Is it appropriate for men and women to drink together in wine bars?

If such an encounter were to act as the catalyst for a carnal relationship, you cannot blame the wine bar or its wine
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Under what circumstances do you consider it appropriate for a man and woman to drink together in a wine bar? I recently made friends with a group of mostly men through a sports team. When one of them said he wanted to have a drink with me I said I did not think his girlfriend would be pleased. He may in fact never ask me — and perhaps I have already quashed any future intention of his — but we left it that he would email me and I am wavering as to how I should respond in case he does.

Surely it is never inappropriate for a man and a woman to have a drink in a wine bar. But you are, of course, referring to the particular circumstance in which a wine bar acts as the catalyst for a carnal relationship. In which case, you cannot blame the wine bar or its wine. We are all responsible for our own desires and actions. In your circumstances, you might be reminded of Matthew 5:28 in the Bible: “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman with lust hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. Therefore, you might consider replying “Matthew 5:28” if your flirt were to email you.

To the untutored western ear, Chinese opera and music sounds tuneless. The expression “like someone strangling a cat” has been used on occasion. Is it also true to say that western music sounds extremely melodious to the Chinese ear?

When was the last time you listened, if you have ever, to Schoenberg’s Expectation or Berg’s Wozzeck? I wouldn’t have called these operas extremely melodious. There are plenty of other examples of western music whose sounds might well be considered by any listener to be “like someone strangling a cat”. Take Stockhausen’s Licht, a series of seven operas, and you’d think a litter was being strangled.

So Chinese operas and music should not be considered any more tuneless than a lot of western music. In fact, Chinese operas are full of melodies. They all sound similar because Chinese music has never had the explosive developments of western music, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries. Chinese composers were traditionally teachers of instruments and they would occasionally choose to vary a tune from the complicated character notations used and call it a new composition. China never really had natural composers and her musical developments were snail-paced. Unlike the west, where composers brought about an astonishing evolution and revolution of sounds. The avant-garde was fuelled by geniuses such as Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Stravinsky. Their music is now all an integral part of the western classical music tradition, played and performed in every prestigious concert hall or opera house across the world. But the music by these composers is often thought of as hideously jarring to the ear. Although in the strange case of John Cage’s 4’33, it becomes entirely silent, apart from the noises that the performer might make while sitting at a piano with a stopwatch.

I adore the music of Messiaen, but my wife detests it. When I practise it on the piano, she always shows disapprobation, as women do, by slamming the bedroom door or leaving the home without saying a word.

While I applaud the luxury of smoking a cigar indoors in the US, why play the roulette, which is a game of luck where the house is guaranteed to win, as opposed to a game of skill (blackjack or poker) where you presumably have a chance of beating the house?

As a professor of roulette, I can tell you that the house is not guaranteed to win. The house only wins when a punter goes too often or stays too long at any one time. I once saw a very frustrated Italian at the roulette in Monte Carlo. He must have been there for ages, as he looked dishevelled, tired and grumpy. He kept losing and the regular sound of his plastic chips being scooped up by the croupier must have been driving him mad. Finally, in a moment of total despair, he went up to the wheel, picked up the ball and swallowed it.

With blackjack, there is virtually no skill involved, unless you think there is skill in having to decide whether or not to draw on a 12 or 13, against the house having a four, five or six. With poker in a casino, the players do not win against the house, but against each other.

Please post comments and questions at the end of this article, or email david.tang@ft.com

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