I've been organizing my life a little lately. It's a partly mental, partly physical organization started with the intention of jump-starting my mind on a few decisions I have to make in the next couple of months. I realized a couple days ago that I've been neglecting to take care of quite a few important things in my life, and that maybe my mental stagnancy is rooted in things that are perfectly easy to change. Spring cleaning, baby! It happens every year.
Anyway, I was organizing my reading material (perhaps even more of a daunting task than organizing my listening material), and I found a stack of New Yorkers that have been sitting, unread, under my bed. What a waste of paper, of gasoline for shipping, and of the thoughts of excellent writers who have spent their time thinking and writing about important things. So three and a half issues later, I'm feeling a lot less guilty, but a lot more like I really need to get involved in this little thing we call "the world". There's a massive amount of shit going on, if you guys haven't noticed, and the majority of stories that are published in periodicals chronicle lives and events that are depressing bordering on horrific.
Did you know that we have internment camps for illegal immigrants? Well, I did; but I didn't know that they were often run by private prison companies, and that parents and children could be held for up to a year while they waited to be granted asylum. I read this in an article entitled "The Lost Children" by Margaret Talbot (New Yorker, March 3, 2008). In the March 17th, 2008 issue, there was an article about author Pat Barker. Written by Kennedy Fraser, "Ghost Writer" chillingly details the violent experiences and sad events that make Pat Barker a great writer. One of the more interesting revelations to note in this article, is how mundane the actuality of ghosts was in a Post-war England. With almost an entire generation of dead and wounded (haunted) men, Barker's family found it simple to believe in ghosts, and almost unimaginable not to believe in a spiritual afterlife.
Numerous articles discussed politics and policy, the mass hedonism of the American people, the collapse of the world economy, the environment, and the likelihood that Suburban women will soon be carrying their very own pink tazers (I just shook my head and laughed). Then I found a short piece in the section called Talk Of The Town. "Words and Music: When In Pyongyang" by Kate Julian is really just marvelous. It's not a cure-all to every woe that I just named, not an absolute fix, but it expresses - in a very clever way - the lengths that individual people are willing to go to in the hopes of achieving unity and understanding. The New York Philharmonic went to North Korea to perform, and in these internationally tense times Lorin Maazel (music director) was understandably nervous. It's not like the U.S. and North Korea have had the best track record, and even very recently we've come close to offering to blow each other up. Music heals many woes, but it can also create massive rifts, and Maazel seemed to feel like he was standing on a giant, hidden crevasse. By the way, Korean is one of the most difficult languages for an English-speaking person to learn and Maazel was adamant that he deliver his introduction in Korean, without the help of a translator. With a little ingenuity, Maazel endeavored to write a score that would perfectly match the tone, pitch, and emphasis of the Korean words he was trying to speak. This is an awesome idea in my opinion, seeing as the most difficult thing about pronouncing words in Korean (or Mandarin, or Japanese) is not that the words themselves are difficult to say, but that the way you say them is so incredibly important to the meaning. With all of his work, Maazel finally decided that he would need to deliver his introduction in English with a Korean interpreter, and the musical coaxing was scratched. It was just too difficult to learn Korean in such a short period of time. The concert went on, of course, and was quite a success with its Korean audience, and in the end the music was the perfect delivery system for the ideas that Maazel could not express in language. What I find so immensely encouraging about this article is the thought of one person working so hard to be understood in a world full of misunderstandings. If everyone could put in the effort of Lorin Maazel, then maybe we wouldn't have internment camps or entire generations to mourn. After reading Kate Julian's little article, I feel like spring cleaning is probably a good idea.