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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000794.txt from 2000/04

Subj: [kl] TANSTAAFL
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 09:14:30 -0400

Mark Charette wrote,
>The acronym TANSTAAFL comes to mind when the words "free" and "Internet" are
in the same sentence. >
>PS TANSTAAFL = There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, commonly used as
an epithet in Sc-Fi books. Don't remember the originator of the term, but was
a _very_ famous author. Copied by just about every Sci-Fi author since its
coinage. Lelia - help!>

I agreed with the sentiment but came up with "Duh...?" on the source of
TANSTAAFL, so thank you, Dee Hays and William Wright, for identifying _The
Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ and saving me from the urge to go page-flipping. I
read my first Heinlein as a grade school kid in the mid-1950s, when DOD (not
Department of Defense -- it's how Dear Old Dad signs his letters) steered me
to _The Red Planet_ in the library and then loaned me *his* copy of _Podkayne
of Mars_, speaking of, "monkey see, monkey do."

I wonder whether science fiction fandom correlates with playing the clarinet?
Science fiction strives to explain or at least codify what otherwise might
pass for magic or chaos because applied science hasn't yet made it mundane.
Music does something similar, using quantifiable techniques in a calculated
but still mysterious way, to open a door directly into human emotions that
are far less quantifiable, as I think Shouryu Nohe illustrated in his thread,
<[kl] Some Personal Notes On Dvorak>.

As a practical matter, neither chaos nor magic works well as a music lesson
plan! -- much as we might wish that it would. (Anne Rice, who quit violin as
a teenaged beginner, nails that wishful thinking brilliantly, IMHO, in her
novel, _Violin_, where a woman becomes an instant virtuoso by magic.)
Learning the clarinet means mastering an instrument that can easily seem
governed by magic (when we listen to a fine professional clarinetist) or
randomness (when we listen to beginner noise) until we learn to codify,
understand and manipulate the variables. Squeaks sound so much better when
we produce them on purpose and call them altissimo.

But what does altissimo produce? What makes people want to hear it? I've
read one speculation that high-pitched notes command attention because they
work on that part of the lizard-brain programmed to respond with powerful
emotion to the shriek of an infant in distress. The emotion makes people go
help the child instead of ignoring it. Well, yes, my clarinet sounds like a
screaming baby sometimes, but that's something I *admit to*, not *strive
for*! I don't know exactly how that theory fits in with the article in _The
Washington Post_ this week about the local man who responded to crying by
beating the kid to death. Maybe fear of this response represents the deep,
psychological root of stage fright?

Anyone know the source of TANJ? It's pronounced phonetically and used as a
sort of mild cussword that stands for,"There Ain't No Justice." It *may*
come from something by Frank Herbert (_Santaroga Barrier_, perhaps? -- I
loaned my copy of that and never got it back) or maybe one of C. J. Cherryh's
novels from the 1970s or early 1980s (_Downbelow Station_? _Faded Sun_
trilogy?). Driving me nuts.

I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

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