The New Terrapin Gazette

Number 272
16 August, 2012

Religious Muslims cannot help but disdain a culture that, to the degree that it is secular, is a culture of infidels; to the degree that it is religious, our culture is the product of a partial revelation (that of Christians and Jews), inferior in every respect to the revelation of Islam.

Repeating The Obvious

According to a British newspaper, “Yes: global warming is real, and some of it at least has been caused by the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels.” That’s an astounding statement, for it leads naturally to a question that cannot be answered: how much warming is the result of human activity?

Recall first that perhaps as much as five percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is there because people exist, and then recall that all the carbon dioxide in the air adds up to about 0.04 percent of the atmosphere (as reported in Nr. 34 of this newsletter). Look carefully at the article linked above and at the chart it includes, and you will see that the most responsible conclusion to be drawn is that Mother Nature is moving things up and down with varying degrees of irregularity. It gets warmer, it gets colder (as it has lately) — thus has it always been.

While you are pondering all that, take a break to look at an alarmist prediction made some time ago, and then see what actually happened. This information is exactly what you do not see in the major media — because a lot of what the news organizations report on climate is deceitful, irrational propaganda produced by cultists and crazies. Some of those nutcases have impressive postnominal initials and are employed by outfits that are funded by confiscated wealth (taxes).

The attribution of causes in the study of climate variation is illogical, irrational, and invalid because not nearly enough is known about the astonishingly complex interplay of factors involved (the sun may well be the most important variable of all, and nobody knows nearly enough about that to provide the climatologists with anything helpful). Explaining the Medieval Warming, for example, is simply not possible, but there it is — a very warm climate that lasted for about four hundred years, and could not possibly have been produced by human activity (more information here). That’s why Jones at the University of East Anglia, Mann at Penn State, and the other pseudoscholars of climate had to rig their ridiculous hockeystick graph so it did not include the Medieval Warming.

This Is What Forty Years Of Waging “War” On Drugs Has Accomplished

Forty Years of The War On Drugs

Note that “…the $1.5 trillion figure…accounts for many more costs, including state level costs, prison costs, lost productivity costs due to incarceration and others.” In calculating the total cost to the polity of governmental efforts to prevent the use of some recreational chemicals, one must consider costs that are customarily hidden but still caused exclusively by the “war” on drugs. For discussion of the matter, see this post.

Ruminations On Recorded Music

If you are familiar with the symphonies of Beethoven, you may know that he wrote not nine, but ten of them, and left the eleventh incomplete. His Wellington’s Victory is technically a symphony, but tradition has its biases. The work is discriminated against because it employs muskets, lots of cannons, and too many drums; it also includes tunes Beethoven did not compose. It is not taken seriously. That offended the composer at the time, but then a lot offended him. That’s how it is when you are here on loan from a Higher Sphere of Consciousness: the locals just don’t understand you.

Well, some day the unfinished “tenth” symphony may be recorded and made available. That would be a good idea, to put it mildly.

If you want the best recorded versions of Ludwig’s nine symphonies, begin with anything from the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Wilhelm Furtwaengler. Those recordings fall short of today’s standards in audio technology, so you can also consider Claudio Abbado’s work with the Berlin (Deutsche Grammophon 469 000-2). Abbado understood how revealing a smaller orchestra could be; it allows you to listen into the music, and discover its complexity and genius. Large orchestras can tend to smother subtlety. Then too, these recordings of the nine symphonies benefit from scholarship that revealed a bit more of what Ludwig had in mind. Abbado’s interpretations of great music have varied over the years, and that almost certainly means his insights improved.

Speaking of conductors, there is a wonderful DVD that introduces this subject. It’s from Teldec and Warner Music Vision; look for The Art of Conducting, Great Conductors of the Past, 0927 42667 2. It features Beecham, Nikish, Strauss, Busch, Walter, Klemperer, Furtwaengler, Toscanini, Stokowski, Koussevitzky, Reiner, Szell, von Karajan, and Bernstein. The commentary provides marvelous insight; Isaac Stern in particular stands out as informative and charming. This is a DVD every music lover should have. (Watch out: there is a second DVD in the series that is not nearly as good — it’s Legendary Conductors of a Golden Era.)

Back to Beethoven. The violin concerto (Beethoven composed only one) has probably never been better played than by Carlo Maria Giulini and Itzhak Perlman (EMI 7243 5 66900 2 8). Now most folks believe the Ninth Symphony was Ludwig’s greatest achievement, and that may be true, but his gift is more obvious in his works for four, two or one instrument. Claudio Arrau is The Man when it comes to Beethoven’s works for piano or piano and orchestra. Do not ignore Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax (CBS M2K 42446 is masterful). For string quartets you must have Trio Fontenay on Teldec 4509-97447-2, and especially Telarc CD-80425, which features some startlingly modern works of great power. Then there is the charming CD on K617, Number K617115, “Les annees 1800: la juvenile maturite”.

In music, sometimes smaller really is better. But “sometimes” is not all the time, and there is more to music than Beethoven (a fact that is usually depressing). If you want large, powerful, grand to the point of overwhelming, you can try Wagner, of course…but there is Saint-Saens, who might be a better fit for today’s audiences. His Third Symphony mixes sweet romanticism with thermonuclear power. So of course back in the early days of digital recording, Telarc released a vinyl disc and later a CD of the work, but made a hash of the acoustics. Perhaps the best recording ever of this war horse is the analog (yes, pre-digital!) Mercury “Living Presence” version now available on CD: it’s 432 79-2. Play it back on a good system, turn the volume up, alert the neighbors, lock the cat in a distant closet (that contains nothing worth saving), and fasten your seatbelt.

If on regaining consciousness you are still in the market for blood and thunder, there’s Berlioz to consider. Like Saint-Saens, he knew how to make delicate, lovely tunes and then terrorize his audience. His Symphonie Fantastique depicts opium-induced madness that ends in the beheading of the fantast. What fun! Just about any version of this musical graphic novel will do the job, such as Jansons’s (EMI, CDC 7 54479 2).

Some might consider Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony to be akin to the Berlioz and Saint-Saens, while others would say that the bombastic passages are few and brief, and insist that Strauss manages to be almost as boring as Wagner before and after the storm. Yes, that overexposed theme from Thus Spake Zarathustra is an exciting peak above an unremarkable plain, and that pretty much sums up Strauss’ approach to tone poems. The wait for the good part is — well, tiresome. Saint-Saens and Berlioz have more to offer because they make the entire journey significantly more tolerable/memorable. In the event you (out of sheer self-respect) require something that expresses genius from beginning to end and includes a bit of exciting weather, Beethoven’s sixth remains without equal.

(Another example of a few bars of music taken from a rather pedestrian work and exploited shamelessly by entertainment industry weasels whose taste was long ago hammered flat by illegal chemicals: that rousing bit from Carmina Burana that has accordingly deteriorated from thrilling to trite. One can expect the vulgarians to get their smelly fingers on Liszt’s Les Preludes next; c’est bien dommage.)

What, you ask, about modern music? Well, back at you: what about it? Glass, Stockhausen, Berg…is that really music? What in the world does Stravinsky have to say? What’s not modern about the timelessness of Beethoven’s genius? (If those questions are in order, why not be ethically consistent and ask whether Mozart’s noodling is more at home in a concert hall than it is in an elevator? After all, how can anything that empty be praised?) All of the answers are up to you, of course, but it shouldn’t hurt to suggest that you can get only so much out of “classical” music. After all, the fact that a work is given that name does not mean it is good, or in any sense equivalent to the best examples of the type. Yes, Holst can be considered modern, and yes, like Elgar, he composed some music worth listening to more than thrice. Still…there is a lot of classical music you can hear once, forget, and never miss.

If you want to leave the “serious” music behind at some point and try out some genuinely different entertainment, there are a few possibilities you may not have thought of. Celtic music has a charm that goes well with Guinness and an uncluttered mind, so you might look for recordings by Relativity and The Tannahill Weavers (oh, sure — The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, but then you and every other wannabe hip/trendy urban sybarite know them). Some of the music touted as “folk” that comes from South America has a lot to offer, particularly if you like harps; in that event, do consider Paraguayan music and the Mexican tunes typical of Vera Cruz. Then there’s Peruvian music and knockoffs on it, such as a recording on the Fortuna label, 176402. There is something about flutes that fascinates. For a while. Just don’t expect a second listening to put her in the mood again.

And then there’s Mexico. One cannot mention Mexican music without thinking of polkas, schottisches, and the ranchera and cumbia styles that are popular there. Unfortunately many gringos find the sounds numbing, if not crazy-making. Why not pull out all the stops, therefore, and get into something genuinely exciting? A good mariachi can be breathtaking fun, to be sure, so a virtual visit to the Mexican state of Jalisco may be in order. If you find yourself bored with the bold romanticism of the mariachi, perhaps you are ready for the ultimate experience, for which you must prepare: down at least three bottles of a good Mexican brew and turn up the volume for a tambora. This is a brass band native to the state of Sinaloa, and it sings with the delicacy of a sledgehammer blow to the temple (some might say a tambora conjures the music of the id). The sonic assault imposes a neurologically clarifying reorientation that approaches spiritual revelation. One knows there are tamboras in Heaven!

This handful of suggestions will do for now. Use a good search engine and consider ordering over the internet. Finally, remember that the binaural and stereo experiences are very different: headphones can make good music — such as Grateful Dead recordings — sound terrible, while speakers in a room with good acoustics sound delicious. You have to experiment.

These remarks have included nothing on New Orleans music. Perhaps that should be remedied in a future Number.

As for most of the currently popular entertainment that is considered music, this newsletter has no comment. Nor should anyone.

The Oxford Comma Makes The News

This is a good sign: a newspaper reports that a bureaucrat is trying to do the right thing regarding the use of the English language. Of course his attempt may be misguided, but his motives are almost certainly laudable.

Owen Paterson has produced a 10-point guide for his civil servants on the pitfalls of common punctuation errors including the Oxford Comma.

…the minister’s (sic) is particularly irked by the use of the “Oxford comma,” with which users break the golden rule of omitting a comma at the end of a list of words, in order to avoid misunderstanding.

The Oxford comma has divided grammarians for years, and even inspired a song by the American indie band Vampire Weekend.

Also known as the “serial comma,” it is often used in lists before a coordinating conjunction to avoid sometimes unintentionally amusing ambiguity.

Lynne Truss, the author of the grammar guide Eats, Shoots and Leaves – the title of which could perhaps benefit from an Oxford comma – said: “There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and people who don’t and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.”

What does Burchfield (Fowler’s, third edition) say?

Examples: an index of social, economic, and religious diversity; excesses of public, political, and intellectual opinion; areas of natural beauty, architectural monuments, and sites of historical interest; New premises were opened by Marks & Spencer, Jaeger, and Currys.

The ‘Oxford comma’ is frequently, but in my view unwisely, omitted by many other publishers. Their preference is to omit it as a general rule (e.g. tea, scones and cake) but to insert it if there is a danger of misunderstanding (tea, bread and butter, and cake — examples from J. McDermott, 1990). A fuller example: The Mind of South Africa is an extremely ambitious blend of personal memoir, ideological polemic and orthodox history — R. Malan in London Rev. Bks, 1990.

Interestingly enough, the second edition of Fowler’s (revised by Gowers) does not deal with the Oxford comma. The first edition, actually prepared by H. W. Fowler, provides more examples of correct and incorrect usage, but again does not identify the Oxford comma as such. One is left with the impression that the issue is relatively modern as a genuine controversy, though of course its roots go deep.

Commas in English are troublesome. One hopes to get it right, but perfection is an exclusively angelic trait. For this newsletter, the rule is, “Try to make each sentence clear, and avoid awkward expressions.” No, that’s not enough, but as long as there are reference books on the desk and a willingness to resort to them, there is hope.

A Consumer Survey

Consumer survey



“‘Progressivism’ is … a belief system that, once its kernel assumptions are adopted, leads fundamentally and inexorably to tyranny.” That’s one way to start a brawl! But perhaps the assertion can be defended rationally; give its author a chance to make his case. His contentions may alter your understanding of ethics and politics.

Some believe Gingrich is the man who should have been president. Here’s one reason why.

Here’s yet another example of the irrational and baneful pronouncements that spill from the mouths of folks who reject the evolved ethics of Western Civilization. People this uncultured should not be entrusted with positions of authority or responsibility; they corrode the very system that admits them to its upper echelons. Well, as this newsletter reported in February of 2000, free speech is dying in the West.

A fascinating battle in the Cold War is revealed.

The feds must have known what and why in Libya; some critics claim everybody in the Obama administration knew, while others say Hillary prevented the information from getting past State. It hardly matters. The rot is endemic. Then there is this: “…more than a few members of the media covering the story have privately wondered whether the widespread editorial disinterest can be chalked up to Big Media’s preference for Obama.” (Source.) No, really? How utterly bizarre!

In past years, this newsletter has expressed a respect and fondness for many of the opinions of Lesbian feminist and art historian/culture vulture Camille Paglia. For some time she was absent from the scene, a circumstance that made life somewhat more dull. Now she has another book to peddle, so she’s back and saying things to get attention. That’s good. If you are unfamiliar with her, this summary of some of her recent pronouncements will be helpful. If you know all about her, join NTG in welcoming her back.

California ignores the facts. There’s nothing new about that….

Here is the story you were not supposed to know. Now how important do you feel?

Waiting for the Obama thunderbolt…if it does not come soon, Romney’s chances go from bad to poor; the optimism expressed by the commentary at the link is unwarranted.

Up the mountain, down the pass beside the waterfall
If you’re thirsty fill your flask but do not drink it all
Save a healthy swallow for the blue wind of the vale
To take you home by midnight on wings that never fail

The masthead includes a quote from the works of Sam Harris.

The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Fedora Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.

Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee.