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last week we went to two "classical" concerts, chamber music and orchestral music. bliss. dïe überblønde felt that was too much culture for one week, but she's a bit overwhelmed these days.

the chamber concert started with haydn's fire symphony, though i was disappointed to discover that it contained only artificial fire. it is very pretty tho, and we're going to get a copy. assuming we don't already have one; always a problem for people with lots of music.

we're also going to get a copy of larson's concertino for trombone and strings (opus 45), but we know we don't have that, since we'd never heard of him before. also, natalie mannix, the local principal trombonist, can play a mean trombone, and she has a few albums of her own. we may get those.

i wasn't feeling well, so we bailed at halftime. one of the other regular concert-goers did catch us on friday and say we missed a good performance of schubert's fifth symphony. fortunately, we do have a copy of that. not as good as live, but it'll do.

friday's orchestral music started with elgar's serenade in e-minor for string orchestra; that's another one to buy. that was followed by one of da falla's ballet suites, without the dancing, but with denyce graves singing mezzo-soprano. she's apparently famous with opera types, but i can't distinguish good opera singing from great opera singing. i don't have much desire to learn how, either.

the star of the show was beethoven's 7th symphony, which is just so damn upbeat and perky. it's like somebody slipped ol' ludwig some really good weed; his music is usually much more serious. maybe he was still on a popular music kick after the pastoral symphony. i gave the performance a standing ovation. the DSO is rarely that sharp, so i was pleased.




last week i saw logan. i agree with most of the common assessments: patrick stewart's acting is excellent, hugh jackman's isn't bad, and overall, the movie is the best x-men movie since one of the first two, way back when. (i tend to put deadpool in its own category, even tho it is technically an x-men movie.)

as for the plot... (total spoilers for logan) )

the movie did meet the minimal ebert criterion and then some, but saying "best x-men movie since either the original or the first sequel" isn't much of a recommendation. see it if you're a wolverine fan, or a supers completist.
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i saw taj express last night, which is two hours of bollywood dancing, all but untroubled by meddling plot and characterization.¹ there was a narrator and a sketch of a frame story, but those could be entirely ignored.

so i saw about a dozen movies' worth of dance numbers. they were all very pretty, and the show was a fine way to spend a few hours, but the dances tended to all blur together. so very little stands out in my mind. the opening number included what seemed to be an adapted classical indian dance along with its invocation of the muse (for indian values of muse). some of the other dances appeared to be taken from older indian forms as well, but others seemed to have strong american influences (breakdancing and hiphop). the ObFightScene had some resemblance to the video for "beat it", but i imagine there aren't many ways of staging a dancing fight scene.

i'm not sure i can recommend this one, unless you really want to see bollywood dance numbers. it probably could have been shorter with no loss of interest. or perhaps it needs a greater variety of dances. i don't know which.

1: i generally don't like musicals. the plots move at a snail's pace, and the songs are a bit scattered. but break them up and i'm perfectly happy: a bunch of show tunes is a fine thing, and the stories are more entertaining when they move faster.
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how many great movies does a director need to make before he can be called a great director?

and how much of movies' greatness can be attributed to directors anyway?
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is it a good sign or a bad sign that some of my non-technophilic friends have decided that now is the time to encrypt all their email and web traffic?
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my usual every-other-year economic analysis thanksgiving dinner attendance has been derailed. as a result of the improving economy and/or my own lateness, we couldn't get reservations to the fancy buffet we've been going to for many years.

we did get a regular sit-down dinner at the same place (for a vastly higher price) and the buffet seemed pretty busy when we walked past. our dinner seemed pretty well attended as well.




we saw arrival, an OK first-contact movie. it's adapted from ted chiang's "the story of your life", which we both reread after seeing the movie. arrival is an adaptation of "the story of your life" (tSoYL) in about the same way blade runner is an adaptation of do androids dream of electric sheep is: there's clear similarities between the two -- and even a couple of things that are identical -- but the stories aren't entirely the same.

it's not an adaptation the same way that 2001 is an adaptation of "the sentinel". the problem is that it seems to want to be.

tSoYL is a gadget story. there's a mcguffin -- an unusual one, an alien language -- and its effects on the human condition -- or one human's condition -- are explored. it's a pretty good story. not one of my favorites, but it's an ok tale pretty well told.

arrival takes that straightforward gadget story and pastes on a lot of plot complications in order to make a feature-length movie. the plot complications don't quite work; in one scene, the plot is hurried along in a ham-handed way very much like one character asking "why do we need to hurry?" and another character handing them a plot coupon offering a buy-one get-one-for-free deal on crises.

tSoYL has only two characters: Our Heroine, a linguist, and her interlocutor, a physicist. his job is pretty simple: hand her domain knowledge that explains parts of the story and give her somebody to talk to. arrival struggles with the first part. it seems the writers really didn't know how to write science, even though a key scientific point in tSoYL is really easy to present. so, he seems to be reduced to the love interest.

but they did do some things right (moderate spoilers) )

on balance, i don't think arrival is worth the price of admission, even for a cheap show. it's probably worth seeing on DVD/streaming tho. or you may like reading tSoYL better. i'm going to oppose the consensus opinion on them and say read tSoYL first. it's a novella, so it's a quick read. if you like it, rent some visuals to go with it.
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one performance of live music apparently wasn't enough for me this week, so i went to the local orchestra last night. (it's really just the result of random scheduling, but i seem more hip if i said it the other way, right?)

the highlight of last night's show was jinjoo cho's¹ amazing solos during korngold's "violin concerto in d major". she makes the violin sing, and she plays with wonderful intensity. hell, she can even grimace musically, a fine thing to see in a classical musician:



1: her site automagically plays clips of her performances.

bernstein's "symphonic dances" from west side story were also enjoyable, since it's, well, a show tune, just fully orchestrated. i rather liked the bits of the orchestra snapping their fingers to simulate one of the play's gangs' swagger. ah, the heady days of yester-year, when gangs would challenge each other with displays of machismo rather than fusilades of gunfire!

i have little opinion on the prelude to trisan and isolde, it being known entirely for a single unresolved dissonance. on the other hand, i'd forgotten how slowly ravel's "bolero" develops; it could probably lose a repetition or two of the melody and be better for it.
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i went to see straight no chaser last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. i was especially pleased by their human drum machine, er, vocal percussionist, who was suitably impressive.

i could do without the avarice music. they admitted they it was a little early for that... but at least their versions are interesting, and they sang two (2) avarice songs that actually tried to get the holy back in the holiday. and there were only four avarice songs anyway.

while they had some typical a cappella music, like "sittin' by the dock of the bay", most of it was adapted popular music, including a prince medley and a sitcom theme song medley. their ObEncore was actual acoustic a cappella (the rest was sung with mics and amplification, probably needed for a 1,500 seat theater).

recommended. will go again.
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well, the SF/X were suitably trippy, if a bit repetitive. they're probably worth the IMAX 3D premium. the rest of the movie... not so much.

total spoilers for doctor strange )

verdict: it was better than clicking obsessively on the election results. see if you're a marvel completeist, or if you intend to just watch the pretty colors. skip otherwise.
twoeleven: Hans Zarkov from Flash Gordon (mad science)
while the rest of the country is glued to their screens, frantically refreshing their favorite news sources to find out the score in today's election, we're gonna be at the movies. not because we're apathetic about the election. quite the contrary: we'd otherwise be among the most obsessive of the news-site refreshers.

we're going to see doctor strange. not because it's a great movie -- though the SF/X are supposed to be suitably trippy and cumberbatch is supposed to play a fine doctor strange -- but because it's an adequate movie. it'll do for something which isn't breathless ward by ward reporting of the election results.
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i'm watching the cubs-indians game. as addison russell came up to bat with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third, i said to dïe überblønde, "the cubs should be able to score one run at this point. but if the gods really wanted to break my heart, and show that the cubs are cursed in a way that would have poets writing tragedies about them, he'd hit a grand slam." and after a bit more discussion, we concluded the ultimate proof of nemesis (the gods incarnating their disfavor) would be for the cubs to lose 1-0 in the bottom of the 15th tomorrow.

and lo, mr. russell hath slammed in a grand fashion. so now i'm trying to figure out where i can place a bet on the indians to win 1-0 in the 15th tomorrow. :P
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this has been your every other generational moment of sporting triumph.
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tuesday night we listened to chamber music, schoenberg's "transfigured night" and vivaldi's "four seasons". both were very good, and david southorn's solos during the "four seasons" were the first performance i felt deserved a standing ovation in years.

last night i went to hear chris botti's jazz, um, variety show. it's hardly a trumpet performance, though it was billed as well, since botti is mostly acting as master of ceremonies. while there's clearly a jazz band in there somewhere -- the parts of the show i enjoyed most were the pianist, bass player, and drummer riffing on random themes -- the ensemble is far too large and performs far too many different kinds of numbers to be a band. there was also an electric violinist, a guitarist, and a keyboard player, as well as male and female vocalists.

it was all enjoyable, though i was painfully reminded that an electric trumpet is far too loud, especially when botti plays it as loud as possible, just to show that he can. i'd prefer he show off his virtuosity; he's got plenty of that.

OTOH, the electric violin was useful for playing duets with the trumpet, since they can be made to play at the same volume. that's a nice trick, since the usual rule of thumb for the acoustic versions is that one trumpet is as loud as eight violins. but with them at equal volume, botti was able to show off by playing not just in harmony with the violin, but in unison with it.

so, i had fun last night too, other than the concert leaving my ears ringing. :P
twoeleven: Hans Zarkov from Flash Gordon (mad science)
i like movies. if you read this journal regularly, you probably know that. i like superhero movies in particular. well, at least the better-written and -directed ones, which leaves out a lot.

among total fanboiz of supers movies, there's a worry that we've hit "peak supers", the point at which supers movies will stop pulling in ever-increasing piles of cash. this bit of handwringing is often attributed to market saturation (including both audience division and audience fatigue) and the general problem of sequelitis hollywood has.

it seemed like an interesting question to me since i like some of the silly things. getting an answer isn't trivial, tho. ticket price inflation is an obvious problem. that's worse than one would think, since there's been a surge in 3-D and IMAX movies lately, and those are typically more expensive than regular movies. and inflation in foreign markets is harder to account for, due to exchange-rate differences, unknown inflation in other countries, and so on.

so, i decided to simplify the problem: US peak supers. box office mojo conveniently makes this data available. they also try to estimate the number of tickets sold, adjusting for ticket price inflation. that's what i ran with. that definition yields different results than gross receipts, but it probably means more, because it measures viewership in a single country. i'd love to be able to do that for other countries, but alas.

so, what did i learn? )
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did anybody else watch the olympics? what did you watch?

i watched most of the shotgun shooting, a little of the martial arts (judo and taekwondo), and a lot of the running, jumping, and throwing things.

i'm especially curious this time, because while TV ratings for the olympics were down a bit, americans several godzillion minutes of streaming video. but most of the people i know watched little, if any, of the games.
twoeleven: Hans Zarkov from Flash Gordon (mad science)
charismatic fauna:



courtesy UPI.

ok, you probably saw that already. fine. i like it.




ars technica reports couple of small victories for privacy, one of which allows gügle to be sued for scanning all email sent to gmail, even by people who haven't agreed to their 'privacy' policy. excellent! i await my pile of money; or more likely i'll have to opt out of the lawyer-enriching bogus settlement and pursue my own case. that's fine; the class action suit will do most of the work for me.




i watched particle fever last night. it's an ok documentary about the large hadron collider and the race for the higgs boson, but not a great one. the introduction is very slow, since the movie spends a lot of time introducing some LHC scientists and the science. yup, scientists often aren't motivated by the same things as non-scientists. thanks, i knew that. perhaps a non-scientist would like the beginning more than i do.

the movie starts to get going after one spoiler and really gets its act together after the other spoiler. after that, it's a great documentary. shame about the first two-thirds, though.

spoilers )

i'm not sure if i can recommend particle fever. maybe non-scientists will like it from beginning to end. people who know science stuff should probably watch the first little bit to learn who the players are, then keep an itchy fast-forward finger to skip forward until they reach the start of the good part. i think it's obvious. or, y'all could just skip the whole movie. hard to say.
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about a month ago, the lawnmower died, and the house had an electrical short. about a week ago, the dehumidifier on the central air system failed. (we're in a very humid pocket near a lake, so we need both).

now, my car can only be started with a jump; the starter doesn't even run. this is a bit sudden, and i'm hoping it's not something expensive. it's a bit puzzling, since usually when the battery starts to go, jumping it and letting it idle for a while will let it start again, but not this time.

*le sigh*
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flying rocks seen: two. one of them was briefly the brightest thing in the sky.

the earth seems to contain a lot of people who can swim really fast. yay!
twoeleven: Hans Zarkov from Flash Gordon (mad science)
flying rocks seen: one. it was partly cloudy and hazy last night, so i was pleased that i could see any. i'll try again tonight when the sky should be clearer and i can stay up later.

blueberries picked and eaten: one. i found a surprise when i rolled up the rest of the netting. this one was very tart, but not otherwise much like a blueberry. weather too dry?

in total, i didn't get very many berries compared to the very heavy flowering my bushes had. i think i need more bumblebees in the back garden. i'll have to figure out what sort of flowers they like, and plant ones to have a continuous supply of them, so they'll build a nest back there.
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i went to water my back garden bed today, and found that a patch of it was all torn up. lots of plants were broken off near the ground, a blueberry bush was uprooted -- it's new this year, and very small -- but no sign of digging, which ruled out amphetamine-fueled squirrels. it was all rather puzzling.

then i found the snake.

a meter-or-so long garter snake had tried to slither through the netting i'd covered the blueberry bushes with, and had gotten caught in the mesh. it was in bad shape: patches of bare skin exposed, and a couple of places with raw, oozing flesh. plastic mesh doesn't give easily. it was pretty exhausted too; it barely moved when prodded.

i managed to cut it free with a lot of effort. cutting black mesh wrapped around a black snake without cutting the latter was challenging. also, the mesh had gotten tangled in everything: plants, gathering rings, random twigs on the ground.

the snake seemed like it was starting to leave, but when i came back an hour later, it was literally belly-up. *sigh*

i may have to rethink the mesh. it certainly kept critters from swiping my berries, but i need all the predators i can get.

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