Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Epochal media events: 200 years ago... and next week

I can't believe it almost slipped by without notice.

Right now... give or take a couple of weeks... we are passing through the two hundredth anniversary of one of the greatest events in the history of art. Perhaps of all humanity. The "Winter Concert" of 1808, when Ludwig Von Beethoven unveiled and conducted, for the very first time:

The Fourth Piano Concerto
The Fifth Symphony
The Sixth Symphony
The Violin Concerto in D

Most of you know the two symphonies. Arguably his best in many ways. Lyrical, evocative, filled with color and imagery and drama. Certainly more measured and less tinged in overweening ego than the glorious Ninth. They, alone, would have made that debut concert an event for the ages.

But the Fourth Piano Concerto is just as wondrous, as beautiful and awe inspiring as the symphonies.

As for the Violin Concerto...?

Matters of art are subjective, of course. But I deem Beethoven's Violin Concerto to be the greatest work of music ever conceived by Man.

How could such an event go by, unremarked at the time... and its bicentennial barely noted, even today? That question is almost as fascinating as: how were people able to sit still for so long in one place, even to experience such beauty? Dang, they must have had iron bottoms. And -- in an era without recordings -- they must have really hungered for music.

Twenty years ago, I began a time travel story, about a famed cellist from the future who travels back to sneak into Beethoven's 1808 orchestra. Like all my other time travel stories, it remains unfinished. In this case, because - despite having played violin in orchestras, in my youth, and having sung in a semi-pro chorale group - I simply know too little musicology to do the story justice. I'd need JUST the right collaborator... alas.

Still, I can't believe the bicentennial almost went by.

Well, SOMEBODY must have noticed. Because last night, getting in my car after seeing Kim Stanley Robinson and Geoff Ryman do wonderful readings at Sheldon Brown's SCALABLE CITY event, I tuned into NPR and found them playing a terrific version of the 4th Piano Concerto, with some of the best cadenzas I've heard. And I got to wave my arms, conducting it, all the way home.


Oh, but art never stops!

Tune in to "my" latest episode of the ongoing History Channel show The Universe, entitled "Alien Faces," and produced by John Greenwald. It will premier this Tuesday night, December 09th at 9:00pm!

See a preview.


Stefan Jones said...

Youtube: Beethoven Violin Concerto in D.

SamG said...

I have always thought highly of your intelligence but it just went up another notch. Yay, NPR! :)

Cliff said...

I actually caught part of the History Channel show about the world after people over Thanksgiving weekend - the part where you speculate on an intelligent race emerging after we disappear. Pretty interesting.

Also, you have a lot higher voice than I expected.

Doug S. said...

How did people sit still that long?

Well... first of all, concert etiquette was a bit different in the old days. It was often more like Woodstock than Carnegie Hall. Second, just ask any video game player just how easy it is to sit still for a long time while playing a game you really like.

On another note: I have an unnatural attraction to MIDI files, probably from having spent my formative years listening to video games. I like music, but I have a far poorer understanding of what makes good music than what makes good literature or good video games. Mostly, I like music that's similar to what I've heard before.

Finally, for other Beethoven fans...

David Brin said...

Cliff... so I'm a tenor! Exc-yoooooze me! ;-)

I'd a had a Carl Sgan typa show of my own by now..... But I did sing in concert halls in Vienna and Belgrade. (Part of the Caltech Glee Club.)

Great youtube, Stefan.

Oh, I had a final rant in the previous topic area comments. Next... my first "advice to Obama" piece!

Ilithi Dragon said...

I have to say that Beethoven is probably my favorite classical composer, though Tchaikovsky comes in a close second. Don't have enough of their music in my collection, though.

William_Shatner said...

>> I'd like to comment on your eloquent points about Bethoven -- but other than appreciating it, I'm not a good musicologist so I have nothing to add.

But I'd like to talk about some other things, because this is a good place to do it... apologies if you are trying to keep this more topical, but it always seemed more "signs of the times" oriented.

>> Brin, you have to read Larry Beinhart. He has done some good work towards actually analyzing all the "truisms" of economics from the right (this guy wrote the book; "Wag the Dog" by the way). But it should make some very succinct hits for your next Ostrich update (if you didn't draw from this already).

In a nutshell -- high taxes on the wealthy have ALWAYS been good for the economy. Shoring up the BAD decision, to tax wages in the first place, which started about 1913. Before that, we managed with tariffs and taxes on corporations.

But please read these short essays;

Responding to some things on the last blog...
Ilithi Dragon said...
Hey, you guys wouldn't happen to have solid information/references to refute the "the Government/Democrats forced the banks to make bad loans" argument handy, would you?

As others have pointed out -- it was the "Ownership Society" speech by George Bush, that really rang the dinner bell for bad loans. The roots of every bad economic decision of the last 4 years.
The TOTAL BS that is the theory Dems forced loans, is a intentional misconstruing of ending the practice of "Red lining." Basically, if an Black or other minority group has the funds and credit to buy a house -- you can't deny them. That's a far cry from the NINJA loans given to undocumented workers. The only thing causing that was a feeding frenzy of greed and new tricks to insure bad loans that only worked while house values went up.

Placebo Gene found
Reminds me of the place in the brain where some people have an actual organ dedicated to feeling spiritual awe -- they get endorphin release when praying. So, perhaps the anti-drug stance is to keep people from realizing they can get the same feeling from drugs, but without all the complications and bad side effects.

Anonymous said...

Here's more evidence proving conclusively that bad loans to poor (black) people didn't cause the financial meltdown.

Exposing right-wing lies about the origin of the financial crisis

More lies: "It's all the fault of the CRA"

Study proving that CRA loans were "substantially less likely to default" than other types of loans.

The favorite game of sociopaths remains "blame the victim." When a rapist gets caught, what does he do? Blame the victim, of course. "She was a wanton whore, she pursued me, it was consensual, that little 6-year-old slut wanted it!"

When a torture-murderer gets caught, what does he do? Blame the victim, of course. "They were like cattle. They could've avoided me if they'd had half a brain. They deserved to die, those victims didn't have to stop to help change the flat tire on my van and they didn't notice the chloroform in my pocket or the chains and torture implements in the back of my van."

When soldiers commit war crime atrocities, what do they do? Blame the victim, of course. "The insurgents tried to kill us with every means at their disposal. We had to light them up with our M16s, those 4-year-olds were coming at us with yo-yos!"

The same old story. When rich white thieves destroy the economy with fraud, blame the poor black people. When the divorce rate among married straight people skyrockets, blame the unmarried gays. When the stock market tanks after 15 years of Republican malfeasance and fraud, blame the elction of a "scary black negro Marxist." Standard operating procedure.

On another note, the bleating and whining among lib-er-als has now risen to a fever pitch that "Obama is filling up his cabinet with ex-Clinton people."

Wails, tearing of clothes, gnashing of teeth.

This is one of the reasons I'm not such a big fan of the Democrats, though the Republicans at this point are about as appealing as the flesh-eating corpses in Night of the Living Dead.

Hey! Liberals! Wake up!

Clinton ran the best-managed White House in the last 50 years. Not since Ike have we had less corruption, more effiiciency, and better administration of our government projects. If Obama fills up his White House with ex-Clinton people, great. And if that means Obama winds up running his White House just the way Clinton did, even better. Bring it on.

You know, people seem to have some knd of sociopathic hate-on for the Clintons, and I just don't get it. Christopher Hitchens was practically foaming at the mouth on TV a few nights ago about how terrible Hillary Clinton was, how awful it is to have her as seretary of state, and yadda yadda blah blah. Jeez. What the hell is wrong with these people?

We've had 15 years of paranoid psychotic theft and lies and torture and mass murder in Iraq, with some one million civilians estimated dead now, and who are the critics raging and raving about?

Not the thieves in the White House. Not the lunatics who scammed us into a pointless genocidal unwinnable war of aggression with systematic lies. Not the kleptomaniacs who bled wall street and pillaged all the big corporations in America until the entire financial system collapsed frmo sheer fraud.

Noooooooooo, they're not hating on those folks. They're focusing their frenzied wrath, like a laser beam, on...

...on Bill Clinton. And Hillary.




Then there's the other wing of the Democratic party that's biting its lip over the horrible centrist tendencies Obama has shown.

Hey! Earth to Democrats! Come in, Democrats!

Obama told everyone he was a centrist. He said it constantly during the campaign. He told us he was a centrist many many times. He explained in detail that he was a pragmatic moderate.

If you folks on the genuine left (not the phony bogus Alan Colmes faux-left, but the serious left like B. Dewhirst) wanted a truly far left-wing progressive, you should've voted for Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primaries.

Personally, I don't think Kucinich was electable, but there it is -- if you wanted a really hard-left progressive, you had a chance to vote for him. You didn't. So now shut up and accept the fact that you voted for a centrist, and that's what you're getting -- a centrist.

Anyway, what's so bad about a centrist? Isn't that a good thing? Isn't a pragmatic non-ideological person just what we need right now in the White House, after 16 years of partisan lunacy and witch hunts and hysterical polarizing name-calling? How about that...somebody in the White House who just wants to "make government work." What's the problem with that? Why is that so bad?

Sheesh. I just don't understand the Democrats sometimes.

Anonymous said...

The Cold Equations of Spaceflight.

Solid exposition of the many brutal technical problems with current SSTO (sing-stage-to-orbit) proposed replacement vehicles for the space shuttle.

As everyone knows, the space shuttle was and is an abomination and a monstrosity. Originally billed as an allegedly "cheap method of getting payloads into orbit," the space shuttle evertually grew into a bloated monster project that cost more per payload dollar into orbit than any other project in the history of manned spaceflight, along with an absurd ground crew of 20,000 personnel required to get the thing into space.

That's nuts. 20,000 people? Just to ship a few tons of payload into low earth orbit?

We were doing better in 1959.

Until something changes with the technology of boosting payload into orbit, we need to cut the manned element of the space program and concentrate on boosting cheap small robots into space. Oh, and we also need to shut down the giant boondoggle misnamed the International Space Station. It has no scientific function.

William_Shatner said...

Anonymous --
Very colorful.

I'm still cautious about the Rahm Emmanuelle and Clinton hires. I see it as prudent to keep the people in the Democratic party who can cause you the most problems on your team, however.

The Clintons are not my favorites -- this isn't because they didn't run a relatively honest, and well run cabinet, it's because of NAFTA and other Globalist policies they supported. I consider Clinton to be a good Republican. But a bit too hawkish. However, I expect she will do what Obama tells her -- so it's all about what he wants to do.

So we wait.

>> ON the good Obama news front; every one of Rumsfeld's trolls, has been kicked out of the Robert Gates office. So, the only Bush appointee left is Gates. However, I still remember that hey lied for Reagan about the strength and threat of the Soviet Union -- so again, another war hawk -- but a competent one.

>> We will see if Obama has enough money to solve the problems. Bushies have looted everything. And I have a hard time thinking this economic calamity wasn't on purpose. Bush has some real crimes -- but if he can keep Obama's hands full, then prosecution is less likely.

Obama had better go for prosecutions and investigations. He WILL BE ACCUSED of trying to take revenge -- this is the game plan of the NeoCons -- throwing up smoke like this is the only defense they have, beyond burning every document and trying to rewrite history with think tanks funded by crooks, thieves and moonies.

But, so far, so good.

>> Also, I think we should support the Auto bailouts, because there is real innovation in the packages and real jobs. Working for a $1 a year, isn't such a big deal, when the tax on stocks and dividends is only 15% -- we'll see.

It would be much cheaper to just buy the Auto manufacturers outright, and give it to the employees.

>> I think Apple should buy AT&T right now. Please! So I can afford the iPhone monthly fee. If AT&T can't make money on a monopoly in the SouthEast -- the economy really is in bad shape for Robber Barons.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Obvious spam post is obvious.

Thanks WS and Anon(s) above him! Great info, and especially thanks for the links! Even though I agree with everything you've said so far, and believe you're right, it's really nice to have links to sources I can give to others to support my arguments when presenting my/our/this position to others.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On why trying to make the government work is such a "bad" thing: If the government actually WORKED, people wouldn't be able to blame everything from the economy, to their job loss, to the war, to their bad grammar, to their health problems, to Hitler and WWII, to the extinction of the dinosaurs on the government. Nobody wants the government to actually WORK for real, because, the effects of that functionality on their illicit activities, etc. aside, they'd loose the biggest scape goat in history.

Spell: .... I think this thing's getting lazy...

dmon said...

A collaboration suggestion, for you to take your time-travel story directly to movie: Francois Girard (writer/director of Le Violon Rouge, Thirty-Two Short Stories About Glenn Gould, etc). What a combination that would be!

Cliff said...

Anonymous: Who on the left, exactly, has been crapping their pants about Obama's centrism?

Certainly not Glenn Greenwald, and I am guessing not Digby. And those who read said blogs regularly shouldn't be surprised at all either. I'm not.

And speaking as a liberal, the reason I voted for Obama the centrist is because people like Kucinich get weeded out early. What else was I going to do, vote for McCain?
(And this, of course, is the bitch of our two party system.)

David Brin said...

Wow the Francois Girard idea is terrific. ALas, I have no plausible way of pitching it to him, nor time to try hard.

Here's a fascinating item from John Mauldin, a longtime Bush supporter:

"Citibank just got a large infusion from Saudi Arabia's Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud - just days before a US government orchestrated rescue helped rocket the share price. Maybe these are just coincidental moves. Maybe not."

Note that the taxpayer got almost nothing. How many such coincidences does it take?

William_Shatner said...


Karl Ikahn also just put a lot of money into CitiBank. I don't think anyone is even bothering with the pretense of policing insider trading anymore. You did favors for Bush -- you gets your favors.


some thoughts from reading this morning;

Neocon Playbook?
Looks like the prime minister of Canada is going the coup route:  Stephen Harper set to suspend parliament in order not to lose his *ss... I mean seat.

Who needs the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act when we have the global rate game?

Everyone may go to 0% rate at banks. But are they going to lend to you and me? Doubtful. But what then, is the point? Do they think corporations are going to borrow money, to put it on the stock market and fluff up this economy? Money goes where there is the most profit. Until a few months ago, that was playing the roulette wheel of 'betting' (insuring against default) on mortgage derivatives.

The money doesn't know where to go, other than a very large mattress offshore somewhere, or chasing its tail running scared, alert to any fright like a 3,000 foot tall rabbit. It would be cute, if those fluffy feet weren't large enough to crush buildings made of reinforced concrete.

>> What would make money INVEST again? Well, a higher tax on wealth. The 49% that Clinton charged on taxes, scared those poor wealthy people into putting a lot of money in stocks -- because then it wasn't earnings and they could at least watch it grow, while they waited for a God fearing Republican to save them. When Clinton lowered capital gains -- that started the bubble, and investing turned into speculation.

What would make banks LOAN again? More money in the hands of the people who make things -- you know, Labor. How does that get there? An increase in minimum wage, and tariffs against imported goods that Americans already make based upon the cost of labor and how much they cut corners on pollution and workers safety.

That mention of Smoot-Hawley is fixed in NeoCon and conservative minds as THE REASON we had a Great Depression. Do you know what it used to be called? The Republican Great Depression. They had low interest and banks, and huge money made in the Stock Market, and other speculation markets -- such that people borrowed money to invest in the scheme. But how does more money make something grow more? If you have profits of 15% with X money, do you continue to get 15% growth with 2X money? No, there is a certain elasticity to demand, but growth has to be met by a desire to consume whatever product. If Ford is growing at 15% and you add more money -- there is no way that Ford can grow sales any faster with more money -- it would take two years for that investment (at least) to perhaps create a competitive advantage. Yet, we've had so many believe that they could continue to make more money, from just investing -- beyond any growth curve. What does that always create? A bubble. Bubbles pop eventually.

Smoot-Hawley was too little too late. But it was blamed for other things that were wrong-headed.

Like the low interest fest of banks right now. It's just to fluff up the paper chase. They don't lend to Ford Motors, and they certainly aren't going to give you more on your VISA card. Who would I guess they would lend to? How about another bank. Why? Bank A lends to Bank B, Bank B lends to Bank C, Bank C now lends to Bank A. They used to do this with the Derivatives when the financial institutions could start acting like banks. But now, Bank A has a deposit for X dollars, and loaned out X dollars. It can now loan out another 9X as if there were some growth or demand in the market. There isn't. But it LOOKS like money is moving. Money is an abstract of value -- but now it has become a THING, something to sit around and keep accountants busy, lawyers suing, and brokers happy. But the money game playing with money produces nothing -- it can only suck away investment from REAL things, if it makes a bigger return.

>> NOTHING that BushCo has done so far, would cause someone to invest in some long-term REAL industry, nor would it produce higher wages, which might allow for Banks to see more value to lending credit to consumers. We are even more on track for Soup Lines this summer than we were a week ago, and two weeks ago, and so on. We don't have a month to deal with this. The 4,000 that AT&T is firing to preserve profits because they predict a slow down in demand, is going to be 4,000 fewer people who buy any cars -- even those from Toyota. All across the country, companies are firing -- more to preserve profits and hope that they still have customers -- which will mean that the last company to fire will be holding the bag. While WE ARE TOLD, not to go bankrupt if we are upside down in a mortgage, this ethic isn't even a whim with most corporations. The CEO is a stockholder -- not someone who plans to be there 40 years. His credibility at the country club and his 15% taxable dividend are on the line. The dominoes are falling, and next week will be more people laid off -- and more people NOT buying things.

The flaming bag of poop being left on the Obama's doorstep is just getting more poop and a hotter flame. Congress thought they could get out of this by not impeaching Bush -- yet he's been busy making exemptions for Hog farmers and Coal mining to bypass the Clean Air Act. So, unless you are in the Asthma business, or are a soldier of fortune -- THAT isn't helping. And Paulson and Bernanke are loading up the sacks of loot for all the robber barons. While we squabble about the automotive side-show, they are asking for another $8.7 Trillion. Hey, if they don't see a riot, they'll be coming back to see if there is any Gold in Fort Knox on January 15. I'm sure they can't believe they are still getting away with this. It is going to take a heck of a distraction to cover their tracks. Well, our history in the USA is full of distractions. I remember that Rumsfeld, admitted that the Pentagon couldn't account for $2 Trillion dollars (back when that was a lot of money), and "oops" on 9/10/2001. Damn convenient timing if you ask me.

I have to admit I was wrong about a few things -- I thought we'd have martial law by November of 2008. But will we have troops guarding banks from angry mobs with pitchforks? The crack-down isn't necessary, if we never get upset. As long as we let BushCo rob us blind, I suppose they will be happy with that. Perhaps congress is looking out for our interests by rolling over and playing dead.

William_Shatner said...

Here is how we get our pockets picked:
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - American International Group Inc (AIG.N) and the U.S. government have reached an agreement to clear the insurer of its obligations on about $53.5 billion in toxic mortgage debt, the giant insurer said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday."
Now let's talk about how that was accomplished - because it sounds like magic.
What has actually happened is that the government (The Fed and Treasury) have purchased some $46 billion of the "assets" (mostly CDOs and similar things) that AIG wrote CDS against.  Since the government now owns "both sides of the bet", the need to post additional collateral (or pay off in the event of a default) has disappeared.
But here's the problem - the loss still happened and still got eaten by government (that is, you), which is being "conveniently" ignored!  See, while AIG might not need to pay the $53 billion in bets (the underlying), the reason they were under threat of having to pay out in the first place is that the underlyings - in this case all synthetic instruments with no actual asset behind them - were threatening to have an actual value of zero!

What can you say to that? I think at least getting an automotive factory out of a smaller bailout would be a better deal

David Brin said...

Someone on Kos wrotein:

I celebrate Beethoven's birthday 12/16 every year (four days after Sinatra's).

Favorite recordings:

The Fourth Piano Concerto

Claudio Arrau, Bernard Haitink, London Philharmonic?, Philips

The Fifth Symphony

Reiner, Chicago Symphony, RCA Living Stereo

The Sixth Symphony

Bohm, Vienna Philharmonic, Deutsche Grammophon

The Violin Concerto in D

Milstein, Steinberg, Pittsburgh Symphony, EMI

Terry R said...

One of the many reasons I love the city I live in... The Ultimate Beethoven Festival... just completed:

Bytowner said...

Re: the Canadian situation? Mr. Harper and his co-Conservatives were and still are accusing the Opposition parties of engineering the coup by organizing their coalition as of this writing.

W. Owen Powell said...

I'm sans cable/satellite now so I'll have to wait for the current season of The Universe to hit DVD, but I'm glad you're still doing it.

I really ought to go track all those Beethoven works down at the library this week and give them at least a couple of listens (though a few might just be hiding away in my CD collection).

I might just call or email our local NPR station and see if they can swing something for the bicentennial, even if none of the nationally syndicated programs do.

Savant said...

22 December 1808 was the exact date. And it did not go completely unnoticed: Wikipedia had it as the first item on their "On This Day" feature today. :)