Thursday, June 30, 2011

ET: Almanac

You must always know when to pull out. A businessman isn't a mathematician. Remember that. Never become hypnotized by the beauty of numbers. A businessman is someone who buys at ten and is happy to get out at twelve. The other kind of man buys at ten, sees it rise to eighteen and does nothing. He is waiting for it to get to twenty. The beauty of numbers. When it drops to ten again he waits for it to get back to eighteen. When it drops to two he waits for it to get back to ten. Well, it gets back there. But he has wasted a quarter of his life. And all he's got out of his money is a little mathematical excitement.

- V.S. Naipaul, "A Bend in the River".
(Evan types out notes for an outline of his latest hare-brained scheme: to make an opera out of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. He is more than a little overwhelmed at the size of this undertaking. Out of one of the three or four Bibles he has lying around the room materializes Moses as though he's TNG-beamed into Evan's room)

Moses: If you do this, you'd better be prepared.

Evan: Don't I know it.

Moses: Being the prophet of prophets is awful: Bad weather, unreliable subordinates, dangerous rivals, difficult clients and a psycho boss. I can only imagine what writing about me would be like.

Evan: Don't worry, I'm only interested in writing the Charlton Heston version of you.

Moses: (snickers) OK. That makes life a little easier. You cut the Book of Numbers.

Evan: Actually I'm planning on putting that back in.

Moses: Dude, you crazy.

Evan: Says the guy who went from door to door killing people for worshiping a cow?

Moses: Touche, salesman.

Evan: So I figure... I could get at three operas out of this one. Five-to-seven years to write the texts, another seven to nine years to write the music. Then another twenty to raise the money to put it on. I'll be in my sixties then, so I figure this will make a decent headline and might me get a good ten years of endowed tenure at a gullible SUNY school where I can live however I want before senility and incontinence kick in.

Moses: Are you sure your job won't tie you up?

Evan: I'm writing this at 3 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon.

Moses: Shouldn't you be working on that outline?

Evan: Probably.

Moses: You're not going to write this are you?

Evan: I'll be lucky to finish the outline.

Moses: You're much too ADD for a project like this.


US Music Map

Browser Wars

ET: Almanac

The sheer number of Renaissance treatises tells us something about the nature of a cultural movement. One tends to think of what goes by that name as comprising a handful of geniuses with a group of admirers, patrons, and articulate supporters whose names appear (so to speak) as footnotes in smaller type. Actually, it is a large crowd of highly gifted people---the mass is indispensable. This is a generality. And these many co-workers must be great talents, not duffers. They may be incomplete or unlucky as creators, their names may remain or turn dim, but in retrospect we see that this one or that contributed an original idea, was the first to make use of a device. Together, by what they do and say, they help to keep stirred up the productive excitement; they stimulate the genius in their midst; they are the necessary mulch for the period's exceptional growths.

This reflection goes some way toward answering our question when we wonder what conditions bring about great artistic periods, seemingly at random, here or there, and for a relatively short time. It is not, as some have thought, prosperity, or wise government support, or a spell of peace and quiet---Florence at its height was in perpetual conflict inside and outside. The first requisite is surely the clustering of eager minds in one place. They may not be on the spot to begin with; they come mysteriously from all over, when some striking cultural event bruited abroad, some decisive advance in technical means, draws them to its place of origin. Like the spread of the revolutionary temper, the feverish interest, the opposition, and the rivalry among artists working, comparing, and arguing, generate the heat that raises performance beyond the norm. It takes hundreds of the gifted to make half a dozen of the great. The late-discovered genius who by mischance had to work alone in a remote spot is a sad survivor of solitude and is often maimed by it.

- Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence".

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Schubert #1?

Did even Mozart or Beethoven write something as original or gripping, or as perfect as this?

Quote of the Day:

Der Koosh: what did Greece ever do to you but curse the world with democracy?
and possibly the Senate filibuster
if only because Socrates wouldn't STFU

Monday, June 27, 2011

ET: Almanac

How a revolution erupts from a commonplace event---tidal wave from a ripple---is cause for endless astonishment. Neither Luther in 1517 nor the men who gathered at Versailles in 1789 intended at first what they produced at last. Even less did the Russian Liberals who made the revolution of 1917 foresee what followed. All were as ignorant as everybody else of how much was about to be destroyed. Nor could they guess what feverish feelings, what strange behavior ensue when revolution, great or short-lived, is in the air.

First, a piece of news about something said or done travels quickly, more so than usual, because it is uniquely apt; it fits a half-concious mood or caps a situation: a monk questions indulgences, and he does it not just out of the blue---they are being sold again on a large scale. The fact and the challenger's name generate rumor, exaggeration, misunderstanding, falsehood. People ask each other what is true and what it means. The atmosphere becomes electric, the sense of time changes, grows rapid; a vague future seems nearer.

On impulse, perhaps to snap the tention, somebody shouts in church, throws a stone through a window, which provokes a fight---it happened so at Wittenberg---and clearly it is no ordinary breach of the peace. Another unknown harrangues a crowd, urging it to stay calm---or not to stand there gaping but do something. As further news spreads, various types of people become aroused for or against the thing now upsetting everybody's daily life. But what is that thing? Concretely: ardent youths full of hope as they catch the drift of the idea, rowdies looking for fun, and characters with a grudge. Cranks and tolerated lunatics come out of houses, criminals out of hideouts, and all assert themselves.

Manners are flouted and customs broken. Foul language and direct insult become normal, in keeping with the rest of the excitement, buildings are defaced, images destroyed, shops looted. Printed sheets pass from hand to hand and are read with delight or outrage---Listen to this! Angry debates multiply about thigns long since settled: talk of free love, of priests marrying and monks breaking their vows, of property and wives in common, of sweeping out all evils, all corruption, all at once---all things new for a blissful life on earth.

A curious leveling takes place: the common people learn words and ideas hitherto not familiar and not interesting and discuss them like intellectuals, while others neglect their usual concerns---art, philosophy, scholarship---because there is only one compelling topic, the revolutionary Idea. The well-to-do and the "right-thinking," full of fear, come together to defend their possessions and habits. But counsels are divided and many see their young "taking the wrong side." The powers that be wonder and keep watch, with fleeting thoughts of advantage to be had from the confusion. Leaders of opinion try to put together some of the ideas afloat into a position which they mean to fight for. They will reassure others, or preach boldness, and anyhow head the movement.

Voices grow shrill, parties form and adopt names or are tagged with them in derision and contempt. Again and again comes the shock of broken friendships, broken families. As time goes on, "betraying the cause" is an incessant charge, and there are indeed turncoats. Authorities are bewildered, heads of institutions try threats and concessions by turns, hoping the surge of subversion will collapse like previous ones. But none of this holds back that transfer of power and property which is the mark of revolution and which in the end establishes the Idea.

The seizure by Henry VIII of England's abbeys and priories, openly in the name of reform and morality, is notorious. But this secularizing of church property went on during the 16C in every other country except Italy and Spain. During this transfer, treaties were made every few years to confirm or reverse the grab, as the forturnes of war dictated. To the distant observer the course of events is a rushing flood; to those inside it is a whirlpool.

Such is, roughly, how revoutions "feel." The gains and the deeds of blood vary in detail from one time to the next, but the motives are the usual mix: hope, ambition, greed, fear, lust, envy, hatred of order and of art, fanatic fervor, heroic devotion, and love of destruction.

- Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence"

ET: Almanac

Culture---what a word! Up to a few years ago it meant two or three related things easy to grasp and keep apart. Now it is a piece of all-purpose jargon that covers a hodge-podge of overlapping things. People speak and write about the culture of almost any segment of society: the counterculture, to begin with, and the many subcultures: ethnic cultures, corporate cultures, teenage culture, and popular culture. An editorial in The New York Times discuesses the culture of the city's police department, and an article in the travel section distinguishes the culture of plane travel from the bus culture. On par with these, recall the split between the "two cultures" of science and the humanities, which is to be deplored---like the man-and-wife "culture clash," which causes divorce. Artists feel the lure---no, the duty---of joining an adversary culture; for the artist is by nature "the enemy of his culture," just as he is (on another page of the same journal) "a product of his culture." In education, the latest fad is multiculturalism, and in entertainment the highest praise goes to a "cross-cultural event." On the world scene, the experts warn of the culture wars that are brewing.

At the bottom of the pile, "culture," meaning the well-furnished mind, barely survives. Four thousand cultural facts in dictionary form have recently been laid on the coffe table, but it may be doubted whether this bonanza will by itself cultivate the fallow mind, lift it out of day-to-day interests, and scrape it free of provincialism. A wise man has said: "Culture is what is left after you have forgotten all you have definitively set out to learn." How did culture in this sense---a simple metaphor from agri-culture---lose its authority and get burdened with meanings for which there were other good words? These mini-culture created on the spur of the moment are obviously fictitious. But again, they express the separatism already mentioned. It arises from too much jostling with too many people---nothing but constraint at every turn, because the stranger, the machine, the bureaucrat's rule impose their will. Hence the desire to huddle in small groups whose ways are always congenial.

The hope of relief is utopian; for these small groups are not independent. Their "culture" consists only of local customs and traditions, individual or institutional habits, class manners and prejudices, language or dialect, upbringing or profession, creed, attitudes, usages, fashions and superstitions; or, at the narrowest, temperament. If a word is wanted for the various pairings of such elements, there is ethos. The press---not to say the media---with their love of new terms from the Greek, could quickly make it commonplace.

- Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence"

Decadence: by Weird Al

h/t Il Giovine

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Most Offensive Campaign Ad of All-Time

This beats the previous champion from a few election cycles ago: Vernon Robinson.

What Do 55 Euphoniums Sound Like?

From the department of great ideas. Widor's Toccata, for 55 Euphoniums.

Here's the original...just in case you need to get the taste out of your mouth....then look at some of the comments on the youtube page.

Pierre Cochereau on the organ.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quote of the Day

Me: Where are the string beans?
Mom: On the ping-pong table.
Uncle Nochem: Where else?

Friday, June 24, 2011

110 mph

For anybody who thinks Tchaikovsky's music is effeminate. Here is the great Leningrad Philharmonic under their director of 50 years (!) Yevgeny Mravinsky. THIS is how to play Tchaikovsky!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Treme: I'll Fly Away

This has got to be one of the great finales of...well....anything.

Quote of the Day:

Me: the other day i look in the freezer and see a huge thing of cookies and cream ice crem
Josh: also known as evil crack

Jason Segal and John Krasinski

Drunk...crashing a bachelorette party....singing karaoke...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Cousin Oscar

I like Daylight Savings Time. And doesn't it make more sense anyway to have midday at one rather than twelve? Screw the farmers!

Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin Come Together (....)

Bobby McFerrin: OMG

Just because I never stop being amazed by this clip...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

I make no claim to expertise on either Springsteen or the E Street Band. But even so, there are certain issues in the arts on which your character is at stake. If you are not moved by the E St. Band, I question your ability to be moved by anything.

A Human, All Too Human Don Juan

(I'm sitting in the twilight in my castle (0:01). A stranger comes in (0:30). I ask him more than once who he is (0:37). Finally, He strikes up a song (0:50). Don Juan sees who it is, it is Death (2:05). Christus (4:11))

Sibelius never finished his Tone Poem about Don Juan, not even the program. Perhaps he found the subject matter too unbearable. This is something I can only surmise, since much of the material he wrote for it apparently made its way into the almost unbearably moving second movement of his Second Symphony. The fragment of program Sibelius wrote for the work fits so uncannily well into the music (both the program and the music displayed above this paragraph). One could easily construct a whole program around this music, complete with a dialogue about death and resurrection, sin and redemption, and memories of love lost and found.

In Sibelius's version, there is no statue to drag Don Juan into Hell. There may not even be a Hell. There is only death, and the inner demons of a man who has done everything he could to live to life's fullest extent, only to find himself meeting his end alone. This is a human, all too human Don Juan.

Without exception, every Don Juan seems as much a reflection of its creator as of the myth itself. As a man given to enormous excesses of women and drink - but also prone to the greatest extremes of depression, Sibelius understood the human meaning of Don Juan perhaps more than any other great creator. His Don Juan is free of illusions about consequence. The only satisfaction Sibelius derived from the excesses of his behavior were in the immediate short-term. After the party was over, Sibelius would return to his family to only find his long-suffering wife Aino and his children humiliated and frightened by his excesses. And thus would that cycle continue until his death.

Don Juan is larger than any one persona. He is an antihero with a thousand faces - invariably punished for the crime of pleasure. There are Don Juans both repentant and unrepentant, sometimes deserving of comeuppance and sometimes innocent victims. Everyone has their favorite face, but I have to be honest and say that most of them leave me cold for the simple reason that most explanations for Don Juan's self-serving behavior are self-serving in themselves.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and none larger than Mozart's Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is not a mere face. Mozart's opera is as much the apogee of Don Juan as Heath Ledger's performance is the apogee of The Joker. Everything else before and after is a mere footnote because Mozart created something out of a myth larger than myth itself. What Mozart created was the closest any character in any work of art has ever come to a manifestation of the pure Id. Within the span of the 80-second champaigne aria, Mozart conjures up an image of pure lust for life that is unequalled by anything in any other work of art. If one looks for an equivalent moment in any of the arts, even by the most vital characters in fiction - characters as diverse as the Wife of Bath or Sir John Falstaff or Fyodor Karamazov or Emma Bovary or Sonny Corleone or Antoine Doinel or Homer Simpson or Ralphie Cifaretto - you will perpetually look in vain. Mozart's gift was such that Don Giovanni is larger than us - far more than a myth, and is therefore not supposed to be relatable. He is that piece of every one of us which wants to eat, drink and screw everything reflected back into us. He is the will to live life itself.

Byron's Don Juan is, well...Byron. Leave it to the so-called Romantic Hero among all romantic heros to take the myth to its least heroic, and perhaps least romantic interpretation - Don Juan was not the seducer, he was the seduced. Somehow, women just wanted to have sex with him and he couldn't refuse them. And over 16,000 lines Byron settles scores, made some jokes, and it becomes plain that the Don Juan of Lord Byron is just George Gordon in print - a high hedonist committed to living fast, dying young and leaving mere mortals who are neither noble nor poet with the consequences.
(NOTE: I have no idea of the exact count count how many lines of Byron's Don Juan I've read, probably a couple thousand....some probably more than once....eventually I'm sure I'll read the whole thing, but let me get to a few hundred other book-length poems first.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

I H8 that I < 3 George Steiner

Amid all the aspects of George Steiner that wreak of intellectual porn there are elements of a truly original and compelling thinker. This movie/interview about/of him is truly mesmerizing for anybody who cares about cultural history. You don't have to agree with everything he says, I certainly don't. But even when he's wrong, Steiner is a uniquely compelling figure who can be extremely perceptive about culture even as he over-reveres it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Barenboim Enigma

When Barenboim is at his best, he comes across as exactly what he is, the world's most talented performing musician. No conductor, save Furtwangler and maybe Eugen Jochum could make the climax to Bruckner's fifth symphony so exciting. Unfortunately, being the world's greatest musician was never enough for him. Barenboim clearly wants nothing less than to be the Emperor of Classical Music. What amazes is how close he's come to this dream when he so often gives such erratic results. Why would Barenboim want anything more than the Berlin Staatskapelle, the East-West Divan and to give piano recitals? Those alone would be enough to write his page in music history, and it probably be a far more effective way to write it than turning up at La Scala and the Berlin/Vienna Philharmonics every other month. Nothing poisons musicianship like coveting big jobs for which you're not cut out. But this performance, like so much else he does with the underrated Staatskapelle Berlin, is 100x more exciting than anything he did in Chicago.

(ah hell, here's the Furtwangler version of Bruckner 5 from the exact same point. Furtwangler never gave a more exciting performance than this, and perhaps nobody else did either.)

Go the Fuck to Sleep:

Read by Werner Herzog

And Samuel L. Jackson

This is just crying out for a Brahms Lullaby type setting....don't mind if I do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quote of the Day

Ethan: Dad, I don't think there is anyone in the whole country who has stockpiled more Sudafed than you. If anybody saw how much Sudafed you keep around, they'd think you were running a meth lab.

Submitted w/o comment

For The Harris, Il Giovine, Il DeAngelo, Le and La Malon, Le and La Pothier, La Stanton and La Roque

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

Well, I's not like y'all are dead, but I still wish I could see y'all more often :).

Song of the Flea

A king there was once reigning,

Who had a goodly flea,

Him loved he without feigning,

As his own son were he!

His tailor then he summon’d,

The tailor to him goes;

Now measure me the youngster

For jerkin and for hose!

In satin and in velvet

Behold the younker dressed;

Bedizen’d o’er with ribbons,

A cross upon his breast.

Prime minister they made him,

He wore a star of state;

And all his poor relations

Were courtiers, rich and great.

The gentlemen and ladies

At court were sore distressed;

The queen and all her maidens

Were bitten by the pest,

And yet they dared not scratch them,

Or chase the fleas away.

If we are bit, we catch them

And crack them without delay.

...How the hell was Mussorgsky not thrown in jail for this?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Conan's Commencement Address

At Dartmouth.

Watership Down

The Harris has long maintained that this is the most disturbing alleged movie for children in cinema history. After seeing it, I wholeheartedly agree.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The Harris will be landing in Baltimore from Out the Azure Main for a few days, ergo blogging shall become scarcer as Dutch and Al tear up the Mid-Atlantic.

Bartok and Benny Goodman

The last movement of Contrasts, which Benny Goodman commissioned from Bartok. Joseph Szigeti, maybe the greatest violinist of the recorded era, is the violinist to complete the ensemble. What does it say that he's the lightweight?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Some Awesome Dvorak

Just amazing. The greatest performing musician of the 20th century, in peak form, playing the greatest piece ever written for his instrument, at my favorite concert festival (the PROMS at Royal Albert Hall in London) in 1974 right after he was forced to defect from the Soviet Union for defending dissidents. SLAVA!

A Mid-Afternoon Protein Shake

(Evan sits in his office. As Jordan and Ethan look up building listings in Florida, Evan is having his customary mid-afternoon protein shake with Werner Herzog, Stephen Sondheim and Dave Chappelle)

Herzog: You cannot compose music if you are not willing to commit wholeheartedly to the ecstatic truth which displays the only greatness which the little people of the earth will ever see.

Sondheim: Does he always talk this way?

Evan: You have no idea.

Herzog: We are just a small collection of matter and anti-matter, put here by random chance and assembled by greater chance through electro-chemical wiring. We will not understand the greatness of the universe unless it is shown to us by force. You must insist upon it, or retire quietly into dignified silence.

Sondheim: Who cares about the greatness of the universe? Just get it done. If you're any talented, one in every three things you write will be any good, one in five might be great. But you shouldn't worry about quality, just write what you want and get it done.

Herzog: (to Sondheim) You do not understand the workings of the universe.

Sondheim: Clearly.

Herzog: You strive merely to represent the human, you care nothing for creation's grandeur or the greatness of untrammeled human aspiration. You care only for our little concerns, our bills to pay.

Evan: What's wrong with that?

Herzog: If you try to accommodate those problems it will kill your passion for true living. You must cherish all that is unvarnished within you. Only then can you be free to the universe's discoveries.

Chappelle: (whispers to Evan) Who the fuck is this guy?

Evan: He's made some great movies.

Herzog: I do not make movies, the universe makes them. I am but an inadequate vessel for their passage.

Chappelle: Shit man, this guy's fucked up.

Herzog: You of all comedians Mr. Chappelle, should understand that striving. You came up against the elusive poetic truth, and for a brief moment the universe aligned so that you could be the holy vessel through which Black and White humor united. Yet you realized that it could not last, and so you walked away so that you would only be remembered for your finest hour.

Chappelle: I just walked away from all the bullshit.

Herzog: Yes, yes you did. And that was your greatest accomplishment.

Sondheim: I have a real problem with this.

Evan: So do I.

Sondheim: You can't just say that the world has truths to discover. The world is what it is and we won't necessarily be changed by knowing more or less about it.

(in walks V.S.Naipaul)

Naipaul: You called?

Sondheim: Yeah. Just a second. If we're so small, why then do we have to emphasize how small we are against other things? Why can't we just make things by our own scale for the concerns that we little people have?

Naipaul: Because the condition of human beings is contemptible, and if we do not seek to understand something larger within the circumstances of each human being's life, we animals would hurl ourselves into the ocean for our despair at realizing our own hopelessness.

Sondheim: Alright. You're not helping.

Naipaul: That's ok, I just wondered if you had an extra Double A battery.

Sondheim: Oh, here you go. (reaches into Evan's desk, gives Naipaul a battery)

Naipaul: Thanks!

(Exit VS Naipaul)

Evan: But if we're just small beings incapable of greatness, what then is the point of making good art at all?

Chappelle: Fuck man. If I didn't do shit I'd just die of boredom.

Herzog: He has a point. The man has true vision.

Chappelle: Man, I just wanted to show race relations as they really were. Everybody's a little racist, and we know it. But we don't talk about it and that's the worst part of it all.

Evan: I'm not racist.

Chappelle: Sure you are. So am I.

Evan: No, I dislike everybody pretty much equally.

Chappelle: Well Sondheim definitely is. You ever see a black character in one of his musicals?

Sondheim: He's right. I just don't like minorities, poor people and non-New Yorkers. But what about Werner?

Herzog: Yes, I suppose it's true. I really have no interest in non-White characters except to show how oppressed they've been by the madness of white people.

Sondheim: And Evan, don't you find though that people have redeeming qualities that makes them worth the hell they inspire in one another?

Evan: Not often. The world is a dumb, sometimes dangerous, place. There are certain things that make life worth living, but not all of us had the good fortune to grow up next to Oscar Hammerstein and become Stephen Sondheim. So for most of us, great life-redeeming stuff is a little harder to come by.

Sondheim: I'll tell you what. Let's view this as an equation.


Sondheim: We all start at zero, we then have the frustrations that make life not worth it: bills, obbligations, stress, loneliness, misunderstandings, make your own list. So each of them is a -X variable and you have to subtract from zero for however much each of them affect you. We then have the things which make life better: entertainment or art, activity, sports, sex, friendship, occasionally even love. Each of those are a positive X. For most people, there's always enough that the +X will make the -X worth it.

Chappelle: That's the dumbest fucking equation I've ever heard! My three year old daughter could do better!

Sondheim: Be that as it may, that's my view of the human condition.

Herzog: Of course. You realize that your view has no Y-axis, but why would a middlebrow purveyor of mere entertainment ever think of anything more?

Evan: If Sondheim is middlebrow, then there is no high.

Sondheim: No Evan, he's right. I want to make art that everybody understands. I think that's the point of it actually. Whether you're a genius or a simpleton, or if you're refined or unwashed, you should be able to understand my shows. Werner is the first person who gets it.

Werner: Of course, I understand everything human because everything human is so banal. If every human is only capable of happiness or unhappiness, how could they ever strive towards anything greater than human happiness?

Sondheim: Why do we need anything more?

Herzog: Because there is more to the universe than happiness, and if we want a chance for lasting happiness we are compelled to find it. This is why I believe that there are two human conditions which dwarf our human states of emotion. One is the baseness of animal man, who contents himself with fornication and asphyxiation. He is a man unevolved and corrupted by nature, who does not perceive the transcendental within the possibilities of his life. This is the -Y axis.

Chappelle: This is getting too fucking freak-show for me, I'm leaving.

Evan: Don't leave yet.

Herzog: Then there is civilized man. The man who never ceases his quest for the sublime and gives himself over to the cause of redeeming mankind's vulgarity through his quest for greater truths than the commonplace mundanities of your grocery list.

Sondheim: Do you really take this seriously?

Herzog: This is the positive Y axis. And it is the only way which mankind is redeemed from the mundane concerns of his life. What good is happiness against a hundred thousand days of repetition and smallness? How can man ever feel anything but misery in such a state. It is only by refusing to settle for such trivialities that we may grow against our circumstances and feel less small against the gargantuan chains of fate.

Evan: Isn't it possible that you're both right?

(Sondheim and Herzog look at each other)

Both: No!

(Knock at the door. Enter Gustav Mahler.)

Mahler: Evan, I have been listening at the door for twenty minutes. You must know that they are both idiots. Do you not see death's cruel hand following us everywhere? It runs roughshod over our most detailed plans and it is only through death's infinitely loving though spare mercy that we may experience life's joys both profound and mundane. One strives for life, yet life does not strive for you or I or anyone else. Life strives for death. And it is only through death that you shall understand life.

(both Sondheim and Herzog recoil)

Evan: I hate to admit this, but that makes a certain degree of sense. It's just a shame that you apparently have to be a creepy douchebag in order to make sense of life.

Mahler: I do not shield myself from such insults! I strive to experience the full misery of life so that its joys may be so much the greater relief!

Sondheim: God, this guy's unbearable.

Chappelle: I like this guy.

Herzog: How dare you!

Chappelle: This guy gets it. We're here until we fuckin' die, we don't have any choice. So if there's a chance to understand shit, he takes it. If there's a chance for a fuckin' blowjob, he takes that too.

Mahler: Actually, I don't.

Chappelle: Why the fuck not?

Mahler: Sex reminds me too much of death's cruel stink.

Chappelle: Alright, well, you can take it too far. But if he weren't fuckin' batshit insane, he'd totally get it.

Herzog: Scandalous!

Sondheim: Just awful!

(Herzog and Sondheim leave)

Evan: They'll be back.

Chappelle: I'm gonna go too. I'm gonna take this Mahler guy to a girl I know. But keep workin, long as you don't take it too seriously you're gonna write whatever the fuck you want.

Evan: Thanks Dave. Let's hang out again soon.

Mahler (to Chappelle as they walk out the door): Have you ever read Pure Logic by Edmund Husserl?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quote of the Night

Jordan: A few minutes ago I thought to myself how great warm cookie dough would be. Then I realized that that's a cookie.

Evan Tucker's Pyramid of Greatness (Row 10)

Row 10:
If it wasn’t written in English, don’t read it.
Sports: Waste only enough time following it to fake knowledge.
Babies: Adorable poop machines.
Chamber Music: The only music worth playing.
Restaraunts: All the great ones have autographed pictures of celebrities.
Video Games: One day, they’re going to be awesome.
Salad: A great sandwich substitute. Stuff accordingly.
Civilization: The antithesis of fun.
Fun: The world only has a finite amount. You’re having it at a better person's expense.
Gratitude: The only logical way to thank people for the enjoyment they give you is to rejoice in their suffering.

(here's the full pyramid so far)

Row 1:
Low Expectations: Always assume the worst from the world. Be delighted when results exceed expectations.
Row 2:
Israel: The only subject for which your opinion quantifies the brittleness of your soul.
Herring in Wine Sauce: The ultimate aphrodisiac. Consume a jar daily.
Row 3:
Showers: A bar of soap and baby shampoo will suffice. Anything more is bragging.
Music: The only thing in the world as beautiful as herring in wine sauce.
Self-Delusion: The importance of which cannot be overestimated.
Row 4:
Excellence: The most poisonous of all the world’s myths. Always act like it’s attainable.
Irony: Those who are not in on the joke are happier. Think less of them.
Seltzer Water: A healthier addiction than alcoholism.
Hypocrisy: Your ability to take glee in it determines your success in life.
Row 5:
Religion: Pretending there is a god staves off the suspicion of those who would kill you.
Dried Fruit: Should be a felony.
Money: Hoard it in case of your homeland becoming a dictatorship which necessitates bribery.
Bars: Only wood panelling acceptable. If the musak has beats, leave immediately.
Universities: The place where ignorant people learn new ways to be ignorant.
Row 6:
Scotch: Drink it.
Dessert: If you need dessert, you haven’t eaten enough main course.
Nature: A vestige of pre-rational man. Avoid when possible, conquer when necessary.
Great Novels: You have a moral obligation to read them. Skip all boring parts.
Ingredients: Use cheap store knockoffs. Then tell guests you bought it at a farmer’s market.
Women: Backstabbing connivers. Just like men except lacking men's need to glorify dishonesty.
Pastries: If you must eat them, eat three-to-six at a sitting.
Row 7:
Modernism: Nature’s way of determining who likes art.
Physical Fitness: Only partake in enough to avoid early death.
Coffeehouses: The only place worth having conversations which does not involve g-chat.
Coffee: Drink Tea.
White Bread and Mayo on Deli Should be charged as a warcrime.
Long Life: The only contest that matters. (S)He who tells the last story writes history’s verdict.
Stereotyping: Typecast people rigidly. Create new categories when proven wrong.
Row 8:
Suburbs: A place for people who fear life.
Life: There is good reason to fear it.
Sherman Helmsley: The greatest actor who ever lived. No argument.
Physique: Should be cultivated purely for utility, stamina and strength to weight ratio.
Family: The world’s worst institution, except every other.
Failure: Never respect someone who does not daily.
Ivy League Schools: Places for sociopaths to learn how to help us fail daily.
Smiling: It prolongs life. Yet another way we are coerced to think we’re happy.
Row 9:
People: They’re not impressive enough to be intimidating.
Attire: Wear long-sleeve clothing as often as the odor from sweat permits.
Semi-colons; A persecuted punctuation mark. Use whenever possible.
Kindness: Always be polite and solicitous to other people. Then savage them to other people.
Funerals: Just as much fun as weddings.
Newspapers: The only reliable source of information. Particularly when wrong.
Golden Ages: Overrated, always better than now.
Cyclists: Those who do not wear helmets deserve to be run over.
Culture: A word for something too boring to be entertainment.
Row 10:
If it wasn’t written in English, don’t read it.
Sports: Waste only enough time following it to fake knowledge.
Babies: Adorable Poop-Machines.
Chamber Music: The only music worth playing.
Restaraunts: All the great ones have autographed pictures of celebrities.
Video Games: One day, they’re going to be awesome.
Salad: A great sandwich substitute. Stuff accordingly.
Civilization: The antithesis of fun.
Fun: The world only has a finite amount. You’re having it at a better person's expense.
Gratitude: The only logical way to thank people for the enjoyment they give you is to rejoice in their suffering.

At some point there will probably be a Row 11.

There Will Be Duck

h/t Mo'N

Quote of the Night:

Ethan: When it comes to remote controls, Evan is Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shir HaMaalos by Yossele Rosenblatt


Happy Shavuot!

There's no great Shavuot Music which I can think of. So I'm putting up Ernest Bloch's Simchas Torah, since Simchas Torah is practically the same holiday as Shavuot only five months later.

If I Were CEO of Existence

....which I clearly am. And the wrath of my iron fist has been absent far too long.

The Following People Will be Banned for the Following Reasons:

Hitler, Stalin, Mao and anybody else directly responsible or conspiring in the non-self-defending murder of 15 or more people. 14 or less murders would still be permissible for continued existence.

Tom Cruise: Because.

Oliver Stone: For making me sit through JFK, Natural Born Killers, Nixon and W. in anticipation of a glimmer of insight into American History.

Mel Gibson: Actually, I'm lying. I like most movies he's in and he's actually a really good actor.

Any and All Associated with Fox News: See Tom Cruise.

Any and All Associated with Al Jezeera: The Fox News of the Arab World. (In my head I can hear someone chortling that I've just meted out the lowest possible insult).

Any and All Associated with CNN: Or at least whoever's responsible for making the network think that techno-gadget asshattery is more important than actual news.

Noam Chomsky: The linguist can stay, the rest goes. Including his weed.

The Likud Party: As far as parties go, they're distinctly un-fun.

The Conservative Movement and Its Collaborators: Just because I think America would be a nicer place to live without them.

All People Who Think the World is a Better Place for the Existence of Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida or Any Other Thinker who Believes in a System whose Tenets Include a Thought Resembling One that Rational Thought Does Not Exist: ...So why do you think that?

All People Who Believe Liberalism Failed Us: You failed liberalism. Especially now that I'm the Intergalactic Dictator.

People Who Believe Stanley Kubrick Was a Great Director: I have a theory. You hate movies.

People Who Love Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Frank Capra, Tim Burton, Terrance Malick, Jean-Luc Godard, Sergio Leone, David Lean and Sergei Eisenstein: See my theory of Kubrick.

People Who Read n+1 For Anything But the Funny Articles: You're dumb.

People Who Hate Opera: See n+1

People Who Love Opera Too Much: Seriously, you can be pretty irritating at times.

People Who Love The Wire: I was good....but come on.


People Who Don't Hate Enough: You're not human.

People Who Don't Love Enough: See people who don't hate enough.

People Who Aren't Ambivalent Enough: See people who don't love enough.

People Who Say The Simpsons was a Bad Influence on Kids: YOU ARE! (sticks tongue out)

People Who Think Fred Astaire is Old-Fashioned: Oh yeah? Well you're new-fashioned!

People Who Are Overconfident in their Own Opinions: I was getting bored anyway.

Quote of the Early Morning

The Tabak: Have you ever played with the stuff they put inside diapers to absorb pee?
It's awesome
You should buy a pack of super-absorbent diapers
That's a good saturday, right there

...this may be a record quote day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quote of the Night:

Jordan: What lecture did you go into for the Shavuot servuce?

Dad: I went to a lecture on Yehuda Amichai's poetry about King David. The main crux of it was that King David was very human, not like Moses who is always on a pedestal.

Jordan: So......he's more like Anthony Weiner?

Dad: Yes. I'm not sure Anthony Weiner killed Goliath though.

Jordan: Though he did beat something just as important.

Quote of the Afternoon:

The McBee (with regard to showing my british friend around baltimore): if baltimore is good at anything, it's opening up a big can of whup ass on the limeys.

59 Banjoists Play Foggy Mountain Breakdown

the video caption on youtube is: Heaven or Hell?

I'm not sure, but I'm fairly certain I'm being chased by two-hundred hillbillies right now.

addendum - Le Malon's Comment: i love the banjo. i just dont think 50 in one room is necessary

Quote of the Day

Me: I think taking vitamins is a good idea. Look at Bubbie.

Jordan: That's the problem, she took vitamins and got old!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Moldau/The Tree of Life

It's been in my head since seeing The Tree of Life last night. The Tree of Life a frustrating movie which conflates pretentious kitsch with profundity all too easily. But I can't deny that few movies have ever used classical music as well as this movie did. And no scene moreso than when Malick used The Moldau to evoke the innocence of childhood.

ET: Almanac

"Never forget that a movie director is not just a master of imagery and drama, a conductor of actors, music and design. He is a guy who can persuade someone to put up millions on an airy conversation about life, plants, astronomy and philosophy. This is more than magic. It is the nerve that makes us believe in magic when we know it doesn't exist."

- David Thomson

Friday, June 3, 2011

What's Opera Doc with Live Orchestra!!!!!!!!!!

A lifelong dream realized by someone else. I'm both elated and depressed by this.

In Defense of Slow and Boring

I immediately liked this article upon reading it's title. (It's the NYT on movies, so don't click unless you really mean it.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We Are All Hamza

The description here is so horrific that I teared up as I read it. I couldn't possibly bring myself to watch the accompanying video. The inhumanity of autocracy is beyond words. I am not completely sanguine about the prospects of post-revolution life changing in the Middle East, but let's all hope (or pray, if you believe it works) that we all live to see the a day when it does. There are millions of Hamzas throughout the world, and we rarely ever hear their stories. But a personal story like this one affects us all far more than all the statistics we hear. Nine million people, Jews and non-Jews, perished in the German Death Camps, twenty million in the Soviet Gulags. How many hundreds of millions of ghosts have stories to share which just as horrific as Hamza's? This is our world, and all we can do is share their stories so that the slaughtered become people to us rather than numbers.

George Lucas Strikes Back

The Harmonic Functions of Mozart (en francais)

How did I never think of this before?

h/t EC

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Harry Caray on Crackerjacks

He was really mad about this.

Quote of the Day:

Dad: Jeffrey Dahmer was the only person in America whose bologna really had a first name.

Quote of Yesterday:

Der Koosh: Evan, you've modeled your whole life on being Benjamin Disraeli.

Will Ferrell Does Harry Caray

Easily the funniest character Will Ferrell ever played (is there much competition?)