Sunday, January 16, 2005


I woke up this morning with a profound and inexplicable sense of sadness. I tend not to have such "instincts" or "hunches" and readily discount phenomena that others might describe as "just a feeling." So it's deeply troubling to me when I can't shake it.

As if the parallel me in a parallel universe awoke without this feeling. Something's transpired that affects this-world me only indirectly (a missed opportunity?), but I feel that parallel me from this point will live more happily than I. We've passed a juncture.

Crazy. But I can't shake it.


Philip Glass's Symphony No. 7, subtitled "A Toltec Symphony," premieres Thursday in Washington DC. The Washington Post reviews his career to date.

I love Philip Glass. I'm interested to learn he chose to major in mathematics and philosophy, like I did (though my choice didn't stick). Knowing this helps describe how his music works, or how I hear it.

"I would explain the difference between the use of Western and Indian music in the following way: In Western music we divide time — as if you were to take a length of time and slice it the way you slice a loaf of bread. In Indian music (and all the non-Western music with which I'm familiar), you take small units, or 'beats,' and string them together to make up larger time values."

The flutist Ransom Wilson on "Einstein on the Beach":

"As I listened to that five-hour performance, I experienced an amazing transformation. At first I was bored — very bored. The music seemed to have no direction, almost giving the impression of a gigantic phonograph with a stuck needle. . . . Then, with no conscious awareness, I crossed a threshold and found that the music was touching me, carrying me with it. I began to perceive within it a whole world where change happens so slowly and carefully that each new harmony or rhythmic addition or subtraction seemed monumental."

To which I have nothing to add.


So here's the big question: if children who don't even go to school learn so easily, why do children who go to school seem to have such a hard time? Why can children solve problems that challenge computers but stumble on a third-grade reading test?

One answer to the big question is that schools don't teach the same way children learn.

The problem for many children in elementary school may not be that they're not smart enough but that they're not stupid enough. They haven't yet been able to make reading and writing transparent and automatic.

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