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“Where words leave off, music begins”*…


We are often immersed in what the ancient world looked like when we visit a museum or an archaeological site. However, the vibrant soundscapes heard at festivals, funerals, courtly feasts, theatrical performances, gladiatorial shows or just while shopping in the ancient world are important to reconstructing the past. A number of ancient historians are hard at work to bring the music of antiquity back to life for the enjoyment of the modern world…

Read about– and hear– the results of their efforts at: “Five Ways To Listen To The Music Of The Ancient World Today.”

* Heinrich Heine


As we commune with our ancestors, we might recall that it was on the is night in 1969 that Jimi Hendrix appeared on the BBC’s The Lulu Show.  He had been booked to perform two songs, “Voodoo Child,” which he and the Experience did in its entirety. Then, he stopped midway through the performance his new single “Hey Joe,”  announcing, “We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate this song to The Cream.”  The Experience then launched into a version of “Sunshine Of Your Love” as a tribute to the group who had split a few days earlier. Hendrix proceeded to continuing jamming, running over their allocated time slot on the live show, and preventing the show’s host, the pop singer Lulu, from closing the show properly… for which Hendrix was banned from the BBC.  (See the performance here; read about Elvis Costello’s similar experience on Saturday Night Live here.)

Jimi and the boys on The Lulu Show



Written by LW

January 3, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little”*…


When I published Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think in February 2012, I included about 80 charts in the back of the book showing very strong evidence that the world is getting better. Over the last five years, this trend has continued and accelerated.

This page includes charts and graphs that you can share with friends and family to change their mindset. We truly are living in the most exciting time to be alive…

In “answer” to yesterday’s excursion into dystopia, a collection of evidence from Peter Diamandis that things are on the upswing: “Evidence of Abundance.”

* Franklin D. Roosevelt


As we look on the bright side, we might recall that it was on this date in 1968 that Jimi Hendrix played Philharmonic Hall in New York.  The concert, “An Electronic Thanksgiving,” was originally planned for Carnegie Hall, but the managers there got cold feet, fearful of a rowdy audience.  Promoter Ron Delsener scrambled:

I had to convince Louise Homer, who was the Director of Philharmonic Hall,
that I had to ‘marry’ Rock and Roll to classical music (eclectic music). I then moved the event to Philharmonic Hall… I had to do everything to convince them. I had to hire The New York Brass Quintet and a harpsichord virtuoso (therefore, an eclectic evening). Both would play during the first half of the program. They would be joined by one or two of Jimi’s musicians on several selections.

I informed Michael Jeffery, as well as the attorney, Stevens Weiss, that Noel and/or Mitch must play during the first half of the program for several numbers with a classical group. Naturally, the show went on sale, sold out, and no one wanted to play the first half of the program with the classical musicians.

I begged Mitch Mitchell to please sit in and ‘fake it’ as best as he could, which he did much to the delight of the audience. To Mitch, it was a ‘goof,’ to me it was a lifesaver. To the ushers at Philharmonic Hall, it was a frightening experience because everyone stood in front of their seats for the entire show and clogged all the aisles leading to the stage. [source]


Written by LW

November 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

“That’s what music’s all about, messing with people’s heads”*…


Musicians and dancers, stair riser, Pakistan, first century.

I look at music and language in their deep histories, reaching back to a point before there was any music or language in their modern forms. So we’re talking, say, a 500,000-year stretch, perhaps all the way back to Homo heidelbergensis. I see the antecedents of these things falling into place along parallel tracks that overlap one another but are not the same track, and I follow the parallelism and the distinctness of those tracks from a very deep period. Which is to say that what we are left with as human beings in the world today, as the product of those tracks, is in fact a set of overlapping yet distinct capacities, functions, and capabilities in dealing with our world and our environment and in our social interactions with each other.

And so these things are loaded into both language and music in very complex but different ways…

Explore the deep history of humans and music with Gary Tomlinson, author of A Million Years of Music: “The Prehistory of Music.”

* Jimi Hendrix (whose third album, Electric Ladyland, was released on this date in 1968)


As we get the beat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the Velvet Underground (see also here and here) made their live debut, playing at Summit High School in New Jersey; the group was paid $75 for the show.



“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”*…


As income and wealth inequality has grown in the developed world, so have the ranks of security guards—for gated communities, upscale residential buildings, corporate offices, exclusive events, and more. That trend– more inequality, more guards– seems especially apparent here in the U.S.  We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.  And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.”  In addition to private security guards, that includes police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011– a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.

Samuel Bowles, a professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and Arjun Jayadev, of the University of Massachusetts- Boston, explore these findings in their Opinionator piece “One Nation Under Guard.”

In America, growing inequality has been accompanied by a boom in gated communities and armies of doormen controlling access to upscale apartment buildings. We did not count the doormen, or those producing the gates, locks and security equipment. One could quibble about the numbers; we have elsewhere adopted a broader definition, including prisoners, work supervisors with disciplinary functions, and others.

But however one totes up guard labor in the United States, there is a lot of it, and it seems to go along with economic inequality. States with high levels of income inequality — New York and Louisiana — employ twice as many security workers (as a fraction of their labor force) as less unequal states like Idaho and New Hampshire.

When we look across advanced industrialized countries, we see the same pattern: the more inequality, the more guard labor. As the graph shows, the United States leads in both…

Bowles and Javadev conclude by quoting an august Utilitarian…

“It is lamentable to think,” wrote the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in 1848, “how a great proportion of all efforts and talents in the world are employed in merely neutralizing one another.” He went on to conclude, “It is the proper end of government to reduce this wretched waste to the smallest possible amount, by taking such measures as shall cause the energies now spent by mankind in injuring one another, or in protecting themselves from injury, to be turned to the legitimate employment of the human faculties.”

This venerable call to beat swords into plowshares resonates still in America and beyond. Addressing unjust inequality would help make this possible.

Read the whole piece here.  [TotH to The Society Pages]

*”Who will watch the watchmen” (or literally, “who will guard the guards themselves?”)  Juvenal, Satires (VI, lines 347–8)


As we shore up our defenses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967, at the close of a show in Astoria (Finsbury Park, North London) that Jimi Hendrix first set fire to his guitar.  Hendrix was treated for minor burns later that night (but apparently got the technique down quickly, as subsequent “lightings” didn’t require medical follow-up).  The slightly scorched 1965 Fender Stratocaster was sold at auction in 2012 for £250,000 (about $400,00).



Written by LW

March 31, 2014 at 1:01 am

The Oxford Comma…

The Oxford Comma– AKA, the final serial comma– has come in for some harsh criticism.  Indeed recently, the storied punctuation mark suffered the ugliest of indignities:  the “Writing and Style Guide” in Oxford University’s own “Branding Handbook” (the internal guide to usage meant to be consistent across all University publications) instructed: “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’.”

The Prose Police did carve out an exception:  “when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used…”

Good thing too.  Language Log demonstrates with examples both hypothetical:

…and actual:

Your correspondent operates, as readers may have noticed, on the compositional principal “better safe than sorry”…

As we disagree with Vampire Weekend, we might recall another example of linguistic mutability:  it was on this date in 1966 that Jimmy Hendrix changed his name to Jimi Hendrix.  Hendrix had a good bit of Experience, if readers will forgive the pun, with name changes…  He born was Johnny Allen Hendrix, but his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix (in honor of the father’s dead brother).  Hendrix performed as a sideman as “Maurice James”; he led his pre-fame band, The Blue Flames, as “Jimmy James”; and when confronted with confusion of having two Randys in the group– Guitarist Randy Wolf and bassist Randy Palmer, he dubbed the latter “Randy Texas.”  The former, anointed by Hendrix as “Randy California,” later joined his step-father Ed Cassidy to form Spirit.


Life imitates art far more than art imitates life*…

It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.
– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Santino Fontana and David Furr, stars of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, reading transcripts from The Jersey Shore.

[via Playbill; TotH to Stephen Fry]

* “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying (1889)

As we remember that to lose one parent “may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1968 that Hair ( book by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot) premiered on Broadway.  Though it had done well with audiences in an earlier six-week run at the Public Theater, Hair was considered a long-shot on the Great White Way, and opened to mixed reviews.  But it charmed audiences (and spawned a million-selling original cast recording and a #1 song, “Aquarius,” for the Fifth Dimension).  Looking back forty years later, critic Charles Isherwood wrote in the New York Times, “For darker, knottier and more richly textured sonic experiences of the times, you turn to the Doors or Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell or Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Or all of them. For an escapist dose of the sweet sound of youth brimming with hope that the world is going to change tomorrow, you listen to Hair and let the sunshine in.”


Inside knowledge…

Original x-rays of Einstein’s brain will go under the gavel on December 3 at Julien’s Auctions in Hollywood (along with other such memorabilia as the first guitar used on stage by Jimi Hendrix and the Michael Jackson “Bad” costume made for and worn by the chimp Bubbles).

Taken by an old friend when the Father of Modern Physics was 66, the x-rays may illustrate the root of the genius’ genius; as the BBC explains:

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the shape and size Einstein’s brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average intelligence.

They think their findings may well explain his genius for mathematical and spatial thinking.

In general, Einstein’s brain was the same as all the others except in one particular area – the region responsible for mathematical thought and the ability to think in terms of space and movement.

Uniquely, Einstein’s brain also lacked a groove that normally runs through part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.

“This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he did,” said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published in the Lancet.

“Einstein’s own description of his scientific thinking was that words did not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a visual kind,” she said.

The x-rays are expected to fetch $1-2,000.

(TotH to Cakehead Loves Evil)

As we muse that the juxtaposition of items in the auction is… well, relatively odd, we might cast our eyes to the heavens in honor of Johannes Kepler, the mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer (the distinctions among those fields being pretty vague in Kepler’s time); he died on this date in 1630.

Kepler’s “laws of planetary motion”– most famously, that the planets move in elliptical orbits around the Sun– were the foundation on which Isaac Newton (one of the few humans arguably smarter than Einstein) built his theory of universal gravitation.



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