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!'