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Arnold Schoenberg’s fascination with numerology, and the fact that he was a superstitious bastard, led to his morbid obsession with the number 13. Born in 1874 on 13 September, he believed that the number 13 would also play a part in his death. Because the numerals seven and six add up to 13, Schoenberg was convinced that his 76th year would mark the end of his life. Checking the calendar for 1951, he saw to his horror that 13 July fell on a Friday. When that day came, he kept to his bed in an effort to reduce the chance of an accident. Shortly before midnight, his wife entered the bedroom to say good night and to reassure him that his fears had been foolish, whereupon, Schoenberg gasped the word “harmony” and expired.

The time of his death was 23:47, 13 minutes before midnight, on Friday 13 July, in his 76th year.

Well, he was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, the biggest fucking musical charlatan of the 20th century, so something must have rubbed off on him.

The word for Cage’s compositional practice is apparently, I’m told by various dullards who bother about these kind of things, “indeterminacy”, “aleatory” being a dirty European word (coined by loser Pierre Boulez) describing a European concept of having some chance elements inside a determined structure. (In this, it is not much different from any piece, ever, as there are always little things different in each performance of each piece. That goes for each playing of a fixed recording, too.)

Indeterminacy, on the other hand, is about finding ways to let go of control, finding ways to bypass one’s own tastes and desires (this goes for performers as well as composers, hence the distinction Cage always made between indeterminacy and improvisation). Aleatory basically leaves the whole Western art tradition intact, leaves the audience still in the position of admiring “works”. Indeterminacy, briefly, overturns the tradition, inviting the audience to take more responsibility for their enjoyment, inviting the audience to become more aware of, if not even enjoy, the sights and sounds of everyday life.

Superficially, they all seem similar, aleatory, improvisation, indeterminacy. But they really are all three quite distinct.

In conclusion, therefore, Arnold Schoenberg was an arse and John Cage was an arse.

Oh come on, seriously, how often do you think, “Where’s that John Cage tape I made in 1972 … I really want to listen to it now” or “Let’s put on Alfred Brendel’s recording of Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto and fuck like crazed weasels”?

Show-business history records that the American actor Peter Falk, who has died aged 83, made his stage debut the year before he left high school, presciently cast as a detective. Despite the 17-year-old’s fleeting success, he had no thoughts of pursuing acting as a career – if only because tough kids from the Bronx considered it an unsuitable job for a man. Just 24 years later, Falk made his first television appearance as the scruffy detective, Columbo, not only becoming the highest paid actor on television – commanding $500,000 an episode during the 1970s – but also the most famous.

-Absolutely, Sir. Thank you very much, Sir.
(Walks to the door, then turns around)
-Er … Just one more question, Sir.

This became a cliché, and as much as I loved his anti-hero persona when Columbo was originally broadcast, it is equally annoying when I watch the repeats now.

And why did they call for Columbo in the first place – before they even knew it was a murder?

He also knew who the killer was after talking to him once …

This is no criticism of Peter Falk as an actor, just an observation of blemishes that I didn’t think about when I first saw Columbo back in the 1970s.

Peter Falk had been suffering from dementia for the last few years. It appeared to have come on suddenly after a series of dental surgeries in 2007. When someone asked if he’d ever reprise his role as Columbo again, his reps said, “He can’t even remember who Columbo is.”

Not long before he fell ill, he denied that his raincoat had been donated to a museum, saying that it was still part of his wardrobe.

R.I.P. Peter Michael Falk, actor, born 16 September 1927; died 23 June 2011

Amy Winehouse cancels entire tour after disastrous comeback gig
Amy Winehouse: They Said Go, Go, Go

Amy Winehouse booed and jeered by Serbian crowd as she slurs and stumbles her way through Belgrade concert

From my complete set of Good Housekeeping wipe-clean recipe cards, another revolting 1970s recipe.

Ingredients

4-6 trout
2-3 oz. unsalted butter
1 oz. flaked almonds
2-3 teaspoonfuls lemon juice
parsley sprigs and lemon slices for garnish

Method

Ask fishmonger to clean the trout. Remove heads only if desired. Rub off any black film inside the cavity with a little salt. Brush fish with a little melted butter.

Heat grill and line the rack with buttered kitchen foil. Grill the trout for about two minutes on each side, then reduce heat and continue to cook until flesh shows signs of leaving the bone.

For the almond butter, melt 2 oz. butter, add 1 oz. flaked almonds. Fry gently until almonds begin to brown. Add 2-3 teaspoonfuls lemon juice and a little salt.

Serve trout on a hot dish, pour almond butter over. Garnish with parsley and twists of sliced lemon.

(Source: HeatherBlog)

Have you ever wondered (like me) what Darth Vader’s minions get up to in their spare time? I mean, how do they relax when they’re not on duty? This same thought seems to have inspired Stéfan Le Dû, who between April 2009 and April 2010 daily photographed stormtroopers in bizarre situations.

My thanks, by the way, to Heather Munro for bringing this to my attention.

Here are two of my favourites:

Bad news - we're out of mustard

Stare at it - they hate that

Good Housekeeping cookery cards, beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.

Ingredients

1 lb. calf’s or lamb’s liver, sliced
lemon juice
seasoned flour
2 oz. butter
3 tbsp Marsala
¼ pint stock, made with a cube
whole grilled tomatoes and shoestring potatoes for garnish

Method

Sprinkle liver with lemon juice and coat with seasoned flour.

Melt the butter in a frying-pan and fry the liver quickly on both sides until lightly browned.

Stir in the Marsala and stock. Simmer until the liver is just cooked and the sauce syrupy.

Arrange on a serving dish and garnish with tomatoes and potatoes.

Second lesbian blogger exposed as a man

A second supposedly leading lesbian blogger was exposed as a man masquerading as a gay woman, a day after the Gay Girl in Damascus blog was revealed to be the fictional creation of a married male student from Edinburgh.

Paula Brooks, who claimed to be the executive editor of a US-based lesbian site LezGetReal.com, told the Washington Post that “she”, too, was a man – in this case, a 58-year-old retired construction worker from Ohio called Bill Graber.

Linda LaVictoire, a contributor at LezGetReal.com who writes as Linda Carbonelli, told the Washington Post: “I was completely taken in. I have been completely taken in for three years.”

Before I am outed by various unsavoury, sexist, and worthless denizens of the blogosphere, I have decided to reveal myself that I am, in fact, a Syrian lesbian librarian and feminist freedom fighter. My bra size is 36HH. I started this blog because I was bored – the only other lesbians here in Damascus are visiting Americans who, apart from being intensely dull, disrespect my beloved country and the sufferings of our people, thousands of whom have fled to Turkey, which is shit.

Anyway, this article will tell you a bit more about my home city.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Before Athens was built, or Rome; before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, Damascus, “the pearl of the desert” and the present capital of Syria, was a great and famous city. It is believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, and we can trace its continuous existence for 4,000 years.

To the Arab it is also the most beautiful city, and on it he bases his idea of paradise; for it lies in a lovely green plain on the edge of the Syrian desert, and its gardens – stretching for miles along the Barada River – yield oranges, lemons, citrons, pomegranates, mulberries, figs, plums, walnuts, pears, apples, and cucumbers, to the limit of his dreams.

It is a sacred city as well, and in the 12th month of every Mohammedan year, thousands gather at Damascus for the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every believer hopes to make once in his lifetime. About this city of romance many historic memories cluster – how it was taken by the Israelites under King David, and by the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III; how Saul was miraculously converted while on his way to persecute the Christians of Damascus; and how it was captured by the Crusaders. Here died Saladin, the great enemy of the Crusaders in the days of Richard the Lionheart, and here he lies buried.

No city is more Oriental in appearance than Damascus. From a distance its great expanse of low-lying Arab houses, overtopped here and there by the graceful minarets of the 248 mosques, seems very picturesque; but when you come nearer, you find that the streets are narrow and crooked and dirty, and the houses seem very dingy and in bad repair.

The “Great Khan” with its Moorish gate and its black and white marble cupola supported on granite pillars, is a magnificent structure. In this and several lesser khans (walled caravan headquarters), trading goes on in a cool twilight to the pleasant sound of fountains. The bazaars are noisier and busier, being simply streets of small shops, where bright silks, rugs, metalwork, and other articles are temptingly displayed. The longest, busiest bazaar of all is the “Straight Street” mentioned in connexion with St. Paul’s conversion. It is roofed for its whole length of a mile and a half.

The looms of Damascus have been famous for many centuries; and in this city, where everything is still done in the most primitive way, where meal is ground in stone mills turned by camels, you may still see the hand-looms worked by a weaver and his draw-boy. On these looms are made the beautiful damasks, woven in silks of brilliant colours, that were known throughout Europe and Asia as early as the time of the Crusades.

Few of the Damascus sword blades, for which the city was also famous in the Middle Ages, have been forged there since 1399, when Tamerlane, the terrible Tartar conqueror, raided the city and carried off all the great armourers to his own capitals. The twisting and welding of two grades of iron or steel gave them their cutting properties and also contributed a beautiful watermark pattern. To make them still more beautiful the Damascenes inlaid them with marvellous designs done in gold and silver. These blades were so keen that floating gossamer could be cut with them; so hard that they would shear an iron spear in two. Damascus today is still famous for its metal inlaid work.

The first mention of Damascus is in Egyptian records of about 4,000 years ago. After 1200 B.C. it became the most powerful of a group of Aramean kingdoms that long defied Assyria. In 732, however, Tiglath-Pileser III crushed its walls. The Bible tells of King David’s conquest of Damascus. In 333 it fell prey to Alexander, and in A.D. 63 to Rome. From 635 down to the time of the World War Damascus was in Arab and Turkish hands, except for a brief interval when it was held by the Crusaders of the 12th century. In quelling a rebellion, the French shelled part of the city in 1925.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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