Cumberland Times-News

Columns

October 20, 2012

You just never stop making discoveries

It takes a lifetime to discover the principles by which you need to manage that life — and sometimes you discover things long after you could have profited from knowing them earlier. Since half of my readers is relatively young, I thought I would help him out by sharing some of the things I have discovered down through the ages. Hope I get it in before he rotates off my list of readers.

One of the most important things I have discovered is that you feel so much better when you smile. And make others smile. I discovered this by accident one day as a youngster in the supermarket. I was in line, and I realized that the woman in back of me was a friend of my mother’s, a very nice woman. The kind of woman it isn’t hard even for a teenager to smile at when saying hello. So I smiled, said “Hello,” and accidentally shifted my gaze to the woman in back of her. My point is, I still had a lot of leftover smile on my face.This got automatically transferred over to the second woman, whom I didn’t know from a hole in the wall. And when she saw me smiling at her, saying “Hello,” she smiled right back at me, and may even have said hello, too. It was sort of like opening two bank accounts with only enough money for one!

Outside the store, we saw each other again as we loaded our cars, and again we smiled at each other. It was a real rush, all from a surplus of smile that wouldn’t have done me a bit of good if I had kept it to myself.

After that, I found myself smiling a lot more at people. You ought to try it — it feels so good. (Women are safer.)

I have discovered that there’s always some reason why someone likes something, even if I can’t understand it. I’m thinking music here. Now I have rarely tried to conceal that I cannot stand rock and rap, and an alarming amount of modern pop. I have to confess that this discovery still has not changed my mind about them and other pop music. But I am beginning to change my mind about the music by classical composer John Cage.

This came to mind when I recently read a news release, to the effect that a British musical group named The Planets was accused of plagiarizing 60 seconds of his works. Perhaps you remember — and if you don’t remember, it makes the world so much more interesting to learn — that the late John Cage was the composer of a piece named 4’33’’ (four minutes, 33 seconds) which was exactly that long. Besides that, it was four minutes, 33 seconds of — total silence. In other words, a complete musical composition of — rests! And 60 seconds of rests is what they were accused of stealing!

Now I like an original mind. Cage, by the way, had done this kind of thing before, often to the deafening roar of listeners who couldn’t stand the concept. I think it is creative and bold, a step forward for music everywhere. In fact, I recommend it to the reigning giants of screamy pop music these days — how about a whole concert of — rests? (Please?)

Anyway, here’s the fun part: the Cage estate threatened to sue the Planets for stealing their music. The Planets responded by accusing the estate of failing to specify which of Cage’s 273 seconds of silence they had stolen. To add insult to injury, the leader of the Planets said defiantly, “I was able to say in one minute what it took (Cage) four minutes and 33 seconds to say.” Eventually, they settled with the estate for an undisclosed six-figure sum.

Yes, sir — sometimes the world is a little better for some nonsense now and then.

I have discovered that all things come to him who waits — after several years of false starts, I have finally learned to pronounce the name of Blagoyevich. Unfortunately, the former governor of Illinois is no longer in the news — but in prison instead. A lot of good my new accomplishment does me. Maybe he’ll get out and run for office again in my lifetime, but he’d better hurry up.

I have discovered that the urge never dies out to say old things in new ways. Mostly to put the old folks in their place? I have mentioned this in another column recently, how “derecho” took over the world, and “begging the question” assumed a totally new meaning over about five years.

Well, how about a new grading system that substitutes different letters for the old ABCs? It seems that A, B ,C, D, and F, (which have been disappearing for years all over the country) are now dead in their tracks in Montgomery County, run over by ES (exceptional), P, (demonstrating proficiency), I (in progress) and N (not yet making progress.) Notice that F dropped off the edge somewhere along the line — can’t tell the kiddies they blew it now, can you?

Anyway, that ES looks a little suspicious (shouldn’t it be EX or EC?) but, hey, let the new folks have their fun while they can.

The exseptional next generation will be making their own discoveries, soon enough.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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