Friday, April 30, 2010

Notes on Equity of Judgment

“Equity is the most fundamental among human virtues. The evaluation of all things must needs depend upon it....
“Observe equity in your judgment, ye men of understanding heart! He that is unjust in his judgment is destitute of the characteristics that distinguish man’s station.”

——Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

I am reminded of a time not too long ago.

There was an occasion when there was a fellow from some Tea Party protest at some strip mall. The owner of the place was by-and-large unconcerned with the political views expressed, but was mindful of the disposition of his patrons. The Tea Party gathering was allowed to continue, provided they not become too disruptive, and the security kept an eye on them there.

Then one fellow got the idea that he’d like to have a burger, so he went over to a sidewalk café there-- just one lone fellow, no milling about. The problem is that he was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Give me Liberty-- Not Obama.” The security people came over to talk to him about it, and asked if he would turn his t-shirt inside out while he remained at the establishment, so as not to offend the other diners. He refused, and was subsequently arrested.

The big to-do was all about some peaceful citizen exercising his right to assemblage, when all of a sudden some jack-booted Nazi rent-a-cop comes over and waylays the guy.

But from my view, I can see that the owner of this shopping center has rights. The patrons are there as guests. When you get right down to it, each of the businesses there are as well.

But most of the people didn’t see it that way.

I took a lot of heat over that.

Because it wasn’t a Tea Party gathering at all, you see. This was a protest against the war in Iraq. It was a mall in Long Island, and the fellow was Don Zirkel. He was 80 years old and in a wheelchair, so (as the argument goes) he is free to do whatever he wants and any action from the authorities to modify the unabated expression of his freewill is particularly egregious.

The t-shirt had two words on it-- “Dead” and “Enough,” and there were the death tolls for the American soldiers there as well as the Iraqi civilians. There were three large red splotches made to look like blood on this shirt. The thing was intended to be shocking and provocative.

But because this is all about the Iraq War, then anyone that didn’t take exception to this action by the security officers was supposedly all sorts of morally corrupt, as well as mentally incompetent, etc.

Back then, everyone believed that as soon as a Democrat would come into office, someone would walk over to him and hand him a magic wand, which he would wave around a few times, and then all of a sudden all of the servicemen in the Middle East would magically reappear state-side, just fine and dandy. They knew it so much, it didn’t do much good to tell them otherwise. Anyone (like me) that might have the audacity to say, “You know, you’re probably going to be needing a bit of a position on something, other than just being against the Iraq War, in order to govern,” was just laughed off. (This was well before the big health care debate, btw.)

And wouldn’t you know it, now these same people find it particularly amusing to go around referring to the Tea Party activists as “tea baggers.” I just find it sad that so many would take such great pleasure in being so blatantly juvenile (my feelings toward both sides).

It reminds me of the saying that a communist’s greatest fear is that other communists who are his enemies will come into power.

Those people didn’t hate Geo. W. Bush, no matter how much they may say so. They may disagree with his policies, but really, in their hearts, they want to be just like him.

Now, in this particular instance that I refer to, there was some fellow, well-known for being a half-cocked loudmouth, that made some outrageous statement that Armani’s had pulled out of a deal to open a store at that mall because of the treatment of this poor, poor Iraq war protester.

It sounded like a bunch of crap to me. A lie well-received is a lie nevertheless.

So, I called the mall, and spoke to the people in the office there (the leasing office is located elsewhere, and yes, I did speak to them too). No one knew anything about an Armani’s.

So I called an Armani’s out on Long Island. They told me that there were only two Armani’s on all of Long Island, and there weren’t any plans to open another one. I suppose there’s only so many $400 pairs of slacks that can be sold to one population group (that's a sale price from the outlet mall, btw).

So, I call the guy on it. “Look, you’re lying.”

Of course, this makes me the bad guy.

I happened to tell the truth in a place where the truth was unwelcome. I have a way of doing that. It’s a curse that has followed me all of my life.

To be fair, Georgio Armani is very active in relief efforts for refugees. He also has a really big hotel in Dubai. But I don’t think the man got where he is by making business decisions flying off the cuff, or on something as inconsequential as the arrest of some war protester. It takes a lot of money and a lot of planning to open a store of any kind. There’s a lot of research that goes into it. And although I may be incorrect in my assessment, I feel inclined to give Mr. Armani a bit of credit here-- I don’t think the man’s a dumb-ass.

But some people feel inclined to believe that I’m a dumb-ass that they can tell any wild tale to, and I have an obligation to buy into it, or I’m a bad guy.

Sometimes I would rather be the bad guy.

I can live with myself a lot better that way.

And now, I would like to call your attention to that little scrap of scripture at the top of the post; to two phrases in particular. Take a few moments and consider, if you will, what exactly is “man’s station,” and what manner of things might “distinguish” that? And what do you suppose it means to be “destitute of [those] characteristics?”

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I just came back from pulling a raccoon out of a dumpster. Still kind of shaken by it.

I don't know how it was that I came to specialize in raccoon extraction, but I'm pretty good at it.

That one was a fighter though. She almost got me.

I had a bit of trouble getting a good handle on her, and she kept snapping at my stick. I got my foot on top of her head; not stepping on her, but touching her, making contact. It was over pretty quick after that.

She wasn't too happy when I dropped her on the ground. They never are.

She took off, but kind of slow. I'm wondering if she was injured in some way.

Not starving, by any means. She went off through a hole in the fence, barely big enough to slip through.

That one was too close though. It took longer than I expected. I must be getting slow as I grow older.

No photos though. I didn't think about that until after.

“Be ye the trustees of God amongst His creatures, and the emblems of His generosity amidst His people.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Enchanted Garden of Barganax

This scene finds the Duke painting in the enchanted garden. It introduces Dr. Vandermast, a member of the Duke's court, a philosopher, sophist, and magician, who is gifted in returning unintelligible reply on any manner of subject (although he does not appear in this passage).


That third morning after that coming of the galloping horseman to Mornagay, Duke Barganax was painting in his privy garden in Zayana in the southland: that garden where it is everlasting afternoon. There the low sun, swinging a level course at about that pitch which Antares reaches at his highest southing in an English May-night, filled the soft air with atomies of sublimated gold, wherein all seen things became, where the beams touched them, golden: a golden sheen on the lake’s unruffled waters beyond the parapet, gold burning in the young foliage of the oak-woods that clothed the circling hills; and, in the garden, fruits of red and yellow gold hanging in the gold-spun leafy darkness of the strawberry-trees, a gilding shimmer of it in the stone of the carven bench, a gilding of every tiny blade on the shaven lawn, a glow to deepen all colours and to ripen every sweetness: gold faintly warming the proud pallour of Fiorinda’s brow and cheek, and thrown back in sudden gleams from the jet-black smoothness of her hair.
‘Would you be ageless and deathless for ever, madam, were you given that choice?’ said the Duke, scraping away for the third time the colour with which he had striven to match, for the third time unsuccessfully, the unearthly green of that lady’s eyes.
‘I am this already’ answered she with unconcern....

She had not stirred; yet, to his eye now, all was altered. As some tyrannous and triumphant phrase in a symphony returns, against all expectation, hushed to starved minor harmonies or borne on the magic welling moon-notes of the horn, a shuddering tenderness, a dying flame; such-like, and so moving, was the transfiguration that seemed to have come upon that lady: her beauty grown suddenly to a thing to choke the breath, piteous like a dead child’s toys: the bloom on her cheek more precious than kingdoms, and less perdurable than the bloom on a butterfly’s wing. She was turned side-face towards him; and now, scarce to be perceived, her head moved with the faintest dim recalling of that imperial mockery of soft laughter that he knew so well; but he well saw that it was no motion of laughter now, but the gallant holding back of tears....

‘Come’ said the Duke. ‘What shall it be then? Inspire my invention. Entertain ’em all to a light collation and, by cue taken at the last kissing-cup, let split their weasands, stab ’em all in a moment? Your noble brother amongst them, ’tis to be feared, madam; since him, with a bunch of others, I am to thank for these beggar-my-neighbour sleights and cozenage beyond example. Or shall’t be a grand night-piece of double fratricide? yours and mine, spitted on one spit like a brace of woodcock? We can proceed with the first to-day: for the other, well, I’ll think on’t.’
‘Are you indeed that prince whom reputation told me of,’ said she, ‘that he which did offend you might tremble with only thinking of it? And now, as hares pull dead lions by the beard—’...

As if spell-bound under the troublous sweet hesitation of the choriambics, she listened very still. Very still, and dreamily, and with so soft an intonation that the words seemed but to take voiceless shape on her ambrosial breath, she answered, like an echo:

Once more, Love, the limb-loosener, shaketh me:
Bitter-sweet, the dread Worm ineluctable.

——E.R. Eddison

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moreno Torroba

This is one of my favorite pieces, and I’m fairly particular about it. This is the second movement, Andante, of the Sonatina in A by Frederico Moreno Torroba. It was first performed in Paris in 1925 by Andres Segovia to a private audience, which included Maurice Ravel; who, it is said, was very impressed by this work. I like the second and third movements best (the Andante and Allegro), although the first movement is definitely worthwhile.

My main complaint with this piece is that most people try to play it too fast. It doesn’t work so well like that. It’s much better played a bit behind the beat, shuffle-style, as one very long cadenza passage. If you try to play it in time, it comes out too dry. It needs to be felt from the heart, expressed tentatively.

The dynamics of the piece are very important, and this is where I have a bit of trouble with it. It’s never quite perfect, and requires a great deal of work.

Here is a video of a fellow from Eastern Michigan University playing it at a recital. It’s one of the best that I’ve heard, and I have heard quite a few. He hurries the first chord a bit (the first D in the D C D), and in a few other places. The dynamics are not observed consistently throughout. But other than that, I would call this an excellent performance; one of the best around.

The performer is Jonathan Edwards, and I’ve never heard of him before. Nevertheless, he shows great promise, and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I do. It would be a rare thing to see any better performance of this wonderful piece (unless, of course, you happen to come to visit).

I had to put this here, because the comments section would not accept it.

Here's another piece that I find I'm getting a bit particular about, and for the same reasons. I find that noteworthy because it's so ridiculously simple, it seems like it would be difficult to mess it up. But I see a lot of people butchering it. Terrible.

This one is one of this things that's sort of obligatory to the repertoire. Just about everybody does it.

I have two recordings of this one; one by Parkening (which is incredibly fast), and another by Eduardo Fernandez (who does it much better). The fellow in the video does it better than either one of them. As far as recordings, I prefer the Richard Cobo.

I really don't know as much about Brouwer as I would like. There's only a few of his pieces that I'm familiar with.

I've gotten to where I browse through these things because of all of the commercials on Pandora anymore.