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bubble universe

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A bubble would be nice, don’t you think?

With the current flu epidemic, it would be really nice. I could wrap myself up, knowing I’d be safe from airborne microbes just waiting to invade my throat and lungs, and venture out into the world without a care.

Of course, the bubble would have to be flexible, so that I could maneuver comfortably, and sheathe my fingers while still allowing them to pick the best fruits and vegetables from the bins. And the best bubbles would be heated, and have smart phone technology built in….

Or, maybe that’s asking too much.

~~~

In the past couple of days, I’ve been hearing this repeatedly:  “We can’t know what’s in his heart.”

Really?

It’s not difficult to know what’s in someone’s heart.

For example:

If you receive a letter of introduction from a large company saying they have acquired the company where you work, and want to assure a smooth transition, but also want you to reapply for your job, can you know what’s in your new employers’ hearts regarding your job security?

If your teachers say they do not accept late papers, can you know what’s in their hearts when they scowl and refuse to take the late papers you offer?

And if an acquaintance says she doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, then hangs up on you if you call, can you know how she feels about you?

~~~

It doesn’t take much to know what’s in people’s hearts when they demonstrate it through word and deed.

Think of it as an equation:  LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

So:

—new bosses wanting smooth transition + required job reapplication = they’re not keeping everyone;

—no late paper policy + glowering while refusing a late paper = disdain for students who think they’re above the rules;

and

—saying “Don’t call me” + hanging up = “I don’t want you in my life. Go away.”

~~~

It feels so straightforward —

LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

— that one would have to be living in some kind of grotesque bubble to continue rationalizing away what is so patently clear, asserting what is contrary to the facts when doing so offers no convenience, no protection, no security.

It boggles….

…unless the alternate world within that bubble is preferable to facing the truth outside it, or the inhabitant feels more at home inside all that ugliness.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Imperfect Stitch

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There is an error in Shadows and Ghosts.

During occasional battles with an ongoing obsession over symmetry and accuracy, I’ve considered correcting it…but only momentarily.

~~~

In 1975, Leon Redbone released his album, On the Track, which contains a rendition Of “Ain’t Misbehavin” (lyrics by Andy Razaf and music by Thomas “Fats” Waller and Harry Brooks).

Redbone’s interpretation is slightly off-kilter: the intonation struggles in places, and there are extra beats sprinkled throughout. But I love it. Its off-balance rhythmic irregularities, the nasal grit in Redbone’s voice, the imperfect instrumental tones and pitches feel fresh and authentic.  They transform a great song into a greater one.

~~~

My mother was a perfectionist. Today we would likely say her attention to detail was compulsive. But that compulsiveness got her far, made her successful at everything she did. Although I’ve spent most of life as an unapologetic underachiever, I have no doubt that some of her “perfectionism” rubbed off on me. You can’t spend hours practicing scales and arpeggios, isolated musical passages over and over without being at least a little compulsive. It’s the only way to train the brain, develop fine motor skills, make the muscles remember.

But it’s not always enough.

Along with compulsive tendencies, creation demands an oblique and often fractured perspective, a willingness to look at subject matter, construction, sideways and through a prism.

~~~

When I think of the thousands of books I’ve read, pieces of music I’ve played, I realize most of them contained errors and/or irregularities, some degree of strangeness in small or large ways that established the works as fresh and unique, that transformed and elevated them.

So I keep my error in place, because in important ways, it acts as a type of cipher.  And to reinforce its importance, I put a prism in plain view.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

pəʊ-teɪ-təʊ, pəʊ-tɑ-təʊ

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Opinions. We all have them.

In the absence of empirical truth, we generally feel comfortable with our opinions, and feel justified in expressing them.

I’m no exception. I can think of a handful of writers, all of whom are regarded as masters of their craft, whose work leaves me cold. Similarly, there are dozens of musical pieces, all standards in the classical repertoire, which make me want to scream, “Make it stop! Make it stop!” As for film, there are those directors whose aesthetic completely escapes me. I’ve sat through every new, critically acclaimed release of theirs ready to give them a fair viewing, only to come away with exactly the same reaction: “Why?” And do I even need to get into art? Please.

The reality is, some creative work will always resonate, trigger the viscerally positive reaction we crave, often for reasons we might never completely understand, and some will not. We will always love some works, yet not others. In fact, there might be those we will hate….

~~~

Months ago, I happened to mention a book I loved to a fellow bibliophile. He made a face, then proceeded to give it a critical shredding (some of which rested on a distaste for the characters), which left me feeling like a complete imbecile. Correction: an imbecile with no taste.  I shouldn’t have felt insulted, but I did.

Some time before that, I became engaged in a discussion with a young woman about a particular director’s work. Every time I began to explain why I disliked the films, she interrupted, enumerating all the ways my opinion was wrong. As her argument heated, I understood it was more than a defense of the director’s work; it was an attempt to defend herself.

At that point, I stopped her, “Look. I’m not claiming the work has no artistic value, no worth. I’m just telling you it’s not for me.”

“Oh,” she looked at me, a bit startled. “Then it’s just an opinion.”

I said, “Exactly.”

And she smiled, “I guess that’s okay then.”

~~~

I’m always a bit amazed (although I shouldn’t be at my age) by how fragile our egos can be, how heavily invested they are in our critical faculties, and how easily they can be bruised. I suppose the more literate and educated we are, the more we pride ourselves in being able to view creative work objectively, and distinguish what is brilliant from what is commonplace.

But can we truly divorce ourselves from our tastes?

I still recall a conversation with a well-known conductor after another conductor’s performance of a Wagner Prelude. When he asked me what I thought, I said, “Not much.”

He then wanted to know if my opinion of the music was influenced by Wagner’s politics—a natural question, since both of us are Jewish.

I shook my head, saying, “No. It’s his endless sequences. They bore me to tears.”

He nodded, and with a wink said, “I know what you mean. The only way to conduct Wagner is to the end of the piece. You can’t take your time.”

We both laughed, but I couldn’t help but wonder if a better paced interpretation would have made me like the music better. I tend to doubt it.

Sometimes opinions on writing, film, art, and music are not apt to be changed. We often hold fast to our tastes, what pleases, what displeases, and use our training to analyze the reasons for them.

~~~

I was going to say it would be nice if we could view differences in artistic taste with the same detachment as we view differences in culinary taste; but then I’m suddenly reminded of a recent disagreement I had with an acquaintance over oysters.

No detachment there. When I said I couldn’t stand them, she went into a tirade.

That’s when I walked away.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

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