SPCO – Introducing Patricia Kopatchinskaja

So this is my first blog in a while. But after tonight’s concert, the first for Patricia Kopatchinskaja as an Artistic Partner for the SPCO, I had to share my thoughts. First things, if you don’t have tickets to the concert, check right now because there weren’t many left. Much of the same program will be played next week too.

Now Patricia Kopatchinskaja was a workhorse tonight.  She performed in each piece and was soloist in a number of them.  Not only that, but she changed from a more traditional black outfit, blending in with the musicians of the orchestra, to a red soloist dress during the 20 minute intermission.

For the first half of the program we had Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue.  During this piece, it seemed like Patricia Kopatchinskaja wasn’t a very animated player, but that was soon to be proven wrong.  The piece was very nicely played, and not particularly notable.

The second piece was Tigran Mansurian’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin and String Orchestra, Four Serious S0ngs.  During this piece Patricia Kopatchinskaja was director and played solo violin.  This is where I learned that she was very animated and played with great passion and gusto.  It was very interesting music which I enjoyed greatly.

The third piece, and last before intermission was Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartok.  You can hear the folk music influence quite clearly, and this is fun music to listen to, in fact if you want to just listen to a recording in the SPCO listening library.  Some of the solo violin makes me think of Klezmer music.

After intermission the next piece was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor (change in program order).  I don’t think I have heard this live before, and looking at their notes the SPCO last performed it in 1999, which is before I became a some what obsessive concert goer.  I really liked this piece and I though she played it really well.

The next piece Traditional Moldavian Folk music titled Rapsodia.  Patricia Kopatchinskaja described the program from the stage, and it consisted of three parts or songs.  The instrumentation for these parts were Patricia on violin, her mother Emilia Kopatchinskaja on violin and viola, her father Viktor Kopatchinsky on cimbalom (he also played cimbalom on the Bartok Dances), and Zachary Cohen on double bass (guest principal bass for SPCO this season).  Now for the first, it was described as being crazy, because at one point it was just her parents playing, and her father was playing the cimbalon (reminds me of a hammered dulcimer) really fast, while her mother was playing the viola really slow.  I think it was in this piece that mother and daughter were playing really close face to face, and it was great seeing that family and musical connection. The third part had the sitting string musicians (rest of the program was just strings with some solo violin and/or cimbalom) joining in with really high notes sounding kind of eerie.  That part was more fun to see them join in, than enjoyable.  But all three parts were great, and well received by the audience.  I would guess that this was a pretty knowledgeable crowd, one that would normally wait to applause at the end of all three parts, rather than in between, but they and I couldn’t help but show our appreciation after each piece.  Also her parents are amazing musicians in their own right, I can imagine family gatherings are full of music and joy.

We also got a world premiere surprise (not on program).  A piece for Ravel was arranged for solo violin, cimbalom, and strings, I assume for this concert and definitely for this family.  It started with a long section for solo violin, I think about 6 minutes before string and cimbalom joined in.  It was a nice piece but I enjoyed the Mendelssohn and folk based music better.

Overall, this was an outstanding concert, and I am looking forward to seeing her play with the SPCO again in March.  A couple of things I noticed about her playing, she plays barefoot, which isn’t that unusual, but she also gets so animated that she some times stomps her feet.  I think if I saw her perform up close, which sadly will not happen, that it could be distracting like Emmanuel Ax’s humming.

Here is a youtube clip of the family playing a part of Raspodia

-Josh

Size of Africa

I have noticed two rounds of posting about the real size of Africa.  The most recent is link to a Washington Post piece on it.  Usually the link will mention that there was a clip on this issue on the West Wing which is this:

The problem comes from using a projection to display a globe on flat surface.  Based on where you pick the center of the flat map, you are going to have distortions at the edges, we are most familiar with the Mercator projection which distorts the map away from the equator.  The further from the equator that more distortion (appearing larger) you will have.

The Peters projection is known as an equal area projection, but it distorts distances from north to south.  As Africa sits right over the equator, it has the least amount of distortion with Mercator, which keeps it closer to the true size, and appears smaller than it should compared to areas further from the equator.  So the Peters projection is the best choice on a flat map to put Africa in its proper place, a much larger continent than you think when you see the more common Mercator projection.

The problem with these maps is they do a poor job of depicting Great Circles.  If you really want to be geographically literate with the world and all the different places in the world and how they relate and interact with other places, you need a globe.  The most notable example of this in our life, is the air routes from USA to Asia and Europe.  Looking at this video you can see much of the traffic to Asia curves north to Alaska before curving back south to Asia.  Same for the trans-atlantic routes that curve northward too.

-Josh

Who Would Jesus Shoot?

NOTE: this is a topic with very heated opinions on both sides.  The title is meant to provoke, not anger, but thought.  If this upsets you, sorry, but it is my right to exercise my 1st amendment rights to free speech.

After an another school shooting, this time hitting not teenagers, but 20 grade school children (ages 6-7) and six adults, it is time to think about the gun culture of America.

Now I wasn’t sure what to call this post, I had a couple of thoughts along the lines of What Would Jesus Carry, What Would Jesus Shoot, or most offensive of all Who Would Jesus Shoot.  Now you may think, what the heck?  Why is this atheist who doesn’t own a gun bringing Jesus into this gun issue?  Well, I could say because religious people did it first, see Mike Huckabee who said,

“We’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools have become a place for carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, responsibility, accountability?”

But that isn’t the reason I am asking Who Would Jesus Shoot?  The reason I am asking is because most of my friends outside of work tend to be more liberal, and less religious.  In the greater community of my workplace is where I experience more religious people, many who are more conservative.

What I am trying to understand is how my conservative religious friends support very little regulations on guns (size of clips, assault rifles, tracking the sales of guns, etc…) and the Bible pursing an eye for an eye solution.

I have seen people talk about how guns will help keep the government in check.  How more people die from smoking, drunk driving, etc…  How there would be less death if the principal, custodian or other school officials had been packing.  That last one is what lead me to this question of WWJS?  The idea that packing law-abiding citizen would put down this murderous madman is the solution.

But what would Jesus do in this situation?  Would he be packing? Or would he follow Matthew 5:39 “But I say unto you, That ye resist evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  or Luke 6:29 “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other;…”  If Jesus was in the school when the shots rang out, WWJS?  Would he even have a gun?

-Josh

Right side of right

Tomorrow in Minnesota we get to vote on whether to amend our state constitution to “protect” marriage as only between one man and one woman.  What do they mean by protection, is gay marriage an attack on straight marriage?  Is it a scarce resource that must only be allocated to straight people?  I don’t get this “protect” language.  

When they don’t say protect, they say traditional marriage.  But what is traditional marriage, and who defines it?  For many societies, the traditional was polygamy, but they aren’t fighting for that.  Here is what the bible says about marriage.

Image

More recently in America, inter-racial couples couldn’t marry.  So is traditional marriage the marriage between two people of the same race?

Now why are they trying to amend the constitution to limit the rights of people, that aren’t even rights yet? Well I think there are a few reasons here in Minnesota.

  1. State politics – Republicans didn’t have veto proof majority, so they only way to get it past Democratic Governor Dayton was to put in an amendment.
  2. Turnout–as in 2004 in other states, putting an issue like this on the constitution amendment will help rally the turn out of the more socially conservative members of our society.  And could help in other elections, like the Presidential one.
  3. Constitutionality–the writing is on the wall, the discrimination is clearly unconstitutional because it flies in the face of equality.

That is why the agents of intolerance must put this in the constitution, because that is the only way it will pass a constitutional challenge.  I don’t know much about constitutional amendments throughout the states, but when I think of federal constitutional amendments, I know that one got repealed.  That was Prohibition, and it was about limiting our freedoms and it didn’t last.

Now some other arguments that proponents of the amendment of intolerance make are about pro-creation and religious freedom.

One of the biggest lies is about pro-creation, oh it is a sneaky lie, because it sounds kind of rational, but it is a lie.  You will hear that the purpose of marriage is about pro-creation, about having kids and then raising them with a father and mother (research supports two parents are better households on average, but I know a lot of amazing single parents).  Yet, I don’t know of anything that requires married people to have children.  We let infertile (whether they are aware or not) to marry and we allow people (including post-menopausal women) to get married.  How about we amend the constitution to say that to get married folks must show they are sufficiently fertile to have children (mandatory fertility tests), and we put a clause in their marriage license that they must have a child within 5 years or the marriage is annulled.  And what about adoption, is that good enough or is it really pro-create only? 

What about religious freedom, should churches be forced to marry same-sex couples? No, of course not, and they won’t be.  We can’t make a church marry anyone it doesn’t want to.  But just because the Catholic church doesn’t want to marry same-sex couples (at least the Pope and US Bishops don’t) doesn’t mean the Universal Unitarians don’t.  When the Catholic church tries to imposes it’s religious beliefs on Unitarians, they are limiting religious freedom.  So that vote yes actually is limiting religious freedoms, not protecting them.  

I have heard a lot of talk about being on the right side of history and I think that is a very lame description. I don’t want votes out of a cool trendy reason, I want votes because people know that my friends Joel and Troy should have their marriage recognized by the state not just their church.  That is a country that was founded on the idea of equality and slowly we are actually working towards that ideal.  When straight couples that were of different skin tones (races) could marry each other, we expand the rights of all Americans.  This amendment won’t grant gay people the right to have a marriage recognized by the state of MN, but it does allow challenges to laws that limit marriage to straight couples to go forward.

-Josh

Does being part of a union protect your offensive comments from being used to fire you?

So Miami-Dade Fire Fighting Captain Brian Beckmann proves that he can be a real jerk with this comment on his Facebook page:

“Listening to Prosecutor Corey blow herself and her staff for five minutes before pre-passing judgment on George Zimmerman. The state seeks reelection again, truth aside. I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, shitbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They’re just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn’t have anything to do with why people wonder if they’re about to get jacked by a thug.”

I suspect that Mr. Beckmann’s being part of a union may protect him from being fired out of hand.

Ironically in the same state of Florida, 14 non union workers were fired for wearing orange to coordinate for TGIF post work Happy Hour.

So, arbitrary firing for wearing orange on a Friday with your co-workers.

Saying things that show a real class bias (and proving you are a total jerk) about part of the population you are to serve, not immediately fired, and probably won’t be, likely because of union representation.

Does anything seem wrong here?

-Josh

More confusion on Rick Perry’s brain freeze

Last week Rick Perry had his famous brain freeze on which departments he would eliminate from the federal government.

Commerce, Education, and oops. He is offered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he says needs to be reformed. Later on he comes up with Energy. As a Republican from Texas, I am guessing he hates the EPA, and he is pro corporations in the energy sector (oil industry is huge in Texas). Why wouldn’t he get rid of the EPA and keep Energy? That just doesn’t make sense!

-Josh

In Search of…a 7 foot doctor

Thanks to Think Progress we get to learn of more craziness from Michele Bachmann.

I suspect that this doctor is hanging out with the mom’s whose daughter became mentally retarded after taking the HPV vaccine, and also with Paul Bunyan and the Loch Ness monster.

I am also confused about how the doctor is prohibited from asking a person for their residential status, but have to get wait over 2 hours to get a number from the IRS to see someone.   So can’t ask one thing, but must have number to even see someone.

And a doctor would assign staff to wait with the IRS for the number.  If the part about the IRS was true, which it isn’t.

Maybe it should be in search of sanity or reality.

-Josh

Job Creators vs Lucky Ducks

In the last few years two terms have come to creep into discussions about taxation in the US.  These ideas are definitely being driven by the right wing echo chamber.  So today we are going to examine what they are, how they are used, and the reality of people at different income levels.

Lucky ducks–these are the folks that file income tax returns, but whose income after deductions and credits owe no income tax.  The Wall Street Journal editorial pages started this term, and have been using it since 2002.

Job creators–in the past few years this term has been thrown around to describe the wealthy, and defend the lower tax rates that they deserve.  You may have heard something like this, “you don’t raise taxes on job creators during a down economy.”

Why are these terms being used, basically to convince people that the Republican’s economic agenda isn’t class warfare, but fairness.

So let’s breakdown the myth of the Lucky Ducks, these folks don’t make enough to pay federal income tax.  Sadly in the down economy, the percentage of the population that falls into this category has been rising.  As average employees wages have stayed stagnant, this is an inevitable result.

However, when Lucky Ducks is talked about, it is a not used to point out the stagnant wages for the majority of Americans.  It is used to make tax payers think that there are a bunch of freeloaders that aren’t paying taxes.  That those who aren’t Lucky Ducks have been supporting those lazy freeloaders.

But are they lazy freeloaders?  While the statistic that is used is the number of people who file federal income taxes (those with an income) who don’t owe federal income taxes.  People who have no income don’t have to file taxes, so this is measuring people with income, generally workers, who aren’t generally lazy or freeloaders.

In the US working people have to pay payroll taxes, 6.2% to Social Security and 1.45% to Medicare (or 7.65%) and double that if you are self employed as you are paying employee and employer shares.  While these Lucky Ducks are not paying income tax, they are still paying payroll taxes on their income.  Not as Lucky as they want you to think, and be angry about!  That doesn’t get into state income, property or sales tax that these folks likely are paying too (double taxation!!!).

What about the myth of the job creators?  For a few years, I have been hearing this statement, “no poor person employed me!”  In the last few years as the Bush tax cuts were set to expire, and Democrats were looking to let the tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans the job creators became the endangered species of the Republicans.  To paraphrase a familiar line, “Won’t somebody please think of the  Job Creators?”

But I want to think about this for a moment?  They are trying to say that wealthy American tax payers, individuals or couples, are job creators.  Now I believe that wealthy people do hire other people directly, maybe a housemaid, butler, driver, nanny, exercise coach, dietitian, publicist and so on.  But how many people do they hire?  Does a change in 3% marginal tax rate mean they go from hiring 3 people to 4?  To that 4th person, that is huge, but I don’t call these people Job Creators.

I think we need to start asking Republicans, do you consider yourself wealthy (Mitt Romney), if yes, how many people do you employ.  And when I say employ, you pay the employer share of payroll taxes!  If you hire a service who employs a person who provides a service for you, the service is the employer, not you.  If you create a company and that later employees people, than I will agree you are a job creator, but that isn’t a ton of the wealthy.

I have been thinking about this a for a long time, because we are all job creators if we are actively involved with the economy.  When I go shop at Target or the grocery store I am buy products, along with the other customers.  Our demand for those products are creating jobs for the people extracting the resources that are manufactured (more jobs), then transported (jobs) to a store (jobs).  My demand along with my fellow consumers are creating that demand and those jobs.

Not only that, but the average consumer probably creates more jobs than the super wealthy in most sectors (not Lear Jets).  Think about this, you have a wealthy family that makes $5,000,000.  Maybe they have a principal residence and two vacation properties, a housemaid and a driver.  Then you have 100 families who make $50,000 (same as that $5,000,000 wealthy family) who don’t directly hire anyone and just have one home.  Now those 100 families are going to buy more toilet paper, more toothpaste, food, etc… than the multi millionaire with their 3 homes and 2 employees.  For the people who make toilet paper or toothpaste, those employee’s jobs are based on the demand (job creation) of all them, but it is the demand of the average family collectively that is creating more jobs than the multi millionaires.

It is time for us to think past the language that is being used to support tax policies that benefit the ultra wealthy.  Average Americans are struggling enough in the current economic climate.  We need jobs, not class warfare, but we have been getting attacked for years and usually don’t even realize the Black Ops/Psy Ops that have been waged against us workers.

Lucky Ducks who may not pay any federal income tax definitely pay taxes, and usually are pretty hard workers.  All of us that are buying things are job creators.  The ultra wealthy may create jobs in the luxury industries, but they are not the only job creators and for a large part of society create less jobs (collectively) than the average American, including those who are not working, but still consuming.

-Josh

What America used to value

I have been re-reading old Marvel comics as PDFs.  GIT Corp published large runs of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man comics on DVDs (as well as Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, and Star Trek comics).

Thinking back to these early comics, most of which started in the 60s, we can see how, with the comics as an example, society really celebrated the scientists.  Fantastic Four has Richard Reed, Avengers had Hank Pym (Ant-Man and later names), Hulk is Bruce Banner, Iron Man is Tony Stark, and Spider-Man was teen scientist Peter Parker.  Now many of these scientist, especially Bruce Banner and Tony Stark were serving the nation and their battle on the Red Menace of communist Soviet Union.  Back then, our society saw science as leading the way forward to developments for our society and winning the Cold War.

Yet today, what was once seen as the part of the solution to winning the battle for democracy in the free world and not so free world is now viewed very differently.

  • The theory of evolution is to be challenged by intelligent design (aka backdoor creationism).  Note:  a scientific theory can not be proven, but is basically undisputed as explaining how things work, you may have heard of another theory, the theory of gravity
  • Climate change science is challenged because it threatens corporate profits of the dirtiest and most profitable industry in the world, Big Oil

We need to take value of our science, we have to fund research and development.  We need science to lead to all those discoveries that help humanity, not just further enrich corporations with patents on the fabric of nature, like seeds.  On issues like stem cell research we need to have honest discussions of moral and ethical implications of research.  But equally those discussions must encompass all viewpoints and not be driven solely by those with a religious agenda that may be trying to silence voices of progress and truth like Galileo was for saying the earth revolved around the sun by the Church.

-Josh

Biggest fan of Donald Trump’s presidential run

This is a little more catty than I usually post.  But I really think that Kim Jong-il is hoping that Donald Trump runs and wins the US presidency in 2012.  Why?  Well because then he wouldn’t be the world leader with the worst hair.  Lets face it, I think Trump has success because people are focused on his hairpiece and it distracts them from tough negotiations.  Maybe Trump would be a strong world leader, although I do worry about him trying to fire other word leaders he doesn’t like and that would be a diplomatic faux pas.

Of course the Kim Jong-il was really hoping for Don King, but he is less likely than Trump to be a candidate.

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