Monday, September 26, 2011

Life Will Never Be The Same, But That's A Good Thing!

"My life has changed
Where do I start
Since Aladdin came in
And conquered my heart."
--the Chinese princess in Chichester Theological College's panto Aladdin, 1985

In 1985, I played the part of the Chinese princess, and the lines above were the beginning of my first speech. I delivered them in a Southern (U.S.) accent. Don't ask.

But I was thinking today that my life, particularly since last December, has been changed incredibly because of Google. And where do I start?

Of course, before last December, like so many people, I Googled daily. I can't even remember the last time I used a different search engine. Google was it for me pretty much from the time it launched.

I loved stuff like -- I really annoyed people with that, actually, but we won't go into that here.

I downloaded and used the Chrome browser pretty much from the first day it was available. I used Rockmelt for a while, too, as it incorporated lots of great Chrome features along with other sites.

I worked in Google Docs -- several clients were happy to work that way, and I found that it made things easier most of the time. I was still tied to hard drives and Windows, but I was committed to investigating what working in the cloud could mean for me.

Then, one day last December, I was tootling around on Facebook and saw a post from . . . well, I can't remember exactly what it was. But I took a survey and was promised some Chrome stickers. So what the hey, I thought, I can do this.

I was shocked, and I mean shocked, to find a Cr-48 on my doorstep a few days later. This was before people had started posting about this, so I had no idea what was going on. And the minute I started up the Cr-48, I was in love.

And then Google launched Google+. And I have finally found people on the Internet who are asking questions, involved in meaningful discussions, interesting to interact with, and I am loving it!

And now Google+ has enabled Circle sharing. The possibilities are infinite. I've already seen people from my Circles connect with each other, and they might not have found each other if I hadn't been able to share.

I can hardly wait to see what's next.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's A Fine Line Between Killing Off And Dying

"I wish more people would consider culture like sports: that it is really there to keep you more physically fit than you actually need to be to drive to the supermarket, and to give you an image that there is another type of fitness possible." -- Peter Sellars, 17 March 2009, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I am constantly hearing how classical music is dying; how it no longer has any relevance; how it is not important to continue to teach children to play instruments in elementary school because it will not play any part in their lives as adults.

It's easy for something to die when it has been systematically threatened, tortured, strangled, and killed off in every way possible. What is more surprising -- heart-warming, even -- is how classical music refuses to die. But that doesn't mean that it won't, eventually, and this should be of much more concern than it is.

Even the most intellectually challenged politician understands that it is much easier to teach something to the young than the old. But that doesn't mean that they recognize the impact of shutting down music education in elementary schools. Whoever decided that all that mattered in schools was the three "Rs" (a problem in itself, as it's really an R, a W, and an A!) sounded the death knell for the arts in general, and music education in particular. The Kennedy administration tried to incorporate physical education into the three "Rs" curriculum, but arts education was not invited to the party even then (I'm not sure who was meant to provide the entertainment . . .).

The ancient Greeks got it right: they had the arts as well as the Olympics because, as Peter Sellars put it in the lecture quoted at the beginning of this post, they "were raising the level every year for the whole society and creating a future." Even the ancient Romans seem to have understood that music was important; otherwise, how could Nero have fiddled while Rome burned?

Seriously, though, if we want to explain why our society is so sick, we need look no further than the cuts in arts education in the past few decades. What is so confusing to me is that we continue to fund the football team but we don't want to fund the marching band to play at the games. And we don't expect the quarterback to just walk on the field one day without daily training; why would we expect the clarinetist to play without daily training, either?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts On An Upcoming Anniversary

"In 1961 a copywriter named Shirley Polykoff was working for the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency on the Clairol hair-dye account when she came up with the line: 'If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde!' In a single slogan she had summed up what might be described as the secular side of the Me Decade. 'If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a—!' (You have only to fill in the blank.)" --Tom Wolfe, "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening," New York magazine, August 1976

When was it that people stopped caring about anyone other than themselves? Was it in the so-called Me Decade, the 1970s, as Tom Wolfe thought? Or was it something that slowly gained momentum throughout the postwar years, during the years of affluence and (relative) peace (the Vietnam War notwithstanding), and just reached a peak in the 1970s before the oil crisis and recession halted its progress?

There certainly was a resurgence of "me first" in the 1980s and 1990s. A lot of people got very rich by looking out for themselves first. "Wealth hoarders" grew in numbers; there were some of us who wondered why they needed so much money. Just how many houses, cars, wives, husbands, . . . did they need? But they were all looking out for number one, and who cared if other people were falling way behind?

And now we are all being told by the media to reflect on the 10 years since 9/11. All I can see is that what was a life-changing event for many people, one that should have ended "me first" once and for all, has been pushed to the margins, and we've become even more selfish and "me"-thinking than we were in the few days, maybe weeks, following 9/11.

We are a nasty, vitriolic, selfish nation -- and we're not the only one on the planet. Globalization, which was meant to bring people all over the world together in a spirit of cooperation, has just made everyone more inward-looking and concerned with themselves.

And the ones who are hurt most by this are the children, the youngest generation. We have systematically destroyed their education, most particularly their cultural and creative education, and given them nothing to look forward to or hope for. The oldest generation thinks, "Why should I support education? I did that for years when my kids were growing up, and I'm done with that." The middle generation thinks, "Why should I care about anyone but myself? I'm struggling to survive!"

If we did care about each other, maybe the struggle for survival would be lessened -- or at least we'd have some company in the struggle! And if the oldest helped to look out for the youngest, there would be all sorts of benefits for both.

Every day I come up against people who are blatantly looking out for themselves, and to them I say (viz. Howard Beale [Network]): "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" I will continue to fight to make people wake up and think about other people; I am putting you all on notice.