Monday, December 14, 2015

Artifact analysis

.    I was first introduced to jazz through my older brothers. The music seemed to flow like nothing I had heard before. I felt like anyone could grab hold of it and make it his or  her own. This music was also unlike the classical music I had been listening to sense I was a little kid. Unlike classical music, jazz did not conform to any ones ideas except the person playing the music at that moment.
     I had my first opportunity to play classical music in grade school. I choose to play percussion. The music was difficult, and I had to always try to be listening to the conductor, my fellow musicians in order to play together. I enjoyed this music very much, but it was not as free and flowing as the music I had heard coming from my older brother's guitar.
     Finally, once I reached junior high school I got the chance to play in a jazz band. I choose to play the jazz drums, and bought my first full drum set soon after. In some ways jazz was like classical music, as we still had sheet music to read off of, but our director also introduced improvisation to us. This is a part if the chart where we have open space to solo, or create our own ideas. This was the experience I had been waiting for. I had no one to tell me what to do, or how to play. I could express myself however I wanted, whether or not the band director even liked it. No more sheet music to read off of. My first performance was in the auditorium at Wilmette Junior High School. Although I was excited, I also felt nervous about soloing I front of the packed auditorium. If I sounded bad, the only person to blame was myself. When the time did come to solo, my anxiety was washed away by my sense of freedom; I felt as though I had been given a glorious opportunity to express myself and not have to conform to any one else's ideas. I did not want to throw away such a wonderful experience. With this thought in mind a pushed through my solo and let my creative side shine.
       As I moved to high school, I continued to play jazz drums in the jazz program at New Trier.  At New Trier, jazz is a class taken everyday during the school day. Being in high school also meant that we where expected to play at a higher level. in my first performance we played in a packed Gafney auditorium. As I sat down the director began to count off the tune. I felt I had a bigger responsibility than before. I had to lead the bad through the chart, keep good time, and keep track of the form. And then I had to solo. With all these new responsibilities I felt even more nervous than before. But nothing had changed about how I felt about soloing. I was simply doing it on a higher level than before. When you strike all of the keeping time and outlining the form, I still have a job to make this music my own. When the time came to solo, I let all of my worries go and just focused on creating music that was uniquely my own. When the concert was over, I was mentally exhausted but thrilled.  I felt like I had found something that would allow me to express myself freely no matter what. I was free from other people's ideas and could write my own.
      Today I continue to learn more about drums from my teachers, from listening to professionals, and from watching others play. Although I have continued to grow and developed, my thrill of playing and soloing in jazz has never changed. To me, my drum set represents an instrument that I can use to shape music that is uniquely my own, and does not conform to any other person's ideas other than my own.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unity with Russia

In the past few months, the U.S. and other countries such
as Britain, France and Russia have all suffered attacks 
from terrorists and other extremists. A complete list of all 
of the attacks are here. World super powers such as the U.S. 
France, and Russia have been discussing a treaty against the 
war on terror. There have also been parallels drawn between
this proposed treaty and the one that the U.S. Great Britain
and Russia all formed to defeat Hitler, the Tehran Conference

Just like the time period when these great leaders met, tensions are high. Each nation has competing views, and wants to ensure that theirs will prevail. This understandably causes conflict. But I would also like to bring to light another conflict. Russia does undoubtedly have other reasons for wanting to co-operate with the west, such as lifting the sanctions we placed on them for invading Ukraine. Russia also openly persecutes homosexuality. By joining hands with Russia, are we acknowledging these injustices? Shouldn't we stand strong against such discrimination?

 I think that the present threat of terrorism is not as great as the threat the Nazis posed to our country in WWII. Thus we should not have to sacrifice our ideals by joining forces with Russia, we should hold Russia at arms length and not forgive there wrongs. However, as the threat continues to grow, a treaty in the future is not inconceivable. If one did become necessary, I believe it should be a broad one that will not involve too many policy changes in how we regard Russia. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Controversial Puppies

From Cornell University comes a new dog. Scientists have successfully bred the first IVF puppies. This has been attempted by many scientists as early as the 70's. IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) is when scientists surgically implant frozen embryos into a mother. More information about IVF can be found here. This modern fertilization technique has been used in Humans and now dogs, with much controversy.

Controversy first arose when scientists figured out how to do IVF on humans. The main argument against using IVF is the freezing of live embryos. Religious, and other human rights activists consider this to be an unjust treatment of a living person or dog. Other arguments include whether or not this is too similar to playing God: determining the fate of what embryo lives and what embryo dies, like the scientists in the movie Gattica. Although these are valid concerns, I believe the pros out weigh the cons.

Much can be learned on the scientific front by studying diseases in humans and now dogs, as well as helping endangered dog species. IVF also offers another chance for couples to have children who are other wise unable to. For those who argue that it is an unfair treatment of a living thing, the idea that these embryos should even be considered alive is a whole topic up for debate today. By choosing not to do IVF, we would be saying no to couples who only want to have their own children, or research that could help prevent the next dog or human related disease. Although the loss of some of these embryos can be seen as tragic, what we can gain as a society is much more significant.

A hidden Mona Lisa

A recent discovery by Pascal Cote, a French scientist, has introduced the possibility that under the famous Mona Lisa lies another painting. Pascal has designated 10 years of his life to study data from state-of-the-art technologies that scanned the Mona Lisa in 2004. Could the painting we have always known be hiding another?

(original Mona Lisa on right, digital reconstruction on left)

I am not convinced yet. The Louvre Museum (which holds the Mona Lisa) has failed to comment on the new discovery, other than to mention that Pascal Cote acted alone in his research, not part of any scientific team. Martin Kemp, a professor at the University of Oxford, considered this new discovery "Untenable." Although the technology used in this discovery is state-of-the-art, Cote's analysis of the data from the technology may  not have been. No one should jump to any conclusions from one scientists discovery. Already there has been talk about renaming the painting, and that it is the discovery of the century. However, Cote's theory has yet to be backed by any other scientific study. I think more research is required before we determine anything for sure.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What is really going on with Antarctica?

          The issues of global climate change and rising sea levels seem to be common knowledge (if not, read about them here). However, a recent study from NASA  suggests that Antarctica is actually gaining ice, not loosing it to the oceans. The whole situation with ice on the continent is very complicated, as Antarctica is larger than the United States, and is both loosing and gaining ice at different places. But the study does come as a surprise, as years and years of previous research has led us to believe that the continent is loosing ice.

          This information about ice gains in Antarctica could mean that our initial predictions about rising sea levels could be incorrect. But beyond that, we just don't know what could happen. The melting and gaining of ice on Antarctica is very complex, and hard to predict. This sudden breakthrough shows us that we have much to learn about global climate change and what is truly going on with our planet. The research brought up the possibility that the areas that are loosing ice could soon become severely destabilized and eventually result in raising sea levels three meters. This recent discovery gives us more ideas to help understand how our ice caps and glaciers work, but seems to also leave us with many more questions about the future of our planet. What is really going on with Antarctica?

Monday, November 23, 2015

First Amendment Rights: The Courage for Freedom; The Freedom of Courage


Gregory W. O’Reilly


Recently many Americans have debated rights to speech and to protest. Many, fond of tossing off the phrase the “First Amendment” to justify their rights protest and to communicate their opinions, or to limit these rights for others, have likely never read it. If true, how many fail to understand why we have it? It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Today, we are also protected from having any part of our government – the police, the Congress, the military, or even the President, trample on these rights. 

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies provided a roadmap to understanding why we have a First Amendment, and explained its centrality to a free and open democracy. He did it with style – a style traceable to the oratory of classical Greece. In 1927 he wrote his justification for these rights in what was then a minority view of the Supreme Court. It soon became the prevailing view. Brandies wrote:

“Those who won our independence… believed . . . that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile . . . that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government . . . . ” Whitney v. California. 

He looked back to the nation’s founding, and reminded us First Amendment rights are crucial in the search for truth – specifically in the political arena, that heated sphere where often we want our views heard, do not want to listen to opposing views, and sometimes would even like our opponent’s views silenced. Brandies recognized this human tendency, and recognized it as destructive of democracy. Without these First Amendment rights, attempts to maintain freedom and democracy would be futile. He wisely warned of the dangers of straying from the path of freedom by giving in to the urge to limit free speech, for that path that leads to fear, repression, and hate, imperiling our society. Free speech and free society demand courage and tolerance; you may have to hear what you hate to hear, summon the courage to tolerate hearing it, and to speak your own truth against the views you hate. It is no coincidence Brandies’ style tracked that of the ancient Greek leader Pericles, who marshaled speech to rouse Athens to withstand invasion and the extinction of its system of democracy. In considering the temptation to ignore First Amendment rights, we would do well to heed Pericles, who counseled, “esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness . . . . ”

Monday, October 5, 2015

Digging Deep

New evidence suggest a company drilling a deep well in search of natural gas set off a flow of hot, gausses mud, from two miles below the surface of the earth. The damage was immediate. An area much bigger than Wilmette was covered in hot liquid mud. About 40,000 people had to flee, and 20 could not escape and were killed. This toxic mud is even now polluting the local river with dangerous heavy metals. The events happened nine years ago in the worlds fourth most populace nation, Indonesia. One reason the new study is so important, is that scientists, businesses, and government officials have been debating what caused this disaster, since it happened. The reason for the debate is that two events which could have caused it, happened within a few days. First, their was an earth quake. Two days later, at the natural gas well, exploring two miles beneath the surface of the earth, hot liquid mud started bubbling up to the surface. Some thought the earth quake caused the mud flow, while others blamed the drilling.

The new study was just published in the prestigious journal Nature Geoscience. Evidence showed that the mud probably came from the same depth as that which was reached by the drill. This great depth is far below the shallower clay that is sometimes liquified in an earthquake. A number of experts have suggested that the company which drilled the well failed to follow proper safety precautions, and if they had, this never would have happened. One scientist, Dr. Tingay, said drilling records from the company could help settle the question. The company, however, has refused to provide the records. While people might debate the cause, or argue about why the company can get away with hiding records, all experts agree one thing is certain: the mud will continue to leak for the next 8-18 years. What's really incredible is that no matter how much the leakage slows, this giant disaster will be a feature of this part of Java for centuries to come.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lunar Eclipse

Last night was no ordinary lunar eclipse. The timing of this lunar eclipse was important because it was in September, when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit. This caused the moon to appear bigger. The color of the moon was also unusual. It appeared red, mainly because of wildfires in California have grown so big their smoke has dissipated into the atmosphere all over the world. This caused light distortion and interference and the red and even bloody.

A lunar eclipse like this is not predicted to happen again for another thirty years. While the eclipse could be seen from all over the globe, the best places to see it was in parts of North America, South America, and Western Africa. A Lunar eclipse happens when the moon falls into the shadow of the earth; a total Lunar eclipse happens when the moon falls into the Earth's Umbra, or its darkest shadow. Lunar Eclipses don't happen very often because the moon revolves around the earth on a different plane than the Earth. If the moon orbited the Earth on the same plane as the Earth, we would have eclipses every month. Although humans have been enjoying the sight Lunar eclipses for some time now, a day will come when they will stop. This will happen because gravitational forces are drawing the moon farther and farther away from us each year (about one inch every year). Once the moon is far enough away, it will be too small and too far off to fit into our Umbra, or to block out the sun. If you didn't get out to see the eclipse, there are plenty of photos online, although nothing can capture the feeling of the live experience.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Uncomfortable Environments

Just a few days ago I went in for a prescreening
to audition for one of twelve spots at our school for IMEA (Illinois Music Educators Association). The chosen students would get to audition at the district level. I had been preparing for the prescreening for weeks in advance, but for some reason, my audition was slow and out of tempo. I couldn't quite perform my best with the eyes of my instructor bearing down on me. However, I feel that although I underperformed during the audition, I have gone through a valuable experience. Throwing myself into an uncomfortable situation, like the prescreening, is never easy. But it is something that everyone will find themselves doing frequently in the real world. The more a person exposes themselves  to these situations, the better they will find themselves preforming. Luckily for me I passed the prescreening and get to go down and audition at the district level. regardless of how I do, however, I welcome the opportunity to showcase my talent and try to overcome an uncomfortable situation and perform my best.

But these auditions are not just good experiences for other high school auditions. I believe they will help me down the road. If I choose to peruse music in my future, I might have to perform at a plethora of auditions for collage music programs. But instead of being stressed and worried about them, I plan on feeling confidant about every single one of my auditions. The only way I can do this is to expose myself to similar situations while I am still in high school. On the other hand, just because you are not a musician, doesn't mean you can't
benefit from the same idea. Take job interviews for example. Joining an improv group, or making yourself stand and deliver a speech in front of a small group of friends are both good ideas in training yourself to speak and feel comfortable in front of others in important situations. This can help you show the real you at your next job interview. Although putting yourself into these situations in the first place can feel uncomfortable, I would encourage anyone to continue doing so. Eventually, with practice, comes competence, and you will reap the rewards.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Just or Unjust?

In Louise Erdrich's novel The Round House, Joe is driven to commit murder on behalf of his mother, who is raped by a savvy man from off the reservation. Joe hunts down the assailant, who he finds to be Linden Lark. After stalking Linden though his sister Linda, he guns him down on the golf course with the help of his friend Cappy (Erdrich, 282). I see Joe operating on the principle that because some one harmed his mother, and meant to kill her, he has to bring the assailant to justice by killing him. Of coarse, this is after the law failed to prosecute Linden. Although it is admirable that Joe loves his mother with such passion, killing Linden Lark is neither just, nor a definite solution.

Killing any person is fundamentally wrong. If someone tries to kill you, turning around and trying to kill them back leaves you no better off than the other person. Justice is not how many wrong doers you can knock off, but as The Merraim-Webster Dictionary defines it, "the administration of law; especially :  the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity." Although some societies may argue that murder is a fair punishment for wrong doers, I believe it is rather barbaric. Murdering Linden is an extreme solution that benefits how Joe feels about his mother's attack, rather than how Linen should be held accountable for the murder. Besides being unjust, it also is not a definite solution. Joe's form of thinking is somewhat like the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth principle first documented in The Code of Hammurabi. The only problem with this form of justice is that if everyone went by it, we would all be walking around blind and toothless. Instead, Joe should realize that killing Linden only escalates the circle of violence. He should seek justice another way, and try to form a better future, rather than holding on to the past.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Migrant Crisis

A boat is packed with migrants in the Mediterranean, fleeing to Europe.

The European Union has just announced quotas for the recent influx of migrants coming from war torn countries like Syria, and Afghanistan. Read more about the ongoing crisis here. The refugees have been seeking asylum in some of the more wealthy countries in Europe, like Germany and France. The quotas show how many asylum seekers the countries are willing to take in. But Germany predicts that it alone this year is expecting around 800,000 refugees. I think the European countries should do their best to take in as many of the refugees as they can, but if 800,000 people keep pouring into Germany every year who need food, and shelter, Germany will not be able to integrate them and eventually this mass migration could cause greater problems. Eventually they will have to stop taking people in. 

However, there are some positive things that countries like Germany may have to gain from the refugees. Germany's birth rate is at about zero. People in Germany, and in other countries in europe are no longer having as many babies as they used to. These migrants could help repopulate the country. But this raises the question of whether or not they will assimilate to German culture, or end up in ghettoes like those in France (read more about the muslim situation in France here). If they don't assimilate to German culture, they could possibly be creating an underclass that could cause trouble for the countries that have taken them in to fill out their populations. Hopefully, when countries are "taking in" more refugees, they are actually bringing them into their societies and culture in order to create new and enriched lives for them, and their country. But this could also be a recipe for disaster. In conclusion I would hope that European countries continue to bring in asylum seekers, but do so with caution and much planning. Finally, these people are coming here because of the chaos in their homelands. This shows how devastating some of the unexpected consequences are from wars abroad.