True story:

Applicants for the post of principal conductor of the LA Phil were asked to submit a list of works they’d like to conduct in their first season. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s list was full of pieces by challenging contemporary composers. At the interview, the chair of the board looked severely over his application, turned to him and said,

“I don’t quite know how to put this to you, Mr Salonen, but… here at the Phil, we prefer our composers… dead.”

This may still apply to some extent within the echelons of WAM; for China too, as I show in Appendix 1 of my book, I attempt not a normative reconstruction of some timeless ancient wisdom, but a descriptive account of ritual life within changing modern society. See Debunking “living fossils”.

For the great maestro Salonen, see also here and here.

Theory and practice

The lack of dietary restrictions among household Daoists is all the excuse I need to cite Woody Allen’s Hassidic tales:

A woman stops a great Rabbi and asks, “Rabbi, why are we not allowed to eat pork?”

“We’re not?” the Rabbi said incredulously. “Uh-oh.”



This is often claimed as a photo of Mozart’s wife Constanze (1762–1842), just imagine… Or is it? See here.

Many of us would like to give it the benefit of the doubt. If it is her, then it will be one of the most surprising things you will ever see. OK, it was taken in 1840, when he was long gone. Few wives outlived their husbands. As Munger says, she became the Yoko Ono of the 19th century.

If only we had photos of the Li family Daoists (and their wives) from then… Even the photo of Li Peisen and his wife from the 1940s is rare enough. Indeed, in a world where female members of a family are taken for granted at best, people remembered her as exceptionally able and intelligent too.

Lost in translation

Two gems I found on a room service menu in Beijing, 2015: 

Fuck to fry the cow

Discredited mandarin fish of Mount Huang

Translations on menus provide rich entertainment, of course. For East Asia, Victor Mair gets to grips with some on languagelog (some links here), and that site has many more Silly signs.  See also my Temple Chinglish.

For a menu pun, I’m most taken by this—as if inviting a Chinese franchise of Flann O’Brien:


which indeed leads nicely into Lyrics for theme tunes


Allegedly, a lunchtime recital by two fine UK musicians was advertised thus (read it aloud…):


Shades there of “Bach’s Organ Works” too. BTW, in a “proper” index to this blog, more detailed than the sidebar tags, it would give me great pleasure to include Bolton among several numinous place-names in the index to my largely Daoist ouevre:

The Scunthorpe Messiah page-reference is genuine (in my Daoist priests of the Li family); I’ve imagined the others, since (intriguingly) they add to the drôlerie. Do click on the links!

See also The joys of indexing.


* In a rare burst of decorum, I’ve refrained from posting this one so far—perhaps the unspoken allusion is more subtle.