Friday, December 19, 2008

Ah Quand Reviendras le Temps Bergere by Julien Tiersot

Dear Julien Tiersot,

It has been a bit difficult for me, in sparse free time to find out anything about you. says this, but Wikipedia's entry is in French (which I could barely parse and certainly not authoritatively).
b Bourgen-Bresse, 5 July 1857; d Paris, 10 Aug 1936). French musicologist and folklorist. A pupil of Massenet (composition) and Franck (organ) at the Paris conservatoire, he became head of the library there, president of the Société Française de Musicologie and active on behalf of early and contemporary music; meanwhile he wrote books on French Revolutionary music, on music in Molière's comedies and on Rousseau. His chief importance lies in his work as a folklorist, especially in the classic collection Mélodies populaires des provinces de France (10 vols., 1888-1928).
Still, this wonderful carol is the one I chose to represent, this advent week, the spirit of the shepherds. Oh, how beautiful it is.

Translation (I'm sure there is a better one out there, somewhere, but I couldn't find it.)

Ah! When will return the time, shepherdess
Ah! When will return the time?
Where, by one evening full of such a pure mystery
Upon slopes, woods, and fields,
In Bethlehem towards the thatched cottage
Came down from heaven an angel of light

Ah! When will return the time, shepherdess?
Ah! When will return the time?
What sweet harmonies echoed in the clear night
The voice in chorusand the instruments!
Were there ever on our earth,
More beautiful tunes
And a more beautiful sanctuary?

Ah! When will return the time, shepherdess?
Ah! When will return the time?
What hopes, what a sincere love filled our beating hearts?
How we ran, full of light mood
Through valleys and mounts
To see the Virgin Mother!

Sung by the choirs des Petit Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois

The good people at ScribD have posted this beautiful version of another of your works. Isn't technology wonderful.

You were best known as a folklorist, but this carol is magnifique!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And in a Little Prison Near Bethlehem

Dear Friends who are still concerned about babies in Bethlehem,

As Tamar Katz, a 19-year-old Israeli woman was being arrested, she said, "I am not willing to become one of those holding the gun pointed indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians, and I do not believe that such actions could bring any change except ever more antagonism and violence in our region."

She is what is known as one of the Shministim or a refusnik. When she refused to put on the Israeli military uniform, she was put in solitary confinement. No phone calls, no contact, not even access to the most basic hygiene.

Today, December 18, is Shministim Day of Action. Could you support these courageous young people in their stand for morality and justice? You, just have to sign a letter.

For more information on Omer Goldman see this article by Ed Asner (Huffington Post).


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen or Lo, How a Rose Eer Blooming for the Third Sunday of Advent

Liebe Freunde,

This series of musical musings is the way I am celebrating advent. The music that I've chosen is not necessarily advent music, but rather Christmas music if you want to get technical. And many people in liturgical circles are not content to be anything but technical. No, they do not let themselves sing the carols they want to sing, because they are Christmas carols, not advent songs. How do we tell these dear Episcopal friends and other followers of higher forms of liturgy in worship that it is, well, ok?

Sigh. I want to tell them to relax, but they cannot.

This is an advent song, appropriate, to this third week of Advent, the shepherd's week with it's pink candle. Why pink? Some people say for the joy of it. And that is nearly a good enough reason for me. But there is a little more and it is depicted in the beautiful carol, Lo, How a Rose Eer Blooming. Sung here in German, slowly, we are drawn to see the special beauty of a rose, a pink one, springing up out of season. And the beauty to our sight and the fragrance in a night half spent, does, indeed, give us great joy.

The original carol has 23 stanzas, much more than the translation below.

This is the translation that was offered with this piece on YouTube and is said to be a literal rendering of the German. The carol "sprung up" in the 15th century in Germany and reflects prophetic scriptures from the Old Testament:

Song of Solomon, 2:1,
"I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."

and Isaiah 11:1,
"There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

A rose has sprung up,
from a tender root.
As to us the men of old have sung,
Its lineage was from Jesse.
And it has brought forth a little blossom
In the middle of the cold winter
When the night was half spent.
Of which Isaiah spoke
Is Mary, the pure one,
Who has brought to us the little blossom.
According to Gods eternal counsel,
She has borne a child
When the night was half spent.
The little blossom, so small

That smells so sweet to us
With its very great light
Dispels the darkness.
True man and true God!
It helps us in all trouble,
Saves from sin and death.

Lo, How a Rose Eer Blooming is my husband's favorite Christmas Carol, and I do understand why.



Friday, December 12, 2008

Riu, Riu, Chiu (Anonymous Spanish Villancico*)

Dear Anonymous,Statue Of Anonymous, Taken by UkieVillain in Budapest, Hungary 5/11/2003

Expectation. Waiting.

Advent is about waiting. Waiting for Christ's birth. Waiting for Christ's return. Waiting for the reconciliation of the world to Christ to come, where justice will be experienced in fullness, and we will no longer deal with the horrors of this world.

As I was looking for audio of one of my favorite Christmas songs that I sang in choir in college, I came across this video. And it really does make me long--even hunger--for the return of Christ. So thank you for this reminder of what I'm waiting for, of what the Lord has done in preparation already, and of why I'm still waiting for salvation.

Lord, protect our lambs from the wolves that roam our world, seeking to devour.


WARNING: The following video is *extremely* graphic in its violence, and the first 1:20 is intentional black-out. (The following example is an anti-war statement but portrays the violent death and horror that accompanies it. Scroll down to hear and view a more traditional approach to caroling!)

This version has the full lyrics, sans violence.


Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera.

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisole hazer que no pudiesse pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Este qu'es nascido es el gran monarca,
Cristo patriarca de carne vestido;
Hanos redimido con se hazer chiquito,
Aunqu'era infinito, finito se hizera.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Muchas profecias lo han profetizado,
Y aun en nuestros dias lo hemos alcancado.
A Dios humanado vemos en el suelo
Y al hombre nel cielo porqu'er le quisiera.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Yo vi mil Garzones que andavan cantando,
Por aqui bolando, haciendo mil sones,
Diziendo a gascones Gloria sea en el cielo,
Y paz en el suelo qu'es Jesus nascieta.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Este viene a dar a los muertos vida
Y viene a reparar de todos la caida;
Es la luz del dia aqueste mocuelo;
Este es el cordero que San Juan dixera.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Pues que ya tenemos lo que desseamos,
Todos juntos vamos presentes llevemos;
Todos le daremos nuestra voluntad,
Pues a se igualar con el hombre viniera.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almighty knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.
Riu, riu, chiu...

The newborn child is the mightiest monarch,
Christ patriarchal invested with flesh.
He made himself small and so redeemed us:
He who was infinite became finite.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.
Riu, riu, chiu...

A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exulting, "Glory be in the heavens, and peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born."
Riu, riu, chiu...

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This child is the light of day,
He is the very lamb Saint John prophesied.
Riu, riu, chiu...

Now we have gotten what we were all desiring,
Go we together to bear him gifts:
Let each give his will to the God who was willing
To come down to Earth man's equal to be.
Riu, riu, chiu...**

*Villancico: A lyric form, often set to music, of Spain and Portugal during the 15th and 16th Century Renaissance.
**Another nice translation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Dear Choirboys,

I love what you have done with this little English carol, though the video itself is a bit fuzzy. You have captured, I think, the joyous paradox of this song by John Gardner with the militaristic thruming of the tom-tom and the lovely lyrical sound of boys' voices.

Merry Christmas.


Tomorrow shall be my dancing day I would my true love did so chance To see the legend of my play To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure Of her I took fleshly substance Thus was I knit to man's nature To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was So very poor, this was my chance Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Then afterwards baptized I was The Holy Ghost on me did glance My Father's voice heard from above To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Into the desert I was led Where I fasted without substance The Devil bade me make stones my bread To have me break my true love's dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

The Jews on me they made great suit And with me made great variance Because they loved darkness rather than light To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

For thirty pence Judas me sold His covetousness for to advance Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold The same is he shall lead the dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Before Pilate the Jews me brought Where Barabbas had deliverance They scourged me and set me at nought Judged me to die to lead the dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Then on the cross hanged I was Where a spear my heart did glance There issued forth both water and blood To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Then down to hell I took my way For my true love's deliverance And rose again on the third day Up to my true love and the dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Then up to heaven I did ascend Where now I dwell in sure substance On the right hand of God, that man May come unto the general dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love This have I done for my true love.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Northern Carol - Koppångeçen

Dear Moraeus Gang,

I had not heard this beautiful Swedish "carol" until this year. The Christmas Album by Anne Sofie von Otter says that it was composed by Pereric Moraeus. Then I found this beautiful rendition by Anne Moraeus on YouTube. Are you related? Whether or not, you two have wonderful synchronicity.

Composed by Pereric Moraeus

There is silence around me in this peaceful winter night.
From the church down in the valley I can see the candlelight.
And I stopped for a moment in this winter paradise,
When I heard a choir singing through the darkness and the ice.

And the rays of lights behind the window's vaulted frames
Have united the souls in hope that something great is waiting.
And I know that those who have left us here had the same thoughts as I,
We're like flames in the darkness and stars up in the sky.

And I see how they sparkle and they fade before my eyes
And the truth is coming closer like a wonder in disguise.
We are caught here for a moment like an imprint of a hand
On an old and frosted window or a footprint in the sand.

For a while I'm eternal - that's the only thing I know,
I am here and we share our dreams about our destination.
It is cold out here, the snow is white but I'm warm deep inside.
I am warm 'cause I know that my faith will be my guide.

There are additional beautiful renditions of this piece on YouTube. I loved this one:
Helen Sjöholm

And Anne Sofie von Otter's version of Koppångeçen is a delight in both English and Swedish.

Thank you, and God Jul.


Friday, December 05, 2008

For the Joy of the Advent Season

Dear Readers of Letters and Surveys,

May your advent season be filled with joy and beauty.

Traditional Catalonian Carol: Fum, Fum, Fum

English Translation

On December five and twenty,
Foom, foom, foom!
On December five and twenty,
Foom, foom, foom!
For the love of us is giv'n The holy Infant,
Son of Heav'n,
Of the Virgin, Joseph's bride,
To all the earth good will be tiding,
Foom, foom, foom!

Little birds from out the forest,
Foom, foom, foom!
Little birds from out the forest,
Foom, foom, foom!
All your fledglings leave behind,
And seek the infant Savior kind.
Come, and build a downy nest
To warm the lovely Baby blessed,
Foom, foom, foom!

Little stars up in the heavens,
Foom, foom, foom!
Little stars up in the heavens,
Foom, foom, foom!
If you see the Baby cry,
O, do not answer with a sigh!
Rather, lighten up the sky
With Heav'ns beams of radiant brightness,
Foom, foom, foom!


Veintecinco de diciembre,
Fum, fum, fum!
Veinticinco de diciembre,
Fum, fum, fum!
Nacido ha por nuestro amor,
El Nino Dios,
Hoy de la virgen MariaEn
esta noche tan fria,
Fum, fum, fum!

Pajaritos del los bosques,
Fum, fum, fum!
Pajaritos de los bosques,
Fum, fum, fum!
Vuestros hijos de coral
Abandonad, abandonad,
Y formad un muelle nido
A Jesus recien nacido,
Fum, fum, fum!

Estrellitas de los cielos,
Fum, fum, fum!
Estrellitas de los cielos,
Fum, fum, fum!
Que a Jesu mirais llorar
Y no llordis, y no llordis,
Alumbrad la noche ascura
Con vuestra luz clara y pura,
Fum, fum, fum!

Happy Holidays,


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Anna Netrebko: Meine Lippen sie Kussen so heiss

Dear Anna Netrebko,

Well, you have done it, breathtakingly, again.

(My Lips Kiss with Such Fire)

If anyone. . . any singer that is. . . today, could make the world fall in love with opera, it is you. Your energy and verve captures the audience in every way. You have even courted the cameraman.

What I love about this presentation is your joy. I laughed as I watched you jumping up and down at the end. I think that is what everyone in the audience wanted to do too.



{Note: Sorry I have been so absent. I plan to pepper the world with letters in the next few days. Plus it is advent! Time for whispered celebration!}

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Redefining (Black/White) Masculinity

(Letter from Ukie Villain)

Dear Byron Hurt and Tyler Durden,

Thank you for your commentaries on masculinity.

Byron, you compare Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) with Barack Obama, drawing upon the themes that their power and prominence make each of them, in their own way, figures of masculinity in American culture. Recent years have given us the impression that the only strong, virile black men out there were the thugs--the ones who could take the women, the money, the drugs, and the jail-time without flinching. Those who relied on their intellect instead of their muscle were seen as selling out to the 'white' culture. As you say, it's a repainting of post-Civil War painting of the black man as a Buck.

Barack has changed that. By winning against long odds to become the nation's first Black President (assuming all goes well between now and January 20), he has shown that a man can be brainy, calm, and black. He hasn't left his culture, but rather has embraced it, and has still shown that with hands-in-pockets, sleeves-rolled-up, and basketball-shooting-proficiency, he can still command authority, demand respect, and achieve power.

Despite the differences between the Rapper and the President-Elect, there is a commonality here. "These are black men that are playing in a game that was not designed for them; they are playing in a way that has allowed them to be successful against great odds." (Video above, 9:07) Both of these men took what they wanted, but they did so in very different ways. Which is the more masculine of the two, and will Barack's rise to prominence and power lead more young black men to emulate him?

Tyler, you speak to masculinity beyond race, although it seems your message is targeted most directly at white men like me. White men don't have rap stars to provide role models--we have TV sitcoms.

Homer Simpson and Ray RomanoAnd we see all the time that the archetypal man in our society--violent, stupid, and lazy--is not exactly someone worthy of emulation.

Likewise, those who are shown as powerful in business or politics are shown as ultra-consumers: those who have all the money and power they want, and are filling their lives with so much stuff, defining themselves by their Ikea-catalog-lives or their $2000 suits. You seem to believe that neither of these options is acceptable as a true measure of masculinity, although that is what society proposes as the only two options for white men these days.

I'm sad that you had to turn to violence to express your manhood, though I understand the need to violently shake off the expectations of a society that highlights consumerism or slobbery as the path to self-expression of manhood. Ever seen Complex Magazine? It's enough to make me want to hit someone, in any case.

But I find it ironic that at the same time that black men see a role model in Barack that allows them to leave violence and thuggism behind, white men are looking at consumerism, violence, stupidity, and/or laziness as their preferred methods of expressing masculinity. This seems to be going in the wrong direction.

I say that we should define masculinity in a way that neither requires self-definition as a function of what we own or the size of our bank accounts, nor the necessity to take by thuggish force! Rather, masculinity could be defined by work ethic, ability to care and provide for others (even with the knowledge that femininity does NOT require being taken care of or provided for), and genuine expression of self through physicality and emotionality.

In any case, I thank both of you for your thoughts on masculinity, and hope that men in this nation can actually behave as such.


PS. Thanks to NPR for giving the heads up on Byron's short documentary, and spurring my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Variation to End All Variations on a Theme by Paganini

Dear Sergei,

I have been spending quite a bit of my travel time these last few days reviewing your music. Did I ever tell you that I have a very long commute to work? Sigh, yes, but my car has a nice sound system. I say reviewing, because I have been a long time fan. My earliest forays into classical music were in the shadows of your moving concertos. I travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, each day. (That is where you performed your final concert isn't it.)

But it has not been your concertos that have enamored me of late, but that glorious rhapsody on the ever enduring theme of Paganini. Why was that simple theme such an inspiration to so many. It is hard to say?

Did you know that YouTube provides renditions of you, Sergei, playing the whole of this work in three sections?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I guess that somehow this theme carries with it a spirit of the quintessential life flow that moves us through our various existences. It has inspired composers and in that, it has inspired all of us to life. You, of course, do not fail to remind us in places throughout your set of variations of the ever-present threat of death. A number of times I heard that fixed idea, the one you tap into throughout your many works, the dias irae theme. (I do not forget that. It is always a sub-theme isn't it. You Russians never let us forget. Remember that stirring work by Shostakovich, the 14th, that used the poetry of, among others, Rilke?
All-powerful is death.
It keeps watch
even in the hour of happiness.
At moments of higher life it suffers within us,
awaits us and thirsts for us -
and weeps within us.
No, we can't forget. It weeps within us, even during your variations on the theme by Paganini, that points us to the best of life.) And so you whisper reminders in variations 7 and 10 and, at the end. But death, though ever-present in life is not what it's about. It is just there, isn't it? And it's there with all the failures (variation 12?) and successes (variation 14?).

But it is life, full life, that continues through your rhapsodic variations on Paganini's lively theme. And what is life without love? Death is not the main sub-theme of life, but love certainly is. It must be. And you, my romantic friend, are the best one to state it fully in variation 18, and in D minor (like your most beautiful concerto and as Patrick Piggott* says--"in the key of sunset and romance").

In variation 16 you take us into a melody so delicately alluring that our tightening throats and not just our ears tell us it can be leading only one place, to the dearest recesses of the heart. So variation 16 with interwoven phrases for oboe, horn, harp, is harbinger of the wonder of love and intercourse. I enjoy the way you use this figure, here in the original A minor, shift it to B flat minor in 16, and then through variation 17 modulate to the erotic variation 18. (Listen to Part 2 above from 2:24 to the end.)

When I first listened to this rhapsody, I found variation 18 to be somewhat of a jolt. Too much, I thought. Out of character with the rest of the piece. But as I listened more, and especially in relation to the seduction of 16, I realized that the orgasmic strains were a deliberate expression of the richest of intercourse between the orchestra and piano. The beauty of description rivals that of the overture to Tristan and Isolde and it's conclusion leaves the chords that enveloped the notes of the Paganini motif inverted and panting on the staff.

I love this interpretation of the 18th variation done by Artur Rubenstein. He was a wonderful interpretor of your work, wasn't he?

So, I think of all the composers who have played with this group of notes first uttered by Paganini, it is you who have brought it to it's most full expression.

Thank you for these beauties.


*Rachmaninov Orchestral Music by Patrick Piggott (BBC Music Guides) 1974

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Variation on a Variation by Benny Goodman

Dear Benny Goodman,

So you liked this caprice by Paganini also! It is so interesting and appropriate to the jazz takeoff, because jazz is about life, gutsy life, and this piece as far as I can think is about life, a high-pitched, rough and tumble, well experienced life. That is the conclusion I'm coming to as I listen to the tune and to the variations that it has inspired.

I like your interpretation, but even moreso, and I think you, too, would be delighted, I like this snappy encore, a variation on your variation performed by Gregor Pierce.


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Tune That Drove Composers Wild

Dear Niccolo Paganini,

You certainly did it with this one. As a young girl said to me yesterday, "That is smokin' hot!" I won't try here to explain wikipedia, but it lists 30 compositions written by the likes of Brahms, Liszt, Rachmaninov, and even Andrew Webber and Benny Goodman, just based on this Caprice.

Listen to Jascha Heifetz. Don't he make you proud?

Fred Flaxman, who does a public radio show, Compact Discoveries said, "These capricci, which explore virtually every aspect of violin technique, are still the supreme test of the abilities of any violinist." He's the one who said that this Caprice drove the composers wild!

If you, yourself, played like this, that guy who said your virtuosity was, "enough to make the greater part of the fiddling tribe commit suicide," was probably right.

So here is my question? (Consider this a survey question.) What is it about this tune that has brought so much musical light into this world? I'm thinking about that.

Bless you.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Post Election Perspective

CaDh8 and I (BRD) have just about burned out on election commentary. Luckily, just in time, TheUkieVillain, straight from the Ukrainian Village section of Chicago has stepped up to wrap up our issue debates. As we curl up to watch election returns, we are glad to hear some good reminders about the realities of the situation.

Hopefully, we will all move forward from this election with a renewed spirit of vision and willingness to appreciate the talents and value of the winning candidate.

Welcome to Letters-and-Surveys, UkieVillain!

Dear Self, Post-Election Day,

I hope you get some sleep Election Night, and don't stay up too late to watch the election results trickle in.

I'm writing to remind you of a few things from this side of election day, when hopes run high on all sides: the hope of change with one candidate, or the still-clinging-to-hope of the other.

Reminder 1: Whatever the outcome, God is still in control. We have just voted to elect the President. As my pastor said this week, Jesus is still Lord and Messiah, whoever may be on the throne at the head of our country. God will still be in control of the nation, of the economy, of the war, of the unborn, of the world. He can still change hearts and minds regarding policy. And HE is the one who raises kings up and deposes them.

Reminder 2: If the guy you want to win ends up losing, it does not imply fraud. While the voting process itself is increasingly under scrutiny, what with hanging chads, and e-voting mishaps, the voice of the people is still the voice of the people. Our representative democracy is still based on the concept that our representatives are elected each year. So go out, vote, and resign yourself to the results, for better or worse. I'm all for honesty and transparency, but given the system we've got, my opinion is that it'd be better to get the next guy in office instead of drawing out election night for 30+ days the way we did in 2000. That just leads to further resentment and rancor among the people.

Reminder 3: Your influence in government didn't end when you left the voting booth Yes, that's right! Despite what you may think, your representatives DO care what you have to say. Call the offices of your Representative and/or Senator and/or the President, both on the state (I guess they're called governors on the state level, huh?) and federal level (they treat that as representative of 10 of their constituents). Better yet, take the time to write a pen-and-paper letter expressing your opinions (that gets counted as 50 people!).

Or, if you think the government is bunk and can't get the job done, work on getting things better without them! Join a community group that supports actions in your neighborhood, city, or state. Join up with a cause that you believe in. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

And, don't limit yourself to talking about politics and important issues on your blog (guilty of this myself) or with close friends and relatives. Blogs are likely to be read only by people who already agree with you, and its likely that you will hold similar opinions as many of your friends and family (although that's not always the case).

By encouraging reasonable discourse in the public square, you're helping bring back civility to our political realm, and helping understand those who are different than you, which is the start of changing yourself and the world.

Reminder 4: Read and remember! Make yourself more knowledgeable about the things you care about. That way, the next time you vote (local elections in 12 months, congressional elections in 2 years, presidential campaigns start in 3…hours?), you'll have the knowledge to back up and defend your positions and influence those around you with the truth.

So, Self, remember these things, and don't despair about whatever happens in this election or the seeming futility of politics sometimes!

Remember these things!



Saturday, November 01, 2008

Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation

Dear Garimpeiros*,

I recently watched the movie Powaqqatsi, part 2 of a trilogy of film collaborations by Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass. Though not as powerful as part 1, Koyaanisqatsi, it was, nonetheless, a beautiful and intriguing piece--particularly to you garimpeiros, I would think.

One of the images that recurs throughout the film Powaqqatsi is that of humans carrying burdens and carrying them, particularly, on or with their heads. And that is how we see you in the beginning sequence of the film. That scene is undoubtedly the most moving of the entire production. There you are in Serra Pelada**, sometime before the 1990's when this ant hill of production closed down, 40,000 of you, struggling up from the depths of a great pit under great burdens of rock and mud.

Godfrey Reggio recounts that the filming in the mine was taking place as planned, when a man was accidentally hit on the head with a rock. The camera person asked if he should stop filming and help. Reggio maintained that their efforts to help would be unwanted and so they filmed instead. The image of two garimpeiros carrying another up the rough trail impresses the viewer as a video version of the Pieta. Pity him. Pity them. Pity us all for the burdens we must carry.

This piece of video art, Reggio says, is an attempt to use the medium to question the medium. I'm not totally sure what he means. Supposedly he traveled broadly across the southern hemisphere to capture images from life that show the effect of industry and technology on the world. I would have to say that the work doesn't hold together in the same way that Koyaanisqatsi did, but it is beautiful and the music of Philip Glass is, as always, wonderful (if you love Glass) or repetitive to the point of a scream (if you don't).

"The computer is the highest magic in the world and something that we are all in adoration of. And that's what these films are about," Godrey says. But the word powaqqatsi is from the Hopi language and means "sorcerer life" or an entity or way of life that consumes the life forces of other beings in order to further its own life. The context of the film is this technological order. It studies the impact of progress. There is the implication in the film that technology is eating up the native cultures of the world, but that implication doesn't imply violence as much as complicity of these cultures. Powaqqi may be a black magician, but if he/she is, it operates through allurement. If the Southern world is being subsumed by progress, it is submitting willingly.

The language of the music is consonant with the language of the film. Apparently Glass followed Reggio around the southern hemisphere, but didn't always travel with him. He visited some of the same places. His hope was to explore the universe of this discourse, where the great conundrum of our age is the most immediately puzzling. "We are," they say, "already cooking in the stew of this technological age." This is the great burden that we are carrying around on our heads.

One of my favorite scenes of the film is one captured by the camera playing games with the depth of field. A woman walks, impressively carrying on her head a basket, while what appears to be a modern group of marathon runners stride up upon her slowly. The effect is breathtaking.

Powaqqatsi displays for us this great burden, embodied by those, like you, who still walk with bared feet in the mud and through the dust.

I read that Colossus Minerals of Toronto is now developing plans along with a group of garimpeiros represented by Coomigasp to core drill for gold at Serra Pelada. Pity.


*Brazilian Gold Searchers
**Serra Pelada - Very Famous Gold Open Pit Mine in the west of Brazil

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Barack Obama: Why I Would Like for You to be President

Dear Barack Obama,

My daughter and I have been debating the issues of the 2008 election. It has been fun and arduous. We have come to different conclusions. I think that is ok. She is a wonderful, intelligent human being who cares deeply about other people and lives compassionately. She believes like you do, like you say in this video, "I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper."

We have talked the issues to death. I'm not going to talk about issues anymore. Here, though, in my final words before this long awaited election, I thought that I'd tell you why I would like for you to be president of the United States. It kind of has to do with issues, but not completely.

The video that I have chosen is one that talks less about issues also, and more about you as a person. It talks about a man who is introspective and understands what it is like to search for who you are and what your purpose is here in this world. I spend a lot of time wondering about that. I don't find precise answers as I search, but I try to be true to that introspective work. I would like for you to be president because you are introspective.

I would like for you to be president because you are intelligent. You have revealed over the last two years an intelligence that knows how to communicate, not always simply, in sound bites, but with clarity and depth. And, thankfully, you use correct grammar and pronunciation.

I would like for you to be president because you have consistently shown a deep love and respect for your family, your wife, your children, your mother, your grandparents, and even your long absent father. The image of your sweet family may do more for the healing of our American culture than any of the legislative initiatives that you may ever be called upon to sign while president. Michelle says, that when you were first getting to know each other, you took her to a community organization meeting. That reminds me of one of my first dates with my husband, now of 33 years. There is nothing more attractive than a person who is able to care for others.
I would like for you to be president because you are willing to dialog without preconditions and with kindness. You have maintained such a calm temperament in the face of much animosity. Oh, how our world needs such calm.

I would like for you to be our president, because you have come, not from a family of wealth and prestige, but from one like mine, where work was not an option or a pastime, but a livelihood. This, I know, helps you to understand one of my great concerns. You talk about a living wage and you know what that means. These words, "living wage" are important and should, in my estimation be the guiding principle for dealing with poverty and the economy. It is a touchstone. If I could tell you one thing as you enter the presidency, if I could tell you to do one thing, to get one thing right, I would say . . . "A living wage, Mr. Obama, a living wage." And I feel certain that you would understand.

"One person's struggle is all of our struggle," you say in this video. So it is. You say of injustice that you realized that "if you don't fix it, nobody else is going to fix it." I like that. "Empathy," you say, "kindness, faith." These are things that make me say, I would like Barack Obama to be the president.

May your road to the White House, reach it.

With respect and high regard,


Sunday, October 26, 2008

When's it gonna end?

Dear voters,

OK, so consider this my closing argument. This election has left me a bit tired and disheartened, but whatever the outcome is going to be, let's just rip off the band aid and get it over with.

I know that many have already voted, but I am going to recap here my top 5 reasons for voting for McCain. (in no particular order, except the first...)

#1--Pro life stance. I understand that using a "litmus test" for candidates is not always practical. But it is very important. As a woman and as a Christian this one of my core stances. But strip away these "labels" and I have so many other reasons for being pro-life. This is very important to me, so I had to get this out up front. I understand, however, that others have felt put into a situation where they have to go against long held views on this issue due to other issues taking precedence.

#2--Goals for energy Independence. John McCain has laid out a plan for this on his site. Read all about it. He is for alternative fuels, greater domestic production, development of alternate methods of transportation, etc. I think he has good plans in this area.

#3--Health care plan. McCain's health care plan makes more sense to me, when comparing the choices. It puts power and responsibility in the hands of the people of this country. I feel that the bureaucracy of a more nationalized, socialized system will become a huge, money eating behemoth leaving your every day person with less quality care. As stated by a doctor interviewed on the radio, better care that costs less is a great idea, but it is just not as easy as the politicians make it sound. I think letting the people choose is the best plan, and a tax credit is a great way to let people have more money to do so. BUT, with the current financial issues, I am doubtful that there will be money to give people this kind of tax break. But that goes for both candidates...

#4--Cutting spending. McCain stressed this a lot. But will it happen? He says it will, with a reduction in ear marks. McCain's record shows his desire for projects to be paid for and to end earmarks (he does not use them himself), so I believe he will truly work for this.

#5--John McCain's record. I think that the media has forgotten that up until winning the nomination for being the Republican candidate, John McCain really was a maverick to many republicans. He worked in a bipartisan way with others in the Senate, went against his party frequently, fought for what he thought was right regardless of what others said, and has a record of strength in the Senate. His votes back up what he says. Obama has a record of running for president, with the occasional partisan vote and vote of "present". I feel more comfortable with McCain's record of service.

I like this picture of John with his dog, but my favorite picture of McCain is of him before the nomination carrying his own bag and flying southwest I think. He ran in this race because he wanted to bring change, bipartisanship, and make a difference. I feel that this has gotten lost in these last days. This is an unfortunate aspect of "running for president". But I hope he has the chance to get into office and go back to being himself, making a positive difference in the history of our country.

My biggest request to both candidates, no matter who is in office, is please, let's balance the budget. Don't continue to spout the "chicken is every pot" mantra. Let's start saying, "you know what, it will be tough, but we can't spend more than we take in. So services will be cut and we will not being doing as much as before, but we will balance our budget for our financial security." There should be focus on using less credit (on all levels from personal to governmental) and being more disciplined in the use of out money. That is my wish, at least.

So in closing, VOTE JOHN MCCAIN!!!!!

And if you are also tired of all this politics, watch my favorite video found in my research during the campaign season. I watch it every now and again for a good laugh.

Special thanks to BRD for allowing me the freedom to post and engage in election discussion on this site. I am truly honored. But I am sure all of BRD's regular readers will be glad to go back to her informative commentary, erudite literary reviews, and or course entertaining flix of the Zorro family and Neb and Solomon!

Love you BRD!


CaDh 8

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Invisible Hand, Distribution of Wealth, Marginal Tax Rate, Economics of the Candidates, and Economists on the Candidates (Whew!)

Dear Adam Smith,

I have been working on trying to figure out two things.

1. What the heck is going on with this economy?

2. What are the politicians going to do to pay for all the fixes they are promising?

Whenever I start to research, I get pretty confused. I get distracted and even trying to write to you, I keep going off on tangents in my mind. I can't stay focused on this. I certainly hope that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain taps me as next Secretary of the Treasury. I just don't think I could stay focused.

What was that you said? If I understand you right:

A natural force guides free market capitalism through competition for scarce resources. And in a free market each greedy person will try to maximize self-interest, and their interaction with other greedy persons will lead to exchange of goods and services, enabling each to be better off than when simply producing for himself/herself. You said that in a free market, no regulation of any type would be needed to ensure that the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services took place, since this "invisible hand" would guide market participants to trade in the most mutually beneficial manner.

So supposedly there is this hand, not the hand of God, but this other invisible hand that reaches in and keeps everybody doing what they should do economically. But "should do" for who? Did you ever imagine the New York Stock exchange? Or how about this?

I couldn't find fresher figures, but these are reflective of current realities and are from this website.

It seems to me that the invisible hand has lost it's touch or is working very hard only in favor of a very small elite group of people. If this is the best the invisible hand can do, I think we need some regulation. Here is my problem. I just don't believe that the top 1% of the population should hold and control 40% of the nation's wealth. If it were true that this top 1% had earned the right to hold that wealth, perhaps I would be convinced that they deserve this wealth and it's attending power. However, this elite has not, generally speaking, earned this wealth. They have inherited this wealth. The money that they have inherited has earned this wealth. But they, as a group, have not.

In addition, those who have earned this wealth have done so, not alone, but on the backs of working people, many of whom are working for minimum wage. According to an article from July by the Center for American Progress

Over the past year, a family of three supported by one minimum-wage earner still lived over $4,000 below the federal poverty line—earning just $12,168. That same family will now bring in $13,624 before taxes—well below the 2008 poverty line of $16,705. And when the wage reaches $7.25 in 2009, they'll earn a little over $15,000—still 18 percent below the poverty line. Minimum wage-earning households with additional members are likely to live even further below the poverty line.

What has the invisible hand been up to for these folks? Should people in the the richest nation in the world be in a situation that they work a full-time job, steadily, day in and day out, and they can't afford to feed themselves. They can't buy a dependable automobile. They can barely pay the rent on substandard housing. The working poor are further humbled (spell that shame for some) by being forced to go hat in hand and beg for food stamps, housing aid, and other assistance. This assistance comes at a high price to the broader community. We pay double or triple, for what the working poor should be receiving in a fairly earned paycheck. However, there has been some kind of sleight of invisible hand that keeps minimum earners under the very heavy thumb of employers (some wealthy, some not) screaming "I can't pay."

Meanwhile, in this very scattered letter, I want to talk about taxation. Now there is this term, marginal tax rate. I am not sure I really understand what it means. But someone said this:

The marginal tax rate is the rate of tax applied to the last dollar added to your taxable income. As your income increases more taxes are paid on this "top" level of income. For example, the income you earn from investments is added to your income from all other sources. As a result, each additional dollar of investment income is taxed at the highest rate applicable to your total income.


The average tax rate is calculated by dividing the total income taxes paid by your total income. The average tax rate incorporates taxes paid at all levels of income so naturally it will be less than the marginal rate, although a person’s average and marginal tax rate will be close to equal for very high-income earners (taxable income over $2,000,000).
I kind of wish I understood what that means and how that affects my life. I'll keep thinking about it. Write and explain it to me. But from the Yale study that CaDh8 referred to in an earlier post, I learned this:
The reduction of marginal tax rates in the Reagan years was driven by a new policy consensus that still persists today. That consensus is that high marginal tax rates on the rich come with an unaffordably high price for the U.S. economy in the form of reduced incentives for the rich to work and to save, and increased incentives to engage in socially wasteful tax planning. And yet 1957, when Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and the top income tax rate was 91%, falls in the middle of the period from 1951 through 1963. Those were the golden years of the U.S. economy, in which the average annual rate of productivity growth was 3.1% (compared with about 1.5% after 1981). Of course, the growth might have been even faster had the marginal tax rates been lower, but the coincidence of high rates and high productivity raises challenging questions for those who believe that high marginal tax rates carry an unacceptable cost.
Somehow I think that is interesting and would support Senator Obama's Tax Plan, if I understand this correctly.

In the spirit of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) I have tried to collect some summary ideas. I've read different descriptions of the plans, but this guy Justin Tapp seemed clear and concise to me. Plus he referenced his ideas so go to his site for more info.

The Tax Plans

I. Obama would raise income taxes on the top two tax brackets to pre-Bush levels of 36.9 and 39% respectively. (The top rate is currently 34% for people who earn more than $250,000).
Obama would also impose an additional 2 to 4 percent tax on earnings for some over the existing Social Security wage cap, and bring back the phase-out of the personal exemption and certain itemized deductions for higher-income taxpayers. When added up, the top effective marginal tax rate rises by 12 to 14 percentage points, from 37.9 percent to roughly 48 to 50 percent.

Obama would also raise capital gains taxes on people earning >$250,000 to 20%, which is more than today but less than it was before 2003.

McCain would keep the top tax rates, dividends, and capital gains taxes where they're at.

II. Obama would raise corporate income taxes, but cut them for business that "invest in creating jobs in America" and eliminate capital gains tax for small businesses and start-ups.

McCain would lower corporate income taxes.

Note: Corporate tax rate is currently 35%. But there are a lot of loopholes in the tax code that keep corporations from actually paying the 35%. Obama says we need to close the loopholes.

III. McCain would double the personal exemption for families with children from $3,500 to $7,000.

Obama would give a $500 payroll tax cut to workers. He also would double the Hope credit for college to $4,000 from $2,000 and make it fully refundable.

IV. McCain would eliminate the tax exemption on employer-provided health care (raising taxable income) but would provide a tax credit of $2,500 (singles) or $5,000 (couples) to more than offset the proposed tax increase. Any of the credit not spent on insurance could be put into a health savings account.

Obama would give tax credits to businesses that provide health care to employees. Other aspects of his health care plan would supposedly reduce health care costs by $2,500 per family.

V. McCain wants to abolish the estate tax for everyone (this is a Republican plank).

Obama would eliminate the estate tax for 99.7 % of estates. He would increase the top estate tax rate ($3.5 million per person, $7 million for couples) to 45%.

VI. Obama's plan would add $3.4 trillion to the government debt over the next ten years according to the Tax Policy Center.

Senator McCain's plan would add roughly $5 trillion to the debt.

Lastly, here is a little chart showing the gut reaction of economists to the plans of the candidates. I'm wondering which plan you would prefer?

Economists on Economic Plans

Well, after all this, I can only leave you with the plea that you will answer and help straighten me out. I feel like I'm fading.


PS Do you think I'm a socialist?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Muse of Zora

Dear Zora Neale Hurston,

I'm trying to understand your writing. I want to hear the echos of the muse that you heard and analyze the colloquial phrasing of his voice.

I think that Richard Wright and Langston Hughes heard a different muse and gave voice to a disparate philosophic song. Richard and Langston took on themselves a responsibility that related to the future places that the Afrian American people as a group would have to go. But you, I think, couldn't let go of the grasp you had of where the people had been, not let go without writing it down, just once, writing it down. That, you said in your way, in your tongue, was worth writing.

That, you wanted people to understand, was worth saying in unvarnished speech . . . saying it like it had been said, over and over again by the pepole in the fields, by the people back to the cabin from the big house, by the people no longer owned but forced to sell themselves one day at a time, by those people who could still laugh and talk about the new shoes they got from the devil, who had the ugliest, who had the biggest, who had the richest soil, mule, hat, cat, master. Those words, those stories, those thinkings had to be preserved. That is what your muse said one day isn't it? Your muse said:
There once was a slave named Jack, and oh he could play tricks on his master. But that slave was going to die, so he set up a contest with the devil. The devil said he would give Jack a pair of brand new shoes and a mule to carry him to heaven if he would sprinkle a potion in the spring where all the former slave folk drank. That potion wouldn't make them forget, but it would make them hate to write that story down. Jack got a gourd and filled it with clear spring water. Then he fouled the spring with the devil's potion.

"Good job Jack," said the devil, and gave him his new shoes and the ugliest mule you ever saw. The last the devil saw of Jack he was astride that mule legs outstretched so not to drag his new shoes in the mud. Jack was headed for heaven, but what the devil didn't know was that he stopped by your house, Zora, and gave you the gourd and whispered in your ear, "Now write it down."
Thanks for your work, making sure the last legacy of the era that a part of us wants so desperately to forget, will be passed on.


PS Did I tell you I named a racoon after you? Her husband was named Zorro so it seemed right.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Figures Lie and Liars Figure"

Dear John Gault,

We still have not figured out who you are, I don't think.

For this post I want to compare two schools of thought when it comes to taxes. One side says "Tax the rich heavily because they have more money to give and then give more entitlements, goodies, rebates, etc. to the poor to help them out, and minimize the burden to the middle class."

The other side says, "Tax everyone less and give deductions and reductions in taxes to the richest so that it will trickle down to the poor in the form of jobs, employee benefits, and salary increases. Minimize pressure on the middle class, but recognize that the upwardly mobile in the middle class will pay more taxes through sales tax and income tax as the make more due to the cuts for the wealthy companies."

Which side is right? Well, lets explore.

First, a concern I have is that we know WHO the middle class is. Funny enough, says that "More than a third of Americans with incomes below $20,000 describe themselves as middle class. So do a third of people with incomes above $150,000". We all want to think of ourselves as middle class, "Average Joes or Janes" (six pack and hockey stick optional). And so the candidates want to pander to that larger group.

But that broad definition certainly does not match with what the candidates mean when they use the term in relationship to their claims about tax increases or reductions. Politifact looked at the middle class as the middle 20% of income earners. That is approximately those who make between about $37,595 and $66,354. When Obama claims the middle class will get three times the tax relief under his plan, he is referring to this abbreviated group and only for the first year of his tax plan. When one looks at other sections of the middle or 2-4 years down the road, the gap is not nearly so large. But this is just one example of how this definition colors the truth of claims, so just keep that in mind. PLEASE go to Politifact's tax claim page and see numerous claims and their level of truth from all candidates. It is so interesting with all the statements and attacks going around.

So we come back to who to tax and how. I found a very interesting article written by someone at Yale talking about the history of taxation and why taxing the rich could work. It was a review of a book called "Does Atlas Shrug?", which plays off Ayn Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged". But there was so much information in both the article and in Ayn Rand's book to really present here. I should do a post just on "Atlas Shrugged" sometimes, as I think that book is seminal to me in thinking about this issue.

So I kept searching for more "layman's" type information. I found an interesting article online, which inspired the title of this post, which is a quote from Mark Twain. There was some mathematical explanation before the writer got to the conclusion, so again, I recommend reading the article, but the conclusion stated:

"But one particular event comes to mind. During the Bush-Kerry election in 2004, each candidate staked out opposite positions on capital gains taxes. President Bush argued that the current 15% rate should be maintained and made permanent, while Senator Kerry advocated raising them on the top 2% of wage earners. An interesting thing happened during that election, as at approximately 2:30 PM EST on November 2nd, flawed polling data leaked to the press indicated that Kerry would win Florida and the entire election. Prior to the false news leaking, the Dow had increased as much as 125 points, or about 1.2% during the day. Afterward the market proceeded to fall 150 points (about 1.5%) from its peak. In other words the prospect of higher taxes immediately motivated investors to sell assets. As clear as the message the market sent about higher taxes was, it sent an even stronger and clearer message about keeping taxes low. Over the next 2 days, the Dow rallied approximately 3% or 280 points signaling its relief that taxes would remain low and capital would likely continue to flow into investments.

America faces a similar choice in 2008. Virtually every Republican has vowed to keep capital gains taxes constant or to reduce them further, while every Democrat has vowed to work to restore capital gains taxes for all (or at least the wealthiest taxpayers) back into the low 30% range. Because polls continue to indicate that no party has a clear path to the White House, the market most likely has not discounted the effect of potential tax changes on stock prices. However, should one side gain a clear advantage, prepare to make appropriate strategic changes in the composition of your portfolio."

Could Obama's apparent path to the White House paired with his desire to tax the rich at a higher rate (or at least not decrease taxes) be playing into the current crisis? From reading the above, one could come to that conclusion...

But many people talk about the need to increase taxes in order to have more revenue for government use. How else can we know we will have money to then budget out for necessary government programs? And this is a sore point for me. We must have a balanced budget, I feel.

Recently here in Tennessee, our governor wanted to fund education through a cigarette tax. This was very confusing to me, because a tax would actually discourage people from buying more cigarettes (not that this is bad), but then our education system was dependant on people buying MORE cigarettes. How can one know how much money will be obtained to then budget out? Granted, there will always be "estimated tax revenue", but I guess it seemed like a strange way to fund something.

So I guess the same would go for taxes on business. You are penalizing people for making money, so the basic behavioral principle is that after a certain point it becomes less reinforcing to make more money because you lose more of it. But if you make more, then you will engage in more of the behaviors (investing, growing business, hiring, saving, etc) that led to making money in the first place.

Now I feel like I am talking in circles. So I will go to another resource... Another link to a good article. Here is a quote from Pete Peterson, a newly minted billionaire who is now using his billions to set up a charitable foundation which will "increase public awareness of fiscal imbalances, Social Security deficits and nuclear proliferation." He feels that the taxes for the rich must go up. He said, "We are at a make-or-break point in American history...The entitlement monster is unfunded. We are dangerously dependent on foreign capital, our health care costs per capita are twice the level of the developed world. The goal is to integrate public policy and charitable giving and to answer this question: How do you educate a public that has become largely inert?"

But Peterson also recognizes that things must change in this country because our current course is not sustainable. From the article: "Peterson's ideas are many. One is organizing a youthful equivalent to the powerful lobbying group for senior citizens, AARP. Another is working with HBO on a documentary film adaptation of his book "Running on Empty," in the hope that the American public wakes up to the dangers of deficits and entitlement spending as it did to global warming after Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth." "

Deficits are a danger we must avoid. And economics are not as simple as I thought before now! And I did not even get into concepts of what government should be doing and how they are spending tax money once they get it...or pork barrel spending...or, well, so many things. Maybe in another post. But I learned a lot doing this one, so that is good.

All to all of you out there, if you want to know how to get through this turmoil, check out Dave Ramsey for how to live debt free. I am not there yet, but I would love to be!!

Bye for now,
CaDh 8

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance

Dear Godfrey Reggio,

I just finished watching
Koyaanisqatsi*. As a long-time fan of Philip Glass, you can assume, correctly, that I did like it. As cult films go, this one, really is a valuable piece. I wasn't sure at first. Glass' music can be repetitive enough on it's own. To double that, double that, with images, images was, I thought, thought more than I could take. To double that, double that, with images, images was, I thought, yes I thought more, than I could, could take.

But not so. After a period of time, I became entranced. (I will tell you, though, I couldn't convince anyone to watch it with me, and now I have
Powaqqatsi sitting on my entertainment center waiting for it's lonely viewing.) As I began to watch, I immediately realized, as with much of the Glass body of work, that one must open oneself to the experience of the whole. To judge the piece by its particulate parts is to miss the impact of the structure built line upon line, swell upon swell, measured measure upon measure. So, with this, I sat back and let it build, both visually and musically. It was worth the construction.

It's really impossible to identify a single clip from this film that communicates it's power. However, if I were to choose one, I think it would be this (though the copy I found online is not the best quality.) Still. . .

You said, in an interview, "This 1978 film meant to stir up an experience of the subject. It's a journey, and the journey is important, not the end point." And I guess that's so, although your end point was so pointed that it could hardly be ignored. What is amazing to me, in watching this is that it was put created before the 1986 Challenger disaster, so the climax is like a premonition, or like a Hopi prophecy**.

"A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."
I discovered that in that final sequence from Koyaanisqatsi, there were two rocket launch films used. One is an ultra slow motion of a Saturn V launch from right at the launch pad level. The other is the first Atlas-Centaur from May 8, 1962. You can see a flapping liquid nitrogen line by the engine and the venting liquid hydrogen some seconds into flight.

I breezed around on your qatsi website to read what you had to say about your masterpiece.
Your site says this was:

Created between 1975 and 1982. The film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds -- urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass. . . The film's role is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer. This is the highest value of any work of art, not predetermined meaning, but meaning gleaned from the experience of the encounter. The encounter is my interest, not the meaning.
Can I ask you, candidly, what the heck Francis Coppola had to do with this film? Did his name get stuck on at some point to give it some kind of sales credibility? Too bad! Oh, nevermind, you don't have to answer that question, Wikipedia just did.

The film won the "Francis Ford Coppola Presents" endorsement at the 1982 New York Film Festival, and Coppola is now credited as an executive producer. In an interview, Godfrey Reggio says "...[Coppola] would like to do everything possible to make this available to the public, so he put his name on it"
At any rate, I cannot talk about Koyaanisqatsi without remarking about two moments in the film. The first rocked me because of the financial crisis that we all have been watching play out over the course of the past couple weeks. My heart pounded at the images around about second 59. But the whole of this section (the Pruiet Igoe section) shook me. Perhaps the remembrances of 9/11, brought to my mind by later moments, I don't know, but I felt with this very deeply.

Then, of course, the final moments that I referred to above. Very intense.

I wanted you to know.

Thank you, and Philip, for your artistry. And to Francis, I guess, for helping keep it in circulation.


PS - It appears that the entire film can be accessed from this link at hulu.

*From the Hopi language, (n.) 1. Crazy life. 2. Life in turmoil. 3. Life out of balance. 4. Life disintegrating. 5. A state of life that calls for another way of living.

**The lyrics from this piece are few. Many are just a repetition of the word Koyaanisqatsi. But those that are used are translations of these hopi prophecies.

"If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
"Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
"A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Joe Biden, Debates, and These are a Few of My Favorite Things!

Dear Joe Biden,

I don't exactly want to critique your debate with Sarah. I thought it was most entertaining. I do want to say that of the four of you, Barack, John, Sarah, and Joe, (may I call you Joe, as Sara said) you won, hands down.

I liked hearing you. Is that because I'm from a Pennsylvania railroad town, not unlike the areas where you grew up? I like the way you talk. Direct, yet friendly. I think you are authentic.

I don't want to belabor any points at all, but this was my favorite moment from the debate last night. I think Reuters liked it too.

My second favorite moment was this little exchange. I thought you were very strong, yet polite. You took your pot shot at Cheney (who deserves it).

That's all I wanted to say, but thanks for the good show last night!