Armadillos and archeology
Forget your Emmies, your Tonies, your Grammies. Your Hammies, your Spammies, your Phishies, your Phonies. September is the month of the best awards of all. I’m talking about he Ig Nobel Prizes. I think they are even more interesting than the Nobels themselves. Read more…
Wolfwig Beethart (1770-1806), famous for his 3rd Symphony
Like many people who love Mozart’s music I have often wondered what he would have given us if he had not died before he was 36. Even if he had lived just one more year, there is no telling what he might have produced, given that his last three symphonies – 39,40 and 41 – were composed in the space of three months.
And, since none of us has Mozart’s genius, it is completely impossible to know what he would have gone on to do ten or twenty years later if his life had been of a normal length.
One way of getting some idea of the scope of what he might have produced, I think, is to look at someone equivalent, Beethoven say, and see what they would not have composed if they had died at 36. Read more…
(A poem with instructions on how to cook memories)
(Listen to the poem here)
Start with the and.
Select a photograph of someone you have
lost or crossed,
shared days then parted ways with
and watch it softly
(think of a gaze on tip-toes),
five minutes for each side,
first at the picture, then
at the picture gone,
turning slowly, clockwise,
like time itself
until you have
a good emulsion in your mind.
Listen to this (Dinah Washington- This Bitter Earth as she sang it in 1960 )for thirty seconds or so.
Now listen to a few bars of Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”.
Now hear how Max Richter combined them. I think you will listen all the way to the end.
Berlin, Altes Museum, Egyptian Section
I remember a Russian once telling me that when he read Nabokov in Russian it felt like he was eating words. I have since found that imagining that you are doing just that is one of the best ways to read (and imagining that you are dealing with single words may be one of the best ways to eat). Nothing is tastier or takes its place more interestingly in the mouth than the opening paragraph of Lolita :
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palette to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
I don’t think anyone else has organised a gymnastics competition for angels. Here you can see some of the top contenders in action…
listen to the poem
The art of conversation isn’t rugby,
I must remind myself at times,
or even shooting grouse, deer, moose or peccaries
If anything it is a bit like dominoes
with tiles you didn’t know you had,
whose shapes do tricks with space and time . Read more…
I have an irrational passion for phrase- books. Whenever I go to a country where I don’t know the language I take along a phrasebook. I often take one with me even when I go to a country where I do speak the language. Sometimes in a foreign country I suddenly stop in the middle of the road. People walk into me, but I don’t notice because my mind is wholly taken up by the question: why? What are phrasebooks for?
The first surprising fact about phrasebooks is that you hardly ever find what you want to say in them. Of course if you read them from cover to cover you will be able to note down some expressions which will be very useful in many situations. Two I have just noticed in the last few seconds while writing this are I am not used to this and Is this a local or a national custom? These are both the kind of thing you can want to say about a dozen times a day when travelling. But phrasebooks suggest the idea that when you find yourself in a situation you will be able to turn to them and find a way to deal with it. This, I think I can say safely, never happens. Read more…