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


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


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.