January 16, 2009

arts notes

John Mortimer, RIP

Best known for his courtroom satire, Rumpole of the Bailey, the British author, playwright and lawyer John Mortimer died Friday of a prolonged illness. As a lawyer, Mortimer acted at many notable trials. He represented Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterly's Lover obscenity trial and later defended the Sex Pistols when their album Never Mind the Bollocks brought them a lawsuit. His famous barrister, Horace Rumpole, who referred to his wife as "she who must be obeyed" achieved further attention in a successful television series, starring the perfectly casted Leo McKern. His wit was the perfect instrument for the courtroom. Later in life, Mortimor penned a trilogy of political novels that charted the rise of a Tory MP and in 1988 was knighted for his service to the arts. Mortimer was an unstoppable writer, producing an average of one book a year up to his death. With massive spectacles covering his tiny squint, and a noticeable underbite, Mortimer was an easy caricature but I took pleasure in looking like character from the Lord of the Rings.

Beyonce, Prophet for Our Times, Keeps Things Regular

As if we need more omens to warn us of the West's descending economy. Recently, Phil Maymin, a professor of finance and risk engineering at NYU noted that "some of history's steadiest pop songs were released before a market crash." Of course, we all turn to the comfort of a popular song when times are tough, but Maymin has observed that "the more regular the beat on Billboard's top singles, the more volatile the American markets." Songs with a higher beat variance (i.e. an irregular beat), on the other hand, find a greater following when we experience economic stability. The song currently in question is Beyonce's mega-hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," which is firmly lodged into the top of the charts and doesn't look like it will be making any sudden jumps. I suppose in times of financial tumult America finds ways to stay regular. I wonder what sales of bran and prune juice are like these days. It's an interesting theory, though I don't know how well it holds. Some other thoughts emerged over at blissblog.

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