Come with me, learn the truth.

I used to drink Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey:

Now I drink Bush Mills Irish Whiskey.

For some reason Tullamore Dew is no longer available in one of the biggest supermarkest in Italy. But Bushmills is:

One Summer evening, when it was too too hot to sleep, I stood on the balcony and looked towards the horizon. A few stars were visible, but the horizon was too bright too see many. And to my right, to the south, huge clouds climbed into the sky. The shapely bumpy gigantic clouds which I like and which I could go to sleep on. They were dark, because it was night, but they were not grey. So it was a dark white, not a grey, which piled up hugely into the sky.

And in these clouds were flashes of lightening, but no thunder. Presumably they were so far away, as if constellations, that no sound reached me on the balcony. And since there was no thunder I knew that our cat, outside somewhere, would not be frightened.

I remembered that one evening we came back late from a dinner. The cat was sitting underneath a hedge looking at us, in the dark. And he said to me:

"Come with me, learn them truth."

At least that is what I thought he said, it was hard to understand his speech. He turned and disappeared into the night. I could not follow.

I don't actually drink the whiskey. I sort of let it rest on my tongue and evaporate into my mouth. Then I breathe in.


The jewels in our collections...

I discovered three "old" things which made me think that maybe I should have a careful look at my book and CD collections rather than ordering the latest thing from Amazon.

A few weeks ago I came across a very old CD, "The Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart. I bought it in the 1980s I think. I had a vague idea that he is/was(?) a one hit wonder ("The Year of the Cat" single), but I listened to the whole album, and it is all good. (There were none of the, er, crappy lyrics which pass for songs these days.)

And in the same week, not knowing what to order from Amazon to read, I picked up my old copy of "The Collected Dorothy Parker". The stories seem a bit dated now, but I read with glee her book reviews, which are mostly scathing sideways attacks on poorly written books and bad authors. And it did not matter that I had not heard of the books she mentioned, I just enjoyed her put-downs.

And finally, I re-read a book I'd read about eight years ago, "Yellow Blue Tibia", by Adam Roberts. I remember enjoying it when I first read it, and could very vaguely remember the story. But when I started I was hooked again, within a few pages. It is not just a great and strange novel, but it is also full of laugh out loud passages. For example, two Russians are talking:

  "I suffer from a syndrome..."
  "Syndrome, syndrome, syndrome. Do you know the English name for your syndrome? 'Fuckwittery'."
  "Really? I have come across American studies of my syndrome and have never yet heard it so described. Is Fuckwitter the name perhaps of the doctor who..."

Next time I get the urge to "just browse" on Amazon, maybe I should just browse through the stuff I already own...


What if the shrink is more stupid than you are?

I heard an interview with a British screenwriter a month or so ago (I can't remember his name, the interview was on one of the BBC R4 Front Row podcasts). One of the things he said made me laugh out loud. He suffers from clinical depression. (No it wasn't that that made me laugh.) And he explained that he had tried everything, drugs and talking therapies, the lot. Nothing worked very much.

The problem with talking therapies, he said, was that you have to find a therapist at the very least as intelligent as yourself, and hopefully more intelligent than yourself. Otherwise, how on earth can you take the therapy seriously?

And the problem was that in twenty years he had not found a single good therapist. He was not saying, I think, that he was particularly intelligent, but that with, for example, 165,000 licensed therapists in the USA the average level is going to be pretty average. I mean, are all 165,000 brighter than their patients?

You may find a medical doctor or a mechanic, more or less intelligent than yourself, but if they have experience then they can probably do the job well. But what to do with a stupid therapist? The job is too hard and too delicate to be left to the average intelligence.

I met, not so many years ago, a psychotherapist who said that the "Fridge Mother" theory of autism could be true. As if the person had never heard of Uta Frith's work. If I ever need help in that direction I'll know not to go to that particular doctor.


A Night In Milan With Bach

A few months ago I went with some friends to hear/see the Bach Passion According to Matteo. It started early, 19:30, because it is long. We drove to Lampugnano and then got the Metro into Milano. 

At Lampugnano, near the bus station, lots of African males, and one or two families, standing around and lying on the benches. How did the mothers with children feel? Where were they going? Or going to end up? One bloke outside kicked a can angrily, one bloke inside had spread out fake handbags to sell.

We got off the metro at Duomo. The piazza in front of the church was packed, with Italian youth as well as lots of tourists. I hated it. I dislike the chaos of people more and more. I almost understood the quietness of some abstract expressionists. (Though a real and silent blue sky is better than their self-concious self-important daubs.)

There are big bright video ads on the side of Duomo now. I'm an agnostic/aethistic but it seemed sacrilege.

We got on the crowded tram, a number 3, and in 15 minutes got  off at Auditorium

Our seats in the concert hall were up high on the balcony because the bloke who booked them had wanted to be able to see the instruments. But it turned out to be a bad choice for him, the seats were a bit too far back, and he is not very tall. 

I had a decent view of one half the orchestra, and a poor view of the other half. There were two sets of singers, and later I would discovered that their sung conversations were amazing (as long as you did not understand the words).

As the singers and musicians walked in I noticed one of the principal violinists. She wore very high heels. Not so much shoes as just straps and spangly bits. She had two tone hair, Joe 90 glasses and an attractive face. Her top was sleeveless with a long deep semicircular neck line. Whenever I got bored I looked at her.  She moved her head quite a lot as she played. She was maybe 35.

One of the principal singers was a tall thin woman with long blonde hair. She sang well and emotionally, leaning slightly foward into the audience now and then, maybe to project her voice into our minds better. When she walked back to her seat after singing, I saw she was thin but shapely nonetheless. Forget ideas about the "fat lady" in classical music.

I could not find any photos of the violinist, but of Scheen the singer yes:

She wore a tubular sleeveless dress. It was hot in the Auditorium and the women have the option of no sleeves to reduce sweating.

Both the violinist and Scheen had bright red lipstick, though the violinist's mouth was wider larger than the singer's, strangely.

Every time the Evangelist got up to sing I sighed inwardly with anticipated boredom. The long and practically spoken parts are boring to me. The words (projected in German and Italian on a screen above the players) show how shallow and contradictory the story is. (If it had been predicted by the prophets, what choice did Judas have? I'm sure there are theologians who can explain this, but there is nothing to push against in their arguments. It is all talk and nothing but talk. If it was not just talk why are there so many contradictory religions?)

Now, when the the whole chorus was singing (and not speaking), it was beautiful, full-on orgasmastron stuff. 

It was a long concert and the finale was lovely but welcome. 

The tram back was packed. I saw a dark skinned tatooed bloke with a dog sitting a metre or so from where I was standing. He was dark but not in a healthy way. His dog pushed its nose against his knees. The sort of bloke you would not like to meet alone in a dark alley. Piercings too. He offered to give up his seat to an old woman standing next to him. I wonder what his life is like? The dog looked happy.

I saw my reflection in the window, saw a gery haired late middle aged bloke in a blue anorak hanging onto a strap in a tram. And I looked as if I should have been dressed in beige.

Looking out into Friday midnight Milano, I noticed all the energetic youth, living as if they'd never be old, let alone die. Running under bright lights from bar to disco. And what struck me was all the 20 something girls around, apparently carefree, dressed (and undressed) to the nines. As if there was no danger in the world.


How my mind reacts to text/signs, and how to nature.

Last week, to escape the not humid weather of Lombardia we visited some friends with a flat in Val Sesia, an Alpine valley, much cooler than where we live near Milano.

I was not driving so I could look out at the passing scenery. And I noticed how my mind reacted to any text or artificial signage compared with any "pure nature".

As we drove by I'd think "That's a bad logo," and I'd imagine a very poor amateur artist being asked by a local company to design a logo. . "That's a good logo," and I'd wonder who designed it. And "I'm glad we're still making something in Europe" when I see a small factory making specialist mechanical parts. 

Every single phrase or commercial man made image on a roadside ad provoked a word-thought reaction. I expect that you would have had different reactions, but I imagine you mind would have reacted.

And as we moved further into the countryside the signs got fewer and fewer and I just looked into the forests, mountains, fields, and there was no "intellectual" judgement in my thought reactions to what I saw, just seeing and contentment and pleasure.

I know these aren't great photos, but you get the idea. There are no words.