Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I just got a surprise gift from Ilya, a CD course on Mahler from The Teaching Company; this looks so cool! I haven't listened to any of it yet, but apparently other courses from this company have been really good. There are tons of great-looking courses on that site that are sold pretty cheap. This could potentially be a huge time-waster...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I tend to rarely post news links here, even though I usually read something pretty interesting at least once a day. The major reason is NewsDog, a great small-scale news site implemented and maintained by my office-mate AJ. Almost everything posted on there is good stuff. If you want an account, send me an email and I'll get you set up. But, if you don't want to waste even more time than you already do on the Internet, perhaps you shouldn't click that link. Here is an article I definitely would have posted here if it weren't already on NewsDog.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

If you want a place to start in understanding references that Kill Bill makes to other films, check out this Tarantino interview (via GreenCine Daily). I might check one or two of the movies to get more exposure to the genre. Note that the link seems to annoyingly resize your browser window.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Some thoughts on movies I saw in the past week:

  • The Decalogue: I finally finished 8, 9, and 10 this week. Actually, it was too much to absorb in one week, but I couldn't resist the urge to finally get through them. My favorites, all of which are amazing: 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, and 10. Didn't quite captivate me: 3, 4, and 7. 8 is somewhere in between. See them all for yourself and decide; you can't really go wrong with any of them. And take your time; in some sense I wasted my GreenCine membership for 2 months on these, but in another, watching them any faster would have done them a disservice. BTW, here is a nice site on Kieslowski; I especially enjoyed this overview of all of his works.

  • Kill Bill, Vol. 1: Hrm...I think there is actually a consensus feeling on this movie among the people I've discussed it with; an easy recommendation, if it wasn't for the excessive gore. Tarantino pulls everything out of his bag of tricks, and some of the camera work and shots are really amazing. And, he still has great taste in music. But, the violence is really over the top, and I just couldn't watch some of it. If you don't think that will bother you, definitely go check out the movie.

  • Auto Focus: Really disappointing. The movie was far too predictable, and it loses its momentum at the end. You just don't care enough about Bob Crane to feel bad about his downfall. Besides the sensationalistic story, I'm not sure what all the buzz was about.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

This review (via Metafilter) of Bush's poem to his wife is just too funny not to post. This kind of tongue-in-cheek seriousness just cracks me up:

Though the final word seems literally to imply an aircraft carrier, we couldn't help but wonder—in this age of HIV and AIDS—if the author was bitterly implying that he, in fact, was a carrier of some venereal disease, or if he was placing a sort of curse upon her: "the next time you cheat on me may you 'land' on a 'carrier' of some horrible infectious disease." It lends the poem a disturbing quality that leaves us uncertain if we are to take joy in the reunion of these two lovers, or if we are to understand some barely repressed hostility on the part of the speaker.

In this context, we return to the end of the penultimate line and the word "barrier," which, if we are to understand the final line as interpreted above, may be re-read as "bury her." Again, we note the repressed rage of the jilted lover erupting through the surface of the poem, revealing itself in the phonetically articulated desire of the speaker to avenge his emasculation.

I at one point thought of trying to do a similar analysis of the second Inbred Brothers State skit (what are we doing?), but never had the time.

Monday, October 13, 2003

I love Magnolia more every time I see it. Every moment of that movie is perfection for me. And the music is the icing on the cake. I was watching a bit of it the other night, listening carefully through my headphones, and there are all sorts of neat musical details lurking in the background. When I'm in a somber mood, for some reason putting on Magnolia, drinking a couple glasses of wine, and commiserating with the characters always makes me feel better.

I have a quiz tomorrow, and I don't have a mastery of the material, and yet I have no desire to study right now (hence the blogging). I don't know whether to be disturbed by my insouciance or to be happy about it. I really don't need to do better than a B in this class, and I know enough of the material to probably get by on the exam. OTOH, if I think hard enough, I'm sure I can convince myself there is some obscure possibility that doing really well in the class will be worthwhile. Gaaah. I guess I'll try to work some problems and see if it puts me to sleep. I'd much rather be working on research though; I got back in the groove on Sunday, and I am interested in the problems again.

Allright...time to try to do something productive. Go Red Sox!!!

Friday, October 10, 2003

I got my headphone amp yesterday, and I've been trying it on lots of different music. The amplifier is clearly much more powerful than those in either my MP3 player or my laptop. However, at least vs. the MP3 player, I haven't been able to hear an obvious difference when listening through the amp (there seems to be a slight improvement over the laptop). The extra signal processing to make headphones sound more like speakers, on the other hand, is quite noticable and nice. With classical music, I think it really helps to bring out details, as they are more separated in the stereo image. And, reverb seems to come through much more clearly. I really need to do a double-blind test to understand what's going on, but that's kind of a pain to do by myself. And, I'm guessing if I had better headphones, I would hear more benefit. I think I've blown my audio equipment budget for the time being, though.

Just finished reading this NYTimes Magazine article on the Center for American Progress, a newly formed liberal thinktank. The reporter's skepticism is well-founded; throwing a bunch of smart people together and telling them to come up with a new liberal platform might just lead to the same sort of muddled, designed-by-committee message that the Democrats have today. But...I guess it can't hurt. And if they eventually get someone with a great, unifying policy vision in there, at least the mechanisms for getting the word out might already be in place.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Terry Gross interviewed Bill O'Reilly on Fresh Air today, and O'Reilly abruptly ended the interview after complaining of being treated unfairly by Gross (she asked him about the usual stuff, his lies and threats). While I'm no fan of Bill O'Reilly (his social conservatism and rudeness get on my nerves), he was right about the unfairness. I've never heard Gross confront her guests the way she did O'Reilly. It seems that she attacked O'Reilly because she dislikes him, and she should have put that aside in doing the interview. Also, clearly she's not used to attacking guests, and she pretty much sucked at it here. Definitely a worthwhile listen if you have 40 minutes to spare.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall Call Off Merger: This is a good thing for the music audience in New York, since this way the great concerts by visiting orchestras at Carnegie Hall will continue (it's not clear that Lincoln Center would have been as desirable a venue for them). And, while creating a hall with good acoustics still seems to be something of a black art, I'm optimistic that the Philharmonic will learn from past mistakes and find a way to fix Avery Fisher Hall. Good stuff.
I just voted; the line wasn't very long surprisingly. I guess it might have been worse earlier in the morning. This election cycle has really soured me on the whole direct democracy thing here in California. The recall is a complete joke, and I don't have enough time to really make an educated decision on these other propositions. I think my voting strategy from now on is to default to a no vote on all propositions, only voting yes when someone has really convinced me it's worthwhile.

It's quite disturbing how insecure the electronic voting machines are here in Alameda county. Of course, no one will pay any attention to this issue until some serious tampering occurs.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Got sucked into surfing about headphones and blowing some money on a headphone amp. The explanation of the blobs in your head phenomenon was very interesting; I had noticed it but never thought about it carefully. I'm anxious to see how well their circuitry does in correcting it.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

What a slow day...had intentions of getting back into research, but those were quickly destroyed once I opened up the code I wrote in my pre-deadline work binge over the summer. Yikes! What the hell was I thinking? It will take me hours to decipher what was going on in my head back then, and I was not in a mood to get started today. So, I lounged around, did some reading, watched Decalogue 7 (the first that was good but not great), and basically wasted the day.

Everyone has probably already seen this, but just in case: a study on "misperceptions" that people have about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, and where they are getting their news. The numbers are damning for Fox News, but I'm still not sure if there's any sort of simple conclusion that can be drawn from this work; there are all sorts of factors involved (eg. education level), and the study doesn't cover them all. At the least, the study provides some numbers to show that "fair and balanced" is quite an inaccurate description of Fox News.

Friday, October 03, 2003

The State skit link works again! Check it out along with the recent post on it. Six hours of grading, followed by two pitchers of's been an interesting evening.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Wow...what an ending to the A's - Red Sox game. Plays like that squeeze bunt remind me how great baseball can be. Overall, I think I have to root for the Sox, just to see the city of Boston go absolutely insane if they actually do win it all.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The New Yorker has an interesting article on the whole Grasso salary debacle. What struck me the most by the article was how it reminded me of this classic State skit (Quicktime) on "monkey torture." Sadly, that video link is broken now, so this post didn't really have the impact I was hoping hor.