October 18, 2015

Diversity at work

... Stravinsky, Hindemith ... I have issues with them, but they’re not the same issues that I would find with the so-called contemporary composers of the late 20th century.  Elliott Carter, it was kind of pathetic what he was doing after 80 or 90 years.
The American composer George Walker speaking about his musical contemporaries, "In the life's coda, master composer George Walker has a symphony in mind", Geoff Edgers, The Washington Post, August 22, 2015.

I congratulate The Washington Post for allowing a black composer of serious music to prove to the world that, in America, one can be a certified asshole without being an uneducated white Republican voter.

October 7, 2015

Why stop with Shakespeare?

The American Association for the Advancement of Learning has decided that the mathematical language of physics is too difficult for today's students to understand.  In order to attract more students to science majors, the Association recently announced that, over the next three years, it will commission 36 physicists to translate all of basic physics into plain English, so as to make the discipline accessible to the widest possible audience.
     A typical example of proposed translations considered by the Association is the differential equation known as Newton's Second Law of Motion
translated as
If you push harder, the damn thing will move faster.

The above announcement would be easy to dismiss as yet another absurd and unfunny mental burp of Boom's deranged mind if it weren't for this very real news item in today's New York Times:

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has decided that Shakespeare’s language is too difficult for today’s audiences to understand. It recently announced that over the next three years, it will commission 36 playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.  ...  Other venues, including the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the University of Utah and Orlando Shakespeare Theater, have already signed on to produce some of these translations.  (James Shapiro, "Shakespeare in Modern English?", The New York Times, October 7, 2015.)

Since 'modern English' beloved by 'today's audiences' is rapidly becoming Twitterglish, I expect the announced translations, when published, to look something like this:

How is my fantasy about translating physics into 'accessible English' more absurd than this reality?

October 1, 2015

Ivan the Queer

The 2013 Russian law against propaganda of so-called non-traditional sexual relationships criminalizes distribution of visual and reading materials

... causing minors to form non-traditional sexual predispositions, notions of attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relationships, ... or imposing information about non-traditional sexual relationships which raises interest in such relationships.

As with most things Russian, there is a palpably surreal aspect to this piece of legislation.  After all, this is the country where propaganda posters and photographs of political leaders from its still cherished Soviet past include images like these: