Culture Shifts From West To East

Picture 1Cultural and economic changes are sweeping the planet.  The locus of energy systems is shifting from the West to the East.  We can detect these shifts via participation rates in consuming ‘classical’ music or banking growth, trade and political energy.  China, in particular, is going crazy with all these things roaring along.  Which means, lots of failures but also, lots of triumphs.  First, the story about the tower that simply fell over in China.

Like the tower that was designed by European architects which had no interior floors in the middle but a floor to roof atrium, which burned down before being finished, another mega-building simply collapsed in Shanghai.  This is due to really bad foundation work:

Tumbling tower of China: Amazing pictures of 13-storey block of flats that toppled over | Mail Online

Picture 1A newly built 13-storey residential building collapsed in Shanghai yesterday, killing one worker. The block of high-rise flats toppled onto its side in the muddy construction site raising concerns that building safety standards are being overlooked in favour of fast construction in China’s rush to modernise.

The building appeared to be almost complete with fitted windows and a finished, tiled facade. Other similar-looking blocks in the same property development were still standing nearby.

A truly flimsy foundation!  In NYC, we don’t have this sort of collapse due to very strict building codes.  Of course, these can be circumvented.  I remember all too well, since I was doing rehabs in NYC in the 1970’s, the building inspectors were so corrupt, we actually had a list of ‘overhead’ costs for each inspector.  So when they looked at buildings, you had to have, say, $50 on average, to pay them off.  Finally, the corruption was so gross, the FBI swept in and arrested many of them.

This, incidentally, was during the time the WTC was being built.  People don’t believe me when I say, the buildings were flawed in the first place and probably had mob influence with the cement deliveries.  Anyone looking at the Chinese photos here can see that the ground, which is right next to one of the world’s biggest rivers, is silt.  Silt is very poor building foundation sites and one has to have very deep pilings to reach bedrock.  Obviously, this wasn’t done in China.  Instead, corrupt officials probably green lighted this ridiculous construction.  All the buildings here should be demolished.

China, like California, has earthquakes.  We know from the recent Sichuan quake that building codes for large structures matter a tremendous amount and one must ‘overbuild’ increasingly as buildings rise in scale.  In NYC, the lower parts of many sky scrapers is multiple stories deep in the earth as well as the anchors of the building must reach the hard backbone rock base of Manhattan.  The world’s first large collection of sky scrapers was in NYC and this is due to geological and transportation logistics.  Other cultures imitating NYC must understand the hidden parts of the building business.  Many places like Dubai that went into tower building are now suffering from the side issues of overbuilding as well as instability.

Manhattan is geologically quite stable.  Many places going into mass sky scraper building are much more geologically active.  Say, Tokyo, for example.

Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.

Beijing’s efforts to crack down on gambling by Communist Party and government officials with public funds seem to have made little headway. While longer jail terms and the risk of losing their jobs fail to deter officials from gambling, visa restrictions to Macau – the most popular gambling destinations for Chinese officials – has only driven officials to online casinos. As a result, online gambling inside China increasingly flourishes and the sums involved are become increasingly staggering.

Police in Central China’s Hubei province recently found that government officials and heads of state-owned companies were among the tens of thousands of people gambling on sports and horse races, as well as lotteries like the Mark Six in six online casinos. The casinos have managed to accrue more than 50 billion yuan (US$7 billion) since the illegal operations began in 2004.

The Chinese government officials who lived with me in the early 1980’s almost all gravitated to Atlantic City where they almost all lost all their money.  I warned them that gambling is a fool’s game.  But then, when it comes to Cave of Wealth and Death issues, people ignore me nearly totally and do stupid things, anyway.  Gambling encourages idleness, recklessness and anyone who has a brain for real gambling, that is, can do calculations with cold determination, are banned from gambling casinos.  I, for example, have been banned and can’t go into these places.  HAHAHA.  They all look like caves of death, anyway.

Gambling increases other moral lapses like stealing, embezzlement and taking of bribes.  Any culture that encourages gambling soon discovers, this solves no financial problems, it increases them.  China may be entering a phase where gambling will be limited.  The US is in a mania of gambling and even small local stores look more like casinos with an entire wall devoted to lottery tickets, all of them shiny, bright and colorful.

But aside from all this, the Asian people are now moving very rapidly into ‘high culture’ areas.  This is most significant.  Below are some examples:

Donggaocun Journal – From a Beijing Suburb, Vibrant Strings –

Violin fever has hit this drab rural township with hundreds of residents, young and old, picking up the bow as Donggaocun tries to position itself as the string instrument capital of China.

Once known primarily for its abundant peach harvest, the town, about an hour’s drive from downtown Beijing, has become one of the world’s most prodigious manufacturers of inexpensive cellos, violas, violins and double basses. Last year the town’s 9 factories and 150 small workshops made 250,000 instruments, most of them ending up in the hands of students in the United States, Britain and Germany.

The city fathers have taken to boasting that Donggaocun produces 30 percent of the world’s string instruments, although another town in southeast China, Xiqiao, makes a similar, if slightly more credible, claim.

China now produces half of the classical musical instruments used in schools.  A general rule of thumb is, when someone makes instruments, these communities also end up  making the music for these instruments.  This is how cultures operate.  This is why I am against the US outsourcing the creation of everything we used to make here.  Mere consumers end up losing a grip on a cultural system.  Just as the US is destroying our engineering class by moving manufacturing and design offshore, so it will be with playing the violin.

Public school budgets for classical music are in decline.  When I was young, once a week, the government broadcast classical music to all classrooms and we discussed the pieces we listened to.  In addition, we went to annual symphonic concerts.  This is vanishing now.  The focus on tests to see if our youth can read, write and calculate and understand basic science has sucked down most available funding and resources.

The decline of US dominance is obvious when we turn to international competitions.  Here is one very recent example, the Van Cliburn competitions:

Cliburn Piano Competition Embraces Internet : NPR Music

Two pianists have been awarded gold medals at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In a surprise ending to the 17-day contest, 19-year-old Haochen Zhang from China and 20-year-old Nobuyuki Tsujii from Japan shared the top prize.

Yeol Eum Son, 23, from South Korea, won the second place silver medal. The third place crystal trophy was not awarded. Tsujii, blind at birth, had been a clear audience favorite, and for critics covering the event, he had clearly moved well beyond the inevitable label “the blind competitor” after strong performances of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in the semi-finals and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in the final round.

Hoachen Zhang, the youngest of the finalists, celebrated his 19th birthday in June 3. Cliburn video web hosts Jade Simmons and Buddy Bray, awed by Zhang’s performances, called his preliminary round Petrushka suite (Stravinsky) “perfect” and judged his final round performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, as having “a special feeling that can’t be taught.”

YouTube – Nobuyuki Tsujii 辻井伸行 2009 Cliburn Competition FINAL RECITAL Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No 2

YouTube – Cliburn 2009 Haochen Zhang Final Recital

In Japan, they actually make anime about classical music students!  Just for example, imagine that happening in the US.  In my youth, Warner Brothers produced a series of amazing and hilarious classical musical cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.  Disney produced ‘Fantasia’, for example.  In the movies, we had wonderful films like ‘The Red Shoes’ which inspired many people such as myself.

Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition – The world’s leading international violin competition for youths – 2008 PRIZE WINNERS

sponsored by Florian Leonhard

Date of Birth: March 6, 1989
Nationality: Australian

donated by Joji Hattori in memory of his father

Date of Birth: April 13, 1987
Nationality: Chinese

donated by the Bournebrook Trust

and PRIZE for best Bach Performance
donated by Robert Masters

Date of Birth: February 17, 1989
Nationality: Russian

donated by Mr & Mrs Albert Frost

Date of Birth: December 7,1992
Nationality: American

An American and Australian won the violin competition but both are also Chinese.  Alongside this, naturally, composers who are Chinese are creating new music.  I really enjoy a lot of the Chinese classical music.  And I love Japanese composers who create music for anime.  They even put on symphonic concerts which my family loves.

YouTube – Dragon Songs: Spring Dance (Lang Lang)

The second half of this video is a Chinese classical group playing traditional instruments.

YouTube – Matthew Barley And The Chinese Silk String Quartet

This story from last week is troubling.  I noted the ad that popped up with the story and included it because it shows where our culture is heading:

Highlights from 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts | Kansas City infoZine News | USA

Picture 2There are persistent patterns of decline in participation for most art forms. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults – or an estimated 78 million – attended an art museum or an arts performance in the 2008 survey period, compared with about 40 percent in 1982, 1992, and 2002. i ii

  • Attendance at the most popular types of arts events – such as art museums and craft/visual arts festivals – saw notable declines. The U.S. rate of attendance for art museums fell from a high of 26 percent in 1992-2002 to 23 percent in 2008, comparable to the 1982 level.
  • Between 1982 and 2008, attendance at performing arts such as classical music, jazz, opera, ballet, musical theater, and dramatic plays has seen double-digit rates of decline.
  • Fewer adults are creating and performing art. For example, the percentage of adults performing dance has lost six points since 1992. Weaving and sewing remain popular as crafts, but the percentage of adults who do those activities has declined by 12 points. Only the share of adults doing photography has increased – from 12 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2008.

Aging audiences are a long-term trend. Performing arts attendees are increasingly older than the average U.S. adult (45). The aging of the baby boom generation does not appear to account for the overall increase in age.

  • Audiences for jazz and classical music are substantially older than before. In 1982, jazz concerts drew the youngest adult audience (median age 29). In the 2008 survey, the median age of jazz concert-goers was 46 – a 17-year increase. Since 1982, young adult (18-24) attendance rates for jazz and classical music have declined the most, compared with other art forms.
  • Forty-five to 54-year-olds – historically dependable arts participants – showed the steepest declines in attendance for most art events, compared with other age groups.

Educated Americans are participating less than before, and educated audiences are the most likely to attend or participate in the arts.

  • College-educated audiences (including those with advanced degrees and certifications), have curbed their attendance in nearly all art forms.
  • Ballet attendance for this group has declined at the sharpest rate – down 43 percent since 1982.
  • Less-educated adults have significantly reduced their already low levels of attendance.

The hysteria over the death of pop stars stands in stark contrast to the fall off in participation in cultural events that require a bit more effort to absorb and understand.  Jackson, for example, had a stunning voice when he was a child.  A wonderful natural vibrato, excellent breath control and an amazing ear for pitch.  He used this wonderful instrument to create increasingly debased singing and instead of growing greater, he diminished himself and starved his artistry and his body until both literally vanished.

You Tube is great for finding all sorts of interesting music and dance.  Aside from the usual stuff, if we look closely, we can find a small revival in art and music there, odd as this may sound.  I sometimes roam about, looking for odd stuff.  Here is an example:

YouTube – E.S.T – What Though The Way May Be Long

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49 responses to “Culture Shifts From West To East

  1. Here in New Orleans, bedrock is two miles down so we can’t possibly go down to bedrock without going bankrupt. But our building codes are strict enough, that, none of the skyscraper buildings settle in a peculiar fashion or lean precipitously in a Category 3 hurricane and not straighten back up (let alone tip over as the featured Shanghai tower housing block did). But they are built on 80 or 100 feet deep piles minimum. And despite a history of corrupt public officials, it appears that what was supposed to go into the structures, did. OUR LEVEE FAILURES WERE DUE TO SHODDY DESIGNS BY THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS! Which is why they collapsed, utterly.

  2. melponeme_k

    We have to take into account that high culture events are frequently expensive. More than the average person is willing to spend their small income on. TV is considered cheaper (which it isn’t).

    And the other unspoken element when it comes to high art is that it is frequently used as a weapon for class war. It is practically at ground zero.

    Even the study that you listed, did it discuss the falling incomes as a reason? Did it discuss that these events are expensive? Or that to become a performer of good caliber a family needs to expend enormous energy and money in the pursuit? Many countries fund their arts but the U.S. doesn’t. And that is done intentionally.
    ELAINE: You are 100% correct! Thanks!

  3. I am adamantly opposed to all the school “testing” that is going on today. This is not good education, and where I live, after they take the tests, it is almost as if the year is done. They just fart around after the tests are over.

    Hey – here is way to save some funds so that the teachers don’t need to be let go (so many already have been). After the test, the school-year should be over. That is one week saved. Probably equivalent to about 200 teachers or so. The test are called “EOGs” – you know. “No child left behind”. SICK is what I think it is.

    I know about this. I have direct personal experience. I advocate elimination of just about all standardized testing so that teachers can focus on REAL education.

    Those young musicians above are inspiring.


  4. openly hidden

    “Gambling encourages idleness, recklessness and anyone who has a brain for real gambling, that is, can do calculations with cold determination, are banned from gambling casinos. I, for example, have been banned and can’t go into these places…”

  5. MikeM

    Several years ago I watched three and four storey condominiums being built on silt in Mission Valley, which is the flood plain for the San Diego River.

    Years before, local geologists argued to the city council that no construction should be undertaken in M.V. due to the likelihood of flood loss.

    Developers with deep pockets won out eventually; not only is this valley now fully developed, the entire region has witnessed construction that will certainly increase flood risk, due to increased runoff.

    There are no standards when politicians and money meet.

  6. openly hidden

    “high art” declines for the simple reason that it becomes depressing at least sub-consciously to realize that the best that is humanly possible to do, has already been done. and so exceptional talent has to move on to something else other than greek sculpture or classical music or heroism or true icky romance or whatever. the only thing that has not yet peaked is decadence and naked people having sex with anything that moves! and evil. the greatest evil is yet to come. so now that male limits are understood to have been reached, women get their turn. and chinese. but limits there are. why?

    name me one new story the greeks didn’t already develop. how can this be. and poker is good.
    ELAINE: Playing poker on trains (I used to do this) is tons of fun. Playing in a casino is stupid.

  7. openly hidden

    so cycles it is. and probably we can look forward to sodom and gomorrah repeating in our lifetime. this is what comes from mr. rogers finally. and what happened to all our promise! where are all the wonderful things on our horizon that were there and waiting for us that they talked about for the class of ’65? i want to know!
    ELAINE: Are you, perhaps, blaming LADY ELAINE here? Nayhaha.

  8. openly hidden

    oh yes. elder sex hahahahahaha! elder sex.

  9. bridge is even better, but that is just me!

    Poker teaches so much about life.

    I have no problem with gambling. My wife might say it is the “other vices” that give me trouble, but that is just her opinion.

    Man is she HOT!

  10. I also support elder sex, so I’m “in you camp” on that one too openly hidden!

    I hope “elder sex” is all its supposed to be…..I’ve heard it can be great, but I’m not there just yet!


    openly hidden – ha, ha, ha.

    The Greeks didn’t “know it all”. Not by a long shot!

    The story is ongoing!

  11. China art mostly sucks. they depend heavily on the west, They face the same fundamental dilemas as western artists. they have a predilection for big stony animal sculpures. ARt goes with the money and power, so indeed China will become an artistic power of sorts.

  12. emsnews

    OK: talking about big stoney sculptures, what about the immense heads of past presidents? Just for example….I prefer big animals. I think DC should have a gigantic stone panda in front of the White House, standing on a pile of money holding the title for the White House property which is in hock to the Chinese, in one big paw.

  13. if

    “This market continues to be propped up by government intervention and manipulation.”
    No really?
    By the way, market manipulation is illegal.
    Of course when you own the police force you can do whatever you damn well please, right?

  14. yeah,, stony heads thats funny, if you look around the Satchii gallery site you see the chinese influence , dry bone sculpture , dreck really , art just to produce art ‘stuff’.

  15. if

    Global systemic crisis: June 2009 – When the world steps out of a sixty-year old referential framework

  16. PLovering

    @buffalo ken,

    “Poker and tongs to each other belongs.”

  17. here is an example of chinee art ; saatchi dreck

    Real chinese art is escentually medieval because of the way it pictures space, equal weight is given to near or distant objects. When western culture figured this out with the perspective box it was called the Renaissance. You have to borrow this if you want to come into the 20th or 21st century.

  18. Jimmy

    As a technologist with construction experience, it’s my experience that for building or bridge foundation where the depth of soil is impracticably great to drive piles to bedrock, piles can be driven until the soil resistance is sufficient to meet design parameters, based on building loading etc. In river deltas there can be 100s of metres of sediment above bedrock as well as high water tables.

    In the above example a look at the photos indicates that the piles are sheared off. It’s possible that some piles shifted, initiating the failure of adjacent piles. It’s also possible the shifting was a result of inadequate driving.

    It’s very easy to quit driving piles properly if you’re in a hurry since the time to drive the final few centimetres to design resistance take as much time or longer than driving the 10s of metres to get there.

    But in this case I would say the primary reason for failure was that the foundation was under designed to a ridiculous extent implying that the other nearby towers are at equal risk of failure.

    It’s a wonderful metaphor for the metaphysical structures in China as well isn’t it.

  19. payAttention

    Unfortunately, you missed my point. These smiling slavish imitators of dead white men have created nothing. They can all line up and not be worth two bars of Gaga’s compositions. Maybe not even a beat. They are ambitious imperialists waiting to take the mantle by default. Given the opportunity to create a modern economy with hindsight, they recreated the same idiotic military industrial complex that has been destroying us. Why, when you could have been a peaceful nation, given to medical science and research. That is why all their performers are derivative. If you enjoy the pentatonic scale along with your Peking duck, then I request a different selection. I hope you never make that statement around trained musicians and expect them to keep the fowl down.

  20. openly hidden

    last word on this….what about the human condition did homer miss?

    and i have never heard lady gaga. all i know about her is …. well my guilty pleasure has now shrunk down to reading TMZ zone or Gawker in the evenings and they had a picture of someone named lady gaga being carried drunk out of a bar somewhere with no undies on i believe.

    absolutely not elaine. personally i admire you and what you seem to be up to in your life. but what did happen to all the great stuff that was supposed to be waiting for our “leadership” back in ’65?

  21. Niels

    Putin is shutting down gambling in Russia!

  22. nah

    the building collpase is amaaaazing… uprooted and everything… looks like they need better regulation too…
    And with the hopper, jump guy… i can hackey sack or sepa or whatever… damn good too… me and my brother in law have got like 270 or something… just on and on… 50 hacks by myself on a pass all the time with a lil’ practice… and i can jump a 3′ railing pretty easy… but i cant climb no 30′ wall and reopelle like batman or something
    pianos can say it all

  23. Cahunaau

    The Grands they were playing are all Steinway & Sons.All is not lost for you Yanks then.

  24. emsnews

    This contest was in Texas. So yes, they used Steinways. If it were in Tokyo, other pianos would be used.

  25. Gary

    Endless jacking off is what our culture is all about
    now. Constant repetative pleasure without social
    interaction. Gambling is exactly that. Especially slot machines.I’m sure that on a brain wave intensity scale, gambling, outside of counting cards, has to rank lower on that scale than feeding pigeons in the park. The only thing lower may be watching American Idol on the telly.

    Me, I’d rather have those DeVellum blues than
    gambling depression. The let down is shorter.
    Ha ha.

  26. PLovering

    @Niels, “Putin to shutdown gambling in Russia”


    That hurts.

    Lizards take another hit in their free cash flow.

  27. Simon

    Asians had, of all things, culture
    Who’d thunk?

  28. openly hidden

    i don’t do any sort of casino gambling. i spent $5 on a poker slot once. but my wife loves her slots. but i do play no-limit hold’em and i am of the honest opinion that no-limit hold’em is the truest test of mental discipline and focus and clarity and in the moment. i think no-limit beats anything else intellectual you can do…that i can do.

  29. openly hidden

    no-limit poker and commodity trading… add in dealing with unknowns too….unlike chess for example. i am serious. you need to be able to “mind your mind” to do either well. and “minding your mind” is exactly what very few can do, no matter how successful or educated they think they are. elaine thinks even the attempt to do so will drive you insane! hahahahahah! on the contrary….look at me! seriously, this is where evolution had better be taking us.

  30. David

    Buffalo Ken:

    You are so dead on right about EOC testing…especially in NC. It’s worse than worthless…gives the illusion of education.

    When teaching, I collected old practice tests which was allowed, and then, after the students took their EOC, I asked them which questions they didn’t know…and made notes..and violia….I had my own copy of the EOC…sure it was changed now and then, but the watered down content remained the same…pure bullshit. So, with the next classes, at the beginning of the course, I told the kids we would do what the hell we wanted to do until only 1/4 of the course remained. Then we would study for EOC.

    We built boats and took them to the lake and propelled them with a weed eater with a propeller attached…like river people do in Thailand.

    We built large aerodynamically correct gliders with Luan strips and cloth that we could fly behind us by pulling them behind a pickup truck, and almost destroyed the rear end of my pickup one day.

    And then it was Rube Goldberg machines that went through 25 steps of rolling marbles and tripping electric switches to make a light or siren come on as the end result like in Little Rascals movies.

    Then we stripped all of the components out of old computers and rebuilt them on a sheets of plywood and rewired them and ran them and understood what each component did and how it worked.

    We used our own software that the school system would not buy to do computer track recordings of our classroom rock stars…a really big no no, but we did this.

    We viewed survival movies like “The Edge” and then handmade the survival tools we saw Charles make in the movie…and made them work….and we had a hell of a lot of fun. Students learned to use my surveyors transit to calculate distance by using trigonometry and a calculator…and were amazed that they could shoot distances across a river with a transit, and never get wet.

    And we were not above discussing world affairs or politics when no sneak assed administrators were around to hear….

    Good teachers teach when the classroom doors are shut and its just them and the kids…and that is how it should be.

    Then, came the worthless EOC. We studied for the EOC, daily…rote memory, day after day, for two weeks, from my handouts…kids memorizing the answers I gave them for the upcoming EOC. Then they all passed the test with flying colors. School said kids were smart and I was an acceptable (but eccentric) teacher….pure bullshit….the EOCs were worse than worthless they deluded people into believing that education was taking place in some classrooms where nothing at all was happening.

    What the teacher teaches that is relative to the surrounding world is what is valuable in education….but the public has been brainwashed into believing the testing bullshit.

    US high school educators hate the visual arts and music…it is deemed sissy stuff, not worthy of rough-tough, football oriented, bully boy (and girl), redneck Americans to learn.

    They hate creativity…will support language arts until they get creative with poetry and experimental writing…that is for sissies too. Once, I tried to teach English teachers how to use a memes computer program for creative writing…they were too stupid to understand how it worked and how to use it…so they taught the same old tired, boring shit that turned kids off….the US system is so bureaucratized that it is totally dysfunctional and is run by low level, simpleton idiots.

    Probably one of the most creative things I saw teachers and administrators do while I was an educator was invent new ways to get into cheerleader panties, which happened more often than people would imagine…and then the cover up of this was perfected to a fine art.

    I once quietly helped one of these “used”(by an administrator) cheerleaders defeat the principal and other administrators and get into a top rated college without even their recommendation (which they refused to give the girl because she ratted on one of them)…and it did my sneaky old heart good when she was accepted and went into the office and rubbed her acceptance in their smug, stupid faces, and then her parents came by my home to thank me. US public education as we now have it, is pure bullshit…a dumbing down process for the masses.

    A teacher who really teaches had better be secretive about it or they will catch hell as I did quite often.
    American made Gibson guitars are some of the finest in the world…and Gibson has fought foreign imports for 75 years…the Les Paul and SG are standard for many styles of rock and blues worldwide. American Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters are also the standard for many types of rock and country music. Also, US made Martin, Taylor, Tacoma and PSR are fine guitars of world class quality, but these guys have to fight with lawsuits almost constantly to keep people from copying their components and importing them into the US to destroy their markets. China is making cheap, look alike knockoffs of acceptable quality, but these guys will fight tooth and nail if the internal sound components are copied and imported, and this is all that has saved them so far.

    The Japanese make super copies of American guitars which are available for Japanese consumption, but not for import into the US. In the US electric guitar world, quality goes as follows. 1. US made Fenders and Gibsons. 2. Mexican Fenders. 3. Japanese Fenders. 4. Korean Fenders and Gibson licensed knockoffs of lower quality…cheaper woods and electronics. 5. Licensed Chinese knockoffs of acceptable, but low quality woods and electronics. If you want the best, go to the US or Japan for electric guitars.

    Now, these other countries make great guitars for consumption in their own markets…especially Japan.

    I am presently fascinated with Asian Music and insturments. I heard the Dan Bau when in Vietnam and also the Dan Tranh, and these are becoming available in the US now…and I’m going to get a monochord Dan Bau and try to learn to play it. I’m not very good at anything musical, but I please myself…and that’s what matters to me.

    God article Elaine. US culture is going downhill faster than I imagined it could, but when Americans come to idealize ignorance and barbarianism and torture, what else can you expect?

  31. JSmith

    “The block of high-rise flats toppled onto its side in the muddy construction site raising concerns that building safety standards are being overlooked…”

    No shit?

  32. DrKrbyLuv

    Most people work too much to have the time to enjoy the arts. When I was young, one household income was adequate to keep a family of four comfortable.
    This is now almost impossible. We are over-worked and underpaid. Look at the massive wealth transfer that has taken place. The small percentage at the top is taking more and more of the pie.
    We’re a dumb and numb society and things are only getting worse. Below, is an article that would set off emergency flares and warnings in a functional society – “Dumbest Generation Getting Dumber.”
    The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of 15-year-olds conducted by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that measures applied learning and problem-solving ability. In 2006, U.S. students ranked 25th of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science. McKinsey & Company, in releasing its report “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” (April 2009) said, “Several other facts paint a worrisome picture.
    First, the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.” That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.
    While the academic performance of white students is grossly inferior, that of black and Latino students is a national disgrace. The McKinsey report says, “On average, black and Latino students are roughly two to three years of learning behind white students of the same age. This racial gap exists regardless of how it is measured, including both achievement (e.g., test score) and attainment (e.g., graduation rate) measures.
    Taking the average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for math and reading across the fourth and eighth grades, for example, 48 percent of blacks and 43 percent of Latinos are ‘below basic,’ while only 17 percent of whites are, and this gap exists in every state. A more pronounced racial achievement gap exists in most large urban school districts.” Below basic is the category the NAEP uses for students unable to display even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level.
    The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education.
    The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.
    Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government.
    Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

  33. WNC Observer


    I am painfully aware of all you point out about the classical music situation in the USA.

    One thing I am noticing is the neglect of our own American composers. Compared to nations like Germany, Italy, France, Russia, and even Britain, the US patrimony in classical music compositions is pretty thin. Nevertheless, it is our patrimony, and we should be appreciating it and keeping it up as a living patrimony. Except for a few works by Sousa, Joplin, Gershwin and Copland, though, most of it is rapidly being forgotten. I have noticed that a lot of works by US composers that used to be available on LP are now not available on CD. If this keeps up, it won’t be long until these composers and their works will all be totally forgotten except for a handful of musicologists. That should not be. There are actually a lot of very respectable and very listenable works by Gottschalk, Griffes, Herbert, MacDowell, Barber, Ives, Beach, Groffe, Thompson, Hanson, and others. There are also plenty of other works that Joplin, Sousa, Gershwin and Copland composed besides the few that are commonly performed. I’m making it a little project of mine to start a collection of LPs of US composers, just to do my little part to make sure that this music is preserved for the future.

  34. emsnews

    I love many American composers including living ones and am appalled they are struggling.

  35. WNC Observer


    I educated myself, with a little help from my parents and a lot of help from the local library. I didn’t take public schooling very seriously, just something I was required to endure. It always gave me a kick when I would blow off the stupid and pointless homework assignments all year, be ranked at the bottom of the class, and then blew everyone else away when the standardized tests were administered. This was back in the late 50s and the early 60s, when things were still quite a bit better than they are now. I hate to even think what these poor kids must endure today!

  36. David

    DrKrbyLuv And WNC Observer:

    “In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.” That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.”

    This is because government views education as a process by which young people are to be discouraged from displaying critical thinking skills and becoming part of a societal pack that might resist and rebel against elites and their control mechanisms.

    On another blog, I wrote about this. US citizens, from birth until death are taught to be alone against the world. In Asia, babies sleep with parents for several years and learn to be part of the “pack.” In the US, baby comes home from hospital to its own bed, and dad and mom go to their bed…baby is alone. US child goes to school, not as a member of the classroom “pack,” but as a lone competitor against classmates…who are also not allowed to be pack members… only in sports is pack membership allowed, but if one member of the pack comes up short, he or she is exorcised immediately…no room for weakness in US competitions.

    School is antisocial competition for scores…no rewards other than applause from the system for a moment or two when student has a win.

    College is competing for ideals of perfection against classmates…few or no true friends…and more aloneness…

    Work world becomes more caricatured and abstract as citizen advances up the rungs of the ladder….alone….seeking societal approval and sex from bony ectomorph blond, social climbing females.

    At this point, goal is to give the illusion of family…not have a real family…image is everything…and if blond wife misshapes herself with pregnancy and childbirth, she is quickly discarded for a newer, more perfect model….abstract perfection becomes the goal for the alone social climber.

    Then money and power become the goals and other people are seen as unimportant nuisances to be used and discarded as needed for the abstract ideals of perfection in the organization or the nation itself. Person is no longer human, but a picture perfect caricature of a human being. This is where the competition becomes brutal and fierce and human life means nothing to the dehumanized folks who sit and plot the killing of a million people just to make a point…their point…that they are more important than anyone else….insantity reigns supreme at the top.

    Near the top, status is measured in power held and wielded, and in billions controlled….and when a top dog dies…alone, the only concern is about who will step into his or her place… no humanity left.

    Children are not stupid. They sense what self deluding adults often overlook. The reason many children drop out is because the US system offers nothing for them…not home, not family (divorced parents), not societal approval and acceptance and certainly no place further up the rungs of the ladder if they make one misstep (a bad test score on the SAT for example)….US life is individual aloneness and super competition from birth until death. The losers in this US competition game attempt to marry and cling to each other and have families, but there is no support from society at all. After all, they didn’t make it up the ladder. They are worthless losers and no quarter is given to them in daily life. They are to be used and discarded by the US success system.

    And we wonder why today’s students are turned off by the time they leave US schools.

  37. But the beauty of education, “just like” the beauty of uncertainty and for that matter the beauty of humanity is how quick things can change from one generation to the next.

    Sometimes someone might seem to be a dimwit, but they are just playing the fool out of good intent. Waiting and watching for an appropriate time to speak up and such.

    David – so good to read your post!


  38. So anyhow – can we agree that it is time to get rid of standardized tests?

    That is a first step towards remedy.

    Mulcher Proposition 1 – no more standardized tests!

  39. The substructure of that fallen Chinese building just looks so sad. Sooner or later this kind of thing will happen anywhere. For some reason, perhaps mindless bureaucracy, or unrealistic budgeting, or clueless engineering, a piece of crap thing will be built. This is a good reason to be aware that just because some big project has been completed, it’s safe to put trust in it!

    The plastic composite tail fins on Airbus (an European aerospace company) passenger jets have been falling off with regularity: Ground the Airbus?

    November 12, 2001 – Aboard American Airlines Flight 587 Over Queens, New York. Taking off a few minutes behind a Japan Airlines Boeing 747, the pilots of an Airbus A300-650R carrying 251 passengers on a flight from New York City to Santo Domingo quickly experienced air turbulence resulting from a wake vortex caused by the earlier flight.

    What the pilots did not know was that, when their plane had been originally delivered in 1988, layers of its plastic tail fin had separated, or delaminated, in the area where it was attached to the fuselage. The defect had been repaired by adding additional layers of plastic and rivets. American Airlines was informed by Airbus that no further inspections of the tail were required. [22]

    The pilots did not know that their plane had experienced such severe high altitude air turbulence seven years earlier that 47 people were injured. Nor did they know the extent of any resulting damage was concealed within the plastic tail fin. [23]

    Finally, the pilots did not know that their plane was designed with extraordinarily sensitive rudder controls that allowed the rudder to be moved beyond its design limits at low speeds by a movement of approximately one-and-one-half inches on the rudder pedal.

    What we do know is that during the next few seconds, a series of right, left, right rudder commands moved the rudder beyond its design limits causing the entire plastic stabilizer to be torn from the fuselage by the force of flowing air.

    What we still do not know is why. The pilots were killed along with everyone else aboard the plane and five people on the ground.

    I never trusted the “big boys” for one minute. They don’t worry about me!

  40. I don’t trust boys in general.

    I have respect for Military men….but not all of them.

    I think dirigibles will be a transport device of the not too distant future.

    Science and mathamatics demand it out of necessity cause it just makes good sense.

    Probably mostly only women know this.

    But some men do to.

  41. Of course some women just sit around talking on the cell-phone to whomever they are fixing to meet in a few minutes. What a waste and how unsafe.

    One of them got behind me today. I let her have it – at least in my imagination!

    She might not have known, but odds are one day she will realize the wisdom in what I had to say.


  42. isha

    I brought many DVDs for my kid of 13, especially for math and science. He enjoys them tremendously. I can’t trust the school for my kid’s education, it should be in the hands of their parents …

    I suggested it to all my friends… some will listen…

  43. Simon

    BP, CNPC Wins Iraq’s Rumaila Oil Field Contract
    BAGHDAD -(Dow Jones)- A consortium of BP PLC (BP.LN) and China’s CNPC Tuesday won the contract for Rumaila oil field – the largest oil field in Iraq and one of the largest in the world, the Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said.

    The consortium had been seeking $3.99 remuneration for each extra barrel of oil produced but after last-minute negotiations Tuesday morning accepted the Oil Ministry’s terms of $2 a barrel.

    The companies had bid to increase output in Rumaila to 2.8 million barrels a day. The field is currently producing 1.1 million barrels a day and is estimated to have reserves of around 17 billion barrels.

    This is the first contract awarded in Iraq’s first oil and gas field tender open to international companies in nearly three decades.

    The insults never cease…

  44. C&C

    re: classical music in anime — nodame cantabile’s a wonderful watch, and the live action is even better!

  45. emsnews

    Very true, very true. Nodame’s piano playing is very exciting, by the way.

  46. ah the culture shifts – so does everything else.

    Back and forth and such.

    Do you know anything about balance.

    Balance and scales in particular.

    They go together.



    8 is forever!

  47. OK – here is a poem of the day I published elsewhere on the oh so free internet that I love so much (i care not where it came from):

    so maybe up is down; and
    down is up.

    Maybe left is right and
    right is left.

    Maybe not.

    Maybe black is white and white is right.
    Maybe. Probably not.
    White ain’t nothing but a color and black is the absence thereof.
    Speaking literally of course.

    Shades now are an entirely differing matter!
    Remember this: SCALE MATTERS!
    So does justice.
    Some law IS INVIOLATE.
    We wouldn’t be here without it.

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