Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Worst Pop/Classical Analogy Ever?

There's a piece in Torontoist today about the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. It's a great piece with one exception - the writer compares Gustavo Dudamel to Mick Jagger.

Mick Jagger? Really? Of all the musical celebrities that come to mind when you see Dudamel on stage, and an 65-year old British rocker comes to mind? I'm all for poetic license,

So how about...Justin Timberlake? He's young and talented, like Dudamel, and more importantly, all the Mick Jagger fans at the big SARS concert here years ago booed him when he came on stage!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Underground Supper Clubs?

I do fret for my generation and, dare I say it, my class...

I do so especially when I see something like this piece on "underground" supper clubs. It seems that the latest score in culinary adventure is to go to a dinner party.

Except it's a dinner party which has, through the magic of capitalism and advertising, been turned into a commodity. No longer will you have to have drinks and dinner with an assemblage of friends and acquaintances who've slaved all day to prepare your meal, no, you can now pay to sit in a room full of strangers vetted by a guy who called his "club", I suspect without a trace of irony, the "anti-restaurant".

Hey, Chris's Burgers, I have another name for the "anti-restaurant" - eating at home. Bravo for finding a clever way to make money while circumventing local public health and alcohol rules at the same time.

Seriously, is that what passes for dissent amongst our chattering classes? A dinner party you have to pay for and bring your own alcohol to strikes me as hopelessly déclassé.

Look, I know that one isn't supposed to snark anymore on the Internet, but these supper clubs are a nothing more than a bait-and-switch where someone takes something utterly ordinary, dresses it up in some "exclusive" or "elitist" way, and people flock to them.

This isn't exclusivity, it's kitsch. And that's a word you'll be seeing a lot more of around here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Slap Chop

Is it just me, of does the guy in those Slap Chop ads on TV and everywhere else look a lot like Willem Dafoe? When I see these ads, which seem to play incessantly right now, I'm reminded of Orson Welles, who, in trying to fund his projects, would shill for frozen peas.

Nevertheless, one can imagine that if Dafoe needs some extra scratch to help fund the next Lars von Trier film, standing in for the Slap Chop guy looks like it would be an easy fit.

Before you all run away thinking I've sold my blog out, I haven't linked to the aforementioned Slap Chop, nor do I have any knowledge of its quality aside from the Dafoeganger's assertions. Just some random musings, which are better than never posting at all, right? Right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I cannot honestly say that my lack of posting has to do with being busy. I am very busy, but that has rarely stopped me before. Rather, I think that part of the reason why I'm not posting is the blogging for me is a kind of therapy, although I cannot put my finger on it, and I haven't really needed the therapy it provides me lately.

There is a very good reason for this - in the past two months, my skills as a piano player have increased dramatically. I have been practising and playing away pretty consistently now for 2 1/2 years, and I'm at the point that if I see an F# on the page, my hand just reaches over and plays it. I'm not longer "thinking" about finding the note - my hand is just there.

Do I always get it? No, but anyone who plays the piano who reads this blog, and I suspect those of you who do are far better keyboardists than I, will get what I'm saying - the mind concentrates more on nuance, while the body concentrates on execution. There is a kind of division happening, although the division reconciles itself in the outcome. I feel I am on the cusp of mastery.

So when I have a choice between writing on this blog, and playing Beethoven, I think you can appreciate that playing Beethoven wins. What is perhaps a little sad about this is that I feel that my mastery of writing, which has always been on the line, is slipping away from me.

I also feel I should clarify my use of "mastery". Am I claiming to be Schnabel or Pollini? No! I mean it more that if one takes learning something as the equivalent of climbing a hill, I feel I am on the other side. Now one always has to be careful about the other side of that hill - it can be treacherous, there is a risk of falling, but the practice of getting down the hill is a fundamentally different one from that of climbing.

Mastery, to me, is being on the descent. It's why I have finally started to look at the late Beethoven sonatas.


Now some of you may ask, why the alpine metaphors? I've been climbing. In fact, when I was in Alberta, I hiked up Mount Fairview. I had never done anything like this before, but the experience has the feeling of a wound that will never heal, and that is only stanched by climbing again. So next year I hope to scramble Mount Temple.

(This isn't a photo of Mount Temple, it's actually on the other side)

What does all of this mean for this blog? A few things have lately conspired to get me wondering what I'm up to here. There has been my desire to comment on stuff with vague political ramblings and linking. (It's interesting to consider the relationship between

However, perhaps most crucially, there has been this site: hilobrow, which I discovered via Crooked Timber.

I have to say, I absolutely love this site, not least for it's unrepentant defense of Theodor Adorno, perhaps the driest straw man in the entire blogosphere! (I mean, check out that Crooked Timber post, and pretty much every North American classical music blogger's post on Adorno. As much as I like him, I kind of blame Alex Ross for this. But that's not really an argument, so I will have to actually engage with that statement, as he is the big man on the virtual campus.

But not today (That will be on my tombstone...) Suffice to say that the anti-Adorno animus found on Crooked Timber is premised on the fact that he hated jazz and Disney. So many people say this to me that I no longer even find it funny, especially given many of those who say this to me never listen to jazz, in fact, I would go so far to say that they have no time for it. It's more a kind of shorthand to say "Adorno doesn't like kitsch and we do."

What exactly was Adorno wrong about?

I think that if I can faintly see a kind of vision for this blog, it is one that spends a lot of time defending Adorno. I think what the classical music blogopshere needs, more than anything, is someone willing to defend Adorno. I think that someone is going to be me. Unless I'm too late!

Really, just take a look at my blog title. Maybe writing about wine and talking about goulash and kitsch and Adorno would make this place just a bit more interesting, a bit more combative, and a bit more me.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Left - In our Heads

They argue too much. With each other. Too much arguing, not enough lefting. I kid, sort of...but bear with me.

After a while, arguing feels an awful lot like doing stuff, but it's not, except when arguing is doing something. I mean, it sure feels like doing something - you get all hot and bothered, you have trouble sleeping because someone wrote a mean blog response to your blog post, and it goes on and on.

Blogging is an activity, isn't it? Changing people's minds, one hit at a time, right? Arguing is even engaging, right?

I love critiques. If someone could write a critique like Kant did, back in the day, when people just sort of up and stopped doing entire swaths of philosophy, because Kant came up and closed the door on it, and then padlocked it, these problems wouldn't happen, would they?

But we know that's not going to happen again because Kant, the conditions that made his critique possible and the ways in which we know things have changed so much that one can safely say that the door is no longer there to be closed. Got a problem with someone, no matter how outrageous? You've got a platform.

And so I, like many before and after me, hung out our shingles and tried to talk politics, and I really feel I tried. I joined the conversation.

But those blog commenters! What stamina! Who has the time to engage them? To incessantly be at them, to play bugbear to their troll?

How long did I last? Seven months? And now, the tepidity of my political entries, the thin gruel of my iconoclasm, are a point of shame for me.

So where is this strange rambling post going? It's going to the old saw of doing vs. thinking, of writing vs. building stuff. One sees, in the light of the economic colapse, the twilight of the left around the world. What gives? Was it really only a year ago that many of us thought that the moment would be siezed and we would be looking at a very different world?

But, and this is the kicker, was the problem really that everyone was too busy blogging about the collapse of capitalism to actually try to build something new? Remember people, comment patrolling is work! Blogging is work!

Back to the question though - I feel the answer is no. Most of us, in our own ways, are both in the online world and, perhaps unsurprisingly, eat and sleep and go to art museums and church and defecate like real people too, you know, like in Ulysses.

And I suspect a lot of those people, and a lot of bloggers, participate in the world. And we participate in the world by allowing governments and corporations to be who they are, because it's too much work to do things any other way. I think sometimes why I walk away from the online world is that there continues to be something strangely shameful about it, in that it reveals me for someone bourgeois enough to talk about my life and things I think about it in public, but never about the things I do in my life that affect actual people.

Maybe the issue then, and the issue in the post I linked to way up above is that somehow all this talk among the left, all these critiques, all these posts and forums, is that they all feel like statistics, as in statistical reports. We are all sitting around reading statistics everyday. And helping out in a soup kitchen doesn't help, because after a while the people you help also start to become statistics.

To sum up, blogs lack the taste of the real.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Blowing our Minds

When one reads this article, it's hard not to smack your head and think "of course, why didn't anyone really think about this before?"

Could this be the final copernican turn, that we are not the end of the evolutionary path? I hope so.