Sunday, May 30, 2010

My recommendations for Chopin recordings

The New York Times recently came out with its recommended Chopin recordings on this, his bicentennial year.  Here are my recommendations (links are to my reviews):

* Concertos: Zimerman - Primakov
* Ballades: Rubinstein - Perahia
* Etudes: Perahia - Wild
* Impromptus: Rubinstein (1960s version) - Perahia
* Mazurkas: Rubinstein (1930s version) - Ohlsson (also, selected Mazurkas from Horowitz and Kapell)
* Nocturnes: Rubinstein (1930s version) - Pires
* Polonaises: Rubinstein (1950s version) - Ohlsson [Ohlsson's version also includes rarely heard early polonaises]
* Preludes: Argerich - Ohlsson
* Scherzos: Rubinstein (1930s version) - Pogorelich (because every piano collection should have some unadulterated wierdness)
* Sonata No. 1: Why bother? But if you must, go with Ohlsson or Ashkenazy.  (Addendum, 2014: Primakov now reigns supreme in this work.
* Sonata No. 2: Rubinstein (1960s version) - Horowitz (1962 version)
* Sonata No. 3: Kapell - Rubinstein
* Waltzes: Lipatti - Rubinstein (preferably both the 1953 and 1963 versions, which are very different from each other)

Miscellaneous compositions:
* Trois Nouvelle Etudes: Rubinstein (1958 version preferably over 1960s version)
* Introduction and Rondo, Op. 16: Horowitz
* Berceuse: Rubinstein (1958) - Cherkassky

Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz.  Two giants of Chopin interpretation with vastly diverging styles.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost after Lost

I can’t help wondering what happened on the Island after Jack died

But first, a brief clarification: Everything that happened on the Island was real. Oceanic 815 crashed there on September 22, 2004, and there were survivors. Some, like Boone, Shannon, and Charlie, died during the course of the show. Some survived and were able to escape, including Michael, Walt, and the Oceanic 6. Some remained. But the important thing to remember is that everything that happened on the island, including the time-shifts and the hydrogen bomb explosion, was real – within the context of the Lost universe.

Everything that happened in the last season’s flash-sideways sequences was not real. It took place in an ethereal world, separated from linear time – think of the Nexus from Star Trek Generations. Some people call this purgatory. 

So, here’s my imaginary continuation of Lost events after the conclusion of the series. It is based solely on my imagination and is not reflecting of the writers, producers, or ABC.

Soon after Jack died, Hugo, Ben, and the recovering Desmond found his body. As they were preparing to move him for burial, Vincent the dog showed up, followed by Bernard and Rose. Vincent went to get them after Jack died. 

Hugo gave the eulogy: “He was like Spock, dudes. He sacrificed himself to save us and the Island.” After the group buried Jack and had a good cry,, Hugo decided it would be best to move the remaining inhabitants - including the Others who had fled to the woods – back to the Barracks. With the war over the Island’s fate over, Rose and Bernard decided to leave their hut in the woods and join them.

Eventually, the Island’s inhabitants congregated at the Barracks. Hugo announced that henceforth, the date that Jack sacrificed himself and saved Island would be known as Thanksgiving, and dedicated to Jack’s memory. Hugo also let it be known that he would be leaving the Island for a brief time, and while he was gone, Ben would be in charge. As part of his new rules, Hugo stated that if anyone wanted to leave the Island, they would have to go with him, but that they could never return. Of the entire group, only Desmond chose to leave with Hugo.

Hugo’s purpose in returning to the outside world was threefold: He wanted to see his parents, and assure them he was alright; he wanted to make sure the Ajira escapees had made it home safely; he wanted to dispose of his financial assets, as he had no use for them on the Island. 

Hugo and Desmond took the sailboat left near Hydra Island, and set sail for the outside world. Hugo was able to contact the remaining survivors and filled them in about how Jack died saving the Island. He told them the Island was now safe, and they could come anytime, but he’d understand if they never wanted to.  He gave them a secret radio frequency where he could be contacted on the Island.   

While on the outside, Hugo ceded control of his companies to Richard, with the instructions that he must use their financial assets to make sure the Island remained hidden, and that no future Dharma Initiatives take place. (With that in mind, Richard gained control of the Hanso foundation after the stock market crash of 2008 and disbanded it.) Hugo also gave a portion of his wealth to the remaining survivors. Upon meeting with them, he learned that Claire had been reunited with Aaron, both of whom returned to Australia with Claire’s mother. Kate, per Sun’s Will, was given custody of Ji-Yeon. She remained friends with Sawyer, but they never married. Sawyer opened a para-normal investigating service with Miles. Lapidus decided to kick-back and enjoy his retirement. 

Once back in the outside world, Desmond reunited with Penny, telling her of Charles’ death. Penny inherited control of Widmore industries. Reviewing documents, she was shocked to learn that Charles’ story that he returned to the Island after seeing Jacob and having a change of heart was a ruse. Though he had met with Jacob, Charles’ hidden intention was to regain control of the Island, and use its unique healing properties for profit. 

Before returning to the Island, Hugo met with his parents, and was devastated to learn that his mother was sick with cancer. Hugo told his parents he knew of a place that could cure her cancer. Though skeptical at first, they accompanied him back to the Island, where the three of them remained for the rest of their lives. 

Upon returning to the Island with his parents, Hugo saw what good care Ben had taken of the Island and its inhabitants: The Barracks had been restored, and what was left of the Dharma stations were being carefully dismantled under Ben’s supervision. With the Island now safe, Hugo decided to delegate day-to-day operations to Ben. Hugo dedicated himself to doing what he did best: Taking care of people. Unlike Jacob, who would only see his direct subordinate, Hugo had an open door policy and would talk to anyone, anytime. He declined to live in the shadow of the statue, and lived in the Barracks with the other Islanders. He prepared supper for the group every Sunday, and for the Island’s Thanksgiving, he cooked Shepherd’s Pie in memory of Jack. 

Hugo did not flaunt his power as leader, and was much beloved for his modest, low-key style. During his tenure, he only allowed himself to perform one miracle: he gave immortality to Vincent in reward for his loyalty to the survivors. During this time, Hugo worried about one matter: who would succeed him as leader. He confided his worries to Ben and Richard, and they assured him that he would know who the leader should be when the time came.

About 25 years later: Ji-Yeon and Aaron, now grown, returned to Island, accompanied by an older but very fit Richard. Despite living on different continents, Ji-Yeon and Aaron had seen each other at the remaining survivors’ annual reunion on Oahu. Eventually, they fell in love and married. Ji-Yeon and Aaron immediately felt a connection to the Island. They decided to stay, and when Ben’s health began to fail, Hugo made them his co-assistants. Unlike many married couples, they worked well together. Hugo’s own health began to fail eventually, and that is when he made Ji-Yeon and Aaron co-leaders.

On the outside world, the remaining survivors grew old and died peacefully.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Daniel and I had plans to do some landscaping this year. We were going to add paving stones to an area in front of our bay window and add a bench – creating a sitting area over what is now a useless patch of dirt. We were also going to extend a brick walkway near the extension at the back of the house. Both of these projects would have added value to our home, thus increasing the money the city and county would have received in tax revenue.

With the South Euclid City Council’s decision to revoke our tax credit, the income we would have used for those projects has been eliminated. So, the projects have been eliminated as well. Last year we painted our house. This year, we added leaf filters to our gutters. That’s enough for now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Taxation without Representation

The South Euclid city council has voted to suspend the .75% income tax credit for residents who work outside of South Euclid. Already, there is a petition drive underway to put an issue on the ballot in November reinstating the credit.

Personally, I believe local taxes should be levied based on where you live, not where you work. In this day and age when people change jobs every few years, it’s hardly realistic to expect someone to move every time one gets a new job – and one’s community of residence can’t always be counted on to provide gainful employment. Being taxed based on where you work, rather than where you live and vote, is taxation without representation, which was one of the reasons our founders broke from England.

That said, the system is what it is, and RITA is firmly entrenched in Cuyahoga County. Despite the much touted county reform, our Rube Goldberg system of workplace vs. residence taxation is unlikely to change soon.

One does not need to be a tea-bagger to be disturbed not only by the suspension of the tax credit, but in the manner it was changed. It was quietly voted on after an election where the voters approved a tax levy for road repairs. So, South Euclid residents are going to get a double tax-whammy this year. It was truly an underhanded move by the gutless wonders of South Euclid politics.

The recent history of South Euclid’s government has been a mishmash of mismanagement. Livable homes have been arbitrarily purchased and demolished by the local government – at taxpayer expense. The city rushed to tear down Cedar Center North (thereby throwing people out of work and reducing the city’s tax revenue) in anticipation of a rebuild. The Cedar Center lot has been a vacant eyesore for nearly a year.

Many on the city council continually push for needless regulation of local business, such as a proposed measure to ban sidewalk advertising. This kind of micromanagement only serves to discourage businesses from staying in South Euclid – further reducing the tax base. Don’t think businesses are leaving? Take a look at the string of empty storefronts along Mayfield Road, from Warrensville Center Road to Dill Road. Many locally owned businesses can’t afford to advertise on radio or TV, so if a guy in a dinosaur suit is what’s needed to generate interest, let it be.

In the mad rush to generate more government revenue, the city council has recently signed a deal for automated speeding cameras, thereby discouraging non-South Euclidians from driving in South Euclid. Who’s going to be punished for having a momentary lead foot? South Euclid residents. While the city council’s move to ban cell phone use while driving is laudable, the almost total lack of signage advising of the ban is not. This only highlights that the ban was merely a revenue enhancer and not a safety measure.

I spent my childhood in South Euclid. My parents moved here in 1971. I went to Anderson Elementary, Memorial Junior High, and Brush High – all part of what was the once excellent South Euclid-Lyndhurst School System. My family would walk to Wiggam’s farm on Anderson Road and buy corn right off the stalk when it was in season.

After living in many different communities in four states, I consciously decided to move back to South Euclid because of the area’s beautiful homes at great prices, and the real neighborhoods where people actually know each other;. The convenience (just about everywhere I want to go is within a few minutes’ drive) can’t be beat. Need to get some Italian Deli items? Aleschi’s is on Mayfield Road. Feel like going organic? Whole Foods Market is just over the border in University Heights. Across the street from that is a shopping center with the biggest Target I’ve ever seen. Feel like high culture? Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Cinematheque, and Cleveland Institute of Music are a few minutes away in University Circle. Rather go see an independent film? Cedar-Lee Theatre is ten minutes away, and you can enjoy a nice Thai, or Mexican, or Irish, or just about any kind of dinner before the film. Don’t drive? No problem: South Euclid is well served by RTA (which can’t be said for many communities anymore).

The South Euclid “vibe” is unique: it has a relaxed suburban quality, yet there is a touch of urban funkiness, in marked contrast to the vacuous soullessness of exurbia. South Euclid is ethnically and religiously diverse, with an interesting mix of people who all get along. Doesn’t matter if you’re White, Black, Brown, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, Straight or Gay - unless you’re hostile to people who are different than you, South Euclid will be a comfortable fit.

South Euclid is also highly walkable. Daniel and I can walk with our dog, Mason, to the nearby ice-cream stand for an evening treat. Or we can leave Mason at home and walk to one of several nearby restaurants. Mason will forgive us for leaving him at home when we take him to the nearby dog park.

But South Euclid is facing challenges.

History is replete with turning points, and South Euclid is in a precarious place. The population has fallen by 1/3 since its peak around 1970. Many local seniors came here for the excellent schools – but their kids have graduated and moved on. The parents stay for the familiarity and convenience, but an increasing tax burden, or a speed camera ticket, or hostility to their small business, could be the final straw that convinces them to move elsewhere. When they put their house up for sale, it exacerbates an already depressed housing market. Thus starts a domino effect that hurts everyone: the seller, the remaining homeowners whose houses have diminished value, the city which has diminished tax revenue, and the character of the neighborhood which thrives on long-term residents. When the leadership of South Euclid makes changes, whether through regulation, ordinance, or by changing tax rates, they need to make considered, thoughtful decisions, considering first the impact on the governed – not about how to make a quick buck.