A while back Douglas bought from friends a collection of records, 52 discs in all. It is called ‘The Classical Mood’ and I suppose it is a bit like the old Reader’s Digest special collections only much better, well more comprehensive anyway. So it should be considering the size of it. What made me start on this is that at the moment he is playing the disc headed ‘Shades of Autumn. Each disc has a definite theme.’ Among the pieces on this one is ‘Autumn’ by Cecile Chaminade and what nostalgia that has caused, evoking such memories of childhood. Later memories come to mind by something like the Elgar ‘Cello Concerto’ which is also on this particular disc. Noel Coward said ‘How potent cheap music is,’ but I think where music is concerned potency applies to more than just cheap. If I listen to Strauss’s ‘Four Last Songs’ I am truly enraptured. And every time I hear the final moments of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ I blub like a baby. The word "bohemian" is bandied about these days, applied to everyone from Pete Doherty to Kate Moss, but what exactly is a bohemian? Bohemian was originally a term with pejorative undertones given to Roma gypsies, commonly believed by the French to have originated in Bohemia in central Europe. But the connotation rapidly became a romantic one. From its birth in Paris in the 1850s, and the huge success of Murgier's play ‘Scenes de la vie de Boheme,’ the ethic spread rapidly. The Oxford English Dictionary's definition mentions someone "especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally.".
Although its roots where in France, the bohemian idea transferred easily to other countries and cultures. In Britain, for example, the pre-Raphaelite and the aesthetic movements of the 19th Century imbued bohemianism with a dangerous, dashing, social cachet, and they were followed by the Bloomsbury group.
In America poets and writers like Jack Kerouac, William S Burroughs, and Paul Bowles led their own offshoot. And the playwright Arthur Miller's prose conjures the musty essence of that temple of American bohemia, Manhattan's Chelsea Hotel, “where there are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and no shame.” Laren Stover, author of ‘Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge,’ has identified five archetypes: nouveau, gypsy, beat, Zen and dandy. “Bohemians might look for work as nude models,” she suggests, “will be banned from fancy restaurants for use of patchouli and will have a bookcase containing all the Romantics, Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums and erotica by Anais Nin. And in the pantry there are obscure grains from South America, medieval spices and a miniature Krishna. Your diet may be considered extreme: macrobiotic, vegan, or a real nose-to-tailer who knows 100 ways to cook and sauté a snout. And nothing you wear was inspired by a fashion magazine."
I hate to bring up this subject yet again but sometimes one truly despairs of the ignorance of people in high places. India's health minister has sparked a furious row over comments in which he described homosexuality as a "disease". Not only a disease but one that comes from other countries. In other words it was totally unknown in India before it was imported! Ghulam Nabi Azad told a conference on HIV/Aids that gay sex was "unnatural". Later he said he had been misquoted. One leading Aids campaigner said the minister was "living on another planet." If not on another planet then I suggest at least back in the nineteenth century. Gay sex was decriminalised in India in 2009 but anti-homosexual discrimination remains widespread. The court ruling overturned a 148-year-old colonial law which described a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence".
Anand Grover, the United Nations special rapporteur on health, criticised Mr. Azad's comments. "It's unfortunate, regrettable and totally unacceptable that a minister of his stature... is still insensitive to such a vulnerable group," the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted him as saying. Anjali Gopalan, who heads leading HIV/Aids campaign group the Naz Foundation, said she was "horrified" by the minister's remarks. "He was addressing officials from across the country and this was a golden opportunity to deal with discrimination. Instead he let it slip through his fingers. I'm hoping it will not put us back another 10 years. My blood pressure must have gone through the roof. I'm so angry I can't put it into words. These guys shouldn't be in these positions."
Gay rights activist Mohnish Kabir Malhotra said M. Azad should "apologise immediately" for his comments. "Homosexuality is very much a part of nature and it even finds references in religious texts. To call it unnatural is absurd," Malhotra told the AFP news agency.
I hope I never have to mention this subject again though that might be wishful thinking.