Friday, October 31, 2008

A Fine Idea

I found this in today's Times:
A major infrastructure initiative would create jobs for the less-educated workers who have been hit hardest by the transition to an information economy. It would allow the U.S. to return to the fundamentals. There is a real danger that the U.S. is going to leap from one over-consuming era to another, from one finance-led bubble to another. Focusing on infrastructure would at least get us thinking about the real economy, asking hard questions about what will increase real productivity, helping people who are expanding companies rather than hedge funds.

Moreover, an infrastructure resurgence is desperately needed. Americans now spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, a figure expected to double by 2020. The U.S. population is projected to increase by 50 percent over the next 42 years. American residential patterns have radically changed. Workplaces have decentralized. Commuting patterns are no longer radial, from suburban residences to central cities. Now they are complex weaves across broad megaregions. Yet the infrastructure system hasn’t adapted.

The smart thing to do is announce a short-term infrastructure initiative to accelerate all those repair projects that can be done within a few years. Then, begin a long-term National Mobility Project.
And who is the person advocating a return to New Deal policies? Why, it's that Commie pinko rat known Socialist registered Democrat Republican, David Books. Read the whole thing here.

The Power of Graphics

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, the Kerry/Edwards ticket came in for some criticism of their graphics, especially by comparison with those of Bush/Cheney. You can see some of the Democratic nominees' collateral here; ; the NY Times dissected the tickets' graphics here.

I was struck by this while driving down 580 the other day, when I saw one of those round Obama car magnets out of the corner of my eye. It used the image on this button.

It's a brilliant logo, and most people won't even notice all the ways it's brilliant. First, it embeds the first letter of the candidate's last name, by being circular. Second, the subliminal rising sun in a blue sky is extremely powerful; it's hidden because the sun is the white void in the middle of the O. The colors are those of the American flag. The rippling red and white stripes come directly from the flag, but they suggest the open road, a plowed field, an undulating hill. The sense of motion is palpable.

So: the candidate's name, the US of A, a very American sense of forward movement, and the dawn of a new day, all wrapped up in an extremely attracting graphical package. Compare to the boring McCain/Palin graphics!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Staying in the Loop

So, say you have opera tickets for Boris Godunov in San Francisco this coming Tuesday, and say you'd like to know what's going on with events outside the opera house. San Francisco Opera to the rescue:
San Francisco Opera will provide opera patrons live TV coverage of national and local election returns prior to the performance and during the intermission of Modest Mussorgsky’s historic Russian political opera, Boris Godunov. Eight Hi-Def video screens located throughout the War Memorial Opera House will broadcast the latest election details. For those opera attendees who don’t want to miss this extraordinary opera but want to stay current with national and local news, this is the perfect marriage of art, politics, and high-tech TV.
So keep the smartphone in your pocket, no matter how tempted you are to peek halfway through an act.


Reviewing the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, October 23, 2008.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

California Bach Society

I've been attending Cal Bach concerts for the last six or seven years, starting when Warren Stewart was still the group's artistic director. Cal Bach is an excellent chorus that has had a series of terrific artistic directors, and those directors' programming has always been varied and interesting.

The all-Bach concert of about ten days ago, at St. Mark's in Berkeley, was sung with such astonishing purity and beauty of tone, such unanimity of intonation and phrasing, and such rhythmic spring and responsiveness that it's clear Cal Bach has made the jump from excellence to greatness. Artistic director Paul Flight led with both vigor and passion. And I have never heard a chorus make a more beautiful sound, both unified and transparent.

It was a great program all around, with Rita Lilly, Adam Coles, and Brian Staufenbiel as the soloists, consisting of Cantata 71, Gott ist mein Koenig, the motet Komm, Jesu, Komm, and Cantata 21, Ich hatte viel Berkuemmernis. They are all marvelous, with magnificent (and plentiful) choral writing - and get that soprano/tenor duet in Cantata 21, a duet between the soul and Jesus.

Cal Bach is holding auditions on Saturday, Nov. 1, in Palo Alto. If you'd like to sing with a great group and you have strong sight-singing skills, it might be the group for you.

(Full disclosure: I sing in Chora Nova, another of Paul's choruses. I can tell you that our sound is headed in the same direction as Cal Bach's, thanks to Paul's direction.)

This is Exactly How I Feel

S.F. Chron columnist (and recent Ernie Pyle Award winner) Jon Carroll on the upcoming election.

This had me howling:
No, wait, tell me everything. What have you heard? But don't tell me that Obama's really far ahead, because that would be conventional wisdom and conventional wisdom is often wrong and there would be talk of the McCain Miracle. Oh God no.

But don't tell me Obama's behind, either. Sometimes polls are wrong, but mostly they are not wrong, and if he's behind, then probably he's going to lose, and then I would have to move to Canada and hide in my daughter's basement in Montreal. Because I could not take four more years of Republicans. Could not. William Kristol alone would drive me crazy. Next Wednesday, I want to see William Kristol rolling on the floor in agony.
I feel that way about Bill Kristol myself.

The Best of All Possible Polls

Via the Votemaster at
Weekly Reader Calls It for Obama

In contrast to McInturff, the Weekly Reader's quadrennial poll of students from kindergarten to 12th grade predicts that Obama will win big time, with 55% of the vote to McCain's 43%. This survey has been surprisingly accurate in the past, getting 12 of the past 13 presidential elections right, missing only Bill Clinton's win in a 3-way race in 1992. The survey's accuracy may be due to children getting most of their political views from their parents and the children's views may more accurately reflect what their parents are really thinking than what the parents are telling the pollsters. Thanks to David Richardson for the pointer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Marston Mystery Release: The Julius Block Collection

Marston Records sent email a few days ago discussing the long-awaited mystery release. As the user known as Saint Russell had figured out, the set is transfers of the Julius Block Collection, a trove of cylinders made between 1889, at the very dawn of sound recordings, and 1927.

Julius Block was an English merchant who lived in Berlin and St. Petersburg. He purchased his recording equipment directly from Edison. Here's what the Marston email says:
Beginning in 1889, what is now recognized as one of the earliest attempts to record music, Block organized phonographic soirees, which resulted in his greatest accomplishment: documenting some of the most important artists and personalities of his time on cylinder.
My original guess in 2006 wasn't that far off, though Block wasn't Queen Victoria or the Czar:
Either it's material recorded off the air, or they're private recordings made by someone rich or famous enough to persuade important musicians to perform or record privately.
Read all about the release in today's NY Times, in an article by Daniel J. Wakin.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Don't Say 2

Times headline: Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
Those of us who didn't buy the Randite religion always knew that businesses can't be left to self-regulate. Joining Greenspan in this error is the late Milton Friedman, who insisted that businesses would not market defective products because such an action would damage their reputation. Sure, while enriching their bottom line, and that, in the end, is what businesses care about.

Your choice of reasons why intelligent people reach these ridiculous conclusions:
  • The triumph of ideology over observation
  • Naivite
  • Lies
There are thousands of counterexamples to the Friedman/Greenspan delusion about corporate behavior, and Greenspan must have spent a lot of time looking the other way to have missed noticing at least some of them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I swear I'll actually post substantively about music again, but it may take until November 5. Everyone I know is on edge and worried about a range of possibilities. I can't get any reading done, and a friend reports that she is also not finishing many books these days. Daniel Wolf blogged the other day that he is having trouble composing, and he, like me, attributes this to election nerves. I have a chorus rehearsal from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4, and last night I told the president of the board that I was good for $100 for renting a rehearsal space if we could move the rehearsal to some other day that week.

Meanwhile, over at, the Votemaster (in reality a famous computer scientist who somehow is not a colleague of mine), has a report on the dollar cost of Sarah Palin:
Politico went through the financial report the RNC just filed with the FEC and discovered that the Republican National Committee has spent $150,000 for clothes and accessories for Sarah Palin since she was tapped for the VP slot in late August. One shopping trip to Neiman Marcus cost them $75,062.63, for example. They also spent over $4700 on her hair and makeup. Remember how the Republicans howled at John Edwards $400 haircut (which included a house call by the barber)? Google for: Edwards "$400 haircut" and you'll get 27,000 hits. That was major news for a week. That aside, a far more damaging effect of this revelation is that Palin keeps saying she is just an ordinary small-town hockey mom. It is likely that if Joe-the-plumber's wife were to rack up $150,000 in clothing expenses in a single month, Joe might ask how she was planning to pay the credit card bill since the median annual salary for plumbers is $37,514. Palin is already being ridiculed all over the place, and this provides more fodder for the comics.
One hundred fifty thousand dollars? Seventy-five thousand at Neiman-Marcus alone? That's the downpayment on a house, or the house itself, in most parts of the country. It could clothe me for 50 years or so; it's a rare year when I spend as much as a grand on clothing and shoes. Yeah, I'd spend more if I worked anywhere other than the software business, but still.

More seriously, he points to political analyst Charlie Cook, who sees signs pointing to an Obama win. The Votemaster also notes that McCain appears to be having a bad effect on downticket Republicans.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Family Values

Another reason I'm proud to vote for him: Barak Obama is taking time from the campaign to visit his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who raised him and is now seriously ill. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fallout, Part 2

Three years ago, I collected links to reviews of the world premiere of Doctor Atomic. It's time for a second round, now that the piece has reached New York.

Midnight Madness of the Political Kind

You have until midnight tonight to register to vote in California. If you're in Alameda County, you can go to 1225 Fallon Street in Oakland, at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, which is holding special hours from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Three Cheers

Early-morning conversation chez nous:

"That copy of The Conscience of a Liberal is more valuable than it was yesterday."

"Why's that?"

"Because it was signed by a Nobel laureate."

I slept badly last night - no, wait, I slept fine until I popped awake around 3:30 or so. Around 4:30 or 5 I was looking over the Times web site when the headline Krugman Wins Economics Nobel caught my eye. I would have whooped madly if it hadn't been so early.

Krugman is among the best political columnists out there: passionate, liberal, lucid, smart, able to explain complicated economic concepts to people like you and me. He has also done important work in economics; this wasn't the first big prize he'd won.

Congratulations from here, and keep up the good work.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Americans in Rome

Bridge Records has what looks like a fascinating new release, a four-CD collection of music written by composers who were fellows of the American Academy in Rome. The works on this recording cover the period from 1920 to 2003, so you can imagine the diversity of styles. There's a 64-page booklet that includes all texts set by the composers. 

My only beef is the tiny number of women represented, which, judging by the completely unambiguous names, is one, Tamar Diesendruck, and might be as high as three.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Explorations of Music

Lazy posting: a chunk of information from email sent by San Francisco Performances. But try to catch some of these broadcasts, because the Alexander series is classical programming at its best and most imaginative.

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Performances’ collaboration with KALW (91.7 FM) continues beginning October 6 when the radio station begins a third season of "Explorations in Music," broadcasts of SFP’s Saturday Morning Series featuring resident artists the Alexander String Quartet and lecturer Bob Greenberg. As a bonus, the station will also air recordings of two SFP concerts last May with pianist Garrick Ohlsson and Greenberg exploring Russian piano music.

This season’s two-hour long broadcasts, which air at 9 p.m. Monday nights from October 6 through November 17, feature last season’s “Inspirations” Series in which Greenberg and the Alexander Quartet explore the connections between contemporary composers and classic string quartet repertoire. Broadcasts of the Ohlsson/Greenberg concerts will be the final two installments of the seven-part radio series.

In addition to tuning in to KALW at 91.7 FM, the broadcasts can be live-streamed at Here is the complete schedule of the programs, which will once again be introduced by radio host Alan Farley:

-- October 6: Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet paired with Lou Harrison’s “Quartet Set”

-- October 13: Joseph Haydn’s “String Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No. 1” and Elliott Carter’s “String Quartet No. 2”

-- October 20: Béla Bartók’s “String Quartet No. 1” and Robert Greenberg’s “String Quartet No. 3 ‘Among Friends (for the Alexander String Quartet)’”

-- October 27: Bartók’s “String Quartet No. 5” and Wayne Peterson’s “String Quartet No. 2”

-- November 3: Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden” and George Crumb’s “Black Angels (Images I) for electric string quartet”

-- November 10: Garrick Ohlsson and Robert Greenberg: “The Russian Piano: Rachmanioff and Scriabin”

-- November 17: Ohlsson and Greenberg: “The Russian Piano: Prokofiev and Scriabin”

In January, the Alexander Quartet and Greenberg will begin a new Saturday Morning Series at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco featuring works by Felix Mendelssohn, in honor of the 200th anniversary of his birth. That series of five concerts begins on January 17, 2009 with the remarkable Octet for Strings, followed by performances on January 31, February 14, March 14 and April 11.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Some of you know that I'm a technical writer. I'm on the mailing list of my local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication - never mind that I don't belong to the STC these days, have quit a few years back after being driven mad by extremely unprofessional communications from them.

One example: The organization set up a bunch of mailing lists for particular interests, then didn't bother to train the moderators in how to run an Internet mailing list, how to handle the mailing list members, etc.

I remember seeing email in all capital letters. C'mon: if you're a technical writer, you should know where the caps lock key is.

I remember seeing email asking how to unsubscribe; the mailing lists were set up using listserv, and each email had a footer giving the basic commands for subscribe/unsubscribe. C'mon: if you're a technical writer, you should know how to RTFM. (Even if you don't know those listserv commands by heart, which I do.)

I remember seeing email asking why the user was receiving email from the list. C'mon: you asked to be subscribed.

At least, I did. But I got off that mailing list fast, because neither the users nor the moderator knew what they were doing, a very bad sign among ostensible technical writers, who should have known the etiquette and use of Internet mailing lists by, oh, 2000 or 2001, when all of this happened.

Anyway, today's email from the local STC chapter pointed to the chapter newsletter, which is on their web site.

I took a look. You could say I have a few beefs with what I found.
  • The newsletter is posted as a PDF, a notably unfriendly format on the Web.
  • I'm just guessing that the newsletter is published with FrameMaker, the technical writer's best friend. You can create HTML with FrameMaker, using a program called WebWorks. For that matter, you can create HTML with Word (crappy though the HTML will be) and with Arbortext Epic. Or someone the STC might know Dreamweaver.
  • There's an article in the newsletter on web usability! I had to laugh, considering the PDF.
  • Apparently it is the most recent article in a series, but you can only tell by reading the article. It's not labeled 3 of 5 or Part III.
  • The capitalization of that article's title is eccentric: "Web usability" is on one line, "How Not To Do It" is on the next. There is no style guide in the world that recommends capitalizing "to" in a header, or putting half a title in sentence case and the other in title case. (Shoot me now: I hate sentence case in headers.)
  • There are lots of URLs in that article. None of them are live. PEOPLE! You can put live URLs in a PDF!! Don't you know anything about Acrobat???
  • Oh, wait! They ARE live links. It's just that they're the same color as the running text, so you have to guess that they're live.
On the positive side, the article does point to one hilariously bad web site, about which the author says "If I wanted to play Myst...."

Oh, C'mon

The really obscene moment in Salome is when she's making love to the decapitated head of John the Baptist, not the Dance of the Seven Veils, even when the soprano gets naked.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dear Publicists:

A couple of weeks back, I put up a posting that corrected a previous, erroneous posting about a fine Bay Area organization. Within the last hour, someone who will go nameless wrote a comment to that posting, reading as follows:

Have you ever heard of classical [instrument deleted] [musician's name deleted]? He's a brilliant artist. If you aren't familiar with who he is, he has this organization: [deleted] that donates music lessons and instruments to kids in need. He also plays around New York City... I found his schedule online.

I can get more information on him if you are interested. Oh! I almost forgot, I also found out that he has these [recently organized salons] where you can actually go over to his place and listen to a bunch of people try out their piano music ( singing, violin, etc) on one other.

This is obvious spam. It had nothing to do with the original posting. I also hate the fake tone. I therefore deleted it.

If you'd like me to know about an artist you represent in some way, as agent or publicist, please send me email. I read the email I receive; I sometimes respond by email or put something on this blog. (My thanks to those of you who email me press releases and other info; I appreciate it.)

Do not post random comments on my blog. They are rude, and they're evidence that you're not bothering to read me or see if the comment is in any way relevant to my blog posting. Worst of all, they don't do the artists you're promoting any good at all, because they piss me off. I will delete such spam comments immediately.