Showing interest in people

6 December, 2007

Memo to self:

When someone asks you what your plans for New Years Evening are, you should (after lying and saying “Oh, nothing yet but something always turns up” and implying that you have on previous occasions gone to parties inter-state, instead of being honest and saying that you’ll be alone in your room as usual, and maybe even in the shower come midnight, consistent with the past few years), you should then say, “And how about you, what are you doing this year? What are your plans?”

I’m not actually autistic. This is just a basic social reflex which, due to my neglected upbringing, I never acquired. I’m trying to keep it mind by recalling that song:

I like New York in June
How about you?


Oh, and try not to “zone out” while they’re telling you about themselves. There may be a quiz at the end!

Last night I picked up a couple of Naxos CDs – symphonies by Stanford and Alwyn. I haven’t heard the Alwyn yet, but am pessimistic. Listening to the Stanford reminded me of why certain works are core repertoire, and the others aren’t. It really is mediocre stuff. I was reminded at many moments of Dvorak (whom I love), but in every aspect, Stanford disappointed. His melodies are dull and unmemorable, and his structures are directionless and undramatic. Why do they even bother recording this stuff, except as part of some “national heritage” project, in which anything sufficiently old and “cultural” is deemed worthy of preservation?

Of course, this celebration of British failure extends into the 20th century, including a number of composers whom we are supposed to regard as Important, and woe to us if we point out that Walton’s symphonies are bland orchestral showpieces, and Vaughan Williams’ symphonies are awful English kitch. Malcolm Arnold never really rises above superficiality, except when he is suffused with strong but uninteresting self-pity. Bax too has nothing much beyond amateur orchestral effects with which to engage us.

Elgar is doubtless the greatest British composer, but he too is allowed to get away with mediocrity: his choral works are almost uniformly cringe-inducing, and his symphonies lay bare his weaknesses in the orchestral form – his monotonous, blaring orchestration, his inability to convincingly development his melodic material. I think the reason the completion of his 3rd symphony has been so readily accepted is that the arrangement is by someone else.

Speaking of which, Paul Daniel, who conducted a fine recording of the Elgar 3rd for Naxos, has been announced as principal conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, starting from 2009. With Ashkenazy becoming principal conductor of the Sydney Symphony around the same time, this may be a good time for classical music in Australia. If only I could afford to go to the concerts!

[Edit:] Oh, I should mention an actually-quite-good British composer called Dyson – get his symphony (and worthy extras) on Naxos, conducted by Lloyd-Jones. It sure ain’t Bruckner, but at least it doesn’t make me feel insulted, as in the above-named examples.

On Sunday I partook in some self-improving measures…

Exercise: After stretching, I did some sit-ups, some push-ups, some lifting (with tins of canned tomatoes), and some squats. I can definitely feel the squats today, with stairs being something of a problem! I also felt a bit nauseous after exercise, which is curious. I had the same reaction during the moving process, but assumed it was the heat.

Sun exposure: My new flat faces west, which means I don’t have to blockade the window against the morning sun, which means I can actually look out the window on a regular basis. Being so high up (out of the neighbours’ view), it also means I can take advantage of the afternoon sun to “catch some rays”.

I’ve spent my life avoiding the sun, thanks to my father, whose torso is covered with ugly moles. Unfortunately, skin health (including suppression of psoriasis) requires vitamin D, which we generally get from sun exposure.

So, I sunbathed in my flat (handy!) from 4 to 7pm. I had the window open, as apparently UV is blocked by glass. I did both sides, front and back, and found (a) the heat from the sun makes your skin sweat, and (b) one’s genitals turning slightly pink is a slightly alarming experience. I might cover that up next time.

As far as I can tell, I haven’t tanned in the slightest. Maybe I should have left a patch covered for comparison?

I also bought some cod liver oil capsules on the weekend, which contain vitamin D, among other nutrients. Four pills a day with food. Good stuff, but I can’t help feeling sorry for the cod!

Metal Odyssey

3 December, 2007

A certain metal specialist shop in Sydney was selling industry preview CDs (marked “Do not sell!”) for $5, so I picked up four as part of my metal education… .

Old [Down with the Nails] – retro-thrash with Satanic lyrics. Once I got into it I quite enjoyed it, but it was unoriginal and not really my thing anyway. I’ll keep it for when I’m in the mood. 2.5/5

Daath [The Hinderers] – OK death metal, a bit overproduced (i.e. too many superfluous synth breaks). I’ll listen to it again. 2.5/5

Gorefest [Rise to Ruin] – Fuck yeah! These guys know what they’re doing. This contemporary-but-dignified death metal is hard but intelligent, musical but not overtly melodic, and the production sounds great, hard-hitting and tonally rich. I also like the attitude of their lyrics: kill stupid people, kill corrupt leaders, REVOLT! 4.5/5

Panzerchrist [Battalion Beast] – Nope. Not very good. I’m not a fan of dual vocals for a start, but even apart from that, this stuff is just uninspired, undistinctive, unmemorable, annoyingly mediocre. The vocals are better than Cult ov Azazel, but the actual songs are a lot worse. This goes on the throw-out pile. 0/5

BTW, I’m aware that, being new to metal, my descriptions/genre classifications might be a bit “off”. Just bear with me, okay?