27 March 2010

The Symphony

Last night, my wife and I had the rare pleasure of going to hear the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra. It was a wonderful experience. On reflection, the fact music of Beethoven (and it was primarily a performance of his fifth piano concerto that we came to hear) is still being performed on nights like this speaks volumes about our enduring ability to enrich our own lives if we so choose.

It's probably no secret to many that in his later years, when composing some of his greatest works, Beethoven was profoundly deaf. That it did not act as an impediment for him to create such masterpieces is testament to his genius. And we are not just talking about someone using their memory to recall the aural shape of a singular tune; we are talking about a man being able to fit layer upon layer of complex harmonies onto and into one another, without ever being able to hear if what sounded right in his head was right in practice. Imagine a chef assembling a meal without the aid of his sense of taste or smell. Imagine an artist drawing portraits without the aid of sight. I know there are those who find the existence of such people baffling and even daunting. I feel happy and secure in the knowledge that I feel nothing but gratitude that there are such extraordinary people living and working amongst us from time to time. It is inspiring.

That Beethoven (and so many like him) could compose such works is miraculous enough, but this is barely the half of it. For such music to survive in the world, people actually have to learn how to play it.

I love music. I enjoy singing. I'm not sure many people would enjoy hearing me sing, but then I've only ever really sung for myself. I've been learning to play the guitar, and have almost learnt one whole chord after only eleven years of attempts. Ok, I haven't devoted that much time to it, but I'm fairly certain that even with daily practice, I'd still probably only know two chords. Three, tops.

That there are people out there prepared to put in the hours and hours of work required to be able to play their particular part in Beethoven concerto is something for which all people should be extremely grateful. And so often, what these extraordinary musicians learn is a part that, musically, cannot stand on its own. It is a part of a much larger, fuller whole, and only comes to life when completely integrated into the whole work.

That achieving this integration takes an extraordinary amount of effort should come as no surprise. To get forty-odd people to play an extremely complex work in complete musical harmony with each other (of about thirty-eight minutes in length) requires the kind of dedication to synchronicity that few people ever give themselves over to as fully as those in orchestras must do.

This may not seem an especially lateral post, but it has lateral intent. It is not so lateral (or pithy) as to simply offer the suggestion that all folk should join an orchestra, or even a team of some kind which mandates the kind of shared ideal that can push otherwise ordinary folk to excel. No, it's more about expressing the simple, if fervent wish that all people could feel that risk and reward of striving for something remarkable. It need not be artwork - striving for family unity can be miraculous enough. But as Robin Williams' Mr Keating once warned in Dead Poets Society, we ought not let the things we create be ordinary.

Last night, at the scheduled conclusion of the concert, I watched the piano soloist, after an urging from a rapt audience to share more of his extraordinary abilities, play a version of Beethoven's moonlight sonata that that drew the oxygen from the room. It reminded me just how much society needs people to strive beyond the ordinary in some way, shape or form. Without them, our world is a far, far poorer place.

Perhaps the ultimate lateral idea is that our Government should invest as much money as is needed to ensure that all people are given the opportunity to develop their gifts to their fullest potential, so all can share in their efforts and their talents. Last night reminded me just how precious these talents can be. Just think; Beethoven lived about two hundred years ago. Do we want to let the next Beethoven languish in an office, or the next Einstein never make out of his (or her) patent office?

Lord, I hope not.

Lateral Licensing

Recently, a good friend of mine (who, as it happens - is the co-creator of this site) attempted to achieve the rarefied status of a licensed scooter operator. That he failed spectacularly will be referred to from time-to-time in a number of blogs I should imagine, but will not be the focus of this one. Rather, I'm going to explain to you how a proactive and highly lateral expansion of the philosophy of licensing will cure society of its ills.

There are many things I cannot stand. Here is a selection:
  • I don't like people who whistle on trains;
  • I don't like people who see the need to plaster "f*ck off, where(sic) full" stickers on their cars;
  • I don't like people who don't keep to the left on busy stair wells;
  • I don't like people who enjoy commercial radio;
  • I don't like people who are cruel (or even simply unkind) to animals;
  • I don't like people who become violent or obnoxious when drunk;
  • I don't like people who use crowds as an excuse for mindless behaviour; and
  • I don't like people who cannot bring their bins in on the day the bin is emptied.
I could go on indefinitely. But instead, I'm going to license Australia right up the jacksie.

The scope for large-scale social reform is nothing short of staggering.

Feel the need to change lanes incessantly in the inane hope that you might cut a few seconds of your journey? Well, you might just struggle to get a driver's license under my new regime. Like whistling on the Choo-Choo? Sorry, no train license. Like getting pissed and breaking things? Sorry fella, I'm going to have to revoke your drinking license. Like having a smoke when playing a round of eighteen? Well, sure as Stanley, you're going to have some trouble securing your golfing license. English tourist? Sorry, no beach license for you.

The nay-sayers will scoff, and cry foul that I'm creating a nanny-state. My response? Folks, you've just lost your blogging and internet comment licenses.

There are great days ahead.

12 March 2010

Lateralist Legends

I recently noticed that a Western Australian football legend has officially been given the status of "legend" by the Western Australian Football League. I wonder if he gets a certificate? Or special parking privileges? Free tickets to the footy? To the symphony? Half-price Carlton Mid(dle Age) for life? The mind boggles as how to properly recognise one so great. And not just great; officially great.

You know, I think these blokes down at kick-to-kick HQ are lateralists without actually realising it. I mean, I have several mates whom I'd consider to be good blokes. It it weren't for these sobriquet-ascribing trailblazers, it'd never have occurred to me to actually form some sort of club, and present them with a certificate that officially identified them as "good blokes". I'd just have assumed that those who knew them would know this already, and those who didn't know them would simply (and respecftully) not care whether they were good blokes or not.

All organisations seek to enshrine their importance by means of an internal hierarchy. Join a club, climb the ladder. Whether one is President of a nation of President of a chess club, the principle is the same. The use of epithets like "legend" are just a little more nebulous in their status, in that it's never made precisely clear what is required to achieve this status.

I wonder what comes after "legend". "Mythical Being" is a possibility. But I'm more interested in the other end of the spectrum. The conduct of a certain high profile Brisbane Lions recruit - and his rather puerile application of rudimentary IT skills leads me to propose that as well as having ranking categories to which all AFL players - in lieu of a self-directed sense of achievement - would do well to aspire, there probably ought to be labels for the lesser lights, whose conducts and achievements threaten to lead ordinary citizens to question whether or not it was in fact an evolutionary anomaly that enabled them and their ancestors to develop the ability to walk upright.

The rank of "pillock" seems highly appropriate for our little friend at Brisbane. Other useful groupings might include: thug, criminal, misogynist, lunch-cutter, prat, twat, goon, and mug. There could be sub-categories for whingers, malingerers, taggers, scraggers and Dockers.

And I'd like to see these categories established and awarded long before players reach retirement age. Players ought to receive their little commendations (or discommendations) in the form of little ribbons, that can be hung from guernseys during games. It'd be like a cross between an ANZAC march and a primary school athletics carnival. Given the rather flatulent need for self-celebration that seem to drive this sporting need for public self-congratulation, as well as the need to elevate the pain of surviving a high tackle to something akin to trench warfare, I think the analogy is well measured.

I'm sure many who achieve the status of "legend" deserve it. On footballing achievements alone, Garry Ablett Snr is most assured of a place. It's just that he deserves a few of the other, more egregious awards as well. If this is a bit too lateral for the rule-monkeys down at AFL headquarters, then perhaps we can do away entirely with this incessant need to deify our more adroit citizens.

I have one exception: John Worsfold needs to receive an Order of Australia for his shirt-front on Dermott Brereton all those years ago. I'd nominate him for the post of Inaugural Australian President, but unfortunately, Dermott was able to get back up. Alas.