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w/e 2021-08-01

This week I have been enjoying Sweeping the Nation’s ongoing 2021 Spotify playlist, full of goodness and no badness:

§ By Tuesday our holiday was over and so I was back to… whatever this semi-retired life is. And back to daily things I don’t really want to do, like exercise and practising the piano. I restarted exercise with some Apple Fitness+ workouts and my body is now telling me that, outside of these sessions, it doesn’t spend much time squatting or lunging.

I always enjoy practising the piano once I start (following lessons from PianoGroove) but I often find ways to avoid starting. Even dropping my original target down to one hour of practise, only four days a week, didn’t help. I tried marking off days on a half-hearted Jerry Seinfeld calendar. I tried the Streaks app. Neither helped much and I’ve missed as many weekly targets as I’ve hit.

In advance, an hour of practise doesn’t seem appealing, especially when the first half is scales and chords, but at least I can see the benefit of those now.

When I learned piano as a kid I never saw the point of scales, other than because they were needed to do the Grades. And doing the Grades was just What You Did. (I quit, bored, when I was practising for Grade 5.)

I learned to read music and practise a piece over and over until it was… let’s say acceptable, rather than good. I never understood much, especially about chords, or how anything was structure or related. If you’d asked me to play even a simple chord, I’d have had no idea.

Now I’m trying to force a new way of learning and playing piano into my old brain. So rather than playing a piece from a sheet of music, note by note, I’m learning the chords used, and the progressions between them, alongside the basic melody. It feels more like learning the rough shape of a piece of music, and every time I play it the details will be slightly different. In parallel, practicing chords and scales enough to get them into muscle memory makes this process simpler and will, hopefully, maybe, one day make it easier to improvise around the basic shapes I’m learning.

It’s maybe a bit like if, in the past, I’d learned to read aloud pieces of text in a foreign language purely phonetically. What I said would have made sense and would have been pretty much the same each time I said it, although I wouldn’t have understood it. Now though, I’m learning the meaning of the words and the sense of the sentences, so I sort of understand what I’m saying, and can even vary the words occasionally. Something like that.

It does feel similar to learning a new language, something I persist at but am not good at. It hasn’t quite felt like learning the piano from scratch all over again but it’s been difficult.

Anyway, despite my haphazard practise schedule, I can now just about play The Nearness of You without any sheet music, not because I’ve memorised every note, but because I roughly remember the sequence of chords, and the sound of the melody. So that’s encouraging.

§ We watched season two of Unforgotten this week, because it was the only season we could find to watch for some weird licensing reason. We haven’t seen any before but had heard it was good. It was!

It was a bit… I can’t work out if mainstream UK TV shows often feel a bit… mundane? unchallenging?… because they’re aimed at a mainstream broadcast telly audience or simply because they’re British. Like, is part of a Netflix crime drama’s excitement because it’s from the thrilling parallel world of America? Or is it because it’s better written than an ITV one? Does the normality (to me) of a UK-set BBC show mean it will always seem a bit mundane? Or is it because they’re aimed at a different audience to a Netflix US drama? I’m not quite sure how to compare like with like.

But, aside from a few moments that just felt a bit aimed-at-a-primetime-mainstream-ITV-audience it was good. And, honestly, I’d watch pretty much anything that starred Nicola Walker because I enjoy watching her think, never mind anything more active. Sometimes she makes it seem like everyone around her is acting.

§ We had a nice local man, a passive house expert, come round to chat to us about our house this week. Given how important it is for all buildings to become more energy efficient, it’s remarkably difficult to find anyone knowledgable who can talk through the things you could do to your home, as opposed to just flog you loft insulation. But, after we spotted a van for a local business, and called a couple of people, Nick came round for a chat and it was really helpful.

It is possible to retrofit existing houses to passive house standards but that kind of six-figure expenditure is more than we have planned. Instead we talked about individual things it’s possible to do – like external wall insulation, heat pumps, underfloor heating, mechanical extract ventilation, and simply filling in gaps everywhere. I’m not sure what we’ll actually do but it was an educational chat, and the kind of thing I wish it was more easy to arrange for everyone responsible for their home’s building.

§ I saw a discussion online this week in which people referred to “the early internet”. Given the people involved were mostly, I’m fairly sure, a couple of decades younger than me it got me wondering when “the early internet” was. Some, perhaps a little older, emphasised how early they meant with “the EARLY internet”.

In my head, my early internet is probably… 1995-2000? Roughly? But that’s biased hugely to my own experience: I first got online at home in early 1995 and I already felt late given that I’d been reading about it on paper for some time. So maybe the early internet should be from the launch of NCSA Mosaic, September 1993, until… what? Early blogs (1999?)? The first social networking services (Six Degrees, 1997?)? Is there a period between the Early Internet and Web 2.0? I’m assuming there were periods before Early Internet.

Is there an internet of classical antiquity? An early-modern internet and a late-modern internet? How will our perceptions of internet periods change from the point of view of the year 2100?

§ Two quotes from the same issue of the London Review of Books:

The next day she goes to a party at her boyfriend’s country seat for a celebration of his parents’ long marriage. She tells him everything’s fine. ‘He was easily convinced, accustomed to happy endings and painless resolution.’ (I felt for the boyfriend, momentarily: he doesn’t yet know what sort of book he’s in.)

Joanna Biggs

[Frank] Grillo is the perfect parody of the Italian American tough guy, even if his name in the film [Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard] is O’Neill, and he offers a useful reminder of the comic value of excess: too much is just right as long you know what genre you’re supposed to be in.

Michael Wood

Those both had me wondering whether I’m in the correct genre. What if you don’t realise which genre you’re actually in and you’ve been doing everything wrong all this time?

§ That’s all. Maybe it’s too much. Ah well, we’re here now.

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