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An Excess of Space

20 Feb

It has come to me that one of the issues that plagues the Art World these days is an excess of museum (or performance hall) space. Tax money is spent on a great many museums, and one of the consequences is that there is actually space available for exhibits of sophomoric “Statement” Art like Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ.

Now, I don’t want to censor Mr. Serrano’s little anti-Christian temper tantrum; if he wants to travel the country at his own expense, putting on art shows, more power to him. And if some trendy Intellectuals want to band together to defray his costs, more power to them, too.

But, at least to my mind, the fact that space was found in tax supported museums for this, and other notably vulgar displays indicates that there is too much of such space available. Surely if museum curators had to decide whether to display Piss Christ or a treasured Van Gogh, the Van Gogh would be hung, and Serrano could go hang.

Stupid Argument

13 Feb

I recently caught a segment of a local radio talk-show featuring an argument that has, by my own count, been going on for at least a decade. It apparently comes around every year: the question of whether hunting is, or has ever been, a sport.

Now, the argument that hunting deer includes no trace of fair competition has some basis. But, regardless of what modern language has done with “Sport”, my understanding is that Sport originally almost always had to do with killing animals, or trying to kill people. Hunting or training for war. All less bloody sports came later. That’s simply how it is. Until very recently a “Sportsman” was a man with a gun (or a crossbow) over his arm.

So, can we debate whether hunting deer is humane? That’s an argument with two sides that actually make some kind of sense. Leave whether it is “Sporting” out of it. It may be that “Sport” has come to mean something else, but its origins were bloody. If the people arguing that deer hunting is bad were saying that it isn’t a sport as we now understand the term, it wouldn’t bother me so much. The assertion that it has NEVER been a sport betrays the encyclopedic historical knowledge of a mollusk. It is the kind of smug, ‘don’t you understand that I’m smarter than you?’ argument I am used to from certain elements of the Left that enrage me because they reveal the appalling ignorance of the speaker and taint a serious issue with idiocy.

Some thoughts about Christmas

2 Jan

OK. By now the shouting has died down. The shop clerks have stopped trembling from Holiday Overload (and started drinking from Returns Hell). The batteries in that screeching toy that Grandma sent (to get back at you for not visiting for a whole month in August) have run down. In a few days the first bars of Jingle Bell Rock won’t inspire homicidal fantasies. Lets talk about the true meaning of Christmas.

I do not refer to the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Most Biblical scholars agree that, so far as it can be pinpointed, he was born some other time of the year, possibly in summer. Christmas is a political holiday, placed in the dark of the year to supersede Pagan holidays … and if you’ve ever really thought about Woton’s character, I think you will agree that that was A Good Thing, even if you are an atheist. So, Christmas is what we have made it over the centuries.

Overall, I like the family gatherings (in sensible moderation), the general good cheer, and the slight falling off of the levels of Sex and Violence blared at me from every surface that can be made to support a flatscreen TV. And, of course, the presents. But I have learned, over the years, that GETTING presents, even presents you desperately wanted, is nothing compared to the pleasure of GIVING presents, when you have picked the right ones.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first gave a present that really had an impact; sometime in my teens. I DO remember what the present was, and who I gave it to. My Father was primarily a scholar, but he was also a woodworker as a hobby, and he loved good tools. For years my Mother and I had conspired to get him a few good tools every year, and they were always a hit. One year, though, I was seized by the idea of getting him a knife. He had a penknife that he used all the time, but it was a fiddly little thing. I had seen a Buck Folding Hunter, with wood inlay, and I could just about afford to get it with my own money. If I had gone to my mother, she would have been happy to give me the money to buy it for him, but I decided I wanted to buy this all on my own. He was delighted. He kept that knife by him for the rest of his life, and used it every day. It gave him real pleasure, and that showed. I still have that knife. When he passed, just a couple of years ago, I made sure that it didn’t get lost in the shuffle. It lives in my tool drawer, and whenever I see it, it makes me happy to remember that Christmas.

Every year I try to give presents like that. I don’t succeed every year, or even every five years, but the effort is great fun in itself, and the occasional success is just wonderful. This year I have started to ask “Did you give any good presents?” instead of “Did you GET any good presents?”. It perks people right up. Even if they don’t have a story from this year, they frequently have a treasured success they want to share from years past.

I’m not against gift cards, mind. We get a number every year, and use them happily, and try to remember to tell people what we got with them. But I think I pity the people I run into who only give gift cards. They are missing so much.



26 Dec

One of the aspects of being a Crank is what I shall term Early Onset Geezerhood (I have no idea what the female equivalent is, though I know it exists). EOG means that a Crank finds himself reacting in a way that might be expected of somebody well into their “Golden Years”, while still too young to retire.


If you find that you no longer have much patience with pretentious pop-band names, and think of, for example, Depeche Mode as Depressed Melba, you might have EOG.

If you are in a mall, watching the female teenie-boppers ripple past and your mind reacts to your hormonal interest by saying “Yes, but they’d want to TALK afterwards, and they have nothing to say.”, you might have EOG.

Teen Music

19 Dec

Each generation has its own popular singers who warble, in an adenoidal whine, about the angst of being young. This is as inevitable as the pain of childbirth or the decay of the grave.

No generation has much patience with the whine of any other generation. This is as it should be.

No generation pays the slightest attention to the criticism of its whines by any other generation. This is also as it should be.

No, I am not going to go into detail about which particular whine of which generation it was that set me off. It doesn’t matter.

A Short Rant About Turn Signals

5 Dec

The point of turn signals is that they tell other drivers what you intend to do, so that they have a good chance to NOT RUN INTO YOU.  I understand that there are places where using them marks you as weak, such as Manhattan, but in most places in the United States they will make you safer if you use them.  Starting to signal after you have started to turn is next to useless.

And don’t get me started on all the cars designed with turn signals so lost in the rest of the car’s lights that they can’t be seen.

Stuff Too Cool to Keep to Myself #1

28 Nov

My Lady likes to watch BBC documentary programs.  A while back we ran into Howard Goodall‘s Big Bangs (, which details the five major advances that musician and music historian Howard Goodall believes enabled Western music to virtually swamp all other musical traditions. I’m not going to go into detail, because Mr. Goodall does it so much better, but I will note that two of them would simply never have occurred to me, because nobody told me about them.

The first Big Bang is Notation. I knew that musical notation is important. What I didn’t know is that the western musical tradition is the only one to develop such a sophisticated method of writing down music.

The Second Big Bang is Equal Temperament. This you simply have to watch Mr. Goodall’s explanation of.  I know that it is the reason that modern Western music has so much range and power that medieval music seems to lack.  I can’t explain it in any way that won’t muddle you until you watch Mr. Goodall.  And nobody even mentioned it to me in school.

There are three more. I highly recommend the DVD.