The Bach of numbers

This paragraph sent me off in several directions at once, which I suppose proves that I spend too much time thinking about too many things that may or may not be related to one another.

I once had a friend who disdained Bach, who claimed his music was “too mathematical” for them. I don’t know about that — it was the precision and the order that I always loved so much. Maybe I’m excessively left-brained (to use a concept that’s apparently recently been discredited), but I like that order.

For some reason, this called to mind a rant — I forget the ranter, but it was a classical reviewer contributing to Stereo Review — objecting to the electronic transcriptions of piano works by Debussy recorded by Isao Tomita in 1974. (The album, given the unidiomatic title Snowflakes are Dancing, was an enormous hit, which likely annoyed the reviewer even more.)

The music of Bach is indestructible, argued the reviewer, no matter what horrible things are done to it with synthesizers. (I assume this was a shot at the staggeringly-popular Switched-On Bach and sequels by Wendy Carlos.) You can’t do that with Debussy, though: it’s all mood and emotion, and the machines can’t replicate that no matter how many transistors are pressed into service.

But then you have to ask: is there no mood or emotion in Bach? Is this the origin of the complaint that he is too mathematical? Or is it a response to something else entirely? Baroque composers occasionally would write out only the basic outline of a piece, assuming that the performer would add embellishments and whatnot on the fly. Bach, as a general rule, didn’t do this: he spelled out lines and counterpoint very carefully. (But then there’s the second movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, in which he provides only two chords; you’re on your own after that.)

And there’s the fact that so much of what Bach wrote was religious (Lutheran, mostly) in nature. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with that sort of thing: someone walked into the office today while I was blasting Bernstein’s Kaddish, and gave me this horrified “I had no idea” look. And I suspect that for the listener who views God as a concept by which he measures his pain, Bach’s calculus might actually be painful.

Comments (4)




Another frabjous Day

In case Felicia Day didn’t do it for you, we’ll back up a couple of generations:

Doris Day doing her best Ruth Etting

This of course is Doris Day, circa 1955, in what appears to be a shot from Love Me or Leave Me, a somewhat-fictionalized version of the life of singer Ruth Etting. This particular portrait seems to be flopped from a poster of the time — or the poster was flopped from the portrait.

Are there more Days to come? Stay tuned.

Comments (8)




Stylish nihilish

Andrea Harris has known people like this, and so have you, and so have I:

Their most important relationship is who they are sleeping with (not necessarily a spouse) or if they have kids that’s the most important relationship. Friendships come and go, none of them serious or dependable. If you aren’t having sex with that person or they haven’t come out of your womb/issued from your seed you don’t have to really care about them. However, status is very important. Friendship is replaced with constant jockeying for power. Among Obama’s crowd of rich liberals it’s the sort of SWPL games like who has the best collection of folk art to show how multicultural they are, or how many ethnic restaurants they go to per week, or have they traded in their Volvo for a Prius yet. Really rich people of this group get a pass, though; they can own all the land yachts they want because they have enough money to donate to the right Dem pols.

On the off-chance that you’re the last person on the Net who doesn’t comprehend “SWPL,” this is where it came from.

Most of the leftish people I know aren’t like this, but then they aren’t particularly rich, either. I’m wondering if income beyond X, where the value of X is open to debate, should be considered a risk factor for asshatitude.

And I also wonder how it is that the Obama administration managed to come up with such a dense (in several senses) concentration of these folks — “fellow travelers,” you might say. They’re definitely susceptible to this syndrome:

It’s all about high school in the end. Also you can impress your fellow not-jocks with your bravery and toughness without actually doing something disturbingly physical like fighting.

For a time, anyway. Maybe two times, if you’re awfully lucky.

Comments (2)




We got your Snobs right here, tovarisch

File this under “Hey, it could work”:

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is bringing his $100 million Snob media project to the United States as he seeks to attract a “global audience” for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Snob magazine, aimed at “the elite of Russia,” will start selling in the United States on Wednesday at a cover price of $8 and without translation into English, Prokhorov said. Snob also runs an invitation-only social network and live events.

“We will see some marketing geared toward tapping into Snob to generate basketball fans and tapping into the Nets to generate Snob subscribers,” Prokhorov, 45, said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg. “We are looking into the possibilities here.”

Stefan Bondy of the Daily News explains the meaning of “Snob”:

In Russian, S.N.O.B. is an acronym for the Russian words accomplished, independent, educated and thriving.

If this seems somehow anticlimactic, you haven’t seen the B-minus picture H.O.T.S.

Comments (4)




Becoming immovable

Looks like I picked the right day to give up server-grinding Perl scripts:

Video ad network VideoEgg has announced that it has agreed to acquire blogging pioneer Six Apart, the company behind TypePad and Movable Type. As part of the acquisition, both companies will drop their names and be renamed SAY Media.

Because that’s exactly whom you want masterminding a blog platform: a video ad network.

I switched from a manually-coded blog to Movable Type in 2002; I stayed with it for six years and at least as many upgrades. (I still have a 4.x install around here somewhere.) It was nice while it lasted, but towards the end it was taking way too much time to rebuild static files, and I never could persuade it to do dynamic posts with my ancient 2.x templates, so I switched to WordPress. (The MT posts from 2002 to September 2006 are still out there as static pages; the last two years’ worth were imported into WordPress.)

And I paste this more in sorrow than in anger:

From what we’ve seen before, we bet it won’t take long for resources to be allocated towards the advertising network and away from Movable Type. It will be the beginning of the degradation of a platform that has already lost much of its relevance, despite hosting The Huffington Post and major blogs from ABC, the BBC and others.

Still, it’s not like anything lasts forever, although MT’s Rebuild Entire Site command came pretty close for a while.

(Hat tip: DonnaTechDesigns. Incidentally, she uses WordPress.)

Comments (2)




Premium undeaded

Ethnobotanist Wade Davis, author of The Serpent and the Rainbow, has argued that the secret ingredient in zombie creation is tetrodotoxin, and he still thinks so today:

“Tetrodotoxin turns out to be a very big molecule that blocks sodium channels in the nerves, bringing on peripheral paralysis, dramatically low metabolic rates and yet consciousness is retained until the moment of death,” said Davis.

After a bokor has placed the tetrodotoxin into someone’s body, and that person is pronounced dead and subsequently buried, the bokor reportedly unearths the body and applies a chemical paste to keep the unfortunate victim in a zombified, trancelike state.

Presumably, this “undead” person is then used as the bokor’s slave labor.

Well, it is a fairly big molecule, or at least it’s a big job to call it by name: IUPAC refers to it as octahydro-12-(hydroxymethyl)-2-imino-5,9:7,10a-dimethano-10aH-[1,3]dioxocino[6,5-d]pyrimidine-4,7,10,11,12-pentol. But apparently that stuff won’t do the job alone.

Me, I just want them to stay off my lawn.

Comments (4)




A truly tepid cauldron

The last witch to which I gave more than perfunctory attention was Samantha Stephens, and I had good reason for that. Christine O’Donnell? Not so much. Maybe not this little, but still, not so much:

Speaking as about a red-dirt, black-clay, gun-hugging, Jesus-loving, Constitutional-demanding mustachioed redneck with enough ammo in my garage to cause Bill F***ing Maher to faint, I can’t find myself possibly giving one lousy Mexican centavo about what is uttered in the Evil Dwarf’s presence on a show distinctly labeled Politically Incorrect, in which youthful persons of the teevee-lens seeking variety are encouraged to sit around and utter vapid bullshit for the poli-dorks sitting at home watching a show called Politically Incorrect.

I watched the show a few times before it was axed in 2002 — a year before Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, as it happens — and this much I remember: Maher was never as funny as Salem Saberhagen.

Besides, if I ever need to know anything about witchcraft, I know exactly whom I’m going to ask.

In the meantime, there’s this assessment from Nick Gillespie:

If believing ridiculous things is a bar to serving in the Senate, then I’m guessing fully 50 to 95 percent of the chamber should be calling U-Haul right about now.

We should be so lucky.

Comments (3)




Doesn’t even match the keyboard

An operation called Mod Cloth thinks you’ll fork over $130-plus for the so-called Blog Writer Dress. I’m thinking you probably won’t:

As a full-time blog writer, you know that there’s no reason to sacrifice ease in the name of style when you’re swanning around for hours with your laptop in tow. This loose-fitting babydoll dress makes a perfect match of both with its functional button front, cuffed short sleeves, and dark grey trim.

Supposedly, you match this up with a fitted blazer, grey tights and heels, and you’re dressed to kill, or at least to save that first draft.

I expect that someone will buy this — probably to write it off as a business expense — but I don’t see this catching on, even as a rival to pajamas.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

Comments (8)




Sled to oblivion

Ford is giving up on the Panther platform: the Mercury Grand Marquis was gone even before the rest of the Sign of the Cat was torn down, and the blue-oval guys supposedly won’t sell you a Crown Victoria at retail. That leaves the mausoleum, otherwise known as your local Lincoln-Mercury dealer, for your best shot at owning the last of the Zombie Sedans.

Which is kind of a shame, really, because, well, can your car do this?

Fly up behind granny in her Town Car, or better yet, behind a bunch of rednecks in an F-150 sitting in the left lane while you’re driving a red Corvette, silver BMW, or lime green Audi. Jam on the brakes as you close on them and then flash your brights. “Chuck you, Farley.” They ain’t moving. Granny puts on her hazard lights and drops her speed another 10 mph. The rednecks brake check you. “Suck it, yuppie scum. I pay my taxes. This lane is mine, beatch!”

But get yourself a three year-old Crown Vic, preferably one of the horrific olive green ones that only a government agency would buy… Then you set the cruise control and just approach slower moving traffic with authority. Not super aggressively, just fast enough to let them see that you’re coming and mean business. Traffic parts for you like the Red Sea.

Alternate colors: silver, tan, or white. Or black:

Crested a hill and see a State Trooper parked in the median? Just throw up your hand to him as you continue on your way without slowing down.

For some reason, this will not work with Ford’s other rear-drive car.

Comments (2)




Tweed yourself

Tweed wedge by Lela Rose for PaylessI’ve been known to talk shoes on Twitter — yes, I admit it — which is how I found out about this particular wedge. The stratified wooden heel seems to look even taller than it is, a phenomenon that will not be duplicated with horizontal stripes worn anywhere else on the body. And the tweedified upper is simultaneously frivolous and severe, a neat trick at any price point.

Lela Rose came up with this design for her line at Payless (!); Broke & Beautiful has the scoop on this and a couple of others from the line, which should arrive some time in February, right about the time you really, really want something spring-ish.

Comments (2)




Damn seagulls

Not to be confused with Damn Seagulls, a worthy Finnish band; I’m talking about those farging birds, and this is why:

Scientists fear migratory birds may be spreading hard-to-treat infections after discovering seagulls can carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Portuguese researchers analysed 57 samples of droppings from the yellow-legged Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans. They found that one in 10 harboured bacteria resistant to a common antibiotic called vancomycin…

The white and grey gulls can often be seen flocking on rubbish tips, and are common in many southern parts of the UK.

L. cachinnans hasn’t found its way Stateside yet, but I suspect that its cousins, no more fastidious, might be just as capable of making life difficult for other species.

In the meantime, here’s a song by the Damn Seagulls. The band, I mean.

Comments (5)




Top of the order again

In 1962, the National League expanded to Houston; the Triple-A American Association expanded to Oklahoma City. It seemed almost sensible to pair off these two ball clubs, and while changes were on the way — the Colt .45s got a new name, and the American Association disbanded for a time — the Astros and the 89ers did eleven seasons together.

In the interim, the 89ers became the RedHawks, and the American Association, revived once, is dead again, but Houston and OKC are together once more: the Astros and the RedHawks have signed a player-development contract, as predicted here last year. The deal is for two years.

It’s too early to tell who’ll be coming over from the Houston organization, but there’s one person who definitely won’t be: Marc Bombard, who managed the Round Rock Express in its last year as the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth seems to be going on, judging by the comments on the newspaper story; I’m thinking it’s probably a shame that the Boids and the Rangers broke up, but hey, we’re getting a National League team, and as a confirmed DH-hater, I have to consider that a plus, even though it doesn’t necessarily mean that pitchers are actually coming to the plate. (Under Pacific Coast League rules, the designated hitter is used unless both teams are NL affiliates and both teams have agreed to forgo the DH.) Besides, now I have another reason to follow this guy.

Comments off




Creeping socialism is creepier

And you just know one of the Obamabots is going to think this is a swell idea:

The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

As always, cost savings are predicted:

HMRC estimated the potential savings to employers from the introduction of the concept would be about £500 million ($780 million).

The Fark headline on this: All your Paychecks Are Belong to Us. Yep. If this goes through, not only has the sun set on the British Empire, but the candles compact-fluorescent bulbs have been extinguished and the alarms are set for the Twelfth of Never.

Addendum: Says Tam: “Yeah, if this latest proposal in The Place Where Great Britain Used To Be doesn’t set someone’s warning bells to ringing, it pretty much tells me everything I really need to know about that person. Tests don’t come much litmusier.”

Comments (3)




O frabjous Day!

I’m trying my best to avoid the word “geek” here, but Felicia Day, whose g*** credentials are impeccable — double major in music performance and mathematics, creator of The Guild, and avid gamer — is … oh, never mind. Here’s the picture.

Felicia Day

And yes, I would date her Avatar.

Comments (5)




Genius at work (a counterexample)

My experiments with the iTunes Genius gizmo have been, if not unfailingly positive, at least interesting. (One actual Genius Mix is posted here.)

The recommendations, on the other hand, have been, um, somewhat less useful, or, as Sonic Charmer says, “dumb as hell”:

I’m just left scratching my head. It’s not that I necessarily don’t or wouldn’t like the suggestion (in most cases I do, as it happens), it’s that I don’t understand how it follows from the ‘you liked…’ part so the suggestion may as well be out of the clear blue sky. And it’s not that the ‘you liked…’ and ‘you might like…’ bands are often worlds apart as such — I mean, usually, you could imagine them both being part of the play cycle of the same radio station — it’s just that (unless we’re talking about obvious cases like [Band] -> Lead Singer of [Band]‘s First Solo Album, or [Band] -> Later Supergroup With Former Members of [Band]) they’re so seldom in anything that I would think of as the same niche that the suggestion becomes useless.

Which sort of makes me wonder if they’re actually using Genius to program radio stations these days: boot up, run up a 150-song playlist, let it fly, come back next week, add two more songs, repeat until everyone’s sick of the whole thing.

Comments off




Le beak, c’est chic

I will likely burn in Fashion Hell for saying so, but these are sorta cute:

Shoes with just a hint of crow

Black bird dancing in the dead of night…

(Via If Shoes Could Kill.)

Comments (5)