Cello is my medicine.

September 8, 2009 - 2 Responses

Cello has become my medicine; I went through my toughest breakup three months ago, which was completely my fault. Mistakes I’ll regret for the rest of my life, probably, but nonetheless life moves on and I can’t just sit in place and bemoan my loss. What I’ve found in the last three months is that, my thoughts and emotions get in the way of each other and make me say, do things that I don’t mean and wish I could take back.

In the same three months I’ve discovered incredible growth in my musical ability. I’m principal of my orchestra, I’m an upper divisional player now, and I’m experiencing musicality and my work is being complimented by the toughest of the Russian faculty. These two events are not mutually exclusive.

I’ve found that, like I said previously, my thoughts and emotions get in the way of each other. I’ll sit in my room, I’ll finish a game of starcraft, do whatever it is I’m doing, but when I’ve got nothing to do, my thoughts go to her and to my emotions, to the heartbreak I’ve experienced and every reason I have to hate what I went through. This was incredibly unproductive, detrimental to my emotional health.

I didn’t realize that I could be channelling this into my playing. Now forget what you just assumed, that my emotions would come out through the cello and I’d be removed from them, because I don’t consciously let the emotions affect my playing. Instead, I practice.

I try to practice four hours at a time with lots of one minute breaks. Two hours of that four are spent working on a technical goal, working on learning and perfecting a piece of music and learning musicality and color and tone and experimenting with the beautiful instrument. This is the source of my progress, pure time spent on the instrument learning what to do with it.

The other two hours I let my brain relax. I play through music, over and over, passages that I love to play. While I’m doing this though my mind isn’t focused on the music; it’s half-consciously letting my emotions into it, I play harder, faster, stronger, sweeter, depending on what I’m thinking about; again, none of this consciously. But what this does is, it frees up my mind to work through, consciously, the emotions and stress that I have going on in my life, I work through them, put them in their proper place, and leave my 5 by 5 cubicle room feeling very cleansed and reorganized.

Cello has become much more powerful in my life in recent months, and i’m very glad for it.

Socialism as a Biological Imperative.

February 14, 2009 - Leave a Response

There’s going to be a leap of logic in this post, comment here if you find it.

Let’s firstly define evolution. Evolution is a genetic change that would benefit the species as a whole. This occurs at least partly through natural selection. Natural selection, or at least my applicable comprehension of it, is the funny euphemism, ‘Survival of the Night,’ or that when the unchanged genetic members of the species fail and the changed genetic members succeed, the changed will eventually wholly replace the unchanged. This advancement of a species prevents extinction and asserts supremacy over other members of competing species.

For example, when crop-threatening insects are sprayed with pesticides, they are overwhelmingly killed. Some lucky few had an inherent resistance to the pesticide, and therefore survived. The next generation of insect has the gene since there were no non-resistant insects to breed with. The further generations will have this gene as well until a new pesticide is developed by our water-destroying corporate dictators with a mind for profit and nothing else, despite it’s violent destruction of our environment. Phew!

Comprende? This is child’s play compared to what Pegleghippie comes up with on a regular basis.

Now Pegleghippie will tell me that socialism isn’t the right term here. I use socialism because it came up a lot in the recent election and the people will understand it by the false moniker, ‘spreading the wealth around.’ (This is the only way John McCain has ever helped me; by providing me an example with which to explain socialism. Irony.) However, true socialism repudiates the very idea of property, that nobody should own anything, and thus property cannot be traded. This means that under socialism, the wealth can’t be spread around because personal wealth doesn’t exist. Instead we’ll use the term, welfare capitalism.

Welfare capitalism would be the same economic system we have now, but would include government work programs, progressive tax rates, and basically it’ll equalize the major gap between the upper class and the lower class. It is, as Pegleghippie describes, “a direct investment in the people’s well-being.” The education and health care systems are priority, so that all people have an equal chance to be productive members of society.

In our present society we have an underdeveloped and under educated lower class. Our disproportionately distributed wealth contributes to a poverty level that is simply unacceptable in today’s western world. We’ve all seen the shocking statistics about what small percentage owns such a huge amount of the wealth. That translates directly into lower graduation rates in a huge cross section of the american demographic. From the under-funded mega-urban areas of Washington D.C. and various metroplexes across the nation to under-funded rural towns, the quality of education is severely lacking for the wealthiest nation in the world. If we implemented welfare capitalism and brought our education and health care levels up to even par for the course, more of our lower class brains would have the opportunity to grow.

And when more brains grow, statistically, the more opportunities exist for ground breaking innovation. It’s just numbers. The more time you roll the dices, the more times you’ll score a Yahtzee! So under our current system, where such a small swath of the people are actually reaching their potential, we have less chances for bettering human kind with progress.

Let’s tie that into our biological imperative. Our world is shrinking, our population is growing, our natural resources are limited. We’ve shown no ability to conserve such things as water or natural gas. Mathematically, our chances for sustaining this rate of growth on this planet are slim to none. Nivair Gabriel over at io9 knows that we currently are incapable of interstellar travel. So, we need serious scientific advances in either conservation and creation of new sources of food and energy, or we need to colonize space.

Do you think that’s possible if we’re only using even (a gracious) 10% of our world’s minds? I don’t have faith in them. I want all of our minds to good use, and that’s why I believe that Welfare Capitalism, or what it’s opponents call socialism, is a biological imperative for human kind.

Music, a more efficient language.

February 14, 2009 - Leave a Response

Pegleghippie came to visit me for a few days after Christmas, and at lunch one day at a Sbarro’s turned mall pizza place, we began discussing the functionality of our degrees. What is the end goal of his philosophy, of his political science? What contribution do you make to society, short of ground-breaking new philosophical ideas? And as for myself, really, what does a classical musician do to change the world for the better? It’s a continuation of a dead art; musicians are taught, they play, and then they teach. It’s a self-continuing cycle. But what does it really bring to the table as far as the advancement of the human species goes?

So he posed me the interesting question I’m going to extrapolate here. What good is indoor plumbing without music? What’s the point of continuing the species if we don’t have art and music? In the very superficial sense of the question, music and art is the most enjoyable aspect of humanity, of creativity, of the theoretical soul. Some say that love is the greatest human ideal. Shakespeare asserts that music and love and sex are so intertwined… “If music be the food of love, play on” from Twelfth Night. (My girlfriend has this quote tattooed on her wrist, really quite pretty.)

I asked my good friend and violinist Matt if he wanted to play the Handel-Halvorssen Passacaglia for Violin and Cello, a really beautiful piece. In response, he asked if I was really ready to be that intimate with him. Taken aback, I thought I had encountered some homosexual tendencies in my friend, but we went on to have a conversation about the intimacy of sharing music like that… the smaller the chamber ensemble, the more intimate it becomes. Music and art are the truest forms of expression, unhindered by language and representing ideas and concepts and dreams and emotions more perfectly than words can describe.

Who hasn’t been brought to tears by Schindler’s list, or put in a dream-like reverie of childhood days by Monet’s Water-Lily Pond? I don’t speak German or French, yet I can very clearly understand the artist in both situations.

Not to say that language is a hindrance all the time… I mean that the many different languages cast upon us by the builders of Babel have hindered our ability to express ourselves across cultures. There is an art to language, and one might say that music and art are just alternative languages with which to express ourselves.

What is language, really? Symbols, sounds that are processed and recalled. Poetry and Literature are no lesser art forms than the reader.

Literature is very associative; words are associated with pictures. We learned languages by association. We were shown a horse, and told that this was a horse. Instantly our mind is associating horses with that very first picture of a horse we saw. Over time, our mind associates more pictures and experiences of horses into this word. I’m reminded of a bit of software called Photosynth by Microsoft Live Labs when I think of this. A good lecture on Photosynth can be seen here.

Music is less associative; notes can go anywhere, mean anything. Any association with music can be taken in a different direction.

To share expression like that, to be part of such a direct conversation, would indeed be a very intimate experience. Matt maintains that such a duet would have very sexual overtones.

To the point though, Music is (my) greatest expression, and the product of my life and my life’s work. But what good is indoor plumbing if not for music? What good is any profession if there were not such expression as music to enjoy and to create? Is Music then, the goal of human existence? Is it our imperative to express ourselves? If so, then music and art be the meaning of life.

There are those that will contend with me after reading this that music and art are simply enjoyments and that we pursue our careers, and that it would simply be less meaningful without music, not totally deprived of meaning. I challenge that reader to live a month without listening to or thinking about or dreaming about or passing by music or art… it’d be impossible.

I’m Out

January 22, 2009 - Leave a Response

by pegleghippie

This blog hasn’t been updated in a month, and I am heretofore committing myself to not updating it, with the exception of this post.  

What I’m saying is I’m done blogging, at least for a while.  Neither I nor Mekhami update often enough to have a normal readership, and our #1 fan,Pendel, has fallen off the face of the earth.  

I’ve been told that I’m a pretty good writer, but I want to be better, more diverse.  This blog has been great for my writing skills, as well as a place where I can organize my thoughts about any given subject, but I want to grow my writing in different ways now.  That means writing longer things, maybe some fiction things, poetry, who knows?  I just don’t want an audience just yet for the inevitable failed experiments.  

I may show up in the future, either on this blog, or on a new one.  I’ll still read blogs, and I promise my comments will be epic, they just won’t be centralized.  

All thanks and love goes to Mehkami, who started this thing, encourages me always, and has played devil’s advocate plenty of times.  Any drafts that I have I hereby give to him to do with as he wishes, and buddy, if you ever want me to edit a post or help you with an idea, of course I’ll be there for you.

The Dead Law

December 20, 2008 - 2 Responses

by pegleghippie

This isn’t going anywhere in particular, its just an interesting idea.  I worked this idea into a few government papers at the end of the semester, and I was reminded of it while reading this post by Bing, where he discusses the transient nature of language, and how writing something down ties it to an in-transient document.

Basically, the law, our written laws, are dead.  That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, however, cause they’re still there, taking up space the way a corpse takes up space.  

How is the law dead?  Well when a law is written, it is in reaction to something, some event or concern, that was necessarily raised before the law was written.  In other words, laws account for the past.   And not even the entire past, but one particular moment in the past for each particular law.  Let me simplify: when something happens that our legislators think is sufficiently important, we enshrine that moment, and our collective reaction to that moment, on paper.  

Ok, so the law isn’t forward-looking, so what?  Well look at Bing’s post again, particularly the part about transience.  The world isn’t broken up into distinct moments, time doesn’t start and stop.  Rather, things just keep going.  All the time.  Laws are one of the ways that we say, “hey, look what happened there!  Isolate that period of time.  But time keeps going anyway. So, as time keeps going, we’re left with this law on this paper, continually reminding us of a time that isn’t now.

The Law is a leftover, a “corpse,” if you will, of the past.  In this light, maybe laws aren’t the expression of morals that we often think of them as.  And if that’s the case, that means we aren’t moral people simply by following the law. Instead, being moral is something that we always have to strive for, always do better at than before.  We’re never done being ‘moral.’  

But back to the law.  Is the law a cumbersome corpse, getting in the way because it can’t be constantly ‘becoming,’ the way our lives come into being continuously?  No, instead the law is a-moral, that is, free from moral weight.  It does present moral ideas though, things that we can consider when making decisions.  All of our decisions are based on what we know of the past anyway, ignoring what we wrote down about the past doesn’t free us of that limitation.  

So the law is dead, and can’t be said to give us a moral code.  It does provide some thoughts for behavioral guidance, however.  It’s a corpse, but a very interesting corpse to examine.   And that’s it.  That’s enough continental politics for the night.  Now go out, think carefully about your ethical actions, and break any laws that you decide don’t measure up with a clear conscious.

Haven’t been writing, haven’t been passing.

December 7, 2008 - 5 Responses

I need your help, world. I need your advice. I won’t excuse my failures this semester with poor class choice, but let me outline my class schedule for you.

Music History – Early Music to 1750. (Hardest undergraduate music class offered at the school, whopping 22% pass rate.)
World Literature – Ancient Literature to Renaissance (Blended class, half online, which you think would be a boon for me but more often than not I just forget to check for my online assignments.)
Piano – (I suck at Piano.)
Cello Lessons – (Grade for this class is based on ‘jury’ performance, or a performing final, and I did miserably in front of the most intimidating music faculty I’ve ever encountered.)
Chamber Music – (I got an A! Bahaha.)
Orchestra – (I think I’ll have an A… if I turn in those concert reports.)

I failed Music History, World Literature, and Piano, got a C in cello lessons because of that god-awful jury.

Where do I go from here? I need to speak to my counselor (I guess that means I should figure out who my counselor is) to find out if I can even stay in the school!

But I need your help. I don’t know how to develop a work ethic.  I don’t know how to get off the computer, get off my girlfriend, and do my work,  to study and pass these tests, and most importantly to GO TO CLASS!

What can I do, really? I’ve never had a work ethic. But this next semester, on top of getting a job, I have to increase my practice time from the maybe 10 hours a week I had last semester to 30 hours a week. And on top of that get my work done and pass all my classes. God, wouldn’t it be fantastic if I got straight A’s?

So what are your techniques for focus, for getting thing done?

The New “New Deal”

December 6, 2008 - Leave a Response

by pegleghippie

I’d prefer the “Millennial Deal,” or “Democratic Deal,” or basically anything with a more historically-appropriate name than the elusive word “new,” but everyone you and I know are going to call this the new new deal, so i’ll just go with it for now.

What I’m talking about is this:

Obama says that he will implement a  massive public works program to fully modernize our nation’s infrastructure, both to create jobs and to become environmentally friendly.  

On top of that, there’s talk of the total spending of this depression reaching a staggering 8.5 trillion dollars.  That’s just mind boggling, but it’s also big enough to really get things moving again.  I’ll let Paul Krugman explain why this is a good idea.

So basically I’m really really fucking impressed.  Obama is doing what progressives have been saying needs to be done.  He isn’t playing politics, or “triangulating,” as the Clintons called it.  Sure we can complain that his cabinet is “too beltway,” but that’s a pretty minor complaint considering that he seems to be acting like a better-informed FDR.  In fact, that’s the only complaint that us lefties seem to have.

 Shortly before the election (and before the financial meltdown), I wrote that, based on where our country was, there was nothing significant that Obama had proposed that I myself wouldn’t do.  It turns out that my assessment was more true than I thought, because I wasn’t expecting this crisis, or this type of direction out of the crisis.  A new New Deal is what we’ve been waiting for, and, amazingly, it seems that that’s what we’re getting. 

Just goes to show, absolutely anything is possible in politics, so dream big.

Venting about Humanity

November 24, 2008 - Leave a Response

by pegleghippie

*sigh*

This semester has done a lot to make me better relate to my fellow humans.  I’ve gotten to know people who think very much like I do, which is a nice validation for my sanity.  I’ve also gotten to know people who think very differently from me, and I’ve come to really appreciate the multitude of perspectives.  Now I’ve been surrounded by people with different views my whole life, but only recently have I come to not be so concerned with bringing those people closer to my perspective.

But recently, and especially tonight, I’ve felt that many of my peers have been less-than-hospitable, less than open to the very diversity that lets me be open to them.

I’m speaking of my involvement in the Student Government.  This is not a strictly political post, but some of the conservatives in SGA have been… irritating.  Last week two of my fellow senators voted against supporting an anti-genocide group on campus, even though there was no required cost or time involvement in the bill.  One senator said he voted against it because “psshh, I don’t care about Darfur.”  I don’t know if that’s true or not, I do know that he has a bit of a grudge against the senator who wrote the bill for his various legislative shenanigans and over-the-top personality.  He went through the rest of the meeting groaning and making a scene every time anything happened that failed to meet his approval. 

The other one who voted against it did so because he’s a libertarian, and doesn’t believe that the rest of the world is any of our business.  As frustrating as that position may be, it’s not necessarily an antagonistic view.  Tonight, however, this same senator used a procedural, political trick to kill a bill before we could discuss it.  We used to have certain rules in place that kept this from happening, but we removed those rules because they were unwieldy, and we collectively decided that we trusted each other enough to commit to honest debate, instead of dirty tricks.  Now there’s talk of bringing back the more unwieldy, less charitable procedures.  I feel that if we need rules to protect ourselves from dick moves, even in something as informal as a group of college peers, then we replace the opportunity for human connection with legalize and impersonal procedure.

In an effort to not just be down on conservatives, there’s another guy whose politics I largely agree with, but who has a dick side of his own.  He has this habit of giving arguments against something that we’ve done after we’ve done it.  I’m not sure why these objections don’t come up during debate.  Maybe he wants us to feel that we’ve made a mistake for some reason, or maybe he’s just releasing steam, but it makes this normally intelligent person look like a dumbass with no sense of timing. He also continually comes up with fun ideas, does nothing to think out the idea or research the consequences, then gets upset when he gets shot down.  On both of these annoying habits, I guess he just doesn’t like getting input from other people, and that really bothers me.  It seems so close-minded. 

The reason these minor things have got me down is two-fold:  First, these events are just recent examples of long term behavior that has slowly gotten under my skin.  Second, in my Peace and Conflict class, we’ve been discussing the need for forgiveness after a genocide, how to forgive is to acknowledge the past without assigning blame or identifying current people with past atrocities.  

From what I can tell, the peace process never moves forward without some level of forgiveness.  The only exceptions are when one side annihilates the other, leaving no one to be reconciled to (like the Native Americans), and when conflicting groups are sufficiently geographically separated and militarily repressed (the various factions of the Balkans are now organized into homogeneous regions).  

The ability to forgive is the ability to assume the best in a person, to see them as human, and give them all the respect that “human-ness” entails.  So it’s a bit depressing when a group of college students, coming from more-or-less similar economic and cultural backgrounds, fail to conceive of each other in such respectful terms.  If we, of all people, can’t treat each other decently, how are the victim’s of genocide and international calamity going to embrace decency?  It takes a lot of trust to break political cycles of violence and repression, and right now, I just don’t see enough trust in my fellow humans to make the future any better than today.

My conservative peer’s childish behavior, my libertarian peer’s use of politics as a weapon, and my liberal peer’s distaste for other’s opinions, all display a lack of respect for “the other.”  This is all just as I begin to really understand this concept of respect, and really start to pursue connecting to very different people in a meaningful way.  

I’ve always been told that I act more open-minded than most, and that my indifference towards cultural norms and biases are something special.  I don’t see why it’s special though.  Liking people, all people, shouldn’t be difficult or idealistic.  It should be the expected response to otherness, the state of mind that grown-ups adopt in order to live in a world that is both functional and worthwhile.  

Waking Life

November 14, 2008 - One Response

by Pegleghippie

I have a new favorite movie.  It’s called Waking Life, a 2001 film by Richard Linklater, and I’m a little jealous that it exists, because that means that I don’t get to be the creator of such an awesome piece of art.  

Honestly, I was beaten at philosophy tonight.  I didn’t know it was a competition until this film came along and totally kicked my ass.  Now I know a little more about the stakes involved.

Waking Life follows a guy as he has various philosophical discussions with/dreams about writers, philosophers, psychopaths, crackpots, filmmakers, imaginative figments, and one very pissed off libertarian.  Many of these are real people really being interviewed about their area of expertise (oddly, many are faculty from the University of Texas at Austin), but the interviews flow seamlessly between real and imagined.

And imagination is really very important here.  The protagonist spends a long segment of the film not knowing if he is awake or dreaming, and the settings only subtly clue you in.  Eventually he becomes aware that he is in a lucid dream, which turns into a bizarre series of dreams-within-dreams, and the discussions turn increasingly towards what a dream-like reality entails.  Things end with the suggestion that all these dreams are the last firing of consciousness before the protagonist dies, but the narrative is unclear about whether this actually happens.

I can’t accurately summarize everything I loved about this movie.  Top of the list is the conversations, which are consistently mind-blowingly well thought out.  Here’s one example of an earlier one:

Insane, right?  and there are dozens of these, on a wide variety of topics, in the movie.  You could teach a course on this movie alone, going topic by topic, exploring each one for all that it’s worth.

Next thing I loved was the animation.  I’m sure you noticed from the first clip, this movie looks strange.  The style changes at least every scene, and often in the middle of a scene.  The strangeness of dreams is very well captured here.

I’ll admit, if you don’t like philosophy you will not like this movie.  Fortunately for me, I love philosophy, and this movie challenges me in ways I had not even considered.  I need to get a copy of it and watch it until I’m comfortable with the discussions.  Only then will I feel qualified to really engage with all these topics, and to conceptualize exactly what it is that Linklater did here.  

If you do like philosophy, even a little bit, see this movie.  I doubt you will regret it, and it may even change your life.

Registering for classes

November 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

by Pegleghippie

 Well that was a rush. Hitting the “refresh” button until the class input screen let me in at 7:59, then furiously putting in course numbers as fast as I can.  I spelled one course wrong and was kept out of another for some arbitrary evil reason, but thankfully I had a backup.  

It’s just a process that makes me feel dirty for some reason.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because I feel I’m only marginally closing in on meeting graduation requirements, maybe its the feeling of beating out others for a class, but whatever it is, I need to sleep at least an extra hour to get over it.

By the way, it’s:

European Politics (Gov 395, minor)

Leadership through the Ages (LDRSP 320, minor)

Sacred Violence (CLST 301, “Area of Inquiry”)

The Search for Beauty (Phil 306, major)

The self in Asian Philosophy (Phil 340, major)

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