30 Jan 2005

Double header, part two

After a short break, a completely different set of actors launched into a completely different play. The Private Ear it was, by Peter Schaffer. The director was Doug Porter, who I've mentioned here before; his mom, it turns out, was sitting next to me, which led to a nice conversation during the intermission. Doug's brother Brian, who I'm currently advising in an independent study, was there too. Knox is such a great small school.

Anyway, about the show. It was a strange little show. I never did quite figure out when or where it was supposed to be taking place; there were a lot of conflicting cues. Several of the words and phrases seemed to be British---"daft", "bloody", etc---but the place names were around New York City. The timeframe was clearly not in the last decade or two, but beyond that, it was hard to place it. I'm going to guess 1950s Britain, with the place names changed, but I wouldn't put money on it. They should have gone ahead and changed some of the interjections too, though.

The lead, Evan Sawdey, did quite a job at playing a truly awkward, shy, introverted guy. Mere silence isn't awkward; he lent it the tension it needed for a truly uncomfortable moment. Then he punctuated it with that running-off-at-the-mouth babbling that is approximately the only thing worse than awkward silence. Nicely done.

The female lead, Shannon May, was playing "making the best of a bad date". At which she did a perfectly good job. Not quite sure what to make of the whole thing, she managed to simultaneously exude politeness and skepticism in a great mix.

Her costume was something else. The skirt looked like an eye-exam picture, the one with the big dots of colour, except that here it was just black and grey and red dots on a background of white. She was wearing a supposedly faux-ocelot fur drape that was really just a plain brown; they even make a point in the show of mistaking ocelot for leopard---couldn't they at least find something with spots? (I suppose that finding the right kind of fur, even fake fur, probably would exceed the $50 or so budget that these shows have.) And while I'm ranting about costume, I'm almost positive that three-button suits weren't current in any of the possible milieux I'm imagining for this show; they went out in the early 20th century if not earlier, and didn't really come back until just a few years ago. Ah well. Such are the pitfalls of the Studio Theatre. :)

The third actor, Eric Feltes, was in something of a crisis. At the beginning of the show, he's giving Evan's character advice on what to wear; and unfortunately, given our current cultural context, it really came across like a scene out of Queer Eye. This was quite at odds with the character as written, who is very much a playa type, one who knows just enough French and fashion to be smoov with the ladies. For most of the show, the two (stereo)types kept jumping back and forth in my head, which was sort of unfortunate. Several times the lines spoken would be something that didn't even fit either one particularly---every time the word "vino" came up, for instance---and it seemed to jar the scene. At least once, I distinctly saw him almost say "wine" instead of "vino"; I think it might have helped if he had. I don't think it was really until about the last quarter of the show that I got the right mental character in place for him... on the other hand, I'm not really sure what he could have done differently to fix that.

But for all the picking I'm doing here, I actually liked the performance quite a bit. It was pretty dark (the story, not the lighting), and the ending was really rough (in the sense of being a downer, not of being unpolished). By the end, I felt nothing but immense sympathy for the lead character. He's such a nice guy, and he deserves so much better.

"Maureen Dowd once referred to Bill Clinton's sexual escapades in the White House as "maladroit du seigneur," which infuriates me because I didn't think of it." --Eric Zorn

Posted by blahedo at 12:44am | Comments (2)

29 Jan 2005

Double header, part one

This weekend, Studio Theatre put on two one-acts. The first was The Missionary Pursuit by Brent Aronowitz. It started a little slow, with the feeling that the actors were just reciting lines, but it picked up after the first few comedy bits loosened everyone up. The show opens with two girls, roommates, chatting about their boring, loveless lives, and how much they hate their jobs; and then there's a knock on the door.

Mormon missionaries: comedy gold.

The two guys who played the missionaries had the act down. Noah, the one that gets smitten with one of the girls, played the naïf perfectly. His deer-in-headlights look was masterful; just as his jaw dropped, his eyes briefly would go ever-so-slightly crossed in the cutest way. I don't know if he always does that or whether he developed it for this part (I've never noticed him doing it before), but it certainly worked here.

The one downside I saw was that there was a lot of unmotivated blocking. Stand up, walk across the stage, say your next line, sit down. In a show that is so dialogue-oriented I can see that it would be tricky to really motivate a lot of it; the most natural thing for whole ten-minute stretches of time really would be to sit there and talk, but that would be too boring, I guess. Possibly related here was the problem of the enormous stage: both this show and the one that followed it took place in supposedly modest apartments, yet the stage, the living room, was bigger than my whole apartment, I think. Perhaps with a smaller set, the walking across the stage wouldn't have seemed so out of place.

The highlights of the piece were a couple of great monologues. They were the sort of life-exposition monologues that people prepare to show off their acting skills, and they were performed quite well. Noah had one (well, a few, really, but one big one) and Erica, the other lead, had one as well. Some really excellent bits of character work there.

I had mixed feelings about the ending; it was kind of a let-down, but at the same time, the last couple of lines definitely capped the piece. Certainly the show as a whole gets a big thumbs-up from me.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" --often attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Posted by blahedo at 11:44pm | Comments (0)

23 Jan 2005


I have lived in this apartment for nearly a year and a half, and for that whole time, the shower has had in it a (fairly standard) hanging rack for putting shampoo and soap and stuff in. The upper shelf on this rack has two "holes" in the rack, where the wires bend out of the way. I had on occasion idly wondered why this would be; they appeared to be places you could set stuff on the lower rack and let them poke through the top one, but I couldn't think of anything like that that would belong in a shower.

This morning, I noticed my conditioner was nearly empty, and so I decided to turn it upside down and lean it against the side of the rack. And suddenly, it dawned on me: the hole in the rack was perfectly sized to admit the cap, but not the body, of a standard shampoo/conditioner bottle.


In other news, a few links that have been accumulating:

On high school
I've raved about Paul Graham before. Another fantastic essay.
Last week the theme involved training US agents on "interrogation techniques", i.e. torture. After several days of blackboards in the background involving word fragments like "humil" and "suffo", Thursday's included the following text:

Week I
-  soften
- environ
- sleep

Week II
-   Ashle
-  Backst

No Sweat
If you are even remotely personally interested in not exploiting poverty-stricken workers in Southeast Asia and elsewhere (regardless of your thoughts on what the government policy should be), you should check out this site. They sell a variety of clothing, some made in the US and some abroad, but all of which is guaranteed to be sweatshop-free. Some items are a bit pricy, but a lot of it is fairly reasonable. (When you're not paying a 30% surcharge for a brand name, I guess you can afford to actually pay the workers, eh?)

"You know sir, you're not as dumb as I am for starting this sentence." --Doonesbury

Posted by blahedo at 9:28am | Comments (1)

22 Jan 2005


Just trying to do my part to... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

You have by now probably heard of The Vagina Monologues, a performance written and originated by Eve Ensler, that has grown and morphed and blossomed into something of a phenomenon. I first heard of the show when it was performed at Brown, in what had to be one of the very first off-Broadway productions thereof. I didn't go, then.

Tonight, the Prairie Players put on The Vagina Monologues, or rather, The V Monologues, title edited so as not to offend delicate Galesbourgeois sensibilities. The redaction seemed irritating when I first heard about it, because it seemed like the producers must not have gotten the point as I understood it; indeed, the opening monologue, spoken in the voice of Eve Ensler herself, makes disparaging reference to the fact that a lot of publicity amends the name. Having now seen it, I'm completely baffled. The people in the show clearly understood the point, and I have no idea who it was that edited the title. Perhaps the venue (Cherry Street Biergarten) insisted. I guess I should inquire.

Anyway, I showed up about ten minutes before showtime, and asked if there were still tickets available. They sold me one, but when I walked into the Biergarten it was packed. Chairs were crammed in edgewise, some behind the bar; I managed to find a spot in the bleacher seating way in the back, that hadn't been taken because it straddled two bleacher sections; sitting on my coat made it moderately comfortable, as much as bleacher seating can be, anyway. It turned out to be a fabulous seat, actually, because there was an aisle directly in front of me, and I had a totally unobstructed view of the stage. Looking around, there appeared to be no more than ten men in the room (and all of them besides me seemed clearly attached to a nearby woman); there appeared to be at least 200 women, though, of all ages. Like I said, packed.

It was a little hard to get into the intro monologue at first, because it is told in the voice of the author and as if she were the only one performing the monologues. (I understand the original production was a one-woman show.) The lighting was poor and didn't cover certain parts of the stage, so she (and later, the other women) occasionally wandered out of the light. But these minor issues aside, the rest of the monologues began, and it was... entrancing.

I sort of knew already that women didn't look at their vaginas. There are certainly a number of places in pop culture where we hear about hand-mirror-wielding women instructed to take a look; usually it's in a somewhat pejorative context, or at least carries a connotation of "silly thing that is being done for some flaky new-age therapy group". So the thought was out there.

Still, it had never really registered. That there are women out there who have never even once seen their own genitalia. That there are a lot of women out there who have never seen their own genitalia. Possibly even a majority of them. (Almost certainly, if you consider women internationally.) What a crazy, completely foreign concept.

And the extent to which the very idea of a vagina is hidden away in society: it's something that becomes totally obvious as you see the show, and perhaps just on simple reflection. Why? I don't just mean that you don't see vaginas discussed on talk shows; I mean that vaginas aren't talked about at all. Penises and testicles get considerably more airtime, in one guise or another. No vaginas, though. Jon Stewart says "pussy" nearly every night on the Daily Show, but that word in that context is pretty decoupled from anything anatomical. (On the other hand, I'm now wondering if that word shouldn't be just as déclassé as "gay" as in "This assignment is so gay", given that "gay" gets exactly the same excuses I just gave for "pussy". Hmm.)

I think my favourite of the monologues was "My angry vagina". It was really funny, but made some really good points. I think that, being male, I can be excused for not thinking about tampons much, but really, why don't they lubricate them for easy application? I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to shove a dry stick of cotton into a vagina, but my imagination is conjuring up something pretty damn uncomfortable. And to do that several times a day for a week?

What really made my day on the angry vagina monologue, though, was hearing the little old ladies laughing riotously at the characterisation of the "cold duck lips". With-it guys like me have, at best, some vague notion of the use and purpose of this tool in an annual gynecological exam; it was obvious that every woman in the room, of any age, knew precisely what she was talking about. Our society is so stratified by age, especially when it comes to attitudes about anything even remotely related to sex, that we expect (say) a 25-year-old woman to have a reaction more similar to a 25-year-old guy than to a 75-year-old woman when something involving vaginas and/or penises is being discussed. So it was kind of cool (and, frankly, just a bit disconcerting) to see the lines drawn the other way.

One of the goals of this show is to educate people, men and women, about vaginas. It's unfortunate that so few men are willing to go; they may find the subject matter intimidating, but I really think it'd benefit them. On the other hand, there was an old guy seated right in front of me who was really damn annoying; he kept saying things at odd times and laughing at the points you would expect a, say, junior-high-age boy to giggle. But, still, maybe this 70-year-old man progressed from "7th grade boy" to the level of maturity that I'd expect from, oh, an eighth grader. It's progress... and at least he was there.

Another major goal is just to get people to talk about them without making "vagina" sound like a dirty word. Actually using it helps: vagina vagina vagina. Maybe throw a cunt in there for good measure. I'm actually already finding it easier to type than it was at the beginning of this post. I don't have quite as much of a personal connection as women do, and I'm not reclaiming a word for a part of me; but I'm happy to do my part to contribute to making it easier for every woman trying to reclaim the word for herself.

Vagina vagina vagina!

"Schweitzer's display of independence worked, and red Montana, like red Wyoming, red Arizona and red Kansas, installed a blue leader, thus turning his state purple -- a color the Eastern analysts seem blind to, but which Westerners recognize as the color of sagebrush and, as the song says, of mountain majesties (whatever those are)." --Walter Kirn

Posted by blahedo at 10:14pm | Comments (6)

18 Jan 2005

Woolen fun

I haven't posted a knitting update in ages!

Late last fall I worked out how to do gloves, and used up some of my great Don-blue alpaca yarn I got at Christmas '03. (These I nearly managed to felt on the first day, when I had to do a lot of shoveling; by not taking them off in the car on the way home to Palatine, I saved them from their shrunken fate and simultaneously blocked them into the shape of hands on a steering wheel. But anyway.) Using the exact same pattern at a marginally smaller gauge, I made a pair for my sister out of the brown and cream alpaca yarn I'd used for her hat last year. She seemed to like the present.

Also during December I worked out how to do slip-stitch colour work, and did up a magenta-and-off-white hat for my mom. It actually turned out too long, as in, longer than I meant it to be (getting into her eyes); but better that way, because she wanted to turn up the edge into a brim anyhow. So that one was a success as well. :)

At some point I started a new pair of socks, heavier than any I've done before---the yarn is just shy of worsted weight, and I'm knitting them on some plastic flexible 2s I picked up at the Barrington yarn shop. Not an exceptional pattern; the main feature is a really tall heel flap, because I hypothesise that this will make it hold the heel better. We'll see.

I actually ran out the first ball of yarn on the first sock well shy of the ball of the foot. I threaded the last bit of yarn through and started the second sock with the new ball; I knew there was more in the second ball (which was fresh) than there had been in the first (which I'd already done some swatching and small projects from), so I suspect I'll have enough in the end, but in case I don't, I want to finish both socks the same way. If that involves switching to another colour for the toe, no biggie, but the switch will happen at the same place on each. :)

Just yesterday I got the second sock to the same place as the first one, and now I got a chance to play with one of my new Christmas presents: a really nice kitchen scale, that measures to the half-gram or the .02-oz. Sock #1: 54g. Sock #2: 59g including four needles. Remaining yarn: 41.5g. So, now I know I have enough yarn for about 1/3 more sock, which should finish them off. As I get closer to the end, I can weigh in again---if I get down to 20g left in the ball, then I stop where I am and work the other sock. Fabulous!

Last week I did a little one-off piece designed to hang prettily from a doorknob, with little jingle bells tied on the end, to bell-train my dog. I used some hunter and celery green yarn left over from the last of the wedding afghans, and a Celtic knot pattern from the awesome book Michelle gave me for Christmas. I've been meaning for days to take a picture of it to send her, so if she reads this before I get to that, events are going to seem a bit out of order. ;)

And I guess the big news is that after weeks of madly swatching (over a yard of it, in the end) various patterns and techniques, and planning on index cards, and putting it off, I finally cast on 168 stitches in cable cast on and started in on my diamond-themed sweater. Check back in in a month or two and it should be done.

"If I could get an A in a class where the tests required me to learn all about potlatch blankets, I could handle anything, no matter how boring. The next time I accidentally get stuck in Lincoln Center sitting through all 18 hours of Wagner's Ring Cycle, I could thank my studies of the Kwakiutl for making it seem pleasant by comparison." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:33pm | Comments (1)

More King

Following up on yesterday's post:

When looking for a quote that was used in a speech, the best tactic is really just to email the speaker. This netted me the quote I liked so much from yesterday's session; from an article Martin Luther King Jr. submitted to the Morehouse Maroon Tiger in 1947:

Education must... train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one's self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

Great, huh? The quote's 55 years old and he could have said it yesterday. Actually, just go ahead and read the whole thing; it's not very long.

And on the topic of the holiday itself, I refer you to today's Frazz. Great comic strip. It's like he reads my mind sometimes.

"After that things start to deteriorate: you get into Macroeconomics (feel free to skip this if you want) with its interesting theories about things like the relationship of interest rates to unemployment which, er, seem to be disproven more often than they are proven, and after that it just gets worse and worse and a lot of econ majors switch out to Physics, which gets them better Wall Street jobs, anyway." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:08am | Comments (0)

17 Jan 2005

Martin Luther King

The standard model for schools observing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, much like that for Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, George Washington's birthday, and a host of state-level observances, is to take the day off school and sleep in.

The only one of these that Knox observes at all is MLK Day, and its mode of observing it is so much better than the standard one that I wish every school would adopt it. (This would not be very popular with kids, although working parents might actually like it a lot.) We don't get the day off, you see. We actually observe the holiday.

The six regular class periods are adjusted to 45 minutes each, to make room for a two-hour block in the middle of the day. During that time, a convocation is hosted in the main college auditorium, with music, speeches, and poetry on relevant subjects---in this case equality and multiculturalism. There were some great speeches; MLK was really a brilliant guy, and though we remember who we was generally, our day-to-day knowledge of him is as two-dimensional as our knowledge of a lot of other historical figures. But if we're going to honour him with a big ol' holiday, maybe it should be something more?

And his writings are complex. "I have a dream" gets a lot of play, of course, but at least as much as his multicultural message, King had a lot to say about nonviolence. In some ways, it was more central to his thinking than anything else. And the best quote of the day by far---I wish I could track down the exact wording---was something from way back when he was an undergrad at Morehouse, writing about the importance of education in critical thinking and analysis to understanding the important issues of the day. Who talks about that on a day to day basis?

Think, how much more culturally aware and thoughtful would we be if our holidays were less about getting the day off, and more about contemplating the issues surrounding the subject of the day?

"Even on the small scale, when you look at any programming organization, the programmers with the most power and influence are the ones who can write and speak in English clearly, convincingly, and comfortably. Also it helps to be tall, but you can't do anything about that." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm | Comments (0)

15 Jan 2005

Evolution vs. God

Years of arguing on imsasun has prepared me well for arguing with a local minister on evolution and God. I suspect it'll get printed; we'll see if it gets a response. I only wish the R-M put its letters online, so I could link to the column I'm responding to.

Meanwhile, I'm watching TV, and I still think "Jurassic Bark" is the best, saddest episode of Futurama or for that matter, of pretty much any other show, ever. I even thought that before I had a dog of my own.

"When I see patterns in my programs, I consider it a sign of trouble. The shape of a program should reflect only the problem it needs to solve. Any other regularity in the code is a sign, to me at least, that I'm using abstractions that aren't powerful enough---often that I'm generating by hand the expansions of some macro that I need to write." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 10:15pm | Comments (1)

14 Jan 2005

Spanish music videos

My latest discovery is a TV station called MTV Español. I'm seeing some pretty freaky shit, yo. I mean, these videos are seriously bizarre. At the moment there's one called "Amateur" by Molotov that heavily samples that old 80s hit "Rock me Amadeus"; I wish I could understand all the lyrics, because the video appears to involve a tall blond Germanic type being trained to do something involving hot dogs. Like, catching them in his teeth, lifting large packages of sausage, and winning staring contests with them. Against a Japanese guy who seems to be the world champion and goes around autographing hot dogs. (Not to give it away, but the Germanic guy wins in the end when the Japanese guy is shown to have been eating hollowed-out hot dogs.)

I swear to God I'm not drunk.

"It's hard to say exactly what constitutes research in the computer world, but as a first approximation, it's software that doesn't have users." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 9:50pm | Comments (3)

12 Jan 2005

Life in a video game

There is a fantastic fog outside right now. It started yesterday, and it's stuck around since then, although if anything it's thicker today---from my apartment I was unable to see the stoplight at Main (which is only a block and a half away, and the lights are the new super-bright LEDs, too). Alas, it's set to disperse in thunderstorms later today. (Before descending to zero degrees tomorrow... well, you know what they say about Midwestern weather.)

"There is something very American about Feynman breaking into safes during the Manhattan Project. It's hard to imagine the authorities having a sense of humor about such things over in Germany at that time. Maybe it's not a coincidence." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 11:26am | Comments (0)

7 Jan 2005

Ames, Iowa, here we come

At dance class last night, I announced the Cyclone Ballroom Classic and asked people to come talk to me if they were interested. Seven! I got seven people! Three of them guys! Woooooo!

In other news, winter term is 10% over, my dry hacky cough has turned into a still-annoying but much-less-painful wet icky cough, and I have no plans for the weekend other than sleeping, eating, and lazing around. I'm still not caught up on rest after that party last week.

"Why doesn't Sony dominate MP3 players? Because Apple is in the consumer electronics business now, and unlike other American companies, they're obsessed with good design. Or more precisely, their CEO is." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 7:28pm | Comments (0)

4 Jan 2005

Spam update

Ok, since 23 Dec at a bit after 4pm---so, eleven days---I have gotten 677 attempted posts to my blog. Of these, nine were real posts, and of those, three were blocked by the old Bayesian filter until I went in and approved them. Since my BotBlock hasn't actually let through any spam, I'm just turning off the other filter. Let me know if anything gets through. (And, as always, let me know if you try to post something but my software blocks it!)

"Here's to the Texas Legislature, about to convene once more, depriving many a village of its idiot." --Molly Ivins

Posted by blahedo at 5:30am | Comments (0)

My musical ear

My mother has what you might call a tin ear.

Nevertheless, when my sister and I were very young, our mom sang to us, and always encouraged us to sing along. This seems to have worked, as both of us have grown up to be fairly musical people. I can only assume that effectively instilling the desire to sing was the important thing; the actual tunes can be picked up elsewhere.

My formal musical training, I guess you could say, began along several different fronts around junior high. After a brief flirtation with drums in the school band (in which the group didn't move fast enough, so I got bored and left) I moved on to piano lessons and the school choir. Piano remains the only instrument I'm really trained on, though not very well; I dropped it after about two years, and although I picked it up again for two summers in college, I was never really able to give it the time I would need to get beyond the simple-chords-and-melody stage.

Vocal training was a different story. I've been in and out of various choirs ever since then. In high school, the choir teacher did a lot of solf\`ege drills, and I still chalk up my decent grasp of intervals to my time at IMSA. (The voice lessons at the same time didn't hurt, either.) My college choir professor was similarly good at training us to be good singers and musicians, rather than just working on the song of the moment.

My musical tastes have gotten progressively broader over time. Growing up and even in high school, the radio was dominated by the oldies (which at the time didn't yet include the 70s) that my parents enjoyed, and we were also fans of the musical theatre, with my sister and I both appearing in several community productions. Listening to all the cast albums and playing singing games with that crowd undoubtedly played a big influence on my early musical tastes.

It wasn't really until I got to college in 1993 that I listened much to the radio, but over the next several years I built my knowledge and enjoyment of not only then-contemporary alternative and pop music, but also of older stuff from the 80s and 70s. The 80s I found to be an enjoyably upbeat era; the 70s the home of a lot of bands with multiple singers that actually sang harmony with each other. Queen and ABBA remain two of my favourite bands, though I didn't really discover either one until the late 90s.

Grad school brought me a new set of musical challenges. After the initial class load lightened and I was mostly doing research, I joined two different amateur choirs. The Brown Renaissance Singers was a group of ten or so people, mostly grad students, that sang music primarily from the Renaissance, though we occasionally ventured into some J.S.~Bach pieces. Depending on the semester, I was one of just two or three basses, and usually the strongest and most confident of them, so for the first time I was singing without a safety net. And the music tended to be highly polyphonic, so I had to get really good at listening to the other parts, and finding a C from the altos or a G from the tenors, as well as more complicated tricks like ``if the sopranos' melodic line were to continue upward, the next note would be the F that I need''. Except when it would hang out for pages at my break point, I found polyphonic music really fun to sing, with each part going off and doing its own thing, occasionally returning to sync up with everyone else at the cadence.

At the same time, I got involved in the choir of Brown's Catholic community, singing every week at Mass. Serendipitously, during my tenure there we had enough good singers in the group that we could usually sing in three or four part harmony. The pieces were certainly a lot simpler than what I was singing in the Renaissance group, but the big difference was that here, the music changed every week! We had just one practice for most of the songs, many of which I knew only the melody of and quite a few of which I didn't know at all. Three years of this improved my sight singing considerably, to the point that I can now frequently sight read an unfamiliar bass part while everyone else is singing the melody. Sometimes, that even makes it easier.

The most recent developments in my musical repertoire have been the addition of country and an assortment of Latin styles. Disenchanted with the amusicality of a lot of the junk that has been playing on the alterna-pop stations lately, I discovered that music and harmony are alive and well in these other genres. Both have rather different harmonic profiles than the music I previously listened to---country seems particularly taken with the tight duet harmonies, for instance---and that has been a fun process of discovery. I'm also a fan of fusion music, where traditional instruments and styles are merged with a rock beat, though that sort of thing is bloody hard to find in this country.

So what kind of music do I like now? It might be easier to enumerate the kinds I don't. Most rap is too atonal for me, although there are some individual ones that people have played for me that I liked. Heavy metal is both usually played too loud and much too distorted to actually sound good; which is too bad, because the electric guitar has a really nice sound when you don't abuse it, and a lot of the metal guitarists are quite competent. Most of the weirdly-tonal experimental music from the early and mid-20th century is too hard to listen to. Outside of those exceptions, though, I like and listen to music that was popular in the West from about the 15th century onwards, and a fair amount from elsewhere too.

"Even the kindest of souls occasionally harbor unkind thoughts, but if they can plausibly deny them, no harm is done." --Miss Manners

Posted by blahedo at 5:16am | Comments (0)

3 Jan 2005

Ten tracks

Someday perhaps I'll give a full rundown on what I did over New Year's---had a lot of fun, got very little sleep, and put myself in a position where I nearly didn't finish both of my syllabi in time for class today---but right now I need to post about going crazy.

I'm sitting in on a music theory class this term. I've wanted to take it for at least ten years, but it just kept not quite fitting into my schedule, so I wasn't about to pass up the chance. With any luck I'll be able to stick with it for multiple terms.

The first assignment in the course is what's driving me nuts. The prof asked each of us to make up a mix tape (/CD) of 3-5 of the tracks of our favourite music. I started with the twenty songs in my list that I'd given five stars. (There's good ones elsewhere in the mix, but I obviously don't need to be adding to the list.) I threw out the ones I liked more for the lyrics and all but the best one by each artist, and a couple others that I could winnow out.

Now I'm down to ten, and I just can't narrow it down further. All ten are musically awesome songs, and they're all very different, and I like each one for a different reason. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • ABBA/The Piper (from Super Trouper)
  • The Chordettes/Mr Sandman
  • Ben Folds/The Ascent Of Stan (from Rockin' The Suburbs)
  • bond/Alexander the Great (from Born)
  • Deiseal/Sí Beag, Sí Mór
  • Maroon 5/This Love (from Songs About Jane)
  • Paul Simon/Kodachrome
  • Randy Travis/Forever and Ever, Amen (from Always & Forever)
  • Bolero (closing credits from Moulin Rouge)
  • Uncle Kracker/Follow Me (from Double Wide)

So there it is, ten of my mostest favouritest songs. How can I pick just five from that list? I'm seriously thinking of burning all ten and telling her to put it on random shuffle and just listen to the first five.

On Intellectual Property law: "Well, there's a lot of bathwater there, so it's hardly surprising that some people are having trouble spotting the baby." --Mike Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 5:29pm | Comments (2)