Monday, January 28, 2013


EFT, that is, Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as "tapping".

... is a simple method of changing things in your life. The great thing about the annual Tapping World Summit, now in its fifth year,  is that you can get so much detail about the method and its applications for free, so long as you sign up for the event when it happens, - two presentations per day for a week or so. And, in 2013, that time is now.

Here's where to go:



Thursday, January 24, 2013

the history of popular music

In 2013, Donald Clarke is the author of an agreeable and sharp-sighted blog.

In 1995, before the Internet existed, he published The Rise and Fall of Popular Music, a history of (almost exclusively) American and British popular music. (It was not his first book, he had also written a comprehensive Encyclopaedia, a biography of Billie Holiday, etc.) Clarke's formative years were the 1950s. He's basically a jazz fan, from  its earliest days right through to Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, but also with an I-was-there appreciation of the early innocence of rock'n'roll, a warm appreciation for soul and country and folk musics, a comparatively critical attitude to rock, a waning interest in funk and electronic dance music, a contempt for punk and indie and grunge, a positive distaste for house and rap. He seems to know more of classical music (including modern classical music) than he needs to talk about in this book. His values are with musicians who can play instruments, with sound engineers who make good recordings of musicians playing. He writes very well on Muzak, music business corruption and incompetence. A good case can still be made for the essential justice of his polemical chapter about the 70s and 80s, titled "The Heat Death of Pop Music". I can see this even though (because I'm a little younger than him) most of the pop music that mattered to me would be classed by him as falling within the era of decadence and decay. (As a guide to rock, Clarke's book is perfectly useless. He so rarely says anything a rock fan would agree with that when he does - Velvets, Stones - it looks like a mistake.)

Because so much of the essence of pop music takes place in the now (whichever now it was) I don't know if anyone can really write its definitive history; you must be inward, be there, be a fan, or you have nothing to write about. But then a subsequent waning of engagement seems almost an inevitable consequence of past fervour. Soon enough, there is still music you like but it is not often popular; it is dispersed, marginalized, niche, it comes from all eras and from contexts whose cultural moment is forgotten, one's conception of music becomes detached from the now, it flaps its wings and starts to rise out of our small lives and to hover vaguely in the empyrean.

It certainly is remarkable that in the marketing of modern pop music nothing is more ashamedly concealed than the involvement of musicians. Only nerds can play instruments; and only nerds bother to find out who plays the instruments on a piece of modern pop. Clarke traces the origins of this to the musician's union troubles of the 1940s - this made the once-lowly vocalist (considered a non-musician and hence non-unionized) attractive to promoters. It killed the era of big bands, and established names like Crosby and Sinatra.

Even in 500 pages plus, there is so much material that no artist can receive more than a couple of pages' attention. Clarke draws us gently away from the illusion that any specific song or album or even artist is of seminal cultural importance. From the height of this Olympian overview, only movements and scenes are really big enough to register. The most that a piece of popular music can aspire to be, we learn is just "good music"; intelligent, well played, well recorded. Hyperbole is absent; rhapsody almost is.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Plays of Euripides

Euripides (484? 480? BCE – 406 BCE)


I realised after I'd been working on this for a while that I don't have much to say, nothing startlingly original, about Euripides' plays. That's not really a surprise, since I've never played with blackened shreds of papyrus, don't know any Greek and have never even seen a performance of a Greek tragedy. Accordingly, there are very few references to poetry or theatre here. Instead I became interested in trying to grasp the totality of his work so far as that is known, so this article has transformed into a sort of list of plays, with a few very brief comments on some of the ones that survive complete. As usual, references are not given; I will have repeated the errors of others as well as adding some of my own, in the best traditions of medieval scholarship. So check everything! If you really want to know about the Euripidean canon you need such works as the Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, Vol 5 (ed. Richard Kannicht, 2004), a snip from Göttingen at €368. T.B.L. Webster's The Tragedies of Euripides (Methuen, 1967) has substantial information about all the lost plays.

I suppose most people will find this article boring - an endless list of lost plays and compressed summaries of confusingly similar legends. Setting the famous survivals back into this context has changed my view of Euripides, though. In a way I see the surviving plays less reverently. The broader context emphasizes, for example, how the characters who appear on stage had a familiarity for their audience and are almost like the stock characters in a Commedia dell'arte troupe: Agamemnon, Heracles, Clytemnestra, etc - check the plot summary of e.g. Telephus (40), or the unexpected appearance of Orestes in Andromache (51); also how prevalent certain motifs are, in tragedy just as much as comedy: that parents are always killing or trying to kill their children, scorned females falsely accuse their scorners, etc. The idea that the conception of Greek tragedy progressively declines from nobly austere beginnnings into tragicomedy and melodrama feels less secure.* One begins to see Victorian admiration for Alcestis (41),  Iphigenia among the Taurians (65), and Ion (66) as perhaps only one way of looking at Euripides. But whichever you cut it, the Bacchae (81) remains unique and astonishing.

[* There are vague hints that the earliest tragedies (i.e. in the obscure half-century before The Persians) were more like satyr-plays. Whatever else tragedy implied, it did not imply a compulsory "unhappy ending" involving the death of a leading character. Indeed Aristotle seems to say that people criticized Euripides' penchant for "unhappy endings" .]

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Friday, January 04, 2013

brunost and messmör

Very welcome Xmas gifts, thanks to a couple of Scandinavian markets in London.

Both of these are whey products.

The brown cheese is made from goat's milk and whey. It is commonly called "getost" (Swedish) or "geitost" (Norwegian), which both mean "goat's cheese". This is a Norwegian one made by TINE. Typically served thin-sliced on crispbread. You fold down the plastic wrapping as you use up the cheese.

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