Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ranking my favorite operas and the entertaining

Stumbled across this intriguing interactive site while researching an obscure fact about opera.

You may enjoy seeing my list, and the site's many, many other lists to rank.   To make your own list, just type in their search box, "best operas," or "best rock bands" or anything else.

Warning:  can be addictive.

The Best Operas

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil

With ongoing proxy wars in Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia risks
instigating an oil war with Russia and Iran—a war that the kingdom can
perhaps win in the short term. But like sectarian conflict,  Saudi actions threaten a conflagration that can spin out of everyone’s control.....

Friday, December 05, 2014

Obscure Composers: not about music

My 2014 book, Obscure Composers, wasn't really about music, in the final analysis.  It was about life.  It concludes like this:

What have we learned from this study, in practical terms?  If you wish to compose, get the best possible education, then secure the best possible employment to fund your artistic aspirations.  Follow your own voice versus compositional trends or fads.  And be patient.  Recognition may take a while to come your way.  Indeed:

“Art is long, life is short.”

My piano teacher, Harry Davidson, used to say that from time to time.  To which the thought now occurs to add, after this study, “Obscurity may be longer still.”

I’ve had a lot of time to think about obscurity while researching and writing in this space.  And to reach out to others, working musicians, composers, academics, administrators.  The response has been gratifying.  I find I’ve tapped a nerve.  People care about this subject, more than I would have guessed.  What is it that causes us to respond in rescue mode to save a talented composer – or other worthy – from obscurity? 

What is it, then, that makes each of us rebel instinctively at obscurity, as one of our quotees said at the outset of this work?

I think it is because obscurity is a meaning, if not THE meaning of death, and as such, a grievous injustice that strikes right at the core of the human spirit.  We simply don’t want to die, and even more, we simply don’t want to be forgotten.  To vanish, to be obscured, to be obliterated, to leave no trace whatsoever.

We do our work on planet earth, whatever it is, glorious or not so, and if we are fortunate, we arrive at the fullness of years, and pass on, preferably, easily enough.  Then comes a void.  We may be remembered – or not – for what we did, said, didn’t do, didn’t say.  The remembering might be brief.  Likely it will be.  Still, obscurity looms.  If you don’t think so, write an essay about your great-great-grandparents, and send it to me.  It only takes four generations to become completely unknown, even to your descendents.

There is, in the opinion of this author, and many others, another dimension, a world of spirit, of which we know little, but which in no way mitigates its reality.  And so it would seem that the only permanent, real “cure” for obscurity lies in the realm of spirit – in the God realm. 

Men, some sage, some simple, have written that we enter that realm by faith, simple, humble, even childlike faith.  For those willing to trust God in like manner, and follow his dictates, the question of death, and obscurity, is resolved forever, and eternal life arises to take its place.  “For God so loved the world.....” becomes the operative verse, transcending all other ideas, theories, tenets, wishes, hopes, dreams, and devices of mankind.

For more on this theme, see our book on the texts of a set of vocal works from a most Un-Obscure Composer: Bach and Heaven:  The promise of afterlife in the text of the Cantatas.

We wish you only the best.  Thanks for taking this voyage of discovery with us. Keep traveling, and discovering -- and trusting your own ears.

Sincerely yours, John A. Sarkett

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

B.C. (Before Computers) Big Data was the province of hands and eyes and notebooks

The Revolution In Tennis Stats That Didn’t Stick | FiveThirtyEight

Data analysis, once upon a time, in the land of tennis.

Pointer credit to friend Len Kasper, Chicago Cubs broadcaster, an avid and superb tennis player in his own right, and my former doubles partner when we had indoor league some years ago.  Thanks, Len.....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kirk Cameron Saves Christmas

Kirk Cameron Saves Christmas from Abominable Killjoys (Other Christians) - The Daily Beast

Excerpt:  Historically, the Puritans banned Christmas from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659. But they weren’t alone:  Quakers, Separatists, and Baptists also opted out citing the lack of any order in the Bible to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the pagan origins of many of the traditions.Many Christians feel similarly today.......

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Putin: moral leader of the world? That is the title of an essay I just read.....

Putin Signs Secret Pact to Crush NATO

This, plus Paul Craig Roberts piece on Putin:  must reads

"Moral leader of the world" is a shocking phrase for the Russian leader to one raised in the Sputnik era Cold War....shocking all the more to come from a former administration official, but this is a must read piece nonetheless....whether you agree with every word and phrase or not.  Roberts is a bold thinker....and writer....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Charisma, a one act opera, starring Renee Fleming

I celebrate myself
And what I assume you shall assume
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs
to you
I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease....observing a spear
of summer grass.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

You spend a master class hour with world number one diva Renee Fleming, and it gets you to thinking, about a lot of things.

About things like:  what is this thing, charisma?  Why do some people have so much, like Ms. Fleming, others little or none?

I think, in part, it is a function of human connectivity.  The greater the "connectivity" to others, the greater the charisma.  Metaphorically, it is a winking of the eye, a "we're in this together" feeling, conveyed to the receiver.  A singular oneness that says, like the poet:  "Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

It is the opposite of "I'm so much better than you".  Of separateness, aloofness.  Of pride.

In opera, (and pop and jazz, for that matter), charisma is Renee Fleming.  We attended her sold-out master class in Pick-Staiger Hall, October 27, 2014, along with 1,000 of our newest acquaintances.  We all got a voice lesson;  Ms. Fleming had the crowd doing vocal lessons along with her four students (AAAAAAAAAAA -- EEEEEEEEEEEEEE -------IIIIIIIIIIIII.....again! -- it's worth noting that most clinicians never do any such thing), suggested singing while doing pushups against the floor or wall and had her baritone student demonstrate, much to the delight of the audience, and finally, singing through straws for breath control.  She talked about the place of Pilates and Yoga as foundation for vocal performance.  She is a pert and pretty compendium of vocal savvy.  After all, she is the number one girl singer in the world, did we mention that?

There are a gaggle of vocal coaches, especially in New York, where they make big dollars coaching opera stars and wannabe's.  Ms. Fleming can do all that, and then put the product on the top stages of the world, which they can't.

But the lesson went beyond vocal tricks, and do's and don't, it was a lesson in humanity of the charismatic style.  Of this kind of thing 'my atoms are your atoms -- mi atoms e su atoms?' that she manifested in everything she did.

For example, rather than ripping them, or damning them with faint praise, as some do, Ms. Fleming was spectacularly encouraging to her young hopefuls.  She came over to them after the selection was sung.  (Some clinicians maintain quite a distance.)  She put her hand on their back or shoulder, while calling out the things they did best.  "So few can sing Puccini's 'Chi il bel sogno' from La Rondine, but YOU CAN, I loved it" she said to a young singer, nervous at performing before the world number one and a packed concert hall.

Besides the support, Ms. Fleming was an expert, which has its own charisma, to be sure.  The nerves?   Ms. Fleming coached the young soprano on throat relaxation, and breathing, and breathing exercises, had her do some exercises onstage, and resing the aria, and magically brought her up a whole level within minutes.  The nerves just melted away.

She coached the dramatic, she gave one singer "permission" to inhabit the character, and become him, instead of just singing the notes.  To rant, rave, move, box, wave the arms -- to convey the meaning of the words:

Ah, per sempre...Bel sogno beato, Riccardo's aria from I Puritani

Ah, per sempre io te perdei,       Oh! Forever I have lost you,
fior d'amore, o mia speranza;      flower of Love, oh hope of mine;
Ah! La vita che m'avanza          what's left of my Life
sarà piena di dolor!              will be filled with pain!
Quando errai per anni ed anni     When I wandered year after year
in poter della ventura,            under the power of blind luck,
io sfidai sciagura e affanni      I challenged calamities and cares
nella speme del tuo amor,         in the hope of your Love,
io sfidai, ecc..

Bel sogno beato,              Lovely blessed dream,
di pace e contento,             of peace and contentment,
o cangia il mio fato,              either change my fate
o cangia il mio cor.              or change my heart.
Oh! Come è tormento               Oh! What torment
nel dì del dolore,                 in that day of sorrow,
la dolce memoria                  the sweet memory
d'un tenero amor.                 of a tender Love.

Translation by Manuel A. Gutiérrez (

And then, there was the humor.  Mixed with the constant patter and asides to the audience.  (Some clinicians never acknowledge the audience at all.)  Ms. Fleming did, but not as "audience," rather as "we're all friends here."  And she backed it up with humor, just as you might when among friends.  She was funny, very funny -- about every 60 or 90 seconds she had the room laughing.  She has the chops of a Second City improv artist.

We could go on, but you get the picture.  From me, here, just a grainy one, from a distance.  You had to be there to really experience the whole thing in living color:  the music, technique, conveyance, grace, beauty -- and the warm humor at no one's expense and for that one brief hour, to everyone's benefit.  All in all, a great music lesson, to be sure, but a master's master class in humanity and with special focus on this thing, charisma.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Understanding Islam

Franklin Graham: Obama doesn’t understand Islam

Neither did Bush.  

Must read.

P.S. Btw, where is the outcry against the list of crimes ennumerated here from the liberal left?  I'm not hearing it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits From Turkey -

ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits From Turkey -

Scotland will vote NO

For one reason:  they receive more in support and services than they contribute to the UK.  Follow the finances....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A comedic film noir?

Film Rx:  "His Kind of Woman" --------- very unusual, a film noir, but Vincent Price adds a hilarious comedic air at the end.  Stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, and Mr. Price.   Does not appear to be on Netflix, I got it from another source.

Vincent Price quotes, all or in part, from Shakespeare:

Now soldiers, much away and how thou pleasest God, dispose the day
Now, soldiers, march away,
And how Thou pleasest, God, dispose the day.  Henry V

Ahoy there, stand by to be commandeered.

Mutinous scoundrel.

Stop counting hombres and start that engine!

Now would I give a 1000 furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.
Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground: long heath, brown furze, anything. The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death.  The Tempest

Don't stand there jabbering, abandon ship!

Falter not.

I have yet to spurn the glare of a spotlight or run away from applause.

Death hath not struck so fat a deer yet today.

What, old acquaintance, could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack, farewell.
I could have better spared a better man.
O, I should have a heavy miss of thee
If I were much in love with vanity.
Death hath not struck so fat a deer today,
Though many dearer in this bloody fray.
Emboweled will I see thee by and by;
Till then in blood by noble Percy lie. Henry IV

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yes, It Could Happen Again - Roger Cohen - The Atlantic

Yes, It Could Happen Again - Roger Cohen - The Atlantic

Instability in Ukraine, chaos in Syria, conflict in the East China Sea—the trigger points for World War III are in place.

He concludes...........................Consider this article in my father’s 1938 high-school yearbook:

The machine has brought men face to face as never before in history. Paris and Berlin are closer today than neighboring villages were in the Middle Ages. In one sense distance has been annihilated. We speed on the wings of the wind and carry in our hands weapons more dreadful than the lightning … The challenge of the machine is the greatest opportunity mankind has yet enjoyed. Out of the rush and swirl of the confusions of our times may yet arise a majestic order of world peace and prosperity.

Optimism is irrepressible in the human heart—and best mistrusted. Our world of hyperconnectivity, and the strains and aspirations that accompany it, is not so novel after all. The ghosts of repetition reside alongside the prophets of progress. From the “rush and swirl” of 1938 where “distance has been annihilated” would follow in short order the slaughter of Stalingrad, the mass murder of European Jewry, the indiscriminate deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the anguish of all humanity. We should not lightly discard a well-grounded pessimism or the treaties it has produced.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

War, gold and all the rest

My Blog

Then read

Much to think about.....

Monday, July 14, 2014

A master class in how not to give a master class

SUMMARY:  A master class is an invitation into the psyche and soul of the artist.  What’s needed:  a few words of clarity, a sense of kindness, needs of students and audience addressed, and a generosity of spirit.  Without these, one can still be a great artist and an effective educator -- just not in the way the artist may imagine.  

 Attending master classes has been an avocation for more than 30 years.  We have listened to, and learned from:  Alexis Weissenberg, Menaham Pressler, Karl Ulrich Schnabel, Leon Fleischer, Misha Dichter, Andras Schiff, Lynn Harrell, Evelyn Glennie, William Preucil, Miriam Fried, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, James Conlon, Michelle DeYoung -- and many others.

These private, away-from-the-concert stage events are often quite remarkable.  They provide insights not only into keyboard, string or voice technique, the hard-core “how to’s,” but more significantly, insights into the personality of the artist, that je ne sais quoi that we call ‘charisma’ that attracts and compels fans around the world.  It is rare for an artist to speak to an audience at a concert, (not even to name an obscure encore, e.g.), but in master classes, of course, the artist is doing nothing but: talking, explaining, cajoling, scolding, quoting.  (And, if we are lucky, occasionally demonstrating.  Ahhhh, that’s how it should sound!)  Onstage is the artist, but here is the person -- fully revealed, as the saying goes, warts (if they have any apparent ones) and all.

Speaking of which.

Not long ago, we attended a violin master class held as part of a major music festival.  We came away rather struck by the fact that, without meaning to, the artist gave ‘a master class in how not to give a master class.’  We’ll not divulge the artist’s name, because on further research, this particular artist has, at times, had a bit of a rough go of it, and we don’t wish to pile on.  Please forgive.

Here follows a description of the class.

First, the artist slipped into the front row in unassuming fashion, and then some minutes later was introduced to the audience by a festival official.  The microphone was faulty, crackling, breaking in and out.  In many if not most master classes, given by the artists listed above, the artist himself or herself says a few words to the audience, outlines what is to follow, and establishes a bit of a bond with the audience, a conspiracy, if you will, that together, we’ll investigate the works at hand, have some fun, and learn something, together.  A little of their magic pixie dust falls on the in-thrall audience, and everyone is put at ease from the very outset.  (Here, a few enterprising audience members approached the artist before the introduction, and in so doing, attempted to lay in a supply of pixie dust for themselves.)

But that sharing with the entire audience:  not here at the outset, nor later as we’ll see.  Back to class.

The students came on, a major violin sonata was performed.  After the applause, in response, the artist took the stage, and launched forth a series of comments that were truly subjective, nonmusical, contradictory, and ultimately incomprehensible.  We really felt for the students.  What changes were they being asked to produce?  The artist advised the student to play a ‘more beautiful line,’ (what is that? -- impossible to be quantified, most clinicians hate this phrase) or ‘tell the story of the work,’ (only program music truly has a “story”) or ‘next time feel it more inside.’  (Objection, you honor, the artist can’t criticize what the student is ‘feeling,’ only what the student is ‘playing’ or ‘producing.’)  “Pick a person in the back row and communicate only and directly to that person.”  The commentary was occasionally peppered with slang, and more often annoying word mannerisms, like saying ‘yeah?,’ in a rising, inquisitive voice, over and over again.

One of the most striking features of a master class:  change.  When a teacher really reaches a student, and elevates their ‘game’ an entire level, the audience hears it.  The ooooh’s and aaaah’s sound forth.  There was no discernible change in the playing of any student in this class.  It was not the fault of the students, who were superb.  They simply couldn’t understand what “change” was being requested.  This is the chief gripe of grizzled orchestral musicians:  conductors who talk too much, who don’t know what they want, and don’t know how to get it, even if they did.

Most students stood there, somewhat dumbfounded, taking in the advice that amounted to something like go left, go right, go up and go down -- simultaneously.  One older and enterprising student took it upon himself to attempt to inquire of the clinician.  He tried to translate this gibberrish into meaningful, actionable points, what the artist was trying to say, and had some success with this when he simply asked if the artist was urging him to “exaggerate” the line here, and here, and there.  Even that couldn’t draw a straight answer.  The answer, such as it was, came back:  “it may seem exaggerated to you but not to the audience.” Oh.   OK.  I think. Exaggerate.  Why not just say so?  Calls to mind ‘you have not because you ask not.’  Here, it was up to the students to ask -- for clarification.  It shouldn’t be that way.

The artist eventually, seeming somewhat exasperated, retrieved a violin, but never actually played it, holding it in hand for the better part of an hour while keeping up the meaningless patter, all the while smiling and saying ‘yeah?’  How well we remember Andras Schiff cutting through all the confusion on the part of a student wrestling with Schumann just by taking the artist bench himself and playing one or two impeccable lines.  He was cutting through the plethora of notes, harmony, counterpoint, and bringing a somwhat simpler singing, melodic line to the fore.  OK, I hear that, I know what to do.  All was then clear.  We remember Lynn Harrell, in similar fashion, bringing a tone that was at least twice as big as any of his students, and directing them to dig the bow deeper into the strings to produce same.  OK, that’s clear, I can do that.  More bow pressure.  But ‘play a more beautiful line,’ or ‘tell the story’ where there is no ‘story’ per se?  Most of the artists listed above demonstrate a bit.  Not here.  Not once.  Not one note.  All the while holding the violin.

In addition to playing along with the student, or for the student, to make their points clear, many clinicians will delve into music theory.  One clinician said he always studied the harmonic structure of the piece as an aid to memorization.  The I to the IV to the V, and so on.  OK, that’s specific, and actionable.  Others will tend to emphasize music history, especially psychological insights into the composer, his life, times, circumstances surrounding the piece at hand.  Lynn Harrell:  “Did you know that Schumann was insane?” he inquired of some particularly buttoned down Northwestern U. students.  They nodded tentatively.  Harrell:  “I’m not hearing that here.”  But in this particular master class, no mention of music theory or history here, however.

Similarly, going a bit further afield, occasionally a clinician will address real world musician issues, for those who fly under the ‘superstar’ status they enjoy, i.e. most everyone else,  i.e. how to get a job, how to prepare for an audition, what it takes to break through to make a living out of these thousands and thousands of hours of study and preparation.  It shows a caring.  Kiri Te Kanawa did a remarkable job on this, and perhaps it is asking too much of every artist to bring these concerns, but there was nothing of the sort here.  OK.

This particular class ran some two hours without a break, no intermission. A few slipped out at the halfway mark, but most audience members shifted uncomfortably in their seats, not wishing to disrupt or show disrespect.  Two hours to sit and concentrate without a break is asking a lot;  a short intermission would have been helpful.

Nevertheless, when it was all over, the audience, still in awe of the artist, applauded across an extended time frame, but the artist, busy with repacking the violin in the case, with back to audience, never acknowledged the applause with even a turnaround or nod.  Rather ironic (yet consistent) ending to a master class that had seemed to try to stress communication with the audience.

Now, to add a bit of real world complexity.  We went looking on Spotify to hear a recent recording by this artist, a major 20th century violin concerto.  We were impressed, and fairly blown away by how expressive this reading was vis-à-vis competitor recordings.  What the artist had failed utterly to communicate to others, was realized in that artist’s own performance.  A standing on the head of the old saw:  ‘those who can teach, teach;  those who can’t, do.’

A master class is an invitation into the psyche and soul of the artist.  It is the poet allowing the reader, so to speak, to see him or her at work, with pencils and erasers, and brainstorming, and thinking out loud, and choosing this word and rejecting that -- all the work of artistic creation.  In so doing, it is incumbent on the artist, having already invited the audience in, to be a good host.  Nothing more and nothing less.  A few words of kindness, some needs addressed, and a generosity of spirit.  One can still be a great artist without these traits -- and one can still be an effective educator without these traits, too -- just not in the way the artist may imagine. 

John A. Sarkett is the author of Obscure Composers, and Violin Scale Charts.  More at

The Hungarian Ramone Passes On

Drummer Tommy Ramone, last original member of the 1970s punk band The Ramones, dies at 65 - NY Daily News

Tommy Ramone was born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest and became Tommy Erdelyi after moving to Queens in 1957.

Some might say 65 is too young to go, but Tommy R. outlived the rest of the foursome: Joey died of cancer in 2001 at
49, Dee Dee of a drug overdose one year later at 50, and Johnny of
cancer in 2004 at 55.

BBC News - Is this Italy's Mark Zuckerberg?

BBC News - Is this Italy's Mark Zuckerberg?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Chicago man gored in Running of the Bulls

Chicago man gored in Running of the Bulls -

“They said it was a centimeter away from my femoral artery and if it had
hit that artery I would have died,” said Hillmann, who grew up in
Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood and today lives in Little Village...........

Monday, June 09, 2014

‘Hindemith - Master and Prankster’ at Weill Recital Hall -

‘Hindemith - Master and Prankster’ -

Helps to know The Flying Dutchman by Wagner.  Then listen to Hindemith's spoof:

This work is scheduled for Ravinia Festival, July 22, 2014.  Had never heard of it until today.  In classical, there is always more to learn......suggests a book title:  Obscure Works by Famous that the present labor has ended....for now....

Monday, June 02, 2014

From $70 million to 22 years in prison

Inside the Mystery: Randi Kaye on shooting Love & Death in Paradise – Anderson Cooper 360 - Blogs

Certainly one of the strangest stories we have ever seen.......

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Go and sell all you have

Chicago missionary George Knoop killed in Haiti -

We read the verse, 'go and sell all you have and give to the poor.'  But who does it?  Turns out George Knoop, 77, former Chicagoan.  He started by giving out water bottles to joggers on behalf of Moody Church in a nearby park, then moved on to Haiti, to do more good works.  That's where he lost his life in a home invasion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Navy Seal commander advises UT grads: "make your bed," and other life insights

McRaven Commencement Speech At UT - Business Insider  How hard is it to become a Navy Seal?  Read full text.

Closing comments:

But, YOU are the class of 2014—the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

  • Start each day with a task completed.
  • Find someone to help you through life.
  • Respect everyone.
  • Know that life is not fair and that you
    will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times
    are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never,
    ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the
    generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we
    have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for
    the better.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Nothing good after midnight

Victim in fatal Lake Shore Drive crash was law student -

I have said from time to time, using hyperbole, "nothing good happens 'out there' after midnight."  This is one of the most tragic stories I have encountered in some time, and right here, downtown Chicago, Lake Shore Drive.  The victim was doing nothing wrong, but the assailant (inebriated?  drugged?) was, driving the wrong way on LSD, and she lost her life.  Which was just about to begin.

Stunning loss.  No words.

You don't even have to be in a car.  You can be merely standing outside an entertainment venue, not even in a moving vehicle, as was the case in March in Austin at SXSW.  You can have the most defensive posture, the best mentality, and still be a victim --- because of the hour, and the state of the perpetrator.

Senseless, terrible, horrific.  Best, always, for one's health, and even life, to make an early evening of it:  ....."nothing good happens 'out there' after midnight....."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reason to dine at home,0,1623540.story

Friday, April 11, 2014


Both WOSU Classical Columbus, Ohio, and WFMT Classical Chicago included our new book Obscure Composers in their spring pledge drives.  The author of our foreword, Henry Fogel, former CEO of the Chicago Symphony, discussed the book on WFMT in the 8 a.m. hour, March 31;  two weeks earlier, I was interviewed by WOSU's a.m. program host, Boyce Anderson (you can hear the 32:15 recording at  Meanwhile, here is a transcript:

I'm speaking with John Sarkett, who is the author of a book called "Obscure Composers". Welcome you first of all, to Classical 101, John...

Well, thanks so much for having me, Boyce. I appreciate it.

I find it fascinating as I look at the various books you've written that music is just one aspect of what seems to be a pretty wide range of interests. Sports comebacks, Bible prophecy, but also you get into trading and the financial markets, which I assume is where your main work lies.

Yes, that has been the case, so I have several volumes on that. One thing led to another. I worked with Sourcebooks, out of Naperville, Illinois, back in 2007 when I published my first book, Extraordinary Comebacks. Turns out I had been tearsheeting, and marking, and saving books with remarkable comeback stories for years and years and all of a sudden the thought was catalyzed in my mind to produce it as a book. And it was reasonably successful, and one thing led to another. And now I think there are 24 titles up on

So you find something catches your interest and you look and you say, 'oh boy, I think I have a book here waiting to be assembled.'

I think that's a good way to put it Boyce. You know, with respect to Obscure Composers, the one we're talking about today, I've been a lifelong fan of classical music, but rather heavily tilted to the favorites. For example, when I turned on our classical station here in Chicago this morning came on Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, certainly one of my very favorite pieces, and everyone's favorite piece and I've probably heard it 8,000 times. A while back, I was listening to classical radio, and I heard a work and it was rather different, and it just occurred to me "what is this?" and I tried to catch the announcement at the end of the piece and I thought the announcer said "Symphonica Rusticana" but it was "Symphonica Romantica" by Kurt Atterberg. And I realized that in some 40 years of listening to classical, attending concerts, listening all the time to classical radio I'd never really heard the name "Kurt Atterberg." And he was fairly famous in the mid-20th century. His works were performed by the likes of Toscanini and others. He won a famous contest and so forth. And it got me to thinking, Boyce, how many other such composers are out there that I've never really heard of that have something incredible and worthwhile to say that really spoke to me. One thing led to another and I was off on this safari.

It is a fascinating thing to begin thinking about some of this, because you think, ok, because you have all of these composers who were writing in like, the Baroque period, like Bach and Vivaldi, and others, but you think, somewhere along the line, there had to be others, beyond just Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, and on up into Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. And you think, well, and you begin to look at their students, and at their teachers, and the people who were working in other churches, there were, I mean, music was everywhere.

Indeed, it was everywhere. And you mention, in my opinion, and the opinion of others, the greatest composer -- ever-- Bach. Interestingly, one of the things that was brought back to my attention, I think I knew this vaguely but I went back and researched it, but Bach, during his lifetime was regarded as J.S. Bach. Incredible as it is even just to say this, he was regarded as something of an ..... average composer. He was passed over for an important musical post that he wanted for the likes of Telemann, who is a familiar musical name, but also another individual by the name of Graupner, who I'm pretty sure most classical listeners are not book, chapter and verse with. But then, after his passing, a lot of his manuscripts were lost, and it took almost 75 years for Mendelssohn to take up his cause by presenting his St. Matthew Passion in the 19th century. So, the ebb and flow of fame, is a rather fascinating theme here. People who were very, very famous in their day might be forgotten today. And similarly, people who were rather overlooked in their own time, have become immortals in the case of Bach, and just plain more famous in the case of others. It is a real sociology study here.

Something that is very fascinating in classical radio is that if you bring in someone in programming who wants to go with the favorites, and maybe you haven't been doing that, you get this huge bump in listenership for a short period of time and then you go through them again and again and again, and things begin to drop off. And I think that your book really points out to us that people like Purcell and Graupner and Buxtehude and composers like that are not only what makes music interesting and they put a lot of the names we do know into context and perspective.

Oh yes. And I'm not suggesting that I've found 50 or 100 composers that excel Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bartok. That's not the case, but when we, as you point out, Boyce, when we listen to their works, our minds are refreshed, reinvigorated, we hear things a little differently, and certainly we're going to go back and hear the great works. As we should. And we're going to be that much more informed and enlivened by them. That has been the case with me, and others have told me the same. It's a profitable business to expand our awareness.

Well, it is, and it's far more entertaining and interesting when you go to the concert hall if you do that if you have something you recognize and then you hear and say "wow I didn't know that Guillaume Dufay wrote anything like this. I was just looking at your list of questions about forgotten composers -- they used his tombstone to cover a well?

Amazingly, yes, if you want to talk about can really be forgotten. Well, just think of in our own case, aside from music, if each of us were asked to write an essay about our great great great grandparents, where would we begin? We probably don't, we barely know their names, if that, and nothing about them. So, in the case here, of 500 or 1000 years, you can truly be forgotten. But it raises other and interesting questions: what is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of one's work....time here on planet earth? One can get rather philosophical rather quickly in this, so another sort of a dividend in studying these so-called obscure composers.

Well then, one name that you brought up that I found very interesting is one that we don't think of as "obscure" because we hear the New York Philharmonic so much -- is Leonard Bernstein. There's a lot of his music, while we know a lot of it, there's a lot we don't know.

Yes, and interestingly, for someone who was so famous, so celebrated, as a stage composer, West Side Story and so forth, and as a conductor, I mean, hundreds and hundreds of recordings, one of his regrets, at the end of his life, one of the things he rued was that his classical writing wasn't taken all that seriously. It really stuck in his craw. So you never know what's inside someone's head -- what they aspire to be known for. All the fame, all this money, and he had this regret.

I think there are a lot of composers that have that thought, even the composers that we do know, of course, the things that they think people should pay attention to are oftentimes not the things that people want to hear. Holst, like that with The Planets. He grew to despise The Planets because that's what everyone wanted to hear, and he'd written so many other things. I was looking through your list here and there's one that is familiar to those of us who are in radio but no so generally familiar: Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Tell me a little bit as you can remember about him.

Well, Gottschalk was a fantastic composer. He was educated and grew up in New Orleans. Went off to Europe, was turned away from the Paris Conservatoire because the director there thought all Americans were savages, and illiterate. Uneducated. Eventually he got private tutoring in Paris, and he was a tremendous talent and a tremendous composer, and then he toured the world. And died much too young. But left behind a large body of work that's just now in recent times getting more attention. And as people aspire to put forth, quote, "an American music" his certainly was. He was American and a lot of second and third hearings are taking place. He is a very good exemplar of the whole "Obscure Composers" concept.

And, in his day, for lack of a better way to put it, a bit of a rock star.

Indeed, he really was, he got a lot of attention, traveled, really, the whole world, performing his works.

I'm looking at a couple of others, back in the earlier part of your book, in the baroque and in the classical. Is there a composer around the time of Haydn or Mozart that really caught your attention as to why isn't this person's music being heard more?

Interestingly, we can touch on this if we have a bit more time, but I consider this work not be just my own vision but the collaboration of others. And I can cite a lot of other names that have contributed to this book, but one of the things that I did was that I put forth the idea on a very active website by the name of, and I was floored, Boyce, some 50 people took the time and trouble to write back to me about their particular favorite obscure composer. This sort of touches a nerve with people because the very knowledgeable listeners and performers do have partisan views about their favorite obscure composers. One of these was Josef Boulogne, who also attained the title Le Chevalier de St. Georges. He was called, in his time, the "black Mozart." He was the son of a Frenchman, who was a plantation owner, and a black mother, who was raised here in the States, but went off to Europe for his education. He was as good a swordsman as he was a composer and musician. He was famous for both and he wrote some really entertaining violin concertos. And I had never heard his name in some 40 years of listening, attending and studying music. So that's just one, a fascinating study, there's a lot to that one.

Another name that, since we are speaking on St. Patrick's Day, that has come up is a name that I always enjoy hearing from, and a name that we don't hear very often, except around this time is John Field. He had a huge impact in the piano world....

Oh my...and of course, when we think of the nocturne we only think of Chopin, but interestingly, it was Field who invented the form. And he was widely known in Europe and among Liszt and Chopin and others of their ilk at that time, but it's a name that sort of ... has dwindled ... as you point out, not as famous now, perhaps, as he was in his own time. But someone, again, that can be revisited, we can look at his output and be informed and reinvigorated by it. And, if nothing else, come back to Chopin and Liszt, and the other immortals with a more informed and enlightened view.

And another thing, sometimes I think it just takes us a while to grow into these composers. Or --- it's like, you know, the prophet in his own land sometimes is not listened to. There was one composer in your list you mentioned a little bit later on in your list -- that I'm looking at here -- that it took them some 11 years to discover what turned out to be one of his greatest compositions. Papers were just stacked up at his brother's house....

Oh, you're speaking of Schubert, of course...


...who a....such a fantastic output for someone who died so young, at 30 or 31 (note: it was 31). Schubert famously said his purpose was, he was put on earth to write music. And as soon as he would finish one piece he would write another. This is how he wrote some 900+ Deutsche numbers, D. catalog, now. He really heard only a fraction of his symphonies. And his Symphony No. 8, the Unfinished, sat for 40 years without a performance. And No. 9, for 10 years. And yes, Schumann was with his brother, rifling around in his papers, and came across this, and was thunderstruck at what he'd stumbled over and sought to bring it to the wider world, and thank goodness that he did.

It is amazing to me some of the things that have been buried, and who knows what has yet to be discovered. They're still occasionally pulling up a little something by Beethoven or Haydn so there could be thousands of these things out there.

A lot of the composers that I've come across, Boyce, their output has been lost. I mentioned Josef Boulogne. He wrote more than 200 works, but only 80 remained. Of Bach's cantatas, he wrote 300, we have only 200 left. So, yes, I'm like you, I see every once in a blue moon in the media, a new work by Beethoven, a new work by Mozart found, or claim to be found. And this is the work of musicologists, and they make entire careers of arguing over and researching just who wrote what. So we'll leave that to them, but I totally agree with you.

Well, and it's very interesting, things that happened then, and still are happening to us today. A couple of years ago, I was moving something in the closet and I found this ring that I had been missing for 15 years. How in the world did this get in here! Well, it fell out of something and there it was. And not only the closets but at least according to one composer's legacy, you need to check the freezer once in a while....

Oh, you're thinking of Vincent Persichetti, who had a large output, he was a fantastic educator ...the accolades that accrue to him as being a teacher are just stupendous. People thought he was a fabulous teacher and a wonderful human being, and he wrote widely, creatively, many kinds of classical music, and for some reason, and I didn't find the exact reason, he wrapped one of his last pieces, a work for harpsichord, in tin foil and put it away in his freezer. It was found some time after his passing, so when you say there are works out there still to be found, apparently, that has indeed been the case. And by the way, I had exactly the same experience as you did, Boyce. I wrote something, a fiction work, when I was very young, lost it, always wondered what became of it, and several months ago I was going through a box and there it was stuck in a folder with a bunch of other papers it's a remarkable feeling, almost like talking to a voice from the past. A fabulous feeling to find something that you've lost. And I think in a sense, we can say, you of the people I cite in the book is James Conlon, music director of the Ravinia Festival here, the L.A. Opera, a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. He has done a lot in this area. He, in fact, has created a foundation to advance the cause of composers who have not gotten their due, particularly those of Jewish extraction in WWII who were persecuted and put to death by the Nazis. And he says in one of his essays, you know, that some people say that all the great works, we know them all. They persist, they've made their way to us. He says this is a ridiculous statement because humanity has lost entire civilizations, the complete cultural output of entire civilizations like, if you think of native American peoples, like the Anasazis, of the Southwest, of the Aztecs, of the Mayas, I mean much of what they put out --- gone. So to say every great work of classical music, 'we already know it' and 'we have it' and if it hadn't been great, we wouldn't have lost it is just not true. So there really is worth in prospecting, unearthing the works of the past that we have missed. And going back and giving a rehearing to others that are out there but that we haven't, you know, fully grasped and appreciated.

Well, when we listen to them now...maybe with different ears than we did even 10 years ago.

That's really the case. I'm thinking not many years ago the serialists, composers, kind of ruled in the classical world. And I think -- I can't document this or measure it but my sense is that the tonalists and traditionalists and the neo-classicists have gained some ground back in the time since. So, that's one thing I've learned, and hopefully it comes through in this book. Things that we thought, for sure, that we knew....who was great, and who was lesser and who was unworthy, can get turned upside down given 50 or 100 or 200 or 300 years. And we do hear it differently.

We do. And we spoke a moment ago about Leonard Bernstein, not only as a composer but also as a conductor, and there was another conductor, whose name kind of disappeared for a long time, at least in his day, maybe better known as a conductor than as a composer. And that was Gustav Mahler.

Indeed. In his own time, as you well know, Boyce, he was mostly known as a conductor. And he wrote his classical works on his summer vacations! Quite remarkably....and, he was not quite as obscure as some. But it took until the 60s really for Bernstein to take up his cause for him to become famous, and then the bravura recordings of Solti in Chicago, and others, in the 70s, 80s, and so forth. And Mahler is, I think we would agree, completely an immortal by this time. So, sometimes, it takes about 100 years. Interestingly, I came across an article in Musical Quarterly from about 100 years ago, and the author of that article was suggesting that people give another hearing to names like Stenhammar, Medtner, Szymanowski. Those are names that have not become musical immortals of the weight of like a Mahler or a Bruckner. They are known, especially among afficianadoes, they're still there, but 100 years ago someone was writing and saying, 'you really should listen to these guys, they're great.' Similarly, in the same article if you can believe this, Boyce, he predicts the demise, the complete end of listening to the music of Puccini.


And this individual went on to become the music historian of the Library of Congress. Not just a listener, this was a very educated, erudite, musical person. So, whatever we think we might think today, or think we know for sure today, come back in 100 years ... may not be the case at all. I think I can safely say today to you, and that we could agree, Puccini is a musical immortal.

I think we could agree on that, yes. It is amazing sometimes how ... not only what they say is going to disappear, but what people say is going to be around long after we're gone -- and here we are maybe five or ten years later, and folks are saying "who?"

Is is an astonishment, believe me. It never fails to amaze me.

One of the composers whose name really became prominent once again some decades ago because of "Amadeus" was Antonio Salieri. It's one of those names we know, but we really don't know that much about him.

Yes, and I think the musical public first heard his name famous movie of some years ago -- "Amadeus". And he's one of the ones I went back and revisited because I knew the name, and I knew nothing else. In fact, when I'm reading about a lot of composers, I saw on the Internet, a person talking about David Diamond, the American composer. Person said: "well, I know the name, but I don't know any of his works." That's how it was with Salieri for me, but I went back, I listened to them, I write about him in the book, very interesting and worthwhile composer. There are so many like that, Boyce.

Muzio Clementi is one that comes to mind, he built a lot of pianos and things such as that ... a huge piano manufacturer, but he wrote over 100 piano sonatas --- a name that we really don't often pay that much attention to.

That's right, we might know the phrase "Gradus ad Parnassum", his set of 100 exercises and etudes, but I actually listened to them all, and more than once, and I'll tell you what, they sound better than exercises, they're real music and very interesting. While we're on that subject, etudes, I came across a Russian composer, Sergei Lyapunov. Not a familiar name to many, but he wrote a set of Transcendental Etudes, and when we hear that name we immediately think of Liszt, and his fantastic set, but Lyapunov wrote his in the keys that Liszt didn't.


And you know they're not a level with Liszt but the last three are pretty fantastic. And then there was a composer in the 20th century by the name of Sorabji, not a familiary name to me. I researched him, listened to him, can you believe it, wait for this....... he wrote a set of 100 Transcendental Etudes. He was a complete eccentric. He was a recluse, he posted a sign outside his house, "No Visitors!" He got into rows and rails with music critics and so forth, an irascible, strange, and eccentric person....but a whole universe of music here. And he has his partisans, he has his fans, people who took on the Big Repertory like John Ogden, and others, who played Busoni, and Sorabji, this is a name worthy of that, like Alkan, Alkan, Busoni, Sorabji, these are huge, dense, thick piano works. There is a story behind each of these composers. But if you encounter nothing but the Busoni Bach transcriptions, which are known, but are perhaps not played as much as one might imagine, except in certain piano competitions -- fantastic stuff. Well worth one's time seeking out these, and I talk about each of these in the book. Alkan, Busoni, Sorabji, and many others. In fact, you say, how many do you have? I have 79 chapters, but then I have a lot of other recommendations from the people who have contributed. And then I have a wonderful chapter by Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International in the UK. He suggests yet another 40 composers, so taken all together, some 200 composers are cited in my book. I think to really do it justice all you would need to do is live 200 lifetimes and you could really master this music.

And so you're going to have to get on it, and start taking your vitamins, and doing your exercises. Correct?

Well, I'm being facetious of course. Suffice to say, once you kind of get hooked down this road, you'll never lack for activity or a new composer or a new work to listen to and then listen again, and allow it to seep into your consciousness, and hopefully make a dent.

Well, that's the thing that I appreciate about this book. It is the stories such as these that bring these composers off the written page and off the manuscript and make them living people. They were all living people just like us, they had their foibles, they had their faults, but they had their incredible skills and it is this that I think will make the music come to life and will help it live on long beyond all of us.

Yes, and not every composer, Boyce, it almost goes without saying, is going to speak to everyone. In my case, I can think of three composers in the book that are real, real finds for me. Holmboe, Mompou and Diamond. There are others, too, but if you can find one or two or three or four or five composers that you really like and that really speak to you, I mean, this will be well worth the endeavor. I made a friend of an opera singer, Todd Thomas, who sings in a small opera company in New York, I think it's called Teatro Grattacielo and their slogan is "maybe you've haven't heard your favorite opera yet." And I think, wonderful thought, and you can translate that to classical music. Maybe you haven't heard your favorite composer yet, or symphony, or sonata. If you only listen to the Brahms Second, which I'm going to put myself up first among the guilty over the years, you know, if you're only listening to the Brahms Second and the Beethoven Seventh and so on, you're not going to get these experiences. I just think it's more fun, more interesting, to encounter a new voice, a new composer rather than listen to the Brahms Second for the 800th time. Does that make sense?

It makes perfect sense. In fact, the interesting thing that came up just this last weekend, I played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the air, and of course we all focus on that opening movement. But I have fallen in love, after hearing it performed live a couple of times, with the final two movements. And they say things to me that the first movement doesn't. And I think it's just because of the familiarity. But getting further into that piece of music and really living with it for a while you say 'wow, there's more to this than I ever imagined possible.'

Totally agree. I can still remember, and perhaps with a few goosebumps, first time encountering Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It is the immortal work from the immortal composer himself. The ne plus ultra, if you will. And we're always going to go back to that, Boyce, we're never going to give it up. And I'm just saying the company of composers is a little bigger than that, little more interesting....just in terms of humanity, and experience, it's like you wouldn't want to only read Shakespeare, you'd want to read some of the other authors, modern ones, too. Hilary Hahn, perhaps you've played it on WOSU, did an interesting project in recording recently. She laid down encores from 27 living composers. All their names would be considered obscure in that they are not famous like Bach and Beethoven. But I mean, in their own worlds, they're famous. But we talk about that a little bit, too. Part of the exercise, I think, is giving a bit of recognition to something we hear about all the time in classical music ... 'you've got to hear modern works, you've got to listen to modern composers' because if you don't, how are they going to write? I think that's valid. They don't have to be 1,000 or 500 years old, could be a person living in your own town or community. You might want to give his or her work a listen, too.

I'd like before we wrap up, you've mentioned a couple of composers here who we've not spoken about yet. Give me a little look into your take on Holmboe and Mompou.

Ah, well. Holmboe...neither name was familiar to me at all. I stumbled across Holmboe, I forget how, but what a wonderful facility for writing symphonically and for winds. He has concertos for every woodwind and brass instrument it would seem. And these are neoclassical in style, bright, energetic, upbeat, propulsive, motivic, rhythmic pieces. And then Mompou was a fascinating individual, from the 20th century, Catalan, and he went to the Paris Conservatoire, but he had something of a shy and retiring nature. He was not really cut out for the life of a touring rock star, like Liszt was. He turned his imagination to composition, which we're glad he did, because he wrote a moderate sized output of really different sounding music. 20th century but it's not serial it's more tonal, but something like Satie who was an early influence but essentially Spanish, Catalan, wonderful reflective, introspective, almost like the philosophic thoughts of his mind being expressed on a sonic palette. Wonderful stuff. So those are two names that I could easily recommend for a hearing to anyone. There are others. But the thing is to not go listen to what I like per se but to seek out voices and sounds that make sense and resonate with their own mind, and heart, and spirit. If we do that, in this project, I'll be exceedingly amply rewarded.

Well John Sarkett, I appreciate the book "Obscure Composers". I think our audience is going to appreciate it and maybe go on their own bit of exploration as you did as they read and listen to some of these composers who hopefully will not then be as obscure as they are now, and I thank you for your time.

Oh you're welcome, Boyce, anytime, thank you so much for having me.

5, 167 words, transcribed, Friday, April 11, 2014.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Film Noir -- a definition

A Guide to Film Noir Genre by Roger Ebert January 30, 1995

Film noir is . . .

1. A French term meaning "black film," or film of the night, inspired by the Series Noir, a line of cheap paperbacks that translated hard-boiled American crime authors and found a popular audience in France.

2. A movie which at no time misleads you into thinking there is going to be a happy ending.

3. Locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with a high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all.

4. Cigarettes. Everybody in film noir is always smoking, as if to say, "On top of everything else, I've been assigned to get through three packs today." The best smoking movie of all time is "Out of the Past," in which Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoke furiously at each other. At one point, Mitchum enters a room, Douglas extends a pack and says, "Cigarette?" and Mitchum, holding up his hand, says, "Smoking."

5. Women who would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa.

6. For women: low necklines, floppy hats, mascara, lipstick, dressing rooms, boudoirs, calling the doorman by his first name, high heels, red dresses, elbowlength gloves, mixing drinks, having gangsters as boyfriends, having soft spots for alcoholic private eyes, wanting a lot of someone else's women, sprawling dead on the floor with every limb meticulously arranged and every hair in place.

7. For men: fedoras, suits and ties, shabby residential hotels with a neon sign blinking through the window, buying yourself a drink out of the office bottle, cars with running boards, all-night diners, protecting kids who shouldn't be playing with the big guys, being on first-name terms with homicide cops, knowing a lot of people whose descriptions end in "ies," such as bookies, newsies, junkies, alkys, jockeys and cabbies.

8. Movies either shot in black and white, or feeling like they were.

9. Relationships in which love is only the final flop card in the poker game of death.

10. The most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic.

Comprehensive list of film noir

Top 100

Thursday, March 06, 2014

How to get a job: from top Facebook executive

Great business story from the best-seller

Lean In

by Sheryl Sandberg

Ch. 4 (excerpt)

It's a Jungle Gym,
Not a Ladder

ABOUT A MONTH AFTER I joined Facebook, I got a call from Lori Goler, a highly regarded senior director of marketing at eBay. I knew Lori a bit socially, but she made it clear this was a business call and cut to the chase. "I want to apply to work with you at Facebook," she said. "So I thought about calling you and telling you all of the things I'm good at and all of the things I like to do. Then I figured that everyone was doing that. So instead, I want to ask you: What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?"

My jaw hit the floor. I had hired thousands of people over the previous decade and no one had ever said anything remotely like that. People usually focus on finding the right role for themselves, with the implication that their skills will help the company. Lori put Facebook's needs front and center. It was a killer approach. I responded, "Recruiting is my biggest problem. And, yes, you can solve it."

Lori never dreamed she would work in recruiting, but she jumped in. She even agreed to drop down a level, since this was a new field for her and she was willing to trade seniority for quiring new skills. Lori did a great job running recruiting .d within months was promoted to her current job, leading People@Facebook. When I asked her recently if she wanted to back to marketing someday, she responded that she believes human resources allows her to have a greater overall impact.

The most common metaphor for careers is a ladder, but this concept no longer applies to most workers. As of 2010, the average American had eleven jobs from the ages of eight to forty-six alone. This means that the days of joining an organization or corporation and staying there to climb that ladder are long gone. Lori often quotes Pattie Sellers, who conceived a much better metaphor: "Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder."

As Lori describes it, ladders are limiting—people can move or down, on or off. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There's only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The jungle gym model benefits everyone, but especially women who might be starting careers, switching careers, getting blocked external barriers, or reentering the workforce after taking time off. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours, and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.  Plus, a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top. On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above.

A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career.  Younger colleagues and students frequently ask me how I planned my path. When I tell them that I didn't, they usually act with surprise followed by relief They seem encouraged know that careers do not need to be mapped out from the start. This is especially comforting in a tough market where job seekers often have to accept what is available and hope that points in a desirable direction. We all want a job or role that..................


Terrific words of wisdom, much more such in this 200 page volume.  Well worth the read.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis was everything they are saying, a personal memory from your blogger

The news of Harold Ramis' passing popped up on my iPhone.
I was floored.

I interviewed him yesterday;  "yesterday" was 16 years ago.

He was 53, I was 46.  Not much distance in age, but in terms of the film world, the distance couldn't have been wider.  After making some television programs, I had finally got around to writing a screenplay.  To learn something about the trade, started writing features for an industry trade magazine.

His net worth was stupendous, he was still working on major projects, but for some reason he still deigned to spend several hours with me on a project that had meaning to me, couldn't have had to him.

I recall his mentioning a bit of a falling out he had had with Bill Murray and I could see that it concerned him; it's nice now to read in the tributes to him that they made amends before his passing.

Harold Ramis left a lot of art and comedy and influence behind him, but 69 is too young to go.  Writing a book last year about Obscure Composers, I came across a line in Zemlinsky's "Lyric Symphony," from Rabindranath Tagore:  "let it not be death but completeness."

In terms of his kindness, generosity, and humanity to those close to him, and those he had just met, and all the deserved plaudits pouring in for him, it surely seems to be so.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Survey: Millions have more credit card debt than savings

Survey: Millions have more credit card debt than savings -

Windows 8 and 8.1 malfunctioning level "a disaster"; "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"; A daunting 18-step process that ends in failure

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 Update:
Today Dell tech support team member Ripudaman took the initiative and called me with a prospective fix.  He had located a Microsoft Community Forum that addressed my very error message no. and issue.

Briefly:  it did not work.  He is sending Windows 8 recovery CDs, and promised to call me Friday to follow up.  He went the extra step and showed me how to delete partitions -- the key to solving my problem, he feels.


Update:  I am not alone:


Two days ago, Firefox failed to update automatically from v26 to v27.  That concerned me.  I had been having trouble with Windows 8.1.  For some days, mysteriously, it had failed to install programs and drivers.  Because these were not essential, I let it go, concentrating instead on urgent work.

Now, with Firefox ailing, I had to concentrate on fixing Windows.  Dell tech support had earlier told me to "refresh Windows," when I was backed-up and ready to go, but as I said, I had put it off.  Now, it appeared, the hour had truly come.

Turns out the simple refresh and upgrade process, is neither simple nor effective;  instead, it is a 18-step process, long and frustrating each step of the way, not as much fun as a root canal or colonoscopy, that ultimately ends in failure.  Here's my log:

  1. Even though "Windows refresh" spares your data files, Dell said "back up first" so I did, I took a deep breath and I "refreshed."
  2. Did no good.  Windows 8 would not upgrade to 8.1.  I thought I'd be stuck in 8, and it was Sunday with no Dell support, so I thought I'd just install my programs anyway, and hopefully get an easy fix to go to 8.1 next day.  I installed about 10 programs, and then Windows quit on me.  No matter the program or the driver, "Windows cannot access specified file.....etc etc etc."
  3. Back to Dell support Monday 10a., fresh-faced, fed, watered, optimistic.  (What a fool.)
  4. After Dell located and sent correct instructions on how to proceed (first instruction was wrong), Dell said "reset", and they would call back.  Reset is a rollback to the factory setting, the system is the same as you got the day you cracked the box.  So, again, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and "reset."
  5. Windows 8 could not upgrade to 8.1  Come to find out it required 79 updates before 8.1 would appear in the "store" and it could upgrade to 8.1.
  6. I dutifully downloaded and installed 79 updates ---- or so I thought.
  7. 2 updates failed.  Apparently one or both are incredibly important.  Why?
  8. Yet again, Windows 8 would not upgrade to 8.1.
  9. Back on "live chat" with Dell.  4 hours of tech live chat, including extensive periods of remote control of my PC, failed to located the problem.
  10. During this time, Dell tech support employed Control Panel "Windows Update" where Windows found another yet update to dl and install.  We tried again to upgrade from 8 to 8.1, no go.
  11. By remote control, Dell updated BIOS from A10 to A11.   We tried again to upgrade from 8 to 8.1, no go.
  12. By remote control, Dell performed a firmware update.    We tried again to upgrade from 8 to 8.1, no go.
  13. By remote control, Dell located and employed a "special update" KB2871389.    We tried again to upgrade from 8 to 8.1, no go.
  14. By remote control, Dell then ran Dell "Click 2 Fix."   We tried again to upgrade from 8 to 8.1, no go.
  15. By remote control, at my suggestion, Dell finally checked all hardware, all tests rated "pass."  My Dell beast is unhealthy it turned out, Windows 8 and 8.1, very, very sick.
  16. Each and every step above failed to clear the way for the 8.1 install.
  17. My extremely persistent tech rep asked for a time out for 5 minutes to "consult his resources."
  18. When he came back, he said I was being escalated to "Dell engineering," and told I would be called back in "2 to 3 days."
  19. I'm waiting.

As I priced out various packages of Windows 7 (Dell refused to supply me since I "purchased Windows 8 with my computer", at the end of the day, someone told me their Mac laptop "just runs and runs, no problems."  I was struck with Mac envy.