Archive for September, 2005

Found on its way

Mad Art Gallery will host a stop of the Found Lone Surfer tour October 20. The schedule is up. I went to the last tour. It was fun. There were fliers at the last ciné16 St. Louis. I hope I can go. I hope I find something good before then. I am sure that it will be a good time.

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Michael M. on September 29th 2005 in General

Three concerts in three evenings

I went to the Sufjan Stevens concert at Mississippi Nights. I had heard his music described as sounding like nursery rhymes. It is accurate. They also sound good. Is he for real? He is somewhat sometimes. His bandmates are beautiful. It was joyful.

I attended the Graduate and Professional Council opening night of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. I have followed the blog for a few months, and I was excited. In a good move, I borrowed recordings of several of the pieces from the library in preparation. I was ready to hear Harmonielehre by John Adams. It was even more fantastic than my expectations, especially the opening Harmonielehre. The closing “Meister Eckhardt And Quackie” came close. I sat near the stage near the border of the violins and the percussion. The ripple of violins sequentially playing the same melodic line became a physical wave toward me. I have never experienced such a rhythmically moving symphonic performance. It opens with a terrific pulsing that winds into increasingly more complex beats, and the wait for that great orchestral pounding that returns at the end is the joy of anticipation. “Laudate dominum” by Mozart was the next best piece. The symphony played a very modern composition called Lonely Child that made for a popular discussion topic following the concert.

Saturday night, I saw Ray LaMontagne at the Pageant. Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion opened. They mentioned Elizabeth Cotten. LaMontagne plays confessional songs about loss and suffering. He acts earnest and very grateful on stage. I never saw another side. There was no humor or laughter. With so many problems, there must at least be irony.

More great music is on the horizon.


Michael M. on September 29th 2005 in General, Live, Music

Bad school no learn

I read Jonathan Kozol‘s “Still Separate, Still Unequal” in Harper’s today at the library. It made me sad. A few days before, I read “As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income” in The New York Times. It argues that economic integration, not concentrating the poor children in certain schools, helps education. It seems reasonable to me. Whether the root problems are more racial or economic is secondary. The two stories complement each other.

Saint Louis is one of Kozol’s statistics. The public city schools here have relatively few white children. I doubt that there are many financially well-off children. One problem is that so few children from these groups live within the school district. Kozol’s piece focuses on cities, but I think the problems exist many more places. I noticed that Wake County, the subject of the Times article, has a unified school district. White and well-off families here overwhelmingly reside in the suburbs, and under the current laws, the borders of Saint Louis are fixed. The county is a separate political and geographic entity. Will the city and county forever be separated in Saint Louis? Would rejoining them help?

One of the real questions is how I would raise my own children if I had some. I was sent to public schools as a child, but it was not so strange for the time and place. There were plenty of white children in the schools. Even the children of rich families attended public schools. The classes were tracked, though, and the tracks largely matched finances. Would I take personal steps toward mixing social divisions within a school? If no other families did it, would there be any sense in it?

It reminds me why I like Randy Newman‘s “Rednecks” so much. I might as well add “Louisiana 1927” while I am at it. Listen to him talk about it on NPR‘s Morning Edition.

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Michael M. on September 29th 2005 in General

My library

The Riverfront Times award for Best Public Library went to the Schlafly Branch of the Saint Louis Public Library. It is my neighborhood branch, and I frequent it. Along with the setting, the catalog with its request system makes it great. The staff are friendly and helpful, too. I enjoy the library so much! It is so great!

My mother took us to the library often when we were children. The children’s section has been great for a long time. I have mentioned it before because the librarian, Miss Mattie, is a wonderful person. The new main library was built after my time, and it is great in ways similar to Schalfy. My affection toward Schalfly is the child of my childhood affection, still strong, for my hometown library.

I am making my way though the Best of Saint Louis to see what I am missing.

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Michael M. on September 29th 2005 in General

Stag and Billy

A post at STL Rising has some good links on Stagger Lee. I have posted about the song before. Since posting, I have visited the downtown sites relevant to the song without gaining any insights. I still want to see Billy’s grave.

I finally figured out that Stagger Lee’s old house, still standing, has a different address than it did in his day. Tucker Boulevard is the newer name for 12th Street. Rowhouse Gallery, owned by a photographer named Drew Wojcik, is at 911 North Tucker Boulevard today. “Stag” Lee Sheldon lived at this address when it was 911 North 12th Street. It only occured to me recently to check. The building has recently housed the Downtown Mounted Patrol Stable and Stable-D Gallery.

With this new information in hand, I began more research. Wikipedia has a fairly good entry. Googling the address yielded many links. Searching for “911 N. 12th” and Louis was my first try. I found a travel review, a radio show page, a normal normal explanation, another one and a rather filthy discussion thread. “911 north twelfth” louis turned up a few more. I found an essay, a discussion of John Hurt’s mistaken beliefs about Stag and Billy, a previously linked piece and a page on a short film with a brief clip from it from cartoonist Milo Waterfield and band Marseille Figs.

If any accident of life ever turns me into a recording musician, I have a track in mind.

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Michael M. on September 29th 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Wikipedia founder on C-SPAN

A post on /. directed me to a good interview of Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales. The C-SPAN program Q & A had him on a recent show. A transcript and streaming video are available. The Wikipedia is great, and Wales is an interesting man.

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Michael M. on September 26th 2005 in General

Evolution Schmevolution!

The Daily Show has been running Evolution Schmevolution! about the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution. The controversy is about education, not science. There are many active controversies across biology, including within the field of evolutionary biology, but the reality of evolution is not one of them. The current scientific output in opposition to evolution is miniscule. The large efforts by opponents come through the popular media, not the scientific press. A suspicious person might ask whether opponents have turned to popular routes for airing their ideas after rejection within the scientific community. The answer is decidedly negative. Given the opportunity to conduct and publish results outside the scrutiny of peer review, they present only flimsy arguments. At best, one might claim that they have published thought experiments, but the things that loosely might qualify as thought experiments are bad. The lack of good experimental science from the works published outside scientific media puts this question to rest. Whether intelligent design is worse as science or as theology is a much more open question. All versions of “teaching the controversy” belong in classes about media studies or sociology because the controversies are playing out in the popular media and in culture, not in biology.

The Daily Show featured Kurt Vonnegut on Tuesday. His list “Liberal Crap I Never Want to Hear Again” was too long for the show. I have mixed feelings about his appearance. Vonnegut is a favorite author of mine, but the segment was disjointed.

Tonight’s panel discussion included intelligent design advocate William Dembski. He made more concessions about the possibilities for evolution than I expected. Mostly, however, it was simply hard to tell what anybody said. It was clearly heavily edited to fit into the half hour format. I hope that a full version becomes available.

I wonder what tomorrow’s show will bring. They have been mostly disappointing with bright spots. The shows have not presented much science, something not unexpected from a show on the comedy network. The humor has not their best, though, and I did have higher hopes for it. The original announcement offered resolution of this old conflict. They might have to pull an all nighter.


Michael M. on September 14th 2005 in General

R.I.P. Gatemouth Brown

This post (Wayback) at progressiveSTL brought the sad news of Gatemouth Brown‘s death with a wonderful story about him. I enjoyed seeing him on television several times. His mix of styles and instruments was terrific and rare for someone so famous.

The linked story reminds me of why Waffle House is so great. It hosts all kinds. The daylight social lines collapse. At the best hours, it only matters who is awake and about. I never go to Waffle House here because they are all too far out in the suburbs. The STL diner options are quite good, though. City Diner leads, but fun nights have involved Uncle Bill’s, Chris’ Pancake and Dining, Courtesy Diner, Eat Rite and Tiffany’s. They are all good although Eat Rite scares me, but in a fun way. Even though doing so tends to make me sick, there is something wonderfully satisfying about eating a big breakfast and heading off to the land of nod.

I am happier knowing that Gatemouth Brown enjoyed the fine dining of the wee hours, too.

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Michael M. on September 13th 2005 in General, Music

Chicken Katrina

Looking through Katrina information, I found this post featuring this photograph of a bag of Sylvest Farms chicken. My grandmother was a Sylvest, a fairly unusual ancestry for the South. The surname was anglicized in America. Nearly all American Sylvests are related. The chicken people are my distant cousins.

Eye of the Storm, the blog, has several posts with captivating and sad photographs, such as this one with a photograph of what I think is Batch‘s church.

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Michael M. on September 7th 2005 in General

Dirty South, filmy north

I happened across “Playing to Both Sides of the Aisle (North and South),” a film review of Junebug in The New York Times. The movie is about a Southerner who brings his outsider wife home for a visit. It is a new movie, not Big Fish or another movie. The filmmaker was born in North Carolina and educated at NYU. Many articles about Phil Morrison, the director, and Angus MacLachlan, the writer, are available. I liked this story when it featured Slowpoke Rodriguez and Speedy Gonzales. The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse was told a few millenia ago by Aesop. This division is old and potentially tired. I hope the the telling is not. The review claims that it straddles the divide. The review was written by David M. Halbfinger who might not have much in the way of connections to both worlds. I wish I could find more about him.

Although I will have to see the movie before forming a more solid opinion, I am concerned that Morrison buys into the myth of the noble savage or complex rustic too much. I figure that people’s brains are doing something with the material at hand. Rural people are making livings, creating art and succumbing to vices. They seem unsophisticated when judged by standards foreign to them, a totally unremarkable pattern. Everybody does.

The little quotes in the review consist mainly of expatriate Southerners talking about being what they are. Although my mixed enthusiasm for Thomas Wolfe indicates that I probably read Look Homeward, Angel a little too late, I enjoy verbose musings on displacement. I miss people I never liked while now liking people whom I will never miss. I ended up in Saint Louis, though, not New York or California. There was my New York stint, but it centered on Long Island, not the City. With minimal prompting and even against weak opposition, I will wax on the differences myself.

Is There a South Anymore?” was asked nearly twenty years ago. There is. The question arises from a confusion of time with place. The South changes with time the same way every other place does. Its differences from the rest of the country consequently evolve. Posing the question in a retrospective way is silly because it encourages looking to see whether old differences remain rather than examining the current distinctions.

Landmark Theatres is showing it locally at Plaza Frontenac. KWMU‘s Joe Pollack gave a generally negative review this morning, but I still plan to see the movie. Double compatriot Barlow is ready, too. I expect a good, thoughtful and flawed movie with plenty of fuel for reflection and discussion.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General, Movies

Dietary supplement reporting

This post over at RAW Data alerted me to H. R. 3156, a bill before the House. It would institute data collection about adverse events associated with dietary supplements, except supplements purely of vitamins and minerals. The web is aflame, mostly in opposition. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) placed the foundation for the current supplement industry and made dietary supplements much more widely available. H. R. 3156 would update it.

I do not understand the grassroots opposition to this bill. In my simple thoughts, reporting to look for adverse events seems like a good idea. Noticing a correlation is often the important first step in building new science. Manufacturers have much to lose, and I understand their opposition. One critic wrote that this bill singles out supplements too much, and such reporting should extend to more products. I do not know what reporting is mandatory. His suggestion seems reasonable, but the popular opposition does not seem based on legal parity for manufacturers.

I do understand how many people have been failed by medicine and want something else. There are some problems with this attitude. Medicine is not a solid monolith. It is carried out by millions of individual people. There are many good people, but not all. I am on track to be one of them; I hope one of the good ones. If there are overarching conspiracies, I have not been let in on them yet. There are pervasive attitudes that lead to problems, and there are always the disease, injury and suffering that we fail to handle as well as we wish we could. There is also big money that carries great weight.

The attitudes of some people who reach outside conventional health care or turn away from it completely have toward the alternatives bewilder me. To reject medicine as a behemoth and trustfully seek care elsewhere is wrong. It is missing the point and learning the wrong lesson. It is not that medicine is bad. Medicine is not a single thing to take or leave. I wish the problems taught lessons of caution and brought people to contend with the uncertainties. Too many people just reassign their trust to offerers of false certainties.

A major problem with conventional health care, especially with medications and recent scandals surrounding some of them, is that its practitioners wield immense power over life and quality of life while not always providing sufficient protection to people. Although lawsuits are popular and controversial, they fail to give the truly harmed the recourse and reparations deserved. Medical power is not sufficiently checked and balanced. This bill would provide some needed regulation over a booming industry that is largely unresponsible to the public.

You should write your representative about this bill. I contacted mine urging support.


Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General

Intelligent falling

This post at Boing Boing points to this story at The Onion about Intelligent Falling Theory. As the article indicates, Newton really did worry about such things. His mathematics describe motions very accurately, but they provide nothing in the way of will, spirit or divinity. I see it as an early illustration of how science speaks very directly to some questions while having little relation to others.

A rather mediocre story in The New York Times addressed Intelligent Design claims. It is a rehash that provides little of interest. Two much better articles followed it the next day.

Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science” covered more interesting ground. I particularly enjoyed reading about the religious perspectives of Francis S. Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and Kenneth R. Miller, noted opponent of ID. Outspoken atheists Steven Weinberg and Richard Dawkins provided some predictably prickly quotes.

Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution” emphasizes some critical points in the struggle to understand natural history. The scales are enormous compared to everyday human experience. The conclusions about the proper moral relationship of humans to the rest of the world do not follow so well, but the basic arguments about the vastness of time are solid and crucial. The understanding of time is a modern breakthrough that I suspect will remain outside my mind’s firm grasp. It is a wonder.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General

Leisure of Labor Day

Labor Day weekend brought some terrific cultural offerings. I visited the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden Saturday afternoon. The highlight was the sumo demonstration. It featured two wrestlers and several adventurous volunteers from the audience. I missed taiko drumming, said to be the best part, but I will try again another year.

I left the Japanese Festival early to make it to the Big Muddy Blues Festival to hear the recently blogged Bo Diddley. McComb, our shared hometown, garnered two mentions during the performance. Both called for assistance to the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I planned to thank him for drawing attention to our little town, but he went back into his bus just when I was the next person in line. I do not blame him. I think he spent more than two solid hours on stage. He is a total show. He discussed his struggles with diabetes, advising the crowd to get checked. He rapped. He sang what must be a new song about gasoline to the Bo Diddley beat. “Who Do You Love?” was the only thing missing.

Sunday, I explored Illinois Caverns with a group of friends. I found tiny white arthropods, probably crustaceans or insect larvae, in pools. Rebecca spotted an orange creature, probably a salamander, but possibly a lizard. If my car had not failed to start when it was time to leave, the trip would have been flawless. This car problem is a thorn, remaining unrepaired after two extended stays in shops. After leaving it for a couple of hours, it started right up, just like it has every time a mechanic has tried. The delay in departure led to exploration of the ominously named, yet very pleasant town of Waterloo.

Along with a couple of parties, catching up on sleep and playing frisbee, these events made for a great Labor Day weekend. Ole Miss squeeked out a win over Memphis (State), too! Every win is a good one, especially with the team undergoing big changes.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General, Live, Music

“I’m Gonna Be an Engineer”

Peggy Seeger‘s “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” has been in heavy rotation with me. I discovered it on Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection. I have an engineering education, and I am troubled by the inferior status of women in the professional world. Along both lines, the lyrics are scathing. That the female engineer narrator places blame both with herself and with the people who gave her bad advice is remarkable to me. The song also reminded me of earlier posts following the Larry Summers comments. I cannot help thinking, though, that the song would be much better if Seeger were an engineer.

Coincidentally, Seeger lives in Asheville, North Carolina, the same place that the recently blogged Bob Moog lived. It must be a creative wonderland.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Lomax controversy

Book Says Alan Lomax Neglected Black Scholars” in The New York Times covers a controversy about which I know little. Alan Lomax was a noted folklorist from a family of noted folklorists. Maybe he was unfair. He certainly had a reputation as a difficult character. I suspect that there is something to the claims, but that there also are exaggerations about his scholarly misdeeds. Whatever the case, his field recordings are snapshots of wonderful America.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General, Music, Recorded on All Things Considered

NPR‘s All Things Considered had an interview with David Mikkelson of Snopes tracks modern folklore, and it does so with humor and style. It has been a favorite site of mine for quite a while, probably since college. It is a first stop when investigating chain email, whether it is about goofball cell phone rumors or bad health advice. I track additions with Bloglines.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General

Eyes returns

This post at Downhill Battle brings good news in a story not blogged in quite a while. Recent grants might support the necessary licensing to free Eyes on the Prize from its copyright limbo. NPR‘s All Things Considered covered the news, as did Wired.

The late Henry Hampton, filmmaker and creator of the series, was a native of Saint Louis and an alumnus of Washington University. I do not know how I missed such an important fact until today. WashU houses the The Henry Hampton Collection.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General

Katrina open letter

The Times-Picayune published “An open letter to the President.” It makes good points about travel following the hurricane. Damage from Katrina left the causeway to the north and I-10 to the east impassable, but access to New Orleans was still available from the west. The Crescent City Connection mentioned in the article links the Morial Convention Center, the site of evacuation infamy, to the West Bank. Look at just how close they are.

The Breaking News Weblog is a good source for news. WWL-TV also has a great blog.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2005 in General

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.