You are currently browsing the daily archive for October 9, 2008.

Our New Overlords?

In the (UK) Times, Caitlin Moran defends, no enthuses about Disney’s High School Musical and its progeny:

[O]ne of the most cheering aspects of High School Musical – and 2008’s other Disney musical, the extremely similar Camp Rock – is just how much emphasis is put on inclusivity and tolerance. The interesting, quirky, creative outsiders always triumph. The fat kids can really bust a move. Grown-ups, and people who live outside Idaho, will form almost immediate conclusions about the future sexual predilections of Ryan – a demon dancer, habitually clad in pink trousers. Viewers under 10, however, will grow up fully accepting that some boys, when asked to play baseball, will just want to dance around the pitch wearing a pink trilby instead.

And anyway, my misty fondness for subversively tolerant light entertainment aside (see also Doctor Who), the films are genuinely pleasurable. I have downloaded many of their upbeat yet yearning power ballads on to my iPod, to listen to even when the children aren’t around. I have had guiltily impassioned conversations with other parents about how the films’ star, Zac Efron – a man with a name that sounds like a newly discovered particle at CERN – is a gigantic talent. I think about his future career a great deal. I want to see him in a remake of Grease. I want to see him in a series of increasingly dark musicals that highlight his peerless ability to look confused, stupid and incredibly handsome. I want to see him singing Hakuna Matata from The Lion King, naked; but that’s by the by.

So yes. This may well be a High School Musical world – but you have nothing to fear from it. Be happy for your children. Buying them tickets to see High School Musical 3 is just another part of responsible parenting – like putting them in Clark’s school shoes, or giving them Heinz beans.

The only way I can explain this positiveness (which is also reflected in the comments) is that Der Maus must have inserted some kind of subliminal coding into the films to turn parents.

As you might imagine, my girls have the whole shebang of HSM stuff, up to and including a Wii sing-along game. (I, myself, have never actually sat through any of the movies.) When they’re plugged in and playingit down in the basement, it sounds from upstairs like the wailing of banshees.

I actually don’t recall that I’ve ever heard of this expression but I gather it’s something along the same lines as “f*ck-buddy”.

There are times in every woman’s life where her body wants either what her heart can’t handle or her brain knows better.

Men are seemingly born knowing how to detract emotions from sex, but women can have a harder time of it.

You know the drill — you want a man, but not a relationship. Or, more to the point, you want some loving, but don’t want the strings attached.

Maybe you’re wildly attracted to a dude physically, but find him mentally or morally lacking — like a tanning technician or a bounty hunter.

There’s no way you’d ever date him, but why should you deny yourself entirely?

Answer: Not a reason in the world.

Apparently, it’s enough of a social phenomenon that CNN feels compelled to offer some “helpful hints” as to the “proper” etiquette involved:

• Language: Yes, it helps if he speaks a foreign language you don’t understand, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Pronouns like us or we are to be avoided like an open sore and all talk of plans further into the future than an hour or two away is verboten.

• Meals: Acceptable FWB dining situations include shared bowls of cocktail peanuts, late-night grilled cheese sandwiches, and fancy desserts. Meals to be avoided are breakfast, brunch, dinner, with a special get-out-of-jail free card for lunch.

• Conversation: Questions any more probing than “what are you wearing?” and “when can we meet?” can get a little sticky. Your FWB doesn’t want to hear about your crazy mom and you really don’t want him to start yapping about his Ayn Rand fixation. Keep it light, keep it moving.

• Socializing: He doesn’t meet your friends, you don’t meet his. That goes double for family members. The best thing about having a FWB is that he’s your dirty little secret.

Talk about your 55 gallon drum of industrial-strength pathos. Who on earth can actually live this way other than somebody whose mental and emotional development stopped at about the age of 17? Perhaps I’ve been under my rock too long, but this sort of thing absolutely boggles my mind.

I suppose it’s really none of my business, but I have a very, very hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of people who call themselves Jewish atheists or purely “cultural” Jews, especially those who observe Yom Kippur (which, as I understand it, is day of atonement for sins against God, not against fellow men).  It strikes me that one has to jump through an awful lot of, shall we say, tortuous hoops of faith, logic and history in order to arrive at a position like that.

Just saying.

Last evening I watched The Madness of King George.  For some reason, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I usually do.  Although as usual I wallowed in the absolutely fantastic cast, and as usual I think the story was more or less correct (albeit over-simplified, and I think the loss of the Colonies is made to great a factor in the explanation for poor George’s condition), there was about it just a little too much republican cynicism about the whole concept of the Crown for my sensibilities this time around.

Anyhoo, I post about TMoKG mostly as an excuse to put up one of my favorite political cartoons of the time, James Gillray’s Weird-Sisters; Ministers of Darkness; Minions of the Moon, published December 23, 1791.  It is a parody of a famous painting by Fuseli of the witches’ scene from Macbeth and features Treasury Secretary Billy Pitt, flanked by Cabinet Members Henry Dundas and Edward Thurlow, deep in thought as they contemplate the sleeping profile of George III in his “lunacy”, protected by the crescent form of Queen Charlotte.  Of course, Pitt and his friends are worried about the fall-out should a Regency be instated: the Prince Regent (later George IV) would at once boot Pitt out and bring in that Jacobin dog Charles James Fox to run HM Government and then God alone knows what would happen.  Enough to make anyone worry, and not just the fellah being shown the door of No. 10 Downing Street, either.

Fortunately, George III was able to hold on to his marbles sufficiently long to allow Pitt’s Tories to cement their hold on power, to allow the wilder-eyed brand of radicalism to be thoroughly discredited by the Reign of Terror and the rise of Napoleon, and to allow the Prince Regent to grow up at least a little bit before taking control.

My Quote-of-the-Day email guy notes the 173rd anniversary of the birth of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns with a tribute I consider to be filch-worthy:

I produce music as naturally as an apple tree produces apples.

– Camille Saint-Saëns (widely attributed)

What gives Sebastian Bach and Mozart a place apart is that these two great expressive composers never sacrificed form to expression. As high as their expression may soar, their musical form remains supreme and all-sufficient.

– Saint-Saëns (from a letter to Camille Belligire, 1907)

He who does not prefer a folk tune of a lovely character, or a Gregorian chant without any accompaniment, to a series of dissonant and pretentious chords does not love music.

– Saint-Saëns (Ecole buissonnire)

Saint-Saëns has, I suppose, written as much music as any composer ever did; he has certainly written more rubbish than any one I can think of. It is the worst, most rubbishy kind of rubbish.

– J. F. Runciman (Saturday Review, London, 19 February 1898)

Today is the 173rd anniversary of the birth in Paris of French composer (Charles) Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). Described as both “the least of the greatest composers and the greatest of the lesser composers,” Saint-Saëns was born only seven years after the death of Beethoven and lived to meet Aaron Copeland (1900-1990) in Paris while the latter was a young student of Nadia Boulanger.* Saint-Saëns was likely the most illustrious French composer of the latter half of the 19th century and was certainly a card-carrying”academician” within the Parisian musical establishment. He served a typical apprenticeship as titulaire organist of Paris’s church of the Madeleine for 20 years, although today, all but a few of his organ works are largely ignored. In 1913, totally enraged by what he had heard in only the opening bars, he stalked out of the first performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, now recognized as perhaps THE seminal orchestral work of the 20th century. And during World War One, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) noted in a letter,

“Saint-Saëns has informed a delighted public that since the war began, he has composed music for the stage, melodies, an elegy, and a piece for the trombone. If he’d been making shell-cases instead, it might have been all the better for music.”

BUT… except for Bolero, how much of the music of Ravel – surely a “better” composer – has been so beloved by the musical public as Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, the “Organ” Symphony (No. 3), and several of his delightful piano concertos?

Having spent much of the twilight of his life in France’s principal North African colony, Camille Saint-Saëns died in Algiers in 1921.

* N.B. This is among the most surprising factoids I’ve unearthed in well over a decade of promulgating the QOTD. We’re talking here of the composer of Rodeo and Appalachian Spring.

A couple of thoughts of my own:

First, I grow more fond of Saint-Saen’s musick as I get older. I happen to think “greatest of the lesser composers” is an apt tag, but I still enjoy his work nonetheless. In fact, I heard some of his Church musick at Mass recently. Nothing stellar, but perfectly sober and somber for the occasion. QOTD Guy notes that Saint-Saens lived in North Africa the last part of his life. He also became quite interested in the local musick and incorporated a lot of it into his own work. I particularly enjoy his “Africa” Fantasy for piano and orchestra, being as I am a sucker for musick evocative of Turks, Tatars, Arabs and Moors.

Second, apart from the famous stalking out on Stravinsky, I believe Saint-Saens had some snotty things to say about the musick of both Ravel and Debussy. I’ve always smiled at that. Perhaps I reveal my hopelessly bourgeois side, but I’d take the musick of Saint-Saen (and his contemporary Dvorak) over that crew any day. In my humble opinion, musick as “art” took a serious nosedive in the early 20th Century from which it has never really recovered. Conservatives such as Saint-Saen were perfectly justified in bewailing this. (Oh, and as for the Bolero, it is complete humbug.)

The critic Runciman quoted above was, I believe, thoroughly in the tank for the avant-garde crowd. If memory serves, he also had ugly things to say about both Dvorak and Brahms.

Oh, and with respect to Saint-Saen’s remarkable linkage with the worlds of Beethoven and Copeland, I can continue that link because Copeland came to a reception at our house once when I was a boy.


Blog Stats

  • 474,282 hits
October 2008