Sunday, November 22, 2015

everything old was always new

Here's a way of getting a handle on a deeply odd fact about our culture: suppose someone came to you and said, "I'm making a movie about a half-man/half-robot who battles evil aliens in outer space — what kind of music should be on the soundtrack?" Think of the choices at your disposal at this point in history: hard-edged rock, hip-hop, computer-generated electronica ... but of course you know the overwhelming answer to that question in American cinema. It's the symphony orchestra, mostly unchanged for a couple of centuries.

Like those other inimitable gifts of the West to the world, the piano and the suit, the symphony orchestra keeps on getting talked about as if it's obsolete and passé. And yet it keeps on getting used. Why?

Think of the way people talk about suits. Constricting, old-fashioned, not with the times. Now look around: have we lost any appetite at all for seeing our talk-show hosts, sports announcers, politicians, bachelor-contest gladiators, and news anchors (if they're men) in suits?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


A friend writes:
You know, I was just thinking... if everybody in the world were musicians, there'd probably be a lot less wars. Of course, nothing would get done before noon, but there'd be a lot less wars.
"Man, we were selling missiles for $12 million a piece, but then that sax player came in and started selling them for $4 million. 4 million?!?! Come on, man, you're just making it worse for everybody. Have some respect!!"

"OK, we told you the raid on their redoubt was at 0600, but I forgot to tell you to load in at 0300 and be completely set up by 0500 because there's a program. Still paying you the same."

"Sources say that Obama and Putin were making progress toward a solution, but then Putin brought up his girlfriend, who is a singer. Obama displayed his famous cool demeanor until Putin mentioned that she only sings 'Summertime' and 'God Bless the Child.' The White House has now announced that troops will be deployed on schedule, as before."

"Bill O'Reilly says that the conflict dates back to the aftermath of WWI, but he's only partially right. It really goes back much further, to the late 1800s, when the Bosnians were angry with the Serbs for switching from upright to electric bass on club gigs. The Serbs angrily countered that they can make their electric bass sound *just* like an upright, and that's when the legacy of violence began."

"The French offered support to the Mohawks and surrounding Native American tribes, but those tribes refused, because the French kept calling 'Cherokee' at 260bpm, then soloing for 7 minutes."

"Eventually, tensions reached a breaking point in the summer of 1789, when the peasants stormed the Bastille after finding out King Louis was charging $4000 for gigs but only paying the band $80 a man."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

on leaving the greenhouse

It's inevitable that your kid will begin to learn more from the world outside your home than inside it — and, over all, it's a good. But it's sad when there's something you've carefully sheltered them from arises. Today, Greta said, "This is boring." Boring?!?! And to add insult to injury, she pronounced it "boreen," doing the maddening -een ending that drives any Brake berserk. ("Good morneen." Blech!) Of course, such things give us the opportunity to verbalize our values. Felix culpa!

Monday, November 2, 2015

why i have the best friends, part 2