Legacy Problems

My parents did a lot of stuff. They’re gone now, but some of the stuff lingers on. I have 20 large paintings that my father did — a few from the ’50s, most from the ’70s. That’s only a fraction of his output. Today I was looking at photos of him at work in his studio in about 1975. Interesting work hangs in the background of the photos. Most of it is gone now. Some of it may have sold; a lot of it is just plain gone.

I live in a 4-bedroom house, but even so, I have wall space for only a dozen of the paintings. And a dozen is too many. The house is jammed with paintings. In order to make the house more livable, I’m going to have to take some of them down and store them.

For years after my father died, my mother kept paintings in a big storage rack in the garage. Over the years, things happened to some of them. There was damage from cat urine, in some cases. The damaged canvases are gone now, either sold in the estate sale or, in a few cases, simply tossed in the dumpster.

I’m not going to store the ones that remain in the garage. Even though I don’t have cats. I can stack them in the middle bedroom. Hang five or six and rotate them every six months.

I could fill every wall in the house with family photographs if I wanted to. I don’t want to, but damn, I’ve got hundreds of good ones. Going back to around 1880.

Looming behind this little logistical logjam, though, is something deeper. A sadness about the meaning of a life. My parents were intensely involved with life — a fact that I sort of missed at the time, or took for granted. What I have now is Read more

Reality? Irrelevant.

Pardon me while I fumble around a little. I’m trying to understand something that is fundamentally at odds with anything that I would normally concede as being possible. I may have to toss out a few untested hypotheses.

I’d certainly be happier if Rick Santorum were just “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato,” as Dickens put it. If there were “more of gravy than of grave” about him, it would be a cause for celebration. But alas.

I’m contemplating three or four bits of indigestible Santorum at the moment. In a 2008 public appearance, he asserted that Satan is attacking America. He is on the record as claiming that climate change is a hoax, a position in which he is supported and encouraged by quite a number of other highly visible opinion-makers.¬†According to a well-researched opinion piece by college president Brian Rosenberg in Huffington Post, Santorum wants to see fewer young people going to college, because colleges are “indoctrination mills”; in Santorum’s view, “The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.” The very act of educating young people is, in his view, dangerous. As if that weren’t enough, Santorum has stated in public (and quite erroneously) that forced euthanasia is practiced in the Netherlands.

We pause now for context: In the Republican debate this week, Newt Gingrich accused Barack Obama of infanticide. On what grounds? Who knows? Are rational grounds even needed any longer?

There’s no shortage of news items along these lines. I could go on for days. And that fact leads to the question I want to look at tonight: What’s going on here? How is it possible that a leading contender for the office of President of the United States can Read more

Concerning Stuff

Pardon me while I whine for a minute. I’m having a luxury problem here, and it’s driving me bats.

I live in a four-bedroom house. Just me, no inconvenient family underfoot. But yet, I don’t have enough room for my stuff. This has nothing to do with absolute cubic footage. I don’t have that much stuff. It’s a question of utility. How do I arrange my stuff in such a way that it makes sense?

I have, to begin with, a fairly large collection of books. Most of them I will never read again — but I went through them about five years ago and got rid of quite a lot. I don’t feel good about getting rid of any more. But they’re of no value if they’re boxed up and relegated to the garage. They need to be on bookshelves, with the spines displayed in the usual way, in case I have a random impulse to read one.

CDs and LPs, ditto.

Then there are the paintings. I have too many of my father’s paintings, which are inconveniently large and take up a lot of wall space. Fifteen of them are hanging on the walls, along with four of my mother’s (blessedly smaller) pastels. I don’t actually need to be staring at the paintings, but if I put them in storage, nobody will ever see them again, and that’s a very sad thing. The linen closets in the hall are packed with smaller art work that I don’t have space to hang.

I have both a living room and a family room — but strangely enough, I have neither a living room nor a family room. I have, in other words, no “social space” where people could sit around and talk if I invited a few friends over, or maybe watch a movie together. The living room is my cello teaching studio, and also houses my six-foot grand piano. (A grand piano? See, I told you it was a luxury problem.) Add a couple of bookshelves for sheet music and the couch for parents and family to sit on during the lesson, and the room is full.

The family room is larger, but it’s my electronic music studio. Here are set up my computer, a synthesizer keyboard, speakers, shelves for the aforementioned LPs, and so on. Plus, one wall is dominated by the fireplace and another by the sliding door to the back yard. The family room does have a couch and an easy chair, but the couch is in an awkward place. If I had a TV (there’s a natural place for it in the corner beside the sliding door), the couch would not be facing it. Very bad.

I could move the computer studio into the back bedroom, but it would be too cramped for me to also set up my electric cello in order to record music into the computer and play along with it. There isn’t even room for the electric cello setup in the family room unless I get rid of the awkwardly positioned couch. But where else can I put the couch? In a back bedroom, where nobody will ever sit on it? What kind of sense would that make? In the dining room???

I would like to buy a large-format printer, so that I can print orchestra cello parts that are large enough for me to read easily at rehearsals and concerts with my not-so-great eyesight. I can’t even figure out how to come up with one extra square foot for that. I would need a larger table … and where would I put it? In front of the fireplace?

I can’t get at half of the LPs, because they’re on shelves that are tucked away behind other furniture. Not that I listen to a lot of LPs, but once in a while, you know? Maybe I have this Jefferson Airplane-shaped impulse, but it’s way too much trouble to drag the easy chair out into the middle of the room to get at that particular LP shelf.

This is not a post with a snappy ending sentence. There’s no snappy ending in sight.


Among the news flashes this morning, I read a report that the Heartland Institute, a Libertarian-leaning think tank in Chicago, is funding the development of a K-12 “science” curriculum that will tout the non-existent “controversy” over global warming. The Heartland Institute, according to this article, is funded by biggies like AT&T and Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Jon Carroll’s column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle discusses the End Agenda 21 movement. Agenda 21 is a United Nations white paper (that is, it’s not even a policy statement, it’s just a set of recommendations) on ways to promote sustainable growth. That is to say, attempting to curb the more disastrous of human enterprises so that our great-grandchildren may perhaps have something to eat besides sand and toxic waste. There are apparently people in the United States who feel that Agenda 21 is a vile encroachment on their individual freedoms.

What’s going on here? How can so many people be so disastrously and willfully wrong-headed? How can they be so evil?

I can see several contributing causes. Wrap them all up in a ball together, and the prospects are truly frightening.

First, freedomolatry. A significant slice of the Republican electorate worships individual freedom. They don’t simply value it — they worship it. Now, I value freedom too. I also value Read more

Workflow in a DAW

I have too much music software. The good part about this is, when I think about how I might want to write and record a piece of music, I can contemplate various options in detailed ways.

At present, my main DAW (digital audio workstation — terrible acronym, but we’re stuck with it) is FL Studio 10. It’s an amazing program. Last month, though, I wrote a review of Reason 6 for Keyboard.¬†I’m also working on a new text adventure game that will have my own music as a soundtrack, so I decided to do the music in Reason.

Each program has strengths and limitations. Reason is thoroughly annoying in that it won’t host 3rd-party plug-ins. Also, it has no MIDI output, so you can’t sequence hardware synthesizers as part of a Reason production.

In spite of these issues, I think I may want to use Reason for a larger project this summer. For two main reasons. First, Read more

Ripped from the Headlines

Sometimes … well, fairly often … I despair of the world I live in. Sometimes I get mad.

Today’s bulletins included a story about a Tennessee legislator who defended low pay for teachers on the grounds that teaching is a “calling,” so we wouldn’t want people going into teaching for the wrong reasons (i.e., because of the pay), and then, in the next breath, defended giving legislators a raise on the grounds that it was important for them to be able to resist corruption.

Then there was the cute little graphic someone put up on Facebook showing the states in the U.S. where you can be fired from a job simply for being gay. More than half of the states.

I have not researched either of these stories in detail. Either of them could be fabricated. But even if they’re inaccurate in their details, they certainly illustrate what’s really going on in the world.

I watched a clip in which the head of Susan Komen for the Cure defended, or attempted to defend, her organization against the outrage over their de-funding of Planned Parenthood. She claimed, with a straight face, that they’re not de-funding Planned Parenthood, but she did it in a way that included careful phrasing. The MSNBC interviewer failed to ask Read more

Baby, Look at You Now…

I’ve tended to ignore the ongoing assaults on women’s reproductive rights. As abhorrent as these efforts are, they haven’t moved me to take action. (But then, very little does.)

Today’s bulletin about how the breast cancer people (“Susan G. Komen for the Cure”) are going to stop funding the breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood got to me, though. I got into a sort of mud-slinging match with an anti-abortion idiot on Facebook, and my blood is still boiling.

What bugs me most, I think, is the fact that this “debate” (and I use the quotation marks advisedly) isn’t really about saving the lives of unborn children. That’s a smoke screen. It’s a lie. The real, unadmitted agenda of the anti-abortion knuckle-draggers is that they want men to have control over women’s bodies. Women exist, in these morons’ view, strictly as incubators and infant-feeders whose lives are to be governed by men. The fact that the anti-abortion forces are drawn overwhelmingly from conservative religious denominations makes this pretty obvious.

And no, I’m not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Here’s why: Russian orphanages. In Russia and other parts of the former Soviet bloc, there are thousands of unwanted babies languishing in orphanages. These children suffer horrendous Read more