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· Soul Music of the Night ·

I'm sorry if recently I've been a Phantom here. Up with paper grading and down with some necessary spam control, I've neglected posting, though I have not been totally styleless. In two weeks I have improved my time by haunting theaters and listening, both high and low, to some near Soul Music of the Night.

Just two weeks ago now, I heard the classical pianist Vassilis Varvaresos at Olympia's Washington Center, in a concert featuring Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Rachmaninoff's The Corelli Variations, Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Liszt's Hungarian Rapsody No. 1. Should you think I'd somehow not quite heard soul music, maybe recalling my own Sweet Sound of Silence, that would be untrue, since I've heard darker, soulful sounds, too.

Take last Saturday night. I saw the new Taylor-Hackford film Ray, the Hollywood bio-pic about Ray Charles's satisfying "all night long." Recall, perhaps,

Well, tell me what'd I say, yeah
   Tell me what'd I say right now
   Tell me what'd I say . . .

Well, "it doesn't get much better than that now," does it? — unless, say, you'd heard Bob Milne (just days before) bring down the house. For Bob can get low-down and high-flown, too, and when I heard him in a concert of stride, boogie, barrelhouse, and ragtime, I knew in my heart of hearts that, even here, Bob Milne's deft left hand also prolongs the pleasure.

But midway in Milne's performance, when he started talking about a player named "Blind" Boone, whose long career included having a standing bet of nearly forty years — playing six nights a week, ten months a year — that nothing high or low was really beyond him, classical or modern (and Boone never once lost!) — well, I thought you should meet him.

So, everyone, imagine Franz, Maurice, Sergei, Ludwig, and Ray — all looking up now to John William "Blind" Boone.

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· Blue Eggs and Spam ·

My theme today is reading. It's naturally elementary — Dr. Seuss style — with a dash of rhetorical bitters added to my final result. "So what's new?" you might ask. Just that I'm in a blue funk about recent comment spam here.

Beyond my autumn paper grading (sadly occupying this last week), I've been fighting on the front lines of some intriguing political warfare. Consider how on the day after posting My New England Patriotism: Red Green Style, I received a thousand-plus spam messages. After two hours scrubbing their blue filth out, I found one of at least amusing, ironically geeky significance:

Lesser-Known Programming Languages #2: RENE

Named after the famous French philosopher and mathematician Rene DesCartes, RENE is a language used for artificial intelligence. The language is being developed at the Chicago Center of Machine Politics and Programming under a grant from the Jane Byrne Victory Fund. A spokesman described the language as Just as great as dis [sic] city of ours.

The center is very pleased with progress to date. They say they have almost succeeded in getting a VAX to think. However, sources inside the organization say that each time the machine fails to think it ceases to exist.

Naturally, I was amused by the clear, distinct style, but when scores more messages appeared later, I had had enough: I simply closed comments on old posts, but with RENE then acknowledging my latest move:

How doth the VAX's C compiler
Improve its object code.
And even as we speak does it
Increase the system load.

How patiently it seems to run
And spit out error flags,
While users, with frustration, all
Tear their clothes to rags.

That seemed the last word. But had not my site then been hacked Wednesday — breifly shutting it down — I'd not have another. All I can think now is that RENE is (if you'll pardon my French) just some impatient, blue-talking, ruddy political S/he/it.

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· De-Voted to Thoreau ·

I'm heeding Senator Kerry's call that we all come together. His defeat, if a disappointment yesterday, marks a wider victory for the happy resilience of American political democracy. In conceding the election, Kerry noted correctly "the danger of division in our country and the need — the desperate need for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together." In doing so, he marks our traditional line of duty in American politics — to speak up and, next morning, to get up and then go duly about our business.

But lest we think our business is nothing more — always after merely counting up votes — I thought to cite someone who knew otherwise. It is Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience. As the great issue of his day was slavery, just as the fight between liberty and security is of ours — and of defending one against the other — Thoreau caught perfectly the difficulty of a more genuine, authentic suffrage in America.

Here's a passage prompting the main claim from Thoreau's introduction:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote.

You can hear in that passage the stylish, authentic voice of someone who cared much about the fate of his country. That Thoreau didn't vote is, from my point of view, a clear failure, but that he knew voting was not the sole duty of American politics is quite refreshing.

 · Right, Left, and Center · Oh, in the clear interest of unity yesterday, I decided to make a "favicon.ico." Bookmark YGS and you may see it (Right, Left, and Center) as · You Got Style ·  Do carry on!

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