Sunday, January 04, 2009

Odds and ends

I have been gathering my scattered thoughts and catching up with a little bit of reading over the holidays.

I had begun to regard global warming as a problem - but one that will make its effects felt in the very long term, maybe 30 to 50 years at least. What I did not realise was the extent of the impact of global warming on the sea. This article made me sit up and take notice.

Did you know that a meltwater lake on the Greenland ice sheet covering six square kilometres drained away in 24 hours in 2006? That sound pretty dangerous to me.

The most serious impact, the higher levels of carbon dioxide affect the salinity of the seas surface making life difficult, if not impossible, for marine organisms with calcium-carbonate shells or skeletons. This means that larger fish, which feed on these smaller organisms may in turn cease to exist in a fairly short period, which means no seafood for you and me.

There is a lot more, so read and heed.

Moving onto something else, got a new phone which has a music player installed. Have copied some playlists onto it so hopefully will have something to soothe my nerves in the office. I have not listened to much music over the last three years or so, chiefly because I had no access to it, except on the computer and that too at home because the office ones don't have speakers.

This brings me to the lesser known works of popular composers, Bruch for instance. He has written a rather nice piano trio (op.5) which is (as it so happens) coupled with equally rare and quite delightful trio music by Widor (he of the Organ Symphonies) and Hiller. This is the recording that I pinched, recommended to anyone looking for unfamiliar music in that genre.

Continuing on the subject of Bruch's other works (he is known mainly for the G Minor violin concerto and the Scotch Fantasy), the second and third violin concerti are well worth a hearing, I've heard this recording, which is good.

The real gem in Bruch's oeuvre is the double piano concerto. It is even more immediately attractive than the first violin concerto but is unfortunately a real rarity. It had a strange history, the original score did not come to light until quite recently, which is one reason why it remains largely unknown.

There is a recording by the Labèque sisters, which is not supposed to be very good (I never cared much for their playing anyway) and there are some other unknowns also listed on Amazon. The world premier recording by Martin Berkofsky & David Hagen with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lutz Herbig is the one I've heard and it is quite outstanding (just found it on Amazon look here). It was on recorded in the 1980's on the Turnabout label (the former Vox Turnabout) which I think is now defunct. It was remastered on CD in the 1990's, in a terrible transfer that robbed the sound of its bloom, the CD version sounds thin and narrow, like an old mono recording. If you can find the original recording somewhere, give it a go, otherwise try one of the others. There was a lousy recording on Youtube so leave that well alone.

There is also a fairly nice concerto for Clarinet and Viola by Bruch as well and some interesting prices for basset Horn and Clarinet by Mendelssohn. Have a look here.

As I said before, I have also been trying to catch up on some reading and about 300 ages into the book, Nehru has at last started to say something of interest in his autobiography. It is not that the man cannot write, he has an elegant turn of phrase, but it is that he very little to say. For the most part of the first 300 pages he comes across as idealistic and out of touch. This is a lot better than Gandhi, who looks to me like an out and out nutcase - sleeping naked with teenage girls must count for rather odd behaviour especially by a supposed living saint.

The only reason I got the book (I did not buy it but I did hint to someone that I was interested in it and I received it as a present) was because Lee Kuan Yew mentioned in his autobiography that Nehru was the man they looked to for ideas and intellectual leadership. This was not apparent in the first half of the book and I would have been very disappointed had I actually paid money for it, but it seems to have picked up a bit now. Need to look around for some of his later writing. I was an ardent fan of Lee Kuan Yew, ever since I read his well written Story of Singapore. I noticed when glancing through some of the chapters in volume 2 (From the Third World to the First) that my views on the press differ from his more markedly now. Perhaps it is the experience of living under tight censorship that makes me appreciate the need for a freer press but I think I need to revisit that book again.

In the meantime just started the Undercover Economist by Tim Harford which (halfway through the first chapter) looks very exciting. This shall be my bedtime reading for a while, shall return to the re-reading of Sophie's World when I finish (that, to my small mind is a rather profound book), need to take it in little bits to digest it properly.

Anyway, having fun playing around with odd ideas, mental masturbation if you like, good night out there, whatever you are.


human said...

About Ghandi. I know he was being a pervert when it comes to his stupid 'purity test' which involved sleeping with cute teenage girls. (Yuk! poor girls. I know all they did was just plain sleeping but still... I don't think many girls would want to be be the 'purity test' lab partner of an old 'living saint' like Ghandi!)

But don't you think his 'non violent shame tactics' (to borrow this phrase from Michael Moore) were quite effective in helping him do impressive stuff like getting a deal for the Indians in South Africa and later Chasing the British out of India? I don't think he was a living saint. But I do respect the man for being a clever politician who got what he wanted while avoiding a lot of bloodshed. Did you actually read his whole biography? I haven't tried yet. I must try Lee Kuan Yew's book someday. That really sounds interesting. After all he managed to take a country that was poorer than Sri Lanka and turned it into what it is today! Each of our politicians really needs a copy of that book!

Jack Point said...

On Lee Kuan Yew there is one politician who has read the book and actually digested a large chunk of it- Ranil Wickremesinghe.

This is what transformed RW from the average politician of the 1980's and 1990's to the statesman of 2001.

RW revealed at private party that when confronted with some particularly knotty problems (he did not elaborate on the nature of the problem) he flew to Singapore and consulted the man, who apparently gave him some sound advice.

On Gandhi, what struck me from Nehru's book was that there was no plan in the civil disobedience campaign. They wanted the British out but had no plans on how to take over or run the administration.

The British were frightened by the scale of the campaign and were willing to start gradual power sharing, even offering full dominion status (the same status that Australia, NZ and SA enjoyed at the time, which was a level of near independence), instead of engaging, they simply spurned all offers of engagement until the British, broken by WW2 gave up and walked out overnight.

Gandhi unleashed forces he could not control which ultimately engulfed and destroyed him and the nation.

I would hold Gandhi responsible for the partition of India and all the bloodshed that followed. He is the grandfather of the tensions that beset the subcontinent today.

Nehru repeatedly ridicules another group of leaders that called themselves first the Moderates and later the Liberals. This group wanted to engage the British and forewarned of the catastrophes that lay in sudden change.

I have another 150 pages to go on the book.

On Singapore, I think on a per capita basis they were richer than SL, although not significantly so, at independence. However they had no resources and surrounded by hostile neighbours almost no hope of survival.

Indonesia with a 100m population kept threatening to take over first Malaysia (pop abt 6m) and later Singapore (pop. abt 500,000).

China was also fresh after the revolution of 1949 and was agitating for overseas Chinese in Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia and elsewhere to formant revolution and join a greater China. China was thus hostile to any government not actively communist in the region and suspicion of the resident Chinese in Southeast Asia was fuelling the tensions between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Singapore was main port to Malaya and this is what their economy was about, which is why LKY initially tried to merge the two to form Malaysia. When that failed, he said they were like a heart without a body.

It was turning something hopeless into a first world country is what transformational leadership was about. Read the books, the first volume is extremely well written and flows like a thriller. The second suffers from a lack of linear narrative (he is writing in themes, each chapter being devoted to a particular subject) but offers fascinating insights.

Nibras Bawa said...

Hey dude,

Nice post. Did enjoy it. Keep posting :-)

Jack Point said...

hey Nibras, welcome to the blog and thanks.