Have you ever wondered why we show our approval with applause in some situations but not others? For example, a little symbolic clapping is traditional at the end of a ballet class. It is decidedly not traditional at the end of an academic class (unless it's the last class of a course, in which case there may be applause). It's a curious phenomenon. In his weekly article in Diario Sur, Pedro Aparicio has some interesting observations on the growing mania for applause in contemporary Spanish culture. (He main topic is his need for the antidotal value of Emile Cioran's aphorisms.) Always witty, don Pedro describes Spain today as one immense ovation. There is a lot of truth to this: Spaniards applaud in church, in cemeteries, and they put an end to "moments of silence," often too soon, with enthusiastic applause. ("Moment of silence" in Spain, one of the very noisiest countries in the world, is a misnomer, a seemingly impossible abstraction. On the other hand, at least Spanish performers don't have that awful habit, often on display here, of asking for applause. I've observed this on numerous occasions during lectures and other kinds of performances. Earn it!)

In the U.S we are a little more restrained with applause. Recently I performed a fascinating experiment. A recent performance of The Nutcracker by the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet at Hershey Theatre included a pre-event talk by noted musicologist Truman Bullard. The topic was Tchaikovsky's score, but he spoke generally about the relationship between the music and choreography, between musician and dancer. He was accompanied by CPYB executive director Alan Hineline and associate artistic director Darla Hoover. Just to add a little levity to the session, I asked about the moment in the ballet when the Christmas tree magically grows. And grows and grows! I wanted to know if they thought it was appropriate for the audience to applaud. (I always feel a tremendous urge to clap when the music crescendos and the tree reaches its maximum splendor, but the audiences here rarely respond.) Darla Hoover jumped right in: oh yes! By all means applaud. And that's just what I did: when the moment came I applauded enthusiastically and the whole theater immediately followed my lead. Easy! Fun! For the evening performance the same thing. Then, during the Sunday show I decided not to applaud. Silence. And the tree did seem to me to offer a slight frown for that lack of enthusiasm. I guess most people just like to fall into applause without having to initiate it.

Applause is a wonderful thing, but indiscriminate, inauthentic applause is unfortunate, even grotesque and can make one feel, as the Spaniards would say, "second hand shame." Let's end this post like this.


Rude Teens

I've got plenty of un- scientific theories. The past couple of days I've been thinking some about ado- lescence. Two days ago I was in the car at around the time school starts in the morning. I come to a stop sign right by the entrance to the high school. After stopping I could have proceeded, but I saw a couple of kids approaching the crosswalk, so I waited and let them cross. They, of course, did not even pause or look at traffic, just cruised right across the street as if it were a seamless continuation of the sidewalk. Nor did they make any effort to look my way to acknowledge my little gesture of patience and courtesy. Nada. Yesterday I stopped to get gas and went inside to get some water. I offered an enthusiastic "thank you" to the teen-aged cashier. Not a word, not even a glance. No doubt adolescence is a stage in life when a huge amount of attention is paid to self. Teenagers can be extremely self-conscious. Egos are big. And often fragile. Peers are everything. Life would be nightmarish if all one's dealings were with the likes of these snot-faced ingrates I allude to. Nonetheless, not all teenagers are as inwardly directed, not to mention just plain rude, as the ones I've encountered this week. (Indeed, the majority of teenagers I come across are delightful kids, full of energy and good cheer!) And, let's not forget, adolescents certainly do not have a monopoly on bad manners. In any case, here's my thoroughly unscientific theory for today: some adolescents are not paying attention to the world around them. Their self-absorption "wins out" over other areas of emotional development and they consequently grow ever more frustrated. They fall deep into the hole of Self, condemning themselves to a lifetime of misery. For themselves and everyone around them. (I have no idea who the girl in the photo is-just an image that came up under "sullen teenagers." Hopefully just a bad moment.)


Reconsidering Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

An important characteristic of critical thinking is the ability and willingness to reconsider our own strongly held beliefs. This morning in El País there is an interesting example of this: the architect and designer Oscar Tusquests Blanca reconsiders his decades old opposition to the project to finish Antoni Gaudí's Sacred Family temple in Barcelona and offers a mea culpa. In the sixties Tusquests organized a manifesto in opposition to the effort to restart work on the now famous temple. The opposition was centered on the belief that many of Gaudi's plans and models had been destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and that respecting his vision for the monument would be impossible. In his essay Tusquests explains why he was wrong and why the world is fortunate his effort to halt the project failed. Of course, Tusquest's change of heart did not just happen intuitively. To the contrary, he learned that enough documentation was saved to understand quite well how Gaudí envisioned the temple's basic structure. It's an interesting article. The Sagrada Familia is, of course, a major tourist attraction in Barcelona. For me, Gaudí's occasional "dripping sand" style suggests the weight of gravity: we fall under the weight of the Cosmos. On the other hand, he does seem to like vertical lines that reach up towards the heavens. Tension! (In the image above, one of Tusquest's chair designs.)


Falling in the Milky Way

Let's imagine travel at very close to the speed of light. Let's say, for example, that your spaceship can reach a speed of 185,000 miles per second. You travel in the direction of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is by some estimates about 25,000 light years away. So imagine that after six years of travel you start to feel a little claustrophobic. You decide to take a space walk. Unfortunately, you are a little absent minded and you forget your leash. Bye! You start to fall. My question is, which way are you falling? How can you describe direction in this scenario? Could you describe the direction as falling at such and such an angle in relation to the center of the galaxy?
Is it any better here on earth? That is, as we go about our lives, do we really know which way we're falling?


The End

This is it for "After a Year in Malaga," which was a continuation of "A Year in Malaga." 365 posts is a nice suggestive number. Time to change. My next post will be under a new title. Future posts will be less personal and perhaps more limited in scope. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.