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?