Tag Archives | Can’t Stop the Muzak

Why They Wrote Such Good Books

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

I’ve just finished up my seminar (the teaching portion, not the grading portion – oh, not remotely the grading portion!) on Nietzsche and Modern Literature, where along with various readings from Nietzsche we also read works by Thomas Mann, André Gide, D. H. Lawrence, and Ayn Rand. I created an “audiovisual companion” website for the course to illustrate the various people, places, and works of art and music that are discussed by all five authors; and I’m posting the link to it here in case my broader readership is also interested.

As many of my readers are likely to have a particular interest in Rand, I’ll note that the pages where I discuss Rand are Weeks 9-14. See the four “horse tamer” statues that Rand describes at the beginning of Part II of We the Living! Hear the “John Gray” song (misidentified by Michael Berliner) that pervaded the streets of Kira’s Petrograd! See the theatres that Kira attended with Andrei, and the restaurant where they ate! Hear clips from the Kálmán operetta that inspired her, and the swingtime version of Wagner’s “Evening Star” that Gail Wynand suffered through during his late-night walk through the streets of New York! See the real-life models for Leo Kovalensky, Essie Twomey, Ellsworth Toohey, Lois Cook, Lancelot Clokey, Dominique Francon, Henry Cameron, Ralston Holcombe, and Austen Heller – as well as the real-life models for the buildings of Roark and Cameron, the coffee shop where Peter says goodbye to Katie, and much much more!

And check out similar sights and sounds for the works of Mann (Weeks 1-4), Gide (Weeks 4-5), Lawrence (Weeks 5-9), and of course Nietzsche (passim).


Sewer Song

In my latest YouTube video, I share a totally authentic song from the mean streets of Gotham City (and below).

Thanks to Alicia Homer for introducing me to the Wellerman song!

Apologies for the change of key and tempo toward the end. If you’re looking for musical competence, you’ve chosen the wrong YouTube channel.


Qualis Spectator

Europe is a great place to attend artistic performances – plays, concerts, operas, etc., in the major cities there’s always a dizzying variety of options on offer. (I vividly recall the tantalising posters in the Prague metro advertising multiple different operas from each of Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Wagner, plus many more, all in a single month.) Unfortunately, owing to limitations of time, money, or both, I’ve been to very few performances on my European trips. Here are the ones I recall (not counting street musicians, musicians performing in restaurants, etc. – although the Klezmer band in the main square in Kraków in 2007 was one of my very favourites):

1990, London: I really wanted to see Peter O’Toole in “Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell” at the Apollo Theatre, but tickets were sold out, so my King’s College London hosts suggested Denholm Elliott in Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which was fine. (Though not as exciting as seeing Patrick McGoohan in “Pack of Lies” in Boston in 1985 for my birthday.)

1997, Rome: As part of the ISIL conference package, we attended a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata; I don’t recall the venue, but it was a second-rate establishment (with a ninth-rate restroom, possibly the filthiest restroom I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot – plus it was just a hole in the floor third-world style, no commode, which is something I saw nowhere else in Italy), and most of the cast was merely competent, but the lead singer was excellent, and you can’t beat the music.

2004, London: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at St. Martin’s Theatre. Maligned by some as a tourist trap, but I found it thoroughly satisfying, even though I already knew the ending. (The theatre claims the play has never been published, but they lie. I have it on my bookshelf.)

2006, Edinburgh: We wandered into St. Giles Cathedral and listened to part of a free concert by some itinerant singing group; I don’t recall their name, if I even knew it, but they were lovely and the surroundings were charming.

2010, Vienna: This is the only one I planned in advance. Watching the New Year’s concert each year from the Golden Hall in the Musikverein is a long-standing family tradition, so when I was in Vienna (on a side trip from the PCPE in Prague) I was delighted to get a chance to attend a concert there. (Mozart and Schubert [in particular, the latter’s “Sanctus”] were featured, IIRC.)


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