Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Decline of Instrumental Music

I was working out on a treadmill at my health spa.

The sound blaring out from the sound system was the usual “Muzak.” i.e. the typical nondescript elevator music, all vocal, all consisting of songs, almost invariably dealing with the vicissitudes of “love.”

I was thinking: How out of touch I have become, in old age: Today, all popular music sounds the same to me.

I have been an avid amateur of music all my life. As a listener, a concert attendant, a records collector, an amateur flute player. I grew up with classical music and modern jazz in Europe. Then, after I moved to America in the nineteen sixties, I became a fervent fan of popular music (as well): The Beatles and the Rolling Stones of course, and all the other fantastic groups of that era - Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Doors, Elton John, the Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Simon and Garfunkel and innumerable others.

Then, adult life being what it is - career, children, etc. - popular music went by the wayside. For a while, I tried to stay in touch via my children. I tried to listen to some of the music they liked. But eventually I lost track. Today, I have no idea what’s going on in the world of popular music.

But here is an impression I have: Nowadays, practically ALL popular music is vocal, not instrumental. Think of the currently most prominent idols: Adele, Beyoncé, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and dozens of others (far more women than men, by the way, which is fine with me). Read more...

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Liberals and Conservatives; Kind or not, Smart or Not?

This is a game: I take 3 variables, I cross-tab them, and I formulate some hypotheses about their correlation (or lack thereof).
The variables are:
1. Conservatism vs. Liberalism
2. Kindness or not
3. Being well-informed or not

In other words, an individual can be conservative or liberal; he/she can be a by and large  nice person or what we could call an a...hole; and she/he can be well-educated and intelligently informed or not.

For the sake of simplicity, the three variables are dichotomous. Also, let’s not quibble about the true meaning and nature of being ”nice” as opposed to being an “a...hole”  This is just an experiment, maybe  a fun one, and most of us know an a...hole when we meet one... Also, for the purposes of this experiment, I use a total sample of 200.

If we cross tab these 3 variables, we get 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 possibilities Read more...

New York, New York!

By Madeleine Kando

I have no business writing about New York. Not only do I not live in New York, worse, I live in Boston, which in the eyes of most New Yorkers, is the most stupid thing one can do. They have as low an opinion of Boston as the Dutch have of Belgians. Why be Belgian if you can be Dutch? Why live in Boston if you can live in New York?

I completely disagree of course. Being Dutch myself, I am guilty of an unwarranted sense of superiority over the Belgians, but Boston is perfectly fine. I like living in the Hub, Beantown, the Athens of America. I’ll take the Patriots over the Giants any day. I mean, look at Tom Brady! What’s there not to like?

But since the Dutch closed down their consulate in my hometown, thinking that New England was no longer important enough to spend consulate euros on, my husband and I had to travel to New York to extend our Dutch passports, a good excuse, we thought, to spend a few days in the Big Apple.

Entering the heart of Manhattan from the West side is like boarding a vast ship over one of its gangways. We followed 56thStreet and were immediately swallowed up by a stream of cars, limousines, yellow cabs and trucks, honking their horns, swerving from lane to lane, trying to gain a few inches at traffic lights. We were surrounded by an ocean of enormous, shiny skyscrapers, all competing for the tallest spot in the firmament. As we approached Columbus Circle, the smell of manure preceded the appearance of a row of sad looking horses hitched to colorful carriages.

Three days are not enough to do justice to this incredible city, but just being there, inhaling the perfect mix of car fumes and the smell of the subway already made it an exciting experience. Having grown up in Paris, that smell spells home for me, like the smell of hay for someone who grew up on a farm. Read more...