This Day In History: 09/18

Tuesday, September 18, 2001
I just received a list of 125 selected works that I need to know for a Master's level listening exam at the end of the semester. Twenty-eight will be played, and I need to identify fourteen to pass. Looks like it's time to start checking out CDs and beefing up my MP3 collection...

My draft idea for compositional pedagogy has been added to the Writings page now (under Music Research). Minor portions of this outline were mixed into the new grant proposal submitted by Dr. Wingate for the electroacoustical music center.

"Remember that we are teachers, so we show, and we are lecturers, so we pile upon. It sounds like a football game. Can you imagine Bobby Bowden teaching music theory? That would be a kick." - professor, on the etymology of various terms

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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Comcast has an innovative strategy for customer support now. When you finally get through to a customer service rep, they take your number and promise to call back within the hour because of high call load, and then they never do. I got overcharged on my cable modem bill, which was to be expected considering how much hassling it took to activate it in the first place.

"Leave these people in their little studio for long enough and they'll mess something up -- they crank out enough music. Why can't they be like Webern and just write a few little tunes?" - professor on theory in composers' works

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Thursday, September 18, 2003

The amount of traffic reduced by people being scared of Hurricane Isabel is directly negated when some clown in the Department of Transportation decides to repave two lanes of Route 28 during rush hour.

I watched the movie, Identity, last weekend. It was pretty good although the plot was easy to figure out early on. John Cusack is not annoying in it, the way he is in most films.

Man Buys Groceries With Fake $200 Bill
Talk Like a Pirate Day
The hazards of Justin Timberlake

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Composing Redux

The last hardcore composition I wrote was my Master's thesis, an obviously light-hearted fifteen minutes of bombasticism finished in January 2003. The last composing I did at all was a brass quintet commission of God Bless America in November 2003. Since then, all I've done are a few middle school transcriptions and the occasional preservation of a catchy germ in my head (so I have date stamped proof when some television clown steals my melody, after which I will sue them and live the remainder of my life in luxury on a houseboat on the Potomac).

After almost three years away from the keyboard, I decided this weekend to start composing again. This is a daunting task on a good day, but it's more ominous for me because of the way I go about it. Many people can compose in their head, recording their music to paper at sporadic moments whenever genius should strike them. For me, composing is work -- a very rewarding work, but work nonetheless. If I am composing, I have to put in some time every single day to doodle on the keyboard or write down a few bars of a melody until I have a direction. I will put out several cubic tons of garbage during that time, and a few unpolished fragments that just might end up being worthwhile if I chip away at them some more. I have to devote this time to writing soon-to-be-discarded crap or the good stuff will never appear.

Composing is just like writing a story in another language. Even if you have a superb grasp of the English language, that doesn't mean you automatically get the spark of inspiration as well -- there will be long bouts of writers' block or false starts and meandering plots which may not end up in the final product, but are critical to the organic growth of the idea. At the moment, I'm just content to recording silly little melodies and relearning the ins and outs of Finale. Maybe in a few weeks I'll have enough dross to weed through and I'll actually start writing a piece.

What will I write? Probably music that your average listener can connect to, and nothing that you would hear on an avant-garde "Student Composer" concert (and not just because I don't know any solo flutists). I'll probably write some jazz charts because I enjoy jazz counterpoint and voicing solis, and I'd like to write some fanfares because they say what they have to say and then shut up. I would still like to write a rock or pop chart someday, as long as I don't have to do the lyrics myself, since all my lyrics tend to come out as the trite sister to emo. Got any lyrics? Maybe we can be a joint collaboration like Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Usher and Lil Jon.

Does today's graphic make you dizzy when you stare at it? Then my work here is done.

Happy Birthday Tom Harrison!

Fish kills spear-fishing diver
Ants hate smelly people
The plot thickens...

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm Back Day

I'm back from my week at the beach, three tones darker (burnt umber instead of yellow) and five pounds heavier. Among the major events that occurred in my absence:

  • The Hokies lost by eight million points.

  • I received my Passport.

  • Kathy and Chris got hooked on Six Feet Under.

  • My Dad reseeded my lawn.

  • I turned 28.

  • Fall arrived in Sterling at roughly the same time the Herndon day labourers were kicked out of their work center -- this obviously means that illegal immigrants can also be blamed for plummeting temperatures (as well as the standard decrease in property values and increase in STDs.
  • While I occupy myself with going back to work, catching up on other peoples' blogs, and answering Mike's tag, enjoy my vacation slides !

    Happy Birthday Tom!

    Monkey loves Pigeon
    Madonna declares herself the ambassador of Judaism
    Toesucker charged with Robbery

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    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Capsule Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    No Country For Old Men:
    It might just be that I am an uncultured swine, but I felt like this movie was greatly overhyped (I also wasn't a big fan of O Brother Where Art Thou?, another Coen Brothers film). The movie started out well, a good mix of artsiness and suspense, but it goes downhill in the second hour. I think the defining moment of the film for me was the point where a critical event in the plot happens... offscreen. The remainder of the movie just seems to meander towards an unresolved conclusion.
    Final Grade: B-

    Dexter, Season Two:
    I watched this season of Dexter in about two days, and was surprised that the quality had slipped so little from the first season. The plot is still very compelling, and the actor's all give top-notch performances. There were only two things wrong with the season: the introduction of a love triangle, which generally ends up being more annoying than intriguing in ANY story, and the humanization of Dexter. Part of the fun in watching season one was Dexter's complete inability to relate to anything remotely normal, and in season two, his character seems to be a nice guy who just happens to be a serial killer.
    Final Grade: B+

    Logitech MX620 Cordless Laser Mouse:
    My last mouse was a wireless Microsoft Intellimouse which had a wonderfully ergonomic shape but a horrible mouse wheel. Over time, the wheel would get jammed up, but not from dirt or anything easily cleanable. The only fix was to drop the mouse on the desk until the wheel ran smoothly again, but this only worked for about a year before the wheel was permanently dead. My new Logitech mouse advertised the "fastest mouse wheel in the world", and it really is. The wheel spins freely and smoothly and it takes split seconds to traverse an entire multipage document. The high acceleration of the wheel takes a little getting used to (especially in gaming) but after two or three weeks of practice, I can't imagine using any old-fashioned mice again.
    Final Grade: A

    Ant from Mars emerges from anonymity
    Celery-eating paramedic suspended
    Stuck 'agent' tells of secret bomb mission

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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    now accepting micropayments

    ♠ Despite being sick for the first few days of the week, I had a successful thirtieth birthday and received good loot. My presents included, but were not limited to, the new Muse CD which I'm listening to as I type this, hardcover editions of the d'Aulaires mythology books, the new Mario & Luigi DS game (which I may have purchased for myself), and a Virginia-Tech-themed cornhole game from my sister.

    ♠ The cornhole game will go well with the VT umbrella and 8-foot inflatable Hokie Bird that my parents got me. Apparently, they all needed to remind me of which college I attended, since the memory is the second thing to go when you turn thirty.

    Update 2/18/2010: I've been getting mail from people asking about where to purchase the inflatable Hokie Bird. This specific one was bought at www.forevercollectibles.com -- however, they don't seem to list it on their site anymore. I'd check with them.

    ♠ I'm not sure when I'll have a special occasion to inflate the Hokie Bird, but we're currently planning on putting a Santa Hat on him for the winter (converting him into a holiday lawn ornament) and surrounding him with Virginia Tech lawn gnomes, of which I already own one.

    ♠ College merchandising has already invaded the most common day-to-day paraphernalia, like Hokie wines and UVa Enema Bags, but I think it's time to start being more creative with their outreach. Instead of buying a Hokie keychain, you should be able to buy an actual Hokie, who will come to your home between classes and make the bed, or show up in the Fall and take the SATs for you.

    ♠ I read an article in the Post the other day about a test trainer who takes every SAT test to determine how his company's ridiculously overpriced preparation materials should be tailored. The article mentioned that analogies have not been a part of the SAT for several years now. I had no idea that such an integral and easy to mock portion had been removed. It's like -- well maybe I could explain what it's like if kids today knew what an analogy was.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include steaks tonight, followed by a clandestine trip organized by my groomsmen with bacheloresque overtones, while Rebecca is off with a bunch of chicks eating cookies shaped like male genitalia. Next week will be my last week of work until Halloween week, so I'll probably be pretty busy. The quality of content here should not suffer, because I pride myself on being able to maintain consistency in mediocrity.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Four awkward moments in Facebook Likes
    Forest Service apologizes to Hispanic campers
    Green Bay roundabout proposal raises fears tipsy fans will fumble

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    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    Composing Spotlight: Labyrinth

    Movement VI. Abeyance

    Continuing the walkthrough of my Master's Thesis...

    It's all downhill from here. Everything through the fifth movement was the inexorable, but meandering churn up a roller coaster hill, and the remaining movements zip along to a conclusion. The sixth movement is the "SQUIRREL!" movement, where the protagonist who had gotten emo about his chances to solve the labyrinth is temporarily distracted by flighty, stutter-stepping melodic material.

    For the first time, the flutes get to do something more interesting than playing minor seconds together. Their melody banters with the soprano sax, and gradually gets more out of control and whirling dervish-ish. Each attempt to reinstate an existing melody winnows away to distraction, until the abeyance is shattered by the reappearance of the adversary's theme. This snaps the protagonist back in to focus for the final three movements.

      Listen to the sixth movement (2:18 MP3)

    Jump to Movement: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX

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    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Memory Day: Snapshots



    Digging a mean hole, May 1981.

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    Thursday, September 18, 2014

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Sons of Anarchy, Season One:
    This series about a gun-running motorcycle club is good but unrelentingly grim. It sometimes plays out like The Sopranos in a different context, and is heavy on violence and power plays with only muted comedy. The weakest part of the show are the "lessons learned" narrations read from a book at the end of almost every episode. Regardless, it's a promising start for a series, and the second season continues to improve. Free on Amazon Prime.

    Final Grade: B-

    The Racketeer by John Grisham:
    This book rigidly adheres to the Grisham template for law-related page-turners, but adds nothing new to the mix. If you're on a beach vacation, you will continue reading to see how it all turns out, but all of his books from the 20th century are much better.

    Final Grade: C-

    Sycamore Row: A Jake Brigance Novel by John Grisham:
    Although billed as a sequel to Grisham's first and most acclaimed book, A Time to Kill, it's less a sequel and more a new story that happens to be set in the same world. This one held my interest throughout and the characterizations felt much deeper -- however, that's probably a placebo effect from the fact that the characters are mostly familiar faces from a book I've read several times. It's one of his stronger books since The Brethren.

    Final Grade: B

    Live from Chicago by Hannibal Burress:
    There are definitely some funny jokes on this album, but the delivery occasionally needs some polish -- the hazards of taping a live album. I enjoyed it more the second time, when I could make out more words amidst the mumbling.

    Final Grade: B-

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    Friday, September 18, 2015

    Questions Day

    It's time for another Questions Day. Want to get a second opinion on something? Ask anything you want, be it about myself, the world, or something you don't understand. Need some recommendations? I'll answer all of your questions next Friday!

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    Monday, September 18, 2017

    Diaper Day

    Clear proof that these cloth diapers should be living under the sea.

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    Wednesday, September 18, 2019

    Poker Wrap-up

    This past weekend, we rented a sprawling manor in Clifton to celebrate my 40th birthday.

    We had a simple dinner of pizza followed by the BUrld Poker Championship, where 11 people competed for the chance to win while eating atomic wings and chocolate-covered bacon. With an odd number of players, I instituted a rule where I automatically made it into the Finals (happy birthday to me!)

    As is tradition, chocolate pie came out when 3 people were left in Finals.

    The next day, Rebecca and I spent a quiet day in Clifton, doing some hiking, reading, hot tubbing, and having dinner at the Main Street Pub.

    On Monday, we picked up Maia at the grandparents' house and took her home. She was excited about being back home, and even more excited that there was a birthday in the offing. She put party hats on most of her larger stuffed animals and then blew out my candles.

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    Friday, September 18, 2020

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    His Dark Materials, Season One:
    This is a solid adaptation of Book 1, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. (I enjoyed the first two books but thought that the 3rd was an imploded mess, not unlike the 3rd Hunger Games book). Great performances and decent CGI keep the story moving, and even Rebecca liked it. The only flaw in the structure of the story was introducing a character from Book 2 early on to get their scenes out of the way -- while it makes sense not to have to backtrack in the next season, nothing truly happened in any of that character's scenes.

    Final Grade: B

    Seven Mirrors by Drapht:
    A fine but forgettable Australian hip-hop album. Good hooks that fall apart if you listen more closely to them, like an entire song where the chorus is just "I'm feeling bad, bad, bad" repeated ad nauseum. Also, the trend of putting skits on hip-hop albums between songs needs to stop.

    Final Grade: B-

    Get Duked! (R):
    This movie is like Hunt for the Wilderpeople mashed up with Get Out and it's as awesome as that sounds. The needle stays strictly on the comedy side vs. horror, and the tone remains pleasant with plenty of bro-mance. A particular scene when an aspiring rapper stumbles across a small farming community is perfectly storyboarded. Free on Amazon Prime.

    Final Grade: A

    3%, Season Four:
    The final season of 3% ends the story well enough while giving most of the characters plenty of space for denouement. A few characters flip-flop just for the sake of plot, which is disappointing because earlier seasons did so well at avoiding this classic flaw that always happens in The 100. The final episode is way too long and feels a little tacked on, but the ending doesn't stray very far from the conceit of what came before. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: B-

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