Imagine the 50s Without a Theremin

Leon ThereminOn this day back in 1771, the Scottish novelist Walter Scott was born. He is still quite worth reading, although people tend to forgetting him in favor of all the stars like Dickens, Eliot, and Austen. His work is nothing like theirs. Perhaps the most famous opium addict in history, Thomas De Quincey was born in 1785. Still, he lived to be 74, which is a lot longer than most English writers of that time, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad choice. Children’s author and socialist reformer E. Nesbit was born in 1858. Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo was born in 1872. British Composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (A damned confusing name!) was born in 1875. His work is good, but rather typical late Romantic period stuff. He died tragically young; I think he would have gone onto write his best work. But here is his Romance in G for Violin and Orchestra that is still very good:

One of the greatest of the early 20th century composers, Marion Bauer was born in 1882. It is hard to accept her under-appreciation as anything but sexism. For example, I think she is a distinctly more interesting composer than Aaron Copland. Some of her work is very difficult. But the following Piano Concerto “American Youth” is just gorgeous:

The great American novelist and playwright Edna Ferber was born in 1885. She is probably best known for writing the novel Show Boat, which was turned into a hit musical that included the song “Old Man River.” French composer Jacques Ibert was born in 1890. He’s worth while, but I’m afraid you will find him difficult. Look him up if you want. One of the great minds in the development of quantum mechanics Louis de Broglie was born in 1892. He theorized that electrons (and perhaps all matter) had wave like behavior. This lead directly to Erwin Schrodinger’s work. I probably would have given the day to him, but I’m kind of overdosed on physicists.

TV chef Julia Child was born in 1902. And that same year, one of my favorite actors Wendy Hiller was born. She is so wonderful in Pygmalion. It has two major advantages over My Fair Lady: (1) no songs; (2) no Audrey Hepburn. Graphics designer Paul Rand was born in 1914. I bring him up only to note that he has a proper name. “Rand Paul” is just stupid. Greek composer and musician Giorgos Mouzakis was born in 1922. I bring him up only so I can present this song that absolutely will brighten your day:

The great playwright Robert Bolt was born in 1924. And the great Oscar Peterson was born in 1925. Here is just a little bit of him:

The great Rose Marie from The Dick Van Dyke Show is 90 today. Actor Tony Robinson is 67. Also 67 is the brilliant songwriter Jimmy Webb. He wrote any number of hit songs, but I want to mention one in particular: “MacArthur Park.” Look, I know: every time some radio station decides to put out a list of the worst songs of all time, “MacArthur Park” comes in at or near the top. There’s nothing to that. It is a great song. There are two reasons why people claim to hate it. First, it was such a big hit that people have heard it too much and so discount it. Second, it is sincere. And we today no longer admit to enjoying art that doesn’t signal that we’re all in on the joke and none of us takes art or anything else seriously. Well, fuck that! He also wrote “Up, Up and Away” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” Here he is with Linda Ronstadt doing his song “All I Know” which also makes no excuses for itself and is heartbreakingly beautiful:

And Ben Affleck is 41.

The day, however, belongs to Leon Theremin, who was born on this day in 1896. He was an inventor who is best known for the totally electronic musical instrument the theremin. The science fiction and horror films of the 1950s would not have been the same without the theremin. And Howard Shore’s theremin laced score for Ed Wood is one of the greatest film scores ever. Here is the great man himself playing his own instrument:

Happy birthday Leon Theremin!

Annoying Warning Links

Broken LinkIn my last article, I pasted a 39 word sentence from an article in the Financial Times, “[He] said the greatest concern of the business lobby was the low level of investment in the German economy, with the share of investment in GDP falling from 20 per cent in 1999 to just 17 per cent in 2012.” It is not uncommon when doing such a copy and paste job for the site to tack the link to the article on the end of the quote. For example, Rolling Stone adds, “Read more: [url].”

This sort of thing annoys me because it requires more work: I have to delete the extra stuff they tacked on. But even more than that, I’m offended. To me it implies that I do not do my job properly and that I’m just going to quote the article without providing a link or even worse that I’m gong to plagiarize. But I understand the desire for this. Even in my minor capacity on the internet, I’ve been plagiarized wholesale. So I can relate and I accept the practice grudgingly.

But the Financial Times goes to a whole new level. To begin with, they don’t add their garbage to the end of the quote—they add it to the beginning. And what they add is really offensive:

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. [url]

I didn’t paste the whole article, obviously; I pasted only 39 words! And the program knows that because it didn’t attach this message when I pasted just two words (a guy’s name).

What this, and I dare say all of those much less repugnant messages, shows is that these companies really don’t understand the internet. They are still trying to hold onto their content in a way that makes no sense. Let’s be clear: no serious internet writer will fail to link to the content that they are discussing and quoting. To some extent, this is done out of respect for the other content creator, but mostly it is for the reader. And readers do care and writers who don’t link will be at an extreme disadvantage in the marketplace for eyeballs. So neither the Financial Times nor Rolling Stone needs to worry about some idiot who isn’t linking to them. No one’s going to see it anyway.

Meanwhile, there is a downside to this behavior for people who want to control content. It makes me far less likely to use these papers as sources. In the case of Rolling Stone, I’ll admit: it is because they annoy me. But in the case of the Washington Post and its new expensive subscription model, I do it for my readers. (Actually, in addition to the warnings, the Financial Times is also by subscription.) I understand that writers have to get paid in the internet age. This just isn’t the way.

Afterword

These warming messages also make doing a search on a phrase much harder. It is often necessary to past the text in a document, copy what you want out of it, and then paste that into a search engine.

Austerity Won’t Be Disproved

Confidence FairyI am often annoyed at the thought that in two decades no one will be able to deny global warming. All the oil companies will be fully diversified in renewable energy and we will finally be doing something about the problem. Better late than never. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that all of the people who have made a living by claiming that global warming is a myth will just say, “Oops!” And that will be the end of it. If George Will is still alive, no one will think the less of him because of his cynical and relentless misinformation campaign. But at least we will move forward. The same cannot be said for many other things.

One of those things is the economy. Keynes famously said, “In the long run, we are all dead.” This was in response to economists who claimed that we didn’t need to worry about recessions because in the long run it would all work itself out. But there is a more pernicious aspect to this. It is absolutely true that if the government does nothing, a recession will eventually work itself out. In fact, if a government does everything it can to make things worse, a recession will still eventually work itself out. And in the end, the people in the government who made everything worse can say, “See! We were right!”

Dean Baker wrote a very brief article this morning with one of the best headlines I’ve ever seen, Doctors Report Assault Victim Feeling Better, Attribute Improvement to Vicious Beating. The article is in reference to a Financial Times report, Berlin and Brussels Credit Fiscal Discipline and Reform for Eurozone Recovery. So after years of the Eurozone harming its own economy, that economy is slowly on the mend. Where is the champagne?

And note that the news is not that great. In the second quarter of this year, the Eurozone grew by 1.2%—mostly on the backs of stronger growth in Germany and France. Regardless 1.2% is hardly a great growth rate. For example, the United States has been seeing a better growth rate and no one around here is cheering. What’s more, many people in Germany are cautioning that the future does not look so great as exports are slowing down.

I found one bit of news from the article very telling: “[Federation of German Industry chief executive Markus Kerber] said the greatest concern of the business lobby was the low level of investment in the German economy, with the share of investment in GDP falling from 20 per cent in 1999 to just 17 per cent in 2012.” The reason for all the government cut backs and raising of taxes is supposed to be to give the business community the “confidence” to invest. Clearly, the economy is recovering in other ways, despite not because of government policies.

So merrily we roll along. And in a few years (Hopefully!) when things are better, people will forget the suffering, and just remember that things are now better. Thus: the austerity policies must have created the good economy. But it certainly doesn’t help to have reporting like that from the Financial Times. That article does not make a single mention of the fact that the recovery might be occurring despite the policies. So it is just more myth making.