Saturday, December 25

What does she want for Christmas?


'Ah, well, yes, you see, one of the things that makes folks even more jolly is knowing there're people who ain't,' said Albert, in a matter-of-fact voice. 'That's how it goes, master. Master?'

Thursday, December 23

So sue me.

Distinctions between "highbrow" and "middlebrow" are formulated by self-anointed cultural snobs who denigrate those they label "middlebrow" to re-affirm their identity by labelling themselves as "highbrow". Anything that originally started out favored by the cognoscenti that becomes known by those outside their clique is in a way contaminated, and no longer worthy of "highbrow" appreciation.

I've just discovered Brahms' Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26, of which one John Keillor writes,
...Brahms does not shy away from including popular references in his music, including a burst of schmaltzy waltz music in the quartet's second movement, a Romanze featuring an overall discipline that allows for the occasional glimpse into camp without lowing the music's overall standard.
I loved this whole quartet the first time I heard it, but I just don't hear anything schmaltzy or camp. I think it was Brahms I mentioned as a favorite to a college professor, and he remarked that my taste was "bourgeois". He was French. (It's a good thing I didn't tell him that I also liked Saint-Saëns's piano concertos).

Anyway, this joins Mozart's Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478 as another favorite piano quartet, together with my old favorite Schumann's Piano Quartet, Op.47.

So call me middlebrow, bourgeois, or a lover of schmaltz. I don't care. Take a look at the picture below:

From from Russell Lynes’ The Tastemakers: The Shaping of American Popular Taste via, who also cites Clement Greenberg and Virginia Woolf. To hell with them.

Oh, and read Jim Emerson's post and the comments. Emerson quotes Sam Anderson's review of Carl Wilson's Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste:
Hating Céline [Dion] is therefore not just an aesthetic choice, but an ethical one, a way to elevate yourself above her fans—who, according to market research, tend to be disproportionately poor adult women living in flyover states and shopping at big-box stores.
By the way, I think Céline Dion is OK, and I don't mean I'm enjoying her ironically. So there.

Sunday, December 19

Did Mao know about the famine?

Frank Dikötter, author of “Mao’s Great Famine”, recently wrote,
At a secret meeting in Shanghai on March 25, 1959, he ordered the party to procure up to one-third of all the available grain — much more than ever before. The minutes of the meeting reveal a chairman insensitive to human loss: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”
Also, Deng Xiaoping was willing to let his fellow Sichuanese starve.

We're like a hot dog on two legs

People are a readily available source of high-quality protein. We eat too much and exercise too little. We're like a hot dog on two legs.
said Chuck Neal

Saturday, December 18

Leftists as conservatives

Unlike his father, former vice-premier Xi Zhongxun, who is a bona fide “rightist” and ally of the late party chief Hu Yaobang, [Xi Jinping] is believed to harbor much more conservative views
In China, anyway.

Sunday, December 12

The internets don't know everything

Case in point: over the last few weeks, the local Aldi's has had limited supplies ("special purchase") of Witor's Pralines (the dark chocolate variety sold out quickly) and Benton's best Dark Chocolate Covered Candy Cane Cremes and Benton's best Dark Chocolate Stars. But Aldi didn't mention the former on their site, and only Aldi mentions the latter two.

The Candy Cane Cremes are delicious, but the chocolate covering is if anything too thick.

On the other hand, the Dark Chocolate Stars are just chocolate coated graham crackers with sprinkles. But they're great when you sandwich peanut butter between 'em.

Another update
I microwave the Chocolate Covered Candy Cane Cremes on ultra low to soften them up, and I'm slowly growing addicted.

Friday, December 10

Sex is shameful, but money isn't

Perhaps nothing but a piece of news about money would have made Mrs. Wither so far forget herself as to shriek in front of the maids, who were putting the last touches to the cleared tea-table and setting it for dinner. There was nothing shameful about somebody getting a huge sum of money, and Mrs. Wither instinctively felt this. Sex was shameful, and any bit of news about it must be hidden, but money was all right: any one might hear about that.

An excruciating bore

He could not help feeling a satirical pity for Mr. Spurrey, either; all that money (and not a tightwad, either) and no idea how to spend it. Mr. Spurrey had always been suspicious of women and rather afraid of them, so he had not had any fun there; and men only tolerated him. Fun and jollity had a way of quietly going off the boil when he came up, even if he did not say a word. He was too sharp to tolerate toadies yet too stupid to please even ordinary kind people, and his habit of trying to frighten his hearers, when he was not excruciatingly boring them, had put the lid on; no one, all his long life, had really wanted to be with Mr. Spurrey.

Sunday, December 5

I wish I was dead

"All right then, I'll come, but I don't want to a bit and I wish I was dead." "Well, one day you will be, and so shall I; but meanwhile we may as well behave with courage and common sense..."

An elegant printed invitation

It looked exciting. It made you think "Now why didn't we splash a bit and have our cards done like that?" It was only later that you realized that the party itself, the house it was given in, the food and the drink, would have to be even more exciting than the card, in order to justify the excitement the card had raised. Then, of course, you gave up the whole idea and bought ordinary cards as usual.

Some dogs are hard to like

Chappy was an enormous great dog, of extraverted temperament and seething energy, disliked by the entire neighbourhood. He was not vicious: everyone wished that he were, and then there might have been a chance of getting rid of him. He was only too much; too large, too friendly, too energetic. He was also He was also a barker, delighted with any excuse — or without any excuse — to bark for an hour or more. He liked galloping round with a gang of small boys. He liked a crowd, preferably a well-dressed crowd, but any crowd was better than none.

How to be happy

The Hermit was happy too; but then he always was. He had no inhibitions, and a sense of his own importance that was never shaken no matter what anyone said or did to him. Small wonder he was happy.

Poppy or sesame

Or plain: these are the only ones that I managed to slash:

Wednesday, December 1

They deal with us because it’s in their interest

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates:
The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
For the time being, anyway.