A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Sony Shuffle, Copland's Appalachian Spring & Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
Saturday, March 20, 2010

March, 21, 2010
Dear Diary,

Yesterday I had a wonderful day, I spent most of it either cooking or going shopping for the ingredients of our traditional Saturday evening meal. Rebecca made an excellent fresh strawberry cobbler and Lauren played alone in the garden and later helped her grandmother picking up dead leaves and other stuff she was cutting back. They filled our green refuse bins. Lauren then changed to a pretty blue dress and loosened her hair in prepartion for our guest.

Our dinner guest was John Lekich. After dinner we watched Lillian Gish in the 1920 D.W. Grifith silent film, Way Down East. I could write here what a perfectly delightful time we had even though the film ran for two hours. Lauren, 8, could not read the explaining titles that appeared here and there so she soon became bored. For Rebecca it might have all been strange as in several sections of the film Rebecca does indeed resemble a young Lillian Gish.

But I cannot write more about it as the idea that a blog is an electronic diary is not quite right. The original word blog was a merging of web and log. In Spanish we have the word bitácora which originally meant the daily log contributions of the captain of a ship. Captain Fitzroy’s log aboard the HMS Beagle has been of interest to many who have wanted to read another side of Darwin’s story.

A diary until the advent of the blog was a day book (another name given to personal diaries) was simply a record of a single person’s reactions to the events of the day. These would be positive, negative or they might meander through the doubts of the course of ones immediate life. Some diaries weren’t exactly diaries by strict definition but almost daily letters between two people. One example is the almost daily letters between Galileo and one of his nun daughters, Suor Maria Celeste. Most of the letters from him to her have been lost. So what remains is one history’s most fascinating diary. This diary is deftly compiled, in Italian on one page and in English on the other by author Dava Sobel’s book Letters to Father.

A personal diary never had the problem of potential problems with libel or plagiarism. A personal diary was mostly a person’s reactions to that day’s events.

Blogs have modified what our perception of a diary is. When possible I have tried to keep my blog in the trajectory of the old-fashioned revelations of which some might seem to be much too personal. Some who read my blog are aware that I sleep with three pillows or that I have Venice Bakery scissor buns for breakfast. I have no standard method for readers to interject my blog with comments. I am afraid of cranks out there so I prefer my blog going out there and fizzling out into the ether of cyberspace.

When possible I have avoided rants or blogs that begin, “I read the other day…” or “I read this in the Vancouver Sun and I think the columnist is out to lunch. And this is why I think so.”

For many who study the internet it is plainly evident that the bulk of the blogs and web magazines on the net, not to mention the social networks, all feast (in the shark frenzy sort of way) on the conventional media that the web is supposed to supersede.

This is why I rarely quote such publications (the ones that I read with interest from paid hard copy that comes to my front door every day) But I must quote today from a most timely article by the NY Times’ book reviewer Michiko Kakutani who from one very long and fascinating piece in Sunday’s, March 21, NY Times. I read it the day before as the Sunday papers comes crashing to my front door step on the night before. In this essay Texts Without Context – The Internet Mashes Up Everything You Know About Culture, Kakutani reviews 8 books of which I have read The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. The others are:

1. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields.
2. You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier.
3. The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
4. True Enough: Learning To Live In A Post Facts Society by Farhad Manjoo
5. The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby.
6. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge by Cass R. Sunstein.
7. Going To Extremes: How Like Minds Unite And Divide by Cass R. Sunstein.

I am always reluctant to quote from this conventional media (one that I respect) but today I will make an exception as in one final paragraph Kakutani writes:

He [Jaron Lanier] points out that much of the chatter online today is actually “driven by fan responses to expression that was originally created within the sphere of old media,” Which many digirati mock as old-fashioned and passé, and which is now being destroyed by the internet. “Comments about TV shows, major movies, commercial music releases and video games must be responsible for almost as much bit traffic as porn,” Mr. Lander writes. “There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but since the Web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock.”

My reaction to the media that surrounds me is one that would be no different from that of other bloggers so I try to keep it a minimum, and paradoxically it steers me into the direction of an old-style written diary which is more internal than external.

It was precisely at eleven, on Saturday that I was listening to CBC Radio 2. They were playing Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite (The Atlanta Orchestra Symphony directed by Robert Spano. After the 23.2 minute performance (and I know because I checked the CBC playlist for the day) a young man with a curious French accent (a most pleasant voice) began to reminisce of his life. The program is a new one called This Is My Music and it features hosts who may be famous musicians or in this case it was Alexander Mickelthwate, the musical director of the Winnipeg Symphony. Somehow he talked about pancake breakfasts and it all connected to the next piece in his program (until that point delightful and endearing). It was the Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen’s album, Classic Queen (composer Freddie Mercury).

I can understand that in such a program the host could offer Dmitry Shostakovich’s orchestration for Tea for Two and then perhaps offer Thelonius Monk’s solo rendition of Tea for Two.

In the unprofessional opinion of this old coot blogger the only connection between Aaron Copland and Queen might be the as-yet-undocumented penchant of Copland to emulate British actors like Laurence Olivier to emerge from a closet dressed as a woman.

CBC Radio 1 and 2, (and I will not digress on my distaste for the podcaster man of Radio 3 who shares a name, by sound, with Vivien Leigh’s former husband) are out to prove that we all want to listen to Queen and Copland. Those of us who love Copland will be turned on (so the CBC thinks) by the virtuosity of Queen and vice a versa.

Wonderful afternoon shows on Radio 1 now have middle of the road (and to this Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders fan) mediocre, mainstream guitar strummers with inconsequential voices filling radio space between radio traffic reports (“There has been an accident on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge”) and some excellent reporting and interesting guests.

My car radio has buttons set for CBC Radio 1, 2 and the French CBC Radio Station. I can now punch one after the other and get that guitar strumming music. When this happens (and it happens much more now than ever before) I switch to the CD player where I will be sure not to listen to Queen.

You might wonder why I am illustrating today’s blog with a scan of one of the rarest of my home garden rhododenrons. It is Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium' also called the spider azalea because of the shape of its leaf clumps. The leaves are not quite 2 inches long. When you see it in bloom (it has tiny pink flowers) you would never suspect that this little plant (little in my garden) is a rhododendron.

I am using this plant to illustrate how sometimes I like to listen to music in a linear way. I like the order of music in old LP’s but the advent of CDs made it easy to skip sonic klunkers., I believe I must blame Sony for installing in its early CD players that damned button called shuffle. Shuffle has helped destroy linearity and we now have mashups and an increasing distate for what takes a large chunk of our attention span. I would call it the Classics Illustrationification [my what a complex sounding word!] of our world.

It was Sony’s Shuffle that brought us Copland’s Appalachian Spring followed by Queen.

So, dear diary, to conclude, I want to point out that the fact that I worship to the altar of linearity that does not mean I have to stick to it and I can wander off as I so frequently do here.


Previous Posts
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Yapa, Cholesterol & Blood Sugar

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Lillian Gish - First Lady Of The Silent Screen

A Regal Lauren Surprises The Old Man

Raising The Bar by Lenny Kaye

Shelina The Graceful

From The Heart

The Vancouver Art Gallery & The Boer War

The Pleasures Of Editorial Collaboration

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