Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2012... Anniversary / Resolution

Jay Nordlinger likes to point out that orchestral programmers are fond of anniversaries.
Why all this Mahler-ing? This year marks 150 years since his birth, and next year marks 100 years since his death. You get the impression that, without anniversaries, concert programmers would be paralyzed.
This year is the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, so I expect we'll be hearing a lot of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture".

It's a good year to be in the cannon rental business too.

I'm thinking of celebrating by finally reading War and Peace. Most likely in the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation (fĂȘted in the New Criterion by Eric Ormsby.)

If you'd like something a little shorter than War and Peace, you can celebrate the anniversary by reading this comic strip by Kate Beaton about the fine French cuisine provided to the French Army as it marched on Moscow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cassian in the New York Times

John Plotz brings the truly great books to the pages of the NY Times Book Review:
If the diagnoses in medieval texts were so psychologically acute, it’s very likely because the most ferocious accusers and denouncers were themselves acedia sufferers. Today, too, it takes an acediac to know acedia. When I read Cassian on “disgust with the cell,” I look around my own office and sigh deeply; and I greet like an old friend the monk whose gaze “rests obsessively on the window” while “with his fantasy he imagines the image of someone who comes to visit him.” Cassian’s description of acedia as mental drift, meanwhile, perfectly encapsulates the pointless and random detours that stop me from bearing down on a particular page: “The mind is constantly whirling from psalm to psalm, . . . tossed about fickle and aimless through the whole body of Scripture.”

Of course, the desert monks were emphatically not us. Stripping their lives down to the bare bones, they sought the divine and fought the demonic alone. What could be more different from us, tap-tapping away with social media always at hand? They gazed upward toward God; we shoot sideways glances at one another while trying to resist the allure of e-mail (nowadays, you can “desert your cell” without shifting from your chair). Still, “excesses meet,” and now that solitary unstructured brainwork has returned with a vengeance, we may be suffering an epidemic of early medieval acedia. Is there anything we can learn from the monks and nuns who came before us?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Let the Marsupial Madness Begin

After this photo of Yo-Yo Ma communing with a wombat blew up on Twitter, Lang Lang is surely trying to get his hands on a kangaroo.