St Crispian Day

Many holidays have been proclaimed for various reasons. Some are important, some are trivial. Martin Luther King Day took a long fight to become a holiday, Columbus Day has largely passed on without a fight. But October 25th is one holiday that could be added to our calendar, a holiday that celebrates something I am rather fond of. It is St Crispian’s Day, and it celebrates the English Language.

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Dies Irae – Nightmare Before Christmas

Friday the 13th just before Halloween – a good day for this repeat of my favorite post on my favorite musical score.

It’s the spooky season, but it’s also the fun season. Before Winter wraps its embrace around us there is Halloween, the last chance to have some fun. It’s a challenge to the eerie creep of darkness we’re still adjusting to, still resisting at least one last time.

No movie captures the season for me quite like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the epic Tim Burton classic of stop-motion animation from the old school. Released in 1993, it was immediately recognized as a great classic movie for the holidays – Halloween, for the fun of it, and Christmas for the cynically twisted reaction to what it has become.

What makes this movie, however, isn’t just the great story and animation. The score by Danny Elfman is pure genius – and belongs in the repertoire of classical greats.

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Xi on the Brink

Elections in a large nation are always a time for musing about the future direction of the nation. This is especially true in China for the simple reason that they don’t have elections. The 19th Communist Party Congress will convene for a week starting on 18 October, determining who will run the largest country on earth for the next five years.

China is a true republic, meaning that the outgoing leadership picks the new leadership – independent of the wishes of the vast majority of population. It’s not exactly a dictatorship in that no one person or faction has complete control, at least not since Mao Zedong died in 1976. That may change as Premier Xi Jinping is poised for a dramatic consolidation of power.

Much has been and will be written about it. Like the Communist Party of China (CPC) itself, the articles are dense and almost impossible to understand without a lot of background material. Here is an attempt at a quick guide.

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Product of the Times

It has been a bizzy weekend.  I have to run a repeat, this one from 2011.

What we know about our past is often heavily filtered through something like “conventional wisdom”. Certain “great men” are raised up as heroes while others are confined to the footnotes of history. The names that we hear often get credit for far more than they deserve as they ossify into myths, people who are bigger than life. That’s been changing lately as we study history as the actions of people who were simply doing their best. It’s especially evident in the growing body of performances of ancient music that showcase “minor” composers – those who made up the scene that made it all happen.

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October Holidays

October is a good month for holidays in North America.  At the end of the month we have the collision of the Celtic Samhain with the Aztec / Spanish Dia de los Muertos which swirled into Halloween.  But in the middle is the difficult holiday, the one where we celebrate the connection of this continent with the rest of the world.  And the three brother nations of this continent have their own ways of marking it.  This is a repeat from 2011, updated.

To our North, in Canada, the nearest Monday to October 12th is  Thanksgiving, this year on the 9th.  To our South, in Mexico, the 12th is  Dia de la Raza.  Our brother nations here in North America have found things to celebrate in the early days of Autumn, but here in the USofA we have nothing but the pseudo-holiday Columbus Day – something we’ve tossed over our shoulders and given up on.

This may be a measure of our ability to get anything together.

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Guns: Change the Attitude

Another senseless gun tragedy – this one bigger than the previous. When does it end?

It ends when we as a nation get serious about the situation. Like nearly every problem we have it is primarily a mindset. New gun laws aren’t necessarily going to be the answer unless they are part of that important change.

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Target the Future

Target stores are raising their employees’ minimum wages to $11 per hour immediately, with a pledge to hit $15 per hour by 2020.

This may seem like a victory for the Democratic platform to raise all workers’ pay to a livable wage, and in many ways it is. But it’s also an important victory for the free market, which is proving that the cyclical depression of workers wages was indeed a temporary, demographically driven problem which will be overcome. It just takes a tremendous amount of time – really a full generation.  More importantly, it shows the direction of retail and possibly the service industry as a whole does have a future as an important part of a dynamic economy. Continue reading