Last week was busier than I like. I can tolerate going out about once a week, and I was busy every single day last week, due to a rare alignment of regularly-scheduled events (yoga class, cello rehearsal) and occasional, random cultural events (theater subscription, concert subscription 1, concert subscription 2, interesting concert 3).

On Monday, we (my wife and I) watched a performance of Anna Karenina at the Volkstheater in Vienna. Although I was familiar with the story, I found it very hard to understand the actors. It was a good production, the Volkstheater is generally a safe bet since Michael Schottenberg took over there as manager, we’ve been fans of his for decades. I slept very little, although I get up pretty early in the morning.

Tuesday I had yoga class. I slept very little.

Wednesday we went to the Beriosaal at the Konzerthaus for a live performance by the ensemble Phace of a new musical piece composed by American composer Gene Coleman to the 1926 Japanese silent film A Page of Madness, using both Western and Japanese instruments, if there can be said to be such categories. It was very good and I slept very little.

On Thursday we watched Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Grosser Saal of the Konzerthaus, performed by the Collegium Vocale Gent / Herreweghe. They were very good, the orchestra played period instruments (I noticed Baroque celli and a viola da gamba – which had a wonderful solo). It is interesting to observe how the crowd varies from event to event. It can be youngish/middle-aged and snooty but trying to appearcounter-culture, or old and cultured and somehow less snooty, and so on. The Bach crowd struck me as quite elderly and generally well-to-do or at least well-dressed (there was a lot of jewelry on display, though), quite slender in general, and very slow-moving until the concert was over, at which time they were t the coatcheck very quickly.

Friday’s event was the most interesting for me – there is a series in the town of Krems called Imago Dei, concerts in the Minoritenkirche there. We watched a performance by cellist/composer Frances-Marie Uitti, the ensemble Extracello, and Buddhist monks; the event consisted of a Buddhist Puja ceremony (ceremony to honor the creative spirit?) and composition(s) by Uitti. For this performance, Extracello tuned (according to the program) their cellos to unconventional tunings, and played primarily open strings and flageolets (which resonate longer than when you are fingering the strings), and Uitti is famous for playing with two bows in one hand. I expected her to do that to be able to play all 4 strings at once, but she somehow manages to coordinate the two bows in unexpected ways and it was quite fascinating.

For your viewing pleasure, I will include a few Uitti links here:

her website

Video 1 (Vimeo)

Video 2 (Vimeo)

Video 3 (Vimeo)

It was an interesting week, but it was too much for me and I will be digesting this for some time to come. A lot of images and ideas were poured into my head while I was in a trance state this week, as if the creative spirit unscrewed the top of my head and poured in a basket of bees, which now fly through my mouth and make honey in the empty spaces inside.

(PS: as you can see in the videos, Uitti has an ALUMINUM CELLO from the 1920s. With an awesome dent.)

Careers in Science: Ktenology

The ktenologist is driving down the highway with his daughter. They are driving instead of taking the train because the ktenologist is going to a  play with his wife after work and would probably miss the last train.

The ktenologist’s soul is heavy because he did something wrong the day before while trying to install an Ikea lamp in his other daughter’s apartment and now only her refrigerator and one electrical outlet work.

He had resisted installing the lamp for a long time, until his wife threatened to get an electrician to do it. Then he had driven over with his father-in-law, who has a better understanding of wiring and they had tried to install the lamp. His father-in-law is a wonderful man, but he has Alzheimer’s and was unable to find his glasses at the apartment, so the ktenologist had tried to do the wiring with the abovementioned results.

A day wasted, and now an electrician has to come anyway, and who knows what he’ll have to fix.

“You take what you get in this life,” says the ktenologist to his teenaged daughter.

“You get what you take in this life,” says his daughter.

The ktenologist pats her on the leg and just drives for a while, thinking, this kid is going to be okay.

A man walks into a pharmacy

Is this place never crowded, he wonders.

He waits patiently in line, wishing he had done something with his hair, he has a mad scientist vibe going on.

Thing is, it was sort of a surpise, mid-week day off, and he thought he’d be sitting around the house, getting things done so he didn’t waste too much time making himself presentable.

But then he had called the pharmacy to see if his prescriptions were finally ready, after two weeks of waiting, and they finally were. So here he was.

There were four pharmacists manning the counter, and four lines; or rather, this being Austria, a disorganized crowd of people elbowing each other, a situation in which people from Anglo-Saxon and other societies accustomed to queuing politely are at a distinct disadvantage. He finally made it to the counter and explained to one of the pharmacists what he was there for and she went back and got his order.

It was two things, with vague directions on the boxes.

It had been four weeks since he had spoken to his dermatologist, so he asked the pharmacist how each medicine was to be used, exactly because he didn’t want to get them mixed up; also, he couldn’t even remember what the second one – a cream – was for; he only remembered that one was for the basal cell carcinoma on his shoulder. He vaguely remembered the other one might be for rosacea.

“How are these medicines to be used, exactly?” he asked.

“This one is used in the genital area,” she said in a very clear voice. Not loud, but it carried.

“Wut?” said the man.

“Genital warts?” she said.

“Basal cell carcinoma?” said the man.

The pharmacist shrugged. “Ask your dermatologist.”

“I’ll give her a call right away,” said the man, willing himself invisible. “Because, oh forget it.”

He had learned when to stop digging.


Man: You know what I really hate? The way the concept of ‘capture’ has grown central to modern capitalism. Plutocratic capture of the courts. Regulatory capture. Brand capture, like the way Apple ‘forces’ you to buy only Apple products at inflated prices. Design capture, as in the way modern cars and appliances are impossible to fix yourself, down to changing a headlight… Hey, is that a box?


Man: It’s a box! Your cat like that box?

Girl: ADD much?

Captive Audience: Deedeedeedee! Deedee! Dee.Dee!

The trouble today

Man: [Driving. Scowls.] Take media, for example. It’s manipulative. It frames public discourse to give the advantage to the concentrated capital that owns it.

Captive audience: Deedeedee. Dee. Dee. Dee! Deedeedee.

Man: Like this morning. On the news. They said, “The president has to cut spending by $65 billion immediately,” or whatever. That is not a fact. They are not reporting a fact, they are selling public opinion a response to a fact that capital prefers. The fact is: you have revenue on this side, and you have projected spending on this other side, and there is a $65 billion difference between the two. That is the fact. The question is: how do we make up the shortfall? Cutting spending is one option. Buying lotto tickets and paying it off with a Powerball win is another. Oh, and there’s one more: you could raise taxes. Unfortunately, the poor and the middle class are already squeezed pretty tight, which leaves the upper class, and capital in the form of corporations etc.

Captive audience: Deedeedee! Dee! DEEDEEDEE!

Man: What you listening to there?

Captive audience: Skrillex.