Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Take care, you throaty fare.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

PIPA/SOPA: Seriously?

Just popping in to ask anyone monitoring this site to (1) be aware of PIPA/SOPA (the PROTECT-IP Act and the and U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act), if you’re not already, and (2) join the protest against this proposed legislation. If you are in the U.S., do you know if your U.S. senators and House representative support or oppose the bills?

I’ve blacked out my site for 24 hours for the Jan. 18th strike — not just this creaky old blog but all of my old pages, which still get some random traffic. So if you’re reading this, it’s either a snippet of the RSS feed, or you arrived after the blackout ended; also, if you’re reading this blog entry, chances are that you use the Internet heavily. Do you have your own blog? Do you link to YouTube videos in blog posts or in your emails? Do you use services such as Dropbox to store files? Do you read or participate in any online community sites, or other message boards or forums?

PIPA and SOPA are supposedly about protecting intellectual property/copyrights of content owners, but the methods proposed to “protect” them go way beyond that, and will institute serious measures for all sorts of websites and Internet services, big or small. Take five minutes to check out a summary video (autoplays), and please email or call your senators and rep and let them know that you urge them to vote against PIPA/SOPA. The Senate votes on PIPA on Jan. 24th.

P.S. Thanks for reading, and I hope you are well.

Posted at 12:35 am | Filed under News commentary, Tech/geek | 1 reply »

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Stay safe

Hi friends. Just wanted to say that I hope you’re doing okay.

I’m fine; it’s been way too long since I wrote here — sorry for the unintended lengthy hibernation. I’ll try to post again soon, but in the meantime, please take care and stay safe.

Posted at 1:24 am | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Monday, 30 November 2009

Beethoven is listening

Recently I realized that I did not have any Beethoven string quartets on CD, or really, much of his chamber music. Last week, I consulted my music list to see if there was something I could start with. (Every time I hear something I like but don’t recognize it or have a recording of it, I add it to an ever-growing, never-ending list of music.) I saw an entry for a Beethoven “Adagio” from a chamber strings piece (no piano). It was something I’d heard on Last.fm but, as is the unfortunate case for many instances of classical music digital meta data, there was no performer listed nor a reference to the original larger work. There was an album associated with the piece, but it was incorrect (Complete Symphonies and Piano Concertos — not exactly where you’d find chamber music for strings only).

Many of the classical pieces I hear on Last.fm are from the Naxos label, so I started my investigation by looking through current Naxos releases of Beethoven string quartets and quintets, one by one. I slowly eliminated all of the string quartets, moved to the string quintets, and discovered that the recording I’d heard was actually the second movement from a string quintet arrangement of Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, op. 11 (“Gassenhauer”), by the Metamorphosis Quintet. Yay! It was like finding and solving the jackpot — a jackpot of lovely music so I could listen to more of it.

The find made me curious about the original work. I like clarinet, and Beethoven, IIRC from my music courses in college, was one of the first composers to include the clarinet in non-liturgical settings. So I’d successfully identified the mystery “Adagio,” but now there was this bonus of learning about the Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, for piano, cello and of course, clarinet — something I wasn’t even aware existed but was happy to find. I ended up doing some searches for it and found a few good candidates to extend my music list (there’s even a recording with Barenboim and du Pré). Listened to some clips and, wow, another jackpot of beautiful music! I went to sleep a happy camper.

Sometime the next morning at work, I realized I needed some music and switched on the radio. Usually I don’t listen to live FM radio during the day, but Last.fm had been playing some recommendations multiple times, so a few days earlier, I had tuned in to the local classical radio station during the afternoons — the only FM classical station remaining in the L.A. area, KUSC. So anyway, I switched on the radio, and immediately I heard a piano and cello. “Hey, chamber music, nice,” I thought. Then I heard the clarinet. “Wow, this is cool. What a minute…could this possibly be…nah…” I finally went over to the KUSC site to see what the piece was.

“Ludwig van Beethoven: Clarinet Trio in Bb Op 11.”

Yes, really! I re-read it to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. (Here’s the playlist from that day. Check what host Alan Chapman played at 11:17 a.m.!)

Okay, so it wasn’t one of the recordings I’d added to my music list, and I’d turned on the radio a little too late and missed the “Adagio” movement (it would have been much weirder if I had turned on the radio during the second movement), but still! It was one of those wonderful, simpatico musical moments that happens every so often and never fails to amaze me each time. Thank you, Alan Chapman, Last.fm, musicians, Beethoven, and Musical God of the universe. Wherever he is, I’d like to think that Beethoven can hear, and he’s listening.


Related post: “Someone is listening”

Monday, 31 August 2009

Still rings true three years later

In the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time updating old HTML code, or as the case may be, reverting back to it (thank you, Microsoft Outlook). It reminded me of this oldie but goodie comic from Alan Foreman in 2006: "Time Breakdown of Modern Web Design" (language may be NSFW).

I don’t wish death to Bill Gates or IE users (especially since I know that Gates was himself annoyed by some Microsoft product "features") but I will be happy when I no longer have to test using more than one version of IE.

(By the way: this site is optimized for Firefox.)

Posted at 11:57 pm | Filed under Tech/geek |  

Friday, 31 July 2009

The end of the road for WordPress 2.0.x

The WordPress team had announced long ago that the WP 2.0.x branch would be supported until the year 2010, but things change — and as of July 30, 2009, the official support behind the 2.0.x branch ceased.

I guess I’m a little disappointed but not too surprised. I was just telling my friend E^3 last week that I’d been preparing for that day in 2010 when 2.0.x would become officially deprecated, and that I had started migrating blogs over to 2.7.x last year (and now 2.8.x). 2.0.x was arguably more no-nonsense and less bloated, but there’s no question that it now lacks a number of useful features introduced later.

Perhaps the most useful/my favorite of these features is the auto-save for drafts, and the post revisioning — I look forward to seeing additional granular control to help minimize database clutter, but for my personal purposes, it’s been pretty nice. One of my least favorite later features is the media/gallery integration, which still feels like a staircase leading to an unfinished floor. (Apparently the WP team realizes that the media features still need more work because its recent survey focused on exactly that.)

Also speaking of the 2.8.x branch, the WP team released 2.8.2 (a security update) last week on July 20th, about 11 days after 2.8.1. For some reason, the changelog did not get posted in the official announcement (please, developers, always, always post a changelog and a date!) so I had to dig for it and found the relevant diffs on the WP Trac (via Lester Chan’s blog).

2.8.3 and 2.9 are still in the works.

Posted at 11:59 pm | Filed under WordPress |  

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Answer July

In honor of the season, here’s a poem by Emily Dickinson:

The poem is still under copyright (it was written circa 1862 but not published until 1935), so the above is an embedded page from the book The Poems of Emily Dickinson from Hayes Barton Press (direct link to page in case you can’t see it).

I certainly didn’t plan to take a sabbatical year from writing here, but I guess it just turned out that way. Hope you’re well. I promise that it won’t be another year before my next post. :)

Posted at 12:38 am | Filed under Books, literature | 2 replies »

Monday, 30 June 2008

Podcasts (mostly radio shows) to which I listeneth

I had Juice open, and realized that I don’t think I’ve ever talked about podcasts here.

I’m sure there are a gazillion of them out there, and if I browsed around enough, I’d probably find way more than I have time for. As it stands now, I subscribe to a bunch of podcasts but skip almost all of them. It’s basically like my text RSS feeds — I had scads of feeds before, but I stopped looking at my feed reader for almost an entire year. Then I subscribed to three blogs when I switched to Flock for my main browser at home. That worked out pretty well, but now for some reason the feed page on Flock is broken so now I can’t read the feeds anymore…

In any case, back to the topic. Here are the podcasts I hear most regularly (show URLs go to the show home pages rather than the podcast RSS feeds):

  • Radio Lab. It has the word “science” in the description, but don’t let it scare you away if you’re not a sciencey person. It is by far my favorite podcast, and the show that actually got me to download a podcast manager, just so I could automatically download Radio Lab. I had never heard of the WNYC show until I listened to earlier podcasts by way of recommendations on Ask MetaFilter.
  • MetaFilter Podcast. This is the podcast for the site MetaFilter and its related sites. It’s hosted by Matt Haughey, the founder of the MetaFilter Network, and Jessamyn West, the first moderator (primarily on Ask MetaFilter) aside from Matt. It’s probably of the most interest to MeFi and AskMeFi users. I regularly read AskMeFi and rarely check MeFi proper, so it’s nice to get the MeFi highlights from Matt and Jessamyn when they go over their favorite posts on the various MetaFilter sites.
  • This American Life. Okay, I admit it: I was never a regular listener of TAL until recently. Yes, I’d heard so much about it before, and how great it was. I’d heard some episodes here and there, but maybe it was because I never happened to hear something that I particularly liked at the time. Sure, there’s a certain consistent tone to the show, but the episodes, and the segments within them, can be fairly hit or miss depending on my temperament at the time. One week, I may not be able to appreciate a serious show that is depressing, because I just need some humor, and another week, I may think a humorous show is not what I’m looking for. Finally, I subscribed to the podcast feed and at some point, understood why it was such a public radio staple and fan favorite. And this way, if I know I won’t be able to appreciate a specific show theme one week, I can listen to it later.
  • Car Talk. A favorite NPR show that I’d listened to for a long time already. I used to listen to them online all the time via streaming audio, but once I started subscribing to podcasts with Juice, I subscribed to this one right away. A very consistent show that always brightens an hour, thanks to the great personalities and writing. (By far, my favorite segment is “Stump the Chumps” primarily because of its theme song, and the way Tom announces the title.)
  • Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Another NPR show I’d listened to years before podcasts were offered. I started listening in around 2001 or so, and at one point finished listening through all of the shows in the archives. I have plenty of favorite moments, but my all-time favorite is probably Carl Kasell singing “Fever” for an obituary question about Peggy Lee. These days I usually hear an episode anywhere from one day to four weeks after it airs.
  • Whole Wheat Radio Audio Magazine. Sometimes there are podcasts of live indie music performances at the Whole Wheat Radio’s Wheat Palace in Talkeetna, Alaska, but I also listen to the discussions and updates from the regulars at the small net radio station. I’m usually not able to listen to the concerts or discussions live over the air, so the podcasts really come in handy.

There are other podcasts that I sometimes download and listen to:

  • American Experience. Special podcasts meant to supplement the PBS series, but more often than not, I will only get to listen to these podcasts and not watch the TV episodes.
  • Live Concerts from NPR’s All Songs Considered. Excellent quality recordings of live shows. Definitely subscribe to this if you’re a music fan.
  • Fresh Air. Podcast version of the show. The only negative thing, and probably one of the reasons why I don’t download it more often, is that the feed doesn’t contain a more descriptive title of the podcast. Rarely it does, but at least in Juice, the episode names are usually “NPR: [date] Fresh Air” which makes it impossible to know what the episode is about, unless I actually go to the site to read more about it.

I’d subscribe to Whad’Ya Know, another show I’ve been listening to for years (I’ve actually listened to it far longer than any of the others here); however, only the first hour of the two-hour show is available on podcast, so I still listen to the full shows online via streaming audio.

As mentioned, I use Juice to download and manage my podcast subscriptions. Although it doesn’t offer as many features as I’d like, it keeps everything organized, and I much prefer it over having to use iTunes.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

‘The steering wheel has a cat on it’

About a month ago, I ended up on the Craigslist blog and found a reference to this catbus ad (or shall I say “ad”), which was featured in the Best of Craigslist. I rarely visit Craigslist and I had never been to the Craigslist blog before, so it was completely by chance that I managed to spot this particular page.

It helps if you’re familiar with the movie My Neighbor Totoro but even if you’re not, the ad has to be seen (and read) to be believed. I’ve wandered back over to it at various times over the past few weeks and the end still makes me laugh — the whole thing is so bizarre and silly. The sentence “The steering wheel has a cat on it” is probably the least unusual point compared to the rest of the statements made in the description.

What I want to know is, how did the catbus hold up in the New York snow and rain? ;)

Posted at 11:21 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Fullerton and Long Beach Dave Brubeck Quartet recordings and “These Foolish Things”

In 1958, Columbia Records released Jazz Goes to Junior College, the last of the Dave Brubeck Quartet‘s live “college” albums (and the second from Columbia). It featured recordings from Fullerton Junior College and Long Beach Junior College (both in Southern California) in 1957, with Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Joe Morello (drums) and Norm Bates (bass).

The “college” series:

For some reason, Jazz Goes to Junior College has never been released on CD. I have waited for this CD for years, and judging by comments on Amazon and on AllMusic.com, I’m not the only one wondering why it’s not available.

I am a huge fan of the album — the rendition of “These Foolish Things” (one of my favorite standards) is fantastic (I definitely prefer the one on Junior College compared to Oberlin). (Another of my all-time favorite renditions of the song is on Chet Baker‘s The Italian Sessions from 1962.)

A few months ago, I found a video of the 1959 quartet (Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Eugene Wright) performing “These Foolish Things” at the University of Rome. It has a somewhat similar feel to the arrangement on Junior College but is unique in its own right, and — as the notes from YouTube user ilbofilms say — there’s a really interesting bass solo from Wright. (Remember, Wright didn’t play on Junior College — Norm Bates was on bass.) I’d love to have it as a separate recording. [Update, August 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the YT link no longer works...I found the same video from user pedrohmarques.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Posted at 12:14 am | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Stopping in to say hi

Hi folks,

How are things?  I know it’s been a while — hope you are all doing well.  Thanks to the dozen of you folks who are still subscribed to the blog feed (you know who you are). I’m still here and will be back with some new posts shortly.

Posted at 9:03 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

WordPress 2.2 released

After playing with WordPress 2.1 a little, I decided not to upgrade the rest of the blogs I manage, but wait until the next major release…and now it’s here. I will likely try WordPress 2.2 soon and see how the changes (including over 200 bug fixes) work out. I’m hopeful.

Posted at 6:17 am | Filed under WordPress |