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Familiarity breeds content.
Question: Do we enjoy things because they’re new or because they’re old?
This is true in every endeavour, culture, life, and even secret life. An especially instructive example reminded me last week.
The first piece was Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, which no one knows, and far less famous than his other piano concerto Rhapsody in Blue, which everyone knows. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, maybe because it wasn’t etched into my brain the way Rhapsody in Blue is. So I couldn’t hum along, which is a big deal for me. Or maybe I was just a victim of ‘branding’. What if Gershwin had flipped their names and called one Rhapsody in F and the other Concerto in Blue?
The TSO’s choice to program a less familiar icon to launch their new season speaks to one reason we go to concerts by artists we love, read books by authors we know, and so on. Part of them is familiar; part is new. So my task this week is to play Gershwin’s Concerto in F dozens of times so it’s no longer strange, but familiar.
The evening’s second piece was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s origin story has passed into myth. On opening night on May 29, 1913 in Paris, the crowd was scandalized. “In addition to the outrageous costumes, unusual choreography and bizarre story of pagan sacrifice, Stravinsky's musical innovations tested the patience of the audience to the fullest.” Many called the first-night reaction “a riot.”
There was no riot at Roy Thomson Hall. But there were 2,000 people on their feet. Many, like me, had heard this piece often. But many, like me, had never actually heard it live, performed by an orchestra at the top of its game. Which is another way that everything old gets new again: it’s performed live, which makes it thrilling. And that’s something old we can never renew too often.
1. Even the thunder will be clapping. You can find out where lightning is striking, this very second, anywhere in the world.
2. How well does an AI image-detector work? We can test everything from tire pressure to internet speeds. Easy. But AI is new and crazy-complex. So which AI-detectors actually work? Bellingcat offers up an early peak.
Other science news: we all have implicit bias. Harvard now has a website to help us make better decisions; Unexplainable is a podcast that’s 100 episodes in, exploring scientific mysteries from “Can we talk to animals?” to “Does garlic break magnets?”
3. Don’t call them private parts. Not because they’re public, but
the word “private” keeps us from normalizing them.
4. Dying on your own terms. On Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, MAiDHouse presents the documentary, Addicted to Life, about paralympian Marieke Vervoort’s self-determined journey to meet the end of her life on her own terms. Details here.
6. There’s over-tourism, and then there’s choke- hold- tourism. This month, Venice announced there are more tourist beds (hotels, Airbnb, etc.) than residents of the city. Florence has the same number of beds, but seven times the number of residents.
The kind of tourism I want to see is The London Tunnels, which will revive the mile-long secret spy tunnels dug during the Blitz, to create London’s biggest tourist attraction.
7. Airlines are just banks. Car makers, just healthcare plans. In the 1990s, GM spent more money on its healthcare and pension plans than it did manufacturing cars. Today, The Atlantic claims that airlines are just banks. They make more money from their points programs than their flights. One points partnership is responsible for nearly 1% of the US GDP.
9. A stiff upper lip could make you happier. “Burying negative feelings has long been thought to be bad for our minds, but new scientific research shows this might not be the case.” Here’s the Stiffest-Upper Lipper, Jacob Rees-Mogg, interviewing the Cambridge researchers who led the study.
10. Music mix-masters. First, a rock and roll camp for girls. Next, Ella Fitzgerald scat-singing “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”, in 1965 with Duke Ellington on, of all things, The Ed Sullivan Show.
And this just in: Peter Raymont’s White Pine Pictures has been nominated for an International Emmy for its documentary about musician and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie. As the CBC reports: “It is the only Canadian nominee this year across 14 categories of the International Emmys that recognize television programs and performances from 20 countries.”
11. What I’m liking. The four-part documentary on Carlos Ghosn, on AppleTV+. Ghosn was the CEO of Renault and then of Nissan when he was suddenly arrested in 2018 by the Tokyo Police for fraud. It was a huge story. He got out on bail, then was re-arrested, and then, well, he escaped on a private jet to Beirut, where he lives today, out of the reach of both French and Japanese extradition treaties. What a tale, I tell you.