Art, music, literature and thespianism

Enough Old Stuff

One of the several “throw or keep?” decisions I had to make when emptying the house was about my CD collection. As I came late to the Digital Revolution (21st Century version) — and some say I still haven’t joined it — I haven’t started downloading music from Amazon Musik or whatever they call it, simply because I have most of my favorite music on CD already, and with a very few exceptions, I find modern music unappealing.

Unfortunately, this also means that I’ve become sick of all the old music, “old” being defined as 60s-70s music of my rock star (uh huh) youth. I mean, if I hear “Sweet Home Alabama” and anything by Led Zeppelin one more time, I’m going to slip the safety off the 1911. Even longtime favorites like Genesis, Steely Dan and Jethro Tull are beginning to pall, and needless to say, I have every album of artists like the aforementioned as well as the Beatles, Joe Walsh and Wishbone Ash on CD, so the collection of my favorite musical genres is extensive. But I never listen to it anymore because I’m bored with it. I ended up keeping almost all my old CDs, but have yet to unpack any of them, let alone listen to them. The problem is that music has always been a major part of my existence, and I have to listen to something.

So what am I listening to, at the moment? Classical, mostly, because it doesn’t seem as though I can ever get sick of it. Lately I’ve rediscovered several old favorites like Saint-Saëns and Dvorak, and of course there’s always the perennials (Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven etc.) that can be relied upon for listening pleasure, as always. It also helps that their music is being interpreted differently by the various conductors and musicians (Lisitsa, Grimaud, Mutter and so on) — and just as I’ve veered away from Classic Rock, I’ve also lost interest in classical artists like Gould, Rubinstein, Horowitz and even Barenboim (the “Old Guys”, as I’ve heard them described). I like the freshness and verve that virtuosos like Valentina Lisitsa and Olga Kern bring to the old favorites like Beethoven’s Pathétique and Rachmaninoff’s Piano No.2, and the effect of that is almost, as I said earlier, a rediscovery of classical music.

In similar vein, I listen to the old standards like the songs of Rogers & Hart, Carmichael and Gershwin — they never grow old — but I have to say, I also enjoy the interpretations given their music by “modern” artists as well: people like the incomparable Harry Connick Jr. and equally-brilliant Norah Jones. Even Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton have started to reinterpret the standards and to my mind, are eclipsing the “old guys” like Fred Astaire and Julie London, who actually introduced me to this genre. (It’s not that the latter are bad — of course they aren’t — but I’ve just heard them so often, it’s starting to get stale. Yes, even Astaire.)

There’s a common thread to the above which I’ve just realized at this moment: it’s not the music I’m sick of, it’s the original versions thereof. Nobody is reinterpreting Classic Rock, other than as cover bands like American English (Beatles) and Zepparella (Zep).

So maybe that’s what Classic Rock needs: for new guys to reinterpret their music (as opposed to just reproducing it), much as Dred Zeppelin did to Led Zeppelin (I love the Dred, by the way). Let’s hear Dream Theater do their version of the White Album (minus the excruciating Revolution No.9, please), let’s see what Norah Jones does to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and let’s find out what Samantha Fish does with Blowing In The Wind and Harry Connick Jr. with Only One Woman.

But if I can ask for one, and only one favor from all this reinterpretation activity: we do not repeat not need another version of Free Bird. Don’t make me slip that safety off the 1911…


Update: This wouldn’t be a decent post without an example of the “old” music, and a totally gratuitous pic of what I’m talking about. Here’s Samantha Fish:

…and here’s Only One Woman.

You Asked For It

I hate to harp on the importance of appearance yet again, but this little temper tantrum has caused me to have an even bigger one:

She is a bestselling author with a healthy bank balance, but Chocolat writer Joanne Harris found herself shunned by sales staff at Harvey Nichols in London – because she wasn’t smartly dressed.
The writer, 52, whose novel was turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche, took to Twitter this afternoon to blast the retailer, saying she’d encountered ‘intense snoot’ from staff ‘unused to contact with people in hoodies’.

But it gets better.

She added that her ‘elegant Parisian aunt’ had taught her that an establishment with true class never judges its customers on appearance.

Listen, you classless idiot: did you ever stop to wonder why your Parisian aunt is “elegant”?

It’s because appearances matter, you fucking slob. Let me take this woman’s attitude apart, piece by piece.

I’ve been to Harvey Nics many, many times — it was always Connie’s first stop in London because of their amazing cosmetics department — and we never, ever encountered any “snoot” from the polite, helpful and attentive staff. Know why? Because we were always well-dressed and (in the case of The Mrs., anyway) looked as though we were the type of people Harvey Nichols wanted as customers. One older sales assistant even remembered Connie from an earlier trip. “You’re the lady from Beverley Hills with the delightful children, aren’t you? Welcome back to London.” (I guess they just don’t get that many six-foot-tall redheaded American women from Beverley Hills shopping there.)

Here’s a clue for Joanne Harris. The staff at Harvey Nichols are very, very accustomed to customers wearing hoodies in their store; generally, that’s because said hoodie-wearers are career shoplifters. If you go into a store looking like the average criminal then how, exactly, do you expect the staff to react to you? “It shouldn’t matter how you look!” Well, welcome to the real world, sweetheart, and guess what? How you look does matter.

In fact, judging other people by how they look is not “trained behavior” created by Harvey Nichols management; it’s trained behavior as a result of many thousands of years’ genetic conditioning, where judging appearances is not a matter of “snoot”, but quite often is a matter of life and death. The oldest human instinct is probably a subconscious warning of “Predator!” so the instinct, in other words, is already ingrained. Then add experience (hoodie = possible shoplifter) which fills in the rest.

It’s time for my Parisian restaurant story (and to those who’ve heard it before, sorry but it’s relevant). The scene: Paris between Christmas and New Year, i.e. full to the brim with people. It’s also pouring down with rain, and tit-freezing cold. Dramatis personae:  la famille du Toit, having just quit standing in a seemingly-endless line at an art museum because bullshit. We are well-dressed because when we travel, we are always well-dressed: no jeans, sneakers, tee shirts nor (duh) hoodies; rather, it’s dress slacks, decent shirts / blouses, shiny dress shoes and silk scarves under cashmere coats.

We walked into a nearby but packed restaurant, and I fought my way to the maître d’hotel‘s stand. I apologized (in French) for not having a reservation, explained our predicament, and asked if it would be at all possible for the restaurant to seat a party of six (we had an “adopted” child with us), and no, we wouldn’t mind waiting. The headwaiter looked at the rest of us and clearly saw how we were dressed. He sat us at the bar counter, moving people down to give us room, gave us complimentary bottles of sparkling water, and told us please to be patient, and he would seat us shortly. About five minutes passed; then he came back, and apologized profusely that he hadn’t been able to get our table ready, and would Monsieur please excuse him? In vain did I protest, and repeated that we were the ones imposing on him. No matter: he raced off, and in another five minutes showed us to our table, apologizing again, showed us the glasses of complimentary vin blanc on the table, and six waiters pushed our chairs in as we sat down. It is generally regarded by our family as one of the best meals we’d ever eaten, both for the quality of the food and the service.

Now here’s the kicker. While we were waiting for our table, two couples came into the place separately, looking like members of the International Backpack Set — and the headwaiter shooed them out, telling them the place was full, even though there were a few empty tables-for-two right there in the bar area. He did not want their business. Why? Because backpackers are a waste of seats: they order the cheapest stuff on the menu, stay far too long (in a city where dawdling over a cup of coffee is not frowned upon), they generally tip badly, and because they’re scruffy, they bring down the whole tone of the place — and remember this last part, because we’ll be getting back to it. I agree, it’s not fair. But once again, that just happens to be the reality we live in. (By the way, the meal was expensive — as I recall, about $100 per person, excluding the service charge — but we did drink about five bottles of wine and a few liqueurs and cocktails, as well as ordering dishes like patê de foie gras and terrine rustique de Provence. Not, in other words, the kind of fare ordered by yer typical hoodie-wearing backpackers, so the maître d’hotel‘s instinct was correct.)

Which brings me back to my point. It’s not fair — actually, I think it’s perfectly fair, but let’s just grant the point for the sake of argument — that in a classy establishment, someone dressed like Grace Kelly will get better treatment than your average hoodie-chick:


Imagine that. (And lest I be accused of bias, that’s a model in the second picture and not yer typical street skank.)

I also know that in oh-so-egalitarian America, we don’t put up with class and airs, so it really shouldn’t matter. Uh huh. You’re quite welcome to think that, but in return you have to tell me the color of the sun on your imaginary planet.

And in any event, the woefully-dressed Joanne Harris was “snooted” at Harvey Nichols, which is one of the classiest stores in the world, let alone London, and they make no bones about the fact that they cater to people of wealth and class — how the sales staff are dressed should give anyone a clue. Just for being so dense and clueless, Harris should have been tossed out of the store on her ass, let alone snooted.

At the heart of her snit, by the way, is a kind of arrogance: “I’m smart! I’m classy! I’m a writer! I’m famous! I have a healthy bank balance! And you should know all this and should defer to me, even though you have no idea who I am, and despite the fact that I look like a street slapper!”

Bullshit.

And for the staff at Harvey Nichols: you may have lost this classless harpy as a customer, but I for one promise to visit you the next time I’m in London, and buy something from you because — guess what? — I like the idea that the staff discourages hooligans from frequenting their wonderful store. It makes for a better shopping experience, for me. And I too am a customer, and one moreover who won’t look like he just got off the bus from some council block in the East End.

Patsy (from Absolutely Fabulous) would quite possibly stop shopping there too, but because “Harvey Nics lets just anyone shop there these days, sweetie-darling. Even those dreadful hoodie-types.”

At Harvey Nichols, Patsy’s type is in the majority, not Joanne Harris’s, and the store runs their business accordingly. Good for them, say I.

Getting Older, Caring Less

There are three ironclad rules about getting older:

  1. Make no long-term investments.
    This means not making any kind of investment where you’re unlikely to live to see the outcome.
  2. Never trust a fart.
    I don’t think I have to explain this one.
  3. Never waste an erection.
    Ditto. Believe me, when you get up there in age, these physiological miracles are not as common as they were in your twenties.

Let’s go back to #1 for a moment. Perhaps it’s because the past few years have been so difficult for me, nursing an ailing wife and then having to deal with her death, one realizes that most stuff is irrelevant by comparison, on a personal basis of course.

It has worried me that things that would in the past have brought from me a seething rant full of invective, rage and possibly even threats, now occasion from me a wry smile, a scowl or a muttered curse. (This would include almost every idiocy / lunacy perpetrated by Our Beloved Government — may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their nether regions.)

Why is it that I don’t really care much about anything, most especially when it doesn’t affect me personally, or if it does, it’ll likely happen after I’m dead? (There is a tangential discussion to be had on this topic, by the way, which would argue that if  my attitude is common among senior citizens, then old farts like me should never be allowed to formulate any kind of long-term government policy or change any social institutions. But we’ll do that some other time.)

When we lived in the Chicago ‘burbs (Prospect Heights, for those who know the area), our little municipality was one of the very few which did not use “city” water, but relied on wells. (This despite Lake Michigan being but a few miles from our front door — inexplicable.) Property taxes were of course lower, but that was offset by occasional water shortages, which totally sucked. Anyway, a referendum was held on whether the Heights should go to city water — it would require a bond to finance bringing water lines to the streets, but residents could have the choice of paying for the water line from the street to the house, or just sticking with well water. The bond would require a one-time per-household fee of a few hundred dollars — payable by an addition to the property tax bill (which, as  I mentioned earlier, was very low). We were overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the measure to pass. It failed. It failed because about 50% of the residents were elderly and didn’t care that the future residents would have a better quality of life — because they themselves wouldn’t be around to see it, and thus weren’t interested in spending even the few dollars necessary. So we were stuck with tepid, unreliable well water, which situation we resolved by moving to the City of Chicago when our lease ended, and living not a few miles, but a few yards from Lake Michigan. We never stopped hating those elderly residents of Prospect Heights, though — even though they were obeying Rule #1.

I don’t want to be one of those selfish old bastards; but at the same time, I find myself getting the same kind of perspective. My conscience will generally make me do the right thing, I hope — I would vote in favor for that water bond in a heartbeat, for example — but from what I can tell, that’s not the way to bet when it comes to other people, and most especially older politicians whom one would hope have the same social conscience as I, but who clearly don’t.

Have I gone soft? (This is not a reference to Rule #3, by the way; at least, I hope not.) I’ve noticed that events that would normally make me livid with rage now simply irritate me; and paradoxically, things I would have shrugged off in the past now make me want to reach for the 1911.

Maybe it’s because of the circumstances I find myself in now, maybe it’s an effect of age, or maybe it’s some of both. I need to think about it some more, and figure it out.

Your opinions on this topic will be welcome. This is important stuff to me.

Grinding Halt

Like many people, I suspect, I have become fascinated by the advancements made in robotics — not from a technological standpoint (because I’m a high-tech retard), but from a sociological one. I’m also not interested in robots which will perform brain functions: the arrival of spreadsheets and their macros in programs like VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 foreshadowed all that, and considering that most of life is incredibly boring bureaucratic shit (e.g. legal documents), I have no problem with delegating the mundane tasks of life to the bots — as long as I still have final control over the output, that is.

No, I’m very interested in the effects that sexbots will have on our society. I’m completely ignoring the bleats of womyn who see, correctly, that female sexbots will eventually replace actual women in  terms of the male meat market, where schlubs who used to live in their parents’ house will now be able to score with a “woman” who won’t castrate him and/or pillage his wallet. Sure, sex with a bot isn’t going to be as good as with a live, breathing woman, at least until the technology improves anyway (although quite frankly I can think offhand of about half a dozen women in my experience who would make the most basic sexbots feel like porn stars, so indifferent were they to sexual activity).

I often use the old movie Cherry 2000 as an example: the “housewife robot” (played by the exquisite Pamela Gidley) was charmingly termed a “gynoid” (vaginoid would have been a better description) who is in all respects a perfect wife: she cooks, cleans does laundry for her owner, and has a voracious sexual appetite. (Evil Kim also points out that she has an OFF switch, which would be a major selling point to most men.)

Given the transition of modern women from Donna Reed:

to this (fortunately anonymous) specimen:

…it’s not too difficult to understand why a great many men might prefer a Cherry 2000 — here’s Pam Gidley:

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

…or, in realistic terms, they’d even choose instead a RealDoll:

Well and good. Now let’s assume we’ve made at least a partial leap from inanimate RealDolls to something a little more lifelike so we can take this situation to the next level. Of course, men being the fantasists that they are, it was only a question of time before sexbots could be offered in “custom” finishes: apparently, for a small premium, one can order a RealDoll which is a licensed replica (replicant?) of various porn stars. Which leads to the next logical step: why not a non-porn star, such as the lovely Mila Jovovich? (Who kinda looks RealDoll-y in this pic anyway.)

With advances in 3D printing, such a concept is eminently doable. Needless to say, this has caused a scramble among movie stars to seek legal protection from having their likenesses used for this purpose without their consent. (As I understand it, a couple of them were too late, and anyway, I foresee a booming black market for unlicensed sexbots replicating all sorts of fantasy women. Can’t find the “Nigella Lawson” model anywhere, incidentally.)

Even this situation is all well and good. It’s actually an example of how “the market” works: there is a desire [sic] for a product, and the market rushes to satisfy it, with all the little complications involved.

Now let’s take it to the next — and perhaps darkest — level: what about LittleGirl sexbots?

Aaaah, well now we have a problem, don’t we? Because pedophilia is super-doubleplusungood — and yes, justifiably so — one might say that having little-girl sexbots is Beyond The Pale. Which was my initial reaction.

But let’s talk about this logically, if we can. We know (from Science) that as a psychopathology, pedophilia is largely irreversible / incurable — once a pedo, always a pedo, hence the Sex Offenders Registry. That being the case, and as we seem to be incapable of locking these criminals up for life, why not LittleGirl (or, ugh, LittleBoy) sexbots? Is it completely unfeasible to think that if these sick assholes have a surrogate child with which to play their abhorrent little reindeer games, then they’d be less likely to hit the playgrounds and schoolyards? Maybe, maybe not. If there’s one thing we know about the human condition, it’s that once sated, a sexual urge will tend to seek greater titillation and stimulation, often through deviant ways and practices. So maybe we draw the line on this side of child sexbots, and say, “No” to the Pedophile-Industrial Complex. But I’m tempted to give it a chance nevertheless — with all sorts of safeguards and caveats. Even the Supreme Court may be thinking as I do, in that they held that cartoon porn, in all its variations and including pedophilia, is not the same as real-life porn.

I have to say that I’m undecided on the issue.

Because I am who I am, however, if we were to allow the manufacture and sales of child sexbots, I would support drastic punishment for a pedophile who owned a child sexbot and then still went out and molested a real child — and I say “drastic” in the sense of “summary execution” (and yes, I know that this might suppress sales of said sexbots; don’t care).

This is a complex issue, and it goes far beyond the topic of driverless cars, autonomous shopping carts, drones and so on. As I said earlier: this group of things addresses the mundane tasks of life; but when we start talking about things which affect us on so personal a level, it starts becoming difficult. I hope I’ve been able to shed just a little light, or at least a slightly different perspective, on the topic — because make no mistake: this issue is not going to go away. We need to address it in terms of our societal principles and mores, and start deciding on boundaries, sooner rather than later and before it runs away with us.

No Excuse Necessary

With all the brouhaha about fake news, cooked data and other lies fed to us by politicians, scientists, government agencies, the media and so on, it should come as no surprise to anyone when I remind you all that my policy is not to trust information from any source, even when it’s apparently good news or supports one of my long-held beliefs or opinions. Like this one:

A glass of Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc could give your brain an all-over workout.
Drinking wine engages more of the brain than ‘any other human behavior’, according to one leading neuroscientist.
Professor Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said drinking wine sparks a reaction in both the sensory and emotional parts of the brain.

It is nice to have Science! endorse one of my long-held beliefs, although I must question whether Sauvignon Blanc has any of those properties (a decent cabernet or burgundy, however…).

And as I’ve always said, a meal without wine is… breakfast.

Lately, I haven’t been drinking much wine simply because I’ve been dining solo (Doc is working some insane hours at the moment), and I can’t drink booze by myself. (Can’t and not won’t. Seriously: no matter how much I may feel like a drink, if it’s not part of a social occasion the chances are excellent that at least half of it will be left untouched in the glass. I’ve been that way my entire adult life.) But if I buy those little single-serve wine bottles the next time I visit Ye Olde Liqueur Shoppe (say, this afternoon), I could probably overcome that habit and help my tired old brain out.

…even though next week I’m probably going to discover from some other doctor that drinking wine with a meal causes herpes or some such bullshit.

Screw ’em all; I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and a pox on anyone who wants to stop me. (I’ve been that way too, my entire adult life.)

 

Only In Cambridge

From The Englishman comes news of this atrocity:

A development of luxury homes in Cambridge has been daubed with graffiti – written in Latin, of course.
Vandals spray-painted the new five-bedroom river-front houses with the words Locus in Domos Loci Populum.


Locals have said the messages, which appear to be a protest against the development, could “only happen” in the university city.
The homes, in Water Street, Chesterton, priced from £1.25m are on the site of an old pub.
Cambridge University Professor of Classics, Mary Beard, said: “This is a bit hard to translate, but I think what they’re trying to say is that a lovely place has been turned into houses.”

Oh, good grief, it’s not hard to translate at all. What the graffiti actually means is “Private homes from public land.”  (What makes her mis-translation worse is that it’s a classical — i.e. republican Roman — sentence construction, and not Byzantine or European Medieval, so it should be well within her wheelhouse.)

Sometimes I fear for the fate of Western culture, when graffiti-protesters know more about Latin than do university professors. Or when I understand Latin better than Mary Beard, for that matter. They must have had a special deal on Classics degrees at Tesco the day she got hers.


Update: I got an email from a Brit Reader who says that the real atrocity is labeling those houses as “luxury”. I agree.