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proust-photoReading the second volume of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, I’ve just read the delightful account of the dinner with the marquis de Norpois at the home of the narrator. Norpois relates a dinner he attended with Swann, and young Marcel asked if Bergotte was at the dinner. Marcel is smitten with the writings of the novelist Bergotte, especially because his crush Gilberte likes him and is one of his familiars. But Norpois launches a tirade about how lame Bergotte is, both in his writings and in his person, and then explains how a brief prose poem that Marcel had given Norpois to read bears the puerile influence of Bergotte. The narrator says:

“Atterré par ce que M. de Norpois venait de me dire du fragment que je lui avais soumis, songeant d’autre part aux difficultés que j’éprouvais quand je voulais écrire un essai ou seulement me livrer à des réflexions sérieuses, je sentis une fois de plus ma nullité intellectuelle et que je n’étais pas né pour la littérature.”

“…I once again realized my intellectual worthlessness and that I wasn’t cut out for literature.”

It’s a good thing that Marcel didn’t take this seriously. Of course, the entire cycle of La recherche is about his desire to be a writer, and finally, at the end, realizing that he could write a novel.

As Beckett would say as the ultimate insult, in Waiting for Godot: “Crritic!”

The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek — The Hairpin

The other night, I pretended I didn’t know who Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian Hegelian Marxist and cultural critic, was. I’ve done this before, but never to such triumphant effect. This Marxist bro I was talking to made a reference to Žižek that he obviously assumed I would get, and my heart sank. He was a nice guy, actually, but I saw the conversation stretching out in front of us, and I saw myself having to say things about Žižek and listen to him say things about Žižek, and I saw that I really did not want this to happen. “This is a bar,” I wanted to say, the same way that my grandmother might have said “This is a church.” A bar is not the appropriate venue for a loud, show-offy conversation about The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.

At first, I thought I might be able to get away with ignoring the reference. Not so. He made another one, and then another one, and then said, sort of desperately, “Žižek argues that…” I saw the gap, and I took it. I asked him who that was, and he assumed I hadn’t heard him over the music. “ŽIŽEK” he shouted. “SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK.” I told him I’d never heard of such a person, and his eyes widened. His attempts to explain were met with the same denials. Celebrity philosopher? Nope. Lacan? Nope. Hegel? Nope. I stopped short of saying I had never heard of Karl Marx, but only just. This guy couldn’t believe it. How could I have never heard of Žižek?

He moved through the stages that everyone moves through when they have fallen prey to the Žižek Maneuver: disbelief, defiance, and finally, dizzy irritation. Maybe even a bit of actual anger. I could see that he thought I might be messing with him, but he could not prove it. He gave up on me shortly afterwards, and ignored me for the rest of the night. Later I saw him talking to his friends and pointing at me. I imagined what he was saying: “That girl over there, she doesn’t even know who Žižek is. ŽIŽEK.” I smiled at him and waved.

Heh. I don’t know many people who would hit me with the Žižek reference, but the next time I want to mess with someone I’ll try the Žižek gambit.

Read the entire article; it’s quite funny.

Source: The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek — The Hairpin

Here’s What’s Wrong with Classical Music on Streaming Services (Part Whatever)

Classical music is hard to get right on streaming services. From dodgy metadata to inconsistent work names, it’s a real slog to stream classical music (if you want more than just the Bolero or Satie’s Gymnopedies).

unCLASSIFIED, a subsidiary of the Naxos Music Group, a large independent classical record label and distributor, creates playlists. They’ve been doing this for Spotify for a while, and they are now on Apple Music. Here’s the kind of playlists they offer:


As the description says, whether you “need a soundtrack for studying…” As if there aren’t any other reasons to listen to classical music. Oh, wait, there are: there is “Serenity Now,” because classical music is “serene.” Or classical music for running, because, I don’t know, you run better with Mozart? And Supper Club, so you can seduce your date with some subtle Bach playing in the bachground.

There’s also brain fuel, a “TranceClassical” playlist by some single-named, unknown person, and “Sounds Without Boundaries,” which is a mash-up of contemporary music with traditional instruments (lots of Icelandic composers, movie soundtracks, and even a track from Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which no one in the world wants to listen to voluntarily. I know; I listened to the entire album once.)

This is the dumbing down of classical music. Taken this way, classical music is just muzak. It’s designed for a mood or task, like that won’t-ever-go-away Classical Music for Elevators playlist I keep seeing in Apple Music’s For You recommendations.

Let’s just accept that classical music will never work on streaming services unless it is treated the way a good classical radio station would. I don’t think playlists need to contain, say, entire operas or full Mahler symphonies, but dumbing it down like this in an attempt to make classical music “cool” just alienates those people who do like classical music.

Spotify Is Now Letting Other Companies Check Out Your Tunes — And You – NPR

Now, add Spotify to the list of platforms that are opening up their user data to targeted advertising: Yesterday, Spotify announced the global rollout of programmatic buying, which will means third-party companies will have access to the 70 million fans who use Spotify’s free, ad-supported streaming across 59 territories and regions around the world, from the U.S. and the U.K. to the South Pacific.

As Spotify points out in its press release about this development, companies will be able to target Spotify users not just by their age, gender, language and geography — but also by the genres and playlists they choose to listen to. And those companies will be able to look for specific wedges of the audience that they think are the best matches for the products and services they’re selling, in 15- and 30-second chunks of time.

Apple wouldn’t do this.

Source: Spotify Is Now Letting Other Companies Check Out Your Tunes — And You – NPR

The iTunes Guy on Bookmarking Audiobooks, External Hard Drives, and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgThe summer is here, and lots of people want to relax and enjoy the weather. But there are still problems with iTunes that keep them from listening to their music and books in peace. In this week’s column, I look at a question about bookmarking audiobook files, help solve a problem with iTunes media on an external hard drive and an issue with app updates in iTunes, and then discuss Apple’s cloud offerings for music.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy at Macworld.

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn