Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Voyager Spacecraft: Amazing, Musically & Otherwise, after 35 Years

June 28, 2012

The other night I hosted a dinner party. One of our guests worked at JPL. I brought out my copy of the box set Murmurs of Earth, published by Time Warner about 20 years ago. It’s one of the box sets I saved when moving and downsizing last summer, because it’s rare and amazing. Even the book’s dedication: ”To the Makers of Music—all worlds, all times” is astounding.

The Voyager Spacecraft has fascinated me, not because I have a scientific mind, but because there are so many interesting things about it. Among them are the fact that President Jimmy Carter wrote a letter, put on the time capsule aboard the spacecraft, that implied an awareness that otherworldly civilizations might be out there. Second, that there was a music soundtrack on the time capsule, put together by Carl Sagan and Alan Lomax, that included classical music, jazz, blues, and world music. Third, that Voyager is still out there, 40 million+ miles away, still pinging earth from deep space after 35 years.

Jimmy Carter once saw what he thought was a UFO. Perhaps that was his interest in becoming more involved with not only space exploration but with funding it as well. Whatever the case, The Voyager Spacecraft remains an amazing human feat, parlayed with amazing vision and with vast implications. I hope that extraterrestrials someday discover who we were, what we were made out of, what earth was like, and perhaps even discover a Scott Joplin rag, some Bach or Louis Armstrong, or even some Southern blues by Blind Willie Johnson, all permanently encoded on the gold record in the time capsule aboard the craft.

Voyager Spacecraft Statement by the President.

Jimmy Carter UFO

Here is a link to the contents of the Voyager Golden Record:

Here is Blind Willie Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” which is now way out in the universe for other beings to enjoy and frame a picture of us earthlings.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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Higher Education in Iran: The Path to Freedom and…Singlehood

June 21, 2012

5th Day - 3V

Three years ago Iranians marched through the streets of Tehran and other major cities in Iran protesting the presidential elections, which soon became known as the Green Revolution. I remember watching news clips and YouTube videos of the protests and found myself moved by the faces of all the people marching, especially the young men and women. But what really moved me were the faces of the Iranian women, mostly in their late teens and twenties, dressed in jeans, and form fitting coats, their heads and hair covered under loosely tied scarves. Video after video showed these fearless young women standing up to the riot police even if it meant being struck by their batons, feet or hands. These women did not back away but continued to march and cried out for freedom. Many were arrested, jailed, and even lost their lives.

I left Iran in August 1978 at the precipice of a popular Revolution, which morphed into the Islamic Revolution, which then overthrew the Shah and ended the country’s 2500 years of monarchical dynasties. In those heady days of the Revolution, Iranian men and women from all walks of life had poured into the streets carrying anti-Shah banners and calling for freedom. I was a freshman at the University of San Diego as the Revolution unfolded in Iran and watched the events as a spectator would in the nosebleed section of a giant stadium. And I’m still watching from the sidelines from my perch in Southern California.

In today’s Islamic Republic of Iran, women are asking for freedoms which Iran’s theocratic government is finding difficult to address. It appears that when it comes to higher education, women account for nearly 60 percent of the total enrollment at Iranian universities. In addition, the increasing number of educated females with a global awareness of social issues (thanks to satellite television, the internet, and inexpensive foreign travel), has also made it difficult for these women to find husbands they consider compatible. At the same time, divorces in Iran have increased by 135 percent, pushing into the forefront a dramatic rise in numbers of women who are choosing to remain single.

According to an article I recently read in the NY Times: “Politicians and clerics are warning that an entire generation is growing up with values that are anathema to the traditional ones upheld by the state.” A leading ayatollah, Kazem Saddighi, said the following in a recent sermon: “Young people who are not married are nude, as marriage is like divine clothes to cover them.” But with more women earning higher salaries by virtue of holding university degrees and the continued rise in divorce rates, remaining single, renting an apartment and living alone and not with one’s family, is beginning to be seen as a mark of success. Interestingly, the young women embarking on a life of singlehood and pursuing careers have the support of their parents.

The Iran I grew up in was not against women. In fact, women were able to attain higher education, study abroad, hold positions in government and business, marry and raise families, or remain single. In fact, I remember a popular TV series called “Talagh” (=Divorce), which dealt with stories of marriages falling apart and the drama around it. What is interesting in today’s Iran is that it is the Iranian women, pushed into second or third class ranking as having less worth than a man per Islamic doctrine, subjected to strict dress codes and social restrictions, are the ones who are fanning the flames of change. Education, especially access to higher education, has been the Islamic regime’s goal from its early days. What the framers of the Islamic Revolution had not accounted for is this sudden increase in a very highly educated and outspoken female population. This super irony isn’t lost on me.

In the words of one thirty-something Iranian female quoted in the NYT article: “Society has no option but to accept us…I hope the state will follow.” I certainly hope so. It would be foolish otherwise.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

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Biting the Hand that Feeds Us: Turning Our Backs on Out-of-State / International Students

June 14, 2012

Bite Across the Dotted Line

I recently read an article on the about a constitutional amendment proposed by the California Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) that would “prevent any UC campus from enrolling more than 10 percent of its undergraduate students from outside California.” According to the article, “out-of-state and international students made up 8.4 percent of UC undergraduates this year. The figure was higher–1.2 percent–at UC Berkeley, and about 30 percent of that campus’s freshmen this year from outside California.”

Sen. Rubio argues that out-of-state students are taking spots away from California-based students whose “parents and grandparents (of UC applicants) have paid taxes to build these campuses.” His concerns would make sense if California state institutions were not faced with the biggest and most drastic budgetary cuts in the state’s history. So, exactly how does he intend to pay for the California-based students? Clearly he must know that out of-state and international students studying at UC campuses are not getting a free ride and benefitting from low tuition rates available to Californians? He must be aware that nonresidents pay a much higher tuition which in fact helps the institutions stay afloat and in an odd roundabout way, end up making enrollment of the resident student possible. For example, tuition at UC Berkeley for a non-resident is about $34,000 per year versus $11,124 for the resident student. The article points out that “State funds make up 12 percent of UC Berkley’s budget this year.” The surplus revenue generated from the non-resident students’ tuition actually makes up for the funds lost in budget cuts imposed by the State.

If the good senator wants to make a difference, then he would need to protect our public institutions against any further funding cuts. Otherwise, our public institutions have no choice but to seek other sources to generate revenue, e.g. non-resident and/or international students and even entertain taking drastic measures, like the recent steps UCLA’s Business School has taken in privatizing its MBA program. On June 7, 2012, the Academic Senate at the University of California Los Angeles voted 53 to 46 to approve a proposal to stop accepting any state funds for the university’s M.B.A. program, and to replace those funds with tuition revenue and private support. The proposal awaits the final approval of Mark Yudof, president of the university system. (It’s expected that Mr. Yudof will approve the proposal.)

If we stop and listen, we can hear the grumblings of students protesting on the campuses of our public institutions. They are angry and their anger is not going to dissipate by turning non-residents away. It’s the tuition burdens put on our CA-resident students that need to be addressed, and cutting back the educational budget is definitely not the way to go about it.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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The Preferred Path

June 7th 2012

Sometimes a pattern chosen by default can become a path of preference.
-Mary Catherine Bateson, from Composing a Life

My first clay elephant made in kindergarten

I recently found an old manila envelope in which my mother had carefully saved what must have been some of her favorite things of my early childhood schoolwork. In preparation for parents back to school night my 1st grade teacher had asked us the provoking question: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” We were to write our answer down to the best of our ability, and make an accompanying drawing. On yellowed, blue lined paper was a crude drawing with my answer beneath. ”When I grow up I would like to be an elephant.” I find that a perfectly logical 6 year old response to a ridiculous question. The comedian Paula Poundstone said, “Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up ’cause they’re looking for ideas.” I continued to draw and sculpt elephant-like shapes, I suppose in an attempt to solidify the form of my future self. During this early course of self-expression, I created a pattern of personal creative exploration that continues to this day. In her book Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson describes her own quest to understand this process, viewing,”…life as an improvisatory art, about the ways we combine familiar and unfamiliar components in response to new situations…” The pervasive cross-cultural social ideal seems to dictate that the most certain way to achieve success and fulfillment in life is to choose a singular goal very early on, and follow that path to it’s conclusion. However, many of us have found that life, in its constantly changing complexity, offers richly rewarding alternatives—I did not become an elephant.

I did however, have the very rare privilege of exploring various choices, and believe that having a choice should not be a privilege but a matter of course. I realize now that growing up in California, especially in Los Angeles, the world capital of re-invention directly contributed to my feeling that change was a natural fact of life. I also had the great fortune to be in a school system that was well rounded and stressed the arts as equally as science and history. We had engaged and stimulating teachers for those of us that were eager to learn. I had a particularly passionate and magical art teacher, Lyle Suter, who in my case was directly responsible for my trajectory in life and helped put me firmly on my path. He saw my elephant. Even my friends, who were not as fortunate in many respects, were given the possibility of personal exploration, in that they were able to switch majors in college, switch schools, and basically test things out in an attempt to discern what path they might like to follow. Today, most young students are not that lucky, and so many factors go into this: social, cultural, racial and economic limitations to name a few. In the U.S. the cost of university tuition is so over-the- top prohibitive, that it basically excludes the possibility of experimentation that we were able to experience. In real-time, it prohibits young adults from taking their time to “find themselves” as they mature and try different things out, as in most cases the grace period before the loan repayments begin is much too short. When I discuss this topic with friends, many of whom have college age kids, we sit around lamenting the days when we had the freedom to be confused, uncertain and searching for the most fulfilling career/life choices. And even then, many of us with degrees in one area went on to choose something entirely different once we were in our 30’s.

I now see this troubling trend in Europe as well; whose economic instability has also dictated the tone of education. Things are slowly changing as universities have begun to resemble their American counterparts in becoming increasingly corporate driven. The way this has manifested is in the lower grades, the pre-university preparatory education. On a recent sunny Sunday I was sitting in the beautiful garden of a Dacha, or as they are called in North Germany, partzellen, small parcels of land with a little garden house, which people can rent for a very minimal fee, grow their own vegetables and garden to their hearts content. It belonged to a school administrator who explained that it was one of the only things that kept her sane, and was a necessary outlet for the intolerable workload and stress she experienced during the school week. This launched a rather passionate discussion between her and a male colleague who was a teacher at the same school. To my surprise, they were both lamenting the increasingly stressful situation in their school on both the students and teachers. She explained to me along with vigorous nods of accord from the teacher that the state schools have begun to push or aggregate students into a single school, which has had two very specific negative effects. The classrooms are becoming over-crowded and the curriculums have been condensed and distilled down to the minimums of required information in order to get through as quickly as possible. This has placed great stress on teachers and students, as they enter into a more rote-memorization process without the time or space to achieve creative learning, both of which make an outstanding education possible and memorable. When I asked why this was happening, they both replied in unison, “It’s the Corporations–– they need certain types of workers and are pushing schools and states into curriculums that directly link into the kinds of workers these corporations require to keep the intense manufacturing machine going which drives the German economy, simple.” Wow, I thought, that’s just like what happened back in California when school systems dropped art, dance and music, deeming them as inferior parts of a proper educations as compared with math and the sciences. This was all done under the aegis of empowering corporations in order to booster an economy in recession.

Then there is another equally disturbing factor, which is found exclusively in America, and not in Europe– yet; the cost of higher education. The tuition in the U.S. is so hyper-inflated that students are pressured to know and make a decision fairly early on, and move forward to achieve their career goals as soon as possible, as the debt they will drag behind them is practically impossible to overcome, especially in today’s job market. The banks are happy to keep lending at high rates, which seems to set up a form of indentured servitude. In speaking with friends in Hamburg about the cost of our son’s education at a very renowned art school in Pasadena, California we saw looks of horror cross their faces as we sat across the table and told them that after just two and one half semesters we were already in debt by over $48,000.00. He realized half way through his 3rd semester that the career he had chosen was just not for him, and wants to direct his attention elsewhere. Gasp! They almost choked on their beer, as they dared to whisper that their son was at one of the top business universities in Vienna for 18 euros a semester. Our turn to gag.

It is not all bad, there are those lucky few that know exactly what they want to do from a very young age, stick to it and achieve great personal and financial success. There are others of us that find joy and fulfillment in the process of discovery, change and creating things anew. Both paths are noble and in my mind equal and both should have the respect and support of societies that are interested in creative solutions to an increasingly shrinking and competitive world.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
– Charles Darwin

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design /

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