Friday, February 28, 2014

More Alien Worlds Found, NASA Says

Astronomy

Exoplanets: "This illustration depicts stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or
transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer, an angle called edge-on," National Geographic says.
Credit: NASA
Source: NatGeo


An article, by Dan Verganoin National Geographic says that NASA has added another 715 planets to its list of known planets that exist outside our solar system, thus bringing the total of exoplanets to about 1,700.

Vergano writes:
Launched in 2009, NASA's $591 million Kepler Space Telescope has now discovered most of the planets orbiting nearby stars. "We've hit the motherlode; we've got a veritable exoplanet bonanza," says Kepler co-leader Jack Lissauer of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. 
The newly announced exoplanets reinforce the view that most solar systems around sunlike stars have smaller-size planets. Most of those planets range in width from Earth-size (on the smaller side) to Neptune-size (on the larger). That's quite a change from the Jupiter-size planets that were often spotted orbiting nearby stars during the early planet searches that started in 1995."Nature likes to make small planets," says the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sara Seager, who was not part of the discovery team but commented on the findings at a Wednesday NASA briefing.
Four of the newly discovered planets orbit around their stars in "habitable zones"—regions where temperatures are just right for oceans, which bring with them the possibility of life. But the four planets are all a little more than twice the width of Earth, which may make their atmospheres unfriendly to life as we know it.  (See: "Earth-Size Planets Come in Two Flavors.")
The newly discovered 715 planets orbit in solar systems around 305 stars, mostly ones the size of the sun or smaller. Many of the planets orbit in what is beginning to be seen as a more typical solar system, in which the largest planet is Neptune-size and a bevy of smaller Earth-size planets orbit close-in to their star and close to one another. "These new Kepler results are very helpful in filling out the statistics of solar systems," says Princeton's Adam Burrows, who was not part of the discovery team. "The goal is to see how typical is our own solar system, and ones unlike it."

Our solar system might be typical in some ways and atypical in others, I suspect, just as there are variations among humans and within nature on our planet we call home. This raises the question on why there should not be symmetry or statistical variations in our universe, known or unknown. If there are planets that can support life, human or otherwise, it would confirm decades of science fiction and popular TV shows and films. This would not only be exciting, but would also have the added benefit of placing humans in their proper place.

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You can read more of this article at [NatGeo]

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit (1959)



Billie Holliday performing "Strange Fruit" in this 1959 video clip; the song is clear enough in its meaning, the strange fruit being the swinging dead bodies of black men hated for having the wrong skin colour, hated for being different, hated for being the Other. It applies equally to having the wrong religion, the wrong sexual orientation, the wrong nationality, the wrong ethnic origins, etc.

Holiday first sang the song in 1939; it was originally a poem by Abel Meeropol, a white high-school teacher from the Bronx borough of New York City and a member of the Communist Party. Wikipedia says:
In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings. He had seen Lawrence Beitler's photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.[7] He published the poem under the title "Bitter Fruit" in 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine.[9] Though Meeropol had often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set "Strange Fruit" to music himself and the piece gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden.[10]
Here we are in 2014, more than 75 years later, with all our promises of human progress thrown in the dustbins of history, and what has remained? Many of the same old attitudes; many of the same old hatreds; many of the same old ideas. They have even been given the sanction of law. This reminds me of a quote from that great Russian master, Dostoevskythe keen observer of human nature and who could with one line sum up a thought that often takes most of us essays and books to say pretty much the same thing.
At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art.Then life will find its very existence from the arts.Fyodor Dostoevsky
Is life imitating art in this case, in a perversion of Dostoevsky's quote, chiefly the "art" of the many Hollywood action movies that depict guns as a viable made-in-America solution to many social arguments? And following the great writer's dictum, the U.S. will find its very existence, its very raison d'être in the "art" of violent solutions.

This is now the case, a thought so depressing, so terrifying and so bleak that few in America can face up to this fact, and it is very much a fact, that violence has become normative in the United States of America. That violence is for many the only viable and final solution to resolve any discussion, any debate, any opposing opinion or any alien view. Some might say this view is cynical and lacks hope; it does, chiefly because I do not see a rational reason to change my mind, as much as I would like to.

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Strange Fruit
by Abel Meeropol

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lane Cooper: The No-Nonsense Professor

Reading Literature

Lane Cooper: In his course description, he set down some rules:"Careful reading should precede all writing. The object of each paper or report should be thoroughness and truth. Literary finish and individuality of expression are desirable."
Credit: Cornell University's Rare and Manuscript Collections ImagesSource: The New Criterion


An article  by Michael Dirda, in The New Criterion examines a teaching style that, for the most part, is no longer in vogue; in his piece, Dirda, himself a professor, looks at the large influence that Lane Cooper, a noted Cornell University English professor, had on his reading and understanding of literature.

Dirda writes:
Lane Cooper has long been an important figure in my life, even though I never met this Cornell University English professor, who died in 1959 at the age of 84. Today, if Cooper is remembered at all, it is probably for his amplified English versions of Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric—both still commonly met with in used book stores. But to me he represents the kind of humanistic scholar and teacher that I’ve always admired and once aspired to become.

Most of Cooper’s books are devoted to encouraging students to make the classics a central part of their intellectual lives. To this end, he wrote articles about education, translated Plato and Aristotle, compiled an anthology of essays called Methods and Aims in the Study of Literature, and published the outlines and syllabi for his own college courses on Dante, Chaucer, literary criticism, and the classics in translation. Cooper was the sort of committed educator who could produce a pamphlet entitled Literature for Engineers, yet turn around and eviscerate shoddy scholarship as unsparingly as A. E. Housman in a bad mood. In an excoriating review of Anna Robeson Burr’s book The Autobiography, Cooper concluded with these sentences: “A word must be added on her style, which is generally diffuse, at times muddy, and often pretentious; and on her Index, which is untrustworthy; see, for example, the second, eleventh, and twelfth references to Augustine.” Period. End of review. Having actually read Burr’s book, I know that Cooper’s judgment, though cruel, is just.
There was certainly no nonsense to Lane Cooper. In one of his course descriptions he set down three blunt sentences about student composition that I have never forgotten and that I have tried to live up to in my own professional life. For a long time I kept them pinned above my desk. Cooper told his students:
Careful reading should precede all writing. The object of each paper or report should be thoroughness and truth. Literary finish and individuality of expression are desirable.
I first heard of Cooper when I was a freshman at Oberlin College in the late 1960s. Casting caution to the winds, I had signed up for a course called “Seventeenth-Century Metaphysical Poetry,” given by Professor Andrew Bongiorno. On the first day of class, Bongiorno—whose gaunt, noble features called to mind an El Greco saint and an especially austere one at that—stressed that it was better to learn a few poems well rather than skim through a hundred. In the weeks following he would sometimes scribble lines of Horace or Catullus on the blackboard and point out how the English poetry we were reading echoed them. I soon learned that Bongiorno’s principles of intensive analysis and comparison derived from his own teacher, Lane Cooper, under whom he had written a dissertation on Lodovico Castelvetro’s sixteenth-century commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics.
This is an important idea, "that careful reading should precede all thought." It used to be called a close reading of the text, to apprehend and understand what the text is saying, to get to the gist of the argument, so to speak. There is also, equally important, the pleasure of reading, which is equal in my view to the pleasure of adding knowledge.

Today, we are awash in literary theories of various schools of thought; while one can argue on the merits of each school and what it puts forth in its argument, too much energy is often spent defending the theory rather than reading and enjoying the poem, short story or novel. It is also true that much of what goes for academic writing is obtuse and lacks the penetrating clarity that one would expect from individuals with high degrees; if things are not clear in their own minds, it will not be clear in the minds of the readers.

On a personal note, I had a professor in literature, in a course on "American Tragedy," who was no-nonsense in every way; Prof. Hoffman was well-educated, well-read, and tough on his students. He told one student after a difficult mid-term (I got a B, the second-highest mark), assigning him an unheard of grade of F-: "You do not belong in my class; go immediately to the office of the registrar and drop this course; you have no hope of passing it." He later confided to me that this was his last semester teaching. More's the pity. I enjoyed the class, and worked hard to meet the high expectations of this professor, who many thought a curmudgeon. I ended with an A-; his was one of the few courses in English Lit that I fondly remember.

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You can read the rest of the article at [NewCrit]

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yuja Wang: Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2: Scherzo




Yuja Wang performing the Scherzo (Vivace) from Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, opus 16, with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. This is a clip from the Deutsche Grammophon label released on February 3rd, 2014. In this video, you have two of the most-exciting young persons sharing a stage; and some say classical music is boring. Hardly, and not in this case.

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Much has been made recently on Wang's taste in fashion while at the piano performing. I for one find it to my taste; after all, she is a young performer, only 27, and she dresses in accordance to her age.  Here is what she has to say about it in a Los Angeles Times interview ("Conversation with classical pianist Yuja Wang; December 18, 2013), that she had with Deborah Vankin:
I'm not trying to shake up the classical world at all. People think that, which is fine; but I just like fashion, I'm a girl, I love shoes and cute dresses. People want to look good onstage and I don't think there should be a rule to always wear long dresses and be elegant. I think those short dresses fit my body better, so I just wear them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The 25th Anniversary Of A Failed Revolt For Democracy In China; June 4 Massacre Recalled

The Democracy Project

In China, the rulers have erased all history of what took place almost 25 years ago, the seven weeks of Beijing Spring, an event of massive protest that started on April 15, 1989, and ended on June 4, 1989, when tanks rolled in to Tiananmen Square, culminating in what  has been called, outside China, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, or June 4 Massacre— even though much of the bloodshed took place outside the confines of the square, says Prof. George Jochnowitz, who was in China during this time. He says: "The great majority of the casualties of June 4 did not take place in Tiananmen Square at all. The bloodshed occurred about three miles to the west, on Chang'an Avenue, a major east-west street, part of which forms the northern boundary of Tiananmen Square. Many of the victims were simply residents of the apartment buildings and old courtyard houses in the neighborhood who took it upon themselves to block the tanks. Would plans to enter the city have been canceled if the students had left the square? I don't think so. Would the residents of Chang'an Avenue have come out to stop the army even if there were no students in the square? I think the answer may be yes."

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by George Jochnowitz

Tian (heaven). An (peace). Men (gate). The Gate of Heavenly Peace is the entrance to the Forbidden City, where China's emperors lived and where the movie The Last Emperor was filmed. Tiananmen Square, the front yard of the Forbidden City, was enlarged by Chairman Mao into the largest public space in the world, so that he could organize mass demonstrations of his supporters. Irony of ironies. Twenty-five years ago, the square was the scene of the biggest spontaneous demonstration is history, part of a movement that almost brought down the regime Mao had created. I was there on May 13, when the hunger strike began; on May 19, when the students prepared for an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army that was turned back before it ever got near the Square, and on June 2, when the Goddess of Democracy had been erected but a sense of doom pervaded the atmosphere.

The Beijing Spring Movement was a relatively rare phenomenon in human history: a struggle between good and evil. Mao Zedong had created a vicious regime, which taught people to betray their friends and relatives, which launched mad policies (ordering farmers to melt their tools in order to manufacture steel in backyard furnaces) that led to the most catastrophic famine in human history, and which continued to export grain during that famine.

Radical evil is more familiar and therefore less surprising than radical virtue. Nevertheless, outbreaks of radical virtue occur. After the funeral of Party Secretary Hu Yaobang on April 22, 1989, and even more so after the start of the hunger strike in Tiananmen Square on May 13, human nature changed in China. A drop in crime, fires and accidents was reported. "Criminals are on strike for freedom and democracy," people joked. A steady stream of trucks went in and out of the square--the citizens of Beijing supplying the million or so demonstrators with food and beverages. Railroad employees, famous for their rudeness, became polite. Students and other demonstrators riding to and from Beijing were allowed to ride free. At Hebei University in Baoding, where I taught, the students took over the campus loudspeakers and played Beethoven symphonies, alternating with appeals for contributions for an independent newspaper. A peasant woman walked up to the university gates and put 50 yuan into the collection box--the equivalent of half a month's salary at the time.

I often think of my student—let me call her Miss Qin. She was the shyest person I ever met. No matter what I asked her, she whispered "yes."

"How old are you?"

"Yes."

"Do you understand me?"

"Yes."

"Ni duo da?" (How old are you?)

"Yes."

Miss Qin's parents lived in my building. Her father was a Party member. She and her parents seemed to have a very cold relationship with each other. One day, she approached me voluntarily, already a surprise. "I've been to Tiananmen," she said in perfect English. "I spent three days there."

"My God, does your father know?" I asked, shocked.

"They're not opposed," she answered in Chinese.

Unbelievable! About an hour later, I saw Miss Qin and her mother walking and talking together, their arms around each other. The Beijing Spring Movement had brought the Qin family together.

I remember the sound of the ambulances in Beijing, carrying hunger strikers to the hospital, just as I had heard them on May 19. Whenever I think of that time, tears come to my eyes—even now as I type these words. But even in Baoding, the smoky, drab industrial city I lived in, demonstrations took place every day. At 6:30 A.M. on May 16, 1989, I woke up in my apartment in a faculty residence building at Hebei University. My younger daughter, Miriam, had already left the apartment to join a student demonstration in front of the Communist Party headquarters. After breakfast, I got on my bicycle to see what was happening. The main street of Baoding was packed with demonstrators, who began to ask me questions in Chinese:

"What do you think of China's students?"

"China's hope," I answered as well as I could in Chinese. I got big smiles and thumbs-up signs in response. This encouraged me.

"What do you think of the Communist Party?" someone asked.

"It serves no purpose."

Thumbs up. "And what do you think of Marxism?"

"Goupi" (bullshit, literally "dog fart"), I replied. I did not know that I was being filmed by a television crew and would appear on the local evening news later that day. The following day, two police cars drove up to the campus to warn me, very politely, not to interfere in China's internal affairs.

The popularity of the movement was not enough. There was no organization to build on. There were no independent clubs or groups of any kind in China in 1989. The protesters in Tiananmen Square had no office and no telephone. There was no way for leaders to be elected by the ever-changing population in the square. There was no way to establish authority. Totalitarian regimes are designed to prevent competition of any kind from arising. Even the Catholic Church—the pro-contraception, pro-abortion Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church—was, and still is, run by the government.

The absence of civil society gives the Communist Party a monopoly on all political activity. When the Party falls, as it will some day, the lack of a political opposition will be a great danger to the country. Had there been some sort of legal organization outside the government, there would have been a way to settle the issues raised by Beijing Spring.

And what were those issues? Rule of law was tied for first place with an end to corruption. "Rulers should not be above the law," I was told repeatedly by my students. Separation of powers was an issue as well. There was a great deal of political sophistication expressed to me by people I spoke to, mostly my own students.

What would the government have done had the protesters left the square on, let’s say, May 30? The great majority of the casualties of June 4 did not take place in Tiananmen Square at all. The bloodshed occurred about three miles to the west, on Chang'an Avenue, a major east-west street, part of which forms the northern boundary of Tiananmen Square. Many of the victims were simply residents of the apartment buildings and old courtyard houses in the neighborhood who took it upon themselves to block the tanks. Would plans to enter the city have been canceled if the students had left the square? I don't think so. Would the residents of Chang'an Avenue have come out to stop the army even if there were no students in the square? I think the answer may be yes.

There are no "what-if's" in history. The demonstrators did not withdraw on May 30, and the People's Republic of China killed unarmed civilians who, during the seven weeks of Beijing Spring, had been extraordinarily peaceful and good humored.

On June 4, 1989, tanks of the People's Liberation Army crushed Beijing Spring, the movement for democracy in China. The whole world watched, even in Communist East Europe. Demonstrations took place in front of the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw. Mikhail Gorbachev had witnessed the movement personally when he visited China in May. It is no coincidence that the Berlin Wall fell later that year.

In China, the government decided that it could placate the people by giving them capitalism instead of democracy. Although democracy ordinarily coexists with capitalism, China now has Marxist Capitalism—the pursuit of wealth and relatively free markets but no free speech and no freedom of thought. Money, however, will not buy human rights.

China's current leaders have achieved a certain degree of prosperity, but the regime they have created is repressive and, like all dictatorships, it is unstable, having no established process for leaders to succeed each other.

Democracies are inherently stable, because they have established procedures for governments to change. They are inherently rich, because creativity is an essential element of a prosperous society, and to be creative one has to have freedom of thought. Democracy is the Gateway to Heavenly Peace.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the permission of the author.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Show Me The Money, First, Cancer Patient Told

ModernMedicine

An article, by Kathy Tomlinson, in CBC News reports on a case where a woman was first misdiagnosed at a hospital in Toronto, then refused treatment afterward, all because she did not have provincial health insurance in Ontario; she died subsequently from ovarian cancer.

Tomlinson writes:
The daughter of a dying cancer patient is going public about how Ontario hospitals misdiagnosed her mother’s disease—delaying crucial treatment for months—then refused to operate. Her daughter believes they refused because her mom didn’t have health insurance.
“I was hurt, because it happened in Canada. It was not something that happens here,” said Angeliki Kourouclis, whose mother came here from Ethiopia to visit in 2012. “I brought my mom to the hospital with the plan that I will be paying for the care that she will be receiving,” said Kourouclis, whose records show she has paid all the medical bills, to date. “I never asked anyone to provide free care.”
 Angeliki Kourouclis says she didn't believe something like this could happen in Canada.
To add insult to injury, Kourouclis believes diagnostic errors and delays led her travel health insurer to ultimately refuse to reimburse her for any of her mom’s treatment. “It’s the argument they are using to not pay.”
Kourouclis is an information technology professional who lives in Mississauga, Ont. Her 72-year old mom Kelemua Esayase has come here several times in recent years to visit her two Canadian daughters. When she arrived for her latest visit, her daughter said she was in good health for her age. She started having abdominal pain, though, so Kourouclis took her to the ER at Trillium Health Centre.
She said she made it clear she was willing and able to pay for whatever was needed, plus her mom had travel health insurance.
This was insufficient for the heartless doctors and medical administrators who operate within Ontario's healthcare system. All this rings true. I have had my own negative experiences here in Toronto. When I moved from the province of Quebec to Ontario, there was a 3-month waiting period before my Ontario heath coverage would kick in, but I was still covered by my home province of Quebec.

With a few weeks of arriving in Ontario, I had to undergo emergency surgery for colorectal cancer; my surgeon was worried if he would be sufficiently paid, given the nominal difference in reimbursement rates between Quebec and Ontario; he came to my bed a number of times, on the verge of harassment, even suggested that I pay him with a credit card. I refused, saying that I would fill out the proper paperwork so that he would be rightfully paid by the province of Quebec. He was. That this overweening need for money would impair my recovery was lost on this young doctor. His needs came first, no doubt.

Doctors have largely become business-people first and medical professionals second. As for the Hippocratic Oath, who knows? We are living in harsh and extreme times; a depressing thought.

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For more, go to [cbc]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kevin Richardson: A Man Among Lions




Kevin Richardson has gained the trust and respect of a pride of a lions; Richardson is a South African animal behaviorist whose unconventional ways are appealing to me; he has shown that lions, although powerful animals, are also intelligent, sentient beings. Richardson has aptly demonstrated that human-animal barriers, a human construct of dubious merit, can be torn down if there are the right conditions of love, respect and trust; similarly this can apply to many if not all human-made barriers that are often based on fear. He has spent years gaining the trust of lions.

Here is some more information on Richardson from Wikipedia:
Richardson has worked with big cats and relies on intuition rather than static rules. He has slept next to, fed, and lived with lions. Along with lions, he has worked with cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. He prefers lions to any other big cat.[12] His relationship with the animals, however, has not been an instant one. He has known most of the lions he works with since they were cubs.[5] He still continues his bond with Tau and Napoleon, the lion brothers who were his introduction to big cats.[4]
His unique relationship with the genus Panthera has dispelled many myths concerning the care of lions. Richardson demonstrates that lions and animals in general, have personalities, feelings, and are social creatures. His interaction with them shows that, with mutual respect, many species can coexist. That does not mean there are no dangers; Richardson, throughout his career, has had many close encounters.[13]
Richardson rejects the traditional notion that lions should be mastered and dominated, preferring to develop a relationship over time, based on love and respect.[14] "A lion is not a possession; it's a sentient being, so you must pay attention and develop your bond like with any relationship." [14]
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You can find out more at [LionWhisperer]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Biography of Alan Turing: Breaking the Code (1996)



Here is a British-produced biography of Alan Turing, the famous mathematician and the father of digital computers, who was chiefly responsible for breaking Germany's enigma code during the Second World War. Turing was also a homosexual, which was then illegal in Britain and in much of the world.

As it says on Youtube:
Hugh Whitemore wrote a shortened version of the play for television. This was filmed in late 1995, as a production of THE DRAMA HOUSE and WGBH BOSTON for BBC NORTH.The first transmission, to my knowledge, was on 17 September 1996 in Canada, by Showcase Television. It was shown in the United States as a Masterpiece Theater production on 2 February 1997. The first British transmission was on BBC1, 5 February 1997.
Filmed for television in a naturalistic suburban setting, rather than on a timeless, expressionist stage set, Breaking the Code inevitably sacrificed many of the elements that made it grip theatre audiences. No stagecraft magic of Derek Jacobi's real-time changes of age: instead the teenage Turing was played by a young actor.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive



Gloria Gaynor sings "I Will Survive, her signature song, one that resonates with me, with all of humanity; it's one of those inspirational songs. Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. This is a song of survival, whether it is about bad personal and love relationships or a horrible disease like cancer. So, although this song not a precisely about cancer, it is about an intrusion and unwelcome guest; so, this is what I say to you cancer:
Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Well, you never were; you have done your damage, your dishonorable deed, so remove yourself from my presence, from my body  and do not bother me or anyone else anymore. In plain English, get lost.

This clip is part of a PBS musical show on PBS., where a nine-year-old Ethan Botnick made his PBS concert special debut with "Ethan Bortnick and His Musical Time Machine" at the the historic El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles in August 2010; with Greg Phillinganes on keyboards; John Robinson  on drums; Michael Angel Alvarado on guitar; and Ian Martin  on bass.

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I Will Survive
by Dino Fekaris, Frederick J. Perren, Satoru Midori, & Yoshino Suzuki

At first I was afraid I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights
Thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along
And now you're back
from outer space
I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I've known for just one second you'd back to bother me
Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I. I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive,
I will survive!

Live alot to give me strength not to fall apart
Kept trying' hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart
And I spent oh so many nights
Just feeling sorry for myself, I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high
And you see me, somebody new
I'm not that chained up little girl who's still in love with you
And so you felt like dropping in
And just expect me to be free
Now I'm saving all my lovin' for someone who's loving me
Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to crush me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I. I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive, Oh

Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to crush me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?
Oh no, not I. I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive,
I will survive!

It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
Kept trying' hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart
And I spent oh so many nights
Just feeling sorry for myself, I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high
And you see me, somebody new
I'm not that chained up little girl who's still in love with you
And so you felt like dropping in
And just expect me to be free
Now I'm saving all my lovin' for someone who's loving me
Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to crush me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I. I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give and I will survive
I I I WILL survive

(fading ending:)

Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to crush me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Elvis Costello: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love & Understanding




Elvis Costello and band perform "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" in this 2004 concert; the lyrics to the song are as self-explanatory as they get.

The song was written by English singer and songwriter Nick Lowe; Wikipedia provides more information on how the song became so popular:
The song was originally released in 1974 on the album The New Favourites of... Brinsley Schwarz by Lowe's band Brinsley Schwarz and released as a single; this version was included on Lowe's 2002 compilation Anthology (along with the Elvis Costello version), and his 2009 compilation Quiet Please... The New Best of Nick Lowe, as well as 1991's Surrender to the Rhythm: The Best of Brinsley Schwarz, 1996’s Naughty Rhythms: The Best of Pub Rock 1970–1976, and 1998’s Pub Rock: Paving the Way for Punk.
The Elvis Costello & The Attractions version was first issued as the B-side of Lowe's 1978 single "American Squirm" credited to "Nick Lowe and His Sound". At the time, Lowe was Costello's producer, and he produced this track as well. When the song became a hit, it was quickly appended as the last track to the US edition of Costello's album Armed Forces. It has appeared on most of Costello's "Best of" compilations over the years, as well as on the soundtrack to the film “200 Cigarettes”. Live versions appeared on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Volume 7: 2002–2003, and 2012's The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, both by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked this version of the song as the 284th best song of all time.
I ask myself/Is all hope lost?/Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

***********************

(What's So Funny 'Bout)
Peace Love & Understanding

by Nick Lowe

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.

I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

'cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

'cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?



Donna Summer: Love To love You Baby (1976)



Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, performs "Love to Love You Baby" in this 1976 performance; I vividly remember when I first heard this song in 1975, in my final year of high school. No doubt, it made a great impression on me and millions of other young males (and females) of this generation. The sultry sexual innuendo seems mild by today's standards, or perhaps not. It was about freedom from unnecessary restrictions and, yes, I was part of the disco era and had great fun dancing the night and early morning hours at many disco clubs in Canada and the United States. No regrets on my part. None at all.

Here is some background information on the song, released in November 1975, from Wikipedia:
By 1975, Summer had been living in Germany for eight years and had participated in several musical theatre shows. She had also released an album in The Netherlands entitled Lady of the Night, written by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte and produced by Bellotte, which had given her a couple of hit singles. She was still a complete unknown in her home country when she suggested the lyric "Love to Love You Baby" to Moroder in 1975. He turned the lyric into a full disco song and asked Summer to record it. The full lyrics were somewhat explicit and at first Summer said she would only record it as a demo to give to someone else. However, Summer's erotic moans and groans impressed Moroder so much that he persuaded her to release it as her own song, and "Love to Love You" became a moderate hit in the Netherlands.
In an interview in 1976, Summer responded to a number of questions that she claimed she'd been asked about the process of recording the song: "Everyone's asking, 'Were you alone in the studio?' Yes, I was alone in the studio. 'Did you touch yourself?' Yes, well, actually I had my hand on my knee. 'Did you fantasize on anything?' Yes, on my handsome boyfriend Peter.
Summer died of lung cancer on May 17, 2012, at her home in Naples, Florida; she was 63. But her memory and her many contributions to music are long remembered.

************
Love To Love You Baby
by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte


I love to love you baby...

When you're laying so close to me
There's no place I'd rather you be
Than with me here

I love to love you baby...

Do it to me again and again
You put me in such an awful spin
In a spin

I love to love you baby...

Lay your head down real close to me
Soothe my mind and set me free
Set me free

I love to love you baby...

When you're laying so close to me
There's no place I'd rather you be
Than with me here

I love to love you baby...

Do it to me again and again
You put me in such an awful spin
In a spin

I love to love you baby...
I love to love you baby...
I love to love you baby...
Love to love you baby baby...
I love to love you baby...

When you're laying so close to me
There's no place I'd rather you be
Than with me here

I love to love you baby...

Do it to me again and again
You put me in such an awful spin
In a spin

I love to love you baby

Lay your head down so close to
Soothe my mind and set me free
Set me free

I love to love you baby

When you're laying so close to me
There's no place I'd rather you be
Than with me here

I love to love you baby

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Cancer Blog: Recovery Month 7

On Wellness


Today is Day 421 since I was diagnosed with cancer, and Day 211 living with chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a side-effect of chemo treatment. My last chemo treatment was on July 8th, 2013, and I have been in the recovery stage of this unending battle since then.



Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.
—Henry St. John, English politician and political philosopher;
1st Viscount Bolingbroke [1678– 1751)




I saw Dr. Chan, my medical oncologist, yesterday to discuss the results of my last CT scan of my lungs and my blood-works. My lungs are essentially clear, although there still remains a nodule or two on my lungs that they want to keep watching. It is not getting larger, which is good news, but I will have to undergo another CT scan in a few months (June) and more blood-works.

I am still tired, often fatigued to the point that I have no desire to do anything, not even reading books or writing my blog posts; and I still have neuropathy on my hands and feet. It can take between two and five years to recover from cancer and chemo treatments; this is what I have been told from discussions at Gilda's Club, my cancer-support group, and by my oncologist. I have a ways to go; I am not entirely sure if I will ever reach the energy level I had pre-cancer. I find this possibility discouraging, as I do my advancing age, which works against my plans.

Last week, on February 4th, was World Cancer Day, which is a day set aside to promote cancer awareness, and I have been busy researching and reading. There is some sobering news: cancer rates are expected to increase worldwide. So says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

CBC News says:
The report said that in 2012 — the latest year for which data are available — new cancer cases rose to an estimated 14 million a year, a figure expected to grow to 22 million within the next two decades.

Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million a year to 13 million per year.

The data mean that at current rates, one in five men and one in six women worldwide will develop cancer before they reach 75 years old, while one in eight men and one in 12 women will die from the disease.
This is the result of five years of studies;  there is a debate on how much governments can now do to prevent the rise of cancer, that the onus is now on individual diet and lifestyle choices. We know that diet has some influence on how cancer forms and spreads, but it is not the only thing we ought to consider, say the people who make such decisions. It is now about money, which is always how decisions are made.

The same CBC article says: "The spiralling costs of cancer are hurting the economies of even the richest countries and are often way beyond the reach of poorer nations. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated at around $1.16 trillion." A large number, but not when compared to how much one nation, the United States, has spent on its military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan: $6 trillion. I find this news depressing.

Here are some interesting statistics, from the World Cancer Research Fund, on rates of cancer in the world; Denmark has the highest rates of cancer diagnosis, the U.S. is no.6, Canada is no. 12, Germany is no. 18, Israel is no. 19, and Japan no.48. There is much to chew on here, including on whether rates are increasing as a result of better screening techniques or because of poorer diets, or a bit of both. There has been much talk of diet and in particular the Okinawan diet of high vegetable low meat content, and eating as far down the food chain as possible.

An article ("The Okinawa diet – could it help you live to 100?"), by Michael Booth in The Guardian says how and what Okinawans eat:
 The next day I interviewed American gerontologist, Dr Craig Willcox, who has spent many years investigating Okinawan longevity and co-wrote a book, The Okinawa Program, outlining his findings (recommending that we "Eat as low down the food chain as possible" long before Michael Pollan's similarly veg-centric entreaty).
Willcox summarised the benefits of the local diet: "The Okinawans have a low risk of arteriosclerosis and stomach cancer, a very low risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. They eat three servings of fish a week, on average ... plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products too, more tofu and more konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, which are rich in taurine – that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure." 
There is little incentive to living to 100 if you are  are doing so in poor or horrible health. Such diets might be beneficial to consider, and I would like to hear of anyone who has changed their dietary habits and it has resulted in improved energy and better overall health. It might also be that genetics plays such a prominent role that diet is secondary to longevity, suggesting that the diet is specific to the Japanese Okinawans and will have little or no effect outside its boundaries.

This will be my last regular posting for the cancer blog; I will post at irregular intervals, when I have something new to say, such as when I am relieved of my neuropathy, or when I have regained a sufficient energy level that I no longer notice its absence. Thank you for joining and encouraging me; I hope that in writing about my cancer journey that I have encouraged you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Simon & Garfunkel: Sounds Of Silence (1966)


Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel perform "The Sounds of Silence" on the Canadian TV series, Let's Sing Out (1963-1967), in this performance at University College, University of Toronto, on Feb 17, 1966.

As Youtube explains:
Originating from university campuses all across Canada, Let's Sing Out featured audience participation as students joined Canadian and American guest stars in familiar and popular folk songs. The weekly half-hour series was seen on Fridays throughout the CTV network, beginning October 11, 1963. Host for the show was Winnipeg-born Oscar Brand. The series aired on CTV until it was picked up by the CBC in the fall of 1966 and ran for one more season.
The song was written in the aftermath of the assassination of U.S. President John F, Kennedy, a song primary about post-adolescent angst, and a loss of meaning. This was one of two major events that shook the United States, the other being Watergate, 10 years later; perhaps, it has never recovered hope as a nation, and looked elsewhere for its core beliefs and values.

And the people bowed and prayed/To the neon god they made/And the sign flashed out its warning/In the words that it was forming
***************
The Sounds of Silence
by Simon & Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Proposed Law Threatens Safety of Afghan Women

Tribal Ways: Lynsey Addario writes: "Bibi Aisha was 19 when I met her in Kabul's Women
for Afghan Women shelter. Her husband, a Taliban fighter, beat her from the day she was married,
at age 12. After she escaped to seek a neighbor's help, her husband cut off her nose, ears, and hair.
Aisha later came to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery."
Photo Credit: Lynsey Addario; National Geographic
Source: NatGeo

An article, by Eve Conant, in National Geographic says that a new law passed by the Afghan parliament, and awaiting signature by President Hamid Karzai, would act as a negative influence in cases of domestic violence and abuse, thus effectively silencing women. The law says that relatives cannot testify when a woman has been assaulted or raped; given that it is typically a relative who perpetuates the crime, the law effectively sanctions domestic violence against women.

The article is accompanied by striking photos of women, taken by Lynsey Addario.

Conant writes:
Addario first traveled to Afghanistan 14 years ago when it was under Taliban rule and has returned every year since. Over that time, rights and protections for Afghan women have been strengthened, and many women now have access to education and jobs.
But last year, Afghanistan saw a 28 percent increase in reports of attacks against women, according to the UN, with little rise in prosecutions. And now, a small but consequential change to the criminal code could make domestic violence—already rampant in Afghanistan—nearly impossible to prosecute. 
In her 2010 photo essay for National Geographic, "Veiled Rebellion," Addario bore witness to both the abuse and the progress of Afghan women. Her photographs show women maimed by their husbands for small acts of defiance. By contrast, ebullient teachers-in-training are seen picnicking in a women's garden established by a female Afghan governor.
The groundbreaking 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) criminalized acts of child marriage, rape, and other forms of violence against women. But laws are only as effective as their enforcement, and Addario details how the proposed new law could roll back many of the hard-won protections she's documented in recent years.
It seems more conservative, more traditional forces have won favour in this nation that still has tribal leaders deciding and dictating the direction the country will take. Many, it seems, fear women who have access to education and jobs, thus freeing them from their dependency on men. This is not only a woman's right, it is an international human right, whose gains have always been achieved not easily. Fear of change, of progress, is a strong driving emotion that often leads to such consequential decisions; only education will eliminate the fear and ignorance, and the tribal leaders understand this connection all too well.

************************
You can read and see more photos at [NatGeo

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Great Debate On Liberalism

The Two Poles of Politics

An article, by Peter Berkowitz,  in The New Criterion looks at the historical influences that have largely shaped the differences between Left and Right.

Berkowitz writes:
Behind the crossfire of left and right vituperation and the comparatively demure scholarly debate about the locus of polarization lies the widely shared opinion that partisanship is, whichever way you look at it, a pathology from which relief should be sought. Seldom considered is the possibility that, although its intensity may wax and wane, partisanship is an irreducible feature of the American constitutional tradition, and more generally of modern liberal democracy.
This neglected possibility is raised by Yuval Levin in his fascinating new book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. A senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Center in Washington, D.C., and the founder and editor of National Affairs, Levin has taken the bold step of attempting to shed light on contemporary politics and public policy by turning to political philosophy and history. Levin is uniquely well-positioned to take that bold step, having obtained a Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and having worked in Washington as a congressional staffer, as the chief of staff of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and on the domestic policy staff of the George W. Bush White House. It is Levin’s contention that bitter public policy debates between left and right today—about economics, the environment, culture, and much else—do not divide arbitrarily and cannot be explained merely as a function of the configuration of contemporary politics. Rather, he maintains, disagreements about public policy can be traced to deep-rooted assumptions about nature, human nature, reason, society, and justice. And recovering an understanding of these deep roots, he contends, provides an enhanced appreciation of what is at stake in our differences of opinion about how to govern the nation, and may even lead to more measured and productive partisan debate.
To accomplish his task, Levin turns to “the great debate” between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine about the French Revolution. Burke, the eminent Whig statesman and the father of modern conservatism, denounced the French Revolution in 1790 in Reflections on the Revolution in France. He argued that the uprising against the monarchy, aristocracy, and clergy by intellectuals and the common people was the first “total revolution,” an attempt not merely to alter government but to uproot old beliefs, practices, and associations in accordance with a novel theory, and replace them with a new form of social and political life dictated by pure reason. Paine, an immigrant to America from England who, in 1776 in Common Sense, brilliantly expounded the principles on which the American Revolution was based, responded to Burke in 1791. In the Rights of Man, Paine derided Burke as an apologist for privilege and the past, and defended the French Revolution as being grounded in the right of the people to rid themselves, from the ground up, of any political order that does not protect their natural rights.
As Levin shows with impressive learning and a rare capacity to enter into the spirit of both parties to the controversy, the great debate was about more than the French Revolution. In developing their arguments, Burke and Paine laid the groundwork for two rival schools of thought about liberal democracy; these schools set forth fundamental alternatives to conceiving the challenge of organizing political life around the belief that human beings are by nature free and equal. Paine, Levin argues, stands for a “progressive liberalism” that seeks to bring political society into conformity with an abstract model of political perfection that involves freeing the individual from the constraints imposed on him not only by arbitrary or overreaching laws, but also by “his time, his place, and his relations to others.” Burke champions a “conserving liberalism” that discerned in Britain’s established institutions and inherited morals and principles political wisdom in light of which prudent reform could be responsibly undertaken. Levin demonstrates that while each of these fundamental alternatives puts liberty at the center of politics, each assesses differently the structure, content, and social and political requirements of liberty.
Yet, at the centre of their argument, of their public debate, was liberalism. Both Burke and Paine were discussing a type of liberalism, disagreeing on what shape it would take; the former voting for a "conserving liberalism," the latter for a "progressive liberalism." If only it were so today, that politicians and their staffers would at least acknowledge the history of the forces that shaped the thinking of Left versus Right.

It is my view that the U.S. has veered so far right politically and economically and, in many ways, socially, that any discussion of this nature will have little influence within the U.S. body politic. For one, the U.S. is really a special case, having allowed the infusion of religion, notably Christianity, into politics, and thus political debate is no longer within the framework of what Burke and Paine were debating more than 200 years ago.

The (New) Left, on the other hand, has veered away from its base of industrial workers and toward identity politics and anarchist or marxist thinking. It has become more nasty, more brutish, more personal. It is hard to see if consensus on any issue can ever be achieved, given the wide and extreme differences in thought and ideas. Moreover, sadly, neither actually speaks for the majority of its citizens, who identify as either moderates or liberals (Neither speaks for me, I having formed my thoughts from the school of classic liberalism.)

Even so, it is interesting to read this article, and the book itself will likely  flesh out such ideas in greater detail, but does anyone outside academia or the intellectual realm actually care about such distinctions? Or more to the point, will it have any influence in Washington? I have my doubts, but I would happily be wrong in this case.

*************************************
You can read more at [NewCrit].

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chicago: Feelin' Stronger Every Day (1973)



The American rock band, Chicago, perform "Feelin' Stronger Every Day"; the song, written by Peter Cetera and James Pankow is on their album Chicago VI (1973). The song is about a so-called failed love relationship and what was learned from it; although this one did not lead to intended results, it did lead to some self-recognition, which is always good. I remember hearing this song in the early 70s; I have always enjoyed the horns interjecting their opinions into the melody.


*********************
Feelin' Stronger Every Day
by Peter Cetera and James Pankow

I do believe in you
And I know you believe in me
Oh yeah, oh yeah

But now we've realized
Love's not all that it's supposed to be
Oh yeah, oh yeah

And knowing that you would have wanted it this way
I do believe I'm feelin' stronger every day
I know we really tried together we had love inside
Oh yeah, oh yeah

So now the time has come
For both of us to live on the run
Oh yeah, oh yeah

And knowing that you would have wanted it this way
I do believe I'm feelin' stronger every day
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ah

After what you've meant to me
Ooo baby now
I can make it easily
Yeah, yeah, yeah

I know that we both agree
Best thing that happened to you
The worst thing that happened to me
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Feelin' stronger every day
Feelin' stronger every day
Feelin' stronger every day

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jewish Composers and Performers

Life of the Stage


Music plays a prominent role in the lives of many people, from many cultures, and Jews are no exception, having had a long tradition of composing and performing music that date to the biblical times. It was said that a young David played the harp so well that it not only soothed the troubled spirit of King Saul, but that it also pleased God. No doubt, music continues to please us mere mortals, notably when it is entrusted to the hands of a master. And there have been many masters among the Jewish People, Prof. George Jochnowitz writes: "But it is among violinists that Jews are particularly numerous: Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, Isaac Stern, Yitzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Leonid Kogan, Nathan Millstein, David Oistrakh, Maxim Vengerov —to name only a few. Erica Morini, perhaps the most famous woman violinist of the first half of the 20th century, was Jewish. My father saw her perform in Cracow when he was a young man. I saw her perform at Carnegie Hall when I was a young man. For most of the 20th century, Jews seemed to dominate the ranks of top violinists. My wife has told me about a riddle she heard some decades ago: What is the world's shortest book? Answer: The Book of Non-Jewish Violinists."


***********************************

by George Jochnowitz

Is there a Jewish instrument? It would have to be the shofar, sounded during the month of Elul, during Rosh Hashanah services, and at the end of Yom Kippur. Is there a modern instrument that is a descendant of the shofar? The trumpet comes to mind, or perhaps the trombone or the tuba. Are Jews famous for playing brasses? Not particularly, although when we consider the world of klezmer music, we have trumpeter Frank London. When we get to woodwinds, the clarinet seems to be a candidate, both in classical and klezmer music, although the clarinet is a relatively recent instrument, attributed to Johann Christopher Denner and invented in Nuremberg in about 1690 [1]. The most famous clarinetist, noted for both swing and classical music, is probably Benny Goodman.

The voice is a universal instrument, and there certainly is a tradition of cantorial singing. Back in the 20th century, there were quite a few Jewish opera stars at the Metropolitan Opera, Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, Roberta Peters, and Beverly Sills among them. One tenor, Richard Tucker, also had a career as a cantor [2].

But it is among violinists that Jews are particularly numerous: Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, Isaac Stern, Yitzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Leonid Kogan, Nathan Millstein, David Oistrakh, Maxim Vengerov —to name only a few. Erica Morini, perhaps the most famous woman violinist of the first half of the 20th century, was Jewish. My father saw her perform in Cracow when he was a young man. I saw her perform at Carnegie Hall when I was a young man. For most of the 20th century, Jews seemed to dominate the ranks of top violinists. My wife has told me about a riddle she heard some decades ago: What is the world's shortest book? Answer: The Book of Non-Jewish Violinists.

Times have changed. In recent years, Asians have joined the ranks of violinists: Cho-Liang Lin, born in Taiwan and an American citizen; Sarah Chang, born in Philadelphia to Korean parents; Midori, born in Japan but now a resident of New York City. There is no longer a clear Jewish majority of renowned violinists, but Yitzhak Perlman seems to be the most respected and loved violinist performing today.

Why should Jews be especially prominent among violinists? There is no clear answer. Perhaps string instruments are most capable of changes in tone, most like the voice. Perhaps violins reflect emotion, especially grief, more easily. We should remember, however, that those who play and love different instruments will argue that their own favorite instrument can convey the greatest range of emotion. Are violins popular among a wandering people because they are portable? Probably not. Most wind instruments are equally portable.

Even more numerous among Jews than famous violinists are famous pianists: Artur Schnabel, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Wanda Landowska (a harpsichordist but also a pianist), Rudolf Serkin, Andras Schiff, Evgeny Kissin, Yefim Bronfman, Murray Perahia, Richard Goode, Emanuel Ax, Bennett Lerner — I have named only a few. Despite their numbers, Jewish pianists seem to be a proportionately smaller group than Jewish violinists. The world recognizes the names of more pianists than of violinists. As is the case with violinists, in recent years Asian pianists have become famous as well: Helen Huang, born in Japan to Chinese parents; Lang Lang, born in Shenyang, China.

What about composers? Jews are less prominent. When I was growing up, Felix Mendelssohn was always considered the most important Jewish composer. Whether he should be counted as Jewish is a debatable point, since his parents decided that the family should convert to Lutheranism when Felix was a child. Mendelssohn's music is well known and generally well liked, but he is rarely if ever listed among the top five or even top ten composers of history.

Nowadays, things are a bit different. Gustav Mahler has replaced Mendelssohn as the most admired Jewish composer. Every year, radio station WQXR asks its listeners to vote for their favorite compositions. In the 2001-2002 poll, compositions by Beethoven won five of the top ten places. Mahler's second symphony was number 9 on the list. Vivaldi, Bach, and Dvorak were ahead of Mahler, who, amazingly, outranked Rachmaninoff  (#10) and even Mozart (#11), to say nothing of Verdi (#14), Puccini (#16) and Brahms (#17).

A year later, Mahler did not do quite so well. In the 2002-2003 poll, Mahler's second had dropped to number 11 on the list, although there were two other Mahler symphonies in the top 40, his first and fifth. Despite this slight drop, Mahler's long and complex compositions remain strikingly popular, much more so than the more accessible music of Mendelssohn.

Mahler too was a convert to Christianity; he had to become a Catholic to secure the position of director of the Vienna Court Opera [3]. Composers, it seems, are more likely to be integrated into the societies of the countries where they grow up. Performers, a peripatetic lot, may be at home everwhere or nowhere. The best-known Jewish composer of the 17th century is Salamone de 'Rossi of Mantua, now in Italy. The dukes of Mantua had allowed a number of Jewish musicians to perform and create in the 16th century, and Rossi was part of a tradition, which ended when the Austrian army sacked Mantua in 1628-30 [4]. It makes sense that Rossi came from a community where Jewish musicians were at home.

The countries where Jews were most integrated in the early 19th century were probably first France and then Germany. Giacomo Meyerbeer and Jacques Offenbach were born in Germany but lived in France. Jacques Halévy was born and lived in France. If the populous Jewish communities of eastern Europe were producing composers at this time, we haven't heard of them. Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was the first Russian Jewish composer to become world famous, although nowhere as famous as Mendelssohn (1809-1847) or even Meyerbeer (1791-1864). Incidentally, Rubinstein was the model for the assimilationist German-Jewish musician Klesmer (what an appropriate name) in George Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda [5]. When we get to the 20th century, Jewish composers are likely to be Americans: George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein. Darius Milhaud was French. Paul Ben-Haim is Israeli; perhaps Israel will produce great composers in the 21st century.

What is greatness? It is easier to agree about fame than about genius. I find Mozart the greatest composer. Almost everyone feels that Mozart is great, but nobody can explain how. Critics talk about originality, complexity, and profundity. This doesn't explain Mozart. Music may be wonderful because it plumbs emotional depths. But emotional heights can be as thrilling as emotional depths. It is perhaps harder to write great happy music than great tragic music. As for originality, Mozart was one of the least innovative composers who ever lived. His music was significantly less experimental than Haydn's, for example. Mozart was original in only one way: his greatness.

My own candidate for the greatest Jewish composer is Offenbach. I find the cancan music in Orpheus in the Underworld thrilling, although it is neither deep nor complex nor particularly original. Orpheus in the Underworld, a comic opera with lots of spoken dialogue and lots of jokes that may have been funny once but are now incomprehensible, does not stand up as a dramatic work. As for the version of the cancan found in the ballet Gaîté parisienne, arranged by Manuel Rosenthal, it lacks the spark and excitement of the original Offenbach score. To others, it may not be great, but Orpheus in the Underworld sweeps me off my feet. What else can greatness mean?

The French movie composer Michel Legrand agrees with me: "I have always loved Offenbach, so inventive, so droll, with splendid harmonies" [6]. Legrand's play Amour opened on Broadway on October 20, 2002, and has since closed.

Tragedy can be understood in every generation; comedy is linked to a particular time and place. Music, however, can last longer than comedy. Offenbach's cancan has a liveliness also found in Rossini — especially the Lone Ranger theme from the William Tell overture — and in klezmer music. Whatever greatness may be, it includes music that lifts the spirits.

Light opera, operetta, musical comedy — are they the same thing? Jewish composers have stood out in this genre. Richard Rodgers, whether half of the pair Rodgers and Hart or the later team Rodgers and Hammerstein, is a champion composer of musical comedy. So is Frederick Loewe, who worked with his librettist Alan Jay Lerner to write My Fair Lady and other distinguished musical comedies. I don't know whether Leonard Bernstein's Candide should be considered an opera or a Broadway show, but whatever it is, it is a work of genius. Jewish composers have excelled as composers of operetta.

In the first half of the 20th century, Irving Berlin was perhaps the best known composer of American popular music. Then came rock and roll, an inspired and powerful form of popular music that was played everywhere and respected nowhere. American Jews, as integrated as any Jewish community in history has ever been, might have been expected to produce big names in rock and roll, especially since rock and roll, which combines elements of rhythm and blues with country and western, is the most integrated form of popular music in America. Jewish composers are underrepresented when it comes to rock and roll, although we do have Paul Simon, among others. Bob Dylan's music is sometimes called "folk rock," but it has little in common with traditional rock and roll.

Minimalist music is the classical analog of rock and roll. It shares with rock and roll a strict regularity of rhythm and, as its name suggests, the repetition and exploration of a small - minimal - number of melodies. Philip Glass and Steve Reich are two Jewish composers whose careers are built on minimalism. The Jewish creative energy that did not go into rock and roll found its home in minimalism.

Why are there famous English composers of the 18th century but not of the 19th? Why did opera begin in Italy and thrive there as nowhere else? Why haven't German composers since 1955 dominated classical music the way they did for the previous three centuries? We don't know the answer. And we don't know why Jews are so numerous among the world's great violinists.

Notes
1. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 3rd edition, vol. 1, p. 656.
2. For further discussion, see Leonard J. Leff, "A Question of Identity," Opera News, December 2002, pp. 34-39.
3. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 11, column 726.
4. Ibid., vol. 14, column 318.
5. Edmund White, "The Great Issues: George Eliot, Zionism and the Novel," TLS, January 18, 2002, p. 6.
6. Cited by Alan Riding, "The Real Paradox: Musical Comedy Made in France," "Arts and Leisure," The New York Times, October 20, 2002.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached atgeorge@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. A version of this article originally appeared in Midstream, Vol. XXXXIX, No. 2, February/March 2003; it can also be found on GeorgeJochnowitz.net. It is republished here with the permission of the author.