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Discussion » Statements » Rosie's Corner » George Gershwin, a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN, wrote Rhapsody in Blue. Pumkina** a man with GERMANIC roots wrote rhapsody in orange. Your FAVE?

George Gershwin, a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN, wrote Rhapsody in Blue. Pumkina** a man with GERMANIC roots wrote rhapsody in orange. Your FAVE?

Posted - August 1


  • 2292
    I do  not know Gershwin's inspiration there, but his music will live on far longer than here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians.

    Incidentally I do know the "inspiration" for that opening clarinet glissando - it was a practical joke by the player during a rehearsal, but the composer liked it so much he wrote it in!
      August 1, 2020 2:15 PM MDT

  • 91445
    There is a movie titled RHAPSODY IN BLUE about his life and I've seen it multiple times. The music plays in my head a lot. He died so young...38 or 39 from a brain tumor. In the movie it showed that he started getting horrible headaches but never went to see a doctor. I cannot understand that. Perhaps if it had been diagnosed early enough and he had an operation he might have lived decades longer and given us more great music. I did not know that about the opening notes. Thank you for your informative reply Durdle. We also have Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. You know every single time I hear "OVER THERE" I get tears in my eyes.
    "Over we're coming over and we won't be back till it's over over there". I just got chills typing it. That was so long ago when Americans were different. Naive. Innocent. Patriotic. Oh I don't know if there were draft dodgers in the first world war. I shall ask. :)
      August 2, 2020 2:36 AM MDT

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    Also Samuel Barber, Aaron Copeland... Dvorak too, when he came over to America.

    Yes, a tragedy, and I can't understand why Gershwin did not consult a doctor. A former work colleague suffered from what was thought to be severe migraine, then one day her doctor decided she had suffered for too long and there was something more serious happening, so referred her to a specialist. Luckily her brain tumour was benign, and when it was removed she made a full recovery.

    Patriotic yes, but whether many more individual Americans were naïve and innocent then I cannot say, but I don't think the US Governments of the time were. 

    WW1 draught-dodgers? Quite likely, though I don't know how much America was involved in that War. Britain allowed so-called "conscientious objectors". They were commonly regarded as  "cowards", but I think many became involved in non-combatant areas such as military hospitals. 
      August 2, 2020 4:08 AM MDT

  • 91445
    There is also one composer whose music I cannot stand. It is discordant atonal and I find no beauty in it at all. John something. I can't remember. Since we are incapable of learning from our past there can be no growth. In some ways we seem to be slipping back down that slope we keep trying to climb to reach the top. Was it Sisyphus whose stone kept rolling backwards? It also seems that those of us who do learn don't have the power to change things. Why is that? If everyone got together and pushed that stone up the hill we would reach the top. But the odds of that happening is less than nil. Is there less than zero? There was a book/movie with that title but I don't know the story. Thank you for your thoughtful reply Durdle. Do you consider yourself to be patriotic? I think I am being first generation American. My folks CHOSE this country. It was not an accident of birth. Yet some American's idea of "pariotism" seems addlebrained to me. Is patriotism a big deal in England? I think I shall that question.
      August 2, 2020 4:32 AM MDT

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    John Adams? he's the only modern "john" composer I can think of.

    Here are three more. mid-20C, American composers for you, all new names to me only this evening thanks to a short programme about them on the radio: Florence Price, William Grant Hill, William Dawson.

    There are negative numbers (<0), in mathematics, in all sorts of fields. It can also be used in accounting to denote a debt or loss. In measuring temperature too, of course, because the 0º points on Fahrenheit and Celsius scales are still way above Absolute 0. You can't really have negative odds though.

    I vaguely know the ancient myth about rolling a boulder up a hill but I would not like to say who was rolling it. A good point though, about no co-operation.

    I consider myself patriotic yes, but the English are not ones to make a big thing about it, and the concept has been spoilt by political extremists of both Left and Right, in their opposite ways; confusing patriotism with nationalism. Perhaps those "some Americans" are doing the same. 

    Not so long ago I encountered a rather curious US / UK side to this. I watched two 1950s Cold War government public-information films, one American, the other British, purporting to show you how to increase your chances of surviving a nuclear blast - assuming you were some miles from it of course. They showed similar, simple actions based on diving under tables, but the US Government's was for schools, and borrowed a class of, I suppose 11-12 year olds, in an ordinary school. It depicted them starting the day with a very patriotic demonstration in class - singing the National Anthem, or saluting the flag, I forget exactly. I don't know if it was contrived for the film and its context or that actually happened in real life, but it felt to me very odd and rather unsettling, making me think of some far Eastern country like Japan or China with their less-individualist lives. That was because to the best of my knowledge and certainly personal experience, British schools never did anything like that. We would start the day by a morning Assembly with a short religious service and any special all-school announcements, but there were never any references to Queen & Country, and national emblems.     
      August 2, 2020 2:06 PM MDT

  • 91445
    The composer is JOHN CAGE Durdle. Not pleasant to listen to for me personally. Yet he is famous and I expect popular among some.

    When I was a kid we had our "DROP AND COVER" drills in class. You'd hit the ground to the right of your desk and cover your head bowed head with your arms. There was no singing of anything or reciting of any taht preceded it as I recall. We lived life on the edge in those days. Bomb shelters were the rage and the wealthy built them and stocked them with everything they'd need to survive a bomb. I remember the days when we had air raid wardens walking our streets to make sure that all out homes had dark curtains drawn so "the enemy" wouldn't see any light to direct bombs at. I think my dad was an air raid warden for a time but I could be wrong about that. It was no big deal. Part of our lives. What you do when you are at war. Only we did not get bombed and destroyed as so many countries did. Geez how vivid those memories are. I know about debits and credit and losing money in businesses...being "in the red". Those are symbols. In actuality what negative number exists that is not a symbol of something? Less than nothing is an abstract concept I cannot grasp. Can you? If you have nothing where is the less than that? See my problem? Thank you for your reply Durdle. I'm going to ask.
      August 3, 2020 4:08 AM MDT

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    The patriotic display by the school-children was a scene-setting ploy. The Drop & Cover scenes showed you would have no time for anything other than diving for shelter, and hoping.

    I remember in about 1964, when I would have been 11-12, s friend showed me a book his father had as a Civil Defence volunteer, on controlling the effects of nuclear war. I don't think I was supposed to have seen it! I don't remember many details but do recall it had a circular diagram of the ranges of effects of a 50 Megaton nuclear bomb blast. You would have to be in a very robust shelter some miles from it to stand any chance of survival. Horrible weapons... 

    I think I actually saw other examples of those information films. Another US-issued one showed a farmer ducking into the shelter of a tractor - the message was really that you needed to be out of the path of the heat and ionising radiation, as well as the blast itself.

    I am not of WW2 vintage but my parents were, both working in an arsenal  I believe. Dad continued his career in the Scientific Civil Service, as a scientist for the Ministry of Defence, but on anti-submarine warfare not bombs. 

    I think the black-out was imposed early in the War, in Britain and Europe, and I remember hearing the reminiscences of a German U-boat commander surprised that when prowling around off Newfoundland and the entrance to the St. Laurence Seaway, there was not yet a black-out along that coast. He said they were so close to the shore that if they surfaced, officers on the boat's bridge (atop the conning-tower) could smell the scent of blossoms, wafted out on off-shore breezes. One of these U-boats even penetrated the Seaway for some distance, and sank a ship there.   

    Many households in Wartime Britain had air-raid shelters of one type or another. One common model was the Anderson, made of corrugated-iron sections shaped rather like one of those "Wild West" wagon awnings. A close hit would have blown it apart but it would have withstood a fairly high pressure-wave, and flying debris. I think you can still see odd ones dotted about, used as garden sheds.   

    My school-friend and I used as "den" a shelter below the house. It would have been reached by a  hatch now covered by the carpet but also had an external entrance just outside the house wall, made by tunnelling under the foundations. It so close to the wall that if the house had collapsed any occupants might have survived that, but been trapped in the shelter.


    Any number whether it is positive or negative is really an abstract entity until it counts real things like apples or miles or $. Yet you can still count real things in a negative, or minus, way so the arithmetic makes sense.

    If you have no apples, the arithmetical number of apples you have is 0; and obviously you cannot have less than no apples physically. You might though, have 12 apples but owe your friend 3, so set them aside and call them (-3). They are still three real apples but you have counted them as negative. So effectively you now have [9 apples plus (-3 apples)] = 12-9 = 9 apples even before handing them over.

    Some real-life examples:

    1) Minus-number temperatures give us a convenient reference-level of null-degrees based on the physical world, for most of our measurements. Remember that heat is a form of energy, temperature is its intensity. Everything, even ice, contains some heat energy unless cooled right down to "Absolute Zero" where it holds no heat. So physics, especially thermodynamics, uses that utter lack of heat as its base for calculations, and calls it 0ºK (Kelvin ), which equals approx. -273ºC. The Kelvin degrees are the same "size" degrees as Centigrade (now called Celsius - I know not why) but using Absolute Zero as 0 means the calculations need no negative numbers. So making the arithmetic much easier. 

    For everyone else in the ordinary way, the Celsius scale has 0ºC as the melting-point of pure water-ice. So a three degree frost is 3ºC colder still, so is called -3ºC.

    It doesn't work so well in Fahrenheit because that calls the freezing and boiling points of water, 32ºF and 212ºF - I don't know what the Fahrenheit scale is set to, but it's not plain, simple, honest water!  I think Winters can still drop to negative degrees-F temperatures though, in parts of the USA, Canada, Siberia, etc.  

    As an aside, water has an almost unique physical property. It is at its densest at about 4ºC. That is why ice floats, but  more  significantly means the deepest parts of lakes and the seas never freeze solid, so can keep their resident animals alive.

    2) Geography

    If you look at an atlas map showing ocean depths as well as land altitudes, they are referred to Mean Sea Level, whether the units are feet or metres. (Fathoms on older sea-charts.)

    Again, it provides a convenient reference-level. The continent does not float on the sea but extends down to the ocean floor, in fact it goes deeper still. So because we are usually measuring one or the other, not both; we can say that sea-level = 0ft or m; the land rises + ft above, and though it slopes to + ft below, sea surface; but it is often useful to give the depths as minus. If you are mapping the Dead Sae its surface is actually at a negative altitude!

    3) Graphs and Vectors

    These are fundamental tools for solving all sorts of practical problems in navigation, forces, sound or electrical wave behaviour etc, because they replace what otherwise would be very awkward maths into a series of often quite simple calculations. They work by setting a base-point called the Origin, and giving it the value 0 in each of the 2 or 3 dimensions necessary. You then count directions, distances and angles from the origin; but very often have to go to the left or below it, where the values count in the opposite direction - i.e., going more and more negative.

    One everyday but unseen application is the mains electricity: alternating-current at 110V 60Hz in the USA, 240V 50Hz in Britain and Europe. It is "alternating" because it comes as a wave, smoothly changing direction and back in each cycle, following a curve that is actually the trace of y = sin x (Remember your basic trig.?). The people who design the systems and circuits base their calculations on that, and these calculations sometimes need a lot of trigonometry with negative values because of the way a wave oscillates between a 0V level (at rest) and its positive maximum and negative minimum, values.  

    Those are only some examples, but there are many calculations involving minus  numbers, of which perhaps the more arcane but everyday, probably include the decibel scales for measuring sound and electrical signals. Just take it that someone somewhere on any day of the week will be using numbers below null, to measure, analyse, control or design something the rest of us might use without a second thought. 

    Though if you delve into why decibels, and what their 0 levels really mean, you start giving one of your own natural senses rather more than a second thought...
      August 3, 2020 8:41 AM MDT

  • 91445
    On a Balance Sheets Assets are what you OWN and Liabilities are what you OWE and the difference between them is NET WORTH. Now assume I own $100K worth of stuff and I owe $150K my net worth is minus $50K. I owe more than I own so I am in debt more than I can offset with my assets. That I get. I have 12 apples. I borrowed 3 from you so while I have control of 12 temporarily not all of them are really mine because my 12 includes your 3. So we apply principles of Accounting to the world? Oh wait a minit! FYI I think one of the coldest areas in the US is at the top of Mt. Washington in New England where I think they measured a cold once of -60 Fahrenheit. Also the winds at the top of Mt. Washington are extremely strong. I don't remember basic trigonometry because I never took it. I had basic Algebra and Geometry. That's it. No calculus or anything else> Oh I just remembered an aptitude test I took once upon a time to determine my strengths and weaknesses. I think I did "score" below the line on something..the line was zero aptitude. I scored below it which put it into the negative aptitude. I think it was for SOCIAL WORKER or something close to that. I scored high in verbal and math...the math was very simple but social work? It should embarrass me but I can't be what I am not. I was never drawn to social work or teaching or anything to do with people's "feelings". I refused promotions that would cause me to have to "manage people".  I was too impatient and the few times I got stuck with it I HATED it. People fighting among one another for such petty ridiculously absurd childish things. I could not muster any empathy for that so I avoided it. I do feel great sorrow for how America has treated immigrants especially the children. Such evil going on in MY BACKYARD is unforgivable. I digress. Thank you for your very comprehensive reply Durdle. I feel as if I spent time in a Master Class  and as you know I love learning. I can't absorb everything you wrote but I think enough that it helped a lot! Thanks again Teach! :) This post was edited by RosieG at August 3, 2020 9:23 AM MDT
      August 3, 2020 9:19 AM MDT

  • 2292
    LOL! No I was not trying to suggest accounting principles for everything. That would never work.

     I was simply illustrating +ve and -ve in an arithmetical sense, and when you do that in appropriate contexts and ways the concepts of 0 and of  negative numbers become extremely useful in all sorts of things. The Romans had no symbol for 0 so they could only have ever counted upwards from I. I don't know if they managed fractions at all, such as IX / XVI (= 9/16).  

    -60ºF on Mt. Washington.... I looked up the mean Antarctic Winter temperature: -49ºC at the South Pole, and converting to Fahrenheit shows that is within a few degrees of that Mt. Washington record. That is mean temperature, so the Antarctic is regularly colder, but the record measured was a rather nippy -89.6ºC, which is -129ºF, measured in 1983!

    (Converting between Fahrenheit and Celsius can give strange-looking results, because their degrees are of different sizes and their reference 0º temperatures are so different. Fahrenheit based the scale named after him on the melting point of a mixture of water, ice and ammonium chloride - but the brief historical note I found does not state why! Perhaps it was the lowest temperature anyone could attain artificially in 1724, when he established it.)


    I am surprised your school maths course did not include basic trigonometry; but I have the impression some American schools break maths into separate curriculum subjects rather than teaching maths as a single syllabus divided into its own topics. I can understand Calculus being perhaps a topic for further-education courses but trigonometry starts with just three simple ratios in the basic properties of the right-angled triangle. They alone are so applicable to so many practical problems I am puzzled why they are not taught along with that Algebra and Geometry, all neatly linking each other together.

    I recall only a few years ago, a scientist telling me she gave a work-experience student what should have been a fairly simple problem: the true speed of the wind blowing in a known direction, across the known course and speed of the survey-ship on which it had been measured. It would been solved by moderately simple trigonometry, and she was amazed when he told her he had never been taught trig! It shocked me, too, and I wondered just what mathematics he had been taught.


    I could not be a social worker either, and I expect I'd gain a  negative score in that aptitude test too; but it seems an odd test. What was it meant to determine? The sort of profession that might suit you?

    No - I cannot see any excuse for splitting the child immigrants from their parents like that, even if they had entered the country illegally. I cannot understand what the authorities were thinking or trying to do. I don't know what the UK authorities do with illegal-immigrant families who struggle across the English Channel to the profit of the people-smugglers, but a policy like that would have caused one hell of an outrage from all sides.
      August 3, 2020 2:22 PM MDT