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March 20, 2007

'Get out of the loft' — Paul Jacobs, organist extraordinaire


What an interesting man is Paul Jacobs (above), the precocious chairman of the organ department at the Juilliard School in New York.

Now 30, he took over the department in 2004 at age 27.

Vivien Schweitzer's profile of this unique talent appears in today's New York Times, and follows.

    In Favor of Something Big, Loud and Often Ignored

    “It’s like sitting on a mine of buried treasure,” said Paul Jacobs, the 30-year-old chairman of the organ department at the Juilliard School. “I want to draw attention to an instrument that is sorely misunderstood and neglected by the mainstream of classical music.”

    The organ world, he said, is too insular and urges his colleagues and students to “get out of the loft.” Many organists “are academic musicians and simply lack a healthy flair and virtuosity,” he added. “One frequently gets the sense that they are emotionally detached from the music, which is ultimately the death of art.”

    So the cherubically fresh-faced Mr. Jacobs, wearing a black suit and collarless white shirt, spoke with evangelical fervor during a recent interview in Paul Hall at Juilliard about his desire to stimulate interest in the instrument.

    He hopes to lure new converts to the organ simply with vibrant, emotive performances and by stressing the importance of education.

    “I am proud to be a serious musician, a classical musician,” he said, describing how he was “sickened” by his recent first encounter with “American Idol.” “Ours is a culture that wants everything to be easily digestible, but to fully appreciate a Bach fugue, you have to be able to hear contrapuntally, and this takes work. I’m tired of a culture that devalues music and has no desire to understand it more intimately. And the void has been filled by parasites in the entertainment industry.”

    Mr. Jacobs chats with his audiences during recitals, stressing that art music is for everyone and hoping to demystify a complex instrument often hidden from view during performances, although video screens are changing that — a development of which Mr. Jacobs heartily approves. Tomorrow he will give the first of three presentations (part of his being awarded Juilliard’s William Schuman Scholars Chair) describing and demonstrating the mechanics of the organ.

    He will also share anecdotes, such as how Nero was an avid player of the hydraulis, an ancestor of the modern organ that was used in gladiatorial combat. “The organ wasn’t staid then, and it need not be now,” Mr. Jacobs said. “It should be played in a manner that stirs the soul.”

    Mr. Jacobs’s own soul was first stirred by the instrument at 13, when a priest took him to a concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He was awestruck by the “enormous palette of colors and the power and sublimity of the sound,” he said. He grew up in a nonmusical family in a small town, Washington, Pa., with sisters who were interested in pop culture. But while his siblings were watching television, he would take long, solitary walks in the woods, something he still enjoys.

    After pursuing a double major in organ and harpsichord at the Curtis Institute, in Philadelphia, he did postgraduate work at Yale. Mr. Jacobs first attracted some attention in 2000, when at 23 he played Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon in Pittsburgh, a feat he later accomplished with the complete works of Messiaen, the other composer closest to his heart. He has been chairman of the organ department at Juilliard since 2004.

    The lack of a pipe organ in New York City’s concert halls is a sore point for Mr. Jacobs, who points out that Avery Fisher is the only home of a major symphony orchestra in the United States without such an instrument. Referring to Philadelphia and Los Angeles, he said, “It’s refreshing to witness the organs at the Kimmel Center and Disney Hall being embraced by the public and viewed as points of civic pride.”

    Mr. Jacobs is willing to play electric organs, adding that while an acoustic one is always preferable, the music “ultimately comes from the artist before the instrument.”

    His charismatic and sometimes unorthodox interpretations have been praised and criticized. But music is not just about “playing neatly and accurately,” he said. After a recent recital at the Kimmel Center, word got back to him that some organists in the audience “disapproved of the so-called liberties I took in the music, my doing things that weren’t historically accurate,” he said.

    “They commented on these silly, irrelevant things,” he continued, “and resisted the bigger picture — which is music.”

    He added: “Part of me thinks: ‘Who ordained you? Who are you to question my devotion and my daily walk with music?’ We need musicians who can promote their work with fire and conviction.”

    He has his own strong opinions about other organists. About Virgil Fox, he said: “Fox did wonderful things, but I have no desire to duplicate him. He certainly popularized the organ, and that I admire. But I would like to take a more artistic approach. I think toward the end of his life, Fox was known as an entertainer. I don’t object to that at all. Liberace, Virgil Fox, the world is big enough for all types.”

    Mr. Jacobs, who has never had a relationship or even a date, calls music his soul mate. “I want to love it as intimately as a person,” he said. “I have befriended solitude to a degree, and it draws me closer to art and beauty. It is in the moments of solitude that we have the greatest revelations.”


Bonus: you can meet him tomorrow (Wednesday, March 21, 2007), when he gives a performance/presentation describing and demonstrating the mechanics of the organ at 11:30 a.m. in Paul Hall at the Juilliard School (60 Lincoln Center Plaza).

Lagniappe: it's free — no tickets required.

March 20, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

On behalf of my cat Humphrey, I would like to thank members of the Academy....

Wait a minute, idiotstick: this isn't the Academy Awards, it's YouTube's First Annual (hey, we're optimists, cut us some slack) Video Awards.

YouTube yesterday announced that it would honor the best user-created videos of 2006 in seven categories:

• Most Creative

• Most Inspirational

• Best Series

• Best Comedy

• Musician of the Year

• Best Commentary

• "Most Adorable Video Ever"

Lawrence Van Gelder's "Arts, Briefly" feature in today's New York Times led off with the big news; the item follows.

    For You, Too, Fame May Be Waiting at YouTube

    YouTube, the video-sharing Web site, is rolling out the figurative red carpet for the creators of characters like Lonelygirl15 and Geriatric1927, The Associated Press reported. YouTube announced yesterday that it would honor the best user-created videos of 2006 with the first YouTube video awards. Honors will be bestowed in seven categories: most creative, most inspirational, best series, best comedy, musician of the year, best commentary and “most adorable video ever.” The nominees, chosen by YouTube, have been compiled in a gallery at youtube.com/YTAwards, where they can be voted on through Friday. The winners are to be announced on Sunday. Each of these vloggers, as they are known, will be featured on the site and receive a trophy, its design not disclosed. Jamie Byrne, director of product marketing at YouTube, said, “We wanted to call out some of the most popular videos and let the users choose which ones deserve some additional recognition.”


I dunno — I'm thinking we've got a shot in at least four categories (Most Creative; Most Inspirational; Best Commentary; "Most Adorable Video Ever") but I'm gonna opt for Most Inspirational and ask you to put your collective bookofjoe WorldWideWood™ behind that arrow.

As they used to say back in the day when Mayor Richard J. Daley ran Chicago's Democratic machine, said by those in the know to have delivered the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy — "vote early and often."

March 20, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Me and Indian Larry


Put "Indian Larry" into the Google search box and you'll get the results pictured above.

Don't believe me?

Try it.

The thing is, my September 3, 2004 post about this wonderful man (below)


is the highest-ranking link — apart from that to Indian Larry's estate's website — of the over two million turned up by Google.

I'm even bigger than Wikipedia.

Then why, I ask, have I not been able to translate such prominence into something other than occasional potshots from the peanut gallery pointing out that things I've featured — and am not, by the way, selling — can be obtained cheaper elsewhere than at the websites I've linked to?





March 20, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Water Saddle — WWAS?*


That's different: tell us more.


From the website:

    Pool Water Saddle

    Submerging more of the body under water than an ordinary pool float, this water saddle offers an unbeatable way to beat the heat on a hot summer day.

    Made of closed cell foam that’s virtually unsinkable, it resists mold, mildew, chlorine and harmful UV rays.

    Its unique design allows you to sit upright, floating effortlessly — without treading water.

    The color goes all the way through, too — it won’t chip, crack, or peel off.

    32”W x 15-1/2"D.


Hey, I'm no marketer, just a brain-dead anesthesiologist who's breathed a few too many molecules of unscavenged O.R. gas, but even I can see that the goof in the picture up top — sitting on his Pool Water Saddle trying his best pickup lines on the blond babe below —


doesn't have a chance as long it appears to her (and us) that he's wearing an inflatable diaper.

Trust me when I say that she's not laughing at his jokes.

Blue or Yellow (you will kindly ignore the teasingly unavailable purple iteration shown below).



*What would Archimedes say?

Hint: it's got six letters four of which are vowels.

Yes — I'm aware that Archimedes, speaking Greek as was his wont, would've said "heureka."

Gimme a break.

March 20, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Vitamin E makes scars worse!



Can't be.

I mean, what about all those Vitamin E-containing lotions, creams and emiollients touted to remove stretch marks, clear up scars and even heal wounds?

Anahad O'Connor's March 13, 2007 New York Times Science section "Really?" column took a look at the Vitamin E bandwagon; the article follows.

    The Claim: Vitamin E Helps Remove Scars

    The Facts: Home remedies for scar removal run the gamut from lemon juice to aloe vera gel. But one that stands above the rest — in popularity at least — is vitamin E.

    Depending on whom you ask, a little vitamin E dabbed on the skin can remove stretch marks, clear up scars and even heal wounds. Discovered in 1922, it can be found widely now in moisturizers and creams.

    But according to most studies, its scar-busting properties are overstated. One of the largest studies to investigate the claim was published in 1986 in The Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation. In it, scientists followed a group of 159 people who had suffered burns over the course of a year, randomly selecting some to regularly apply vitamin E to their scars and others to use a different topical cream. Those in the vitamin E group showed no noticeable improvement in the size, thickness or appearance of their scars by the end of the study.

    In a 1999 study, scientists at the University of Miami followed a group of patients who had recently had minor surgery. Each patient was given two ointments labeled A and B — one with vitamin E, the other without — and told to apply each to a separate half of their scars twice daily for four weeks. After that, the scars were evaluated by the patients, the scientists and an independent observer.

    The vitamin E not only had no beneficial effect on the appearance of the scars, it made matters worse. Almost a third of the patients had an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis, leading the authors to give vitamin E the thumbs down.

    The Bottom Line: According to studies, vitamin E does not remove scars.


Here's a riddle I just made up.

Q. Why is Anahad O'Connor like Georges Seurat?

A. They're both pointillists.

See, O'Connor has a habit of puncturing balloons, like you would with a pin or needle, and... oh, never mind.

March 20, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the Minimalist: World's Best, Lightest, Smallest and Cheapest Money Clip


Pictured above, its stated purpose on the box is to be a 1" x 5/8" paper clip.

I learned of its existence many years ago in an article about Procter & Gamble, in which the writer noted that this particular paper clip was the one chosen by P&G for use throughout its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati because of its ability to hold securely up to 20 sheets of paper.

I repurposed it as a money clip and have found it superior to all others for the following reasons:

1) Cost — at $1.27 for 100 (that's 1.27 cents apiece, in case you can't find your calculator), you can afford a lifetime supply and still give one to everyone you know

2) Size — you don't even notice its presence

3) Weight — 0.8 grams (0.03 oz.)

4) Functionality — there's a reason P&G chose it: because it works

5) Cool factor — there's nothing like it anywhere at any price

Why pay more?

March 20, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Beyond Thunderdome' Sneakers — What to wear with the world's scariest tights


"Studded high-tops at a Tokyo boutique" was the caption under a picture (above) of these formidable foot limousines in a March 9, 2007 Wall Street Journal article by Amy Chozick about the revival of Japan as a trendmaker.

Sure, you could wear your D&G stilettos with your $19,500 Balenciaga metal leggings — but you wouldn't.

March 20, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barcode Doormat


Forget the frequency, Kenneth — that's so analog.

From the website:

    Barcode Doormat

    This clever doormat is a tribute to modern times.

    Whimsical design is functional and fun for many areas of the house, from the front door to the back door and even the garage or basement.

    A modern design made with recycled tires.


March 20, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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