Friday, April 20, 2012

What I’m reading

Gloom and doom from the tomb of print journalism, as reported in the Sunday Times and summarised at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Samples:
Since 1985, the Guardian has lost more than half its sales. It gives away its online content and is burning £90,000 a day.
At 230,000 copies, Private Eye’s circulation remains unchanged since 1985.
Possibly because the Eye does not give away its content online.
The number of digital subscribers to The Times already exceeds the daily circulation of the Independent.
Nearly a quarter of Americans use mobile devices to get news.
Since 2008, newspapers have lost more than £1 billion in classifieds, much of it from the regional press, and the analyst Claire Enders estimates that 40 per cent of the jobs in regional journalism have gone in five years.
In the United States, the number of daily newspapers has dropped from 1611 in 1990 to about 1350. In Europe, newspapers are faring better: circulations are dropping at about 4 per cent a year, half the rate of national papers in Britain.
Concert pianist Stephen Hough is enjoying Wayne Koestenbaum’s new book Humiliation. Money quote:
one of my former piano teachers has just made an unnamed appearance [. . .]: Adele Marcus who, so overcome by nerves just before the Schumann concerto’s whiplash orchestral E and the piano’s zigzagging chords which simply ask to be smudged (and forgotten), vomited on to the keyboard. [. . .] The author observes:
“Vomit on the keyboard – that image symbolizes, for me, the always possible danger of the body speaking up for its own rights, against the stringent demands of the mind’s wish to construct a plausible, attractive, laudable self for other people to admire.”
Last week Jillian Ewart wrote at Booksellers NZ about how delayed release dates for New Zealand frustrate booksellers. This has been going on a long time but is worse now because we can all see online which books have been published and we want NOW. This week she reports on booksellers’ responses to that article. All writers  should read this: the book trade is harder than it looks.

Tim Worstall on corruption. Money quote:
It’s not for nothing that until recently you could declare bribes to foreigners as a tax allowable expense in your company tax return: bribes to anyone at home meant jail.
The Atlantic reports that amount of data we have on our universe is doubling every year thanks to big telescopes and better light detectors.

A new word to me: gerundive. There is an explanation here, from the Iconoclast, who quotes Dot Wordsworth in the Spectator a while back:
A creature so rare that its existence had been discountenanced has been discovered in South Africa. The creature is the English gerundive, a relative of the extinct Latin gerundive, and its discoverer is Jean Branford, the respected editor of A Dictionary of South African English. I had never believed in the existence of the English gerundive until now. Just to place it in its habitat, let us remember that:
1.      The participle (Latin amans) shares properties of verbs and adjectives, as with reading, ‘the reading public’.
2.      The gerund (Latin amandum) is a verbal noun, active in meaning, as with reading – ‘reading occupies Charles’ (where reading acts as a subject); ‘reading law journals occupies Charles’ (where the noun phrase is the subject of the sentence, and reading takes an object, law journals, in the noun-phrase); ‘Charles enjoys reading’, where the gerund functions as an object.
3.      The gerundive (Latin amandus –a –um) is a verbal adjective passive in meaning.
It is translated as ‘fit to be loved’, ‘fit to be read’, or ‘lovable’.
The Iconoclast ends by asserting that “scratching post” is a gerundive” but “whipping post” is a mere gerund. 

So here is Frank Zappa in 1984 with Bobby Martin on killer vocals and keyboards, Alan Zavod on keyboards, Chad Wackerman on drums, Scott Thunes on bass, Ray White and Ike Willis on rhythm guitar and vocals, and  Zappa on intense guitar. During a 1974 concert in Helsinki, in the brief silence after the abstract piece “Building a Girl” (if the album is an accurate representation of the concert, which it won’t be), a drunk in the audience called out for “Whipping Post”, an Allman Brothers rock-blues. “OK, just a second.” Zappa conferred with the band. “Oh sorry, we don’t know that one. Anything else?” Incomprehensible reply from the drunk. Zappa: “Hum me a few bars of it, please. Just show me how it goes, please. Just sing me ‘Whipping Post’ and then maybe we’ll play it with you.” The drunk got two or three notes out before Zappa interrupted: “Judging from the way you sang it, it must be a John Cage composition, right?” Hilarity ensued – but later Zappa decided to arrange the song for his next line-up which had in Bobby Martin a member who could sing the hell out of it – and this is the result. The DVD it is from is called Does Humour Belong in Music? but the soloist is not joking at all. This is worth watching in full-screen mode with the volume cranked up: 


Chris Bell said...

I knew this version 20 years before I heard the Allman Brothers' original - which also has some, rather more laidback, merits - but seriously, or even humorously, this take on the song is impossible to surpass. Goosebumps.

Stepahnie said...

'"Yes, Mrs Amberson thought, it was my doing nothing that made the difference."' Hugues looked more than usually puzzled, almost panicked in fact. He was always puzzled by English grammar, anyway.... but today I had painted him into a corner.
'My doing nothing - what?' he said helplessly.
'My doing nothing - nothing. It's a gerund'. I tried to look alert and interested .... 'We'll tackle the gerund and gerundive tomorrow' I said closing the book (Life with the Ambersons, vol III). 'C'est tres complique.'

p 28, Restless, William Boyd, paperback edition 2007.