Archives: April 2006
Thu Apr 27, 2006
Song of Norway
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Boxcars boxcars boxcars
James Bowman on Allen Ginsberg:
For not only has poetry since Ginsberg tended to concentrate on emotional truth to the exclusion of other kinds, so has the popular culture. "Howl" is the direct ancestor of every self-pitying rock ballad ever written. Indeed, practically every line turns up a potential rock-group name: The Angry Fix (which actually exists), The Angelheaded Hipsters, the Starry Dynamos, the Machinery of Night.
What do all these locutions have in common? Evocative meaninglessness. Their meaninglessness is their meaning. Ginsberg thought of that device — though obviously he owed a lot to Dada and the surrealists before him — when he named his poem after a cry of pain or (less likely) joy without semantic content.
Evocative meaninglessness has since become a cliché, a foundation stone of our culture. Today even ordinary people talking about ordinary things like politics expect us to understand that their words are intended to convey emotional rather than other kinds of truth, as when liberal blogger Maryscott O’Connor told the Washington Post last week that her writing was "one long, sustained scream."
Scream or howl, the point is the same. What is supposed to interest us about the inarticulate cri de coeur is not what is said but the emotion behind it. "I’m insane with rage and grief," Ms. O’Connor told the Post, as if this were a reason to take her seriously instead of a reason not to take her seriously.
There goes another best mind destroyed by madness — except that now the best minds seek out such madness as a way of demonstrating to others that they are the best, or at least the most authentic. That, too, we owe to Ginsberg.
(Via Saint Kansas.)
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Tue Apr 25, 2006
A friend sent me this brief discussion of mathematics by Benedict XVI:
The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of mathematical language. He was convinced that God gave us two books: that of Sacred Scripture, and that of nature. And the language of nature – this was his conviction – is mathematics, which is therefore a language of God, of the Creator.
Let us reflect now on what mathematics is. In itself it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit, and as such in its purity it does not really exist. It is always realized approximately, but – as such – it is an intellectual system, a great, brilliant invention of the human spirit. The surprising thing is that this invention of our human mind is truly the key for understanding nature, that nature is really structured in a mathematical way, and that our mathematics, which our spirit invented, really is the instrument for being able to work with nature, to put it at our service through technology.
It seems an almost incredible thing to me that an invention of the human intellect and the structure of the universe coincide: the mathematics we invented really gives us access to the nature of the universe and permits us to use it. [...] I think that this intersection between what we have thought up and how nature unfolds and behaves is an enigma and a great challenge, because we see that, in the end, there is one logic that links these two: our reason could not discover the other if there were not an identical logic at the source of both.
In this sense, it seems to me that mathematics – in which God as such does not appear – shows us the intelligent structure of the of the universe. Now there are also theories of chaos, but these are limited, because if chaos had the upper hand, all technology would become impossible. Technology is trustworthy only because our mathematics is trustworthy. Our science, which ultimately makes it possible to work with the energies of nature, presupposes the trustworthy, intelligent structure of matter, [...] the “design” of creation.
To come to the definitive question, I would say: either God exists or he doesn’t. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of the creative Reason that stands at the beginning of everything and is the origin of everything – the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom – or one upholds the priority of the irrational, according to which everything in our world and in our lives is only an accident, marginal, an irrational product, and even reason would be a product of irrationality. In the end, one cannot “prove” either of these views, but Christianity’s great choice is the choice of reason and the priority of reason. This seems like an excellent choice to me, demonstrating how a great Intelligence, to which we can entrust ourselves, stands behind everything.
(The editor of the website titled this section "On the Intelligent Design of the Universe," an annoying attempt to enlist the pope in a fundamentalist's battle.)
See also Eugene Wigner's The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.
Soundtrack: Polysics, "Peach Pie on the Beach"
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Mon Apr 24, 2006
Thought for the day
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I frequently wonder about the judgment of American newspaper editors. I've been keeping an eye on Cyclone Monica for the past few days. Yesterday it became the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, with a central pressure of 879 mb (according to the Navy Research Lab). In comparison, Hurricane Wilma's minimum pressure was 882 mb, and Wilma was the most intense Atlantic storm on record. I checked the website of the Wichita paper and the world news page of the New York Times online and found no mention of Monica.
The weather in Wichita, though far less impressive, is quite entertaining in its own way. My neighborhood received three rounds of hail this morning, the first golfball-sized and larger. Fortunately, my Echinocereus triglochidiatus, currently in full bloom, was protected by the roof's overhang.
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Fri Apr 21, 2006
There's a Renaissance faire this weekend at Sedgwick County Park in Wichita. I won't be there. I used to be very active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and I was a regular at the spring RenFaire here while it was sponsored by the local Catholic college. Over the years, though, I lost my enthusiasm for playing my dulcimer all day for bored strangers and wondering where the hell the dancers were whom I was supposed to play for. When Newman University decided to abandon the faire, it was a good excuse to call it quits with the SCA/RenFaire world.
However, I will perform at the Shakespearean music concert Sunday afternoon, along with Barry the flutist and Richard the bodhran player. We'll play a handful of Playford dances. There will be a number of other musicians there performing a wide variety of Elizabethan era music, and all of them are better than I am. Should you happen to be in Wichita then, the concert is at 3 p.m. at the Unversity Unitarian Church, on Fairmount south of WSU.
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Wed Apr 19, 2006
I've started a second weblog, Beware the Kawaii, where you'll find my future posts on animation, Japan and women with blue hair. There's not much there yet, but that will change.
Mixolydian Mode will continue to be erratically updated.
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Tue Apr 18, 2006
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Rube Goldberg ...
... is alive and well in Japan.
Here's the relevant Wikipedia article.
Soundtrack: Someday's Dreamers soundtrack, "Home country of a water imp"
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Mon Apr 17, 2006
The crème de la crème
Muriel Spark, one of the best writers writers of the 20th century and one of my favorites, died last Thursday.
I've long been puzzled by how seldom she is mentioned in St. Blog's, even though she was an outstanding Catholic writer. She was a poet before she was a novelist, and her prose is pleasure to read. Her best books are precisely as long as they need to be and not one word longer. Perhaps she wrote too well to be taken as seriously as she deserves. I've lost count of how many times I've read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori and The Girls of Slender Means.
(Via Basil Seal.)
Addendum: Joseph Bottum on Spark.
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Thought for the day
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Beeda for the camera
Kei and Yuri perform a stereo akanbe in episode three of Dirty Pair TV:
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Sun Apr 16, 2006
In case you've missed it: The Monk and the Fish, accompanied by further variations on a theme used by Corelli.
(Via Cartoon Brew.)
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Fri Apr 14, 2006
Mixolydian Mode is three years old today. (Because today is Good Friday, celebrations will be deferred until next week.) This round was the first MIDI file I ever posted here, and it's going to be the last -- for a while, anyway.
Partly it's because it's getting harder to find fresh tunes. There is an infinite supply of celtic music and fiddle tunes, true, but after a few hundred jigs and reels they all start to sound alike. Collections of public-domain melodies from other traditions exist, but are much harder to find. I've largely exhausted the material I have on hand, and finding more involves time, luck and money, all of which I'm short of.
The primary reason, though, is that arranging all these tunes has become more of a chore than a pleasure. It's not fun anymore, and it's probably time to stop.
I might post occasional tunes in the future -- a melody I particularly like, perhaps, or some strathspeys for Tartan Day -- but it won't be on a regular schedule.
If you come here mainly for the music -- well, sorry about that. All the MIDI files will remain online, and that's about 700 tunes or so. You can find them by clicking the "MIDI" link in the right-hand column.
I'm not going to shut down this weblog -- if nothing else, it's a handy place to post odd and silly links, thus sparing my friends a constant barrage of emails. Posting will be spasmodic, as, music aside, it has always been. I do have something up my sleeve, which will be revealed all too soon. Some of you might find it a relief. Hint: beware the kawaii.
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Thu Apr 13, 2006
A tune from the first edition of The English Dancing Master, published in 1651.
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Wed Apr 12, 2006
Wholeness, harmony and radiance
Barbara Nicolosi at Eighth Day Books in February
When the Vatican a century from now decides whether to declare Barbara Nicolosi a Doctor of the Church, one of the documents they will ponder is the interview conducted earlier this year in Wichita by Del Torkelson. Nicolosi has now posted the complete interview on her site:
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Tue Apr 11, 2006
Mon Apr 10, 2006
Jiyuu no Tori
Here's the opening to Haibane Renmei:
The aspect ratio is off, but even so this clip does give an idea of the flavor of this series, one of my favorites.
(Via Twenty-Sided and Haibane.info.)
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Before I post the next round of the SF anime babes poll, I though it might a nice change of pace to determine who the cutest anime character is. There are plenty of kawaii youngsters in anime, but in my opinion there are ultimately just three choices. See if you agree, and vote for the cutest.
Who's the most kawaii of them all?
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Fri Apr 07, 2006
Je préfére l'Espagne
Useful phrases for the tourist.
Those planning interstellar journeys may also wish to consult Joanna Russ' compendium (included in The Zanzibar Cat):
At the hotel:
That is my companion. It is not intended for a tip.
I will be most comfortable at temperatures of 290 and 303 degrees Kelvin.
Waitress, this meal is alive....
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Thu Apr 06, 2006
Thought for the day
"Money is real, money endures. All the noblest sentiments can be beautifully expressed in money. If everyone showered artists with money whenever they saw them, wouldn't this be a finer world?"
--John Sladek, Tik-Tok
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Dancing with chainsaws
I long ago lost all patience with Garrison Keillor, but I would like to see Guy Noir: The Ballet.
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Here's an unsubtle, untraditional medley of three tunes from J. Scott Skinner's The Harp and Claymore. They are "Milladen," a strathspey written by Skinner; "Clout the Cauldron," which Skinner states is "from an arrangement by John Davidson, Aberdeen;" and "Where Gadie Rins" or "The Hessians' March," the "march past of the Gordons."
Harp and Claymore Medley (3.6 megabytes)
Technical notes: This was done in Logic. The harp and guitar are Liqih's HarpTime and Microrock. The other noises are from the ES2 and EXS24, both part of Logic.
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The reel "Dr. Shaw." There's also a strathspey by that name.
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Wed Apr 05, 2006
Attending this event may be hazardous ...
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Counting the minutes
Earlier this morning, the time was 01:02:03 04/05/06 a.m. In a little over two hours, it will be 01:02:03 04/05/06 p.m.
Curiously, the first volume of Kamichu! will be released in the USA on 6/6/06, as will Ann Coulter's new book. (The former is on my "buy" list.) Yurie may be a pagan goddess, but Coulter makes a better Beast.
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Tue Apr 04, 2006
This premise has possibilities:
Recently seen: new Turtledove
Volume six of his American Titans series, which began with an obvious but subtle alteration to American history: What If the raid on Harper's Ferry had been commanded not by John Brown but instead by Godzilla. This small change is enough to allow the raid to succeed, and this has had a tremendous effect on American history.
(Yeah, it's a few days late.)
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Mon Apr 03, 2006
Grab your kilt
Here's the list of weblogs participating in this year's Gathering of the Blogs:
Absinthe & Cookies
Not Exactly Rocket Science
The Pirate's Blog
The Bull Speaks!
Blackfive - The Paratrooper of Love
Hilbilly White Trash
The Gun Line
what a sad old goth...
And then I woke up...
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Tartan Day is this Thursday, April 6. In honor of the occasion, I'm declaring this to be J. Scott Skinner week. Here's a reel from The Harp and Claymore.
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Sun Apr 02, 2006
Momo and her sarcastic companion, Daniel
I'm surprised at how much I like Shinigami no Ballad. The premise of this brief series sounds dismal: Momo, a shinigami or "god of death," helps youngsters come to terms with the deaths of friends or family. Although the script occasionally is heavy-handed and preachy, mostly it maintains a light touch as it deals with grief, anger and guilt. There's as much humor as there is sadness in the stories.
However, I would like to shoot the music director. The soundtrack is obtrusive and often blatantly manipulative. I particularly loathe the synth choir that appears at the most intense moments. When I hear a catastrophe such as the climax of the fifth episode (n.b.: major spoilers if you understand Japanese), I want to grab the jerk by the lapels and yell "less is more!" in his face. The first episode is the worst in this respect, but there's something to annoy in each of the five I've seen.
To be fair, I should note that some of the music is quite tolerable, such as the nicely creepy eyecatch, or the goofy fiddle tune heard at lighter moments.
Here's a .wav file of the bell that signals Momo's appearance.
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Sat Apr 01, 2006
... and tell Tchaikovski the news
I came across a cute little noisemaker for Macs: Hyperupic. It transforms graphic files into sound, similarly to MetaSynth. However, unlike MetaSynth ($499), it's freeware.
Here's one realization of the picture of Binchou-tan below:
Binchou-tan (172 K)
Here's what happened when I ran a Nutcracker picture through it (click on the picture (1 megabyte)):
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