“Who Is The Best Philosopher Of All Time?” and other important questions…

Every once in a while we get really strange and amusing search terms in our stats section – some people come across this blog while searching for names or unfamiliar concepts, some come by the way of strange strange coincidences (for example, by searching for “body modification perversions”) – but there is an increasing number of search terms that actually constitute full questions.  It is fascinating, I think, that some people just type in a full question into a search engine and expect it to work like a magic mirror and provide a full answer to questions like: “Was Stockhausen a Jew?” or “Is Kant elitist?” or, my favorite so far, “Who is the best philosopher of all time?”  Now it is silly to pick on people who use Google (and other search engines) as a way of doing research – I have seen too many students plagiarizing or creatively copying the contents of encyclodepia entries, websites and blogs – one might speak of a whole new generation that relies on the resources of the internets, resources that were not available when I was going to school, resources like reference materials, maps, movies schedules, free (even if illegal) music and much much more.

This morning I have decided to cross the invisible line that separates my old-fashioned search engine routine and step into the new stream of ‘full sentence questions’ strategy: maybe it really does work and I will finally find answers to all of my questions? Let’s start with a some simple ones – these will be the three websites from Google results:

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Peter Gay, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy (2007)

Published: December 30, 2007
Thomas Mann was an archmodernist, and this was his favorite story: One day, Gustave Flaubert was out walking with his sister. Ferociously antibourgeois, Flaubert lived alone, unconsoled and unencumbered by marriage or family. His novels mocked and maligned the French middle class, ironizing it into oblivion. He was a great frequenter of brothels and had fornicated his way through Paris and Cairo. And yet here he was out for a stroll, suddenly stopping in his tracks before a small house surrounded by a white picket fence.In the yard, a solid middle-class father played with his typical middle-class children while wife and mother looked lovingly on. The enemy! Yet instead of holding his nose, Flaubert gestured toward the house and exclaimed, without irony: “Ils sont dans le vrai!” (“They are in the truth!”) For Mann, the delightful incident illustrated the tension between the outrage at conventional life and the yearning to be part of it that tore at modernist psyches. There is more to aesthetic rebellion than offends the eye. 
The rest of is here.

The Clock Is Ticking: La Traviata vs. Faustus

As I am counting days until my Winter semester begins and I finally get to go back to class again, allow me to draw attention to two opera DVDs that I have recently acquired and watched/listened to: 2005 Salzburg’s La Traviata with Netrebko, Villazón and Hampson and Pascal Dusapin’s Faustus: The Last Night.  

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Ode To Zizek!

12/24 – New York Times: ‘Ode to Joy,’ Followed by Chaos and Despair

(by Slavoj Zizek)


LAST week, European Union leaders put an end to a decade of diplomatic wrangling and signed the Treaty of Lisbon, which outlined a complete overhaul of the organization, including the creation of a permanent post of European Union president to represent Europe on the world stage. During the ceremony at Lisbon’s grandiose Jerónimos Monastery, a choir performed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the background. While the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, first performed in 1824, may seem an innocuous choice for the official anthem of the European Union (it was declared such in 1972), it actually tells much more than one would expect about Europe’s predicament today.

The “Ode to Joy” is more than just a universally popular piece of classical music that has become something of a cliché during the holiday season (especially, oddly, in Japan, where it has achieved cult status). It has also been, for more than a century, what literary theorists call an “empty signifier” — a symbol that can stand for anything.

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Top (Classical) Music Blogs!

Scott Spiegelberg rates the (classical) music blogs of 2007:

The list shows the rank, the blog, the TA, the author(s), and the category: C = composer, Crit = critic, O = opera, A = academic, L = listener, AD = arts director, and the rest are self explanatory.

1 Sequenza21: 783 Jerry Bowles (C)
2 The Rest is Noise: 650 Alex Ross (Crit)
3 About Last Night: 314 Terry Teachout (Crit)
4 Opera Chic: 181 (O)
5 Violinist.com Diaries: 158 (violin)

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(UPDATES): “Met at the Movies” – Romeo et Juliette (Roberto Alagna, Anna Netrebko)

“Met at the Movies” – apparently this is an official title for a series of HD Broadcasts from Metropolitan Opera to god-only-knows how many places on the surface of the earth, if you are still living in a cave and have not heard about this program (that entered its second year on 12/15 with a broadcast of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette), then feel very very guilty and check out the information here

A friend from an operatically advanced Portland and I went to a performance at a local movie theater.  I think that despite very cold weather, a depressingly old age of the audience and an enormous amount of Russian-speaking opera lovers, we have managed to enjoy the broadcast. I think the whole “behind-the-scenes” segments between acts were very poorly done and I found them to be very distracting and, honestly, anticlimactic.  Alanga was great, even if too old to play a teenager in love, and Netrebko was a bit weak, I thought, in the first couple of Acts when she had to play a silly young girl in love, but she got increasingly better(both singing and acting) as things got a bit more tragic and gloomy – the finale was quite excellent!

This is a recap from Met’s Blog: Posted by Matt Dobkin on 12/15/2007

Today was the first of the Met’s 8 high-definition transmissions this season, and the excitement in the opera house was palpable. TV trucks were parked behind the house on Amsterdam Avenue, and camera crews raced around the house capturing behind-the-scenes action for the international audience. Continue reading

Room With A View: Yellow Man Sighting.

It snowed today. Not hard, just enough to cover the parking lot and somewhat reluctantly greenish grass. I looked outside of my window.  I saw a strange picture. I saw a man, a man on a bicycle, a man wearing a bright yellow jacket. I took pictures. I like surreal and strange. I like colors and have been known to support bold, even if questionable, fashion statements.  This man was not just wearing a birght yellow jacket. This man was not just riding a bicycle in the snow.  This man was making circles in my parking lot, laying tracks like he was painting a picture: round and round and round… Beautiful.

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More Operas at the Movies: I Is Very Happy!

New York Times: Met Has New Rival in Operas at Movies

Published: December 19, 2007

It’s an arms race out there in opera land.

The San Francisco Opera on Tuesday announced its own plan to transmit operas to movie theaters using a system it says is superior to that of the Metropolitan Opera, which pioneered the practice in the United States last year.

The San Francisco house said it would broadcast six operas a year, starting in March, and reach 200 screens, about the same number as the Met began with last season. The much larger and busier Met now appears on about 600 screens and transmits eight productions a year.

Opera houses around the world are moving toward expanding audiences in as many electronic ways as possible: through Internet streaming and downloads, in DVD sales, on television on demand and, most dramatically, in movie theaters.

The Met has taken the lead, but the Washington National Opera is transmitting to college campuses, and La Scala is showing rebroadcasts in American theaters. The Royal Opera in London is also working on a movie plan.

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Weekend Weekday Opera Heavy Metal Edition: 3 Inches Of Blood

I have to say that nothing brings in the holidays like some good music and by good music I mean GOOD MUSIC! I have acquired two DVDs and a CD today – DVDs are operas and will have to wait until I have time and tea to waste, but a CD is 3 Inches of Blood‘s (relatively) new (second) album “Fire Up the Blades” – it is amazing! I do own “Advance and Vanquish” and I have to say that I was not particularly impressed – it was good and all, but nothing spectacular… This one, however, is much better – I hope that 3 Inches learned a lesson from Darkest Hour: “It’s OK to have a good melody and face-melting/gut-busting/knee-crushing solos!” Get this CD for that special someone!