Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celebrity deaths, nostalgia, fallacious reasoning

The old folk saying about “it happens in threes” often gets applied to celebrity deaths. Well, today it’s true. After Ed McMahon’s death earlier this week, then Farah Fawcett’s expected passing
and Michael Jackson’s surprise death is the third.

All three mean something.

First, with Farrah, I’m the right age that she was pin-up material when I was in junior high school. And Charlie’s Angels was definitely watchable.

Michael Jackson? Thriller broke out when I was in college; that part of Jackson, before he plunged into the drained shallow end of the pool of weirdness, means nostalgia.

So, too, does Ed. Nostalgia for the “simpler time” of America, the time of my parents more than myself.

At the same time, per my own self and people like Bob Carroll at Skeptic’s Dictionary, the “this happens in threes” is nothing more than an illustration of the bulls-eye fallacy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

World’s earliest known flute found

Beyond the age a 35,000-year-old treasure, this find in Germany raises other questions of music and human development.

For example, I’ve always figured a flute of some sort was the world’s first wind instrument, and probably the world’s first tuned instrument, followed by the first oboe-like instrument when a papyrus flute, softened enough by saliva at the top, because a double-reed wind instrument.

But, there is another instrument, and other aspects to music besides pitch.

Like rhythm.

This raises the question of what the first musical instrument man invented was. Drums are still likeliest, but rocks, logs, or bones as rhythm instruments are indistinguishable from rocks, logs or bones in and of themselves.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Neither Islam NOR Xianity NOR Judaism is ‘religion of peace’

Andrew Sullivan, whose internal and geo-politics must be called neo-Sulllivan, got that one wrong in his Iran live-blogging round-up.

Point is, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, all three are neither “religions of war” or “religions of peace.”

Beyond finding admonitions to both war and peace in the Quran, we can do the same in the other two world religions.

The Tanakh has Isaiah talking about “bending swords into plowshares,” but another prophet later talks about “bending plowshares into swords.” Per a quote by Jesus, the temple is allegedly a “house for all nations,” but, earlier, King Saul is told to till all the Amalekites — men, women, children and even livestock.

In the Christian New Testament, Jesus, in one Gospel, tells Peter to put his sword away at the Garden of Gethsemane, after he cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. But, earlier in that same account, he asked his disciples how many swords they had.

Elsewhere, he tells his listeners, “I came not to bring peace but division.”

And, as Islam had its jihad, Christianity had its crusades and ancient Israel had its Ha’Aretz Yisrael.

Bottom line?

They simply are religions, the youngest of them 1,500 years old, all coming from tribalist roots whose values systems almost make Pop Evolutionary Psychology sound true.

And they, and their Kool-Aid drinkers, label them as “religions of peace” as needed for external public relations, while not-insignificant minorities in all three push the “religions of war” side externally against the other two, or internally about their own “crusades” for “religious corporate communications,” also as needed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Single gene-depression link refuted

The original 2003 study claiming a single gene had a lot of responsibility for depression has been iffy for some time, now, but further research says it definitely doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

On the “popular front” level, what does this mean?

Well, several popular Americanisms (some of them not just pop-level but held by a certain segment of scientists) get the kibosh.

1. A hypermechanistic, technological view of medicine, with quick fixes either here today or just around the corner.
2. Something that’s already been on the ropes over other issues, the one-gene, one-behavior theory, gets another good, swift kick. (That’s at the scientific as well as pop level.)
3. A simplistic view of life in general held by most Americans hand in hand with American exceptionalism. There are no easy solutions to most mental health issues, and, perhaps that’s why, in the U.S., depression is on the rise.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Very inspiring classical music news

In very inspiring news from the classical music world, a blind pianist has, for the first time ever, a blind pianist has won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, arguably the world's top such event.

That said, contrary to WRR-FM blogger and former Fort Worth Star-Telegram classical critic Matt Erickson, Dallas Morning News classical critic Scott Cantrell has, for the first time ever, “lost” me, claiming co-winner Nobuyuki Tsujii might not have won if he weren’t blind.

But, the Cliburn is about potential, too, as the judges see that, and Scott knows that. And, novelty, as Scott put it, may play to the good in the long run.

That all said, co-winner Haochen Zhang of China is clearly the real deal.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Monday, June 01, 2009


Near sunset, during a walk,
The summer-ripened oak trees stood tall and proud,
And golden at top, like mountains
Bathed in end-of-day alpenglow.
No montane heights in flatland Texas
But those in the recesses of memory,
As the sight of warm-glowing treetops
Brought to mind images of Montana and Alberta
Vacation memories of glacial-carved peaks
Embracing, caressing, the near-twilight summer aura
As another long, well-laden day
Faded golden, then orange, then salmon.
Then back to today’s Texas oaken-glow,
As reverie faded to reality
And I focused on a walk
With an alpen-spring in my steps.

– May 31, 2009