I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
March 19, 2016 - 3:47 p.m.
I slept late and ate before writing and that almost led to me forgetting to write. Other times I have forgotten to eat but they are both primal needs and eventually assert themselves. Shocking I just did something smart. I remembered something I wanted to write about and put a phrase to remind me at the end of the page.
What was on yesterday's agenda? It starts with a Sharon and ends with a Goldman. That's it I went to see Sharon Goldman at Free Music Fridays at the American Folk Art Museum. When I was teaching I went there much more often as it's just a few blocks from my school. If you are anywhere near Columbus Circle, it's a great way to go right after work. I would often go right from there to another concert. They start at 5:30 so it's a great way to bridge the time. Lara Ewen who curates the series has great taste. You can tell because it overlaps mine so much.
Sharon asked if I would video the performance for her. I told her that she should know there's no way I'd say, "no." I got to do it on her brand spanking new Galaxy 7. I have a 3 so her phone is more than twice as good as mine. I thought I'd have no trouble using it but I was wrong. There's been several changes in the interface. The first thing I couldn't figure out was how to switch it to video from still; the virtual slider my phone has wasn't there. Sharon figured it out, there's are simply two buttons to press, one to take a still and the other to take a video. I then figured out where the shooting settings are. I usually want to change something from the automatic. The trick is to use it in "pro" mode. Pro means that you are smart enough to not need the camera make every decision for. It should be, "not totally inexperienced."
Sharon's husband Shannon was there and we hung out before the show. Sharon married Shannon just to confuse me with their names even though neither of them knew me then. The world often works that way. There's a conspiracy to confuse me. I swear they keep switching the name of the museum and every other week it's the Museum of American Folk Art. It's only taken me about five years but I know longer have to think of the theme music to Doctor Zhivago to remember Lara's name. See I'm not stupid.
Sharon is working on a new project, music based on her Jewish cultural roots. I was going to say that it's quite a departure from what she's done before but it's not. She has always sung about her life experiences, just not that aspect of them. It’s a heritage that I share in a very different form from Sharon. She grew up Orthodox, were we were non-observant Conservatives. The Liberal party of Australia is conservative. The Conservative movement in Judaism is moderate. This is just part of the conspiracy to confuse me. But where was I? I confused myself. Though I experienced it differently I still get and connect with all the things Sharon sings about. I was in my Hebrew school choir and I'm still a sucker for singing in Hebrew. She isn't singing all in Hebrew but some finds its way into the songs. Writing that made something click. It fits in with Sharon's other music because from the first time I heard her sing I thought, this is the music of someone I know." Some music I'll love because it's exotic and alien. Sharon's I love because it's coming from a place that I know so well. I even found out we had something in common. She had an old friend there that she knew from Usdan, that's an arts program on Long Island. I know it because they had the adjacent space to the Samuel Field Y at the Henry Kaufman campgrounds on north shore. I went there as a kid and I'd see the signs for Usdan. She saw the signs for the Samuel Field Y. Of course she's much younger so we weren't there the same time.
I feel bad that I didn't stay for the other two acts. I talked a bit to Sharon and to Kathryn who works almost across the street and showed after the show started so I didn't see her before. Then I headed out as I wanted to eat dinner at a reasonable time. I walked up to Trader Joe's on 72nd street and took the subway home. I realized that I shouldn't be buying unlimited MetroCards anymore. I don't ride the subways often enough for that to make sense, at least if I'm frugal about it. I used to make it make sense by using it all the time and making multiple stops. If I had an unlimited I'd have gone to the Trader Joe's in Brooklyn where the lines are shorter. But now that would cost me more money so I walked to the one nearby. Today I think I'll walk to First Acoustics where I'm seeing Burning Bridget Cleary.
I was going to write about songwriting but I see a note telling me to write about something else. The note says; "Trump and Galadriel." So of course I'll start the discussion in South America. For much of my life the history of South America was democracy's being overthrown or co-opted by strongmen from both the left and right. Top of my head I think of Pinochet in Chile, Fujimori in Peru, the generals in Argentina, and Chavez in Venezuela. They all had at least some popular support. Fujimori and Chavez were elected. Now in America we have Trump. I don't think he will or even can become a strongman in the US in the same vein; our democratic institutions are too strong. While many democracies became authoritarian, the ones I mentioned and now Russia and Hungary in Europe they all had something in common; They were not long standing democracies. The transition was always in living memory. Ours is over 200 years old. But that doesn't mean we can't move part of the way here; think of the McCarthy era.
I could never understand the psychology of how this could happen. I know intellectually what goes on, but I couldn't empathize with the people willing to give up their freedoms. But then I thought of Galadriel. Hey this is me, LOTR is deeply embedded in my mind the way the Bible is to others. So how is Galadriel the wise and kind Queen of the elves like Trump? The kind and gentle Samwise Gamgee knows. He might have been a Trump supporter. This happens in the chapter, The Mirror of Galadriel. Sam had looked in the mirror and seen visions of the Shire despoiled. Frodo had offered Galadriel the ring of power and because she is wise and kind she declined it. This is what Sam said to Galadriel:
"But if you'll pardon my speaking out, I think my master was right. I wish you'd take the ring. You'd put things to rights. You'll stop them from digging up the gaffer and turning him adrift. You'll make some folks pay for their dirty work."What Trump supporters want is someone to put things to rights and especially to make some folks pay for their dirty work. The presidency is the ring. Tolkien knew all about it.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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