For those so inclined, I posted more rugby videos on my club's website.
One advantage to giving up caffeine: My blood pressure is lower. My usual blood pressure - even with medication - was around 132 over 90. Now it's around 120 over 80.
My son tells me that a co-worker of his got a Voldemort Death Eater "dark mark" tattoo on his arm in time for the new movie. I predict that in about ten or twenty years time there's going to be a growth industry in tattoo removal. If I were a biomedical engineering student I'd be working on perfecting a process right now.
I watched the last Robert Greenberg modern symphony lecture last night, he concentrated on Dmitri Shostakovich's 10th. I am familiar with Shostakovich's 5th, 8th, 14th and 15th symphonies... but I have never heard the 10th.
For the record, I am not a big fan of the music of Shostakovich. I know enough of it to realize that I don't like it much. English composer and musicologist Robin Holloway described his music as, "battleship-grey in melody and harmony, factory-functional in structure; in content all rhetoric and coercion." This is not far from my own opinion. But his music has interest due to its political connotations.
At the time of its release in 1953, just after Stalin died, opinion was divided and unsure over what the symphony was about. (And composers themselves are famously reluctant to attach programmatic meanings to abstract music.) According to Greenberg and others, it is about Stalin, and says in musical terms, "Thank God the bastard is dead!" This is confirmed in a book of interviews with Shostakovich - "Testimony" - which was smuggled out of Russia by friends and published (as he requested) after his death.
Shostakovich was frequently an unhappy victim of a brutal Soviet regime; whether he was officially in favor or not was up to the whims of whatever tyrant or state artistic committee happened to be in charge.
Greenberg points out an interesting key to understanding Shostakovich's music - and, indeed, understanding Soviet Russia. A Washington Post journalist was in the Worker's Paradise in the last days, and wrote that in order to survive, irony became the unofficial prevailing attitude. Certainly, much of Shostakovich's music sounds ironic. His light-hearted orchestrations sound like the musical equivalent of forced smiles, and there is much bitterness.
His final two symphonies, the 14th and 15th, were preoccupied with death. In fact, his final symphonic word, the last movement of the 15th symphony, features an eerie coda using percussive instruments commentators have likened to a clacking skeleton! The wikipedia article on the 15th is interesting.
I am now reading a yard sale book with a long title: "Flappers, Bootleggers, 'Typhoid Mary' and the Bomb - An Anecdotal History of the United States from 1923 to 1945" by Barrington Boardman. It's light and readable. Here's an amusing excerpt about Warren G. Harding.
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