Improved to Death

     Next to heroin and some of our finer prescription drugs, few things are as addictive and annoying as the Internet.
     Some folks may think heroin is beyond annoying. And while we’re on the subject, here’s a simple way to end the heroin poppy problem in Afghanistan. The United States should buy up the whole crop. Couldn’t cost more than $1 billion. We could turn some of it into medicine and burn the rest. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper than our corrupt and stupid War on Drugs, and it would make us friends instead of enemies.
     I’m sure you all know how annoying it is to wait around on the corner for your dealer to show up. Ha ha! Just kidding, Courthouse News readers! Many of whom are lawyers! I know you don’t know that! Or perhaps you have forgotten.
     But speaking of waiting around for nothing, when before in human history has a delay of 5 seconds caused so many people to curse and swear and pound the table and say, “What is wrong with this damn thing?”
     I do it myself, if it takes more than 2 seconds to get the latest edition of a newspaper printed on the other side of the world.
     Since when has 5 seconds become an unconscionable delay to see today’s issue of the Ulan Bator Gazette?
     Since the Internet. The Internet has made Americans – already a rude, impatient and imperious clan – even more so.
     Fear not. After a little more raving I shall direct you to the coolest Internet site in the history of the world. That history is not very long, I realize, but still …
     First the rant. It involves two Internet sites that once upon a time were decent, even good, until their operators improved them so much they became vomitous.
     The Associated Press is one of the great news organizations in the world and its Web site is a disgrace. It’s hard to find and hard to sign onto. Worse, when you manage to do that, the AP has arranged it so that if your cursor brushes anything on the page an ad will pop up and try to sell you a mortgage. Kill the ad and it comes back, like some hideous message from the undead. It proves what an AP reporter told me long ago, “You can’t spell cheap without AP.”
     One of my favorite sites used to be bookfinder.com. On it you can find out of print books and order them from used bookstores all over the world. That is, you could. But bookfinder improved it so much that now virtually anything you want will take you to a megamarketer, which demands that you “Create an Account!” and which often won’t let you Return to from whence the hell you came. It keeps you frozen on its page, under the idea, I guess, that annoying the customer is always right. This was a terrific site for a few years and now is a world class pain in the ass. I use ViaLibri.net now. I hope no one improves it.
     Now for the greatest Web site in history. It will show you Glenn Gould performing the Goldberg Variations. Glenn Gould, as all human beings should know, was the greatest performer of J.S. Bach in history. I know, I know: How can I say that when I’ve never heard anyone play Bach if they died before I was born? I can say it because it is impossible to play Bach better than Gould did.
     Gould was also a world-class nut. He recorded a couple of Mozart albums, he said, because he wanted everyone to see how bad a composer Mozart was. He said Mozart didn’t know how to write for the piano.
     Gould may say anything he likes. He was a world-class genius who retired from the concert stage when he was 31. But through the Internet, we can see him play the piece that made him world famous when he was 23. This performance was recorded a few months before Gould died in 1984.
     For the impatient among you, after you have heard him play the theme, you may skip ahead to the fifth variation, which begins at 7:14. These astonishing 36 seconds show Gould’s crystal clear musical genius at velocity. Look at his hands. He appears to be doing – practically nothing.
     This is a lesson for all of us, no matter what we do.
     Far too often, particularly in the United States, every line of endeavor today is based upon the principle: “Look at me!” Be it movies, sports and entertainment, politics, writing, lawyering, advertising, banking or any other business, every American wants to be A Star.
     Anyone who is serious, and honest, about anything, knows that’s not the point. I don’t care what the point is – it’s not that you’re a star.
     Gould refused to be a star. He thought it was obnoxious and demeaning. He even said that piano concertos were “immoral,” because the piano and the orchestra were competitors, each trying to be more clever than the other, and that’s not what music should be. So he walked off the stage and never went back. But thanks to the Internet, we can see him play.
     Here’s the link.

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