Weekly Wiggle

Throwcase’s thought of the week:

It’s not enough to be a question for the mind; one must become an answer to the imagination.

Word of the week:

Disembarrass

To free (as oneself) from something troublesome or superfluous.  (Miriam Webster)

Quote of the week:

The Cookie Monster is anarchic, dynamic and madly driven by a very specific, but also totally random, aim: he wants cookies. He wants to charge around crazily smashing cookies into his mouth. He will never get enough cookies. It’s unclear whether he understands this. Maybe he imagines some future stage of sated calm which he might achieve if, miraculously, he were to obtain all the cookies he desires. Or maybe he is wiser than that and knows it’s all about the journey, his endless quest for biscuits.

David Mitchell, from Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse (page 72)

Music of the week:

What did Martha Argerich sound like when she was a child?

The Game of Chickens

Some chickens organised a rebellion. It was plucky.

They hatched a plan.

They were strong and unified, because birds of a feather stick together.

Bravely staring down their oppressors, they did not chicken out.

They formed a chicken coup.

They called themselves The Bolshevchicks.

Their supporters egged them on, giving them wings.

Eventually they made it…to the other side.

They won the battle. Their soldiers were seasoned.

They came from good stock.

Soon they achieved great technological wonders, like their super-winged flying craft known as SputChick.

But after some time they became yolked to their ideology.

They soon fell into schismatic groups: The Egg Firsts vs the Chicken Firsts.

They published lots of propaganda, or “Chick-Lit”.

Some of this propaganda was paltry.

They even enlisted the aid of national composers like Chickovsky to foster support.

One party was overtaken by a dominant leader: Big Bird

He did whatever he wanted to his opponents in order to maintain power. Torture, execution, you name it; it was open sesame.

He was extremely temperamental. Dealing with him was like walking on eggshells.

His many crimes were many and eggregious.

This scared everyone. They all ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Big Bird resorted to many tricks to crush his opponents. There was no end to his chickanery.

With the opposition crushed, he formed a totalitarian state: Chick Korea.

He controlled everything through the secret police, run by the formidable Colonel Sanders, known for his trademark execution style of immolation, featuring a secret array of spices.

Most things were regulated by bureaucrats in the party, known as ApparatChicks.

There was a lot of paperwork to be done, and a lot of boxes to tick. This work was done by the Chicken Tikkas.

The main currency was salt. Just ordinary salt, not chicken salt; that would be absurd.

However, winter soon descended. This was no Spring-chicken state.

Big Bird tried to count his eggs before they hatched; chaos ensued, and the state eventually collapsed.

The revolution was obviously chicken-hearted.

The Foreign Guy Tells Another Story

A group of people were having a normal conversation yesterday when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the foreign guy told a story about how things are different in his home country.

John Man happened to be in the conversation and described the feigned interest and death-like boredom the story generated. “We were talking about Katy Perry, and out of nowhere he launched into some story about kangaroos or whatever,” said Man. “I tried to nod or smile as his lips noisily flapped about, but I think that only encouraged him.”

Sally Galley was the only one to find the story interesting, as it revealed a fascinating cultural difference between the two countries that would be difficult to notice if you had not lived in both places. “It was quite interesting,” she said, “because it revealed a fascinating cultural difference between our two countries that would be difficult to notice if you had not lived in both places. And every time he tells that story it gets better and better. I could almost tell it myself now.”

The story eventually came to an end and the group was able to return to their charmingly off-beat pop-culture ruminations and semi-professional gossip. Unfortunately, it was not long before the foreign guy found some way to relate this gossip to some scandal or metaphorical crisis in the spiritual life of his own country.

Bob Guy was barely able to contain his seething rage. “I get it,” he said. “Different places are different. It’s amazing and all that. I just wish I could bitch about my colleagues in peace without having to contemplate the vicissitudes of the human condition every five seconds.”

We spoke to the foreign guy about his stories and asked him why he couldn’t just adopt the unquestioned cultural assumptions of his host country. “I’m like a fish,” he said, “swimming in the ocean. Where I’m from, we have a saying that…” and so on.

Man says he is happy to listen to the stories, provided he doesn’t have to care about whatever the message is supposed to be. “Sometimes they don’t even seem to have a point,” he said, “because he just trails off until it’s clear that no one can bond with him over his experiences. But at least then it’s over.”

Man Does Not Work In An Office

John Man, social media activist and part time thinker, does not work in an office. He could have worked in an office had he failed at life, but thankfully he does not work in an office because he has succeeded at life.

“Just yesterday I had a job that required me to be outside,” he said. “I immediately tweeted a photo of myself and mentioned how I was not in an office.”

Man made this reference in an astonishing way. “At first,” he said, “I was going to write something like ‘what a beautiful place’ or ‘I enjoy this job I have that allows me to work outdoors’  or ‘it’s sunny and I’m smiling so I’m literally the best guy ever,’ but I decided against it. I wanted to be or appear more intelligent, so instead of those simple inane things, I wrote “another day at the office!”

Man says the response was immediate, with at least some of his friends liking the photo and others probably looking at it. He attributes this outrageous success to his extraordinary use of language in the phrase “another day at the office!”

“Let me explain,” said Man. “I was not really in an office; a quick look at the surrounding greenery and awe-inspiringly famous land-marks is enough to make that clear. What, then, to make of my apparently ‘incorrect’ claim that I am having another day at the office?” At this moment, Man held his hands together and tapped his goatee. “Well, it is all a devious linguistic ruse, you see; subtle, yet effective. I am pointing out that I am not in an office by way of highlighting the non-office appearance of my work location as if it were an office, which it is not. Classic misdirection, really.”

Man is confident that by picking up on his quirky use of language all his friends will appreciate the uniqueness of his life. “I always compare what my photos look like to what I imagine other people’s lives to be like. That’s the sort of originality you can’t get in an office.”

Young Musician Needs More Exposure

John Man is a dazzling young professional musician with an inspirational career. He regularly performs lunch-time recitals in churches and retirement homes, and he is on a first name basis with many of the most important movers and shakers in the industry.

We spoke to Ethel, retired handmaiden and crochet artist, who runs the monthly recital series for the South West Neo-Liberal Post-Anglican Brick Church District. It’s one of the most popular recital series in the area, and she leaves as many as three voicemails a day. “In exchange for the young musician’s time and skills,” she said, “we give them exposure. Lots of exposure.”

John Man could hardly stop salivating when we discussed this with him. “Exposure! Where? My life is meaningful after all!”

We spoke to a more famous musician who was better able to understand the challenges facing young musicians today. “The main problem with a career in music is not getting enough exposure,” said Dorothy Schnump, world-famous jazz timpanist. “At one point during my studies, my exposure level was so low I couldn’t even pay the rent! Luckily I had a friend who conducted his own orchestra for free, so with just a couple dozen rehearsals and a few hundred minutes of daily travel, I was able to get some exposure just in time.”

Man says he is dissatisfied with the way his music education has been going, saying there is too much focus on subjects that have very little relevance to him as a musician. “Every week,” he said, “we have to attend these detailed classes on professional development and the best way to pay our taxes and how to calibrate our investment portfolios, but we never get any classes on exposure. Thank god for hospital concerts and thoroughfare recitals, or all would be lost.”

Ethel is happy to be contributing something to the musical community. “I love being surrounded by young musicians exposing themselves. That’s what I live for.”

Man Loves What He Thinks Classical Music Should Be

John Man, book-owner and bread-squeezer, attended another incredible concert of classical music this week. He found the performance to be exciting, brilliant, and extremely musical, as he usually does. As a result, he is going to continue believing some drivel about how classical music is dying and people don’t perform it the right way anymore.

“Most of the concerts I saw last year were incredible,” he said. “But my very real enjoyment was marred by my idealistic dismay about how music making is not as free and exciting as it once was. That’s why I’m not a soloist: the music industry just doesn’t cater to real talent.”

Man believes that concerts can be divided into two categories: ones that happened in the distant past, which are good, and ones that happen now, which aren’t as good. “No matter how well or freely or stylishly people play today, I won’t let anything encroach on my idealised vision of what music making used to be like. Except for all the concerts I actually see, which I tend to enjoy.”

Man listens to lots of recordings from the early 20th century in order to give his generalisations some substance. “When you listen to an early recording of the world’s best musicians,” he said, “you have to infer that all musicians of the time were just as good. But if you listen to recordings of the best musicians alive today, it’s obvious that they are just an exception to the rule. I should know, because I only believe rules that I make up myself. I’m very consistent.”

Though Man does play an instrument himself, he refuses to do so if anybody tries to listen. “Of course I would be delighted to perform in public,” he said, “but people don’t appreciate my art. When people listen I can’t help but be distracted by their negative vibes; it’s as if they are judging me by today’s standards! Mother told me I could achieve anything I set my mind to, so I prefer to think pure thoughts free from negative real-world influences.”

Man hopes that by trying to understand the perfect way people played in the Golden Age, and by honing his own secret performances until they embody the Golden Age, he will become an expert in a way that real experts can’t appreciate. “That’s how I know classical music is dying,” he said. “The more I imagine it to be dying, the more it seems like it is dying, and that’s all I care about.”

Audience Makes Irritating Noises Carefully

Dorothy Schnuppleberry regularly attends concerts of classical music and enjoys them immensely.

She likes to be prepared for the rigours of sitting down and listening to other people perform for her entertainment, and she won’t leave the house without all the necessary equipment.

“I always make sure to pack some tightly wrapped cough drops with me,” she said,  “along with my recyclable plastic water bottle and my least noticeable foghorn. I wouldn’t want to disturb the music by making a rude noise, would I?”

Schnuppleberry says she has perfected a way to free the cough drop from it’s crinkly plastic wrapping in the slowest way possible. “At first I did it extremely quickly, but then I realised nobody could tell how unobtrusive I was being. Now I take about five minutes to open each one so that if anyone hears me they know I am taking great care not to make any unnecessary noise. I am a great person.”

John Man, another avid concert-goer, has developed an excellent way of enjoying the music more profoundly and deeply than the slow-witted muggles around him. “When the music gets quiet and intense,” he said, “I make sure to rifle through every single page of my program notes so I can understand how dramatic and powerful the music is. When I finish, I clumsily shove it back into my suitcase or duffel bag, whichever is closest. I am a great person.”

Edward Crumplebumple runs a famous concert hall in the UK and says he is fine with any audience no matter how they behave. “I am not elitist!” he said. “I like young people and Twitter and Snapchat! I’m still relevant!”

Schnuppleberry says that she just wants to help out, as if she is somehow involved. “We are all performers in spirit. Those on stage are doing their best to make great music, and I am contributing in my own special way. I am a great person.”

Eurovision Outbreak Continues To Spread

Jack Man, known for his love of jazz and rabbits, is bracing himself for another outbreak of Eurovision fever.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “The only other time I feel like this is when I contemplate my impending, inevitable death.”

Man woke up to find himself hosting a Eurovision party, and knew at once that he had been contaminated. His house was full of hundreds of people so determined to blur the line between ironic detachment and secretive, shameful indulgence that soon everyone was finger painting with their own excrement.

“If anyone starts asking questions, I just say it’s a harmless bit of fun,” said one reveller. “That way I don’t have to be responsible for any of my thoughts as we all do this thing together.”

We spoke to one partygoer who was clearly having the type of fun that stems from charming diffidence rather than weak-willed enthusiasm. “You can think whatever you like about Eurovision, except if you genuinely do not like it,” he explained. “That just isn’t cool. Next you’ll be saying that it’s possible to genuinely like Eurovision! Absurd! No, much better that we all enjoy appearing to like it only so much that appearing not to like it would not be as fun as liking it as much as everyone else appears to like it.”

Man was so busy dancing and sweating that he could hardly follow the scintillatingly wry tweets being posted about the wacky performances. “Which ethnic group is it now?” he screamed. “I think it’s great that Europe has a way of airing their differences in a way that is harmless and fun, rather than going to war, which is harmful and sad. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s still obviously a silly meaningless competition that’s all just totally a bit of fun. But, if it did have meaning somehow, I’m just saying that if it were to be seen to have any meaning, then that is probably some meaning it could possibly have. And I just love ethnic stuff.”

Man is not used to hearing criticism about Eurovision. “I don’t get it,” he said. “When people express their own independent thoughts about Eurovision I just think “why bother!?”

Man Thinks University Degree Should Be More Involved

John Man, student and Che Guevara enthusiast, recently complained to his friends about how his university degree is not challenging or demanding enough.

“I just don’t have that much contact time,” he said with a profound, rueful fatalism. “I only have one lesson a week, and I’m only required to go to one class. Apart from that, I have nothing to do. It’s just not very challenging.”

When he is not attending his classes, Man reportedly spends the rest of his time at home eating cheese and reading humorous synopses of TV shows. “I don’t ever watch television, because I like being challenged. It’s the rigorous pursuit of excellence which I thrive on.”

Bob Guy, Man’s nearest friend, suggested he do more to get involved in university life. Guy cited the many projects and activities available to students, and told several anecdotes about some of the challenging jobs and opportunities he has created for himself over the course of his degree, using his university contacts and connections to advance his career.

Man agreed in principle but voiced his obvious concerns over such a plan. “But you are on campus everyday,” he pointed out. “I’m only in one day a week.”

We spoke to Man’s teacher, Dorothy Shmorothy, about Man’s approach to his studies. “Who?” she said, incredulous.

Man is determined to find a solution to his educational problems. He has already written several Facebook posts about what the government should do to revolutionise the entire system of higher education, and he is now ready to wait for them to do that.

“I have paid all this money for a degree,” he said, “so my expectations should be met.”

“Life of Pi” Forces Man To Have Thoughts

John Man, tummy-crunching philosopher, reportedly had a great epiphany while watching the film Life of Pi and has been shivering with vague existential delight ever since. His transcendental experience of profound enlightenment has turned his whole world view upside down, and he is now able to see things with a piercing clarity he has never known before.

I was in the cinema enjoying the adventures of Pi and lifeboat and the tiger,” he said, “but when it came to the twist at the end I realised it was all just made up! I looked it up online later; they just hired actors and gave them a script and simply filmed them saying the lines from that script. Incredible!”

John Man was struck by this profound revelation about the nature of story-telling during one of the last scenes of the film in which the main character turns straight to the camera and helpfully explains a bland, preachy moral in the most absurdly patronising manner possible. “It certainly explained a lot,” said Man. “Last week I watched an opera and I was so frustrated by the way they all kept singing. I mean, how am I supposed to relate to something so unrealistic? It turns they are not really singing, because it’s not real.”

Man tells everyone he meets that they “simply must” see Life of Pi or even read the ebook, because it will “totally change your life. Who would have know that an author could use symbolic figures and literary conventions to convey an idea, rather than describe a completely factual sequence of events as if told by an implausibly reliable omniscient narrator? I have never thought of this before.”

Man is using this new revelation to help untangle a lot of the mysteries and complications that have plagued his life until now. “Just yesterday a child pointed his finger at me and said ‘bang! I shot you!’ I raced to the hospital but it turned out to have been a false alarm. The boy later claimed that he didn’t even have a gun! He was apparently just telling a story, whatever that means.”

Man is now going back to reread his favourite books with his new mindset. “It now makes sense to me. When a person in a film or novel says something about their past I just have to remind myself that it isn’t necessarily true. It was a bit confusing at first, but it does explain how Tim from The Office ended up in Middle Earth, and why Skynet built a dwarfish twin brother to accompany the Terminator in a series of comedic escapades that always seemed to me to be an unnecessary distraction from the main mission. Now I know how things work, I will never be uncertain again.”

Oxford and Cambridge Suffer From Reality

Two of the most important places on Earth, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, have kowtowed to pressure from a hoard of pesky Goblin scamps and will soon be making changes to their overblown syllabi and antiquated management style.

Due to budget cuts, both relics will have to cancel several of their most popular classes. On the chopping block are such stalwarts as “Evaluating People: The Oxford Way,” and “Propaganda and Social Engineering: From Those Who Really Know How It’s Done,” and of course, the most vital of all, “The Golden Rule: Never, Ever Sound Wrong, No Matter What.”

Students have taken to Facebook to express their disgust, pumping out hundreds of dazzling last-minute essays peppered with tendentious facts and semi-relevant references that apparently convey an aura of knowledge.

 “Not since General Custer’s inefficient use of cavalry formation has there been such a patent example of mismanagement,” said Percy Peregrine, an Oxford history student. “Where am I going to get my pride and personality from now?”

“Nelson Mandela was once in prison,” said another. “That’s how I feel.”

 We spoke to one of the faceless wraiths from the mysterious society in charge of both institutions, The Darkened Cave, about their recent decisions. “Yes, I do feel for the little ones,” he rasped. “They strive and toil for so long to gain a place here that they’ll do absolutely anything to prove it was all worthwhile, no matter how much reality they need ‘revise’ in order to do it. But reality is there, and it must be suffered.”

Currently, students at an Oxbridge mage-cradle learn vital techniques to help them navigate through life. One very popular class covers all the questions you should ask someone when you first meet them, including which school you went to, which college you went to, and which professors you had when you went to those colleges and schools. It is widely considered to be the backbone of a good Oxbridge education, without which society could not function. “If I didn’t have that introduction to socialism,” said Percy Honeysuckle, reader of music, “I wouldn’t have been indoctrinated with an abstract hierarchy of irrelevant minutiae for me to classify people with. I may as well live in America.”

Percy Clumplestiltskin agreed. “How am I going to know when to tell my anecdotes about the dopey English professor who drank King’s Ginger liqueur out of a suede knapsack and said some vaguely funny things occasionally? I’m going to have to try something else entirely, like relating to people.”

According to the wispy, ominous shadow-fiends who proposed the cuts, it is merely an attempt to accelerate the inevitable. “Eventually,” they hissed, “after a period of twattery typically lasting five years after graduation, our alumni start to realise that merit and value also exist on other parts of the planet, completely independent of Oxbridge magic. This initial shock, totally alien to all they have been brought up to believe, then frees them up to realise it is not really necessary to be right all the time; in fact, it’s quite annoying. We just want to bring this inevitable wisdom forward a few years and teach our students how to be people, rather than dialectically rabid psychotics.”

Percy Snapcrackle, PhD student, was not impressed. “If I can’t win an argument just by saying I went to Oxford then what was the point?”

Franz Schubert And Bob Dylan- The Interpreter’s Workshop

Further to yesterday’s post, I would like to share a little compilation of videos showing how it is possible to play the same song in very different ways.

One thing I find particularly frustrating about classical music magazines (and the general culture of the recording industry, at least as it has been in the past) is the constant desire to find a “definitive” recording. There is no definitive recording- everybody plays, or should play, things differently, and the more variety is the richer our collective musical experience will be.

This is something Glenn Gould pointed out very well. The advent of recording technology should invite more variety, not less- why record Beethoven’s Emperor concerto the same as everyone else if there are already recordings that out there that do that? Let us enjoy his rather unusual version for what it is, even if we would prefer it to be played more “normally.”

Here is Alfred Brendel playing the Schubert Impromptu, Opus 90 number 3. This is a rather “normal” performance, insofar as the average student is probably aiming to play it something like this.

Here is Vladimir Sofronitsky, a rather more forceful musical personality.

And Erno Dohnanyi, quite bizarre, but fascinating in it’s own right. Schubert’s time signature in this piece is quite unusual, and it’s entirely possible this is what he wanted.

Now, to follow through on my reference to Bob Dylan yesterday, here are three versions of his song, Shelter From The Storm.

Here is the relatively standard version:

Here is a rather different version:

And one that is quite unusual, almost experimental:

I contend that there is as much difference in the three pianists performing Schubert as there is in Dylan’s three versions of his own song. Nobody is seeking a “definitive” version. They might be seeking their definitive version at that particular time, and that is all we can hope for. The better they are at delivering their convictions the richer our musical world will be.

Enough with “definitive” recordings!

A new post every Monday