Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not the Po or Tiber

WARNING: If you are not a Doctor Who fan, you will not understand any of this.
Also, if you are a Doctor Who fan with no idea of who either River Song or Romana is, you will not understand any of this.

Disclaimer: this post will be edited continuously as I gather more info and musings.  I am a comparatively new Whovian and I don't know a whole lot, so forgive my naïveté.

I've seen many ridiculous theories on the identity of River Song, such as "She's Jenny!" or "She's Amy Pond!" or whatever else nonsense people can think of.

My guess: Romana.

Why isn't it Jenny?
Jenny is the Doctor's daughter, generated from a piece of his DNA (against his will).  She has no idea who or what she is, she just knows the Doctor is her "father" (by a lucky coincidence, Georgia Moffett is the daughter of the Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor), a lot about combat and gymnastics, how to walk and talk, and how to seduce (isn't that how they got out of the jail cell?)

Why would a daughter call her own father "sweetie" or "my love" and speak as if they were equals?  It just makes no sense.  Don't even dare bring up incest as an argument.
I think most people already get the hint that River is the Doctor's wife from the future.  This has basically been confirmed in the scripts and by Moffat himself.  It is quite obvious that their relationship is markedly different from a father-daughter relationship.  I have no idea why people keep insisting it's Jenny. Sheesh people, think!

Why isn't it Amy Pond?
Because Amy Pond's already married and she's a completely different person.  She and River Song have basically nothing in common, even superficially.  I wouldn't call her hair "red" or her accent "Inverness Scottish."  This is a bit weaker as a counter-argument, but I just don't think it's her.  The connection of "Pond" and "River" as bodies of water has already been dismissed by Moffat.

Why isn't it the Master?
Regenerations aren't known to be gender-switching processes.  It may be a black swan, though.  In any case, I don't think such an intense rivalry could turn into romance. 

Why do people think it's not Romana?
They cite various reasons like
1) Time Lords can sense each others' presence
2) Romana and River are two very different people
3) Romana was locked away with all the other Gallifreyans in the Great Time War
4) River doesn't regenerate in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

My counter-arguments
1) There have been many instances when the Doctor didn't recognize other Time Lords (I can't think of one right now, but I remember making note of that fact).  Also, what about the Chameleon Arch?  What if she wanted to disguise herself to prevent "spoilers," which is something she presumably knows that the Doctor hates?
2) Who's to say that Romana didn't regenerate and become a new person?  Of course personalities can change with regenerations, in fact, it is known that she became a radically different person when she was Lord President of Gallifrey.
3) No one ever knows what happened to her before the end of the Time War.  It is known that she was replaced by Rassilon as Lord President.  Maybe she regenerated again and this time decided that the Time War was a lost cause and went off as a renegade Time Lady looking for the Doctor again?
4) Well duh... we all know that a Time Lord/Lady can die if killed too fast (cf. Turn Left) without given a chance to regenerate.  Also, how do we know River Song isn't Romana's 13th incarnation?  The Time War went on for all the Time Lords incarnation after incarnation after incarnation.

Arguments for Romana (in addition to the arguments above)

My arguments do not stand separately, but must be considered as a whole.
1) River is exceptional.  She knows a lot about many things scientific, historically, even bestially, just like the Doctor, and perhaps like other Time Lords.  I'd even venture to say that she knows more than Harkness.
2) Both Romana and River Song know how to pilot a TARDIS better than the Doctor (see 4th Doctor and 11th Doctor episodes)
3) Romana and the Doctor were really close; she is one of only two Gallifreyans to have been a companion (the other being the Doctor's granddaughter Susan)
4) Romana and River both like bugging the Doctor in small ways.  I think...
5) Face of Boe said the Doctor's not alone.  What if he wasn't just referring to the Master?

The title is yet another pun.
If you didn't get it,
Romana + River = Roman River (two notable Roman rivers: Po and Tiber)

Friday, October 8, 2010

All the lonely people - where do they all belong?

Salvete, omnes!

It's been an awfully long time since I've last posted (if you consider over a month an awfully long time.......... long is a relative term...) but here I am!

As many people know, I've been at college since the middle of September. I must say, it is one awesome experience. Overall, Northwestern's not as bad as Stanton; the workload's not as bad, and my classes (mine, strictly speaking) don't start until 11 AM (M-Th) or 12 PM (F). My teachers are pretty cool, especially my chemistry professor and math professor (compare the two! Such a difference in style!). My TAs are cool too.

Enough about college. That's not the purpose of this post.

It's no surprise to people that listening to music is my drug. OK, so what?

I went to a different dorm last night (CCI for the NU-literate) to play piano, because, for once, my workload was minimal. I started playing and I realized how much I enjoyed just playing and making music, despite the fact that the music was not quite Stravinsky, Mahler, or Shostakovich. I fell into a sort of a drowsy state of "just keep playing and listen."

I realized today that there is something better than listening to music. It's making music and listening to the music you make, assuming that the music you make is bearable to listen to. (How bearable something is is completely left to the audience).

Listening to music is good enough to improve my mood significantly. Listening and taking pride in the music I make is something that's better. I've thus found that despite the fact that I like playing for other people, I like playing for myself. There's no one else to judge but myself, and I am a lazy judge. If it sounds good enough that I like it, I'm happy. Music + pride! Is there anything better?

That was no rhetorical question. The answer is, quite simply and emphatically, YES.

After coming to the realization that I liked making music simply for the sake of making music to listen to, I thought about when I really liked making music. I did not have to think long, because the answer facepalmed me rather quickly.

I used to think I was most happy when I was listening to music. I am now inclined to think that I am most happy when I am MAKING music with OTHER PEOPLE.

Stipulations! The "other people" have to be friendly and competent. Otherwise we'd all get pissy and sound like crap. And I'll have a massive headache, which is not good food for happiness. And no one likes pissy people. Especially me.

The more the merrier! One of the things that kept me really sane (but ate away at my time) was playing for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra. If you play an instrument and live in the Greater Jacksonville area, I highly recommend joining this organization, unless you simply don't have the time nor the money. I think my pleasure was apparent in the way I bounced around in my seat as I played (unintentionally!), much to the amusement of my colleagues, who are, I should add, friendly and competent.

It therefore made sense to me why I wanted, more than anything else, to join the NU Philharmonia, with or without private violin lessons. So far, I'm enjoying it a lot too, though not as much as I enjoyed JSYO, because no one really knows each other in the orchestra and there are no breaks in rehearsals to socialize. At least everyone's competent; but I suppose friendliness doesn't matter as much when you're in a huge ensemble.

Of course, I like making music with any number of other people, be it 1 or 80. Making music with one other person is awesome, as my experiences with friends have shown (e.g. Alan, Kim, David, Evan, Brad, teachers, etc.). Making music in small groups of 3 (as I have done for Bartók's Contrasts with John Henry and Nick!), 4 (string quartets with Anna, Peter, and Victor!), or even 6 (Brahms Sextet No. 1 with Rachel, Peter, Leah, Sunny, and Chris!) is pleasant too!

In ensembles, members or sections all interact with each other in many ways, constantly. We support and lead each other, sometimes both at the same time. Harmonies support the melodies, melodies give harmonies something to support and they are the most prominent elements in music. Instrument timbres color both the harmonies and melodies in different ways, depending on how the composer/orchestrator/arranger does it (see my previous post on cooking and orchestration). And when I'm not playing, I can enjoy the music made by others, until the time comes for me to contribute my skills to the overall texture of sometimes-structured aural stimulation.

It's best when we just make music just for fun, with or without instruments. There's no pressure to do well, no deadline to meet, just music and happiness. We can laugh at mistakes and carry on madly with no care in the world of how we might sound to a discerning audience or a critiquing judge. It's even better when you and a friend or friends sing individual lines at the top of your lungs (someone has to do that with me for Mahler or Shostakovich. Seriously! ANYONE?!) just for the hell of it.

All the lonely people belong in groups, where they can feed from each other's talents, skills, and perspectives. The Beatles were a group, and so were the instrumentalists for that song: a double string quartet. Their harmonies, timbres, and ideas mixed to become one of my favorite Beatle songs of all time: Eleanor Rigby.

Cheesy end? I think so. Bah, who cares?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bah, orchestration, cooking, what's the difference?

When I was a little kid, in the late 90s, I was fascinated with cooking.  Call me weird, but I used to like watching cooking shows.  For me, it was magical, how little bits of this and that can be combined with larger bits of this and that to form an integral product that was purposefully pleasing to the palate.  [Do I get an awesome award for an astoundingly amazing aptitude in alliteration?]

Fast-forward to 2005.  Thanks to an amazing friend, I became obsessed with orchestras, and subsequently became fascinated with orchestration.  Call me weird, but I really really enjoy studying scores.  For me, it's magical how little bits of this instrument and that can be combined with larger bits of this ensemble and that to form an integral product that was exceedingly enjoyable to the ears. [OK, so alliteration didn't work out too well, this time]

Realizing these two facts (did anyone else notice the parallelism between the two paragraphs above?), I noticed just how similar orchestration and cooking really were.

Think about it! It makes perfect sense!

Eating is something we (well, most of us) experience every day.  We may enjoy many different kinds of food, from quick and easy fast food to the more expensive but ultimately rewarding haute cuisine.  If we take a look at haute cuisine, we see that there are many different styles and tastes; some dishes may even have a delightful mix of different tastes.  These fantastic flavors are created with a smorgasbord of ingredients; the right amounts in the right conditions at the right time.  Of course, cooking takes a lot of practice.  One cannot simply pick up cooking and expect their dishes to be the best (unless you're a genius).  Food connoisseurs with some knowledge and understanding of how cooking works might be able to create such delicious dishes, but knowledge and understanding of how cooking works only go so far.  While you might be able to identify the ingredients used, you may not know how to use them, how much to use, when to use them, etc.  For example, how much water are you going to add?  How much cornstarch?  How many spices?  Are you sure you got the ingredients right (MSG or salt?)?  What temperature should the water be?  How long will you keep the flame burning?  High heat or low heat?  How long should you let it simmer?  If you simply toss all the ingredients together and "flame on!", it's going to be the same as nuking a dish.  With a nuke.  Or at least, that's my understanding of it.


Music is something we (well, most of us) listen to every day.  We may enjoy many different genres of music, from quick and accessible pop music to the more complex but ultimately rewarding classical music.  If we take a look at classical music, we see that there are many different styles; some pieces may be written for solo instruments, others for larger ensembles like orchestras, eliciting many tonal colo(u)rs.  These terrific tonal colors are created with a smorgasbord of instruments; suitable ones in suitable conditions at suitable rhythms.  Of course, orchestration takes a lot of practice.  One cannot simply pick up music and expect their creations to be the best (unless you're a genius.)  Music connoisseurs with some knowledge and understanding of how music and orchestration work might be able to create wonderful orchestrations, but knowledge and understanding of music and orchestration only go so far.  While you might be able to identify the instruments used, you may not know how to use them, how much to use them, when to use them, etc.  For example, how many oboes will you have in unison?  How many violins to compliment?  How many brass instruments?  Are you sure you got the instrumentation right (bassoon or sax?)?  What tempo should the piece be, practically?  How much passage-work will you give?  To what instruments?  When do you switch instruments in good klangfarbenmelodie?  If you simply make all instruments play the same notes altogether, it's going to be the same as blasting the same notes on many speakers.  With General MIDI.  Or at least, that's my understanding of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

America's got what?

Well, America has a lot of things, including...
  • People
  • More people
  • Lots of peop--... oh wait... this isn't India or China...
  • Different kinds of people
  • All sorts of people
  • Baseball
  • Constitution
  • Jazz
  • Lady Gaga
  • Southern accents
  • Mountains. Lots of 'em. And large lakes.
  • Melting pot... yes that includes the fondue restaurant
  • Travesty of a republican democracy
  • Fast food, e.g. McDonald's
  • Stupidity, ignorance
    • Fundamentalism
      • Westboro Baptist Church
  • New York Times Bestsellers (all books nowadays seem to claim a spot on the list... which is truly the BEST-selling??)
  • Apple, Microsoft, Intel, nVidia, etc.
    • Silicon Valley
  • Advanced medical technologies and greedy insurance companies
  • Weapons
    • Missiles, tanks, nukes
      • Lots of them
  • Backwards policies regarding many things
  • Lots of internet
    • That includes internet marketing
      • eBay, Amazon
  • Talent
Oh yes, there's PLENTY of talent in America.  As a competitor in many music competitions, I can say for certain that there is plenty of brilliant talent in the state of Florida alone, and many people will realize that even the best of Florida are fish in the water up in the Northeast.

I won't pretend to be among the best of Florida, because that's
  1. Certainly false, no matter what people say (this would also explain why I haven't won much of anything in the last 5 years in state competitions)
  2. Unfair to the truly brilliant ones (cough Alan Clark cough)
  3. Extremely egotistical, pretentious, narcissistic, untruthful, etc.
 Concerning point number 3: people who possess such qualities get on my nerves. A lot.

Anyway, a friend (we'll call him Paulo) showed me something from the incredibly popular "America's Got Talent," certainly a most entertaining and exciting show.  It claims to showcase America's best talents in a competitive popular panel-influenced jury-elimination style format.

That's good and all... until I saw what he showed me:

First thoughts: Maestro? He called himself maestro? Dang, he must be something else...

So I gave it a listen..

After I finished the video, I sat there going like... ho-hum

The playing was nice, but it was nothing special.  It appears some YouTubers agree: "he's adept but not great."  In fact, if anything, his tone is stiff and harsh.

Maestro's not a title fitting for him. For one thing, he's not even a conductor.

The piece itself was pretty bad.  I don't know who composed it, but whoever did must've had a bad day or something, because it's a pretty bad piece!

But he made it on the show, apparently!

So this guy's been playing for 12 years, practicing 6-8 hours a day.  He's pretty untalented if this is what he produced: a half-assed rendition of Chopin's Black Key Etude....

Alright, well if this is the talent America's "got" (doesn't this blatant violation of grammar rules bother ANYONE ELSE?!), then America is probably unaware of much of its population.

But let's see what the judges say.

Oh Sharon Osbourne... X'ed him because she thought it was boring.  What the fsck. Seriously? What kind of a judge does that out of boredom? With no regard to what they're actually judging?! The other judge was right: this is a talent show, you should be judging based on talent...

Then again... he also said he was one of the best talents on the show... that didn't go so well with me

I could name a helluva lot more talented musicians than you can barely lay a Bui finger on.  This kid's got the populace fooled.  And what's worse... he moved on.

People seem to be too easily convinced... a little flashy display of skill is enough to convince a lot of people that someone's "got" talent.  Why is this?  It seems it's because many people don't know enough about classical music to be able to judge for themselves who's good and who's mediocre, which "Maestro" (that title really sickens me) Bui is.

At least he's not all arrogant about it... but it sickens me to think that such a show that claims to showcase America's best talent would promote someone who is clearly a non-talent.

Of course, no offense is meant to Bui, but the show itself is flawed.  What other classical musicians with notable talent can Bui be pitted against, after all?  Perhaps that's why he went on AGT... the lack of competition makes it easy to shine.

But that's just the easy way out.

Now I know, some of you might accuse me of being elitist, because I have been in music competitions or whatever else silly reason.  I can tell you right now that if you want an example of true talent, you needn't look any farther than your own state.  There are truly amazing musicians everywhere.  Just look at who's winning the REAL competitions.  Oh yes, I can name some off the top of my head right now, from all around the country, even if the list includes people I don't like, I can and will list their names.

Alas... this is, after all, a populist show.  If the populace is so easily fooled, then they will be fooled.  As long as classical music is still assigned such a status of "BORING MUSIC" or "STUPID" or "TOO SERIOUS," then public awareness of what is truly amazing will only continue to decline rapidly.

As a populist show, it's not going to have any prestige.  Bui shouldn't expect any major orchestras to contact him any time soon.

Yes, America's Got Talent, but it's not necessarily exemplified well in the content of the show of the same name.

I apologize if this seemed too rude/brusque/caustic/long/haranguey/whatever.  I'll try not to be so bitter next time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's about as repetitive as you can get

For some people, July 22 is a day to be celebrated!

But why's that, James? What's so special about July 22? Uh... let's see... it's the seventh month, 22nd day, 7-22, it's a Thursday... there's nothing spectacular...

No no no, think of the INTERNATIONAL date system.

Well, I don't know how the rest of the world does it, but in America, I usually take my date to--

URGGGGHHHH YOU IDIOT.  In America, we put the month first, then the day, e.g. 7/22; in other places, such as Europe, it's the other way around, i.e. 22/7 (notice, if you will, the correct usage of e.g. and i.e.), which is--

OH I KNOW! That's pi!

Well... not exactly... it's a [bad] approximation of pi.  Let's compare actual pi to the approximation (or at least what I remember of the actual pi)

A quick study of the second number, generated by 22/7, will show that it is a repeating decimal, repeating 142857 over and over and over and over and...

Notice, however, I said that this is a day to be celebrated by some people, i.e. math-appreciating people/nerds.  I celebrate it merely because it's cool. (OK, OK, it's cool in MY opinion).  I don't like 22/7 as an approximation of pi, though, but to this day, it remains a simple approximation useful in quick and dirty simple calculations involving the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter... in fractions.  The reason I don't like it is because it is just a repeating decimal, taking advantage of the fact that anything over 7 would produce 142857 or any rotation of that repeating decimal (142857, 428571, 285714, 857142, etc.)

I guess it's also the only Pi Day available in Europe.  March 14 (14/3) wouldn't be exactly right...

Let's now look forward to the REAL PI DAY, 3/14/15.  Hopefully, I'm still alive and well.

What was that all about?

I thank everyone who took the time to read my first post and complimented it.  I thought that would be the best way to introduce myself to the blogging world.  It included many aspects of myself and my interests in the whole thing, from linguistics to technology, from science to music, from mythology to Latin.  I felt that I was sort of inspired, so to speak, by Douglas Adams, the author of the famous The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it) and its sequels (except the 6th book).

I regret to inform all who enjoyed the first post that my future posts will not necessarily be like that, though I might make another similar to it, if I feel like it. It's arbitrary. Totally arbitrary.  (I will sorely miss having Mr. Doherty as my calc teacher)

This blog's purpose is hitherto not set in stone, but I suppose it will be a sort of repository where I can set down my thoughts and feelings and share them to whomever cares, which, at the moment, appears to be about 3 or 4 people.  Quidquid.

This week:
  • StarCraft II comes out.  I have been playing the beta and it is SOOOOO good.  I wish I could actually buy it, though.  Blizzard seems to have shut down the beta and here I am, stuck with a defunct copy that can't do anything at all, not even view my own replays.
  • I've been rehearsing in a miniature ensemble for a musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  It is played, sung, acted, danced, produced, etc. by teens, but it is amazing.  The quality is astounding and virtually professional.  I highly recommend attending one of the many performances we'll be having this summer.
  • I am not going to the National Junior Classical League Convention next week in Fargo, ND.  All over Facebook, I see people with statuses about the convention (especially Henry Schott's and Amber Houston's).  Everytime (that should be a word. I'm making it a word now) I see their statuses, I instantly feel like I'm about to cry.  Nationals had been extremely fun the last two times I went, and the thought that my last chance to participate in Nationals as a JCLer is gone is crushing.
Not such a great week thus far, but I think things will be looking up really soon.  I'm on my way to college and am looking forward to it!!

Well, this seems to have been a pretty lame blog post.  I will be taking suggestions on what to rant about for the next 239581 years.  Meanwhile, I'll be thinking of something...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Arbitrary Musing the First

On July 21, 2010, Arbitrary Musing, unknowingly "the First" but nevertheless dubbed thus, was born.

Arbitrary Musing was born of two parents, of course, as most creatures were, in a very unlikely event that occurred "somewhere between gastrulation and meiosis II," according to a biologist from the University of Flibbertigibbet.

His father was Arbitror A. Arbitratus, and his mother was one of the nine muses. No one knows which because they all look the same anyway. Or at least that's what Zeus claims. It didn't save him from a fate of a night on the couch as decreed by Hera, though.

No one knows how the two met, but when they did, the craziest of things began to happen, including the inexplicable process of the birth of Arbitrary Musing. Many historians and biologists have teamed up to formulate an explanation, but all have failed and they resorted to enlisting the help of mathematicians and physicians. They all said the same thing, uncannily verbatim: "figuring that out would be like figuring out the Grand Unified Theory of the Universe." In they end, they all gave up, had a few drinks, composed Vogon poetry, and conceived a ridiculous idea called "the Matrix," which all but the mathematicians considered a bad joke.

The union of Arbitror and the muse was recorded but mistranslated as "Random Music," since the translation of Xhosa into Srpski was a field in its infancy at the time. It inspired a new musicological field, starting with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, going on through Schoenberg's twelve-tone serialism, culminating in the Darmstadt school of avant-garde music, and concluding with John Cage's nonsense, although it is rumored that figures like Pierre Boulez have kept it alive underground. "That music had a chance to find an audience, and it failed," said a well-respected composition professor.

Anyway, I digress.

We all know where the muses came from; Mnemosyne and Zeus. Arbitror came from the land of Protoindoeuropa, from the Italic village of Latin. He hailed from a very old family, and his "deponent" status would attest to that fact.

No one knows how they met. Everyone just figured they bumped together in a statistically perfect "random" event, clashing with Einstein's famous God's dice quote. Poor Einstein. He beat himself up so much he had to be confined to a wheelchair and changed his name to Stephen Hawking.

Arbitror and his wife decided to name their child "Musa Arbitrans," but decided to come up with a more "modern name" (Protoindoeuropa had fallen by that time and the villages had become independent city-states, one of which was huge: the Germanic city-state English), and thus, when their son was born, they named him "Arbitrary Musing"

What now? Who knows? As a very very well-respected calculus teacher said, repeatedly, to great effect, "it's arbitrary."