Wednesday, April 26, 2017

music live

Twenty-five of my fave live music concerts (no lie) and in no particular order.

Street music, Royal St. -- New Orleans

1) Private concert by Elton John for Web MD at the Fox.

2) Bill Evans at Keystone Korner, San Francisco

3) Sarah Vaughn

4) Bob Dylan (twice)

5) Sinead O'Connor with Damien Dempsey

6) Loreena McKennitt at the Fox

7) B.B. King with Fats Domino on a New Orleans Steamboat

8) Joan Baez

9 Sigur Ros (twice)

10) Rufus Wainwright in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

11) Leonard Cohen at the Fox

12) Conor Oberst at Variety Playhouse

13) Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in New Orleans

14) Muddy Waters at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

15) Lucinda Williams (twice)

16) Nine Inch Nails

17) Bette Midler

18) B52s in Piedmont Park

19) Donovan in Memphis

20) Tina Turner

21) Kevin Divine

22) Jay Brannan (twice)

23) Norah Jones at Variety Playhouse

24) Pat Metheny at the Rialto

25) Jamie Cullum at the Oak Room in the Algonquin.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why Not...

When Jimmy Carter wrote Why Not the Best, he had Plato's Republic (Cornford's translation free) in mind. The leaders he argued ought to be the best in terms of experience, knowledge, practical as well as theoretical, and ethics. Without saying so, he supported some of what Plato meant by aristocracy (rule of the best). Sadly, because of what Plato wrote about poetry in the Republic, he has gotten a bad rap. 

The discussion among those who actually understand Plato over his views on poetry and writing in general is best found, I think, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: 

"Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry" (click)

At times, we all hear the uninformed comment that Plato's Republic is like a dictatorship, or an evil oligarchy, a fascist state, or something resembling the present Republican control of the government in the U.S. today. Never has a proposed or idealistic state been further from the above. 

First, the leaders in the Republic own nothing. They have arrived in the leadership category by proving their intellect, their knowledge, their ethics, and their tests of experience. Their elaborate education has, contrary to the current popular misconception, included all of the arts. Music is especially important for giving future leaders a sense of harmony. Plato's world is anything but materialistic. What the leaders know is that true wealth is of the mind, not money or material possessions. To be a leader is to forego not only material possessions, but private interests altogether, including a private family. Such leadership repudiates the interests of a dictator, a money-based oligarchy, the power and ego of fascists, and the greed, lust, and materialism represented by Republicans and their party. 

My own view of what Plato does say about poetry can only be comprehended by realizing what Homer and epic poets presented as a worldview. Socrates was sentenced to death for, among other things, not believing in the traditional gods. Those gods are represented in all their greedy, selfish, petty, immoral detail by Homer and others. Both Socrates and Plato saw the damage irrational religion can do. They saw how leaders in other forms of the state, especially dictatorship and democracy, can use religion to manipulate and control people. Plato prophesied what has happened in the U.S. where "even an actor can become the leader," by popular manipulation, lies, pretense, and promises. Pretend to be a follower of the popular religion and the votes and devotion overflow, even for a despot.

Jimmy Carter was in fact the sort of leader Plato had in mind for the Republic. Educated, experienced, ethical, he dared tell the people the truth about needing to conserve energy, to be mindful, or as John Kennedy proposed, to ask what you can do for your country. Carter refused to go to war or to do and say things only in order to be re-elected. He has proven his ethics and his devotion to the country in all the decades since he lost the election to the smooth talking actor. 

The only Republican President I can think of who fulfilled Plato's requirements for a leader was Lincoln. Most of the others were the very false product of popular sentiment and delusion Plato predicted for an uninformed democracy.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

How to enjoy the spring rains in a world of evil

Springtime in Atlanta is a feast of nature. Birds sing, trees blossom, flowers provide a profusion of bloom. Between the warm sunshine and the cleansing rains, living in this Southern city is like living in a garden. How could we not find bliss in this plenitude?

Because there is evil in the world, ought we to temper our joy with grief? The history of mankind is a gruesome one, filled with brutality, sadism, torture, rape, slow and agonizing death.  Who can ignore the atrocities from ancient times until now, the burning of witches, the killing of babies, the humiliating tortures of Abu Ghraib? Gas attacks and bombing in Syria? How can we not despair over the abyss of cruelty fed by greedy administrations from Russia and our own country? Whether the consolidating power of a despot, or the punishments of a parade of religions , or the genocide, killing, and enslavement of minorities, human history is one of slaughter and oppression of every magnitude. 

The person I loved most in the world was brutally beaten and murdered. At times I've empathized, if not envied, my loved ones who have killed themselves. Both my parents suffered agonizing deaths in hospices where staff mostly ignored them, leaving them in pain. The lack of empathy or concern for suffering permeates our society. Indifference has been more the rule throughout history than compassion. Indifference stains my own life as it must so many of us. Camus wrote that despite everything we must create values and do what we can to perpetuate those values. Jean Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir dedicated their lives to fighting for those values. The most noble lives are those that compassionate people have dedicated to better the lives of others in need. Most of us do not live up to such an ideal, settling instead for being pacifists ourselves, expressing liberal values of care for all, loving nature, but doing little directly to achieve either world peace or to end poverty, famine, and suffering. 

For all the joys I take in life-- love, friendship, art, philosophy, literature, and music, I never lose my pessimistic view that evil will most likely win out. Humans will destroy themselves and take much of natural wildlife and the planet with them. Is it absurd to find pleasure in staring at Jupiter on a dark night? Is it absurd to admire and spend so much time in Tolstoy's War and Peace, to love and imagine the world of the woodcuts of Hiroshige, to listen repeatedly to Mozart's Jupiter symphony, his last? No doubt. But I know no other way to live.