Saturday, March 05, 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005

Beethoven in Guantanamo

Norman Lebrecht wonders why people don't listen to classical music any more. He writes:
Why the world has gone off classical concerts is a conundrum in which almost every reasonable assertion is disputable. Take the attention-span thesis. Many in the concert world believe that its decline stems from the public’s flickering tolerance for prolonged concentration. If politicians speak in soundbites, how can we expect voters to sit through a Bruckner symphony?

It is a persuasive argument but one that I have come to find both fatuous and patronising. Around me I see people of all ages who sit gripped through four hours of King Lear, Lord of the Rings or a grand-slam tennis final but who, ten minutes into a classical concert, are squirming in their seats and wondering what crime they had committed to be held captive, silent and legroom-restrained, in such Guantanamo conditions.

Price isn't a factor either, writes Lebrecht. So what keeps the crowds away? The atmosphere. Read the full piece.

(Link via Arts & Letters Daily.)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The strange little boy

Dennis Overbye writes in the New York Times:
He didn't look like much at first. He was too fat and his head was so big his mother feared it was misshapen or damaged. He didn't speak until he was well past 2, and even then with a strange echolalia that reinforced his parents' fears. He threw a small bowling ball at his little sister and chased his first violin teacher from the house by throwing a chair at her.

That's the first Einstein, of course. Overbye's article is about the search for the next one.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The late flower on the shrub

Louis Menand writes in the New Yorker:
“To live outside the law, you must be honest.” [Hunter] Thompson, like a lot of people in the sixties and seventies, interpreted Dylan’s famous apothegm to mean that in order to be honest you must live outside the law. By the time the fallacy in this reading became obvious, his persona, thanks in part to the Uncle Duke figure in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, but largely because of his own efforts, was engraved in pop-culture stone. It’s an occupational hazard: if you construct a career raging against the system, you can’t stop raging just because the system has accepted you, or has ceased to care or to pay attention. The anger needs someplace to go. At its best, in the Nixon era, Thompson’s anger, in writing, was a beautiful thing, fearless and funny and, after all, not wrong about the shabbiness and hypocrisy of American officialdom. It belonged to a time when journalists believed that fearlessness and humor and honesty could make a difference; and it’s sad to be reminded that the time in which such a faith was possible has probably passed.

Read the full thing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Libertarians, statists, terrorists

Neal Stephenson says in an interview with Mike Godwin:
Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I’m afraid might turn out to be quite stable.

Stephenson, the writer of novels such as Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle, is one of the most exhilarating modern novelists, and one of the most unusual as well. Read the interview; then read the books.