Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
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Michael Jennings on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
priscila on The ups and downs of English
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
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Most recent entries
- Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
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Category archive: Classical music
It is now Monday afternoon, but the end of my Thursday Odyssey is hardly yet in site.
My next stop was at Gramex, where second hand classical CDs are on sale, in particular abundance during the last week or two, as it happens.
The BBC is making a big fuss of LPs just now. Fair enough. LPs had a huge influence on the music being created at the time. Pop music was transformed, for a while, by the album, as was Pop Art, the album cover being a new arena for graphic fun and games of all kinds. Remember all those concept albums?
I just about do, but for me, Pop etc. was a parallel universe. I never disliked it, in fact I admired and admire it very much, and I like occasional pop tracks hugely. Pop is hugely better than recent “classical”, classical being basically a museum now. But despite all that, then as now, I still preferred and prefer classical, and for all but a few vinyl-obsessed classicists, the LP was never more than a means of reproduction, a window to look out at the classical garden, and a very ropey one at that what with all the clicks and scratches, particularly during your favourite bits. Classical music was a going concern long before recordings of any kind existed, and classical LP graphics never amounted to much more than pictures of the musicians, fancy ye-olde typography and/or kitschy chocolate box type landscapes. So when classical LPs were replaced by classical CDs, little was lost and a universe of distraction-free clarity was gained. CDs, certainly classical CDs, after a brief interlude of euphoric demand-driven bonanza profits, quickly got cheaper than LPs if you knew anything about how to buy them, on account of them being so much cheaper to make and distribute.
At first, people thought CDs would eventually disintegrate, but actually what was disintegrating was the CD players. CDs last for ever, provided you are minimally careful. Certainly mine all have, the only problem CDs being the ones that were scratched when I bought them. Crucial to the cheapness of CDs is that you can buy them second hand with reasonable confidence. On Amazon, sellers are terrified of a bad rating, and in shops, you can search out scratches for yourself. Often a shop will let you buy and try, and return if it is too much of a mess. Often what looks like a mess plays just fine. (The trick is to realise that scratches often don’t matter, provided they point towards the middle, as it were. The ones that go with the groove, sideways, because they seriously interrupt the one stream of digital stuff, are the killers.)
So for me, classical CDs were love at first sound. I keep wondering if I may soon stop buying them, but the sort I continue to buy, second-hand at Gramex or (more recently) from Amazon, continue to drift downwards in price.
Here is what I bought at Gramex on Thursday:
I paid only eight quid for those. And the one on the left is a double, which I have been looking for cheap for quite a while. Look for them on Amazon, here and here, and you discover (today anyway) that you would have to pay more like thirty quid for those. Plus, there is no postage to pay if you buy them in Gramex, like there is with Amazon. The cheaper the stuff you like to buy, the more that matters.
Which, along with the exercise I get from going there, is why I keep returning to Gramex. Boss Roger Hewland knows exactly what he is doing. He knows all about Amazon, and regularly checks prices there so as to go below them. He buys big collections for about one quid per CD, often within a minute of looking at them. He then piles them high, sells them cheap, and turns over his stock fast. He knows that getting four quid for something he sells in two days is a better deal for him than getting a tenner, but a month later. And he charges more like one quid for less desirable CDs, just to get rid of them and to make it worthwhile for his regulars to keep on visiting.
More and more regular shops won’t or can’t think like this, and in the face of online selling are just folding their tents, to be replaced by gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The latter two being what I did next.
First I went to Marie’s Thai Restaurant, a minute away along Lower Marsh from Gramex, and had my regular chicken and cashoo nuts with rice and a glass of orange juice, and then killed some more time in a Cafe Nero, while continuing to read about Tamerlane, in a book I recently bought for four quid in a remainder shop. He was born. He deceived. He tortured. He slaughtered. He conquered. He died. His vast empire immediately fell apart amidst further slaughter. What a pointless monster. Read about all that and tell me there’s no such thing as progress.
Coffee shops do puzzle me a bit, though. How to do they pay their rent? The morning and lunchtime rushes I suppose, which I avoid.
When journeying across the river to Vauxhall, as I often do, I now tend to take the bus, in fact I have been doing this ever since I got my Old Git Pass.
Which means that I have tended to miss out on shots like these:
The circumstance which caused me to shun the bus, despite the extreme coldness of the weather, was all the drama to do with the – see immediately below - cranes.
The Shard one reminds me that I have been watching a lot of Wagner on DVD lately, specifically Gotterdamerung (add double dots to taste). Operas like Gotterdamerung bring out the worst in European stage directors and stage designers. They tend to set the thing, not in the mythic world indicated by Wagner, but in a modern aircraft hanger, space station, hydro-electric power station, typically rather run-down or collapsing.
The architectural clutter in the foreground is provided by a piece of New Brutalism that is now being demolished. Reinforced concrete sometimes looks at its most dramatic when they are trying to remove it. It really puts up a fight, doesn’t it?
Indeed. My own happy new year was delayed by illness. During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this). But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering. I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache. But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.
So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.
I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio. Lovely, albeit mad. (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing. The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work. I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.
Well here I am watching England v Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and so far it’s been almost all Scotland, maybe because it’s raining and they love that. Only after about half an hour have England started to do anything. Parks has landed two tricky penalties into the wind, with the second one being adjudicated with the help of television. A first, apparently. And until just now, Wilkinson was on 0 and 3. 0 and 3. Wilkinson. It’s now 1 and 4, with Scotland leading 6-3, but if England can’t rely on Wilkinson, then as all their enemies (i.e. the rest of the world) say, what do they have?
The scrum seems to be a perpetual bore, with all this “touch” pause “pause” pause “engage” nonsense from the ref, which (a) seems to go on for ever, and which (b) still falls to pieces. However, this time, it is only the England scrum that is falling to pieces.
Drop goal from Dan Parks, and at half time it’s England 3 Scotland 9. Where was Parks and his drop goaling when Scotland were playing Argentina? Can England pull themselves together and win this? My understanding is that if they don’t win, they’ll be in the strong, otherwise Northern Hemisphere half of the draw, and after losing to Scotland won’t frighten anyone there, except themselves.
If Scotland win, but without the bonus point from winning by eight points (or whatever it is) or more, they won’t go through at all. So at least England might take Scotland with them into nowhere land.
They’re showing the England scrum giving away penalties. Not pretty. It’s all looking very much like Rugby is Only A Game.
There’s just been a great tackle by Tui … langi? Followed by some England attacking down the left. Better. But Scotland are doing well at the line-out. England back on the attack. If they can keep hold of the ball they look a threat.
Another scrum, more grief for England.
When the weather is wet, rugby is more of a lottery. Here in England we are having a first burst of truly hot (as well as cloudless) weather of the entire year so far. Hot weather is left wing. Have you noticed that?
England have just won a Scotland scrum! England attack. England knock-on. Too many England errors. But, another England turn over at the scrum. Better. Wilkinson misses a drop goal. He’s the weak link. I’ll say it again. Wilkinson is the weak link. Is this his last England game? Nevertheless, England as a whole look stronger. If they could just score a try. Not this time, England give it away and Scotland attack. Scotland nearly score! Scotland penalty, it’s good. Scotland need to win by “8 points or more” and now lead by 9.
Until today I was happy with England’s progress, and may yet be, if they can win this. Hey, Wilkinson puts over a drop goal! Scotland back needing more points. As I was saying, I was happy with England. Everyone moaned about their early wins, but at least they were wins. Argentina are hellishly difficult to beat, and England beat them.
Lots of displacement activity from me, rearranging CDs in CD shelves. Another penalty success from Wilkinson! England look threatening now. England 9 Scotland 12. If England can just scramble a win here, I’ll be back defending them.
What happens if it ends in a draw?
Another Wilkinson penalty attempt. Just short.
The England scrum seems to be working better now. The reason I’m unclear about the details of this game is that another of my displacement activities just now is listening to CD Review, where they’re comparing all the Bruckner 8s.
Penalty to England. If this goes over, it becomes 12 all, with minutes left. If it stays like that, then, according to my calculations, England will win the group. But, England go to the corner.
Ashton scores on the right! England ahead! “You can only feel sympathy for Scotland!” Well, I can think of a few other feelings I can feel. Hah!!! Toby Flood gave the scoring pass, a big miss-out looper. He seems to have made a difference.
No swallow diving by Ashton this time. Flood nails the conversion. Flood is looking very good. 16-12. That conversion means Scotland have to score a try, and, well, until now, Scotland haven’t done tries. We’re past the 80 minutes mark, the next stoppage does it. England win!
I have lots of recordings of Bruckner 8, but none of three the BBC has just recommended. Bugger.
So, it’s official. England are now the Germany of the rugby World Cup. They look rubbish in early games. But then the prettier teams knock each other out, and hey presto, a month later England are still in it. That’s what happened last time. I hope that happens again.
Apparently Tonga beat France. Hah!! (All the pool results so far are to be found here.) Looks like if Tonga could only have beaten Canada also, that would have meant France being out of it. I think. Antoine Clarke (pronounced Claire for the duration) won’t be happy.
Today I had a bizarre and rather troubling experience. I listened to a recording I had made of a single orchestral piece, performed at some point in a broadcast concert earlier this summer. My recording began, not with an announcement of what the piece was and who was playing it, but with the beginning of the performance itself. As it began, I was wondering what it was, what with the sound file being called 09081930.MP2 rather than anything more informative. That says when it was recorded (Aug 9 at 7.30pm), but not what it is.
I continued to listen to the piece. It was totally familiar, but what the hell was it? I knew I knew it, but I … did not know its name! Every note was familiar. I knew exactly what was coming next. I knew how it would end. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. But, I did not know it.
Even more irritating was that, presumably because I obviously knew it, my recording of the piece ended with a snatch of truncated applause, rather than any further announcement of what it was and who had been playing it. What the hell was it?
After much further research of a silliness that I need not bother you with, I finally found my way to the programme of the event I had been recording. And all was revealed. Finlandia.
Finlandia, by Sibelius.
Finlandia!!!! This is one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever written, just about at the pinnacle of the classical pop chart. And what’s more, I don’t just know this piece, and I haven’t just known it for half a century, possessing an increasing number of recordings of it as the decades have passed. I fXXXing played in it when I was at Marlborough. I played the flute, and Finlandia has lots for the flutes to do, and I did it, week after week, and then finally at the end of term concert. Not long after that I got a recording of the piece (along with the Sibelius Violin Concerto - also wonderful) by Herbert Von Karajan, to hear how it should really sound, and listened to it over and over again with huge pleasure. Yet, until I had consulted that concert programme, I could not remember the name of the piece, or who had written it.
I’ve had experiences like this before, such as not recognising the Beethoven Violin Concerto when hearing Beethoven’s own version of it for piano and orchestra, or not recognising some famous pop tune, that I also knew I knew, when someone sang it. But this was truly bizarre.
This is not the end, but it now feels a lot like the beginning of the end.
I’m reading what I think will prove to be a terrific book, about The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather. Here is some of what Heather says about the massacre of the lost legions of Varus in 9 AD (pp. 46-47):
The massacre was the work of a coalition of Germanic warriors marshalled by one Arminius, a chieftain of the Cherusci, a small tribe living between the River Ems and the River Weser in what is now northern Germany. The ancient Roman sources describing the defeat were rediscovered and passed into broader circulation among Latin scholars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and from that point on Arminius, generally known as Hermann (’the German’) - the delatinized version of his name - became a symbol of German nationhood. Between 1676 and 1910 an extraordinary seventy-six operas were composed to celebrate his exploits, and in the nineteenth century a huge monument was constructed in his honour near the small city of Detmold in the middle of what is today called the Teutoburger Wald. The foundation stone was laid in 1841, and the monument was finally dedicated in 1875, four years after Bismarck’s defeat of France had united much of the Cerman-speaking world of north-central Europe behind the Prussian monarchy. The 28-metre copper statue of Hermann is mounted on top of a stone base of similar height, which itself sits on top of a 400-metre hill. The edifice was a reminder that the triumph of modem German unification had its counterpart in the Roman era.
The Hermann monument is actually in the wrong place. The name Teutoburger Wald was first coined for the forested area around Detmold in the seventeenth century, as people began to conjecture where the ancient battle might have taken place. Thanks to some extraordinary finds, part of the actual battlefield has now been identified about 70 kilometres to the north. ...
On the right there is the monument.
I regularly read in books about classical music that opera was central to rise of nationalism in Germany, and also in Italy. But that really drives that point home, I think.
Incoming email from and about Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, which “tries to apply serious academic standards to the bizarre in history”, speculating that I might like it. I do.
I have waited until today before linking to this blog, on account of the fact that Beachcombing has a thing about cats.
Under that cat-egory (ha!) you will find a posting that began as an account of alleged dastardly behaviour by Johannes Brahms towards cats, and mutated into a posting about Richard Wagner’s dastardly invention of the original story. Brahms did not torture and murder cats for sport. Wagner, who had musical differences with Brahms, and who was an utter shit, made the story up.
I love the music of Brahms. Wagner also wrote excellent music (I think), especially (I also think) if you can screen out the often horribly ugly singing which is so often attached to that music, and he was a vicious anti-semite. But falsely accusing someone of cat-slaughter really takes the biscuit.
The twentieth century Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich was much photographed, but I have never seen that photo of him before. It is on the cover of the latest (numbers 1 and 3) in the Naxos series of Shostakovich symphonies being recorded by the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko. Well, this CD has two covers. There’s an outer cardboard cover, bright blue, with a picture of Petrenko on it. And then there’s the regular cover, on the sleeve notes, inside the regular plastic CD case, which is where this photo is to be seen. Acccording the back of the CD, it is entitled: “Two days before the completion of the First Symphony, 28th June, 1925”. He looks chubbier than in all the later photos.
I don’t believe this photo has ever been used before on a CD or a record. Which is surprising. There’s a whole internet cat subculture, that will surely now spread the word of this CD. I got my copy yesterday, for even less than the usual Naxos bargain basement price, but have not listened to it yet. If it’s as good as people are saying, it’s good.
I have, on the other hand, listened to another recent Shostakovich CD, this time of his First Violin Concerto, done by Lisa Batiashvili. Outstanding. I especially like the contribution made by the conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen. I heard Salonen drain all the excitement out of Beethoven’s Ninth at a Prom some years back, which was quite an achievement. But this time around, his icy perfectionism is perfect casting. And I also, not long back, finally found a cheap-enough-to-buy box of the Fitzwilliam Quartet’s complete Shostakovich string quartets. Outstanding again, and done with a similar icy perfection.
I have been reading amazon.com reviews of The Rest is Noise (already mentioned here (here and here)), to see if any significant number of people doubt the accuracy of any of its facts. Almost none, it would seem, although quite a few reviewers denounce the book for not including their particular musical enthusiasms, and for including too much about their particular musical unenthusiasms.
Most of the reviews are very positive. Most reviews on amazon.com are positive. Why waste time denouncing things you don’t like, unless you are being paid to do this?
One of my favourites of these enthusiastic reviews is this one, by Frederick Hecht, here, in which he rebukes the minority of carpers, who between them managed to yank the average rating down from five stars to four:
As a veteran reviewer in another arena (medicine), I can attest to the fact that is far easier to point out what has been left out of a book than to focus upon what has been selected for inclusion in it.
Yes, Alex Ross has short-changed some composers and some types of music in the 20th century. Unfortunately, some who have reviewed this book here have preferred to dwell upon Alex Ross’s slighting of this or that composer or of a sort of electro-something music they favor and have given the book one, two or three stars out of pique.
“The Rest is Noise” is an extraordinary work. It is clearly the most engrossing and insightful account to appear of classical music in the 20th century. It merits five stars.
Agreed. And it makes me want to read Hecht’s other reviews.
I too think that Ross omits many good and interesting things, but since his subject is twentieth century classical music and the people who created it and the often hideously dramatic circumstances in which they did this, how could he not omit things?
Radio 3 is overdosing on Mozart just now. Every note he ever wrote is being broadcast this week, apparently.
I’ve just been listening to Donald MacLeod playing recordings of some of Mozart’s very earliest pieces, all very diverting and entertaining. Right at the end of the show MacLeod reminded us that Mozart was, although MacLeod did not use this phrase, entirely home schooled, as supervised by his famous dad, Leopold. Mozart never went to school at all. Too busy working, as a composer and performer.
One of Mozart’s childhood companions (and yes, home schooled children do tend to have companions) said that Mozart might, had he not been so closely watched and taught by adults in his early years, especially Leopold of course, and steered towards honest employment so early, have become … a criminal. Mozart was essentially amoral, the friend said, and constantly tempted by every passing novelty. (It was indeed like that all his life, which was one of extravagance and debt, as well as musical genius of course.)
Had Mozart not been taught, very early on, how to make money as a musician, said the childhood friend, he might simply have grabbed it wherever he could.
Dawkins, the new mainframe, marks, for me, a definite step away from CDs and towards the 21st century way with music, which is to have it in computer files rather than on bits of plastic in plastic cases, stored in vast shelves where books or even pictures would otherwise be. This is because Dawkins does much better sound than God, the previous mainframe, ever did.
When discussing Dawkins with the Guru, I basically said, like a very fat American ordering a very fat American sandwich: give it everything. All the extras. All the trimmings. Speed? Yes, a lot. Hard disc? Huge. Ram? Pile it on. USBs? As many as possible. And: sound card? A very good one please. In each case, look at the cost graph, which goes up gradually from nothing, but then does a kink upwards when you get too greedy, and take me to the right hand end of the relatively flat bit, to just before the kink. I want the most that I can get without spending silly money.
And that’s what I now have. In particular, I have what sounds like an excellent new sound card.
Despite using the same old scumbag little plastic speakers that were previously attached to God, I now get, from these same scumbag speakers, hugely improved sound, rivalling the quality and volume of the sound I get from my separate CD system. Now, if I want to play music very late at night without the inconvenience of using headphones, I can stick it on Dawkins (who is closer to me than the CD system) and play it softer, thus not disturbing the neighbours.
Presumably, attaching Real Speakers to God would merely have reproduced the same anaemically ghastly sound more expensively and more inconveniently, what with God’s crappy sound card. Now, Real Speakers, even quite big Real Speakers, but attached to Dawkins, seem like a fine idea. It helps that Dawkins, being faster and more rammed up, will be able to handle all this without having a brain seizure if also asked to do anything else complicated.
Until now, I have regarded mere computer files as a definite second best, compared to CDs played on a proper CD machine. Now, not so much.
Just recently, Gramophone magazine stopped attaching a CD of excerpts to its cover, and merely announced that these excerpts would be at its website. It seems I am not the only old classical fogey who is finally moving in this direction.
Some months ago I began reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a blow by blow account of twentieth century classical music. Reading and greatly enjoying.
Trouble is, it’s a very big book, even in paperback, which makes it not-ideal for carrying around London, travelling being one of the main ways I read books. (No internet to distract.) So, despite liking this book a lot, I now realise that I stopped reading it and that I switched to a succession of other equally enticing volumes that were not so big. I am only now back with it, having resumed at a time when I was at home, but de-internetted by new computer turmoil.
On page 317, Ross says something I have long thought, but never myself put into written down words, or even said out loud very much:
Hollywood may have been hazardous territory for composers, but they at least felt wanted there, as they never did in American concert halls. The shift to talkies had created a mania for continuous sound. Just as actors in screwball comedies had to talk a mile a minute, composers were called upon to underline every gesture and emphasize every emotion. An actress could hardly serve a cup of coffee without having fifty Max Steiner strings swoop in to assist her. ("What that awful music does,” Bette Davis once said to Gore Vidal, “is erase the actor’s performance, note by note.")
Well said, Bette.
But things improved. Ross continues:
Early movie scores had a purely illustrative function, which composers called “Mickey-Mousing”: if a British frigate sails into the frame, “Rule, Britannia” plays. Later, composers introduced techniques of musical distancing and irony, along the lines of Sergei Eisenstein’s counterpointing of image and sound. Music could be used to reveal a hidden psychological subtext, ...
Indeed. There then follows an admiring description of the music written for The Grapes of Wrath by Aaron Copland. Very influential, says Ross.
This soundtrack-composer-usurping-the-actors style of movie music only completely died out in the sixties and seventies, when they started using pop music for soundtracks, music with an insistent beat of its own which is quite unable to supply this kind of detailed and non-rhythmic “help” for actors. What a relief that was. Suddenly the actors were revealed as able to act perfectly well without such help. Every so often, I watch an old movie on the telly, starring someone like Doris Day, and suddenly we are back with that awful oh-look-she’s-adjusting-her-hat, she’s-a-bit-sad, ooh-now-Rock-Hudson-has-just-cheered-her-up style of movie musical accompaniment. I realise now that Doris Day was perhaps not a completely god-awful film actress with all the subtlety of a container ship trying to win a round-the-harbour speedboat race. It was just that the people writing, directing, editing and musically accompanying Doris Day’s performances were all tasteless idiots.
Another reason I am now reading The Rest is Noise is that I recently attended a lecture given by Ross at the British Library. The lecture rather outstayed its welcome, for me. Ross had about twenty interesting minutes worth of stuff to say about descending base lines as a way of signalling sorrowfulness in sorrowful songs, but took an hour to say it. Nevertheless, the point was a good one and there were many delightful musical illustrations, my favourite being when he played “Hit the Road Jack”.
Afterwards, having already read and liked some of the earlier Alex Ross book, I bought a signed copy of the latest one. But, not having finished reading the previous book, I wanted to do that first.
No welcomes outstayed in either of these books, or not so far. Almost every page of them contains stuff just as worthy of blogvertisement as the above bit that I happened to choose. And if, when you are reading a book, you fancy a break, you can have one. Lectures happen in lecture time. Books can be read in your own time.
Well, that was one weird weekend.
If you dislike blog postings which ramble on and off in all directions at excessive length, then you had perhaps better stop reading this one now, because as I start writing this, I have a lot of things in my head that I now want to ramble on about.
For starters, I’m back being ill. A sort of permanent throat distortion, that makes coughing a constant thought. It never accomplishes anything, but I keep wanting to do it. More troublingly, I am starting to have mild stomach pains and headaches. A combination of the flue bug that is doing the rounds, and mild hypochondria, probably. (Although, a friend has now suggested that Lemsip might also be the culprit.)
Next up: my sleep patterns are shot to hell. Despite not having left London for about a year, I am now jet-lagged. The recent see-saw cricket match between England and Australia in Australia put the tin lid on that tin, but the tin was already there and filled with nocturnal wakefulness, put there by the extreme difficulty of getting to sleep when in bed, hugely exacerbated by that throat thing. Sleeping in my armchair early in the evening, with the television as likely as not blaring away, easy. Getting into bed, switching off the light, and then sleeping, not so easy. Hence the temptation of not even trying to go to bed until I really am very, very tired, and confident of getting quickly to sleep once the light is switched off, in other words very, very late. And once you do that a few times you’re stuck.
In the small and getting bigger small hours of Saturday morning, I decided to (a) attack the problem of non-productivity during the wide-awake dead-of-night and (b) thereby stay awake so long that I could solve the jet lag problem by adding another huge gob of it and cancelling it out, instead of vainly trying to subtract from it. Sleep all day Saturday, starting as late as possible, and get to bed at a proper time Sunday evening. That was the plan.
So, at about 5 am on Saturday morning, instead of going to bed, I wrote a (though I say it myself) ripsnorter of a posting for Samizdata called They are not liberals and they are not progressives, and then added what seemed to me to be a pertinent SQotD for good measure. In an early comment on the liberals/progressives posting, I expressed the hope that I might get lucky with linkage in the USA.
Meanwhile England had been taken apart in the cricket. This was the night (i.e. Australian day) when Hussey and Haddin were making their 300 stand. The blogging was partly an attempt to take my mind off that horror.
Finally, at about 9 am, I went to bed, the video set to capture all the rugby during the day on the telly, ...
To be awakened at about 10 fucking am by fucking banging in one of the very nearby, probably right next door flats. Someone was getting rid of a bookshelf or hacking away some plaster or some pipes or some damn thing. For two hours I lay awake, hoping it would stop. I gave up and got up. At which point, of fucking course, Sod’s Law cut in and it stopped and never resumed. But I did not know about that, did I? By the time I realised that the banging was over, I was wide awake again. This is the absolute only time that there has been such banging in the morning in the last three months. None before. None since. Bastards. Total, total, bastards. And yes, since you ask, I was very tempted to use full stops there.
Further albeit metaphorical hammering followed when England then got hammered at rugger by South Africa, despite having promised so much against Australia. In retrospect, what the rugby pros always say about how if you play behind a winning scrum attacking with your backs becomes massively easier ... well, that’s true. Australia have a weak pack. Genius backs but a weak pack. South Africa have a very strong pack, and very decent backs. I videoed the highlights of this game but have yet to watch them. So, England hammered at rugby and in the process of being hammered at cricket. The only two sports I really care about.
But, while I was sleeping or perhaps while I was later lying awake in bed cursing the universe, Instapundit had linked to They are not liberals and they are not progressives, adding extra punch to the title by calling it They Are Not Liberals And They Are Not Progressives, quoting the key paragraph, and adding, getting the point totally: “So what do we call them?” I could tell that something like this had probably happened even before I looked at Instapundit, because in my email inbox was a flood of emails resulting from a flood of comments on the posting, including many from people with totally unfamiliar names, and almost all of them intelligent and getting the point of it all. I had hoped that Instapundit would oblige, what with my point being about what American politico-obsessives of my persuasion call their local enemies (which is his kind of topic), if only with a one line posting, but of course you can never assume you’ll be Instalaunched. A posting with the money quote quoted was ideal. So, England are crap at rugger and cricket. These are mere games. This is the future of mankind, and my contribution to that future. My opinions are now echoing around the USA, and I haven’t even been there!
Some time Real Soon Now, I want to do another Samizdata posting about Instapundit and the difference he has made to life, the universe and everything, both a personal thank you and a thank you on behalf of the universe. People often do thank him, as here, for noticing this posting or (as here) a previous posting. People often digress about what a fine fellow he is, before getting stuck into some particular thing he likes to say, and how very true that is of how things are here in London or Toronto or Phoenix or Timbuktu or wherever. Not so often does anyone focus directly on the man himself and the man’s considerable achievement, with that being the point of the piece. But, has anyone - anyone - had more impact on the current political landscape of the USA, and hence the entire world, than Glenn Instapundit Reynolds? Name someone else. Seriously, think about that. And if you have any thoughts about this (I think) fascinating individual, please write them down as comments here. This even (in fact especially) applies if you do not share my very high opinion of Instapundit. Boring plonker, is he? Tell me why. You won’t convince me, but your inability to understand this person will flesh out my understanding of him, just a little. Because he is a bit boring, but only in the same kind of way that a quite complex machine, that is fantastically productive and which never, ever breaks down, is also boring.
A good global financial system would be boring too. But also, like Instapundit, it would be a very good thing.
Okay so on Saturday night and then Sunday morning, and having had pretty much no sleep the “night” before, I had a chance to clobber that jet lag by going to bed at a proper time. And I did, but then I wake up far too early, to have a piss basically, and I clock into Cricinfo just to get the bad news that will confirm how totally cricket is only a game, and England are ... 238 for 1 at tea on the fourth day. 238 for 1. Nearly level. This is too good to ignore. Cricket, after all, is an important matter. More than just a mere sport. It’s central to the way of life of two great nations at opposite ends of the earth, Britain and Australia, especially Australia. By the time England (as Britain’s cricket team is known (it has twice been captained by Scotsmen (most notably Douglas Jardine))) had reached 309 for 1 - 309 for 1 - at the close of play, I was wide awake again, and jet lag remained horribly undefeated.
And the next night was just as bad. When once again I should have been attempting an early night and many hours of slumber, England proceeded until near to tea time, reaching an unprecedented score of 517 for 1 wicket, which rather put Australia’s second innings of 481 (for 10 wickets) in its place, didn’t it? Would there then be a clatter of Australian wickets, perhaps even a sensational England win? Well, as it turned out, not. But how was I supposed to know that beforehand?
It is now Monday evening, and tomorrow I face the self-imposed obligation to be at the British Library at 1pm, to attend a lecture by Alex Ross, which will no doubt plunge my throat into a state of even worse ... worseness. Also, no chance of spending tomorrow in bed either. Also, I will have to venture out for food.
At least tonight there will be no cricket in Australia to postpone sleep. On Thursday night, it starts again, but tonight, and tomorrow night and the night after, there will only be darkness.
The previous posting here was about the maladies, real or imagined, that might be afflicting this blog. (Thanks for all the diagnostic comments, by the way. The symptoms don’t appear to be too severe.) Now it’s me. All week long I’ve been suffering from a sore throat, cough, and now headache, probably made worse by me doing things I really did not want not to be doing, which I duly did do. Now, this evening, I have had to forgo a free dinner, a short walk away from my home. Ill doesn’t get iller than that.
Anyway, a couple of things. First, an interview I did with Anthony J. Evans has just been made public. Cobden Centre blog posting by Andy Duncan here. Direct link to the mp3 here. I hope to say more about that when I’m better up to doing so.
Second, a visitor to London (see above concerning things I didn’t want not to do) took me yesterday to the London branch of Steinway & Sons, where a friend of hers works as a piano tuner. Said friend showed us a little of the intricacies of his art, which was fascinating. Again, not now up to doing that anything like justice, so I’ll content myself with saying that a great deal more than mere tuning is involved in making a great piano ready to be played by a great pianist, of the sort whose pictures adorn the ground floor walls.
Then another friend (with a car) joined in, and further delights were on offer, but soon I had to give up and go home.
Where I remain. I am, right now, consoling myself by watching one of the many star pianists featured on that Steinway wall, Daniel Barenboim, conducting (Barenboim also conducts) the Berlin Phil in the First Symphony of Brahms, on the telly. Superb. I missed the Elgar Cello Concerto which was done earlier, but my recorder has it.
So, before I got ill, I was in Gramex, where I buy second-hand classical CDs cheaper and better than I can get on the internet, and I got chatting with this guy, or rather he got chatting to me, about his left leg, which was playing up in some annoying way or another. I was somewhat bored, but for the sake a chance to sit down in one of Gramex’s big leather armchairs, polite. Okay, I get it, your left leg is a bit of a mess. Yes, he said, and showed me. But then it emerged that what made the state of his left leg so particularly distressing was that his only fully functioning leg was his left leg. So what’s wrong with your other leg I said. And he showed me that too.
At which point I remembered something I had recently written here about how being a good photographer means being a bit of pervy, and I said, can I photo it and stick it on my blog? He was at first not fully comfortable about this idea, and I immediately said no forget it. But soon he had become quite content with the notion. No name, no face, just the leg. Okay, he said. Yes, no problem about that. So, here it is:
The story here is that when he was a tiny little kid his right leg had an accident which permanently interrupted its growth, and he has spent his entire life with his right leg seriously shorter than his left leg. Hence this leg extension.
Count your blessings, eh?