Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Introduction to A Field Guide for Sound Symphonies

Without disclosing too much, one of my new projects involves writing a piece about sound, what it means to hear -- or not hear – and how this effects language. One thing that interests me is how we can hear many noises simultaneously. Right now, for example. I hear a plane, a car, the kids upstairs, and my own boy chatting about gold and whales. Then, living in New York, there is an omnipresent “white noise” in the background. My ear can choose to separate these things, or bunch them together. What a miracle it is for the brain to process all this.

There are noises that are very comforting to me (trains in Oregon and garbage boats in New York) because they signify where I am and allow me to feel rested. Upon falling asleep or waking, I am deaf. I have heard that this also happens in animals.

One thing that is interesting to me is the question of whether profoundly deaf people can read English. I recently read that, as all human babies develop language beginning with babbling, deaf babies babble with their hands. I have always thought that deaf people COULD NOT read English because ASL is not English. Nor is it a written language to my knowledge.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

“DJs of the World Unite and Take Over”

Perhaps the point of music, like poetry, is to take an available -- oft limited -- medium and make it new. I have always thought of DJs as the preveyors of a new form of music, one which is not formed from notes and lyrics, but from dissembling and reassembling complete other forms. DJ Spooky, who performed at McCarren Pool last Saturday, in my mind, has the status of a musicolocigist, as well as a true musician. Spooky’s set -- going off memory -- began with the theme from Gunsmoke and moved through a set of Indian raga, “Billy Jean,” rap, and so on to end with Jimmy Hendrix’s "Star Spangled Banner."
The best talent of such a great musician is his ability to take any genre of music and make it interesting. This is quite a feat if one considers the segregationist attitude that many people (particularly youth) have toward music. Many of my high school students are unaware that 50 Cent derives from Public Enemy, let alone Miles Davis. Another close friend loves jazz, but refuses to acknowledge rap as a genre. (See poetry friends!)

I also admire Spooky because of his involvement in politics. One of his most interesting pieces is a visual and musical re-mix of "Birth of a Nation." He also writes articles from time to time for periodicals such as "The Nation."

HOWEVER, I was a bit embarrassed for my neighborhood Saturday -- one that prides itself on being cutting edge. Hardly anyone came out, which is not unusual given the threatening weather. But, of those, no one really knew who Spooky, was and we were the only people dancing in many placed throughout the set.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Call to New Yorkers: Boot out Hillary

Let’s play a game. It’s called “Hillary what have your done for us lately?” Here’s the object of the game. Name one law, proposal, or general thing that Hillary has done for New York or the country in her time as senator. Ummmmmmmmmmm! Can’t think of one? Me neither! Wait! There is that one thing! Yes, she voted FOR the war in Iraq! I forgot about that.

On Sept. 12th in the primary election (believe or not) Hillary is running against some named Jonathon Tasini. Never heard of him? Me neither, until yesterday. As told in yesterday’s Times editorial Hillary is so sure of herself, she refuses to even debate the poor guy. As it turns out Tasini is very anti-war. He’ll probably not win. Hillary’s just too charming, pretty, and, well, rich. But, let’s vote for him anyway. Perhaps if she sees that the public is disasified, she’ll switch into gear. Connecticut did it! Why can’t we?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Treatise Against Fanatical Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, believe it or not, is one of the hot political topics in today’s climate. Recently, Bush’s government jumped on the bandwagon with a commercial comparing not breastfeeding your child with riding an electric bull while pregnant. This add campaign, of course, spurred hysteria on both sides and lauded countless letters to the Times. Is it possible that Bush is taking up what has traditionally been a liberal cause? No! The breastfeeding campaign largely requires what the Bush cabinet hopes mothers to be – in two-parent homes, jobless, home with the kids and with a big income from daddy. It is confusing as to why feminists can’t see this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

This morning I was visiting with a neighbor with a three month old who described her and her child’s breastfeeding experience. If was much like my own. Her son had difficulty breastfeeding. She said that she spend 12 hours a day on the couch either pumping or trying to feed her child. She had a laction specialist coming to her house once a week ( costly and emotional venture). She said she even used tubes to try and keep the child on breast milk. What did this lead to? The child lost a lot of weight, was constantly constipated, and the mother was exhausted and hysterical. Is this worth it?

Does breast milk make babies healthier and more brilliant than formula-fed babies? Who knows? Research tells us such. In real life, I have know breastfed babies who have had autism, countless colds, ear infections, and so on. On the other hand, I’ve known bottle-fed babies who are fit as a fiddle. When people do studies I think they leave out crucial information. This is risky territory – but I’m willing to guess that breast-fed babies in America are GENERALLY born to upper or middle class families who are more likely to be health conscious. These families are more likely to feed the baby organic and fresh vegetables and so on. These families are also more likely to be able to afford nannies or stay-at-home moms. The absence of daycare protects children from illness as does healthier food.