Noise Pollution Allegation against Spanish Pianist


This BBC headline caught my attention: “Spanish pianist faces jail over noise pollution claims”.  What?  A pianist?  I can understand if it were heavy metal thrashers, or a kid with a guitar and a loud amp.  But a classical pianist? There must be something more to the story.  Turns out that there was a heated dispute between neighbors.  One apparently did not appreciate hearing the other practice 8 hours a day for years.  The article doesn’t give too many details except that the family of the pianist tried to sound proof their apartment. The “music critic” neighbor is suing the pianist to collect damages for prolonged exposure to noise pollution.

Could this pianist be such a bad player to have caused her neighbor so much suffering? What was she playing all those years? I have to confess that I like classical piano music, but there are some composers of it that I do not like, and one happens to be Joaquin Rodrigo, himself a Spaniard and world class pianist.  His music really is pretty out there in terms of accessibility.  I wonder if this budding noise polluter was banging out Rodrigo pieces 8 hours a day?  Another composer I am not in the least fond of is Liszt.  His stuff is virtuosic rubbish in my opinion and  it would be torture for me to be a captive listener for 8 hours a day.

If I were a conflict negotiator for the feuding neighbors, I would suggest that the pianist take requests.  Surely there’s some musical compromise possible here.  Everyone likes a little Chopin, right? I would recommend that the pianist play a Nocturne just before bedtime twice a week and alternate with the meditative and relaxing sounds of Ravel and Debussy on the other nights.  During the day, I would propose Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier which is perfect practice music and quite soothing.  If the complaining neighbor were not a classical music fan, I’d suggest Elton John or Billy Joel; if partial to jazz, Herbie Hancock or Bill Evans might help bring about peace.  Herbie Hancock actually is a peace ambassador to Japan.

I think the feud is all a big misunderstanding.  The two could be best of friends really if they just tried.  The pianist could even offer piano lessons.  Before long, they could be a famous duo playing Schubert: Piano Music for Four Hands.  And wouldn’t that be grand!

PS:  If you hit the links, they take you to Spotify where you can listen to any of the music I referenced here for free.  It’s well worth the minute or so it takes to sign up.  You can keep the free account or upgrade to a paid account.  I do not work for Spotify and am not paid a penny to say any of this.  I’m just a fan.

Divine Masculine Art Installation Q/A

Denton Storm

In preparation for the Divine Masculine Art Installation that I am attending organized by my daughter and artist Pampi of alpoarrentao Productions, folks were asked to answer four questions.  Here are my responses:

1. If you could convey anything to your adolescent self, given all the experiences you have had since then, what would it be?

Don’t spend so much on albums because in 30 years you can get them for free on Spotify, (with ads)

2. Looking back, what are some people, advice, events – anything – you are grateful you had during adolescence? Why?

My sister’s advice to get and stay involved with whatever matters to me, and that translated into high school debate, which literally changed my life and way of thinking. I’m grateful to my mom for forcing me to take piano lessons even though I can’t play, because I can appreciate better what it really means to have talent when I hear it. Oddly, my love of keyboard music – all kinds, came from my own failed attempts. My dad introduced me to the concept of patience.  He’d always say “hang in there”.  And it made me feel better – that and music, my brand of thorazine.   My grandfather had a lot of patience too.  We’d fish all day and catch nothing and enjoy every moment on the lake.  It was good to know that it really wasn’t all about the catch.  While in college, my friend John was my visa to a world outside the Southern states – my ticket to Chicago, NYC, Europe and my eventual passport to Boston where I remain happily uprooted and rooted today; a domestic immigrant with documents.

3. Looking back, what do you wish you had had in adolescence to help you transition from childhood to adulthood? Why?

I didn’t have much guidance really – lots of good general advice, you know, do your best, follow your passions, work hard, do right, earn enough to support yourself, and all that, but the advice came without instructions – it was like “figure it out on your own”.  It took me a long time to figure things out.  Funny, to this day, I can’t understand instruction manuals.  I just try stuff out, “let’s see, this way – no that way, what does this do” and that sort of thing. I don’t like maps much either – I sense my way around.  I guess I could have used a map as an adolescent, or Google or Frommer’s Guide to Life or something.  I’d have gone to a different college too most likely, but I have no regrets and am thankful to my parents and grandparents for the sacrifices they made and support they gave to ensure I got an education.  And I met some great people along the way, including my wife and our children. Didn’t need a map or for that.  Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to inventing the Internet anyway back in my day.

4. What is something you are going through now that you think additional guidance in adolescence would have helped you figure out earlier or make easier for you now?

Environmental guilt. If only I had known about the harmful impacts of styrofoam, aerosols, plastic water bottles and those campfires and all that leaded gas my parents burned in the family gas guzzling Chevy Impala. As I kid, I didn’t recycle, or compost.  I ate genetically altered corn.  I carried a heavy carbon footprint.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to the Earth Day organizers?  Things changed a little for me after hearing Ralph Nader speak when I was 18 and I began to eat sunflower seeds and granola bars.  I became more environmentally conscious. But by then it was too late.  I could have saved the planet and I did not.  If only PowerPoint had been invented sooner, Al Gore might have really made a difference.

2012 – The Year of Records

Festive Orbs

Congressional Approval Rating: 18%

President Obama’s Job Approval Rating: 54%

Unemployment Rate: 7.9%

Gas Prices (Source Gas-Buddy):  Tuscon – $2.858; Lubbock – $2.865; Little Rock – $3.068; Chicago – $3.40; Boston – $3.475; LA – $3.609;  NYC – $3.773; Honolulu – $3.918

Most expensive college:  Sara Lawrence College (not to be confused with Sara Lee) – $60,116/yr

Motor Trend 2013 Car of the YearTesla Model S – $58,000 (an all electric car) 0-60 4.4 seconds with no emissions.

Weather 2012:  (source – Dr. Jeff Masters’ wunderblog)

  • Great Drought of 2012 – driest since Dust Bowl era.  In July, 61% of U.S. contiguous land mass in drought like conditions. Mississippi River at lowest levels ever.
  • Hottest year on record.  On August 1, half the state of Oklahoma recorded temperatures of 110 or higher.  Death Valley tied record for highest low at 107 and highest average 24 hour temperature of 117.5.
  • Hurricane Sandy – largest tropical storm-force winds spanning 943 miles of coastline.
  • 28 tornadoes hit on Christmas Day breaking the previous record of 12 set in 1969.

Average movie ticket price: 2012 – $8.12; 1995 – $4.35.

Best LPs of 2012:  my picks sourced from Rolling StonesNPR and Stereophile.  26 albums, multiple genres, one playlist.  See below:  Don’t have Spotify, get it free (with ads, sorry), but it’s worth it.


The end of the world came and went without incident.

2011 – A Year for the History Books

Here is a brief look back at some of the most significant moments and events of 2011:

President Obama made good on campaign promises to end the War in Iraq.  The last of the military troops left Iraq on December 18th.

President Obama went a long way toward fulfilling another campaign promise to crush al-Qaida by giving orders to a team of Navy Seals and CIA operatives to take out Osama bin Laden, which was accomplished.  Bin Laden is dead.

One of the most signifcant chain of events of the decade, if not century, was the Arab Spring/Winter/Uprising/Awakening which led to the overthrow of the governments in Tunisa, Egypt and Libya, power changes in Yemen, Jordan and Kuwait and a number of significant concessions in Morocco, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Syria.  It all started in 2010 with a fruit vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire in protest of brutal economic policies that made it nearly impossible for him to make a living.

The Japan earthquake of 2011 was the strongest Japan had ever experienced and one of the most powerful on record. The earthquake triggered a tsunami that  swept away villages, killing nearly 20,000 and causing the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Global Warming – it’s real.  Here’s an in your face look at just how warm 2011 was compared to the years 1961-1990.

The Arizona Massacre shocked the country.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, one of the victims of the shootings, made a miraculous recovery and brief, dramatic return to Congress.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, the progressive response to business and politics as usual spread to a number of cities throughout the country.

Elizabeth Warren began her challenge to Senator Scott Brown for the MA Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy.

RIP to fallen American and Coalition troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and to all innocent civilians.

And RIP:

Harry Morgan (Colonel Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H)

Amy Winehouse – such a talent and tragically, short-lived life

Steve Jobs – the world will never be the same because of him and without him

Vaclav Havel – poet, dissident, leader of the velvet revolution and president of the Czech Republic

Sergent Shriver, one of the key champions of the Peace Corp; Andy Rooney; civil rights activist,Fred Shuttlesworth; writer Christopher Hitchens and musicians including singers Amy Winehouse, Cesoria Evora and jazz drummer Paul Motian among others.

Thank you GOP for sponsoring such a wonderful circus featuring the most entertaining characters like the Ross Perot look-a-like Ron Paul who has passed 1 bill in 14 years in Congress; Rick Santorum, who is the new anti-Romney and darling of the Tea Party, who has a mean streak and is capable of a Howard Dean rebel yell moment; Michelle Bachmann who is at the bottom of the polls in her home state of Iowa; Rick Perry who has had more oops moments than all of the candidates combined; delusional Newton Gingrich; Mitt (for the Mittle Class) Romney who has made friends with the OWS by declaring corporations people; Herman Cain the pizza guy who crashed in dramatic fashion after allegations surfaced against him of sexual harassment.  In his carefully orchestrated farewell address, he closed with a Pokey Man quote.  Oh, I forgot Huntsman, who is still in the hunt, but just barely; and there are some interesting side shows like Gary Johnson, who like Ron Paul, would legalize marijuana, but unlike Paul, probably not heroin.  The GOP hasn’t let him play so he looks to be turning to the Libertarian Party for a go at the Presidency and perhaps become the spoiler; and finally, there is Buddy Roemer, the only candidate with a degree in economics (from Harvard, no less) the former Governor of Lousiana who the GOP won’t allow to be in the same room as the other candidates.  He truly is a one man side show.

On a lighter note, 2011 brought me Spotify, and I can’t imagine life without it.  Thank you Spotifiy.

2011 was  a year that historians will highlight as one of the most significant of the first decade of the new millennium.  I wonder what 2012 will bring?

My Top 10 2011 Year In Review

1. Stayed employed

With the unemployment rate at 8.6%, 7% in MA where I live, I feel lucky to have a job.

2. Daughter loves college

My youngest daughter has had a successful year and a half at college. I can’t take credit for her academic achievements, but I encouraged her to apply to the small liberal arts college she attends.  It was her top choice and it has been a terrific fit.  Speaking of college, in the summer of 2011, I wrote a post on how to select the right college.

3. Blogged Alot

For my 2010 New Year’s pledge, I vowed to post 7 times a month, and on average did so in 2011, even when I thought I had nothing to say, or was too tired to write what I did have to say.

4. Loyal Up With Chris Hayes Viewer

This is a terrific early morning weekend political show hosted by one of the best young journalists in the country.  I have even been tweeting with other #uppers every Saturday and Sunday morning.  The show has only been on the air for a few months, but I hope it catches on and eventually gets a better time slot.

5. Bucket List Vacation

Took a family vacation to visit my mom and sister in Chicago.  En route, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and on the way back, spent a few days in Niagara Falls and Toronto.

6. Read First E-Book

William Dean Howell’s A Hazard of New Fortunes.  I don’t have a Kindle or a Nook so I read it on my HTC Evo.  However, my eyesight seems to have deteriorated, so I ended up with new, more powerful reading glasses.  Notwithstanding my eyesight, the portable e-book reading experience was pleasurable, partly because the book was such an entertaining and informative historical read and partly because it was free.

7. Became a Spotify Addict

I’m a huge Spotify fan and when my free trial runs out, I will buy a monthly subscription.  I can’t tell you how satisfying it has been to have virtually every song and artist at my fingertips.  I’m listening to a playlist I created as I’m writing this, a playlist I shared to


I’ve shared something like 20 playlists I created on Spotify in 2011.  What good is a playlist if you can’t share it?  Some of my playlists include:  Stereolab Mix, The Worst 40 Songs Ever, Kool Keys, Songs About Places and in a nod to my youth, the Mix of ’76.

9. Went to My 30th High School Reunion

Another bucket list activity.  My wife and I had a lot of fun at the reunion and driving around Little Rock.  We went to the Clinton Presidential Museum and caught up with some of my college friends for dinner at a spot along the banks of the Arkansas River.  At my high school reunion, I was one of the few who most had not seen in 30 years and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some didn’t recognize me or even remember me, as was the case with a few folks I should have recognized and remembered, but did not.

10. Went to a Handel & Haydn Society Concert

My oldest daughter invited me to see Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Haydn’s Clock Symphony on the evening of the show.  I was so tired I almost didn’t go, but I am glad I did.  We had a great time listening to some fantastic music.  My review of the concert can be found here.

2011 was a good year for me.  I hope 2012 will be as good or better.

Spotify, Give it a Spin

Spotify. Anyone have it yet? I do. The free version. I like it better than Pandora, because I have more control. In Pandora, you get started by selecting a few songs you want to hear and then it takes over, like the computer Hal in 2001 a Space Odyssey. It uses some sort of omniscient algorithm to predict what songs you might like. It sometimes gets it right, and sometimes not, but the thumbs up thumbs down thing is a real pain. The thing is, I know what I like, and I like to discover new music on my own.

Spotify. What’s to like? Well, when you download the program, you get instant access to a database of 15 million songs. Pandora has a tiny database of 800,000 songs by comparison. The thing is with Spotify, you have to do all the work. You plug in what song or artist you want to hear and the selection or works of the artist appears. You then select the song you want and it streams. The quality of the stream in the free edition is not all that great, but as good or better than most anything you could find on YouTube, iTunes or Pandora. For the free version, if I understand the terms correctly, you get unlimited listens for the first 6 months, after which you are restricted to something like 10 hours a month and not more than 5 listens or so to a particular song.  You have to put up with ads and some music promotions.  You can’t share music, and can only hear your tunes while connected to the Internet. Premium upgrades give you unlimited listens, sharing capability, the ability to listen while off-line, mobile use, and better sound quality.

For now, I’m content with the free service. We’ll see how hooked I get in 6 months. I might very well upgrade to a premium service – the cheapest upgrade is $4.99 a month. If i do, I’d probably eliminate my monthly Consumer Reports subscription.

Spotify. It’s not for everyone. It might not be for you. There’s no risk to giving it a free spin, except the risk of addiction. Can they hook you? They may have already hooked me.