Years ago, I drove a visitor from the Middle East around the suburbs and countryside of my beautiful Rust Belt city. He observed, that in his country, one felt safe in the cities, but you feared going into the exurbs, as you would be at the mercy of bandits and other lawless types. He admired the fact that we had managed to reverse that order, which has held for most of human history.

Two weeks early

Here’s an old shape-note hymn, “Star in the East” or “Brightest and Best,” from William Walker’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. It’s actually an Epiphany hymn, but since “We Three Kings” is inescapable at this time of year, I figured I can post it for the Christmas season.

Southern Harmony is an interesting historical document, by the way. While it contains much worthwhile music, it also has such curiosities as “The Romish Lady.”

There was a Romish Lady brought up in Popery,
Her mother always taught her the priest she must obey;
O pardon me, dear mother, I humbly pray thee now
For unto these false idols I can no longer bow.

Assisted by her handmaid, a Bible she conceal’d,
And there she gain’d instructions, till God his love reveal’d;
No more she prostrates herself to pictures deck’d with gold.
But soon she was betray’d….

Betrayed by her mother, she is thrown into a dungeon by priests, brought before the Pope and condemned to be burnt to death. Such was the state of ecumenism in the 19th-century United States.

Winter yellows

The unusually mild weather this fall fooled some of the bulbs I planted back in October into sprouting leaves. Some daffodils apparently don’t need winter chilling to bloom. I found the above in my garden this afternoon. There is no such thing as normal Kansas weather, and out-of-season flowers are not unprecedented here. I’ve picked roses as late as a week before Christmas. After the February freeze, we can use a mild winter. Still, it’s odd.

Continue reading “Winter yellows”

Thrilling sports action — maybe

If you’re up early (it’s 7 a.m. here), you can catch the games of current world championship chess match here. This time Magnus Carlsen faces Ian Nepomniachtchi. So far it’s been nothing but draws, like the Carlsen/Caruana face-off, but perhaps there will be some decisive action as the match progresses.

Update: Eight hours and 136 moves later, we finally have a win in a classical game.

Update II: After starting with five draws, Carlsen won four of the next six games, winning the match and retaining his title.

Being shameless

Severian tells a little story:

I got offered a mask walking into a store; I gave them a cheery “no thanks, I’m disabled!” and walked around doing my business, seemingly oblivious…. but I saw more than one person pull theirs down, and in the checkout line I had a woman (no less!) say something like “I wish more people would do what you did… but I gotta ask….”

“What’s my disability? It’s that I just can’t put up with scientifically illiterate bullshit, and I’m allergic to fascism. It’s a serious handicap, trust me.”

She took her mask off and gave me a high five right there. I know, I know, cool story bro… but it happened.

The pits

I spent much of the holiday weekend updating my computer’s operating system and dealing with the consequences. While banging my head against the wall, I reflected on how Macintosh computers have evolved over the years and what is likely in the future. If Apple continues naming its operating systems after places in California, I have suggestions.

Before Mavericks and Yosemite, Macintosh operating systems were named for big cats. When Apple exhausts geography, they might consider botany. Manchineel, Gympie-Gympie and Gifblaar would all be splendid names for products of contemporary software giants.

Five months early

Fall here so far has been mild and warm. It’s fooled the lilac at the corner of the house into blooming, and some of the bulbs I planted last month have already popped up. There may be some frost this weekend, but otherwise it looks like winter will hold off a little longer.

There is finally some decent fall color around town, the best from maples such as this one near my parish church, below.

There are more pictures here.

Continue reading “Five months early”

Today’s quotes

Severian:

One of the most bizarre things about the Current Year is how quickly and thoroughly the shenanigans of our globohomo pirate overclass has turned me into a goofy Commie. I sound exactly like — if not far worse than — the goofiest hippy-dippy professor I mocked so mercilessly back in undergrad. I will never, ever wear Birkenstocks, nor a long gray pony tail behind my bald dome, but in every other way I’m just like those guys.

US out of everywhere? Hell yes, and much faster! The CIA is starting wars for fun and profit? Not only are they doing that, they’re trying to provoke insurrections right here at home, too, with the eager help of their Mini-Me’s in the FBI, who are so corrupt that the only decent thing to do is root for the Mob and the drug cartels. Manufacturing Consent reads like a how-to manual these days, and 1984 is the 50 Shades of Gray of the political class. They were right by accident, those hippies, and for all the wrong reasons, but… they were right.

Maureen Mullarkey:

As of October 24, the number of roses sent was 14,159. Had anyone thought to send Pelosi a dead fish instead? The stink of some 14,159 fish carcasses piling up in the mail room of her DC office would correspond perfectly to the stench of the abortion regime she represents.

Boo, boo

A couple years ago I posted a Halloween playlist focusing on eccentric music most people have never heard. This year I’m trying something a little different. Here’s some seasonally-appropriate piano music, some of which you may know and some of which may be strange to you.

Charles-Valentin Alkan was allegedly the only pianist of their generation whom Liszt found intimidating. A reclusive eccentric, he wrote uncompromisingly difficult music that only in recent years has begun to enter the repertoire. Here’s Marc-André Hamelin with the finale to Alkan’s “Symphony” for solo piano, which has been characterized as a “ride through Hell.”

Raymond Lewenthal, who kick-started the Alkan revival fifty-odd years ago with his Alkan recordings, plays the entire symphony here. It includes a funeral march followed by a macabre minuet. A couple more pieces: “Les diablotins,” featuring tone clusters long before Henry Cowell was born; “Scherzetto.”

Liszt’s various “Mephisto” waltzes are too obvious to mention. Instead, here’s his set of variations on “Dies Irae,” “Totentanz.”

Bonus: from Liszt’s late, experimental works, the “Czardas Macabre.”

Possibly the finest Halloween music ever composed is Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit.” Here’s Martha Argerich. (When Argerich was a student, her teacher at one point thought she had been slacking off and therefore assigned her “Gaspard.” Argerich didn’t know that it was nearly impossible and learned it in a week.)

(This brings back non-treasured memories. Early one morning many years ago, the jackass in the apartment next to mine set the building on fire in a bungled suicide attempt. Fortunately, I was awake and the fire alarm worked, and everyone got out of the building safely. The firemen had the blaze under control before the flames reached my place, and I was able to retrieve most of my possessions later. However, there was much smoke and water damage (I boasted that I had the largest collection of dirty books in town, none of which were pornography). One of the casualties was Argerich’s early Ravel record, including “Gaspard,” which had been on the turntable when the fire started.)

So you don’t like piano music, but you want to hear something beyond “Monster Mash”? Lee Hartsfeld has you covered. He’s recorded and restored ancient 78 rpm records of Halloweenish music and made them available to download here and here. And here. The selection is amazing — the first batch includes Leopold Godowsky playing Edward MacDowell and Zez Confrey playing Zez Confrey. There’s Cole Porter and Paul Whiteman, jazz and ragtime and novelty tunes and much more, some terrific, some ridiculous. It’s worth a download or three.

Approaching the end

Today was probably the last pleasant day of the year, so I visited the nature center again. It was an awkward moment: most flowers are done for the year, but the trees with the most vivid fall color haven’t started turning yet. I did find a little color.

There are a few more pictures here.

Today’s quote

J Greely:

I used to think that the world-building of Fallout 4 was the least-believable thing about the game, with people failing at even the basics of creating a pre-modern society after a full 200 years, and still living in rubble-filled open-air unheated shacks in Boston. They’re not even keeping out the rain, much less the snow, and are wearing filthy clothes scavenged from the ruins. Twenty years, sure; fifty years, maybe, but two hundred years of taping together rotting lumber and pulling clothes off of mannequins?

Then I saw how people responded to Covid-19. China didn’t need nukes to destroy American society…

In related news, I am disappointed to find that there are no In-N-Out Burgers in Kansas.

***

Bonus quote, from Maus at Severian’s place:

I’ve never felt like a typical Boomer, a fact that I chalked up to having much older parents (1916 and 1927) who ran a fairly strict, traditional household. But my focus shifted to much more obvious conflicts with the later Millenial and Zoomer cohorts, whose world views are materially and spiritually foreign to me. Ultimately, I’ve concluded that generational parsing is driven by cosumerism’s need for market segmentation, for which emphasis on conflicting differences is the sine qua non. It’s simply not a useful heuristic for assessing the worthiness of any particular individual I might encounter with an inclination to form a deeper association of any sort.