An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Tafelmusik is a look askance at life. It is a chronicle of the Dance of the Good Thing, a part in which I strive always to take. Here lie my musings, my thoughts, my beliefs, and my desires. Join me. Dance.

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson

The most mind-altering thing about this book is its catalogue record. At least, it's the first thing I noticed when looking for The Men Who Stare at Goats after having it recommended to me.

After talking with a friend, I was told, "If you like all those crazy Cold War spy novels, you'll love it!" Never one to turn down a book recommendation from a fellow addict, I wrote it down and forgot about it. Next time I was at the library, I pulled out The List, re-noticed it, and looked it up.

As I said, the first think I noticed about it was its catalogue record. Specifically, the line that said, "355.3RON; 1 copy; Fiction Book; in Fiction books".

As an astute student, no doubt, of the Dewey Decimal System, you'll probably note an inconsistency right away. See, the 300s are Social Sciences, not Fiction (800s). 355.3, specifically, concerns the "Organization and personnel of military forces".

Of course, even though they'd given it the wrong call number, at least it was part of the fiction collection, so I should be able to find it by last name in the stacks.

No luck.

On a lark, I decided to see if they'd mishelved it amongst the militaria anyway (which would've been immensely amusing — if you know anything about the book, you know it's about "telekinetic special ops" and "psychic spies"); and of course (since you know I did eventually find it) they did. I discussed my amusement about this shelving mistake with the librarian as I checked out.

See, before I go on, you should know that military fiction is a genre with a fastidious readership: their particularity for authenticity and realism is really surpassed only by the "serious historical fiction" and the "hard science fiction" readers. No author knowing the "reality" demands of the military-fiction audience would write anything as crazy as Uri Geller being hired as a psychic spy for a top-secret project inspired by hippies. No author wanting to sell his books to the savvy and shrewd military-history buffs consuming his particular subgenre would dare go so far as to expect his reader to swallow the training of special-ops in Zen-like meditation practices so they could stare at, and will to death, the eponymous goats. And a general who believed he just needed to concentrate a little harder to walk through his office wall would be a character for a comedy author — not a well-researched and serious military-fictioneer. Such an author would be accused roundly of not doing his research, writing sci-fi under the guise of military fiction, and making a mockery of the genre.

So the only way this book got written was by being true.

The mind-altering thing about its catalog record? The call number is correct.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Review: Augusta Symphony "Masterworks", with Leonard Rowe

Leonard Rowe, baritone, as Porgy in the New York City Opera's 2002 'Porgy and Bess'

Saturday, October 11th, 2008 opened the Augusta Symphony's 2008 season.I'll not go into much depth about the performance of the symphony per se: they were good, but not at the top of their game, in part due to the fact that they were working with a guest conductor — Susan Haig — candidating to take over as Donald Portnoy retires.

The soloist, however, was incredible. Leonard Rowe, a young baritone, took on the well-known and much-butchered "Prologue" from I Pagliacci as his opening number. I was worried that the generally-staid ASO venue would result in a "straight" performance of the piece; my worries were unfounded, though, as the stage-right house door opened and Mr. Rowe's head poked out to see the audience. From this auspicious beginning, his rendition of the "Prologue" far outshone the majority of its performances.

His next piece was "Non piu andrai" from Le Nozze di Figaro. Again, a fairly standard piece (Augusta audiences seem to expect most concerts to be made up of "fairly standard pieces"), but a good one; and again, he did very well by it.

His coup de grâce thus far, though, was "Cortigiani" (Rigoletto). A full operatic performance — sans only period costume — made him an incredibly believable Rigoletto. Yes, it was still the middle of the concert, but this piece deserved the standing ovation it drew from the crowd.

I feel I've not done the previous pieces justice in my brief descriptions. I can only excuse myself by saying "the best is yet to come". Rarely (if ever) have I heard a concert where the encore blew the entirety of the show completely out of the water.


Augusta crowds give standing ovations for nearly every performance. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a show here — from either side of the footlights — that didn't receive one. When the orchestra finished their final number, the crowd (perhaps bowing to ideas of Southern gentility and politesse) rose. I and most of the people I was with did not. Their performance was good, but that was it.

I kept watching that stage-right door.

Finally, I was rewarded. Ms. Haig exited, and re-entered, followed shortly by Mr. Rowe.

I stood. Everyone I could see that had not been standing for the orchestra was driven to their feet for Mr. Rowe.

He spoke something to Ms. Haig, and somehow she managed to quiet the applause with promise of an encore.

And the orchestra began with the opening chords of "Old Man River".

I don't know that I can explain his performance, but for two things. First, the entire audience was transfixed, and fully invested in the music to a degree they hadn't been the rest of the evening. Second, if I were to see a poster reading, "Leonard Rowe performs 'Old Man River', tickets $25", I would pay, and I would go.

It was worth the price of admission all on its own.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Abortion Non-Issue

If you plan to vote for a major-party presidential candidate in the upcoming election, abortion is a non-issue.

I'm a member, generally, of what the press condescendingly refers to as the "values voter republican base". It the (albeit few) years I've been able to vote, I've only once not voted Republican, and that was for a state office (I voted Libertarian, by the way, not Democrat, so don't start getting ideas).

I believe that public policy is "values", and thus values are the only reasonable basis for a vote. Some of the values I've voted on are educational freedom, civil liberties, the right to life, and respect for the Constitution. The right to life, particularly, has been a bellwether issue: I've never voted for a pro-abortion candidate.

There are currently two presidential nominees that have any chance whatsoever of taking office: Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama is very outspoken in his pro-abortion stance, which has led most of my fellow "values voters" to assume what the Republican party is desperately attempting to promulgate: that McCain is in some sense anti-abortion.

Don't you believe it.

1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle

But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

May 3, 2007 GOP Presidential Debate

I believe that we need to fund [embryonic stem cell research].

Those are just two of many public demonstrations of McCain's true stance on abortion: I'll not bore you with the litany, but you will find numerous examples in three or four pages of search engine hits.

Honestly, he and Obama probably agree quite a bit on most of the "values" questions: as demagogues, they probably don't hold a personal conviction either way, and simply take the public stance they feel will garner them the most votes. Anyone who can believe

If you're voting for a major-party ticket in the upcoming presidential election, you're in luck. Abortion is a non-issue. Neither candidate is pro-life, so you can scratch one more issue from your list of "important considerations".

Me? I have a candidate in mind who's on my side as far as the abortion issue goes, among agreeing with me on the vast majority of other issues.

Yes, I realize you think I'm throwing my vote away. You may even think I'm de facto supporting Obama by not supporting his ostensible rival. Don't you see, though, that, far from Republican and Democrat being the two votes available, "major-party" and "third-party" are really what's at issue.

If my vote for a third-party candidate can convince anyone else to vote by conscience rather than by some imagined expediency, it will have done more good for our country than thousands of votes for either major-party candidate. I'm young, yes. But even I've been able to catch on to the Washington tag-team game, each party playing paper tiger for the other while taking its turn in power, entirely solidifying support for major-party politics whatever happens.

I'm not convinced.

I know better.

I'm voting Barr.

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