Monday, March 31, 2008

Space Time

Here is a link to another new Search Engine called SpaceTime.

You will need to download their program to use it.

Search Me

Watch this video introducing a new Search Engine called SearchMe.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Vivid Yes! on A;pril 6, 2008

Organist Bill Crane Presents "A Vivid Yes!" on Celebration Works Recital

Portland organist Bill Crane will present a concert on the Celebration Works series on Sunday, April 6th at 3:00 pm. Dr. Crane is well-known to First Presbyterian as a substitute organist when Organist / Choirmaster Jon Stuber has been out of town. Dr. Crane graduated from Florida State and the Schola Cantorum in Paris, France and was organist/choirmaster at a large Episcopal church in Washington, DC as well as serving as carillonneur and chorister at Washington National Cathedral before coming to Portland. Well known for his solo playing and for his accompanying, he is currently on the adjunct faculty of Pacific University in Forest Grove and on the staff of the Confluence Project in Vancouver, WA.

Dr. Crane has titled his program "A Vivid Yes!" and he explains the title this way: "I chose the title 'A Vivid Yes' because I wanted to present a program that studiously avoids all that is pious, tentative, or introspective from the organ's vast literature. We live in a time of terrible anxiety, not to mention a terrible war, and I want to play a program that is entirely about 'yes,' about why we can and must remain hopeful in the face of everything. Any artist's protest -- and that is something I wish to do with this concert -- is probably 'meaningless,' but at least for an hour, the artist and the audience can refute all that would say that the world is not a place of abundance and hope. This will be a program solely about confidence and affirmation, in however an abstract form.

"I am especially pleased to have been invited to give this concert at First Presbyterian because of the wonderful organ there, a great big 'yes' in its own right. Too, it's a honor to join the ranks of the many distinguished artists who have performed there and continue to do so."

Concert tickets are sold at the door on the day of the concert. General admission: $10. Seniors/Students: $8. Parking in the underground garage is free for concert goers.



For Release Sunday, March 30, 2008
© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group

By Neal Peirce

WASHINGTON -- Whatever our emotional reaction to the tide of immigrants flowing into America, it’s time to reevaluate.

That’s the short message of “Twenty-First Century Gateways,” a just-released Brookings Institution book focused on the numbers of immigrants and the remarkable geographic distribution of newcomers -- legal and illegal -- that the United States has been experiencing since 1990.

A century ago, immigrants were mostly a big-city phenomenon. As quickly as they arrived at Ellis Island or California ports, most headed immediately to ethnic enclaves in such cities as New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco. Then they assembled in Little Italies, Chinatowns, Irish neighborhoods, Lower East Sides. Only a minority headed straight to the Midwest for farming.

But these aren’t your grandparents’ immigrants, notes lead Brookings author Audrey Singer. True, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago still accommodate the most arriving immigrants.

And a whole new set of major immigrant gateway regions has opened. Among them are Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, San Jose, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta, Sacramento and Portland. And Washington -- up from 255,000 foreign born in 1980 to over 1 million in 2005. Coming on, though not yet fully flowered as major immigrant destinations, are Austin, Texas, the North Carolina cities of Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Winston Salem, and even Salt Lake City.

What’s significant is that most of the new immigrants aren’t sticking to the city proper. Instead they’re heading out to suburbs where most new job openings occur and housing (often in older inner-ring suburbs) is relatively affordable. That spells geographic dispersion -- far from the immigrants of the early 20th century.

Also worth noting: the last century’s immigrant destination cities that aren’t today drawing many immigrants turn out to be regions in some economic trouble -- Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia, for example.

Today we have some 35.6 million immigrants-- of whom some 12 million are here illegally. But another surprise: fully 40 percent of the “illegals” arrived legally. They came on legal temporary visas -- most arriving by air -- and then just stayed. So if we end up building the proposed mega-fence along the Mexican border, it may be just fractionally effective.

Most public focus is on a possible congressional immigration bill, close to the compromise measure that stalled last year. But even if it passes, it won’t be a silver bullet. Life in our communities, where the immigrants in fact live, depends heavily on state and local decisions.

This is a hot issue. As of last November some 1,560 immigration-related bills, three times the prior year, had been introduced in the 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Topics ranged from IDs to employment rights, driver’s licenses to restrictions on employment of undocumented workers.

Plus, countless cities and counties are debating laws to address day-labor sites, loitering, language, employment, rental housing occupancy rules and the like. Many measures are anti-immigrant, motivated by decline in the economy, job competition and general suspicion of foreigners.

Farmers Branch in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex voted to make it illegal for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants. Hazleton, Pa., won national attention for an ordinance penalizing employers that hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them. Arizona, Oklahoma and Georgia passed laws to discourage hiring illegals. The sheriff of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), N.C., Prince William County (Va.) and some other locales are openly cooperating with federal immigration officials hunting down illegal entrants.

But mayors of several cities (including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) have declared their towns “sanctuary cities,” forbidding their police to report undocumented immigrants. Singer reports that police often oppose identifying illegal immigrants for fear the newcomers will then be afraid to communicate with the police about local crime incidents – the polar opposite of successful community policing.

Many communities print materials in immigrants’ native tongues. Plano, a thriving suburb north of Dallas, is a national model on the “assimilation” side with a multicultural “roundtable” to discuss issues, a citizens academy to teach about the local government, a festival to celebrate the town’s many nationalities, and major outreach to new immigrants through its libraries.

Illinois has a public-private state-level task force focused on immigrants. It’s urging programs to help immigrants learn English, establish state welcoming centers and put legal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Should we welcome the welcomes? Yes, yes, says Maryland Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Without immigrants, he says, there’d be massive shutdowns, from hotels to hospitals. In Maryland, a quarter of scientists and a third of doctors are foreign-born -- critical to the state economy’s ability to grow and add value jobs. Places that try to exclude immigrants will only hurt themselves, Perez argues. And, he argues, immigrants’ payments are sustaining the nation’s Social Security system to the tune of billions of dollars.

Indeed, the “greying of America” argument may be the clincher -- Who’ll do the work, who’ll pay the baby boomers’ huge retirement bills if it isn’t a fresh supply of immigrants?

Snow, Aldo

Snow, Aldo by Kate DiCamillo.

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man's overcoat and
the black dog's fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. "Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog,
"snow." And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Listen and weep

A Military Chaplain Grapples with the Toll of War

by Thomas Phillips

To hear this commentary Click Here?

Morning Edition, March 25, 2008 · It is being reported that the Iraq war has claimed at least 4,000 American lives. Commentator Thomas Phillips knows firsthand about this number.

Phillips is a Veterans Affairs chaplain who receives computer notification whenever a member of the American armed forces is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. He wishes for the day when notifications naming the dead will stop appearing on his computer screen.

[Who is watching the Iraqui dead?]

Saturday, March 22, 2008


This movie is now playing in Portland at the Living Room Theaters.

Starting Out in the Evening (2007)

A Scholarly May and a Literary December Meet in a New York Autumn

Published: November 23, 2007
New York Times

A crepuscular glow suffuses “Starting Out in the Evening,” Andrew Wagner’s intelligent, careful adaptation of a near-perfect novel by Brian Morton. This is not only a matter of the cinematography — digital video given an unusual burnish by Harlan Bosmajian, the director of photography — or of the setting. Late in the day, the sun slanting down over the North American mainland cloaks the brick and limestone of the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a somber, serious light that may, more than anything else, explain the area’s reputation for deep and lofty thought.

One of Mr. Wagner’s themes (and also Mr. Morton’s) is the waning of that old, literary New York, the twilight of an idea of the city as a capital of the modern mind. Leonard Schiller, one of the main characters, is a retired teacher and all-but-forgotten novelist. His four completed novels are long out of print, and we find him, in his 70s, pecking slowly away at a fifth.

Not that he feels sorry for himself or solicits our pity. No, Leonard, as embodied by Frank Langella, is a picture of old-fashioned decorum and steadfast dignity. There is a certain kind of man who will not leave his house without putting on a tie. Leonard wears one, firmly knotted in a crisp white collar, at his writing desk or his kitchen table.

His routine, which is also the slow unwinding of his life, is interrupted by Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), an ambitious young graduate student who wants to write a master’s thesis on Leonard and then also, perhaps, reintroduce him to the reading public. He is both flattered and unnerved by the attention — which is more than simply scholarly — but to say too much about what happens between them would risk spoiling one of the most delicate and peculiar romances recently depicted on film.

Lauren Ambrose as Heather, a graduate student preparing a thesis on Leonard (Frank Langella) in “Starting Out in the Evening.”

The romance is not only, indeed not primarily, between them, but between each of them and an exalted notion of literature, a passion that the film honors but does not sentimentalize. Writing and reading do not make Leonard and Heather better than they might otherwise be — they may have the opposite effect — or even more complicated.

Ariel (Lili Taylor), Leonard’s nonliterary daughter, is in some ways the most complex character in the story, her temperament a thicket of contradictory impulses and desires. Approaching 40, she wants to have a child but finds herself drawn back into a relationship with Casey (Adrian Lester), whose resistance to parenthood had been the cause of their earlier breakup.

Those four people — Leonard, Heather, Ariel and Casey — pretty much constitute the film’s universe. But even though it is less populous than Mr. Morton’s novel (which featured a cameo from the literary critic Alfred Kazin and a few more fictitious old-timers to keep Leonard company), the adaptation, with a screenplay by Mr. Wagner and Fred Parnes, rarely feels unduly claustrophobic or rarefied. Allusions and incidents that evoked the milieu of Leonard’s younger days, and the texture of his mind, have been pruned away. But in their place is the marvelous fact of Mr. Langella, who carries every nuance of Leonard’s experience — including his prodigious, obsessive reading — in his posture and his pores.

There are not too many screen performances that manage to be both subtle and monumental. Watching Mr. Langella’s slow, gracious movement through “Starting Out in the Evening,” I was reminded of Burt Lancaster in Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of “The Leopard.” In some ways the comparison is absurd — Visconti’s film is a sweeping historical symphony, while Mr. Wagner’s is a stately string quartet — but both movies concern an old man who has outlasted the social order in which his life made sense. And what is so remarkable about Mr. Langella is that he seems to hold Leonard’s intellectual cosmos inside him, to make it implicit in the man’s every gesture and pause.

Instead of nostalgia, “Starting Out in the Evening” offers a clear-eyed elegy for that world. It also notes the persistence, personified by the seductive, uncertain Heather Wolfe, of the urge to connect to experience through the written word. Ms. Ambrose is self-assured enough to hold her own with Mr. Langella and Ms. Taylor (whose sister-in-law she played on “Six Feet Under”) and brave enough to show the vain, insecure, unformed aspects of Heather’s personality. The character’s evident immaturity shows that the actress is wise beyond her years.

And wisdom — the chastened acceptance of limitation, the resolve to keep going anyway — is the subject of this fine, modest film. Not everything in it works — the score, for one thing, is vulgar and obvious in a way that Leonard Schiller would never tolerate in his own writing or anyone else’s — but it has the quiet beauty of a late afternoon, late in the autumn, when New York seems to be not just the center of the world but the crystallization of its finest tendencies.

“Starting Out in the Evening” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has some profanity, sexual situations and references to the work of D. H. Lawrence.

Thursday, March 20, 2008



By Neal Peirce © 2008 Washington Post Writers Group

The infrastructure issue -- the long shadow thrown across America’s future by deteriorating roadways, bridges, railroads, water systems, schools -- finally seems to be getting hot.

Three top-tier state and local government leaders -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)-- are leading a new “Building America’s Future” coalition.

They claim state and local governments finance three-fourths of the nation’s infrastructure and are already investing heavily in reconstruction. Rendell has been able to increase bridge repair funding 300 percent in Pennsylvania; Schwarzenegger cites California’s 2006 approval of a $42 billion education, housing, transportation levee repair/flood control bond package.

But the federal government, says Rendell, has receded dramatically as a partner. In 1960, 11.2 percent of federal non-defense spending went for infrastructure; today it’s 3.5 percent. In 1987 America spent 1.17 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on infrastructure; most recently it’s .057 percent.

“It’s time to force the federal government to take this subject seriously,” Schwarzenegger said at a recent Washington news conference joined by governors ranging from Florida’s Charlie Crist (R) to Arizona’s Janet Napolitano (D).

“This is a big national problem that affects our economy and endangers our communities,” he added, asserting there are businesses that can’t expand for fear of inadequate water supply, and that flood disasters loom if storms or earthquakes destroy California levees. “We want every governor, mayor, local official to join us and send a message to Washington they can’t ignore,” he insisted.

The new coalition plans to work with presidential candidates and lobby the two parties’ platform committees to ensure “the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis.”

The competing Democratic presidential contenders are arguably there already: both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have endorsed the idea of a National Infrastructure Bank proposed by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

Built on ideas first developed by New York investment banker Felix Rohatyn and former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), the bank would replace the ups-and-downs of year-by-year funding with long-term, self-financing bonds for major projects proposed by state or local governments.

Presumably, the projects would be worlds removed from Congress’ rudderless transportation funding and infamous “bridges to nowhere.” Preference would go for “fix it first” projects, require broad economic benefits, respond to the new challenges posed by climate change, and include a focus on the growing importance of urban areas.

Add in requirements for clear performance standards and one can just begin to see a radically better era. The bank idea builds logically on America 2050, a four-year old effort initiated by the New York-based Regional Plan Association to develop a vision of excellence for the nation’s future growth. Examples: “smart highways,” dramatically improved intercity and commuter rail, rapid broadband expansion, and consciously protecting natural landscapes, estuaries and green infrastructure that supports clean water and reduces carbon emissions.

It would be tough to find a starker contrast to the Bush administration, which has become completely enamored with the idea of letting private firms finance public infrastructure. The president quickly rejected the Bloomberg-Rendell-Schwarzenegger proposal for Washington aid to help the states battle recession and start filling critical construction gaps.

But America 2050 and its allies argue it was precisely a federal government with visionary plans that made the United States the great nation it became. Their chief evidence (developed by historian Robert Fishman): the 1808 plan of Albert Gallatin, President Jefferson’s Treasury Secretary, for expansive western settlement built on canals and new roads, and President Theodore Roosevelt’s resource-based economic development national plan of 1908. The TR initiative led to the founding of the national park and forest systems, laid the groundwork for the Tennessee Valley Authority and sister projects of the 1930s, and eventually the interstate highway system.

The U.S. House March 12 unanimously passed a resolution, by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), celebrating Gallatin’s plan -- “not merely the commemoration of some obscure historical event,” said Blumenauer, but “the framework upon which America was built for 200 years.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the House floor to endorse the resolution, lauding the Gallatin and Roosevelt legacies. It’s time for a strong new nationally-supported effort, she said, suggesting it cover roads to public transit, sewage and water facilities to broadband to schoolrooms. “It’s about good-paying jobs right here in America,” she asserted; “It’s about growing our economy.”

But if you think all that sounds encouraging, check the warning from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Highways Subcommittee:

“We aren’t even treading water. We aren’t even maintaining a deteriorating infrastructure. We are deteriorating toward third-world status while our competitors around the world are leaping ahead with major investments in transit and roads, bridges and highways, ports and waterways--while we fall behind.”

Too bad. Neither the recession nor the deterioration will wait until 2009 before we can start fixing things.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carmel Point

Carmel Point

by Robinson Jeffers
from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. © Stanford University Press, 1989.

From Writers' Almanac

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine
beauty Lives in the very grain of the granite,

Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. —As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

August Wilson's 20th Century

Attention August Wilson Fans

If you can't make it to the Kennedy Center, at least listen to this Weekend Edition NPR segment.

Wilson's 'Century Cycle' Runs at Kennedy Center

Weekend Edition
Sunday, March 16, 2008 ·

When August Wilson died in 2005, he left behind a masterpiece known as the Century Cycle — a series of 10 plays documenting the African-American experience in different decades of the 20th century.

The works received the highest praise, including a Tony award and two Pulitzer Prizes. For the first time, audiences will be able to see the cycle presented under one roof.

Starting this month, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., will present staged readings of each play. The monthlong celebration will present the plays in chronological order starting with Gem of the Ocean, the tale of a man who visits a 287-year-old former slave named Aunt Ester at her home in Pittsburgh. The play mixes reality and mysticism as audiences follow the man on a journey to a place called the City of Bones.

Photo: (L-R) Two highlights of the cast: Michele Shay as Aunt Ester and William Hall, Jr., as Solly Two Kings; photo copyright Chris Bennion 2007.

Ari Shapiro spoke with actors and the artistic directors of the event about staging Wilson's famous work. To hear the story Click Here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


rodomontade \rod-uh-muhn-TADE; roh-duh-; -TAHD\, noun:

Vain boasting; empty bluster; pretentious, bragging speech; rant.

These are rejoinders born out of a need to deflate a balloon filled with what others view as pomposity or rodomontade.
-- Corey Mesler, "Dispatch #1: Buying the Bookstore (The Early Days)", ForeWord, August 2000

The very absurdity of some of his later claims (inventors of jazz, originators of swing) . . . has made him an easy target in a way far beyond anything generated by that other (and in some ways quite similar) master of rodomontade, Jelly Roll Morton.
-- Richard M. Sudhalter, Lost Chords

. . .the me-me-me rodomontade of macho rap. -- Nicholas Barber, "In the very bleak midwinter", Independent, January 7, 1996 But what he said -- that if any official came to his house to requisition his pistol, he'd better shoot straight -- was more rodomontade than a call to arms or hatred.
-- William F. Buckley Jr., "What does Clinton have in mind?", National Review, May 29, 1995

Rodomontade comes from Italian rodomontada, from Rodomonte, a great yet boastful warrior king in Italian epics of the late 15th - early 16th centuries. At root the name means "roller-away of mountains," from the Italian dialect rodare, "to roll away" (from Latin rota, "wheel") + Italian monte, "mountain" (from Latin mons).


Rodomonte defending the bridge; illustration by Gustave Dore to Orlando furioso

Tax Season Scams

Tax Season Scams

Under pressure from seniors and House Democratic leaders, Congress gave final approval to a stimulus package that includes $300 rebates for 20 million low-income older Americans and 250,000 disabled veterans.

Printing Economic Stimulus Checks

But anytime money is involved, you can bet a scam is likely to follow. Michelle Eldridge, chief of national media relations for the IRS, sat down with the Bulletin to discuss the latest tax scams and how you can avoid falling into con artists' traps during tax season.

To listen to Michelle's talk Click Here.

Rebate Recap

How much do I get?

$300/individuals or $600/couple, for Social Security recipients, disabled vets with $3,000-plus income. $600 for single tax filers with up to $75,000 adjusted gross income. Rebate reduced for singles (with no children) after $75,000; eliminated at $87,000. $1,200 for couples filing jointly with AGI of $150,000 or less. Rebate reduced for couples (with no children) after $150,000; eliminated at $174,000.

How do I get my rebate?

You must file a 1040A tax form, even if you don’t normally do so. Rebates will be sent out starting in late May.

Where can I go for help?

For legitimate information from the IRS, go online to, or call 1-800-829-1040. File complaints about fake calls and e-mails with the IRS or your state Attorney General’s Office. For more on the stimulus payments and help with tax returns, go to To get a 1040A form, download it at

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Utah, Virgiinia, Washington A-. Oregon C+.


By Neal Peirce

WASHINGTON -- We’ve all seen the stories: some publicity-hungry magazine or web site grabs a bunch of statistics and then purports to “rate” American states on measures ranging from “livability” to child care centers, tax climates to quality of schools.

But there’s no “rate and run” character to the grading of the 50 state governments’ management performance unveiled March 3 by the Pew Center on the States in collaboration with Governing magazine.

Clear ratings are there -- Utah, Virginia and Washington with the highest (A) scores, New Hampshire in the basement with a dismal D+, and other states (see map below with figures) in between.

But these evaluations are a far cry from fast guesswork and statistical alchemy. A joint process team of academics, Pew researchers and Governing magazine journalists scoured the country for documentary evidence of states’ budgets, workforce plans, auditor’s reports and official web sites.

Interviews were conducted with some 1,400 state officials and expert outside observers. And to probe angles, develop insights, and debate final grades, the team engaged in extensive debates.

In stark contrast to “rate-and-run,” notes Neal Johnson, the Pew Center’s project director, he and his associates are now offering to sit down with gubernatorial and legislative staff from each of the 50 states for a free consultancy on ways they can improve their management performance -- plus using the experiences in other state to overcoming political obstacles to real reform.

The direct assistance represents a clear ramping up of the Pew Center’s work to transfer best practices, state to state, in the four areas it focuses on -- budgets and finance, management of employees, computer-based and related information systems, and planning for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Across the country, Johnson argues, “more governors are taking the mechanics and management of state government seriously than in the past 20 years” -- among them Tim Keane (Va.), Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Jennifer Granholm (Mich.), Christine Gregoire (Wash.), Ted Strickland (Ohio) and Sonny Perdue (Ga.)

Granholm, appearing at the Pew Center release event, noted that globalization’s blows, especially to the auto industry, had cost Michigan 400,000 jobs since 2000, triggering severe budget deficits. But “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” she said: “Instead, it’s a huge opportunity to make management changes that would otherwise be impossible.”

So she’s consolidated departments, eliminated some agencies, and holds weekly meetings at which cabinet and other officials are held accountable for meeting goals ranging from economic development to infrastructure repair. A “fix it first” road policy, to repair “rather than paving the cornfields,” has increased roads rated in good condition from 60 percent to 92 percent.

Granholm boasts that Michigan’s state web site is now America’s best. Individuals and companies can go online to perform many transactions, and the site uses a mix of blogs, surveys and video streaming to engage and inform citizens.

Perdue tells how he persuaded CEOs from 15 Fortune 500 firms in Georgia to develop 90-day actionable best-practices that would fit in government. Among the results: $100 million savings in state procurement purchases, and driver’s license waiting time reduced from as much as two hours to 10 minutes.

There’s also a welcome “high-tech, high-touch” element to Georgia’s reforms -- redoing the state citizen call-in system to require “warm” (i.e., real person on the phone) transfers so a caller gets personal help locating the agency or office he or she really needs.

In stark contrast to the heartening achievement stories, New Hampshire officials reacted in sour fashion to their D+ and being told it’s “a myth that New Hampshire’s fiscally conservative state culture creates frugal but fit government -- no taxes, no frills, no problem.”

“We are the envy of other states; I’m offended that some out-of-state group would criticize our system of government,” fumed Gov. John Lynch.

But the Pew-Governing crowd had done its homework, identifying a Granite State system of “meager cost and performance information and tortuous business processes.” Plus, said the report, a pattern of “underfunding and lack of clear priorities for buildings, bridges and roads” that leaves the state “with ‘killer’ deferred maintenance problems and positively pre-modern infrastructure.”

New Hampshire’s is not the only laggard. New Jersey has huge fiscal problems including no apparent way to pay for a stunning $58 billion long-term bill for state worker retiree benefits. California is praised for reviewing (after decades of inattention) its long-term infrastructure needs, but faulted for having a “dysfunctional” state personnel system. Other states with “C” or “C-” grades include Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois, Arkansas and Alaska.

The good news is that the Pew crew is not only combing the country for varieties of better management practices, but finding many. In the long run, that creates new standards the laggard states will find it hard to ignore.


One Need Not Be A Chamber To Be Haunted
by Emily Dickinson.

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one's own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror's least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O'erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Boomers Reluctant over Long-Term Care Insurance

Boomers Reluctant over Long-Term Care Insurance

From Morning Edition
by Patti Neighmond

Morning Edition, March 13, 2008 ·

Over the past 20 years, long-term care insurance has expanded from simple nursing home coverage to covering care in assisted living facilities and in an individual's own home. Today, insurance companies are busy marketing their product to boomers. But, according to a number of surveys, boomers are not listening.

To Listen to Story Click Here.

Bill Vaughn is a policy analyst with Consumers Union, the group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine. Vaughn is considered an expert when it comes to health care issues. But when he looks at long-term care insurance, like most Americans of about the same vintage, he resists.

"It's the last thing you want to buy," Vaughn says. "You want to spend your money on vacations. It's a chore to buy this. It brings up negatives images, images of the end of the road, of death. It's certainly not a product you go joyfully off buying. So, people keep putting it off."

Financial Priorities

Greg Seal is a financial planner who runs his own company in Denver. He says boomers are skeptical about long-term care insurance not only for emotional reasons like this, but also for practical ones.

"Baby boomers are carrying a lot more debt than their parents were at this age," Seal says. "So they have more debt responsibility and they're more concerned about paying off that debt than they are about funding this 'risk.'"

The risk of needing some kind of long-term care is high. Two-thirds of seniors will need it at some point in their lives. But they will mostly need it only for short periods. Just one-fourth of individuals over 65 will end up needing long-term care for one or more years.

Who Should Buy?

So, for a healthy person in their mid-50s, is long-term care insurance worth it? That's a question Joel Gold wanted to answer. Gold is a professor of finance at the University of Southern Maine, as well as a financial planner.

He looked at the cost of care: about $100,000 a year in a nursing home, or $25 an hour for care in an individual's home. He also factored in the probability of needing long-term care.

"Long-term care insurance is a viable tool for women at any age and it is advisable for younger and middle-aged males," Gold says. "Unfortunately, because men tend to die sooner than women, buying this coverage did not prove worthwhile for older men."

Seal says baby boomers also are often mistaken about how long-term care may be paid for. Many think Medicare will cover long-term care costs. The fact is, it won't. Medicare pays for short-term medical care at home or for a limited stay in a nursing home, but only after a hospitalization and only after a number of criteria are met. Medicaid pays for long-term care, but not until people have already used up the majority of their financial assets.

Rapidly Changing Industry

In addition, actually buying long-term care insurance is not simple in the fast-changing health care industry. Vaughn, of Consumers Union, says ads are often misleading and use scare tactics. He adds that because the industry is relatively young, many companies that did offer policies have simply closed down.

Other companies that are still in the business raise their prices, in some cases, significantly. One company raised the cost of coverage 800 percent in just one year.

On top of that, here's the biggest unknown: Will the insurance you buy today pay for types of care that may be available in the future?

"No one really knows what we'll have 30 to 40 years from now," says Mila Kofman, a policy analyst with Georgetown University. For instance, in the '70s when most long-term care insurance was first sold, most of the care at the time was provided in nursing homes. Back then no one could envision assisted living or care in the home."

So, Kofman says, a 50-year-old might buy long-term care insurance today that pays for assisted living. But 30 years down the road, something better might come along, like some sort of video or robotic monitoring. That's something your policy wouldn't even envision today and may not pay for in the future.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sign of the Times

Seen on the movie marquis of the Sellwood-Moreland Theater:



Monday, March 10, 2008

Ponder This

Iraq Body Count Exhibit at Portland State University

03/9/08 - 03/20/08

The Iraq Body Count Exhibit will be displayed at Portland State University from March 9th until March 20th. Using 120,000 surveyor flags, the Exhibit represents American and Iraqi deaths caused as a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Click on images to enlarge.

For more photos Click Here.

Formerly displayed in Boulder CO, Chico CA, Walla Walla WA, and Eugene OR, this dramatic display fills up almost three acres, and takes over 200 volunteers an entire day to set up. Each white flag represents at least 6 Iraqis killed in the war, and each red flag represents 1 American killed.

“Passer byes are awe-struck when they see how large the Exhibit is and how many people have died in this war. It is much different from reading a number in a newspaper” said Rudy Dietz, an organizer of the Exhibit.

The numbers used by Iraq Body Count Exhibit are based on The Lancet Medical Journal’s 2006 study that interviewed over 1800 Iraqi households, using widely accepted statistical methods (1). More recent surveys by British research firm ORB have cited numbers as high as 1.2 million (2).

Click on image to enlarge.

The Students for Unity at PSU are sponsoring the Exhibit, and are helping to recruit the over 200 volunteers required to set up on the 9th. Those who are interested in volunteering can meet at PSU in front of the Library at 9:00 am on the 9th of March. Volunteers are welcome to help out for an hour, or the entire day.

Please Contact Rudy Dietz with any questions. (503) 381-6264

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Iditarod Mushers Wary of GPS Tracking

Iditarod Mushers Wary of GPS Tracking

From Weekend Edition

Mushers in this year's Alaskan Iditarod race will have something new to add to their sled: a GPS device that will track their every move along the 1,100 mile route.

To listen to this story Click Here.

To see where the racers with GPS devices are Click Here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

After 160 years, a wild gray wolf turns up in Mass.

After 160 years, a wild gray wolf turns up in Mass.

By Beth Daley Globe Staff March 5, 2008

A wild Eastern gray wolf roamed Western Massachusetts last fall before being shot to death on a farm, federal and state officials said yesterday. It was the first wolf confirmed in the state since hunters drove the species out more than 160 years ago.

US Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they used genetic tests to identify the animal, which was killed after it mauled more than a dozen lambs in Shelburne.

"To find a real one is pretty exciting," said Thomas J. Healy, special agent in charge of the agency's Northeast region. He said that the animal probably came from Canada or the Great Lakes region and that there is no indication the species is breeding in the state or in New England. "But what we don't know about this animal far outweighs what we do know," he said.

The male wolf was 2 to 3 years old and weighed 85 pounds, scientists said. It was be lieved to have been attacking livestock for about a month.

While wildlife officials and naturalists are disappointed that the wolf is dead, they said the identification gives them hope that one day the species may reestablish itself in the thick, dark forests of the Northeast.

Most other species wiped out in New England - such as moose, beaver, and deer - have rebounded, and some wildlife specialists say the return of wolves would restore balance to the ecosystem, possibly helping to hold in check soaring deer populations. The discovery may lead to renewed calls for the government to help wolves regain a footing in the region by better protecting habitat, or even reintroducing the animals.

Yesterday's announcement coincided with controversy over the Bush administration's decision to take populations of wolves off the federal endangered species list in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes. An earlier government attempt to de-list Northeast wolves by considering them part of the robust Great Lakes population was turned back in court five years ago, and the species here remains fully protected.

Revered by many in the Northeast as a reminder of the region's wild legacy, wolves were not always appreciated. The powerful, stealthy predators ravaged livestock on early American farms and were hunted so aggressively that populations disappeared by the mid-1800s. The nearest established packs today are in Canada, and wild wolves are spotted only occasionally in New England. Federal officials said the last confirmed in the region was shot by a hunter in 1993 in Jackman, Maine, close to the Canadian border.

Most officials thought the animal terrorizing Franklin County sheep and lambs last fall was probably a large coyote, dog, or some sort of wolf-dog or wolf-coyote hybrid. State wildlife officials get dozens of calls a year from citizens convinced they saw or heard the howls of a wild wolf, but the animal either disappears before its identity is known or is found to be a hybrid or a dog. Sometimes, the animals are found to be escaped captive wolves.

After 13 sheep and lambs were killed and partially eaten on a Shelburne farm one day last October, biologists from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife visited the farm. They concluded that a domestic dog had probably attacked the flock, on grounds that a wolf would have eaten the entire carcasses and that the tracks did not appear to be those of a wolf. The biologists told the farmer he had the legal right to kill any animal attacking his flock, and it was killed the next day. more stories like this

MassWildlife officials examined the animal, which had lamb wool, bone fragments, and teeth in its stomach and looked like a wolf. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the Endangered Species Act, sent the animal to its national forensics lab in Ashland, Ore., for DNA testing, the only sure way to establish whether an animal is pure wolf. Those results came back this week.

Federal officials said the lab can also usually determine whether an animal, even one found in the wild, has been held in captivity by examining how rough its paws are and how shorn its nails, as well as the contents of its stomach. This animal showed no signs of having been captive, although officials said there is no way to know for sure.

The wolf most probably migrated from Canada. While single male wolves are known to range hundreds of miles, this animal's journey, crossing highways and making it so far south, was nothing short of amazing, biologists said.

"When these things occur I look down at area maps and see the major highways and the major obstacles an animal would have had to cross and say wow," said Peggy Struhsacker, a Vermont wolf consultant with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Federal officials declined to identify the person who shot the wolf. State officials said they will try to work with farmers to better protect their livestock if more wolves are found in the region.

While the federal government and states have the right to try to reintroduce the animals, New England states have so far opted not to do so.

"The more you start seeing individual animals, the more the potential for real recovery begins," said Patrick A. Parenteau, a Vermont Law School professor who represented environmental groups in their successful 2003 bid to not have the Northeast wolf population lumped in with the Great Lakes population.

Still, the mystery of the Shelburne wolf is frustrating biologists. Had it just arrived in Massachusetts? Was it returning home? Why did it come to Massachusetts when there was ample food farther north?

"If it was looking for a friend, it had a long way to go," said Todd Fuller, a wildlife biologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who helped identify the wolf.

Beth Daley can be reached at

Ensuring your end-of-life wishes

Ensuring your end-of-life wishes

Electronic registry - Oregon's groundbreaking POLST forms will go online by 2009

The Oregonian Staff

It's a recurring nightmare for frail people in distress and the workers trained to rescue them:

A patient near the end of life -- whether from old age or a life-threatening illness -- and with strong wishes about life-prolonging medical treatment, goes into cardiac arrest. Somebody calls 9-1-1. Paramedics arrive and start unwanted treatments because the unconscious patient can't speak up and they have no other medical orders.

A pink form called POLST originated in Oregon to help solve that problem and prevent undesired medical intervention.

POLST -- Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment -- grew out of talks started in 1991 by emergency medical crews, long-term caregivers and the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University.

Since Oregon adopted POLST more than a decade ago, 14 states, including Washington and Idaho, have followed suit, along with parts of California. More than 1 million POLST forms have been distributed in Oregon. POLST is now offered by every Medicare-certified hospice and nearly every nursing home in the state.

Now OHSU is trying to take POLST to the next level by building a computer registry of POLST patients in the Portland area. Like the POLST form itself, Oregon's registry stands to become a national model.

With an electronic registry, paramedics and other emergency medical workers would be able to call a central hot line at OHSU to find out immediately if a patient had a POLST form and, if so, get access to its medical orders.

In one out of four cases, an OHSU survey found, the ambulance crew cannot find the POLST form in time to act on it.

"The problem with paper is that it's not always readily available," says Dr. Terri Schmidt, an emergency medicine specialist, medical supervisor for American Medical Response in Clackamas County and assistant director of the OHSU ethics center.

POLST holders are commonly advised to stick the pink form on the refrigerator, but some balk.

"Think about that," Schmidt says. "Do you really want a big pink piece of paper with instructions for what you want at the end of life right there on your refrigerator?"

Without a registry, proponents say, having a POLST form is no guarantee of having medical wishes carried out.

As a case in point, they cite Elizabeth Hirsch, who died at age 88 in the intensive care unit at OHSU Hospital.

Hirsch is known to many Portlanders for her long involvement in the community. Among other things, she came up with the idea of adding a red bulb at Christmastime to the nose of the leaping neon deer in the White Stag Manufacturing Co. sign at the west end of the Burnside Bridge.

A sad system failure

Hirsch, who lived alone in her Southwest Portland home, had a POLST form. Hers specified that she wanted comfort care, but not more aggressive measures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, or a ventilator.

One night in 1999, Hirsch collapsed at home with abdominal bleeding. Her visiting sister-in-law found her on the floor and called 9-1-1. Paramedics went straight to her bedroom and never saw the POLST form on the fridge.

"I don't blame them one bit for not scurrying around the house looking to see if there was a POLST form," says Bob Conklin, Hirsch's son, who was in Italy at the time.

The ambulance crew revived Hirsch's heartbeat. But instead of taking her to Providence St. Vincent Hospital, where her doctor worked, the ambulance was diverted to OHSU Hospital, and she wound up in the intensive-care unit, unconscious and on life support.

"Her wishes were not respected," Dr. Susan Tolle, director of the OHSU ethics center, says. "She died in an ICU with machines all around her -- after things were done to her that she felt would be undignified."

Hirsch never regained consciousness.

"It wasn't what she wanted," Conklin says. "Her wishes weren't carried out -- through the fault of no one."

Touchy issue of costs

Conklin says he thinks the POLST registry will not only keep patients from going through aggressive treatment they don't want, but also will save money.

"You don't want these things to be cost-driven, but you don't want to ignore the issue of unnecessary cost either," he says. "Think of the costs incurred for things done to people who don't want them done."

Dartmouth Medical School researchers estimated last year that Medicare could save $8 billion a year in hospital costs if the entire nation followed Portland's pattern, including POLST-like wishes regarding intensive care of the chronically ill.

The question of cost savings is a touchy one that Tolle sees as a mixed blessing. She opposes a mandatory POLST system, fearing a possible public backlash if states adopt a POLST registry to save money rather than to honor individual choice.

"This is not Big Brother," Tolle says. "It's about respecting you as an individual and what your wishes are."

Oregon's POLST registry will be voluntary and paid for by private donations. Emergency medicine specialists and ethicists will monitor the results and report back to the Oregon Legislature and the Health Fund Board that oversees statewide health-care reform.

Electronic backstop

POLST forms carry more medical clout than other advance directives because the patient's doctors sign them. "These are medical orders, and that makes them remarkably useful to EMTs in the field who need orders," Tolle says.

Most people fill out a POLST form to request something in between the all-or-nothing extremes of emergency medical care. They want what Tolle calls "the easy things" done: comfort care, pain relief, medications that can be taken by mouth. They don't want more aggressive and invasive treatments such as feeding tubes, CPR, ventilators and an ICU stay.

The target date for full implementation of the registry is Jan. 1, 2009, allowing time to build and test the system's database and a fail-safe backup. Start-up costs, about $200,000, are covered by donations, including a gift from the Greenwall Foundation.

"We're building a model no one else has ever built, and we can't make a mistake," Tolle says. "We can't have a single case of undertreatment, so we have to test this thing to death."

Don Colburn: 503-294-5124

Word Riddle

What common nine letter word in the English language is still a word when each of the nine letters is removed one by one -- from nine letters all the way down to a single letter?

To find the answer Click Here and then click on the arrow. (You need Windows Media Player to play the video).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

President-elect of RAPSU Betty Burke in the news

For senior auditor Burke, learning is a life-long pursuit

By: Devin Gallagher
Issue date: 2/29/08 Section: News

Elizabeth Burke spends hours every week writing essays and studying, but she doesn't get graded and she doesn't receive credits.

Media Credit: Eva Schifter
Elizabeth Burke
[Click on photo to enlarge]

As a PSU senior auditor who graduated many years ago, Burke, 71, is back in school. Not for a degree, but because of a love of learning.

"I believe in life-long learning," she said.

Since 1973, PSU's Senior Adult Learning Center (SALC) has made it possible for Oregon residents over the age of 65 to sit in on any class free of charge. The program had a slow start, with only a few dozen participants in the 1970s, according to Jost Lottes, program director of the SALC. The program has since expanded, he said, and a rapid growth spurt in the last few years has seen the enrollment jump to over 600 auditors this term.

"The growth has been phenomenal," Lottes said.

Senior auditors take classes but receive no credit and cannot earn a degree. Auditors can, if they prefer, arrange with their professors to have their work graded.

Participants in the program also gain access to the library and gym facilities on campus, and they qualify for an ODIN account so that they can use the Internet and create a PSU e-mail address.

"I usually just take one [class] at a time," said Burke, who studies English and writing and is currently enrolled in a personal essay class. She has been enrolled in the auditing program since she turned 65.

"I just thought it was wonderful," said Burke, who heard about the program from a friend.

Burke began her college education right after high school at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pa., but dropped out after a few years to join the workforce. After building a family, she discovered a class correspondence program through Marylhurst University, which reinvigorated her desire to go back to school. Eventually, she found herself working and taking classes for her undergraduate degree at Lewis and Clark College. In 1982, Burke received her bachelor's degree and then in 1993, a master's degree.

Most auditors are interested in studying history, English and politics, Lottes said. Physical education is also a favorite, he said, with over a dozen senior auditors enrolled in Gentle Yoga. Auditors must register through SALC on a space-available basis.

"There are two types of auditors. There are those that want it for entertainment, like TV," Lottes said. "Then we have auditors that are really involved."

Some auditors choose not to buy books or do the assignments--a privilege of auditing--while others go above and beyond what is expected, Lottes said. "It's really for fun. They don't have to do it."

Burke said she can take only one class at a time because of her full life and grandchildren. Learning, she said, has been a constant thread in her life.

"We learn every day if we let ourselves," she said.

In a survey of faculty conducted in 2005, over 90 percent of professors responded that they value the presence of senior auditors.

"It's great to have them because they have life experience," said Lottes, who also teaches classes with auditors enrolled. "Auditors love it, of course. It's life enrichment for them."

Burke said she feels very at home in the learning environment at PSU.

"The students are very accepting. They're just amazing.... We all seem to be interested in the same thing," she said. "It's very life giving for me."

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Mozart Effect

The Myth of the Mozart Effect

by Will Dowd
Dowd is a science writer based in New York City. He received an M.S. in Science Writing from MIT. He has written about neuropharmacology and the intersection of neuroscience and culture.

Whenever stalled on an intractable problem, Einstein reportedly reached for his violin. He played to disentangle his brain and clarify the question at hand. Mozart especially did the trick. Einstein loved Mozart’s highly organized, intensely patterned sonatas. He felt, as many before him, that music and the reasoning intellect were linked. Music and his scientific work, he said, were “born of the same source.”

(If you get stalled somewhere in the middle of this article, skip to the end for something that might wake you up.)

It was with this same belief that Dr. Gordon Shaw, a University of California Irvine psychologist, corralled 36 undergraduates for a research experiment in February 1993. The students were given three spatial-reasoning tasks from the Stanford-Binet intelligence tests. Before each task, they listened to ten minutes of either silence, a relaxation tape, or Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. According to a paper published later that year in Nature, listening to Mozart boosted the students’ IQ by an average of eight to nine points. The improvement, researchers said, lasted between ten and fifteen minutes. The results were widely reported as evidence of what the press dubbed “the Mozart Effect.” The International Herald Tribune, for example, proclaimed “Mozart’s Notes Make Good Brain Food.”

Don Campbell, a classical musician and former music critic, was the first to recognize the research’s commercial potential. Campbell expanded the definition of the Mozart Effect to include all music’s influence on intelligence, health, emotions, and creativity. In 1996, he trademarked it. Today, the Mozart Effect™ boasts the lateral spread typical of any successful brand. Campbell has authored 18 books, a series of spoken tapes, and 16 albums incorporating Mozart’s music. The small commercial empire includes the recently published Mozart Effect for Children, which explains, in a chapter entitled “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Neuron,” that Mozart’s music enhances the network of connections forming in the infant brain. His recordings, one of which features Don Giovanni for the developing fetus, have sold over two million copies.

Since the U.C. Irvine study, the Mozart Effect has become fixed in the public consciousness. Zell Miller, while governor of Georgia, earmarked $105,000 of the state’s annual budget to supply every newborn with a cassette or CD of classical music. “No one doubts that listening to music, especially at a very early age, affects the spatial-temporal reasoning that underlies math, engineering and chess,” he explained to the Georgia legislature. In Florida, a bill was passed requiring all state-funded education and child-care programs to give a daily dose of classical music to children under five years old. Recently, the coach of the New York Jets, Eric Mangini, began playing classical music to help his football players concentrate at training camp study sessions. No word yet whether Mozart’s melodies will affect this season’s spread. What the Science Really Says

While the Mozart Effect flourishes commercially, the U.C. Irvine study that launched the phenomenon has been widely criticized. The startling results announced by the initial paper were misleading. First, the researchers claimed that the undergraduates improved on all three spatial-reasoning tests. But, as Shaw later clarified, the only enhancement came from one task — paper folding and cutting. Further, the researchers presented the data in the form of Stanford-Binet IQ scores; yet the study only measured spatial-reasoning, one-third of a complete IQ test. To arrive at the full scores, the students’ partial results were inflated by a factor of three.

The methodology of the study has also come under fire. According to some critics, the test group of 36 psychology undergraduates may not have been large or varied enough to produce credible results. Even Don Campbell has attacked the experiment’s lack of controls. In the endnotes to his 1997 bestseller, The Mozart Effect, Campbell observes that the U.C. Irvine researchers “did not administer listening tests before testing, as many researchers in the field recommend. Nor did they examine how posture, food intake, or the time of day modified their listening.” Naturally, Campbell believes that had these controls been in place, the Mozart Effect would have been more dramatically evident.

Many scientists have proposed alternative explanations for the study’s results. Who’s to say that Mozart’s sonata caused the difference in scores? Maybe listening to an annoying relaxation tape or ten minutes of dead silence impaired the students’ performance. Or perhaps the students experienced a change in mood and arousal rather than a fluctuation in intelligence. One study found that listening to a Stephen King short story had a comparable effect on spatial-reasoning scores, but only for those who enjoyed what they heard. Is it possible that Mozart’s sonata had simply stimulated or uplifted the subjects in the U.C. Irvine study? After all, Shaw selected that particular sonata not just for its organized, cerebral quality, but because it is “riveting” and “never boring.”

But the most damaging blow to the Mozart Effect has been the failure of other researchers to reproduce the Irvine results. Psychologist Kenneth Steele and his colleagues replicated the experiment in 1999 and found no trace of the Mozart Effect. “A requiem may therefore be in order,” Steele wrote in Nature. Dr. Frances Rauscher, co-author of the Irvine study, countered that the Mozart Effect cannot be found under all laboratory conditions. “Because some people cannot get bread to rise,” she wrote, “does not negate the existence of a ‘yeast effect.’”

But that same year, a Harvard psychologist analyzed 16 studies on the Mozart Effect, including the original experiment, concluding that any cognitive enhancement was small and within the average variation of a single person’s IQ-test performance. In 2007, the German Ministry of Education and Research conducted a similar meta-analysis. Their findings were unambiguous: passively listening to any kind of music, whether by Mozart or Madonna, does not increase intelligence.

The German report did, however, propose a link between musical training and IQ development. According to recent studies, the motor and auditory skills developed for musical performance may have a long-term influence on intelligence. In fact, brain mapping has revealed that professional musicians have more grey matter in their right auditory cortex than nonmusicians, as if practicing an instrument flexed a muscle in the brain. It seems increasingly likely that the long-term practice of playing music, rather than merely listening, can have the kind of impact suggested by the Mozart Effect. Einstein, after all, organized his mind by playing the violin, not listening to a recording.

Ironically, the U.C. Irvine researchers had initially planned to test whether music training for young children would increase higher brain function. When Shaw, a particle physicist, developed an interest in neuroscience later in his career, U.C. Irvine gave him the freedom to research what he wanted. But, according to his book Keeping Mozart in Mind, he had to make do with “extremely limited resources.” So Shaw scaled down his ambition. He thought, “if music training might yield a long-term enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning, then perhaps even listening to music might produce a short-term enhancement!” Fourteen years and dozens of studies later, it is clear this analogy was off the mark. Magic Mozart

What can explain the Mozart Effect’s persistent hold on the public consciousness despite the lack of solid scientific evidence? No art-lover expects to absorb a better memory by staring at a Renaissance painting. No reader hopes to pluck IQ points from a classic novel. So why are the Mozart Effect™ products snatched up by the millions?

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Mozart, a historical figure enveloped in myths, should be at the center of yet another. According to the most recent spate of biographies, the real Mozart was an incessant reviser addicted to his work. Yet the details of the Mozart legend — his astonishing prowess as a child prodigy, his immaculate first drafts — have bolstered the popular belief that the composer was a fine-tuned antenna picking up snatches of celestial song. Einstein didn’t help matters. He described Mozart’s music as “so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.”

The creators of the Mozart Effect have eagerly traded on the composer’s lingering mystique. Campbell traces the source of Mozart’s talent to his time in the womb: his father’s violin playing “almost certainly enhanced his neurological development and awakened the cosmic rhythms in utero.” Shaw also portrays Mozart as supernaturally gifted. Keeping Mozart in Mind is packaged with a CD of the Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. “Before you read further,” Shaw writes in the Preface, “I suggest that you slip the CD out of the book, make yourself comfortable, and listen to the magic genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” To Shaw, Mozart is not a musical genius; he’s a magic genius whose music rains down brief moments of enhanced brainpower.

But Mozart is not the only magic genius. The transformation of a dubious psychology study into a multi-million dollar industry also has a touch of the miraculous. In The Mozart Effect, Don Campbell summarizes Shaw and Rauscher’s conclusions — the scientific backbone of his brand — when he writes: “Listening to music, they concluded, acts as ‘an exercise’ for facilitating symmetry operations associated with higher brain function. In plain English, it can improve your concentration, enhance your ability to make intuitive leaps, and, not incidentally, shave a few strokes off your golf game!”

Campbell’s translation of the U.C. Irvine study into “plain English” is inaccurate and insincere, an abracadabra that replaces questionable research with fantasy. The Mozart Effect™ has carried on long after the initial study has been debunked because it was never about science to begin with. If the Mozart Effect teaches us anything, it’s that an elegant metaphor is always at risk of becoming a common expression, a copyrighted product, a popular belief infused with a magic that is difficult to dispel.

Related Story by Operaman
Other Musical Effects:

LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.

BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.

WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.

MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume -that he's dying.

SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until he's used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.

IVES EFFECT: The child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.

GLASS EFFECT: The child tends to repeat himself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

STRAVINSKY EFFECT: The child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool.

BRAHMS EFFECT: The child is able to speak beautifully as long as his sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc). However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.

CAGE EFFECT: Child says nothing for 4 minutes, 33 seconds. (Preferred by 9 out of 10 classroom teachers.)

To see what effect all this prose has had on you, take the musical listening test.
Click here.