Friday, 9 December 2016

Greg Lake RIP

So. Farewell then
Gregory Stuart Lake.

You began with frippery,
Stood on a Persian rug
And believed in Father Christmas.

Keith's mum said it
Was pretentious.

We were invited
To the show
That never ends.

But now it has.

R. W. Emerson 12½

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

May: Si tu dois partir

It suddenly struck me that if the EU's Brexit negotiators have need of a motivating anthem they could do worse than this weird franglais version of an original penned by an anglophone Nobel laureate. Listen out for the broken milk bottle (a pint of course) round about 1:57.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Imaginary Friends

It's a peccadillo but  I have to confess that I sometimes listen to old episodes of Desert Island Discs while I'm doing insufferably boring things like cleaning the bathroom. So at the weekend I was listening to Alison Lurie talking to Roy Plomley. 

What I've read of Lurie I  liked, though she came over on the show as uptight and humourless. No matter, it's the kind of setting  that doesn't always bring out the best in people. What surprised me though is what she had to say about Imaginary Friends

Plomley asked her directly whether the novel was based on anything in particular, or words to that effect.  Yes, she answered, it was influenced by Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance and by Henry James' The Bostonians. OK, I can see the former and I'll take the latter on trust, but I always thought the most important influence in the everyday sense of the word was Festinger, Riecken and Schachter's When Prophecy Fails.  I mean, it's virtually a fictional retelling of the same events.

At least that's what I always used to tell my students when I was trying to fake some knowledge of ethnographic fieldwork. Maybe I was wrong or maybe she was thinking about influence in some deeper literary sense than my literal minded interpretation. Still, very odd.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Wednesday morning magic

Two pieces of musical magic for Wednesday morning. First up Chet Baker's Almost Blue. Chet's  doing a Miles pastiche but man can he make that horn sing. And then there is Daniel Kahn's Yiddish version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Personally I think the lyrics are better than the original. Kahn also does a nice line in Yiddish worker's songs, but I admit that might be a bit of an esoteric taste. L'chaim.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The class liberation officer

The Oxford Mail has been carrying a story that St Hilda's College students have appointed a 'class liberation officer'. Apparently "...people from working-class backgrounds needed support because [sic] suffered from classism while at university." They go on to quote a student who in a comment to The Sunday Times said: "Insults such as 'chav', chav-themed social nights and questions such as 'why are you wearing Primark?' can make poor students feel upset and worthless."

I can't claim any special insight into the minds of today's undergraduates since I meet so few of them, but I can't help thinking that previous generations were made of sterner stuff. Working class students were very thin on the ground when I was an undergraduate but generally we found much more pressing things to feel upset and worthless about, like third-world poverty, nuclear Armageddon and failed love affairs.

And as for our clothing, well that was a competition to see who could wear the most proletarian gear possible. Combat jackets, donkey jackets, Doc Maarten boots, shoes full of holes,  army surplus jumpers and shirts, jeans that looked as though they hadn't been washed for 5 years. I spent a year wearing a lumberjack coat with an acrylic fleecy collar purchased when I was 13 from C&A. Nobody batted an eyelid and I only threw it away because the arms got ridiculously short  and I could'nt do the zip up any more!

Primark? We used to dream of Primark!

William Trevor RIP

So Farewell
William Trevor Cox.

You wrote
Death in
But you died in

Fool of Fortune.
Keith's mum
Said you should
Have a Nobel.

But they gave
It to Dylan.

And now you
Blowin' in the wind.

E. J. Lundqvist 98¾

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sartre on class

"Les classes ne sont pas, on les fait"." This seems to me to be right in various ways, not all of which may have been intended by Sartre. I'm guessing it comes from Critique de la raison dialectique but I doubt I'll be reading it soon to find out.