Leaves of Grass, The Big Reveal

I’ve been watching Jack Nicholson’s scenes as Eugene O’Neill in ‘Reds” again and again. It’s streamed on Netflix, I recommend that you do the same. His big scenes are at about 52 minutes in. He is simply mesmerizing, and Diane Keaton definitely shines and enhances his spell.

But watching Louise (Diane’s character) place Gene’s poem in a copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ – to be found later by her husband – also made me click on ‘Breaking Bad’ where Walt’s secret is discovered when Hank opens the book for some bathroom reading.

I’m wondering if there are any other movies or shows where ‘Leaves of Grass’ serves the same purpose. Let me know if you can think of anything.

Streaming Music versus Buying It.

I’ve been considering purchasing one of the paid plans for Spotify, and as part of my decision-making process I was curious about how the musicians are paid. According to this letter from the president of a small label, Spotify pays out half a penny for each stream to the owner of the recording – in some cases that is the recording label and in some cases that is the actual artist. If I were buying a song off iTunes, about 70 cents of my payment of $1.29 would go to the owner of the recording. So with some quick math – the owner of the recording is better off if I use Spotify and play the song 140 times or more.

On the other hand, the artist is better off if I listen to their song 20 times on Spotify as opposed to not purchasing it on iTunes at all.

One could argue about how it’s the artist that one should care about in terms of payment, but I will leave that worry up to the artists themselves and their skill (or lack) in negotiating their contract. I won’t be purchasing CD’s in any scenario, and I expect that the payment to the artist is the same in terms of percentage whether I use iTunes to buy (or Amazon, though I haven’t done research on their terms of payment) or stream from Spotify.

Now, I just wonder if I’ll want to pay the equivalent of an album on iTunes per month ($9.99) for the privilege of listening to everything on Spotify on my iPhone when I’m driving or at work. According to my Last.fm scrobbler, I listen to an average of 46 songs per day. That’s about 1400 songs per month. Compared to the half cent Spotify revenue that’s $7 per month. And most of the songs I’m listening to are from my own iTunes library: stuff I’ve already paid for.

All in all, not a lot of money in any scenario for an old guy like me who only has a few places and people he can reliably look to for new music.

Shame, Shame, and More Shame

The test score cheating scandal in Atlanta just disappoints and disgusts me to no end. As this NY TImes article points out, not only were teachers and administrators given bonuses for their work in “raising tests scores,” by inflating the scores for students, they were making their schools ineligible for federal funding that could have been used for programs to help their students.

Now, I can’t think of any federal programs that I think actually help students – so I don’t quite consider this tragic. But it does add another layer of shameful behavior to the actions of the administrators and teachers.

This is a different scandal from the Clarence Mumford/Praxis teacher test scandal in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

I had a conversation recently with a teacher friend where she described a colleague with an advanced degree who spent most of his class time proving how much smarter he was than his high school students. Nothing good happens if you enter the classroom and student learning isn’t your first priority.

I Can’t Recall Ever Wishing To Be in Brooklyn Before…

… but this class on Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy makes me wish…

And I’m happy to read that no harsh chemicals will be used.

Elsewhere and Other and So On

I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn.



Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Natalie and John: together again, at long last.

New Biz Idea

It would be tacky to ask friends to bid on what I use as their ringtone. But is there a plausible business in asking strangers to bid on the privilege of, say, the guitar intro to “Don’t Take Me Alive,” as their ringtone when they call me? It seems like an odd experiment that a psychology/business major might propose: would someone be willing to pay a small fee to give someone else a small pleasure at random intervals (to hear a 20 second snatch of a cool song)?

This seems both obvious and counter-intuitive, so I suspect that others have had this weird idea.

Cogitate and Ruminate

Way back in my 20′s I was active in a Pentecostal Church. I was talking to a friend one day, and he made disparaging remarks about Evolution. I was not happy with my responses to his comments, and felt motivated to read up on Evolution and the scientific basis for it. Having been a physics major, I accepted Evolution as true, but didn’t know enough about to really do much in the way of defense. Especially when my friend gave me some of the Creationist books. I could tell that their answers weren’t really scientific, but I didn’t have enough knowledge to go beyond “that just doesn’t smell right.”

Since I knew that he had been called as a witness at a Scopes-like trial involving giving equal time to Creationism in high school science, I chose to read Stephen Jay Gould. He wrote well and I gobbled up many of his books. I felt a debt of gratitude to him for the knowledge and information I gleaned from his writing.

So I read all of Gould’s books up to “Wonderful Life.” Then I couldn’t help noticing the criticisms of his interpretations – especially from the scientists he lauded for doing such amazing work in analyzing the fossils in the Burgess Shale. And as I read more about Gould, his run-ins with E. O. Wilson, I just felt my respect for him diminish. He spoke in platitudes about respect and trying to free scientific inquiry from cultural biases, but appeared to be deeply mired in the politics of academic science, with the goal of quashing the views of those he disagreed with. And then Daniel Dennett’s book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” even further reduced my esteem for Gould.

Now comes a paper suggesting that Gould was guilty of slandering a 19th century scientist, Samuel George Morton, with charges of data manipulation to fit what Gould labeled as “racist” theories. The paper (here) closes with the statement

Morton’s methods were sound, and our analysis shows that they prevented Morton’s biases from significantly impacting his results. The Morton case, rather than illustrating the ubiquity of bias, instead shows the ability of science to escape the bounds and blinders of cultural contexts.

Would that Gould had risen to that standard himself.

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