Blogs are for Old People

February 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm (By Tim) (, , , )

This topic came up the other day on Facebook. Annie posted this, and in the run of comments, I said something like the following (edited):

Blogs have become a thing of the past for several reasons. I was made aware of one last year. I teach at a choir school, and I mentioned to the kids that I was thinking of starting a Music Appreciation blog for the school. My class broke out laughing and said in unison, “a BLOG?” launching into what sounded like a version of the “Internet Commenter Funeral” before I shut them up. One of them could even quote verbatim a blog insult he thought we both might know. At least I THINK he was. I shushed him up too quickly to have heard enough to confirm my worst suspicion. Anyway, that’s the image middle-schoolers (and my own high-school-age sons) have of blogs: Places where idiot adults go to insult one another. As one of my sons said, “Daaad, everybody hangs out on Facebook with their friends. If you really feel the need to discuss issues of the day with people you’d probably edge away from if you saw them in a crowd, there always are forums. Blogs are for old people.”

Annie then came back with two typically perceptive updates:

Young people always have to differentiate themselves from “old people,” but we always come crawling after them. Now that we too have infested Facebook, where will they go next?

The other thing about blogs is that that ecosystem has reached climax forest stage, where the big trees (such as Althouse, and you can name others) get the light before it can reach the forest floor, and seedlings languish and die unless they can get birds (tweet tweet) to carry them to new, open space.

But the thing that really got my attention was this link (via Tom Strong), wherein Josh Miller (who is,  from what I can tell, a fairly recent Princeton grad) reports on his tenth-grade sister, home in California:

View at

Something from it:

For me, Twitter is predominantly a link discovery service — admittedly, that is a simplified view, but it’s helpful for these purposes — so I followed-up on her Twitter comments by asking where she discovers links. “What do you mean?” She couldn’t even understand what I was asking. I rephrased the question: “What links do you read? What sites do they come from? What blogs?”

“I don’t read links. I don’t read blogs. I don’t know. You mean like funny videos on Facebook? Sometimes people post funny links there. But I’m not really interested in anything yet, like you are.”
She didn’t know what BuzzFeed was, and doesn’t visit fashion blogs! (Of course, the older brother thinks that would be a given.) I was floored.

Now, despite being a bona fide old person, I have a tenth-grade son, and I can categorically say he does not have the same tastes as Josh Miller’s sister. He’s an East Coast kid, and his own bona fides are as a prep school student. His internet time is limited by his need to get the grades to get a scholarship to one of the Ivies, or maybe NYU, if the musical theater thing works out for him. But he does have at least a little time to look at funny videos, link them occasionally, and be interested in things. Josh Miller’s sister is distinctly a Santa Monica kid and a flat-affect hipster by my son’s more earnest St. Grottlesex standards. Nevertheless, their online lives are similar enough to point to a future that does not resemble the past of us Old People, even those of us tech savvy enough to have spent too much of it on the internet looking for something it could not deliver. Seems the internet and the neurons of 16-year-olds are finally moving toward a future they were both meant for.

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The Universal History of Everything (musical)

February 23, 2013 at 4:19 am (By Tim) (, )

I’ve been resurrecting old blog posts, finding old media, checking old links, and generally getting ready to start a new music appreciation blog for the Choir School. But what turns up on Facebook, linked by an old acquaintance who’s the Music Program Director of our local public schools?

ESTE (This): La introducción perfecta (en español—pero, si usted no entiende español, ¿qué entiende usted?)

I realize this isn’t the “universal history of music,” but only one view of European-derived music. But that’s fine. It’s from my culture, and very likely the culture of most people who read this. I’m not at all ashamed it doesn’t include Chinese, Persian, or Indian music, not to mention all the other great kinds of music people have dreamt up in every corner of the globe since humans first showed up.

No, I’m not ashamed one little bit.

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February 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm (By Ron)

Where I am (ahem) has already turned up a number of amusing yarns, some of which I have relayed to Amba, and now give to you all…

The Food:  

The Menu sign said “Meaty meaty hamburger” which turned out to be an ice cream scoop worth of fried hamburger and onions.

When I noticed the sign said “Fresh Veggies” and when I got to the front of the line and noticed the pale and misshapen things (note to cooks:  “Pastel” is normally not a good palette choice  for vegetables) and said “Fresh Veggies?”, I was told that he “freshly opened a can and freshly dumped them in the steam table.”

The cookies may be used as grinding wheels on gemstones.

Potatoes aren’t normally grey, right?  I’m forgetting already…

You wouldn’t think they could screw up salad (salad!), but yes, they do.

They have yet to come up with a ‘fruit punch’ they didn’t evoke both brake fluid and DDT.  A clever way to get you to like water… if that didn’t taste like aluminum.

When they had something that I actually liked (raspberry pie) I went to praise the cooks and got an apology(!) that it wasn’t from their usual supplier!  Please fail more often!

There is a person whom I shall call ‘Save The Earth Sue’ who castigates us all for eating so high on the food chain.  She is convinced that the Friendly Hippies who make the meals are a kind of gastronomic Wannsee Conference and the side dish of mashed (grey) potatoes and gravy(!!!) we enjoyed meant that we were all, in her words, ‘demons’, which led someone to yell that ‘Even demons must like comfort food.’

Such friendly folks:  Someone was rolling joints in the mens room, when someone else washed their hands and turned on the air dryer which led to weed flying around the john.  This led the joint roller to scramble to pick up same and test it by sniffing(!) This led to a mishap where he complained that he got some ‘shitball stuck in my nose.’

There is someone who is a very bright person, with a Phd in English Lit  who has promptly drank his $750,000 inheritance, and pick up smoking to ‘choose to die as slowly as possible.’  He was quite happy to find out last week he has thyroid cancer.  His mostly commonly used nickname? ‘Whiskey Face.’  Think about that one!

More later…

Yow, KngFish adds new stuff, pt.1: 

We had some actors come in to show us how learning charades could help us find work….Brilliant, or not?  (“First word, type of Japanese drama”  “Second word, first letter, ‘after L and before N'”  “Rest of Second word, bees make it”)

We were also offered a chance to see an all gay male version of Taming of the Shrew to which the Local ACT-TORE and Lover of the THE-A-TRE said, “Oh God, the Liz of their Liz and Dick has a dick!” To which I replied “and not a Burton…just a dick.”  How this helps us find work…..I have no idea!

A local church group, who helped me pack up stuff is still interested in my situation and offers help.  For what at the moment?  I’m unsure.  I guess I need gym clothes soon!  Never thought the Old Fat Man would say that!

My car is still out in the weeds somewhere….but no longer parked behind my house.

What tha?!?  Still typing?  Yup…

Whiskeyface is not doing well….off to the ER!  Status as yet unknown.

Lunch was ‘Hamburger with bun’, Dinner was ‘Italian Hamburger’ with red and green chunks of peppers?  Play-Doh?  in it.

Just to amuse you I promise pics of the mighty KngFish in the gym when I can…I know!  I think it’s hilarious too!  Well, that’s life for ya!


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As Time Goes By the Syntonic Comma

February 17, 2013 at 1:30 am (By Tim) (, , )

Intended as bon-bons, I’m afraid my relentlessly didactic musical nougats have not been as popular as I hoped. But unwilling to abandon a niche taste for classical music, I thought I might tempt you with a belated Valentine’s Day sweet:  Chiara Massini, my favorite harpsichordist, in a little video montage, accompanied by her playing “As Time Goes By” on a slightly out-of-tune harpsichord.

In my world, a kiss is still just a kiss. But afterwards, I’ll tell you how the harpsichord is tuned. It sounds like Valotti temperament, one of several common unequal tunings used in the late 17th and 18th centuries, gone off a little bit like Sam’s piano. It’s similar to Bach’s well-tempered system, but maybe a tad smoother. If you listen carefully, you can hear how some chords and maybe a note or two sound a little more out-of-tune than others. Ah, romance!

Even the best harpsichord goes out-of-tune after an hour or two of playing. They need constant tuning. It’s the nature of the beast. If you want something lightly-built and resonant to respond to the plucking of strings, instead of them being smacked around, as on a piano, the light and resonant will not stay in tune as well as the heavy and iron-framed.

So, the first thing you need to do if you want to learn to play the harpsichord is to learn to tune it. You will be doing that every day. Antique temperaments, in addition to the piquancy they lend to old music, are actually a lot easier to tune than piano-style equal temperament. This allows Ms. Massini to smile at us from the keyboard after less than 20 minutes of twanging strings, instead of the hour it would take the usual suspects to tune equal temperament. But there are no kisses to be found anywhere on an equally-tuned keyboard. There aren’t any smacks in the face, either, but, as everyone knows, those tend to go with kisses—except, of course, on the piano, which manages to combine smacking around with a firm rule against smooching in the Tuning Department. It’s also time to abandon this metaphor for growing inconsistent, stale, and excessively kinky.

And, frankly, I’d rather spend the 40 minutes flirting with Ms. Massini while she played, sad as I might otherwise be we never had Paris.

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Is it Slippy, Drippy or Nippy?

February 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm (By Tim) (, , )

When my eyes haven’t been tearing from this miserable flu, I’ve been reading Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The title of this post is from the contemporary English parody names for the current months of the French Revolutionary Calendar. I’m not sure which one we’re in right now, but, everything considered, they’ll do. Burke mostly wrote his Reflections in 1790, two years before Year I and all the fun with new months.

Burke has a reputation as a fine writer, especially among those who haven’t read him. Those who do frequently discover everything has the color of a well-considered, adamant speech in Parilament, intent on elegantly demolishing opponents in lengthy detail. No wonder Johnson considered him the most formidable man he knew. But looking at his page, I’d rather hear the speech. The 18th century needn’t have been that long-winded. Addison, for instance, knew how to end a sentence, as well as to make a withering argument the most polite, humane thing you’re ever read.

In any case, considering England during the Regency, and having the musical bent I do, I couldn’t help but remember Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), the “English Mozart.” Samuel Wesley was John Wesley’s nephew, and the son of the Anglican clergyman and hymn-writer Charles Wesley. There were so many clergymen among the remarkable Wesleys, it is not easy to sort them out. The main thing, I suppose, is that John Wesley (1703-1791) was the most remarkable of the bunch, founding Methodism and living the long life he did.

Young Samuel showed great musical talent, composing prodigiously from age 15 until 21, when he got a knock on the head from which he never quite recovered. He did, however, write a small number of very good pieces after that, the Symphony in Bb Major (1802) among them.

Wesley converted to Roman Catholicism in 1784, rather like Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian (aka “John” after his move to England). Unlike Bach’s son, who was far too trendy for Dad’s old, wiggy stuff, Wesley was a proponent of the music of J.S. Bach. Among other efforts, he introduced the young Mendelssohn to it.

Bach’s influence is obvious in the fugal texture of this beautiful and sober 1st movement from the Symphony in Bb. So are other influences from the “Classical” world of Haydn and Mozart, plus a great deal of originality. It is one of the minor tragedies in the history of music that Samuel Wesley found his faculties impaired at such a young age, and we never got what we should from such a talent.

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I’m Against It

February 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm (By Tim) (, , )

I apologize for importuning you lately with my odd musical tastes. This has been done to make trials here of materials for a Music Appreciation blog for the school where I teach. Knowing that politics trumps polyphony, and that several of you have been disturbed over the years by my seeming to be a wussy Northeast liberal, I thought I’d try my hand at something purely political.

As I say, people frequently take offense when they discover I am not strong in party-feeling or love of faction. I tell such persons, if they must know which side I adhere to, they ought consult Addison:

The Spectator.
No. 117. Saturday, July 14, 1711.

… Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt.

There are some Opinions in which a Man should stand Neuter, without engaging his Assent to one side or the other. Such a hovering Faith as this, which refuses to settle upon any Determination, is absolutely necessary to a Mind that is careful to avoid Errors and Prepossessions. When the Arguments press equally on both sides in Matters that are indifferent to us, the safest Method is to give up our selves to neither.

This principle lies close to the foundation of my opinions. Further, Marx gives stronger standards for the practical conduct of life in the modern world that I have adopted as my own:

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Open Thread, 2013.02.11 Edition

February 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm (Icepick) ()

In which one can discuss Chris Dorner, healthcare laws, football and all the other mental effluvia that people acquire.

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Singing In A Blizzard

February 8, 2013 at 11:20 am (By Tim) (, , , )

If you’re in New York, and want to hear some beautiful singing to cheer yourself despite the weather this weekend, you could do worse than go listen to the boys of St. Paul’s Choir School from Cambridge Mass. They will be riding out the blizzard in what we hope will be a less snowy Big Apple. Here is the schedule:

• Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola at 5:30 on Saturday 9th.
• Mass at 12:00 and concert at 1:30 at St. Catherine of Sienna on Sunday 10th.
• A (short) concert at 4:00 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday 11th.

My son is a graduate of the School, and I teach recorder there. It’s the only boys’ Catholic choir school in the U.S., and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. Having been around the School for seven years now, I’m still thrilled every day to hear these boys sing. They’re conducted by John Robinson, the young and very able new Music Director, who came to “our” Cambridge from Canterbury Cathedral in the U.K. three years ago.

And here is a sample of the Choir chanting the Introit, Si Iniquitates. They, of course, do a wide variety of other music. If you’re Catholic and appreciate this, please don’t be jealous when I tell you the Choir chants a Latin Introit for the 11:00 Mass at St. Paul’s every appropriate Sunday during the school year.

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1672: Sonatae tam aris, quam aulis servientes.

February 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm (By Tim)

As someone who is perpetually offended the current date doesn’t include the year, “16–,” I thought I’d share something from that grand siècle, albeit from the other side of the Rhine—all the way to Salzburg, Austria, in fact—from one of my favorite composers, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. Pronounced the same as, but no relation to, Justin, they each in their own way sprout too much hair. Our Biber was Mozart’s predecessor by 100 years at the Archiepiscopal court of Salzburg.

The musical world changed a lot from the highly symbolic, rhetorical language of Biber, always ready to proclaim a metaphysical truth with wood and catgut and hand-beaten brass, to the smooth blandishments of Mozart’s Enlightenment, slightly embarrassed by devotion to the Rosary and tuning systems that spoke of Original Sin.

The performance here is on wood, catgut and beaten brass—on instruments of Biber’s day. No valves need apply to this trumpet-playing, only the notes Nature put into 8 feet of hand-rolled brass tube. No chin rests or metal-wound strings for the fiddles, either—woven, Catline strings and bows that curve out are the noisemakers. All this helps a musician feel God’s presence in the plain materials that sprang, with some human art, from their native soil of Europe. You needn’t devote yourself to the Vedas and move to the banks of the Ganges to become spiritual. Something like that has always been possible, even in unfashionable places where people in periwigs wrote music for the Archbishop’s trumpeters to play.

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