Monthly Archives: January 2009

How Will We Know If Nobody Tells Us?

In the last few years, I’ve seemed to be running into a lot of huge facts that nobody bothered to teach me in school. (The do-re-mi stuff in The Sound of Music is a dramatization not of singing scales, but of the solfege sightreading system. A confession doesn’t count — totally invalid — if you knowingly hold back from confessing a sin. And so on.)

But now here’s another one. I saw the other day on that one reason the abolitionists were so disliked and considered so radical was that they wanted to abolish the Constitution, too. Garrison and his merry band saw the Constitution as ruined from the beginning by all the three-fifths Great Compromise stuff; they called it a “covenant with Hell”. But then there was this guy named Lysander Spooner, who proposed that the Constitution itself was okay, but that slavery was unconstitutional; and that the way “person” was defined in so many different ways made it clear that the Constitution needed to be amended. Frederick Douglass and other people picked this idea up and popularized it, and hence Lysander Spooner helped save the Union.

I took AP History and grew up reading and being exposed to history. I know I never ran across the name Lysander Spooner before, much less the amazing quote about a “covenant with Hell”. (The Reverend Spooner of Spoonerism fame is my only previous Spooner exposure.) My mother is not particularly historically knowledgeable, although she does okay; certainly she’s not someone who delves into arcane constitutional law stuff. But I thought she’d be interested, so I told her about it.

My parents were dismayed. Even my mother had learned all about Lysander Spooner in high school, and of course my dad the history teacher knew even more. The fact that I’d never heard of this guy at all, even as part of a list of names of anti-slavery people… it disturbed them, and now it disturbs me.

It’s not so much that we don’t learn everything in school. It’s that the stuff that isn’t popular enough or doesn’t fit the narrative is somehow never mentioned at all, anymore. Where does it go? How can it be possible that it never comes into play at all? And how did the amazing name of Lysander Spooner get cut from American history, or the endless boring discussions of the Great Compromise?

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A Good Day

Yet another peaceful transition of power among all us dangerous US people with guns. :) My unhappiness about the election results is trumped by knowing how well we do this, every time. Watch our smoke, rest of the world!

Work was very pleasant. As was the case throughout the campaign, everybody who was happy about Obama being president was simply happy and not obnoxious and hateful. Everybody who was not happy kept their mouths shut. Pretty much everybody went down to the cafeteria and watched the oath being given, because that’s what Americans usually do. Amusingly, a lot of the ladies in my workgroup chose to look at large slide shows on their computers, so that they could see details of the outfits! Heh, some of us are such fashionistas at heart.

I would like to know why anybody would want to cover up any person singing the National Anthem live with pictures of empty landscapes, especially when the singer is skilled and famous.

I heard when I got home that poor Ted Kennedy went into convulsions during the post-inaugural luncheon, and that Sen. Byrd also had some medical problems. Please pray for them.

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Irish Popular Songs by Edward Walsh

Edward Walsh is one of those names you run across fairly often in the anthologies, but I didn’t know anything about him. He was one of the Nationalists who was also much concerned with promoting Irish poetry and music. But apparently he died when he was only 45, which is sad.

This particular book, Irish Popular Songs, is mostly a posthumous collection of his translations of famous Irish songs from the south. A lot of these songs are still part of the sean nos repertoire. The interest of the translations is that he was trying to be more literal than a lot of translators had been (or are), but still keep some sense of the rhymes and assonances of the original. It seems very likeable stuff. No music is provided, but most of the airs are fairly well known and so you can probably find some version of them online.

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Watching Classic Arts Showcase

A lot of people don’t know about Classic Arts Showcase (ARTS). It’s a free “channel” of short classical arts clips and videos. So one minute you have a subtitled snippet of Der Rosenkavalier from some festival, and the next minute you’re listening to some orchestral tone poem about a storm while watching beautiful footage of lighthouses or looking at paintings. They even include architecture videos. The idea is that if you expose people to the arts and show them what a wide variety of stuff is out there, they’ll get involved in the arts themselves, as an artist and/or a supporter.

Since it’s free, a lot of cable systems show it at some point to fill in the public access schedule, often early in the morning. It’s good stuff.

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Takedown or Fakedown?

Warner Music Group recently had a hissy with YouTube, and demanded that all the previously permitted use of their songs in peoples’ video end forthwith, and all the videos be taken down.

However, a close examination of the offending tunes reveals that WMG hasn’t actually checked to see if the songs they want taken down are actually their songs.

For example, they have taken down some Scarlet Pimpernel musical songs that they managed to hunt out. But wait! Only the Broadway musical albums and their progeny were albums produced by Atlantic Records, in the Warner Music Group. The pre-production album by Linda Eder was and is from Angel Records, a subsidiary of the EMI/Virgin group. So those songs, or those versions of them, are none of their business.

So… Maybe other record companies ought to sue WMG for pretending to own their music?

Btw, YouTube is not at all interested in hearing about this from the peons. You should just see the maneuvers you have to go through to reach a complaint form, coupled with dark threats about lawyers and penalties. And it’s stupid. People will just get a new account and put the videos up again, or put them up on a different video service. It’s all just one big corporate lawyer kabuki dance, for which the lawyers are paid and by which the non-lawyers have their time wasted.

Of course, I only noticed this because our little Warner friends took down an ancient fanvid of mine. Doesn’t really affect me, of course, except to make me annoyed.

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You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain….

Via Jerry Pournelle, a link to an inspirational story of how a man overcame his mental block against doing math.

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Detective Office 5

Recently, I got to see some episodes of a 2005 live action show from Japan called Detective Office 5. It’s set in Kawasaki, at an old detective agency founded after WWII. This acts as a handy framing device for a mystery anthology series, as there are continuing characters and settings but each story stars a different detective with different skills, and is told in a different style and detective genre. The two-parter pilot features a human interest tale of an old detective teaching an awkward young one. One features a master of disguise meting out psychological punishment to a cad. Yet another is a detective who solves problems almost entirely by beating them up. (And yes, the story is aware that this is a problem.) On the whole, each detective has been interesting enough for a whole series; you regret not seeing them again after their episode and wonder what will happen to them next.

All that seems pretty normal. But all the private detectives at the agency dress alike, wearing identical long men’s raincoats, suits, hats, and black-rimmed glasses, whether male or female. Each is identified solely by their number, which runs from the managers, 500 and 501, on down. The detective agency fills a whole building in which each office is lit with deliberate dimness, the agency’s techs issue masks that cannot be told apart from skin, and the opening credits look like Fritz Lang had decided to shoot The Metropolis Falcon.

It’s a remarkable show. Rarely has style been so integral, interesting, varied, and dreamlike. It careens along on the brink of becoming pure camp, but is rescued by the commitment to telling detective stories and the excellent acting. And since the episodes are only a half hour long, it’s easy to get into it.

You can watch Detective Office 5 (legally and everything) on Crunchyroll.

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Sorry I Haven’t Been Posting Much Lately

Work has kept me pretty busy lately, and I’m not feeling all that inspired.

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Victoria Jackson Sighting

Kamen Rider (Mask Rider) is the oldest live action sentai show I know of. The concept was pretty simple, originally; just a vigilante motorcycle guy who wore a mask or a mask/helmet. See? Simple. (In fact, it’s so simple that it’s not technically a sentai show, because sentai shows are about teams. There’s no team and no shared giant robot or vehicle or spaceship here.)

Anyway, in a rather surprising development, the WB has bypassed the whole Rangers franchise (also a very long-lived series of sentai shows) and picked up the latest Japanese incarnation of Kamen RiderKamen Rider: Dragon Knight. In the American storyline, at least, there are two Riders — one the hapless son of a biker who disappeared mysteriously, and one apparently the original Kamen Rider. (Or something like that.) They fight crime. (Mystical interdimensional crime.)

Anyway, there’s also the usual crew of mundane supporting characters, one of whom (an aspiring girl reporter) works at a bookshop. The lady who owns the bookstore is her Aunt Grace, who is played by Victoria Jackson. Jackson is of course about five times funnier in one line than anybody else; but it’s a decent little show without her and a more than decent show with her.

Although what would be really awesome is if they turned her into Giles, or some sort of lost master of Kamen fu. :)

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