Monday, December 27, 2004

Watching Movies With...

There was this great series of article in the Times a couple of years back where a movie person would sit down with reporter Rick Lyman and go through one of their favorite films in detail. The articles aren't in the free part of the site anymore, but they seem to have opened them up through a link from the page with all of their Brando articles. Here are a few good ones or ones I want to read:

I'm too lazy to link to all of them, but from this one you can access the rest through the Related Articles box. Hopefully these links will keep working. Oh, and Sideways is awesome; go see it.

UPDATE: The direct links don't seem to work anymore, but going to the Brando page and then clicking through to the On The Waterfront article works, and gives working links to the other articles.

Disaster Relief

Check out this page if you'd like to donate to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief for yesterday's tsunamis. It looks like they'll need all the help they can get.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Cool Directions Site

I randomly ran into Map24 yesterday. It gives you this cool scrollable and zoomable map when you look up an address. The UI is a little confusing at first, but it's really fun to play with. I hope everyone is having a good holiday (or at least those who have holidays now).

Monday, December 13, 2004

Life in the Peace Corps

Check out an insider's (ie., my brother's) view of his life's hardships. There are some jokes that I imagine only make sense to other El Salvador Peace Corps volunteers, but it's still pretty funny. Actually, I'm curious as to whether others find it funny, or whether I just laugh harder at it because my brother wrote it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Free

My crazy travelling and semester obligations are finally past, and it feels great. I really should get back to research soon, but for now I don't want to think about it. Tannhäuser was performed really well; I had forgotten just how amazing the Metropolitan Opera was, or maybe I had just never realized it before. Too bad the opera is so damn boring after the singing contest in the second act. Oh, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is an awesome, awesome movie; see it if you haven't already. Finally, if you're looking to burn some money on CDs, Alex Ross posted some top 10 lists for 2004. I was tempted to buy the Lieberson Handel arias CD, but went for the earlier Bach cantatas disc instead; incredible stuff. I would buy the just-released SF Symphony Mahler 2 recording for her rendition of the 4th movement alone, but the price is a bit steep.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The 'Tute

This article about a high school student working in the M.I.T. Media Lab put a smile on my face this morning and took me back a bit. Check this out:
When I first came there I made the assumption -- just to set myself straight -- that everyone at M.I.T. was smarter than I was. What I realized later is that everyone makes that assumption, and it allows everyone to learn from one another, which is really cool.

That's a little naïve, but a good attitude I think. I'd love to hear from this guy again in 4 years if he ends up at M.I.T., to see if he's still so positive about the place. He still needs to learn a bit about web page design; yikes.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Random Reviews

Some stuff I saw in the last few weeks:
  • Deadwood: I finished watching the first season a while back. It's not a great show, but it's very good. There is a lot of cursing, and in general the show is very raw and dirty, which apparently is appropriate for the setting. Ian McShane is fantastic as Al Swearengen, and I enjoy William Sanderson as E.B. Farnum (I always think of J.F. Sebastian from Blade Runner when I see him). Sometimes the show is a bit too melodramatic or full of itself, but after seeing all the episodes, I was glad I watched.
  • Le Grand Macabre: This was weird. But, it wasn't completely unapproachable; I actually sort of got into the music in the second act. It was a good experience, but I doubt I'd pay to see it again.
  • Carnegie International:I actually saw a writeup on this exhibit in the Times a few weeks back, and I was eager to check it out. I thought the whole thing was great. I'm pretty ignorant about modern art, but it's still fun to see new and challenging works and spend a little time trying to make sense of them. Actually, for some reason looking at modern art reminded me of this random quote from Hansel in Zoolander: "Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot." Don't ask me why. Anyway, there were some really cool video installations and neat sculptures. If you're going to be in Pittsburgh sometime before the end of March next year, check it out.

Coming up next week: Eugene Onegin at SF Opera and Tannhäuser at the Met. Life is good.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Morris on Fallujah Prisoner Shooting

Here's a nice op-ed by Errol Morris on the recent video showing a prisoner being shot in Fallujah. This paragraph in particular got me thinking:
Pictures force us to collect our thoughts. They make us think about motivation, intent - they make us think about how we interpret our experiences, how we think about the world, how we try to understand the motives of others. (Maybe it's in our DNA. We look at pictures of other people and we want to know: what were they thinking?) And when it's a photograph of a crime or of violence, we think even harder. Such images make us care because they make us part of the mystery of what happened. We are not merely spectators; we are investigators. We are involved. What do the images mean? What do they show? What led up to these events? Are there mitigating circumstances? Is it as bad as it looks?

I wrote before about reading faces in pictures, and I think Morris is making the same point about how pictures make you work to understand what's going on. And Morris's points about denying reality are good, too; as I was watching this video on television, I couldn't believe that a camera crew was actually willing to follow the soldiers into such a dangerous situation. Anyway, good stuff.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Back To Concerts

My deadline finally passed on Thursday, and I've been enjoying doing very little productive work ever since. Also, I'm finally starting to get back to concerts. I saw Michael Schade in recital on Sunday. He had quite a good voice, but it was a bit overwhelming from where I was sitting, fifth row from the stage. He did some really nice Richard Strauss songs that I hadn't heard before. On Thursday I'm finally seeing Le Grand Macabre, which should be interesting. Hopefully I'll be on track to catch the rest of the operas this fall. And...that's about it. Oh, this is one of the funniest things I've seen in quite a while.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bravo!

Great post at The Rest Is Noise on shouts of "Bravo!" in recordings. My favorites are both on piano concerto recordings, the Argerich Rach 3 and the insane recording of Evgeny Kissin playing the Chopin piano concertos when he was 12; I used to listen to both a lot back in my virtuosity worship phase during freshman year of college. 16 hours until my deadline; I can't wait.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Election

Since everyone seems to have weighed in on the election results, I thought I'd do my part. On Monday night, I arrived at the Hyatt Newporter hotel for a 3-day conference. After a couple of drinks, I was getting ready to crash, and I went to use the toilet in my hotel room. I lifted the lid, and saw the bowl nearly filled with what looked like dried "material," as Ted so tactfully called it. There was no water at all, just incomprehensible amounts of "material." There was no smell either, which only made the situation more surreal and disturbing. The quantity of "material" clearly placed this disaster beyond the work of any one man; it was plumbing gone horribly, horribly wrong. I've seen some nasty stuff before, and I'm not easily shocked, but lifting the toilet lid to be greeted by this astounding monstrosity shook me to my core and made me question all I hold dear.

It was the second worst thing I saw this week.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Josh Rushing

For those who saw Control Room, go check out this interview that the Marine captain Josh Rushing did on Fresh Air. He was a military press contact for Al-Jazeera and one of the most interesting people in the movie. The interview has lots of interesting tidbits, including how Fox News sets up interviews (like we didn't know).

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Music Criticism and Politics

I'd been reading sounds & fury occasionally, as the author had some interesting things to say about music criticism, and he seems like quite the hardcore Wagnerian. But, then he posted his "contribution" to the debate on this year's presidential election; yuck. Now I can't read his writings on other topics without cringing. I sort of wish he had kept his politics to himself.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Naïve and Sentimental

I'm yet again rethinking my opinion on words in music after listening to my new Billy Budd recording, where the diction is for some reason much clearer than it was live (maybe the hall?). But I won't ramble about it any more for now. I just got back from SF Symphony, where they performed John Adams's Naïve and Sentimental Music. It was the first piece by Adams that I've heard, and I was very impressed. The coolest part was the percussion score, which called for just about every percussion instrument I could think of and more. There were almglocken, which I hadn't seen before and can't seem to find any information on now; I guess they're basically pitched cowbells, but they almost sounded like woodblocks. The vibraphone and crotales were both bowed in the second movement, and I finally heard what it's supposed to sound like (really weird overtones), as opposed to how it sounded when I tried it. And of course there was the standard mix of cymbals, gongs, and loud drums to round things out; good stuff. Also, Adams was in attendance, and he came out and gave a 5 minute introduction to the work, with a few excerpts from the first movement played by the orchestra. It helped me a lot in figuring out what was going on with the piece. The second half of the concert was Beethoven's Violin Concerto played by Midori, which honestly was a bit of a letdown after the Adams (the orchestra was about half the size). It would have been better to program the Beethoven first, but I guess the worry is that people would leave before hearing the modern piece.

It's crunch time for research, so if you expect to hear from me but don't for the next couple of weeks, you know why.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sunday NY Times Arts Goodness

Real quick, there were two particularly interesting articles in the Arts section of last Sunday's Times. The first discusses a sexual harrassment suit against writers of "Friends" for making crude jokes during writing sessions. I must say I'm familiar with the phenomenon of trying to out-do someone's gross-out, although I'd never, ever participate in such a contest :). I'm kind of curious to see if these comedy writers are better at it than other people. The other article is on the use of beta blockers by musicians to control stage fright. There's no mention of whether singers use these things; I've always found nerves to affect me more in singing auditions than on other instruments. My take is that the use of beta blockers is no big deal; they don't seem to be harmful healthwise, and I figure that if their use was really decreasing the quality of the music, you'd see it in audition and competition results (with the non-users winning more often).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Song Language Reconsidered

Thinking more about my last post, I'm realizing that the words to a song or their language really make very little difference to me in terms of how much I like the music. I can "appreciate" clever lyrics and good fits with the music, but I don't think those things alone would ever make me like a song. But, I think the "sounds" of the words matter. A standard vocal exercise when learning a song is to practice singing only the vowels, to emphasize the sounds and sensations you should be focusing on after the consonants are added. I'm guessing that for most music, hearing only the vowels sung, which would preserve most of the "sounds" of the words while obscuring what they actually are, would be basically the same for me as hearing the full words.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Language of Songs

I was listening to Die schöne Müllerin for the first time in forever last night, and I got to wondering about how much more I would enjoy it if I actually understood German. For English songs like Aimee Mann's, listening carefully to the words adds another layer of enjoyment for me. On the other hand, there are great English songs where paying close attention to the words really doesn't do much extra for me; Radiohead fits more in this category. That's not to say that Radiohead lyrics are necessarily worse, but they just don't add much to my personal experience of the music. And then, there are the songs in languages I don't know, whose words obviously have little to no effect on my experience (I can sometimes recognize a word here and there). I can't imagine that I would like a German song less if the words turned out to be uninteresting, since whatever it was that I liked about the song before would still be there. But, if I could notice that the words really matched the melody or accompaniment well at some points in a song, I'd probably enjoy anticipating those moments in future listenings. I guess it all breaks down to how I appreciate music in general, which is some mixture of gut reactions and geekiness for detail. I better save digging into that for a future entry, though, since I'd probably spend the rest of the evening on it otherwise.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Billy and Gillian

Some quick thoughts on concerts from last week. Billy Budd was great, even though I had really never heard it before and it's not an easy listen. I really liked the Wagnerian structure of the acts, with long orchestral interludes between scenes. And the lead singers were once again amazing; SF Opera has been on a roll this season. It felt like a work that would grow on me with more listenings, and I've got a recording on the way. I also saw Gillian Welch at the Fillmore with AJ; he already wrote a bit about it. I'll just add that she did a wonderful cover of Radiohead's "Black Star." You wouldn't think at first that the song would be suited to a laid-back, folksy interpretation, but it worked surprisingly well. It was my first time at the Fillmore, and it's a really cool venue.

If you're looking for a large chunk of interesting reading, this series of articles from the Boston Globe gives details on how the House of Representatives is being run these days. I've only gotten through the first article, and it's stuff that I've heard or read before in bits and pieces, but seeing those pieces put together was still eye-opening.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush Earpiece Rumor

I just saw on NewsDog the rumor that Bush was wearing a wire during the last debate. It does look pretty suspicious to me, although there's no incontrovertible evidence. Nevertheless, in the spirit of blogging, I'm linking to help spread the rumor and plant doubts in as many minds as possible :).

More Feed Hacks

I fixed some bugs in my Andante RSS feeds, and added a feed for classical music articles in the Chronicle. I also changed the links for the feeds; they're now here. Sorry for the change to anyone who was using them.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Couple of Music Links

Here's a blog that lists 101 great works of 20th-century music, and will eventually discuss more of the pieces in detail. And here's a great review of a new book on Glenn Gould.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Concert Thoughts / Plans

Some thoughts on concerts I attended this month:
  • Cosi Fan Tutte: This was a great production, and I feel like I appreciate the opera more now that I've seen it live. All the singers were stellar, and the two male leads especially did a great job with the humor in the roles.
  • The Pixies: A fun show, and my first time at Greek Theatre. I wasn't super familiar with the band's music (certainly not enough to sing along with all the other fans), and I can't say I was blown away by the songs, but a few tunes were pretty catchy. It made me wish I spent more time on the drumset way back when.
  • La Traviata: Wow. It's hard to beat seeing a wonderful opera with three amazing singers in the lead roles. Rolando Villazon was especially impressive. This was probably the best performance I've seen yet at SF Opera.
  • Mahler 9: I had high expectations for this one, and they were pretty much met (just a bit of first-performance sloppiness). How lucky am I to be in San Francisco while the orchestra is recording all the Mahler symphonies? Anyway, not quite as good as this past summer's Mahler 2, but still really good.

Concerts for October, if all goes well: Billy Budd, Tosca, Gillian Welch, Midori plays Beethoven, and Rach 2 (maybe). Oh, and not quite a concert, but I'm seeing Stella! It should be a good month if I'm not too overwhelmed with research.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Missile Defense

The debate is getting covered pretty exhaustively all over the place, so I'll just point to this New Yorker column on the missile defense system that Bush made a point of bringing up last night:
Between 1999 and December, 2002, a prototype anti-missile interceptor did succeed five times out of eight in hitting a dummy warhead in space. However, it was given information that the North Koreans would be unlikely to provide, such as the time and place of the launch and the missile’s trajectory. Moreover, the tests were purely preliminary. They did not show whether the system would work at night, or in bad weather, or against multiple warheads, or against a warhead of relatively crude design that would tumble instead of spin. At the time, the Pentagon’s chief of testing estimated that it would be a decade or more before the system would be ready for operational tests, and, like many other weapons experts, he questioned whether the system would ever be able to distinguish between warheads and decoys as simple as Mylar balloons.
...
Owing largely to the costs of development and deployment, the missile-defense budget has doubled in the past four years. The appropriation for next year is more than ten billion dollars—about the same as the Army’s entire R. & D. budget, twice the budget of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, and nearly twice the department’s allocation for the Coast Guard.

Spending so much money on this totally unproven system shows as well as anything the relationship between some of Bush's policies and reality.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Alex Ross on Radiohead

I know I already linked to Alex Ross's site, but I had to also link to this cool article on Radiohead, as he manages to work in a great Beavis and Butt-head reference:
Radiohead have stopped playing "Creep," more or less, but it still hits home when it comes on the radio. When Beavis of "Beavis and Butt-head" heard the noisy part, he said, "Rock!" But why, he wondered, didn't the song rock from beginning to end? "If they didn't have, like, a part of the song that sucked, then, it's like, the other part wouldn't be as cool," Butt-head explained.

Uhuhuhuh, yeah. That show ruled. And who knew Butt-head was hyphenated?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Peace Corps Blogging

My bro has started a blog, writing from his thatched hut in El Salvador. He has to bike 45 miles each way to post an entry, and the bike doesn't even have wheels, so he just ends up carrying it and walking. Okay, it's not quite so bad, but he's still roughing it down there and doing some awesome work. And, though I'm biased, I think you'll agree that he has some interesting things to say. So check out the blog and send him some love (lemme know if you want his email).

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Classical vs. The Rest

I've been meaning to write about this column by Tom Strini on the marginalization of classical music for a while, since this part rubbed me the wrong way:
The guys in the swing bands of the 1930s through the 1950s had training and discipline in common with their classical counterparts. They could cross genres in a natural way and casual listeners could perceive their kinship and follow them. Pop and classical music were built on essentially the same kinds of harmonies, melodies and rhythms and performed on the same instruments. In such an environment, symphony pops concerts made musical sense and could draw an audience.

That is no longer the case. Rock, with its harmonic simplicity, non-orchestral instruments and emphasis on attitude as a main marketable commodity, stretched the relationship thin. More recently, synthesized sound and sampling have replaced traditional musicianship in most arenas of popular music.

Britney Spears -- 'Oops, I Did It Again' Modern teen pop is more about sexual display than about music, although it's not inconceivable that Britney Spears will wash up on the 2030–31 symphony pops circuit. (How will Britney's navel look then?)

Rap, the dominant pop style of the day, has no use for traditional musical skill and no harmony or melody to speak of. Its rhymes-with-bitch crudity offends the civilized sensibility of classical music. Unlike many former pop and folk stars, no washed-up rapper will ever find second life on the pops circuit.

Some generalizations are excusable in a column like this one, but here Strini just seems like too much of a snob to really give these other musical styles a chance. For me, rock and rap music complement classical stuff in my listening, and while classical would be my favorite if I had to choose, there's plenty of other great music that I'd hate to be without. I know lots of other people, including classical musicians, who feel the same way. Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, is one of them. He wrote a fantastic article a while back on his personal relationship to different genres of music, and how he sees other styles of music evolving in the same way that classical music did. The opening paragraph in his writeup from this week's magazine shows that Mozart, for one, would not have been offended by rap's "rhymes-with-bitch crudity":

The breathtaking profanity of Mozart’s letters—“Whoever doesn’t believe me may lick me, world without end,” and so on—has led one British researcher to conclude recently that the composer had Tourette’s syndrome. What’s interesting about this theory, which has become the goofball classical-music news item of the season, is that anyone would actually need a far-fetched medical explanation for the fact that a young male with healthy appetites swore a lot and liked to talk about sex. Mozart, like Shakespeare, moved with equal ease through the most refined and most raucous circles of his world. Only if classical music is confined to the fleshless end of the spectrum does Mozart’s exaltation of the body become a psychological anomaly crying out for interpretation.

Anyway, Strini does have some good points in his column, and it's totally fine if he dislikes most non-classical music. But I think that when he dismissively generalizes about the musical qualities of genres that he doesn't seem to understand, he exhibits an attitude of almost wanting to keep classical music exclusive and marginalized.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Rhapsody

UC Berkeley now has a deal with the RealRhapsody online music service so that students can subscribe for only 2 dollars a month. At that price, I had to give it a try, and it's incredibly cool. They have tons of music, and you can stream any of it instantly (on a broadband connection, anyway). It's like Napster was at its peak, only better and not free. I'd probably just buy a CD instead of spending 79 cents a track for less than CD quality, and the service is Windows-only. But still, the streaming service is easily worth the discounted price.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

O'Reilly Yet Again

Transcripts of O'Reilly interviews with Jon Stewart and Terry Gross (I wrote about O'Reilly's appearance on Fresh Air before). Jon Stewart is funny as usual, and Gross and O'Reilly basically talk past each other.

Health Insurance

Interesting post over at Crooked Timber on markets and health insurance; yet another writeup that makes me wish I understood economics better. Maybe I'll do a Teaching Company course on it when I have more time.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Freedom Tower

I just watched some of this fascinating Frontline documentary on the design of the Freedom Tower; who knew what drama would unfold when two architects tried to design one building? Unfortunately, you can't watch online yet, but the chronology gives some idea of what went down. Try to catch it if it gets aired again.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Best Drama

Finally, The Sopranos wins best drama. And Imperioli totally deserved best supporting actor. Only around a year and a half (I'm guessing) until Season 6...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Ebert's New Site

Roger Ebert has a new site now, which will eventually have all of his reviews available, along with some (all?) of his Answer Man columns and other essays; cool stuff.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Beethoven Sonatas

All the Beethoven sonatas online, with notes. Rock on BBC Radio 3.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Second Harp

Here's an interesting article on the contracts of musicians in top symphonies, their perks, etc. Check this out:
Management promises that its proposals would never harm the orchestra's artistic level.

"We want to preserve the jewel of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Orchestra," said Mr. Albertini, a public relations executive hired to present the orchestra's case. The players have their own outside public-relations man.

But John Koen, a cellist and the chairman of the players' committee, says that reducing full-time positions - even though the same number of musicians would always be onstage through the use of substitutes - could undermine the orchestra's fabled artistic tradition.

For example, he said, one position singled out is the full-time second harpist. The "Philadelphia sound" is partly based on decades of playing large French symphonic works, which often require two harps. Eliminating that job would run counter to the tradition, he said.

I'd like to see how many musicians on stage could tell the difference in the orchestra's sound between using a full-time second harpist and a substitute (in those relatively rare cases where two harps are needed), let alone audience members. I know the union is just trying to keep as many benefits and positions as possible, but this claim is so ridiculous that it's just funny.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Distractions

I worked a bunch this weekend, and I thought about writing about it, and then realized that I'd be happier not reflecting on that and possibly coming to some unwelcome conclusions about my project and/or research abilities. So, here are some other random thoughts instead.

I saw the Woody Allen film September. It's a somber and bleak film with beautiful cinematography and some great writing and acting. The scene mentioned in this essay (from a previous Woody Allen post) was striking:
In September, prior to the opening of the story, Lane (Mia Farrow) once attempted suicide because of a deep depression. In the course of the film, we see her again depressed and again contemplating suicide. Her friend, Stephanie (Dianne Wiest), tries to help her:
Stephanie: Now give me those pills. Tomorrow will come and you'll find some distractions. You'll get rid of this place, you'll move back to the city, you'll work, you'll fall in love, and maybe it'll work out, and maybe it won't, but you'll find a million petty things to keep you going, and distractions to keep you from focusing on -

Lane: On the truth.

Again, the point is clear: we need distractions, we need illusions and self-deception, in order to help us avoid the terrible truths of our lives.

I'd been having some vaguely similar thoughts lately (though not nearly so fatalistic), and seeing them laid out pretty explicitly in this film was a bit disturbing.

On a cheerier note, I got some more cool music recently. Björk's new CD Medulla is way weirder than her previous stuff, at least to my ear. And those who instinctively recoil when they hear Björk's voice should stay miles away from this CD. I didn't find any of the music completely nonsensical, and I have a feeling that a bunch of the songs will really grow on me after a few listens. I also just got Nico's Chelsea Girl, which I first heard in Keunwoo's car this summer. Nico has such a bewitching voice, and the intimate, folksy style of the songs on this CD fit it perfectly; good stuff.

Finally, I was at DNA Lounge for a while last night, and I realized that it had been so long since I'd been to a club that I'd actually forgotten what it was like to feel a beat. I've been using headphones too much lately, and I need to get out to a place with good, loud music again soon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

More KenJen

I'm watching Ken Jennings destroy his opponents on Jeopardy. We thought he might have lost his touch after yesterday's tense game; not quite. For one clue today, the answer (question, whatever) was The Cheesecake Factory, and a contestant answered The Cheesecake Company. Alex hesitated for a few moments (perhaps checking with the judges) before saying no, giving away that the answer was close. Is it unfair when Alex gives the remaining contestants this extra information? Is there any way to avoid it? I wonder if the outcome of a game was ever seriously affected by something like this.

Vodka: Vapor, not Liquid

Two interesting booze-related articles on Slate in the last couple of days, a review of different vodkas and a feature on inhalable alcohol. I've never been a vodka fan, but maybe I've just never had the good stuff or it wasn't properly chilled. The inhalable alcohol is a little scary, but also intriguing; it's like when Barney gets his beer prize injected directly into his veins after winning the film festival on The Simpsons, but without the injection. I wonder if you could rig up a humidifier to just have alcohol in the air at a party and get everyone drunk on the cheap. I guess it's possible that some people might not want to drink, or might want to stop at some point and still stay at the party. Allright, I've clearly run out of stuff to say.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Andante RSS Feeds

In an escape from doing real work this weekend, I wrote some code to generate RSS feeds for Andante Magazine, which has lots of good articles on classical music. Check them out, and let me know if they don't work for you.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Reminders of India

My parents called me last night from India, where they will be staying for a few weeks, and I spoke to one of my uncles for the first time in years. He greeted me in his Yoda-like English by asking, "From where are you speaking?" This quirk had completely slipped my mind, and hearing that question made me both miss him and realize how out of touch I've been since I last visited. Then I finally watched the wonderful Apur Sansar, a great end to the Apu trilogy. It had lots of familiar details of day-to-day life in India that also jogged my memories of previous visits. Hopefully I'll be able to make time next summer for a trip to see what else I've forgotten.

Roshambo

It looks like Rock, Paper, Scissors is really catching on. This article is interesting, but it doesn't really match the humor of the real RPS home page. Check out The Myth of Dynamite Exposed.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Frances Conroy

Six Feet Under has been pretty worthless this season. Either the writers just gave up, or what they're trying to do is way over my head. But, Frances Conroy has really been fantastic as Ruth. I love the character, mostly because Conroy just makes her so believable and real. Her skill is more noticeable now that the drama of the show is non-existent. I see now that she absolutely deserved the Emmy that she won for this role.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell Miller

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon reading about this crazy Zell Miller speech at the RNC last night and his bizarre appearances afterward. I finally found this Slate article that gives some background on the situation. According to David, some Georgians think that Miller has literally lost it; sounds about right to me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

ATLiens

I just got a lot of music from AJ, and it's really, really good. I'm loving these older OutKast albums; the song ATLiens has the best chorus (or hook?):
Now throw your hands in the ai-yerr
And wave 'em like you just don't cay-yerr
And if you like fish and grits and all the pimp shit
Everybody let me hear ya say O-Yea-yerr
I guess you need to hear Andre do it to get the full effect :). So go listen to it.

Update: Here it is.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

New Yorker binge

So on my flight back to Berkeley, I tried to get through three August issues of the New Yorker (I hadn't gotten my mail forwarded for a while). As expected, I had missed a bunch of good stuff.
  • Nanook and Me: Louis Menand fills in some interesting background on the history of documentaries and how they came to have the reputation of being "a plotless, commentary-less, vérité-style record of life as it is," and places Fahrenheit 9/11 in this context.

  • The Gift: The story of a guy who earned millions in real estate, gave it all away, and then also gave away his kidney in a non-directed donation. I especially enjoyed the passages on giving relative values to human lives:
    Kravinsky considered the risks. Although Richard Herrick, who received the first kidney transplant, died eight years later, Ronald Herrick, his donor and twin brother, is still alive. As Herrick's example suggests, and medical research confirms, there are no health disadvantages to living with one kidney. One is enough-it grows a little bigger-and the notion that a spare should be packed for emergencies is misconceived: nearly all kidney disease affects both.
    The risks are in the operation. "I had a one-in-four-thousand chance of dying," Kravinsky told me. "But my recipient had a certain death facing her." To Kravinsky, this was straightforward: "I'd be valuing my life at four thousand times hers if I let consideration of mortality sway me."
    ...
    During one of our conversations, I asked Kravinsky to calculate a ratio between his love for his children and his love for unknown children. Many people would refuse to engage in this kind of thought experiment, but Kravinsky paused for only a moment. "I don't know where I'd set it, but I would not let many children die so my kids could live," he said. "I don't think that two kids should die so that one of my kids has comfort, and I don't know that two children should die so that one of my kids lives."
    Trying to think in this way, just as an experiment, is really worthwhile. I remember talking with my brother about the classic philosophical dilemma in which (roughly) you see a train speeding toward a group of five people, and you can save them by hitting a switch which will send the train crashing into a group of three people. We eventually started talking about things like how many near-death senior citizens would be needed to balance a healthy young adult. While I found this kind of thinking a bit uncomfortable (and I still do), I feel like it opened my mind a bit.

  • Speed (not online, August 23rd issue): A very cool article by a neurologist on how the brain perceives time, discussing things like how time seems to slow down for people in near-death experiences, the effects of drugs, and people with Parkinson's disease and Tourette's syndrome. One cool tidbit that I'll type up:
    Sometimes, as one is falling asleep, there may be a massive, involuntary jerk - a myoclonic jerk - of the body. Though such jerks are generated by primitive parts of the brain stem (they are, so to speak, brain-stem reflexes), and as such are without any intrinsic meaning or motive, they may be given meaning and context, turned into acts, by an instantly improvised dream. Thus the jerk may be associated witha dream of tripping, or stepping over a precipice, lunging forward to catch a ball, and so on. Such dreams may be extremeley vivid, and have several "scenes." Subjectively, they appear to start before the jerk, and yet presumably the entire dream mechanism is stimulated by the first, preconscious perception of the jerk. All of this elaborate restructuring of time occurs in a second or less.
    I've wondered for a long time how that worked. Also, I'm not a person that typically remembers dreams except when I'm awakened in the middle of one. I've always found it somewhat jarring that my experience of a dream is (presumably) unaffected by whether I'll remember it or not, which depends on the future event of the dream being interrupted.

  • The Unpolitical Animal: Another Louis Menand article, this one about the thinking of voters. Quotes on NewsDog.
One last thing: I was at a party last night celebrating the launch of a couple of web sites by my friend Dave, including Classical CD Guide. Check it out if you've been looking to get into classical music or if you're just looking for some new pieces to listen to.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Shut Up And Deal

Thoughts on the movies I saw and book I finished over the last couple of days:
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: I couldn't get over this feeling that something significant was missing in the translation of this book. I don't know exactly why I felt this more than I did with other translated books, but at times the English prose just felt like it was trying to capture some quirk of the original Spanish but wasn't quite doing it. But, the book was still very enjoyable, with a lot of memorable moments and an ending that made me want to read the book again, knowing its rhythm and where it is heading.

  • The Manchurian Candidate (the remake): I thought this movie worked really well as a thriller. There are a lot of close-up shots with faces right in the center of the frame that are especially disturbing and effective. I felt like the political stuff was a little heavy-handed, but hey, at least it was on the right side :). All I remember about the original is that I liked it a lot, so I should probably see it again.

  • The Apartment: A great movie for the whole family! Seriously, I was looking to rent a movie that my parents and I would both enjoy, and this one worked well. The directing, Jack Lemmon's acting, and the screenplay are all great. Check it out if you're looking for a good comedy that won't have your mom commenting on its depravity every 5 minutes.

  • Before Sunrise: I've been trying to see more of Richard Linklater's movies because I absolutely love Dazed and Confused. This movie didn't quite meet that bar, but it was relaxing and feel-good in sort of the same way. Maybe it's because it also has a relatively consequence-free setting where the characters don't really have anything stressing them out. There was some annoying philosophizing that reminded me of Waking Life, which I couldn't even get through. But in the end I think Julie Delpy made up for it :).

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Lots on Ray

GreenCine Daily has a post with links to a bunch of good articles on Satyajit Ray, due to the 50 year anniversary of Pather Panchali. Time to get back on GreenCine and finish the Apu trilogy.

September Concerts

Continuing an old tradition of listing concerts of which I usually end up attending two at most, here are some shows I want to check out in September. At the symphony, I'll definitely see Mahler 9, and the Rite of Spring and Quasthoff concerts look good too. At the opera, Cosi Fan Tutte and La Traviata should both be really good. AJ tipped me off to The Pixies playing at Greek Theater, but it looks like their shows are sold out. With some help, I'll do better at getting to more non-classical concerts in the future. As always, if you know of some other good concert I should check out, or if you want to hit any of the above performances with me, let me know.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Pennsylvania Redistricting

I was at the India Society of Pittsburgh independence day picnic today. They're a pretty cool group trying to bring together the various Indian subcultures in the Pittsburgh area that tend to be kind of insular otherwise. Anyway, two US representatives, Mike Doyle (Democrat) and Timothy Murphy (Republican) were on hand to give speeches. I thought Doyle's speech was quite good, mostly encouraging the Indian community to be more politically active. Murphy served up a few platitudes and personal shout-outs, but nothing too inspiring. Since it's an election year, I looked up the congressional races for the relevant districts. Due to the 2002 redistricting in Pennsylvania, Doyle is running unopposed (after being forced to defeat another popular Democrat in the 2002 race), and Murphy is defending this lovely district that was essentially created for him. Yaaay, democracy! Here's a New Yorker article from a few months back that has some discussion of the Pennsylvania gerrymandering (which was upheld by the Supreme Court this year).

Note to self: 600 miles of driving followed by a red-eye in one day is no fun. Time for bed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Caffeine Free Diet Coke

I didn't understand the purpose of this drink until a couple days ago. I was hesitating to drink another Diet Coke because the caffeine would keep me up late, so I grabbed a Caffeine Free Diet Coke just to try it. It tastes exactly like Diet Coke (at least to me), and that taste itself seems to make me feel more alert, as if I've tricked my brain into thinking it's getting some caffeine. Maybe decaf coffee works the same way? Maybe I'm just dense to not have realized this would happen before. Anyway, kind of cool, although my dependence on caffeine, while not that strong, is a bit frightening.

Incidentally, I've wondered what the deal is with the new Coke C2, which is advertised to have all the taste of regular Coke with half the carbs and calories. If this is true, why would anyone ever buy regular Coke? And while I like the taste of Diet Coke, which has no carbs or calories, isn't this an admission that most people think it tastes worse than regular Coke? A Google search shows that I'm definitely not the first to wonder about this. But, it looks like most people don't think C2 has all the taste anyway.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Obesity and Income

A well-done story from Morning Edition on the link between obesity and income. It seems that even on a low budget you could eat healthier than fast food, but I'll bet it's tough to prioritize that when you are stressing out about making ends meet.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Kinsley Again on Stem Cells

Michael Kinsley lays the smack down on Bush's latest spin of his stem cell research policy (mentioned briefly here). Kinsley has written nicely on this topic before (via Abstract Factory).

Errol Morris MoveOn ads

Here's a New Yorker article on the Errol Morris MoveOn ads. Some of the ads are really worth watching; this is one of my favorites.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

John Perry Barlow

Reason has an interview up with John Perry Barlow, a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that's definitely worth reading. On Kerry vs. Bush:
We have to re-engage in the political process we have. Democracy actually works. You could make the argument that it’s working too well in America -- people are really getting exactly the government that they want. That is to say, the people who bother to engage themselves in the really tedious work of being a political activist -- having meetings in church basements and putting signs on people’s lawns.

I have grave misgivings about John Kerry, but I certainly don’t have misgivings about Kerry that equal the terror I have about another four years of Bush. What he’s done to aspects of the Constitution that are there to assure individual rights is breathtakingly bad.
And on TV vs. the Internet for getting news:
You now have two distinct ways of gathering information beyond what you yourself can experience. One of them is less a medium than an environment -- the Internet -- with a huge multiplicity of points of view, lots of different ways to find out what’s going on in the world. Lots of people are tuned to that, and a million points of view have bloomed. It creates a cacophony of viewpoints that doesn’t have any political coherence at all, a beautiful melee, but it doesn’t have the capacity to create large blocs of belief.

The other medium, TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I’ve ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Krugman vs. O'Reilly

An edited video (by an Outfoxed producer) and a transcript. I'm guessing Krugman didn't get his facts 100% right in the exchange either, but man, O'Reilly's thuggish behavior really rubs me the wrong way (along with some of his opinions, of course). And how does being a "traditionalist" (as O'Reilly labels himself) differ from being a conservative? This discussion is the best thing I found on Google, and it seems to imply that being traditionalist puts you on the more extreme side of conservatism.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Dog's Got Personality

Just finished reading this essay on the narrative structure of Pulp Fiction (via GreenCine Daily). If you're not a big fan of the movie, the essay probably isn't worth reading. The argument (as I understand it) is that in spite of its chronological leaps, the structure of the sequence of episodes in the film largely adheres to the conventions of a Hollywood-style narrative. The uses of classical narrative structure ground the film and allow it to more effectively comment on the passage of time in the characters' lives (emblematized by Butch's watch), a central thematic element. I think the argument is a bit of a stretch, but I've got some food for thought for the next time I watch the movie (just ordered the DVD).

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Laziness

Somewhat related to the Lebowski post, a book excerpt extolling laziness. Check this out:
Greatness and late rising are natural bedfellows. Late rising is for the independent of mind, the individual who refuses to become a slave to work, money, ambition. In his youth, the great poet of loafing, Walt Whitman, would arrive at the offices of the newspaper where he worked at around 11.30am, and leave at 12.30 for a two-hour lunch break. Another hour's work after lunch and then it was time to hit the town.
That sounds about right. Oh well, back to work.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Mark It, Dude

It seems that some people obsessively watch and quote The Big Lebowski. I guess I'm not privy to all the new shit. I actually saw a marmot earlier this summer at Rainier. Thanks to Vish for the link.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Faces

On Wednesday I saw Facing Windows, which won the best film award at the Seattle International Film Festival this year. The movie had good acting and cinematography, but nothing that made it great. But it did have a lot of close-ups of faces, including an extreme close-up under the end credits. I love reading faces and trying to figure out what they reveal, and I thought Massimo Girotti, who played a forgetful old man in the film (and apparently passed away soon after), did a great job of getting across a lot in his facial expressions.

It's weird, though, because I feel like a still face in a good photo is often more interesting than an animated face in a film. Maybe it's because I need to think more to figure out what's going on with the person in the still? In any case, I hadn't heard of Henri Cartier-Bresson before this week, but it seems that he had a knack for capturing faces at revealing moments. I especially like this picture of Gandhi breaking a fast. The woman in the background looks relieved and happy, but afraid to be too exuberant and somehow upset Gandhi and make him change his mind. It would be cool to actually see prints of some of Cartier-Bresson's pictures instead of just web-friendly digital versions and catch more of the details.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Technology and Football

Cool article on Brian Billick's use of technology in his football coaching career. Best quote:
By the time Billick was on the coaching staff at Utah State University in the late 1980's, he was working with some of the school's computer experts to process game information. As he put it: "When you go to computer science guys, they're so into the bells and whistles you get a lot more than you really need. But the guys in the business department, they know how to crunch numbers for a purpose."
Heh. Seriously, though, it's cool to see that Billick has does quite a bit with computers without himself being a hardcore computer geek. I was a bit disappointed that the article was not more specific about any competitive advantage Billick gained through using his programs to look at game footage. But, I imagine it does help, since he's still excited about using it and he seems pretty results-oriented.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This Is Jesus, Kent

I had an evening that made me nostalgic in two different ways. We were having a discussion that somehow drifted to video games and unfair advantages in games, eg. Donkey Kong's superior top speed in Super Mario Kart. It reminded me of this article on the best video game athletes of all time (QB Eagles ruled!), which reminded me of the insane amount of time I spent playing Tecmo Super Bowl. It was so fun as a kid to spend literally days of my life playing a new game and trying to find its quirks. I guess I could have spent some of that time reading, and then I'd be able to write good now, but I don't regret it too much.

Then, we watched the classic Real Genius, which I hadn't seen in years. The movie is a bit dated but still pretty funny, and of course it reminded me of the undergrad days. The content of the movie specifically reminded me of my freshman year, when I worked way too hard like Mitch does at the beginning. But then I remembered that the last time I had seen the movie was also freshman year, a really fun evening with a friend. There's some kind of weird self-referential thing going on there, but I'm too tired to figure out a good way to describe it.

The Paper Paper

Josh Marshall discusses the difference between reading a physical newspaper and reading the articles on the web, and I completely agree. I also think that the free access to the articles on newspaper web sites leads to more focused reading; I think I'd feel an urge to do a more thorough job of reading the Times if I were paying to do so. But it still wouldn't be the same as having some random article catch my eye in a regular paper.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Great Directors

A cool collection of essays on great directors. It's kind of scary that there are so many names there that I don't recognize.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Something Promising!

Damn. I just spent the day implementing an idea for speeding up some code I use for my research, and it seems to have worked spectacularly. I still have a ways to go, and there are many more potential pitfalls, but this is the first concrete sign I've had in months that my ideas on this project might actually turn into something useful. And it feels really good. It is heartening to know that even after not getting good results from a project for a long time, there is sometimes still hope. But I don't know if I have the stamina to work on these sorts of projects long-term. After finishing up this work, I think I need to switch to a project in a less well-studied area, where I won't need to struggle for so long to find interesting results. That might seem lazy (shouldn't I be working on the problems I feel are most important?), but I think it's necessary if I want to have some drive left in me when I finish my PhD.

Woody Allen's Bleak Outlook

Check out this insightful essay on a philosophy of life espoused in Woody Allen's films (via GreenCine Daily). It made me want to see some Allen films that I've missed (Hannah and Her Sisters, September, Play It Again, Sam). I need to get back on GreenCine when I return to Berkeley.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Obama

If you haven't heard of Obama, you're missing out (check out his convention speech). And if you have, perhaps you missed this New Yorker article on him from a while back.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Best of the Bay 2004

It's up.

More E-Voting Scariness / Fox News

Looks like a couple of computer crashes erased all the votes cast on touch-screen voting machines in Miami-Dade county in a 2002 election. Also see Krugman on the topic (via Abstract Factory). Let's hope that as many election officials as possible get a clue before November and we don't have some incredible scandal because of these machines.

So AJ and I were finishing up our workouts last night, and we caught Ron Reagan speaking at the Democratic National Convention about stem cell research. The channel was Fox News, and after the speech they switched to some analysis hosted by Brit Hume. He immediately mentions an email that he (along with other journalists) had just received from the Bush campaign, declaring that Bush had more than doubled funding for stem cell research. I don't have the time to deconstruct all the misleading crap on that page, for example the suggestion that $25 million is somehow a large amount of money to dedicate to a promising research area. But it's nice to know that the Bush campaign has a direct channel to have their responses to convention speeches repeated verbatim by "neutral" reporters on national TV. I wonder how many Kerry campaign press releases Fox News will be reading during the Republican National Convention.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Lake Serene and Birthday Wishes

First, some more hiking pictures, these from Lake Serene. The hike had a pretty steep climb, but it was worth it. How could I not have been doing these hikes before?

Happy Birthday Vish!! Yup, my bro has reached the ripe old age of 22. He's currently becoming fluent in Spanish so he can guide me around all the Spanish-speaking countries I want to visit.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Three Ways to Flip a Coin

Just realized that I never linked to my brother's prize-winning undergraduate thesis. It's a tough read because of possibly unfamiliar terminology, but doable. Of course, you might not be as motivated as me to get through it :). It's really nice to have an example of someone who thinks really carefully about life and his actions as a sibling.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Guitar Face

Looks like there's a contest to see who can make the best "guitar face." This article made me think about my "piano face," my "percussion face," and my "singing face," which are all quite different. When singing, the face you make is very functional, as it greatly affects the sound that you make. It's perhaps part of why a chorus rehearsal usually manages to cheer me up after a rough day; you have to keep a smiling, bright look on your face to maintain a good sound (this is an oversimplification, but for most choral music I think it applies). When playing the piano, it was easy to get very absorbed in the music, and I had a (probably bad) habit of rocking my upper body at more emotional parts of a piece. I think my face basically registered the emotions I was feeling, but I can't remember doing any facial expression consciously. Orchestral percussion requires a type of concentration different from the piano, since you're trying to stay together with many different musicians and your entrances need to be very precise. In all the pictures I've seen of me playing percussion, I've always had a dead serious expression on my face, probably reflecting my efforts to focus and play as precisely as possible. I wonder if there are other classes of instrument faces fundamentally different from the ones I've described.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Saul Bass

Cool article on Saul Bass and how he transformed the role of opening credits in movies (via GreenCine Daily). The combination of Bass's images and Bernard Herrmann's overtures in Vertigo and Psycho is just breathtaking, perfectly setting the mood for those films. I'd add Fight Club to the list of "After Bass Credit Classics."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Depressing Six Feet Under

Damn, last Sunday's episode of Six Feet Under really dragged me down (don't read more if you want to watch without spoilers). In a 30 minute sequence, one of the sympathetic main characters gets beat up and robbed, has the body he was driving back to the funeral home get dumped in the street, gets forced to smoke crack, gets gasoline poured all over him, and finally gets his funeral van stolen (which is better than getting burned I guess). While the sequence was effective (and somehow reminiscent of the 20-minute dream sequence from The Sopranos), I felt like it was too much of a manipulative stunt and a desperate plot device. I really liked Six Feet Under for its unrelenting darkness in past seasons, but I think they need to find something new to say to keep the show fresh. Hopefully they'll treat this traumatic incident in a new way and make the show interesting again.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Rainier

I hiked the Paradise Trail at Mount Rainier yesterday, a fantastic introduction to hiking. Check out the pics. I also went on a cruise of Lake Washington with the Microsoft Research interns on Friday. Here's the Berkeley PL crew. Wassup now bish? We up at Microsoft but we still ICY HOT.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Surfergirl

Surfergirl is a pretty good blog on TV. I definitely agree with her opinion that the penultimate episode of The Sopranos last season was unbelievably good. Oh, and I too am hooked on KenJen (scroll down).

Ali G

Cool interview with Ali G. This show looks hilarious, and I've heard great things about it. Hopefully it'll be downloadable.

Pointless cliche

I love music. It's been a rough few days for me, and it's going to be rough for a while, but without the empathizing lyrics and melodies from my music collection I think I'd basically be done for. That's all.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

1000 Best Movies

The Times has published a book of the 1000 Best Movies Ever Made. What's interesting is that if you click around a bit, I think you can read the original reviews for these films (they are definitely published in the book). It'll be interesting to see the initial reactions to some of these films, and to get to know the writing of some film reviewers from the past.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Homosexuality and Hinduism

I was looking around for information on Hinduism's attitude toward homosexuality when gay marriage was all over the headlines; now Slate has a nice writeup on the subject. Hinduism as I understand it should be tolerant of gays and lesbians, but clearly my understanding differs from Hinduism in practice and the probably the beliefs of most Hindus.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The 6am from Grand Central

I can't count the number of times a late night in NYC turned into a really late night as I decided to catch the 6am train back to my place instead of the previous one at 1:30am. Luckily, I never had the experience that these people had, missing the 1:30 and then paying some ridiculous cab fare to get home. Why the hell didn't I live in Manhattan? Anyway, missing the 1:30 train especially sucks since you've already cut your evening quite short; things don't really get started until after midnight in my experience. I always figured if I'm going out in the city that never sleeps, I might as well try to keep up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Fallingwater

I went to see Fallingwater today for the first time. It's only 20 miles from my parents' place, and I can't believe I didn't go before. The house is just amazingly beautiful, and the serene surroundings and cool weather really made my day. It was nice to be able to go on a weekday afternoon too; I'm guessing it gets pretty crowded on weekends. Anyway, check it out if you're in the area, and drop by my place if I'm here :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Changing Things Up

I changed the template on the blog and shifted things around a little bit, pretty much a waste of time since I post so infrequently these days. I'm killing some time at home until next week, when I head up to Microsoft Research in Redmond for the summer. I'm pretty psyched about the summer; I'm going to have great friends and roommates, and it looks like there will be lots of fun stuff to do in Seattle, including the Seattle International Film Festival, the Seattle Symphony (Rite of Spring and Mahler 5), and the Seattle Opera (Lohengrin in August). I'll also be making weekend trips to Berkeley, Vegas, and possibly Boston. And of course, hopefully there will be movies, drinking, basketball, outdoors stuff...oh, and a fun research project too :).

My bro is off to join Peace Corps in a couple weeks. He'll be spending two years in El Salvador. It sounds like tough work, but I'm sure he's up for it, and that it will be a fantastic experience.

There's only one episode of Sopranos left before another long hiatus. Overall, it's been a great season I think. Livia was such a fantastic character and a driving force in the show in Seasons 1 and 2 that I doubt it will ever reach that level again. But, there's still enough goodness left that I'll miss the slow a lot once the season ends. A new season of Six Feet Under will start afterward, but it's just not as good.

Well-Tempered Clavier

Damn cool site on Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (via Crooked Timber). Only bummer is I need to use IE to get it to work. If only I had this site when I was slogging through these pieces in high school...

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Check out this interesting article on Bush's anti-intellectuality (via The Washington Monthly). I think this really captures why voting for Kerry primarily because he's "not Bush" is absolutely valid; it's hard to imagine how any serious candidate for president could be less qualified than Bush to lead. Who is this guy?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

You can watch a bunch of Frontline programs online...cool stuff (thanks to Shobha for telling me). Seems like they are a little short on bandwidth (I couldn't get anything to work just now), and I guess I'm not helping by pointing more people to it, but hopefully they'll work out the kinks soon. Actually, now that I take a closer look, this has been up for a few years, so perhaps the bandwidth shortages won't be addressed soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

So, I got a Gmail account because I blog here, and I must say that it rocks. Their spam filtering still seems kind of weak, and it could use little features like adding an address from a received message to your address book, but otherwise I am very impressed. I even sort of like the text ads for some reason.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

For lack of another place to post to, let me say again here that The Sopranos is just amazing. Through 5 episodes, this season feels up to the level of quality I don't think the show has really had since Season 2 (although there were plenty of great episodes in Seasons 3 and 4). And the show is definitely getting darker; there are still the funny moments to lighten things up, but in context you're almost afraid to laugh because something horrible might be coming up. If only demand-driven pointer analysis fascinated me as much as this show...

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Monday, March 29, 2004

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Check out what kind of political contributions people in your neighborhood have been making.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

For those fellow Sopranos nuts out there, be sure to check out Slate's TV Club every week. They've got mob reporters writing about the episodes now instead of psychiatrists, which I personally find less interesting, but it's still worth a read. Also, super-detailed summaries of the episodes that I have to admit are pretty funny after you read a few.
I have no plans to see The Passion of the Christ, but I still found this coverage of the film to be very interesting. I especially enjoyed the Scholarly Smackdown on various theological issues related to the film.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

This post over at Abstract Factory got my thinking about font settings in browsers again. The minimum font size setting in Mozilla solves most of the problems I had in IE with pages with tiny fonts. But, that setting breaks some sites like ESPN, whose layout is apparently very dependent on font size. If someone has a solution to this problem that doesn't involve adjusting font sizes on a page-by-page basis, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I was just pleasantly surprised to find a free wireless network here at the Pittsburgh Airport. Let's hope that enough of these free networks pop up to make charging for wireless access seem like a silly idea.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I found these two columns on gay marriage in The Tech to be pretty thought-provoking: The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage and the response, The Economic and Social Case for Homosexual Marriage. It's nice to see some writing that is somewhat distanced from the emotions of the issue. Also, from a while ago, a Michael Kinsley column that takes a different point of view.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

AJ wrote about memory associations with music, specifically about remembering when you listened to a certain song a lot. I feel the same way, but I have even deeper associations with pieces I've played. I was feeling kind of tired and grumpy this morning, and then Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue came on the radio. It's a piece I love dearly, as I spent my entire junior year of high school working on it and performed the two-piano version with my teacher at a school concert. I still have some of the really nasty parts in my hands, and I can almost physically feel how they go as I hear them (btw, it's interesting how some of those parts are completely overwhelmed by the orchestra). Anyway, it really cheered me up. Now if I could only get some work done...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A look at the comments in the leaked Win2K source; some pretty funny stuff.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

A fascinating article on Mahler's "retouchings" of the Beethoven symphonies. I think that if you're performing with an orchestra configured far differently from those of a composer's time, these kind of changes make perfect sense. I wish I could hear recordings of these reworked scores.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Looks like a software bug contributed to last summer's blackout in the Northeast (via Ars). Not very surprising, but disturbing nonetheless.

Sometimes, I'll listen to a "great" piece of music many times, thinking that it's nice but not really seeing what all the fuss is about. Then, for no obvious reason, on some listening the piece will come together for me in a whole new way, and I'll be completely blown away. I can distinctly remember having this experience with Mahler's 2nd Symphony as I was riding a train across India a couple of years ago. Yesterday afternoon and this morning, it's been happening with Wagner's Parsifal; it's like I was listening to a completely different work before. Why does this happen? Maybe my brain had to be reconfigured in some way by the first few listenings to really be able to absorb the piece? Anyway, it's very cool when it does happen.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

For a true measure of the devotion (insanity?) of some Big Lebowski fans: Lebowski Fest. In spite of how many times I've seen the movie, I think I'd truly be out of my element there.
Looks like there are a bunch of good concerts this month in the Bay Area. If only I could be a professional concert attender; I'd love to check out all of these shows.

Monday, February 02, 2004

I just got a new Rio Karma MP3 player to replace my Nomad Jukebox 3, which I unfortunately broke recently. I've been very impressed by the Karma's size, functionality, sound, and battery life. There's also a nice user community on the web to tip you off to firmware updates, tips and tricks, etc. If you're looking for a large capacity MP3 player and don't want to pay the premium for an iPod, I highly recommend the Karma. I found a good deal on PriceGrabber.

Another unfortunate thing about my old Jukebox is the software for transferring files from it doesn't write back the ID3 tags when you move an MP3 to your computer. Luckily, others have had to deal with this problem; this command-line tool looks like it will fix things up nicely.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

A nice collection of short reviews of restaurants in Berkeley. Looks like there are a bunch of promising places I have yet to try.

Friday, January 30, 2004

While it's up, check out some of the articles in the State of the Union section of the current issue of The Atlantic. I've read a few of them, and they've all been thought-provoking. Too bad I left my print copy of the issue on a plane; I think those pockets in front of plane seats are designed to make you leave stuff in them.

Oh, and check out David's account of one of the most ridiculous restaurant experiences I've ever witnessed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

My trip to Boston was a lot of fun, in spite of the unbelievable cold. It was weird to be looking back on MIT. On the one hand, it was nice to see the place again and relive some great memories. On the other hand, I knew more than ever that staying there for a Ph.D. would have been a mistake. The only real downers of the weekend were not being able to see a couple of good friends and the Eagles' pathetic effort on Sunday.

I finished reading East of Eden on the plane ride to Boston. It was a great book that really got me thinking about some fundamental philosophical issues. Anyway, this review matched my interpretation of the book pretty closely, and this gives a bit more information on the Hebrew word timshol central to the moral issues of the book.

Friday, January 09, 2004

So I'm back in Berkeley, trying to get back into doing research after the teaching hiatus...man, it's tough. There's just not enough pressure right now, which makes it much more difficult for me. Well, the deadlines will get closer and closer, and eventually they will start to scare me into working.

Went to see Juan Diego Florez on Tuesday, and the performance was amazing, as expected. My brother saw him in The Barber of Seville last night at the Met and said he rocked the house there too. Speaking of which, I'm going to Barber at SF Opera tonight; should be a good show.

I'm off to Boston next weekend for my first visit since I left to come here at the end of the summer of 2002. I'm really looking forward to it; I have a lot of good memories from there, and a few good friends that I haven't seen in quite a while. It will be weird to walk around campus not being in my standard lack-of-sleep daze from my undergrad days. I hope the good old Thai food truck is still outside the CS lab; I haven't found anything here in Berkeley to match the quality $3 lunch I could get there.