Friday, January 19, 2007

Music Listening

There may be some who can listen to a classical piece once and meaningfully evaluate its worth, but I can't. Nor can I do it after five listenings, nor ten. Twenty, that's the proper amount. Just right. Of course I always listen to music while doing some other activity, so that may be inflated as compared to someone giving complete attention to the music.

I've been listening to this album. Allow me to recount the experience of the proper amount of listenings.

On this CD:


1. Violin Concerto
Composed by Alban Berg


2. Violin Concerto ("Putování dusicky," "Pilgrimage of the Soul"), JW 9/10 (fragments completed by others)
Composed by Leos Janacek


3. Concerto Funebre for violin & string orchestra
Composed by Karl Amadeus Hartmann


After listening 1:

I have no idea what I've just heard. Maybe I could report that it all sounded dark, and the Berg was more tonal than I expected.

After listening 5:

Now I'm starting to remember little pieces and not surprisingly, given way the mind remembers, the beginnings and end of certain tracks. The 1st and 2nd movements of the Berg have no break between them, nor do the 3rd and 4th (this, I know, because iTunes makes a little hiccup between tracks). The Hartmann ends on a dissonant chord.

After listening 7:

I've started to recognize the bizarre (but effective) fanfare that starts the third movement of the Berg. The Janacek is labyrinthine. There's a very fast movement in the Hartmann. The Berg starts with an odd tuning up sound with quartal implications.

10:

The fanfare occurs twice in the Berg third movement. The Hartmann starts with a lonely violin, very quiet, and this menacing wash of sound (that represents, if I had to guess, the Nazis).

12:

The Janacek has this folksy melody traded between orchestra and soloist at the start, very metric. There's an odd moment of shimmering, geometric harps and pizzicato strings (maybe). The Berg ends with the soloist hitting a consonant note, and the winds playing above it.

15: The fast movement in the Hartmann is really good. The Janacek ends up abruptly.


By 20, it's starting to get old. I have nowhere near to a complete aural map in my head (sitting here now, I can't recall what half the tracks sound like, though I'd probably recognize them if I heard them). Still, I have a rough sense of the quality of the pieces.

At work today, I listened to this:



[1/18/2007 3:30:50 PM] Michael Pashuck [my eight year old cousin] says: Hello!
[10:10:31 PM] Michael Pashuck says: I snapped the ping pong ball gun in half.
[10:10:45 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: You rebel!
[10:11:14 PM] Michael Pashuck says: I didn't mean to.
[10:11:28 PM] Michael Pashuck says: I didn't know how poorly made it was.
[10:13:16 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: Don't feel bad. Even Jack Bauer sometimes breaks weapons in half. Usually on a terrorist's skull.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Works Cited

A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

...

If there must be a head, why the man? Well, firstly, is there any very serious wish that it should be the woman? As I have said, I am not married myself, but as far as 1 can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own house does not usually admire the same state of things when she finds it going on next door. She is much more likely to say "Poor Mr. X! Why he allows that appalling woman to boss him about the way she does is more than I can imagine." I do not think she is even very nattered if anyone mentions the fact of her own "headship." There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule. But there is also another reason; and here I speak quite frankly as a bachelor, because it is a reason you can see from outside even better than from inside. The relations of the family to the outer world--what might be called its foreign policy--must depend, in the last resort, upon the man, because he always ought to be, and usually is, much more just to the outsiders. A woman is primarily fighting for her own children and husband against the rest of the world. Naturally, almost, in a sense, rightly, their claims override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The function of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given its head. He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense family patriotism of the wife. If anyone doubts this, let me ask a simple question. If your dog has bitten the child next door, or if your child has hurt the dog next door, which would you sooner have to deal with, the master of that house or the mistress? Or, if you are a married woman, let me ask you this question. Much as you admire your husband, would you not say that his chief failing is his tendency not to stick up for his rights and yours against the neighbours as vigorously as you would like? A bit of an Appeaser?

...

War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage--a kind of gaity and wholeheartedness.

...

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying they do not want "to spend eternity playing harps." The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.

...

But to point out that I, who use Whitesmile's (and also have inherited bad teeth from both my parents), have not got as fine a set as some healthy young Negro who never used toothpaste at all, does not, by itself, prove that the advertisements are untrue.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Class Discussion

Much is made of class discussion in law school. Professors are evaluated on their propensity to incite and allow class discussion. I have no idea what the attraction is. Class discussion is crap. It differs from lecturing in that it allows students to contribute, which equates to less talking being done by the person in the room who actually knows the subject (and is getting paid to teach it) and more talking by people who know nothing of it.

Students say stupid things in class. I know--I've spoken in class before. Not once have I made a worthwhile point. I can barely sound intelligent when I have time to think about my answers, let alone off the cuff. At most, I've broadcasted a personal moral or political belief and done so without justification or persuasiveness. The occasional intelligent remark by a student is so rare that it makes no sense to sift through the silt for it. The only person who could pull that off was David, and he went incommunicado months ago.

Professors like class discussion because it means they don't have to lecture. They get to substitute in easy conversation about a topic they enjoy. Students like it because a. students think they're much smarter than they actually are and some love to hear themselves speak; b. participation points; and c. they hyperbolically discount the benefit of a full legal education so that they irrationally prefer the present pleasure of being able to stop taking notes and learning, which is what class discussions allow for.

If it's argument skills we're trying to develop, then this is an inefficiently indirect means of teaching them. Besides, verbal sparring is only going to be an important trait for a very small percentage of lawyers.

This is something quite different from the Socratic method, as we use the term in law school. I dig the Socratic method; I don't understand how anyone can't. Students stay engaged, and not with floating questions, but with the actual material. And some class discussions do resemble it, when a talented professor is able to firmly lead the discussion places he wants it go, so he can stage effective tutorials. This is the wonderful exception to the rule. Most class discussions, on the other hand, result in useless utterances of personal convictions which--valid as they are--do not make a legal education and are seldom interesting, outright error that too many professors are unwilling to identify as wrong, or, quite commonly, wind-sprints to realms off topic.

I took a high-level tax seminar with Professor Yale. It was a fantastic class, but he was always glum that more people didn't speak up. I thought that was one of the seminar's endearing traits. The only people who spoke were those who actually understood the subject (I myself did not) and the rest of us were too terrified to embarrass ourselves. So we didn't waste the class's time.

More people should be so courteous.

Also, an amazing blind kid.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Works Cited

All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one's work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no "swank" or "side," no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist. On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience-obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls "busybodies."

If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, "advanced," but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old-fashioned-perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Commentary on Thoughts on Thoughts on Mere Christianity

My intriguing and eloquent friend Brandon has commented on my thoughts on Mere Christianity. Interesting commentary follows. Brandon is, so far as I can tell, dead-on in what he says, but none of it leads me to revise anything I've said.

With his post, a taxing two-front war has been commenced. On the east, as an atheist, I'm going up against Lewis's ardent Christianity (but his apology is, even if wrong, quite enjoyable. His arguments are inventive and cheerfully presented.) But on the other front, I'm defending Lewis's belief in objective morality, since I agree with it. Now, bloggers for Catallarchy were selected, among other variables, for their degree of moral skepticism, and thus, their skepticism of objective morality and an apparatus for comprehending it. A lot of people were sick of Rothbardian natural rights arguments. As was I, so I got selected--but I ended up changing my mind on the whole myth of natural rights, which pits me against a number of my co-bloggers. Which is cool.

Tangentially, one reason for the popularity of 24 might be that people hate LA and enjoy seeing bits of it blown up on a weekly basis.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ed's Birthday Party Pics

Pictures from Ed's birthday party:



David only looks like he's on drugs.





David and I ran Meals on Wheels last week. I came up with a hand symbol for the organization, requiring both hands and an open mouth. M.O.W, dudes!






I know that dude! (Please note impeccable posture.)




Ed refused to smile when I took a picture of him. We had this conversation:

ED: And you've seen him right? Huge guy? Well anyway, he uses this corkscrew contraption and actually crushes the neck of the wine bottle!

SCOTT: No!

ED: Yes! And then they threw it away!

SCOTT: No!

ED: Yes! I said, you just pour the wine through a coffee filter to get the glass out, and you're good to go.

SCOTT: That would have been my first suggestion!

And the rest, including Marnie, Mom, Dad, and Grandmother.









First day of class tomorrow.

Mere Christianity - Book 1 - Some Thoughts

It may be helpful for my own understanding to simply recreate Lewis's argument in an abbreviated manner. The book is entitled Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. His argument proceeds thus:


1. Through intuition, we know that there is an objective morality, which we may call "The Law of Nature."

2. This law is different than other natural laws, such as gravity, in that we may choose whether or not to follow it.

3. Scientific knowledge depends on observable fact--another form of acquisition of knowledge is intuition. It is through the latter we comprehend morality.

4. If there is a reason behind the universe, it cannot in itself be a fact of the universe: it must be external to it. And, being external to the universe, it is thus unobservable through fact-gathering methods--thus science is of no use in looking for such a reason.

5. If there were an external controlling power to the universe, a deity, "[t]he only way we in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way."

6. As per number 1, we indeed find such a command.

7. Therefore, our evidence suggests the existence of a god.


My response to step 2:


While true that physical laws do seem to differ from moral laws, we can reformulate a moral law to be as inviolable as a physical law. Consider rephrasing "Thou shalt not murder" (assume the truth of this command for argument) as "You may not rightly murder." Such a law cannot be violated--it is impossible to murder and be in the right, just as surely as it is impossible to defy gravity and other physical laws.

My response to step 3:

Much depends on Lewis' characterization of morality as being sensible by a altogether different faculty than fact. If morality were simply another external fact to be observed, then by Lewis's own argument, it could no more convey to us meaning about God than any of our other senses could (step 4 & 5).

I, however, think morality is perceived by a similar faculty as fact. Light flashes--I take this in through some sense and, based on it, judge an object to be in front of me. A moral situation presents itself--I take this in through some sense and, based on it, judge rightness or wrongness to obtain.

A weakness in my response:


There is a difference in kind between morality and vision. I know how my eyes work (roughly)--I do not know how I am able to perceive morality. If I have no way of so perceiving, no evident sense, and yet the belief that such morality exists persists, then there are few other explanations for the sensation than some kind of "intuition" of the kind Lewis is arguing for.

In my defense, Aristotle didn't know how his eyes worked, and yet he trusted them as reliable tools for acquiring external fact, and was justified in doing so. Maybe moral epistemology will be cleared up in the future.

My response to step 5:


This seems unfounded. A god could just as easily reveal himself through a message, grasped by intuition, flashing "I am real" or some such. But, which is probably more problematic, Lewis seems to have robbed his god of any ability to influence the material world in an observable fashion. It is hard to see why such a restriction should hold.

To use one of Lewis's metaphors, if the architect must indeed be external to the house as a god must be external to the universe, it does not follow that the architect is unable to make his presence known in the house--he could autograph a brick somewhere. It is unclear why God would not be able to communicate in a similar fashion--even if he is beyond his creation by necessity.

If God could make himself known through all channels, fact and intuition alike, then even granting the existence of morality as evidence in his favor, we must also count the lack of evidence in the observable world as evidence against his existence. And it seems to me that the dearth should weigh significantly more.

UPDATE:
Zach, below, has questioned my representation of Lewis's God as being unable to influence the world in an observable manner. I admit that this is flatly contradicted by other things Lewis admits to believing, but I know of no other way to read this passage: "If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself as one of the facts inside the universe--no more than an architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house."