Mozart bleg

by Chris Bertram on February 1, 2006

Blegging time, though I’m giving too. I’ve got to give a talk about Mozart to my German class tomorrow (learning lots of new words like Pokeninfektion!) and I’d like to play them some musical clips. It ups the entertainment value and it gives me time to think about what I’m going to say next. So I’m open to suggestions for representative short extracts. Currently I have in mind the opening to the C-major string quartet (K465), the Adagio from the C-minor piano sonata, the overture to Figaro, der Hölle Rache from Zauberflöte and maybe the Dies Irae from the Requiem. But that’s all off the top of my head. Oh, and I said I’m giving. Well I’ve been trawling the net for German-language 250th anniversary podcasts and the most entertaining I’ve found is this “30-minute interview with biographer Dorothea Leonhart”:http://www.podster.de/episode/53188 on Südwestrundfunk. Enjoy.

Facts and fiction

by Henry on February 1, 2006

Two interesting perspectives on the James Frey affair.

First, “Scott McLemee”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/02/01/mclemee (who is celebrating his one year anniversary as a columnist at _Inside Higher Ed_ today).

bq. Why the furor over Frey? “I think the vilification he has been subject to in the media is extreme,” writes Farr, “and probably stems from some larger discomfort about dishonesty from sources who are (and ought to be ) culturally more responsible to the ‘ascertainable facts.’” There may be something to that. And yet it begs any number of questions. The man has made a small fortune off of fabricating a life and selling it — while loudly talking, in the very same book, about the personally transformative power of “the truth.” Oprah Winfrey endorsed it, and (at first anyway) insisted that mere factual details were subordinate to a larger truth… A personal truth….A truth that, it seems, is accountable to nothing and nobody. Suppose this becomes an acceptable aspect of public life – so that it seems naive to be surprised or angered by it. Then in what sense can we expect there to be institutions that, in Farr’s words, “are (and ought to be ) culturally more responsible to the ‘ascertainable facts’”?

Second, “Patrick Nielsen Hayden”:http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007215.html#007215 at _Making Light_.

bq. Echoing Maureen Dowd, Arianna Huffington is exercised over the fact that James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces, now comprehensively exposed as fraudulent baloney, is still listed by the New York Times on their nonfiction paperback bestseller list. … This is a silly argument because calling a book “nonfiction” has never meant any kind of certification that its contents are true. Edgar Cayce books are “nonfiction.” Immanuel Velikovsky is “nonfiction.” Self-published tracts about how bees from Venus are attacking Your Child’s Brain are “nonfiction.” All of these are packs of lies. They’re also not fiction, which is to say, narratives put forth under the rubric of “I’m now going to tell you a story which I made up.” Yes, there are books which fall into a gray area. (Into which category would you put Avram Davidson’s _Adventures in Unhistory?_ You have five minutes. Show your work.) A Million Little Pieces isn’t one of those books, any more than “this”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000C4SV2I/qid=1138715421/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-3450522-9649706?s=books&v=glance&n=283155 particular pack of lies. What’s more, as an editor devoted to the value of good fiction, I wouldn’t want the Times, or anyone else, to start using “fiction” as a dumping-ground for works of nonfiction which have proved to be full of lies. There’s a good discussion to be had of whether respectable book publishers should make a greater effort to ensure the basic truthfulness, or at least truthful intention, of work published as “nonfiction.” But using “fiction” as a synonym for “lying” isn’t the way to go.

As always in _Making Light_, there’s more meat in the comments (including the utterly wonderful news that Avram Davidson’s _Adventures in Unhistory_ is being re-released by Tor in December).

Human-Animal Hybrids

by Kieran Healy on February 1, 2006

Catching up with the talk about the State of the Union address, I noticed the President’s complaints about “human-animal hybrids” have “attracted”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_02/008128.php “some”:http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/02/president_panders_to_antimanim.php “commentary”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_01_29_atrios_archive.html#113880272560367200. P.Z. Myers “pointed out”:http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/02/president_panders_to_antimanim.php that scientists are working toward producing a model system for Down Syndrome (i.e. a genetically-engineered mouse with human genes), and that this might further understanding of the condition in people — a worthwhile goal. But we should bear in mind that there’s _already_ a real, live human-animal hybrid creature in widespread use today. Its job is to slave away producing a substance that millions of people use routinely. That substance is “insulin”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin. Virtually the entire commercial supply these days is produced by “genetically modified e-coli bacteria that contain human DNA”:http://www.littletree.com.au/dna.htm, live in a fungal substrate and secrete human insulin. I take it that the President isn’t planning to put every Type I Diabetic in America into hypoglycemic shock. I don’t think it would be a popular policy plank.

Political strokes

by Henry on February 1, 2006

The best prediction that I saw regarding the content of Bush’s SOTU address came from Charlie Cook in yesterday’s “Financial Times”:http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/topstories.aspx?ID=BD4A147181 yesterday.

bq. “The president faces a unique challenge,” says Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report. “There is little new or different he can do about Iraq or energy costs. Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and health-care costs are blowing the lid off the budget. Beyond looking for policy initiatives that cost little or no money, the president has to figure out how to tread water while making it look like he is doing the butterfly.”

All’s Right With the World ?

by John Quiggin on February 1, 2006

While we’re on the subject of religion, I happened (via Charles Dodgson at Through the Looking Glass) to discover that George Bush rarely goes to church (behind paywall, but the intro gives you the basics).

NTTAWWT – I’m sure he goes more often than I do. But it struck me as a blogworthy factoid.