Donald's Blog

  This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.

«Sep 2014»

In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever, and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc. to:


September 11, 2014

It's so easy to pick on the Wall Street Journal

Isis was an Egyptian goddess, but she has had her name hijacked by psychotics in the Middle East. In his rant about President Obama's lack of a foreign policy, Daniel Henninger writes in today's paper that "ISIS is just the tip of the world's unstable iceberg. We're all living on the Titanic." Come, Mr. Henninger; we are not prisoners on a cruise. The religious fascists brag that they worship death, but the human race worships life: we want to watch our children grow up, and to meet our grandchildren. ISIS may very well wish to videotape themselves beheading you and me, but they cannot win, because they can't murder everybody. Do try to keep your hyperbole under control.

On another page today, a correspondent writes that one of George Bush's aims was to install a democratic government in Iraq, and that "...this foreign policy wasn't achievable due to political and social conditions in Iraq and the region that were and remain beyond our control." He continues:

The argument that if 25,000 of our soldiers had remained in Iraq for the next 25 years the foreign policy aim might have been achieved is erroneous, but at least it should have been made before going to war instead being made of necessity afterward.

It seems tacitly admitted here that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster, but if it was not to be a disaster, and if the country had been occupied and its government overseen for 25 years, a whole generation of Iraquis might have grown up in conditions of peace and democracy and economic development, and the country might have become as stable as Japan after 1945. The fact that a 25-year occupation was never likely does not make the argument erroneous.   

I only pick on my favorite newspaper because I wish it was even better. All the media could be improved if Mr. Henninger and Thornton G. Sanders of Charlottesville Virginia and indeed everybody who writes for publication would read their stuff over carefully before hitting "send".


September 10, 2014

Weazel words

The lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal today is a list of problems the world faces, particularly in the Middle East, and the first paragraph claims that President Obama is "admitting that the liberal critique of the Bush administration's approach to Islamic terrorism was wrong." Much further down, the main thrust of the paper's editorial policy continues:

Mr. Obama can blame this rising tide of disorder on George W. Bush, but the polls show that the American public doesn't believe it. They know from experience that it takes time for bad policy to reveal itself in new global turmoil. They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos until the 2007 surge saved the day and left Mr. Obama with an opportunity he squandered. And they can see now that Mr. Obama's strategy has produced terrorist victories and more danger for America.

I am more than a little disappointed in the president myself, but these weasel words in the newspaper are revealing only of the paper's visceral hatred of Obama. Never in a million years can the Wall Street Journal admit that the "bad policy" inevitably "to reveal itself in new global turmoil" was itself the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld invasion of Iraq in 2003. However nasty a dicatator Saddam Hussein may have been, he had nothing to do with 9/11, and the invasion was an unnecessary disaster, leading to the destabilization of the entire Middle East, and so badly executed that a surge was necessary four years later because there hadn't been enough troops committed in the first place.

But all we have in the USA these days is the politics of hatred. 


September 6, 2014

The Nixon pardon

President Ford pardoned his predecessor, the crook Richard Nixon, 40 years ago, and there is a good op-ed about it in today's Wall Street Journal, by Ken Gormley and David Shribman. The pardon was a good idea; nobody wanted to put a President on trial, not even Nixon. But I don't think I knew what a valuable wrapping-up the pardon was. It included an admission of guilt, and government ownershop of Nixon's papers and tapes.

Ford's approval rating plummeted with the pardon, but immediately began to recover. I am not one of those who despise Jimmy Carter, but I wonder if we would not have been better off if Ford had won the following election. I wish we still had Republicans like him.


September 4, 2014

With all the things that are in the news...

You have to be an awfully stupid celebrity to expect that if you allow pictures of yourself naked to be stored in a digital medium like your phone, your computer, your cloud, whatever, they are going to remain private. Haven't they been reading the papers? There's, like, a problem with privacy nowadays, like, you have to watch out for it. Like, it doesn't exist anymore unless you maintain it yourself. Geddit? Maybe it is part of the definition of celebrity itself that they are incapable of understanding such things.


September 4, 2014

In a certain big-box store...

...They have rearranged the DVDs on the shelves so that instead of having all the television programs in alphabetical order they are divided into "1960s Classics", "1970s Classics", "1980s Classics" etc, "Current TV", "Contemporary TV" (?), "HBO", as well as some residual dumps such as "Drama", "Sci-Fi TV", "Kids TV" and so on. So if you're browsing the shelves looking for something, you have to know when it was made, maybe even who made it, and what category some minion at head office thinks it belongs in. And what if it is a series that started in one decade and continued into another? What if it's something you just thought of when you walked into the store? This retail company will be losing sales because people will find it harder to find what they are looking for, and clerks will have to waste time looking things up in a computer to find out where they might be.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, and further evidence that if half the marketing people in the country were fired, the economy would immediately receive an enormous boost. 


September 4, 2014

At the cash desk...

The cash desk in a big-box store is cluttered with stuff that marketing people think will make impulse purchases. Recently we have seen "Colored Smencils", at $14.95 for ten of them, in a fancy soft plastic pouch with a zipper. "The world's only Gourmet Scented Pencils". People who are still capable of thought chew on pencils while they are thinking, so these pencils come in flavors such as "Gum-E Bear", "Juicy Melon", "Black Berry Pear" etc. But they are "not for children", and "non-toxic", though they come from China, which has problems with its food...

If we can manufacture this rubbish and ship it halfway around the world to be sold to people with more money than brains, why, clearly there's no point in worrying about the world economy, energy, carbon emissions, or anything else. We're all doomed.


September 4, 2014

Just another parasite

Between us, before we got together and since we melded our fortunes, Ethne and I have bought and sold seven houses in 50 years. Only twice have we encountered the sort of inspector who is hired by a buyer to check out the new place, and who arrives with a bag of tools and gadgets and a laptop. They are the sort of experts who put on a defensive air of superiority.

The first time was in Texas in 2003. A fool who, I suspect, was pretending that he wanted to buy our house to string along his wife, who loved the place; he offered the asking price, and brought along an inspector friend of his, who ran the air conditioning full blast until I had to put a jacket on. The friend's report said that we had termites in our garage and damp in our roof, neither of which was true. (I had a termite guy around to make sure, who finally became exasperated: "Look, my business is solving termite problems; if you had termites I'd tell you, wouldn't I?") The pretend buyer wanted a reduction in price of $10,000 or something like that. Later I wished I had tried negotiating with him, but the sale was queered because I react badly to having my intelligence insulted.

Now here in Pennsylvania another expert with a laptop swaggered around our house last week for three hours, but this time we had agreed on a price and established that no matter what the so-called inspector found the price would not change, and the buyers liked the house so much that they had been driving by for years waiting for it to go on sale. After two hours of sitting on the back porch and walking the dogs I was astonished to find that the expert hadn't gone upstairs yet. The buyers were here and the agent showed up and at one point they were all standing around in the basement for half an hour laughing and talking; I thought maybe I was supposed to offer them wine and cheese. After they all left we were not allowed to open any doors or windows on two of the most beautiful days of the year because a gizmo in basement was measuring the radon.

This time the report complained that there was some old wiring that used ceramic connectors in the basement. The 80-year-old basement has been rewired, because I was irritated that the lights down there were on three different circuits; the old wiring isn't connected to anything. Oh, and the radon is within acceptable limits: good thing too, because it there's radon here it has been here for hundreds of thousands of years.

The inspector from the buyers' mortgage company walked around for 15 minutes and took a few snapshots. I don't know who insisted on another, three-hour inspection with a laptop and a bag of gizmos, or how much it cost. Save us from experts.


September 4, 2014

How we live now

Our son David is here on leave from Fort Carson in Colorado, helping us with our garage sale and lots of other things. He and I have a good time griping about this and that; he will make a worthy curmudgeon, carrying on the family tradition. He dislikes Facebook and certainly doesn't tweet, not being a twit. He doesn't even read my blog. We agree that the Internet is a retrograde step for civilization: it's ruined the music business, it's ruining publishing, magazines, newspapers...

Well, guess what. The knucklebuster is back, reports the Wall Street Journal. A businessman in Ohio "has stockpiled more than 8,000 of the old-fashioned credit-card-processing machines, known for their tendency to scrape the fingers of the merchants who operate them...He has enough spare parts to assemble another 2,000 if need be." And there seems to be an increasing demand for them. No electricity, nothing digital, no swiping...No security breach!

Is the revolution beginning? 


September 4, 2014

A savage review

Very often, reading reviews of books or music, one gets the impression that nothing is ever really awful. So it's refreshing to read a bad review. Ludovico Einaudi is a composer of the kind of aimless meandering music they play in massage studios to relax you; on a recent CD it is arranged for harp and played on that instrument by Lavinia Meije, described as one of the world's greatest harpists by Brian Reinhardt, who is reviewing the CD at Musicweb-International. 57 minutes of continuous uplift is impossible, he writes, about

an album so relaxing, peaceful and soothing brain cells attempted mass suicide...[a certain track] is the shortest track on the album. It's also the best. It sounds the same as the others, but it's shorter, and that makes it the best... This music could not ask for a better performer. In fact, it probably could not bribe one.

Yes, but what does he really think of it? Some of this made me laugh out loud.


August 24, 2014

Get me outta here

Arthur Goldman, a lawyer in suburban Philadelphia, is an oenophile, which means that he takes wine very seriously and collects fancy stuff. Unlike most of us, who look for bargains and enjoy a nice glass of wine, Mr Goldman has a collection of 2,426 bottles which might be worth up to $125,000. And the state of Pennsylvania wants to take it away from him and destroy it.

This is because like most of us around here, if he wants to buy wine from out of state, he has it shipped to an address in New Jersey and drives across the border to collect it. Everybody knows this goes on and even Pennsylvania's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement knows better than to try to control that; unfortunately however, Mr Goldman started doing it for a small group of a dozen or so like-minded friends, and even if he isn't making a penny, the bureaucrats who work for the most corrupt state legislature in the USA cannot allow him to "sell" wine without their permission.

I should say here that the people who work in Pennsylvania's state-owned liquor stores are the salt of the earth, and the stores have a pretty decent selection, even if they can't cater to high-end collectors like Mr Goldman. Nevertheless I am very glad -- SO glad -- to be moving from a state that has never approved of the repeal of Prohibition to a state that is actually undoing another, later prohibition.


August 24, 2014


I have ranted in this space before about the pop divas who scream out their non-songs and never shut up, so that their so-called music never has a chance to breathe. I speak of Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and others of that ilk.

Now there is a new one: Barnes & Noble are currently playing a CD in their stores by a young woman who apparently doesn't have a name; she is known only as LP. She yells at the same volume almost all the way through almost every track. Her voice is not particularly attractive; she seems to yell in tune, but with today's technology we can have no idea whether she can actually sing or not. What we know is that she has no style or taste.

Listening to that in the store for a while, all I can think of is that if I had an animal in that kind of pain I would shoot it.


August 24, 2014

In Time magazine

This week there's an article about the state of the nuclear site in Japan that was destroyed by the tsunami of March 2011, which contains this:

You'd think, for example, that a nation ranking as one of the worlds's most seismically active would take heed when building a nuclear plant on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Yet [the Tokyo Electric Power Company's] disaster plan and post-accident coordination were woeful. It had ignored a joint government and utility-company study ... advisory ranks were weighed down with too many retired officials ...

I love that "for example". This is the central issue. Nuclear power would be the answer to a great many of our problems; plants can be built anywhere to be safe (though it will always be foolish to build one in a risky location); the problem of disposal of the waste materials is not even as bad as it used to be: with today's technology there is less of it, and a lot of it can be recycled. But a report commissioned by the Japanese Parliament said that "What must be admitted--very painfully--is that this was a disaster 'made in Japan'."  If the clever and pernickety Japanese can't do it properly, who can?

Perhaps we may as well turn the clock back 200 years, make our own soap and our own clothes and read at night by candlelight.


August 24, 2014

Also in TIme magazine

The very amusing Joel Stein writes in favor of the humanities, and points out that he was never going to be a physics major anyway. This line killed me: "This column, believe it or not, is the best use of my brain." I know exactly how he feels. This little bit of blogging I do now and then, the writing I have done in the past (still being read), my correspondence with a few friends, is all I have to offer. The rest is art. At the moment I am listening to a string quartet by Virgil Thomson, which deserves to be better know than it is; in the truck this week when I am running an errand, it's Michael Tippett's first two symphonies which are refreshing me ten minutes at a time. Without the humanities, sentient life would be intolerable.


August 22, 2014

Good. I have a choice

A CD review at

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) La Mer Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) La Valse; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Boléro; Daphnis et Chloé, Valses Nobles et sentimentales - Gunnar Idenstam (organ) rec. 2013 BIS SACD [73:46] [DC] Fancy Debussy’s symphonic sketches on organ?

Dominy Clements writes a fair and interesting review, but the answer is... No, thanks.


August 21, 2014

Go West, old man

Will the nations of the Middle East realize at last that they will get together or hang separately? The New Caliphate, hoping to turn the clock back a thousand years, is the biggest threat to all of them in their history. Will the thugs in eastern Ukraine and in Fergusen Missouri back off? I don't know and I don't know if I care. We are lucky: we are not being beheaded by psychotic morons. All the upheavals and new adventures in our lives have been first-world problems, the consequences of the incomprehensible behavior of the corporations we have been involved with (see below, Wiley August 13).

Now we have sold a house and bought another, all in one month; we have an expensive move halfway across the country ahead of us; we have to get rid of hundreds of books (if we haven't looked at it for ten years, we've got to stop shipping it around); we have to get rid of a lot of stuff. Ethne has been on top of it all like a Joan of Arc, and it finally got to her: she couldn't even get out of bed today, with all the symptoms of exhaustipation: fever, stomach ache, backache, the lot. Why does a new adventure always start with sharp stones in the shoes?

She'll be okay tomorrow and we will soon leave the East. Under the big sky and the low humidity of the high plain of Colorado Springs, no doubt everything will make more sense. 


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