“Once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.” — Thomas De Quincey, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”
The question has become commonplace in published interviews with authors and other bookish people. I think I just read the best answer yet given to that question:
Book that changed your life:
Introduction to Computer Data Processing, Third Edition, 1984. If this textbook had not so clearly described how god-awfully boring a career in information technology was, I may have made some early career decisions that were even worse than the ones I did make.
Well, you can’t accuse Birmingham’s green builders and architects of thinking small. They’ve proposed coming up with a new standard for cities, which they call the Birmingham Charter. And to convince the world that it will work, they want to transform greater Birmingham into a model of sustainable living.
I went to the Green Resource Center last night to find out more. The place was packed, and some latecomers stood outside in the stairwell listening.
James Smith, CEO of Green Building Focus, gave an enthusiastic, rambling address about the Charter, punctuated by video excerpts from architect Karan Grover’s dramatic multimedia presentation at the July conference on green building here in our fair city. The scope of this conference went well beyond nuts-and-bolts topics for builders. It was visionary, arguing for an entirely new philosophy for building cities and living on the earth. Continue reading →
Those of us who live here are apt to forget it, but Birmingham is a powerful symbol to people around the world. We tend to be ashamed of the ’60s legacy of “Bombingham,” but for people behind the Birmingham Charter — Karan Grover, from India, and James Smith, from South Africa — the city represents a triumph. It was in Birmingham that ordinary people, even children, united to defeat an unjust order with love.
We locals often think that our white predecessors had to be shocked out of their complacency by the 1963 bombing deaths of children at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and (what was worse, supposedly) the international attention that this brought. The cynical implication is that it was a concern for appearances that forced white Birmingham to change, or to appear to change.
Following on last Saturday’s videos, here are some Haydn trios for the baryton, viola, and cello. The baryton is a bass viola da gamba with plucked strings concealed in the back of the neck. A skilled performer can bow the instrument in the usual way while also plucking the concealed strings with the left thumb.
We’re told that the baryton is also called viola di pardone because of a charming story that the inventor was a condemned prisoner who won a pardon for devising this unusual viol.
The modern revival of the baryton began with the instrument in the following video: a 1934 copy of a richly decorated eighteenth-century original. This baryton is now in the collection of the Orpheon Foundation, Vienna, Austria, and it has its own webpage. It’s one of the best looking instruments, of any kind, that I’ve ever seen. Continue reading →
Attention Conservation Notice:This is about local politics in Birmingham, Alabama, but also about sustainability throughout North America.
Now that the new city council is seated, it’s high time to revisit The Dome, as we like to call it. Despite the strong case against expansion of the city’s convention complex, there is political momentum in favor of floating the bonds and summoning the bulldozers. Mayor Larry Langford actively promotes the project with pep rally techniques (banners, rallies, T-shirts) that evoke his campaign slogan, “Let’s do something!”
Many people, probably including a majority of Birmingham municipal voters, support the dome in the faith that large public works bring prosperity to a community, and that Birmingham has been too slow to perform such works. And when it comes to a project like providing reliable public transit, or passable school buildings, they are absolutely correct. Birmingham has buses that routinely break down or lack air conditioning, and its school buildings often leak, flood, or stink. Investing in projects that solved these problems would bring nothing but benefits.
In good orientalist fashion, the work lumps together stories of Turks, Persians, and American Indians under the heading of “the gallant Indies.” This dance is from the fourth and final part, “Les Sauvages,” in which the chief’s daughter, Zima, chooses an Indian called Adario for her lover, rejecting the advances of both a Frenchman and a Spaniard. (You can spot the two European rivals in the background toward the end of the dance.) Continue reading →