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mendelssohn In case you were not aware, this month is the bicentennial of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn.  (His actual birthday was February 3.)

While I’m not sure that I would pull out my bag o’ superlatives to describe Mendelssohn’s musick, I am still nonetheless fond of some of it.  I also hold Mendelssohn in considerable esteem for the work he did to reignite interest in the musick of J.S. Bach.  I further like him because he bucks the Romantic Artiste stereotype by having been happy, prosperous and popular.

At any rate, in celebration of this anniversary, the local classickal radio station has been going heavy on the Mendelssohn playlist all month.  Among the orchestral pieces, they seem especially to be favoring his Symphony No. 3 in A minor, known as the “Scottish” Symphony.

I don’t mind this bias in the least because if put to it I would have to say that the “Scottish” is my favorite of all his symphonies.  Conversely, when I was a yoot I used to be a big fan of his “Italian” Symphony – No. 4 in A Major.  Now I really can’t stand it.

On occassion I attempt (rayther feebly) to play some of Mendelssohn’s keyboard works.  In particular I enjoy his Rondo Cappriccioso.    There is also a little A minor (I think) scherzo that I like to mess with which makes a cameo in, of all things, The Wizard of Oz.  (It accompanies the bit where Toto is getting away from the Witch’s castle.)

edgar-muller-chasm Whoa.  The Telegraph is running a series of photos of the 3-D street art of one Edgar Müller.

This technique apparently is known as anamorphism, which the online dictionary defines as “a distorted projection or perspective; especially an image distorted in such a way that it becomes visible only when viewed in a special manner.”   I have to admit that just looking at the photo makes me a bit nervous on behalf of the painter.

According to the Telegraph slide show, the technique has been known since the Middle Ages and has been used by numerous famous painters including Michaelangelo and Da Vinci.

Truth is that this reminds me most of the old gag in the Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons where the Coyote would paint a simulated road tunnel on a cliff face.  Of course, the Roadrunner would blaze right through it, and of course, when the Coyote tried to follow him, he’d smash up against the hard rock.  Seconds later, as he lay in agony, a bus or truch would come flying out of the “tunnel” and mess him up even further.

(And to those who would say that I am a mere Philistine for allowing Art to remind me of cartoons, I would reply that no, I am a student of the way in which the best cartoons borrow concepts straight out of Art.)

(Like the festive fonts? No yellow, I’m afraid, because you can’t see it on the white background.)

I really don’t have any Fat Tuesday plans this year.  I may or may not get away from work early enough to drop in on the tail end of the pancake supper being cooked by the eldest gel and her youth group friends for parishioners over at RFEC, but aside from that I suppose I’ve simply got too old to whoop it up before the onset of Lent.

Every year, I recall to myself what happened my first year of law school.  A classmate of mine, who hailed from Noo Awlins, invited a bunch of people over for some home-made jambalaya.  Even now, all these years later, my mouth starts to burn in memory of teh hot that I put into it that evening.  Dayum, it was gooood, though!  Later, a group of us went down to the then-only bar in the entire town of Metro-Lex, Virginny.  There, we got the bartender to concoct a drink we called the “Generals’ Crewe”, a layering of purple, yellow and green liquors, the actual names of which I can no longer recall. I also cannot recall how many I had, but I do remember that the final bill was stupendous.

The whole evening I had a nagging feeling that, instead of being out partying, I really should have stayed in swotting up my Crim Pro reading for the next morning.  Roger Groot, the professor (now, sadly, deceased) who taught the course and was known as the “Groot Monster”, was a big, tough, ex-Marine Corp JAG country boy who did not suffer fools or layabouts gladly.  He was famous for singling out one or two students per class session and making their lives pure hell, and being called on by him hung like the Sword of Damocles over all of us.  For some reason, I got it into my head that evening that I was going to get nailed the next morning.  And damme if I didn’t.  (I suppose in retrospect that he was actually rayther lenient on me, since all he did when I failed to answer adequately was to give me a look and move on to someone else.  Those who really angered him were often subjected to shotgun-like personal critiques.)

The other Mardi Gras memory I have is of being in Mobile, Alabama on Ash Wednesday the year after Katrina hit Noo Orleans.  Mobileans are very tetchy on the subject of Mardi Gras celebrations, claiming that they started having them first, but that the folks from Louisiana pinched their idea and exploited it.  Because of the hurricane damage that year, however, Mobile was able to snag a lot of people who would otherwise have gone to New Orleans.

Wandering around downtown Mobile the morning after, I was simply dumbstruck by the aftermath.  It was utterly disgusting and the only thing that kept the stench from knocking me flat was the fact that there was a keen northwesterly wind whipping through.

I’d like to do more by way of celebration next year, I think.  Perhaps the weekend before we should join in on the tradition of baking King Cakes.  It looks both fun and tasty.

I just finished reading Malcolm Bradbury’s Eating People Is Wrong, a satiric treatment of academic liberalism set on a provincial Brit campus in the 50’s.

Because it is that kind of book, EPIW is compared inevitably to Kinsley Amis’ Lucky Jim.  And because of their similarities, I found myself doing more or less the same thing as I read along.  In the end, although I believe Amis was a superior writer in terms of use of language, I think I preferred Bradbury’s take.  Despite all the glowing reviews I had heard in the past, I found Lucky Jim to be rayther, well, dull when I finally came to read it a few months back.  Mom reports that when it first came out, what propelled its popularity was its shock value.  Given the times in which we live, what caused people to gasp fifty odd years ago simply invokes a shrug and a yawn now (at least from me). On the other hand, Bradbury’s theme of the bewilderment of fuzzy-headed professors and students in the face of Reality is much more enduring.

All of this put me in mind of the question of what an academic satire would or should look like these days.  Of course I’ve read Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, but frankly, I think it wasn’t one of his best novels, the sledgehammer being employed too often in the place of the scalpel.   Also, its main focus was on the students, not so much the professors.  On the other hand, Modern Academia is such a parody of itself that I’m not sure whether an author could come up with anything to top it.


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February 2009