Archive - 2012
I remember the first time I met Eric Lowen. It must have been at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival back in 2005. He was getting around the muddy fields pretty well back then, just using a cane. But we all knew what was coming. He had told us, thousands of fans sitting on a hill in front of the Main Stage. Eric Lowen had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Over the coming years, we watched as it progressed; the wheelchair, his difficulty playing the guitar, and then he stopped trying to make it through the mud. His long time songwriting partner, Dan Navarro still came to Falcon Ridge. He'd call up Eric on his cellphone and Eric would great his friends and fans from afar.
Eric confronted ALS the way any great music or great artist confronts a challenge and worked hard in the battle against ALS as exemplified in the video, Learning to Fall
Last night, Dan posted on his Facebook page,
At 5:13 pm Pacific time today, March 23, 2012, Eric Lowen peacefully ended his nine-year standoff with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), surrounded by family and awash in love, gratitude and beautiful music. We all appreciate the support and well wishes that have come his way these many years, and will always hold dear the shining example he was, and still is, to us all.
I've written blog posts about family members who have passed on, and while Eric is not blood family, he's family in another sense. He is part of the family of people who love music, get together at places like Falcon Ridge, and work towards making the world a better place.
He's part of the family that sings with Dave Carter,
This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known
And should I stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden
Eric is now visiting Dave in the gentle arms of eden, and probably stopping off at the rock and roll heaven as well. The words of one of the most popular songs he and Dan wrote comes to mind,
Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream…
we belong to the light
We belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words
We've both fallen under…
We belong together
It has been a very long day, and I've gotten plenty of topics to explore writing about. When I finally got out of the office, I headed off to a dinner at Fiona's school. I sat down, and Kim asked Fiona to tell me about what had happened at school. Fiona told me that her teacher had told her "The Hunger Games" was not allowed at Beecher Road School. She was curious about why this was getting such a strong reaction from both Kim and I. At some point soon, we will sit down and talk about that.
There is a lot to talk about in terms of "The Hunger Games". Some may end up in the blog. Other parts might become part of Fiona's Radio Show.
When I got a chance, I walked over to the school superintendent. As a side comment, there is a lot of talk about teacher tenure in Connecticut and the role teachers play in student achievement. There is too little discussion about the role superintendents and principals play. Beecher Road School is a very high achieving school. There are many reasons for this, from the role parents play in the children's lives, to the teachers, and particularly to our superintendent.
He had been looking for me. He wanted to congratulate me on the good coverage that Fiona's Radio Show has received in the local press. He was particularly interested in my comments about encouraging parents to spend more time talking with the children. We talked about this a little bit, and then I passed on the report from Fiona about "The Hunger Games" being banned.
He quickly responded, saying something like, "Oh no, we don't ban books at Beecher Road". I said I didn't think so, and he assured me that he would look into it.
We returned to the underlying discussion. "The Hunger Games" is a book, and now a movie. It has violence. There are a lot of societal issues that can be addressed in discussions about this book. Kim and I will talk with Fiona and determine when we think it will be appropriate for her to read the book or see the movie. It is the sort of discussion that parents should be having with their children. It is not a fait accompli that should be handed down by a school.
So, following the format of Fiona's Radio Show, "I encourage all parents to spend more time talking with their children…" Whether they do it on an Internet Radio Show, or in the car driving somewhere, there are so many different ways a discussion about "The Hunger Games" can be important.
This evening, Congressman Chris Murphy visited the Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee. It seemed as if everyone there knew him. After a little chit chat, the meeting began and Chris delivered what sounded a bit like his stump speech. I had heard him say similar things at a previous campaign event.
He spoke the need for both individual initiative and community support. He spoke about the need to raise the level of public debate. Before we moved to questions, there was a motion to endorse Congressman Murphy which was quickly seconded and unanimously passed.
After the endorsement, the town committee went on with its normal business. Laurence Grotheer was elected to be the new chair of the Democratic Town Committee. This was followed by reports from various committees. First Selectman Ed Sheehy started off talking about the extension of gas lines, adding sidewalks on Amity Road and a public hearing about the traffic problems down in the flats. There was a brief discussion about what was going on with the Country Club, with Amity High School, with pesticides on town property, with a possible gun shop next to the Amity Teen Center.
If you want to be involved in the life of a town, as well as be involved major political races, it is worth it to get involved with your party's town committee.
This morning, a friend posted a picture of William Eggleston's photograph, "Memphis (Tricycle)", asking "Is this photographic art worth $578,500?" The overwhelming response seems to be no. I took a very different view, which a co-worker summed up nicely, reflecting that the picture captured very nicely the 1970's suburban zeitgeist.
With that, I'm trying to capture some of my reactions. One thought is of William Carlos Williams famous poem, "Red Wheelbarrow" which starts off simply, "so much depends upon a…". It is a very simple poem that captures a compelling image. In Williams' case, it was a red wheelbarrow. In Eggleston's case, it was a rusty blue trike.
The tricycle is from Memphis, but it also made me think of a great song by David Glaser, "House in Baltimore".
our days fled like a passing summer storm
In that little house in Baltimore
The song, like the imagist poem and the image from the photograph beautifully captures the 1970's suburban zeitgeist.
Doing a little more research, I found an article about the auction where the photograph fetched over half a million dollars. Christie's auction of Eggleston prints nets $5.9 million.
Benefiting the trust, the rare public sale of Eggleston’s work marked the first time his photos have been sold in an oversize format. Combining some of the 72-year-old photographer’s most famed works, along with selection of lesser-known images, each was produced in 60-by-44 inch size and utilized a new color printing process allowing for high quality reproductions
There is a big difference between a rare 60-by-44 inch print and a 607x419 pixel image embedded in a Facebook page. And how much does knowing the place of the photograph in history change the perceived value? The Wikipedia article about William Eggleston provides important additional context to the place of Eggleston's work in the history of photographic art.
The discussion drifted to another dimension. Catherine asked, "Does it help you look at the way you live or see the world?" That is the interesting question to me, along with variants. I asked, "what aspects of the photograph bring it the most value?" Another person had a curious comment, "Art has nothing to deliver to recipients!". They went on to talk about the folly of asking "an 'Off-Art'-Public about the 'Worth' of Art".
I was uncomfortable with these comments. Is art only for an elite cognoscenti, and if art has nothing to deliver, does it have any purpose or value?
Yet returning to Catherine's question about helping people look at the way they live or see the world, I think Eggleston photograph, as well as Catherine's Facebook post, helps people with these issues. Perhaps this blog post, too, will cause someone to stop and think.
A while ago, I wrote about programs that I had created using the Empire Avenue API to extract portfolio information. Originally, I wrote about using it for my own portfolio, but you can also get limited information about other people's portfolios.
So, I started pulling down the portfolios of the people that I own stock in to do some expanded analysis. Given the limits of the Empire Ave API, I can only pull down around half a dozen large portfolios per hour. Nonetheless, I kept it running for an extended period until I had pulled down around 450 different portfolios. I then loaded the data in MySQL and started crunching some numbers.
From these 450 different portfolios, I came up with approximate 30,000 different tickers. 38 different tickers appeared in over two thirds of all the portfolios I analyzed. 134 showed up in half of the portfolios, and 360 showed up in at least a third of the portfolios. Nearly 10,000 showed up in only one portfolio.
Not surprisingly, as a general rule, the 38 tickers were highly active players that are on various leader boards. It seems as if by using this data, it should be possible to recognize people that cluster into certain groups and acts as connectors between these groups. However, I have yet to find nice ways of coming up with these groupings.