Archiv für Januar 2011

I Know What You Are Thinking

27.01.2011

Listening to a critique on Beethoven recently, I got to thinking about what was being said: ‘You can hear the pain in his music. His thoughts were agonizing.’

Those were not the exact words, but it is the exact meaning. I asked myself, how the speaker could know what Beethoven was thinking at that time. Apart from that, I found the music typically Beethoven, generally considered one of the best composers of his time. Maybe I’m not too musically talented, but I could find no sign of pain in his music.

Surely you, my reader, have often heard commentators and the like, telling you what some prominent person is thinking, or intending, for example, in sport: ‘Now he’s taking the ball down the centre of the field, and he’s thinking that the big sum of money, his football club paid the other club for him, was not wasted, because he is so good.’ How could he commentator know what that player was thinking? But we hear this sort of thing so often, in so many different activities, e.g. what Shakespeare was thinking, and why he was thinking it, when he was writing: Much Ado About Nothing,’ or what Hannibal was thinking when he was taking his elephants over the Alps; what Schumacher was planning in his mind, when driving down the straight towards the finishing line, when he was in second place. Such comments are unending. Do they think we are stupid? Don’t they suppose we, the ‘man in the street’, are capable of thinking for ourselves? How can they know the thoughts of these famous people? If they are so all-knowing, why aren’t they, themselves famous?

I don’t expect things to change. I suppose I shall continue being irritated into the future, because I won’t stop thinking how ridiculous it is.

Glossary

Pain:  a headache is a pain in part of the head. If I put my hand into boiling water, I feel pain in my hand.

Agonizing:  something which is very painful and hurts a lot.

Composer:  someone who writes music.

Famous:  someone or something who/which is very well known.
Ridiculous:  absurd.
Links

No News is Good News

14.01.2011
As a young soldier, lying in hospital, for whatever injury I cannot remember, I started to try to orient my knowledge of politics. It didn’t take much time for me to realise that I knew next to nothing.

That day proved to be one of the personal turning points of my life. I immediately bought two newspapers, each representing opposing political views. Every day I carefully read each of the newspapers, and by the end of my hospital stay I had learned enough about the two main British political parties (Conservative (Tory) and Labour) to be able to form my own party opinion.

It has newly occurred to me that if I were in the same position today, I would have to plough through dozens of papers of, (for me) uninteresting articles, before finding something of political integrity.  It is true that there are a few articles of varying interest, but the majority of texts are simply gossip or over-emphasised sensationalism. For example, a recent headline read ‘Swine-flu epidemic sweeps through Britain.’ An investigation revealed that the ‘epidemic’ consisted of 30 infected people.

Long ago I asked myself whether I really needed a daily newspaper. The answer was ‘no’. So that was that. That was my personal experience.  Seen from the newspaper industry side, life is being very difficult for them. Gone are the days of straight-forward national dailies on the one hand, and local, mostly weekly, papers on the other. British papers (and, I suppose, others) are now fighting for their very existence. I.T. is taking a lot of the newspapers’ life-blood from them. Especially in the matter of advertising. Without advertising, newspapers die. Yet, if they can remain viable, newspapers have a lot to offer, despite my personal criticism. One of the more recent successes, has been to bring into  the public’s awareness, the dishonesty of many members of parliament (MPs), claiming public money for costs of housing and services that are unlawful. This has created a great national scandal. They are also very powerful in forming public opinions, especially of national politics. The frequent result is that party political policy is based on this influence.

However, newspapers have to remain viable, and that is their biggest problem. They have to compete with other news sources, particularly the on-line, with varying success. One on-line newspaper has 35 million visitors a month, while others are having big trouble.

One London evening newspaper has started distributing copies, free of charge. They are handed out to people, coming and going on the busy streets. If you sit in an underground train, after midday, you will find newspapers scattered  around on the train seats. The newspaper claims that in this way, their advertising is being seen by many more readers, so the newspaper’s income from that source is increasing. Another newspaper has drastically reduced its size, and renamed it as ‘I’, which is the first letter of the paper’s full name. It is also cheaper than the full-sized, original version (which still also exists). Whether or not this is profitable is not yet clear,  i.e. ‘the jury is still out’.

As we can see, British newspapers have great problems, but are fighting back. They are being very innovative in their fight. Will they win? Or will it, one day, come back to the old saying: ‘no news is good news’. How does this compare with the newspapers in your country? I’ll be pleased to hear your views (news?).

Glossary
Occur:  ”It occurred to me that…” means I suddenly had some new thoughts about something.
Plough through:  in this context to take a long time to work through something – here, to read a lot of newspapers.
Gossip:  Talk or writing about the private matters of other people, which may or may not be true.
Sensationalism:  the use of emotional content or very strong language to shock or interest other people – often used by journalists.
Sweep through: in this context to expand through an area at a fast speed.
Viable:  to have the ability to live or to exist.
Unlawful:  not legal.
Compete:  in this context – two or more businesses trying to sell similar products to the same customers compete with each other.
Distributing:  in business, to distribute means to hand out or deliver products to customers.
Scattered:  to scatter something – e.g. newspapers, means to throw them down here and there at irregular intervals.
Links
The “I” newspaper:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11626362

Waste not, Want not.

06.01.2011
While taking waste materials out of the house yesterday, so as to put the various items in their bins, according to category, I got to thinking about one particular form of waste. It was kitchen waste, i.e. waste food.

It took me back to my childhood days. In those days most people couldn’t afford to waste anything. To throw out unwanted food was seen almost as a sin.

Recently, our house was full of invited guests (including children) and I was astonished at how many different tastes my wife had to cater for. One guest liked this, but not that. The other liked that, but not this. As for the children! Well, their different likes and dislikes bordered on the  ridiculous. It seemed to me that the children were encouraged to pick and choose, without reason. This inevitably resulted in waste.

Children in my young day ate what was put before them on the table, or they left the table feeling very hungry.

On the other hand, there was, at the same time that thing called etiquette. For example, if you were invited for a meal, firstly, you arrived five or ten minutes late. The underlying reason being that you accepted the invitation as a gesture of friendliness, not because you were there only because of a free evening out. Similarly, it was impolite not to leave some food on your plate – you hadn’t come just for a free meal. So, here we had a contradiction concerning waste.

I quickly learned, during my first days in Germany, that it was impolite to arrive late for an invitation, and also that it was an insult to the hostess to leave food on my plate.

Back to the present. We now live in waste societies. Can we change it? I doubt it. Our increasing affluence, after the last war, has encouraged our wasteful habits. Relevant industries have responded accordingly.

If our wasteful habits suddenly ceased, there would be massive unemployment. Farmers would go bankrupt, stock exchanges would go berserk, etc.

The only solution, would seem to be ever stricter re-cycling. Even then, of course, some primary production would become superfluous. But, as the old saying goes:

You can’t have your cake and eat it.’

Glossary

Sin:  In religion, to do something against God’s law. Sometimes used nowadays to describe a very bad action.

Astonished:  very surprised.

Border on:  to be close to.

Pick:  same meaning as to choose. To pick and choose is an idiom.

Affluence:  if you are affluent, you have a lot of money.

Cease:  to stop.

Berserk:  mad, crazy.

Superfluous:  unnecessary, not needed.
Link
You can’t have your cake and eat it:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_one%27s_cake_and_eat_it_too