Archive for August, 2019

From Andalusia to Zagreb

August 24, 2019

Breeze blew ‘cross Byzantium

   ages ago,

passing passion along from ancient souls

   o’er peninsulas and shoals.

From Alexandria to Andalusia

   it blew the Medi stirring of our arcane East

   by westward winds past the European feast.

So it drifted between Aranjuez and Zagreb

   in periodic flow and ebb

   with rhythmic ebb and flow

   through passionnata on stringéd bow . . .

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g91kQyy4G7E.

   . . . at providential and the muse’ behest,

   and set in sculpting stone: eternal rest;

   portraying Piéta Jesu through Michelangelo,

  Pieta

   as still the women come and go

   ‘cross Eliot’s wasteland scenario.

From Ave Maria in Madrid

   this opus we/they did;

   even SaintSaens’ secular Swan

   summons that age-old bond:

   reflecting melancholic tension

   in existential apprehension

   again and again and again;

   the passion passes

   through striving laborious hands

   in colored or melodic strands.

On moonlit nights;

   sonata strains reflect the light

   from hand to frantic hand

   and back again.

Did history require

   two world wars

   and a string of smaller frays

   to say

   our living legacy dies daily?

Yet does our living tragedy thrive daily,

   in this human soul of frailty.

Why even a saintless ’60’s Superstar

   drove our anguished digression,

   our zeitgeist obsession,

   as passion passed through

   rejected hands again

   as passion passed through

   conflicted lives again

   as passion passes through

   immigrant pathos again

   and again and again

   to reveal those nail-scarred hands again

Again.

   Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it:

Those despiséd and rejected ones of men–

   again and again and again:

   the passing man of sorrow,

   yesterday, today, tomorrow—

   the woman acquainted with grief,

   through death that steals in like a thief

   the stranger and the strange,

Again and again and again.

Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it.

Glass half-Full

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The Tower of Signals

August 17, 2019

Thousands of years ago, we built a legendary tower, the shadow of which has seemed to darken our human history even unto today.

According to a certain well-known historical source, the Bible . . . the tower of Babel was erected in some location east of the Euphrates River. The region therein has been known since that ancient time by various names:  Chaldea, Shinar, Babylon, and a few other identities, such as the current one, Iraq.

So an ancient tale about the tower of Babel, especially its fall, has been passed down to us through the ages.   The biblical account says that The Tower of Babel’s undoing happened because the people were unable to communicate. So they were not able to get the thing built.

In our modern reflection upon that archaic project, I think what Will Rogers or Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, or some such sage  said, applies:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s an old story, but true.

Nevertheless, I’m here to tell ya that in spite of ourselves we people of the earth have managed to erect some pretty impressive towers here and there throughout the ages.

For instance, notice this  classic religious tower in San Francisco, which happens to be a double.

Spires2Chrch

This structure represents that spirit of religion that dominated our Western culture for a couple of thousand years.

Here’s a Spanish project representing a more contemporary creative impulse toward the divine.

Sagrada

Very impressive. But the era of God-inspired basilica-building has been overtaken by more humanistic projects. Since the so-called Enlightenment in the 18th-century, people have aspired to ideals even loftier than mere religion. This modern emphasis has wrought even higher and higher feats of skyscraping.

BuildSkysc

The long epoch of God-inspired tower-building has been overtaken by a New Age of Man.

CityPhild

And yet, our rising human spirit has morphed itself beyond mere commercial, citified projections. Check out an Olympic objet d’art that the Barcelonans fashioned for the 1992 Olympics:

BarcOlymp

This fluidic rising structure embodies a humanic zeitgeist; it aspires to inspire ascension to world peace—a peace wrought through zealous sports competition instead of bloody wars fought with destructive weapons on muddy battlefields.

Pretty damned impresseve, huh?!

Higher and higher we strive; higher and higher we arrive.

Now in 21st-century AI, We find ourselves in the upper regions of human accomplishment.

Physical upbuilding has now taken a back seat to the loftiness of our ideals.

So we’ve built a stupendous net of ideas, an electronic network that ceaselessly transmits gigabytes of presciently important data around the world. It is a web as ethereal as the sun itself . . . as surreal as a Dali . . .  as real as a Warhol.

And towards this end, we’ve built towers of a different—a new and different—kind:

The Tower

Towers such as this one–structures of ascending human perfectibility– are slavishly repeating signals all day and all night for the benefit of all mankind!

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, ever and ever onward to greater heights!

We hold these spires to be self-evident—that our updated tower-driven secretions will project a worldwide web of human achievement to rise higher than  the Tower of Babel ever did!

Good luck with that.

Glass Chimera

Money’s Swan Song

August 11, 2019

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Well a lot has happened since then.

Our Creator had done some amazing creating through that original sparkle, and has given us the wherewithal to jump in there and participate in the creative playing out of all things in our domain.

The power to create was not given to other species on our planet—only to us.

We humans have done some pretty amazing things with our God-given talents.

After hunting and gathering, we planted, harvested and ate the fruits of our labors.

in the course of history, we have moved far beyond just eating, drinking and homesteading.

It’s been ever onward and upward for us, since we got a hold of this divine spark thing that we call creativity.

We’ve built pyramids and great walls, temples, mosques, cathedrals, skyscrapers, great bridges and machines that move across those bridges.

We’ve built roads, rails, blazed trails, had great successes and fails. We’ve devised tools, schools, lots of rules; we’ve forged implements, arts, coins, currency, and we’ve maintained a steady errancy.

We’ve painted, sculpted, interpreted the real world as works of art. We’ve disrupted, interrupted, corrupted and upended nature itself.

Now our carbonized creation turns—in some ways—against us.

Back at the olden time, when we received the power to cultivate earth, we were instructed to subdue those elements of the natural world that seem to be active against us—like, say, lions and tigers and bears. Such critters we had to subdue, so they would not make mincemeat of us.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, tsunamis, etc.— these adverse forces we could not subdue, so we took shelter. As the ages rolled by, our sheltering instincts developed into elaborate structures.

And we have done pretty well with that. We homo sapiens have taken control of the planet—or at least we think we have. The planet may yet rise up to bite us in the ass. We shall see what happens with that.

A major sea-change that happened along the long odyssey of our progress was: we devised ways to substitute real goods into artificial representations of wealth.

Better known as making money.

MoneySwan

Land, food, livestock, clothing, shelter and such commodities that are essential for survival—all these are now exchanged by monies, currencies, paper-backed assets. And the latest thing is: electrons seem to be our new currency.

Our ancestors carved trails out of the wilderness. They gathered grains, sowed seeds, domesticated animals, and sold to neighbors or merchants all the produce thereof.

As those primary goods coalesced over the ages as markets, their value was measured and traded as money. This we called trade. Then we called it commerce, then business, and now. . . economics. We humans invented the system a long time ago because . . . well, because . . . I don’t why.

lt’s just what we do I guess.

For one thing, it made the process of manipulating wealth easier.

In economics, wealth was and is evaluated in terms of dollars or yuan or yen, or marks, francs, drachmas, denarii, zlotys, rubles, pesos, pounds sterling, etc.

Euros are the new kid on the block. They seem to have trouble making that one work.

The difficulty with retaining true value in these currencies is related to the fact that they’re—in real survival life terms—not really worth anything.

They only represent wealth. But they are not really the real thing.

I say the EU is having trouble establishing the value of their Euro. This goes way back.

The Brits, for instance, were having trouble in the 1930’s retaining the value of their pound. It seemed that their constructed currency could not maintain its value compared to gold.

Who the hell can compete with gold?

Gold goes way back.

Way back.

The second chapter of Genesis, for instance, mentions gold.

“The name of the first (river) is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.”

I suppose there’s a reason why gold goes way back in our history. Even though you can’t eat it, drink it, or keep your household warm with it, it is . . .

quite shiny.

Beautiful stuff, that gold. Precious!

Back to the Brits. As the world economy was falling apart back in the ’30’s, many savvy persons decided they would trade their British currency—pounds—for gold.

So many savvies were wanting to get back to gold, that the British government quit selling it.

What would happen after such an arrangement?

I think it was that fellow Keynes who figured out that—guess what—the economy just kept on cranking—all the goods and stuff and commodities and products and financial instruments and whatnot—just kept swirling around in international commerce.

The world didn’t stop turning. Business just kept on doing their thing. Rich get richer and poor get poorer and hey what else is new.

What else is new? Nothing. Nothing new under the sun.

Guess what. We didn’t really need gold to back currency! It was just a phase we were going through—the golden age of gold.

Back in ’73, Nixon pulled the same trick as the Brits had done in the ’30’s. He and his Bretton Woods powers-that-be decided we could no longer afford to sell gold for dollars. Too many folks wanted the gold instead of the dollars.

So we see that man-made currencies are not foolproof, and the gold bugs are always trying to make a comeback.

Money is a habit; that’s all. A very old habit.

Folks are born and bred into this modern economic world.  We are commercialized, or socialized (depending on your politics) to just keep spending those pounds and dollars and cents and euros and yuan and yen and SDRs and thusandsuch.

Nowadays we don’t really even use the money any more. Now it’s just electrons flowing around that represent debits and credits.

And that’s why—I suppose— the central banks of the world can keep cranking out their reserves, because the right to assign value is now reserved to them. It has nothing to do with gold or fiscal guarantee.

The central banks, in the fatal footsteps of every financial crisis, have reserved the right to “create money out of thin air.”

I told you we were creative!

The greatest discovery of the modern world:  we don’t even need anything to take the place of gold.

Money is just an old habit we have; we’ll never put it to rest. So somebody has to be “printing” it somewhere.  We spend so much money that all the .govs of the world are running deep debts trying to keep all the citizens fat ‘n happy.

There’s so much liquidity in the world today that the dark swan of excess has smooth sailing. Someday, some Leninish strongman will come along and dissolve all that debt into even more liquidity.

It will be a meal ticket for everybody. Yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch, doesn’t matter who’s paying for it.

It’s only money.

Glass half-Full

Felix’s Fortress Forté

August 4, 2019

While tuned into radio WDAV a day or two ago . . .

listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony,

we suddenly discerned a developing  melodic surprise:

gentle strains of a classic religious tune, A Mighty Fortress is Our God . . .  drifting into the 3rd movement of the music.

Twenty-three minutes into this performance,

Orchestra

those first melodic snippets of Luther’s famous hymn—I heard, venturing in discreetly, during the slow Andante phase of Mendelssohn’s 1832 orchestral composition.  By the end of the piece, however, the understated entrance of that well-known melody had morphed into being the very core of the symphony’s dynamic, forceful conclusion.

This gentle arrival of a familiar melody that incrementally develops into a forcefully conclusive forté—this is a composer’s technique found in several classical music masterpieces. . . most notably Beethoven’s (last) 9th Symphony, and a favorite American piece of mine, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

In the case of Ludwig van Beethoven’s use of  a developing melodic theme that overpowers all other musical elements, Ludwig used his own emphatic original tune to fortify a potent message of popular 18th-century zeitgeistuniversal brotherhood. The words that Beethoven chose to accompany his theme had been composed by Friedrich Schiller, a primary 18th-century poet of the Romantic period in our western history.

In the similar case of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the composer employs a traditional religious melody—the “Shaker” theme, Simple Gifts, as a musical fulcrum for propelling the idea of mere simplicity into a commendable lifestyle.

The emphasis on simplicity is a powerful motivating factor in American history. The Puritans. for instance, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, were fleeing an oppressive European religious straightjacket culture; they wanted to simplify their worship of God and to enable the practice of glorifying our Creator in community life.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, a great composer whose family heritage was Jewish,  20th-century composer Aaron Copland chose to utilize a well-established Christian melody as the basis for  fortifying a powerful musical masterpiece.

In other trends of this earthly life . . . in the realm of, let’s say, political compositions—as compared to musical ones—recently I read a book that represents a similar dynamic of compositional accomplishment. David Horowitz’s timely book, Dark Agenda brings to light a contemporary American Christian culture that is under attack from secularizing—yeah, even aggressively anti-religious—zealots.

Perhaps we simple-minded Christians of this era–as well as those more complex Reformed believers whose reforms originated with Martin Luther five centuries ago–will find fortifying encouragement and strong inspiration in these classically-inclined masterpieces:

~~ Felix Mendelsson’s 5th Symphony

~~ Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring,

     oh, and btw. . . honorable mention . . .

~~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

King of Soul