Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Just Desserts

I listened to two podcasts today during my drive to work. The first - a discussion about Logical Positivism - made my brain hurt a little, but at least Melvyn Bragg made his guests explain what it was before assessing its impact.

I find it much easier to listen to programmes like these in the car, as I'm not able to nod off. However I did find my attention wandering every time I saw normal, everyday things like pigeons, traffic light and roundabouts. My thoughts followed a depressingly familiar pattern: Wittgenstein...Cambridge...MAN IN SHORT TROUSERS...SEAGULL...Freddy Ayer...Language, Truth and BUS STOP...Moritz Schlick...Vienna...WAITROSE...

To add to the distractions, my wife rang me in the middle to tell me that she was taking our youngest son to hospital, as he had his finger stuck in the letter G. At that point, I think I lost the plot, but I can still tell you what Logical Positivism is, which is more than I could do yesterday.

The second podcast was an excellent Composer of the Week programme about Stravinsky in America and there was one particular anecdote which amused me.

During his years in America, Stravinsky developed a great friendship with WH Auden, who wrote the libretto for his opera The Rake's Progress, but there was one aspect of the poet's behaviour that upset the composer and his wife. Apparently, Auden's personal hygiene was dreadful. His fingernails were black with dirt and he never used the towels and soap that were put out for him when he came to stay.

Some years later, the Stravinskys were in New York, where Auden and his partner - Chester Kallman - invited them over for dinner. Vera Stravinsky was particularly dreading the meal and as she entered Auden's filthy flat, her worst fears were confirmed.

After a few drinks, she reluctantly visited the loo and found a bowl on top of the cistern with a horrible brown object in it. Appalled, she quickly flushed it down the loo and return to the meal, trying to forget what she'd just seen.

They all finished the main course and Chester Kallman proudly annouced that he'd made a chocolate pudding: 'I've been cooling it down in the bathroom...'

WH Auden, whose wrinkled appearance once prompted the comment 'If that's what his face looks like, imagine his scrotum!'

11 comments:

depesando said...

that made me laugh so hard the people next door looked up at the office window to see what was going on.

Is it just me, but have you noticed that Melvyn regularly loses the thread during 'In Our Time' and wanders off - or just does not grasp the subject like he used to - during the one on evolution a few weeks ago it seemed like he was in a world of his own.

Jim Murdoch said...

Very funny. Never saw that coming. On the Stravinsky side I have an album called Stravinsky in America and the first track is The Star Spangled Banner which it seems he orchestrated. Not quite Hendrix but interesting nevertheless.

Steerforth said...

Richard - one thing I have noticed about Melvyn Bragg is that he frequently talks over the female guests, but apologises when he interrupts the men.

Jim - I also have that album and I love Stravinsky's version. I read somewhere that he was arrested for tampering with national property!

Art said...

Wow--I have to find podcasts like that. Mine are all quite boring.

I love the story about Auden.

Michael Gray said...

Alan Bennett attributes the scrotum quote to David Hockney.

simoom said...

This is just to say, I ate the plums...not really, just to say I've been lurking around your blog for some weeks now and it makes me feel a bit odd and voyeuristic, so I've decided to come clean. I've thoroughly enjoyed "following" your entries and I was particularly delighted by the link to the bbc podcasts. The programme with Arundhati Roy was fabulous. I took it on my daily walk/run and it made a stimulating change from listening to music. So cheers and thanks! Claire

Steerforth said...

Simoom - thanks for your comments - I'm really glad that you enjoyed the Start the Week podcast. Do you have a blog (I couldn't see one on your profile)? I'd love to read about your experiences in Morocco.

Michael - Yes, it probably was Hockney. One person attributed it to Dylan Thomas, but Auden would have been relatively unlined by the time of Thomas's death.

JRSM said...

I'm glad someone was able to say who the scrotum quote was from. I tried to find out, but googling 'Auden face scrotum' led me to some very alarming places.

Michael Gray said...

JRSM - Hockney didn't actually use the word "scrotum", of course ...

I'm reminded of the [almost certainly pastiche] obscene Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in which Scrotum was the name of the wrinkled old retainer ...

By the way, your "covers" blog is superb - a triumph of niche blogging

JRSM said...

Thank you! And I'd never heard of that alleged Gilbert and Sullivan, but I'm intrigued...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

She was probably entirely right to flush the chocolate pudding down the loo. He had no compunction about putting it there to cool after all.

Wonder what a psychiatrist would make of your brain workings Steerforth?

I do hope your son has been successfully separated from the letter G.