January 29, 2009


Just received my copy of Time Within Time, the diaries of Andrey Tarkovsky from 1970 to 1986. Did several one-page-tests* and all turned out fascinating. Of note, a quote he wrote down from Gustav Mahler on 26 August 1977:

What our contemporaries say about great art not being necessary for the creation of a work of art is utterly senseless. It would be nearer the truth to say that a huge investment of artistic means into everything from the first, general outline to the last detail, is a necessary condition for the creation of the kind of perfect work that could not be imagined in the wildest dreams of our naturalist friends--those impotent creatures!

And anything that is not imbued with that supreme craftsmanship is doomed to die before it even sees the light of day! (Mahler, quoted by Natalia Bayer-Lekhner, July 1896)

* (The one-page-test being the indisputable measure of a Good Book: open book to a random page; read it; judge the entire book by the contents of that page. Infallible.)

(The notes and drawings and ephemera remind me of another favorite book of mine, The Notebooks of Anton Checkov. )

Ignoring the critical approach of historicism towards this quote, and ignoring Mahler's psychology in general, I was reminded of a Dijkstra quote I'd come across days prior (via Reddit -> Peteris Krumin's blog article "MIT's Introduction to Algorithms, Lectures 17, 18 and 19: Shortest Path Algorithms" -> "Edsger Dijkstra - Discipline in Thought"):

Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure.
posted by sstrader at 12:57 PM in Cinema , Programming | permalink

Happy 0th birthday Connor Keaveney!

Got the IM yesterday ~2 PM. 7 lbs. 11 oz. Woo hoo!

posted by sstrader at 11:32 AM in Birthdays | permalink

January 24, 2009

Wrap up

Good news, so far:

  • Stop torture,
  • Close Guantanamo in a year,
  • Release records Bush tried to keep from the public,
  • Voice strong support for Roe v. Wade,
  • Allows funding to family planning clinics that do their fucking job

More details and tracking from PolitiFact's Obameter. Yes, there are still concerns about Israel and his Treasury Secretary was, let's face it, lying, but primarily good news from the Executive branch. And PolitiFact won't forget when a promise goes awry. Note the gaping loophole for lobbyists. Not cool, man. Not cool.

Looking back, the 16 Jan edition of On The Media opens with a 5:40 smackdown from Bob Garfield of Bush's media manipulations ("Find Out What It Means To Me"). He keenly covers the war, Lynch and Tillman, Katrina, the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and sanctioned leaks, closing with a barely restrained "fuck you." Also notable is Carol Rosenberg's piece on Guantanamo ("The Enduring PR Offensive"), concerned that closing, like the end of Bush's administration, will only make it easy to ignore the offenses that occurred: My question as a journalist down here is, they wouldn't answer us before. If they close it down or if they decide that they want to close it down, will they start answering us now?

Also see the 12 Jan edition of On Point titled "Bush's Legacy." The conversation examines Bush's failures using his own, brush-off self-absolution from his last week of interviews as convenient hanging rope. Too many good quotes from the Republican and ex-Colonel guests and from callers. Their final thought: it's not the media's or the Obama administration's responsibility to investigate and prosecute, it's Congress's. Not holding breath, etc. To those who toss off the weak-minded riposte that we should "look forward, not backward" and to "stop the blame game": how can we correct future mistakes and deter those who would abuse their government position if we don't investigate our mistakes? Since when has prosecuting criminals been a "blame game"? And honestly, why can't be both look forward and backward?

posted by sstrader at 4:13 PM in Politics | permalink

January 14, 2009

Where was I?

New Year's: taxi to Palate and wine whilst waiting for Shelby and Robert to arrive. Message earlier from Debbie and Kevin that they couldn't make it because of work (!). Quick ride over to Feast and dinner in a big tent with ~20 others + Bonaventure Quartet (minus singer). Spent the midnight hour on the dance floor with Lisa! Rode back to S & R's and fiiiiiiinally got a taxi ride back home. Photos.

#nye2008 Dance. Dance! on TwitPic

The girls:

girls 1 girls 2

At some point (last week?) we went to see Let the Right One In [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Simply outstanding. We've been very lucky with films recently and this was no different. The love story (of sorts) was cute and unconventional. The story revealed itself and reformed any previous vague events into humorous and grotesque shocks. The snow and mood were perfect.


Symphony Friday the 9th: the great Brahms Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham [ IMSLP ] and Prokofiev's 5th Symphony. Shaham rocked, jumping all over the stage (at least, as much as you can in that space). Great to see that he had a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph during the intermission. The 5th I should know better, but even though I have his complete symphonies I haven't given them a dedicated listen. I'm just happy it wasn't the 1st. So. Sick. Of. That. Work. After, we tried to hit Trois' bar but it was closed for some stupid reason (Lisa was pissed) so we ended up at Marlow's. Eh.

Sat was volunteering at Kennesaw Mountain to clear trails. Ended early because of rain, but it was fun and will definitely be continued next month (1st Sat of every month).

@lmfoley on Kennesaw Mt. on TwitPic

We were s'posed to head over to Villa Rica for fondue with Debbie and Kevin, but their youngest got ill and plans were cancelled minutes before we were about to head out. Over the past couple of years, every attempt to go out with them has been usurped by chaos.

Other than goin' out fun, we: got a new TV for a BARGAIN (40-inch Sony Bravia), will be giving our old one to the nieces tomorrow to serve as a Wii TVii, got checked up and qualified for life insurance (kicking in the beginning of next month), and are working on a re-fi for the condo. Crazy, and expensive, month.

posted by sstrader at 10:36 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged new years, prokofiev | permalink

January 12, 2009

Digital republic

Listened to the podcast of an On Point show discussing the history of the song "House of the Rising Sun". It's the subject of a new book by Ted Anthony called "Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song." Origin unknown, but it is maybe 100 years old. Alan Lomax made the first recording for the Library of Congress in 1937 while traveling through Appalachia looking for remnants of Elizabethan songs. He recorded an a cappella performance by 16 year old girl named Georgia Turner in a poor neighborhood of Middlesborough, Kentucky.

When discussing the story told in the song, Ted Anthony invokes a phrase--"invisible republic"--that Greil Marcus used to describe a set of early recordings by Bob Dylan. In Anthony's assessment, the "invisible republic" is an inchoate expression of American myths manifest in Dylan's songs. Archetypal. My assessment: The more structured society of 1700s/1800s England was abandoned to the wilderness of the Americas. The arts that were kept were easily communicable in such an environment (dispersed, agrarian population) and were selected as stories most relevant to that environment (courtship ballades were out, morality tales modified to fit the New World). The unconscious, group process chose and molded the early arts and these incipient myths.

One connection I made on "House of the Rising Sun": spelunking from that article to the one on the English ballad "Matty Groves" brought up a reference to the aubade form: basically a romantic trope where lovers part in the morning (think Romeo and Juliet). I wonder if "House of the Rising Sun" has any relevance as a tragic aubade.

(Although the historical discussion was interesting, the musical discussion was sorely lacking with the author admitting he knows nothing about music. Simple guitar strumming is described as complicated picking; the chord progression is considered to be unique in the history of folk music. Bah. The chords are i bIII iv V i V i and very common w/r/t folk music in the minor key. It would have been nice if Anthony would have worked some with an ethnomusicologist to place it in historical context. Alas.)

I like the idea of being so close in history to the origin of modern myths. 40 years prior, Dylan probably felt he was tapping something primal (artists usually do) when he unearthed those tunes, and decades before him the folk musicians of the 40s and 50s probably felt the same. We're in touch with the origin of what will be the digital myths but, as with most events in history, it's difficult to discern the temporal memes from the eternal. Not every lolcat will survive the sieve of history. But where are the artists who frieze these incipient digital myths into a more permanent form? In the text-dependent environment of the internet, cyberpunk writers seem to have taken the place of folk musicians to write the history of digital society. Still, there's so much more out there that reeks of primordial potential: 4chan/Digg/Reddit, gamer forums, social networking sites, open-source collaborations. Even dead-and-dying groups have a mythic potential: Feed, Suck, BBSs. What different experiences will become digital archetypes?

posted by sstrader at 11:33 PM in Internet , Music , Science & Technology | permalink

January 11, 2009

Charismatic megafauna

I'd first encountered this phrase in a short piece in Lingua Franca--the excellent yet long-defuct 'zine covering academia--but could never find it in my back-issues. Last week, some online article used the phrase and prompted me to search: Google search got me to the Wikipedia entry which prompted me to research and find the article's author Paul Kedrosky's blog and ultimately to the article in a Lingua Franca archive. Bonus: the archive has several years of LF online.

(Charismatic megafauna is the term used for the cute endangered species. People care about saving those critters, yet scoff at the economic expenditures of saving the more stinky/creepy/ugly ones. There's a similar response to wilderness preservation. I've heard denouncements of ANWR protection on the grounds that it's mostly barren-ish tundra (even though it's not). There's cute land and ugly land too.)

posted by sstrader at 4:13 PM in Language & Literature | permalink

January 8, 2009

Recent code project

Had some fun over that last few days finally getting to a project I'd thought of in December. I have my MP3 folder available to my web server, but there's no easy way for me to access it remotely if I'm at work and want to listen to a ripped CD or two. To get around this, I wrote a few PHP pages to browse the folders from a web page, build a playlist, and dynamically serve up an M3U file to stream the tracks. Very convenient. The only issues I've had are with my flaky Apache server. Everything's pretty much up-to-date (Apache/PHP/etc.), but it can leak memory pretty badly, so I schedule a restart of Apache every hour. On the restart, the current track will pause and restart at the beginning. Meh.

posted by sstrader at 1:12 PM in Programming | permalink

January 4, 2009

Quote from TRIN on jazz borrowings

Dvorak had assumed that American music would come into its own when it succeeded in importing African-American material into European form, but in the end the opposite thing happened [emphasis mine]: African-American composers appropriated European material into self-invented forms of blues and jazz.

I've argued this before. Jazz without the inherited history of Western harmony is a raw, folk expression. It grew from its peasant simplicity only by mixing with the mature and structured part-writing practices developed from Medieval Europe onward. The African folk style gained attention not long after other nationalist folk styles in Scandinavia, England, and Eastern Europe (although I hope to never have to listen to The Moldau ever again). Similar to American jazz, folk styles in other countries developed into local pop music after absorbing the lessons of the Classical tradition.

posted by sstrader at 11:36 AM in | permalink

January 2, 2009

Stravinsky at Sibelius's grave

Image description: PEJE03 19610910 JÄRVENPÄÄ, FINLAND: Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky lays flowers on Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's grave at Sibelius's home, Ainola, in Järvenpää, Finland, on September 10, 1961. LEHTIKUVA / PERTTI JENYTIN

Referenced and dead-linked by Alex Ross for The Rest Is Noise, I found the only (?) internet copy here and stole it.

posted by sstrader at 6:09 PM in Music | permalink