July 20, 2015
My rant for the day
Received today in an email from a dear friend:
It is a slow day in a little Greek Village.
A cute story, and I sympathize with everybody in it. There are a number of curious aspects.
July 19, 2015
It's the kitchen's turn
New floor, rearranging the cabinets... I can't tell you how proud I am of my son. Okay, he was inspired as a toddler by watching me put up a shelf or whatever, but he's gone screaming past any ability I ever had as a handyman. There's nothing he can't do. Once upon a time he handed me a tool; now I'm the one who does the fetching.
July 19, 2015
A blast from the past, in Colorado Springs
Once upon a time there were 1800 Tastee-Freez outlets in the USA; now there are fewer than 50 original locations. And there's one in Colorado Springs, spelled Tasty-Freeze. Dunno what that's about; maybe some of the original franchises have gone independent. But this one has great burgers, terrific fries, chocolate malts... miles better than McDonald's or Burger King or Wendy's. We're going back soon.
July 10, 2015
Every day, a hundred small insults
Today in my spam file there's an email with the subject line "Hey, You Won a $50.00 Sams Club Gift Card". (We go to Costco, but we have nothing to do with Sams Club.) Then I am asked to take part in a 30-second survey for a chance to win a $50.00 gift card.
How many morons help them with their marketing on the strength of a false statement? Quite a number, no doubt.
July 9, 2015
Nat and Gus in New York
I’m reading the autobiography Nathaniel Shilkret: SIxty Years in the Music Business, published by Scarecrow Press. Shilkret (1889-1981) was a multi-talented man who was music director at Victor Records in the 1920s. He was so full ot stories that he was pursuaded to start writing them down; it isn’t really a very good book, published in 2005, edited (sort of) by his daughter and his grandson, with no dates and some clunky writing, but it sure is full of stories. Shilkret was playing the clarinet in public when he was about seven; at 19 or 20 he was playing for Gustav Mahler.
The following winter I played with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. First, Safanov, the great Russian piano teacher was conductor, and he brought quite a few young musicians into the staid German-controlled orchestra. After Safanov came the famous conductor and composer Gustav Mahler. It was a great experience for me at such a young age to be part of an orchestra with such remarkable musicians. Unfortunately Mahler was a very sick man and did not stay long with us.Then there’s a good story about a performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra under Safanov in which several musicians’ music stands got knocked over and the end of the piece was a shambles. “The next morning I bought all the newspapers, and, believe it or not, we received rave notices for our performance.”
Mahler, like some other conductors, doubled the woodwind players to compensate for the Beethoven scores in the loud parts because the modern orchestra used so many string players.That’s the end of the Mahler content. After Mahler left the Philharmonic Society, the board did not renew the horn player Reuter’s contract; he was too expensive and the next conductor (not named) “was not a Wagnerian specialist." The Met wouldn’t have Reuter back either, so he went freelance and toured with Walter Damrosch, as did Shilkret.
Shilkret says that contrary to popular legend, Paul Whiteman was a good conductor. But at the second (electric) recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1927, Shilkret conducted Paul Whiteman’s band because Gershwin and Whiteman were squabbling about tempi, according to Ryan Paul Bañagale’s book “Arranging Gershwin”. I hope that story is in the Shilkret book, which I am enjoying. It’s almost like hearing the old man telling his stories with an after-dinner glass of something.
July 9, 2015
Gizmo designers are all ESN
Apple's new music app, or interface, or whatever it is, offers the user 30 million songs, but that doesn't impress me. (Where is Tex Beneke's "Lavender Coffin"?) Anyway I am sure it would drive me nuts. Joanna Stern reviewed it in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, and all my suspicions are confirmed.
And there's a lot more, but you can always get help from Siri the robot, if you use "specific strings of words."
The people who design this stuff have no idea and apparently couldn't care less how their clients are going to want to use it. Everytime they update iTunes they screw something up, probably because they're the sort of people who think they need spellcheck. Yet Stern thinks that, like the original iPod, this new gimmick will wipe out Spotify and the others, because it is so intuitive at telling her what she likes. But I'm lucky; I have 65 recordings of Schubert's "Great" C Major symphony. What do I need with 30 million pop songs?
July 5, 2015
No paper this weekend
There's no weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal this week (no book review section, to which I look forward all week), because the 4th of July happened to fall on a Saturday. How un-American of them on our national birthday, to have turned down all that advertising.
July 4, 2015
And another Fourth of July
Thirty-five years ago today, our pals Leonard Joseph and Sue Carter tied the knot, and had their wedding party in our back yard in Teddington. They had had their first date on the night our David was born, so there were already shared memories; we serenaded the neighbors with Sousa marches on the record player, and Leonard took charge of the fireworks. Tonight they are in Spain celebrating their anniversary, and our thoughts are with them.
July 4, 2015
Well, it was forty years ago today
Forty years ago, on Friday, the 4th of July, 1975, I had been living in England for nearly two years. They had been tumultuous years for me. I will not go into any personal details unless some foolish publisher offers me a contract for an autobiography, but I had somehow escaped from the self-imposed limitations of flyover country.
In the pub I hoped to find someone I had met on the picket line, and she wasn't there, so I met someone else. I was still hoping to find a life partner, and it took another couple of years, but I found her.
July 3, 2015
At Musicweb, a CD review begins:
How can a project just getting off to a start, er, already be realised?
June 30, 2015
Initially I was not all that sanguine about gay marriage, because I thought that for thousands of years marriage was about blood, about ensuring that the next king would be legitimate, and why would people who will never make babies the old-fashioned way need to call it marriage? They should of course be able to have any sort of civil contract they want.
But that was too precious a view. The 50 states were never going to agree on a standard civil commitment (as I have been saying, we are not a nation but a loose federation of 50 squabbling little countries), and anyway the definition of marriage had changed a long time ago, with the shops full of pretty things where the bride could "register" and pick out her presents, to say nothing of Bridezilla herself, and a skyrocketing divorce rate leading to serial marriage. (And I ought to know about that).
And now there is the hypocricy and bullshit coming from those who disapprove of the Supreme Court's decision on the subject, like William McGurn in today's Wall Street Journal:
Earlier in his rant, of course, McGurn mentions "free exercise of religion" and all of that. Nowhere however does McGurn or anybody else tell me how gay marriage could affect my personal religious belief (religion is about controlling yourself, not other people) or could devalue my marriage (that is, the one that has lasted 36 years so far).
McGurn thinks that 'the full furies have been released", that we will now have a new culture war on our hands. I think he is a toad.
June 28, 2015
In the TLS
In the Times Literary Supplement for May 29 last, reviewing the Grove Dictionary of American Music (2nd edition, eight volumes for $1600), Stephen Brown laments that some of the entries don't contain "more humanizing, or at least particularizing, detail." He names several examples of the "gee whiz" factor that could have been included: composers William Thomas McKinley and Charles Ives were good pitchers, very attached to baseball; Adorno once wrote a "Tom Sawyer singspiel: Der Schatz des Indianer-Joe (genre: excrutiating)." Then he writes:
Woot, and again I say, woot.
But the issue of May 29 was one of the best lately, and not just because I was in it. I haven't read any of Paul Beatty's stuff, but he has a new novel called The Sellout, and Bill Broun's review makes me want to read it. And there's some terrific history books. The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the Civil War, by Don H. Doyle, is about what the rest of the world thought about the War Between The States, and the effect the northern victory had: "The grandest problems of politics are up for solution", wrote a French professor in 1861; at stake was a retreat of popular sovereignty, and a world-wide victory for slavery, monarchy and aristocracy.
And speaking of aristocracy, Nick Bunker's An Empire On The Edge: How Britain came to fight America is about how our War of Independence happened. The leaders of the British government at the time were not dunderheads; they were honest, hard-working, well-educated men who did not understand the changing times they lived in. Men like Lord North were landed aristocrats who above all wanted to preserve the status quo, a system that had worked well for a long time, and in which everybody knew their place: they could not understand the behavior of these uppity Americans. And they did not understand the increasingly speculative nature of the world's economy. From T. H. Breen's review:
A British officer who witnessed the subsequent party in Boston harbor wrote, "The East India Company's tea has made a fine dust. The people are in actual rebellion, and where it will end no one can say."
A long, fascinating review by Henri Astier of four French books defines some of the problems faced by all advanced societies today. In Britain, in the USA and in France, chauvinist right-wing movements are always on the boil, because "At a time when the classes populaires are being regularly lectured about their racism, their isolationism, it transpires that the better off increasingly practise a form of isolationism they deny to humbler folk." Christophe Guilluy, in La France Périphérique, goes on: the ruling establishment has torn up the nation's social contract, proposing a "metropolitan model" that is "diametrically opposed to the Republican model" (in France, an ancient pact based on national unity). In Le Suicide français, Eric Zemmour offers the utlimate "benign neglect" theory: the second-rate politicians, bankers who who surrender economic sovereignty, bosses who move jobs overseas and all the rest amount to a break from the people: "the secession of elites".
And what do we have in the USA? a handful of the very rich (Soros, Gates, Buffett) who understand that there is a problem, while the rest of the rich just want to sell the country, except for the Koch brothers, who want to buy it. And as for second-rate politicians, take a look at the Republican clown car. (Our Republicans are very different from the French.) One could wish that our elites would secede to a desert island and stay there.
The TLS is published in Britain, so I get it a little late, and I am always a couple of issues behind in reading it. Every issue has much to learn in it, but although I won't be reading any books in French, the issue of May 29 set some sort of record for making even longer the list of books I'd like to read.
June 24, 2015
In the snooze nooze
The New York Times today says: "With a poll showing nonwhite voters strongly favoring Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders’s capacity to win support among blacks represents a test of his campaign’s relevance." It does no such thing. Sanders would like to reform the nation's economy so that poorer people might have a better chance to get a bite of the cherry; lots of poorer people will not understand this and will vote against their own best interests, and not just minority voters. Even more will not vote at all.
On the obit page, the inventor of the pink plastic flamingo has died. I could not possibly comment.
June 23, 2015
Edward P. Lazear, in today's Wall Street Journal, trots out the mantra that the reason the recovery since 2008 has been so slow is that there are not enough right-to-work states, taxes are too high and so on. Well, he is a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and a Hoover Institution fellow, so there you are.
He quotes other experts as saying that "the deeper the recession the steeper the recovery". They are all talking about the recessions we have had every decade throughout our history, capitalism being very good at digging traps for itself, but the worst recession we ever had was the Great Depression of the 1930s, and it took a dozen years and a world war to get us out of that. So the right-wing economists cling to the word "recession", like the one in about 1959, when little American Motors was said to have sold more cars than Chrysler, but there were no banks collapsing.
On the other hand, I learn from the Internet, Edward P. Lazear is more precisely a professor of HR management, of which I have seen precious little. A corporate Home Resources department is usually managed like a bed of marshmallows in an oven having the heat turned up slowly so they don't notice; or when something comes up, like an avalanche of insensate mineral material plunging down a steep mountainside.
But as my old friend Roars Hamnix used to say about the university: "A sanctuary in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices find shelter and protection after they have been hunted out of every other corner of the world." Better still, old Roars was quoting Adam Smith, he of the "Invisible Hand", beloved of über-capitalists everywhere. (I do love to roll their own petard under them.)
Yet I have recently learned that Brian Ferneyhough, one of the spikiest and most interesting of contemporary composers, is now at Stanford. Aghast, I told my informant, who was whispering to me in a dark alley, that I would have thought the music professors at Stanford were all Lawrence Welk clones, but he said no, stifling a guffaw, Stanford's music department is cutting edge. Wait till Stanford's economists discover that. They will no doubt start a movement to close the music department, on the grounds that music like Ferneyhough's will never pay for itself.
June 16, 2015
Life in cyber alley
One of my music list colleagues has sent me to Shellackophile, which looks like a fun site, a collection of transfers of old classical 78rpm sets. When I try downloading I arrive at FileFactory, instantly get a funny-looking .dmg file which I could not open and warnings about a “Macfest” (?) that might be infected with a virus and which could be blocked but not deleted. Not too worried because I hadn't installed anything.
Then we tried Sendspace, which might be something like Dropbox, except that Dropbox works, easily and quickly and without any rigmarole. At Sendspace if I click where it says “click here to start download”, I get “503 service temporarily unavailable”. When I click on any of the other several download buttons (why are there several??) I have to register, which I ain’t gonna do. As I said yesterday, I'm through clicking on stuff and registering, logging in, joining and signing up. Don't need it.
The ignoramuses who design all this crap ought to be arrested for being in constraint of trade; they will choke the Internet to death before the FCC gets a chance to murder it.
I want to buy some music by Russian pianist Alexandre Pirojenko, but distribution of physical objects is collapsing, I’m not sending a credit card number to a Russian site, and my bank wants $55 for a wire transfer to Swedbank. Too bad!