Monday 11 August 2008

Six degrees of exasperation....

August 3rd -10th: an abridged list of majorly minor irritations

1) Taoiseach Brian Cowen. I abjure violence and yet simply cannot imagine growing tired of whacking his face with a plank. This is very probably how revolutions start.

2) The way that Richard Dawkins uses the word “amusing” in The God Delusion. Dawky often finds it “amusing” when he hears so and so say such and such about this and that – usually an attack on Dawkins himself, in fact - and for some reason this does my head in.

Obviously, this is just a (fairly transparent) form of counter-attack. But, and I'm not sure why, exactly, it also reminds me of the way those football guys talk when you see them being interviewed at the end of some game or other.
Interviewer:"Well, Jim, you've won the cup, what's next for you and the boys?"
Jim:"I think it's fair to say, Arthur, that the boys will be sinking a fair few shandy-lemonades tonight”. Oh, stop it. Stop it right now. (Excellent book, though. A magical, logical dream.)

3) Suggs is fronting an advertising campaign for Birds Eye Foods (“good mood food”). I'll say that again: Suggs is fronting an advertising campaign for Birds Eye Foods. This is very old news, apparently, but I only found out yesterday when a “friend” sent me a clip.

Why are people so disappointing? Like Robert Mugabe, Edward Said, Queer As Folk, Fidel Castro, Noam Chomsky, Shameless and Wayne Rooney, say, Suggs started off brilliantly and then simply didn't know when to quit. How can he possibly think he makes sense to us now?

4) Fruitellas. On a whim, I bought some at a garage the other day, feeling I ought to lighten up, live a little and try something new. That was a rubbish whim. Who eats this stuff? It's properly horrible.

5) Leonard Bernstein. In the second movement of his Chichester Psalms (Adonai Ro-i) a sudden, clattering crime breaks out after about two and a half minutes. We did an arrangement of this particular piece of music at school, as it happens, and I occasionally go back to it if I'm feeling distressed or sad in a certain kind of way. It helps.

Last week, however, the anticipated solace was ruined by the anticipated clattery crime. I can no longer pretend it's not about to happen, it seems, and so the beautifully cascading harmonies of the opening stages are pre-ruined by what's going to come. How is that fair? I'm v. disappointed with you, Leonard Bernstein. Try harder.

6) The fecker who coughed in the Albert Hall during a performance of Barber's famous Adagio for Strings (15/09/2001). This particular cough makes me wince every time I hear it. The conductor, Leonard Slatkin – like him or loathe him, the guy gives good hair - had coaxed his orchestra towards a ringing, shuddering, terrorist-defying silence. This deadly seven-second pause followed a crescendo of screaming violins and arrived after (roughly) seven minutes and six seconds. It was an immensely powerful silence, really, and it ripped right into me. I didn't notice the coughing first time round, in fact, because I was too far gone crying – in a controlled, strong, vigorously heterosexual way.

It was a beautiful performance, though, and has always felt like a defiantly apt response to the killings of a few short days previously. But that cough. My God, how it annoys me. (If anyone can show that it was Brian Cowen coughing on that night, incidentally, then I'll happily take care of the rest – contradictory and shabby proof welcomed.) Right so, but six of the seven seconds had already passed in a pulsating and terrible silence. The seventh second was partially underway, for pity's sake, as the cough, like some syncopated half-beat, precedes the return of the violins. You couldn't wait? What is wrong with you people? How is it possible to lack the ability to resist clearing your throat for half a second more? Did you not hear the silence you were destroying, you selfish fool? And so it goes on.....

Anyway, that performance is now ruined for me, too, as I discovered to my cost last Thursday. Knowing that this cough is impending makes it impossible to fall into the music – or into the mood of that particular moment in time, more specifically – in an unguarded, come and hurt me better, kind of a way. I just don't know.

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