This Day In History: 10/08

Monday, October 08, 2001

After almost a decade of putting up with defunct soundcard manufacturers and dubious wavetable synthesis solutions, I finally broke down and ordered a top-of-the-line Roland SC-8850 MIDI module, which should arrive sometime this week. I realize that MIDI is not the greatest solution in the world for music composition, but if you understand its limitations, it's an extremely powerful tool.

I'd talk about the latest air strikes on Afghanistan, but my uninformed opinion wouldn't contribute much. Head for CNN if you're interested in that sort of thing.

"I can't express how nice it is that sites that have nothing to do with the terrorist attack on America are finally stopping talking about it. It's immensely wearying to not be able to get away from the damn thing. We all know it's there, dammit. It doesn't need to be mentioned everywhere." - AJ the Canadian

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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

To break the monotony, I'm going to spend a few days doing a review/comparison of three major recordings of the musical, Les Miserables by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. I'll be looking at the Broadway Cast recording (B), the Complete Symphonic recording (C), and the Tenth Anniversary recording (T) only, since I haven't gotten around to buying the London Cast recording yet. If the mere thought of musicals makes your pores explode, you can come back on Sunday, as I should be finished by then.

I myself wasn't even remotely interested in musicals until about six years ago when a close friend listened to them tirelessly. As I've mentioned before, I'm more interested in those where the music is paramount, not those that are vehicles for divas and theatre folk. Boublil and Schonberg's work is interesting in this regard because all three of their musicals are through composed, with a bare minimum of spoken word. I think one of things that draws me to them is how they can manage appeal to such a disparate musical audience while maintaining artistic integrity. It's something that modern composers should consider, even if they dismiss musicals as commercial or nonserious art.

Everyone knows something about Les Miserables even if they haven't read the book or seen the musical. Songs like Castle on a Cloud have become part of yuppy-pop culture and Master of the House was even incorporated as a major subplot in an episode of Seinfeld. In high school, it was considered chic for all the strange theatre people to wear Les Mis T-shirts, with the waifish Cosette emblazoned on the back.

Over the next few days, I'll be doing a character by character comparison of the recordings and listing my favourites. Even if you aren't familiar with the music, it may be interesting to see how different singers treat (or mistreat) the lyrics. If any of the excerpts below whet your appetite, the recordings and various 'Selections From' CDs are available through all major online retailers or at your nearest Border's Books.

Jean Valjean: Most Les Mis fans seem adamant in their belief that Colm Wilkinson (B, T) was the definitive Jean Valjean, and he does give a maturity and weight to the role. Plus, he doesn't sound like a pansy while belting out the high notes. Gary Morris (C), is a country singer, and his roots can easily be felt in his interpretation. It's not that he's so bad, it's just that he's too American, too young sounding, and not vocally acrobatic. Of his two recordings, Wilkinson sounds better on the earlier Broadway recording, which sounds more like he was in his prime. It's interesting that I tend to prefer the British performances because their accent adds some authenticity, when the original musical was actually in French, and the story takes place in France. Perhaps British accents just have more culture than American ones.

    Colm Wilkinson, Broadway (MP3, 502KB)
    Gary Morris, Complete (MP3, 520KB)

The Bishop of Digne: This is a fairly minor role, but is important because of his impact on the life of Valjean. Ken Caswell (C) wins this one hands down. His performance is compassionate while being slightly haunting. Paul Monaghan (T) sounds too warbly, and the bishop on the Broadway recording sounds more like a bored university professor than a man of the cloth. I don't have the liner notes for the Broadway recording here, so I can't locate all of the minor actors' names.

    Bishop of Digne, Broadway (MP3, 409KB)
    Ken Caswell, Complete (MP3, 365KB)
    Paul Monaghan, Tenth Anniversary (MP3, 450KB)

Fantine: Randy Graff (B) epitomizes the things I hate about the excesses of singing. Listen to her warbling of Fantine's lyrics and chuckle at the overemphasis and tragic vibrato. Of the other two recordings, I'd have to chose Debbie Byrne (C) as my favourite. Her voice isn't as attractive as Ruthie Henshall (T) but it fits the character of the world-weary, dying character to a T. I like Ruthie's voice a lot, but she would be better in another less tragic role. I tend to like soprano voices that have distinct timbres like Ruthie's, because it's not just your run-of-the-mill high-note-swatter's.

    Randy Graff, Broadway (MP3, 776KB)
    Debbie Byrne, Complete (MP3, 527KB)
    Ruthie Henshall, Tenth Anniversary (MP3, 549KB)

Do you have any opinions of your own on Les Mis or musicals in general? Do you hate Les Mis Week more than you hated Computer Game Music Week? Let me know by sending me an e-mail with the icon in the upper right corner.

To be continued...

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Friday, October 08, 2004

This past Sunday, Anna took a bunch of us out to see Cirque du Soleil near RFK. All the artsy dancy stuff isn't really my thing, but it's a great show to watch even if you think it's retarded. The acrobatics were incredible, and the comedic bits were polished to a fine point. If I ever get tired of the computer world, I'll join Cirque du Soleil and be the guy who drives the remote controlled rabbit off the stage.

We were also watching at the same time RFK was evacuated of thousands of people at a marching band competition because of a bomb scare. They didn't evacuate us. I smell a conspiracy.

Yesterday's update roused the masses to revolt. Feel free to post your thoughts and rebuttals in the comments section for that news post (click on the yellow button to the lower right of it).

Lost is still a great show. It's nothing like Alias so watch it.

Chicken tricks man into castration
Millions of viewers get 'Lost'
Congratulations Chicago!!!
$40,000 mural misspells Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven other historical figures.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Columbus Day !

Updates will resume tomorrow.

Peacock fell in love with luxury car
I'm 73 years old, I know karate, I know judo, I know everything
Tired of Wet Backs?

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Engagement FAQ Day

Q: Dude... wait, what?

A: If you missed the news that we're engaged, you can read the whole story here!

Q: What if Rebecca had said no?

A: Obviously, that would have meant that someone wasn't getting any mini eclairs. I'm a vindictive bastard when crossed.

Q: Where did you get the diamond?

A: The diamond was secretly smuggled out of a war torn province known as Arkansas in some poor redneck's pooper. Marcel Tolkowsky, himself, was brought back to life to perfect the diamond's Ideal cut, and the Motion Picture Association of America was lobbied heavily for its G rating.

Q: Is the engagement ring insured?

A: My homeowner's insurance has been updated to cover all physical loss or destruction, except in the following circumstances:

So, as long as I keep Rebecca away from metal-eating termites, rodents of unusual size, brothels, suitcase nukes, and Darfur, the ring is insured. Also, if we DO end up within the blast radius of a nuclear detonation, she'll need to remove the ring and throw it in a wooden building so it is destroyed by the resultant fire and NOT the dirty blast.

Q: Where and when will the wedding be?

A: The wedding will be held on a one mile floating chunk of the Antarctic ice shelf to bring visibility to the global warming crisis (we will be something of a shelf-help group). After the reception, guests will be invited to set the ice floe on fire to accelerate the flooding of useless coastal locales like Florida. The date of the wedding will depend on the rate of global warming and the time it takes for another piece of the ice shelf to break.

Q: What sort of music are you considering for this event?

A: Ceremony music will be provided by Mike (of Mike and Chompy), who will be playing a single tenor steel drum. Music for the reception will be provided by a twenty-tuba ensemble led by Doobie, performing arrangements by BU. The first dance will be to a tuba arrangement of Low, by Flo Rida.

People love angry-faced cars
State outlaws fish pedicures
Larry Flynt makes Sarah Palin porno

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

The view from our private cabana, just before we had our beachside couples massage.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Flyday


We're taking a weekend trip to visit Chompsalottapuss!

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Columbus Day

Get off the Internet, go outside, and buy something for Mike's imminent birthday.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Music Tuesday

Sixteen years ago, the weekly performance by music majors was a pretty dull affair. I opened the afternoon with the third movement of the Kennan trumpet sonata, purely on its virtues of not being the first movement, which every other trumpeter in the world played. Not being destined for a trumpet performance degree, I only made it sixteen notes in before flubbing a note.

However, I feasted on the rhythms like a side of contrapuntal fries where other trumpeters just gave up and rebeamed all of the complex meters into 4/4 time. This was helped by the fact that I also transcribed the entire accompaniment into MIDI and spent hours in the practice room playing with a cassette tape (because I dislike people and also paying accompanists). If there ever comes a time where a master trumpet can be fashioned like Voltron, I'll gladly contribute the rhythmic engine of perfection.

    Hear me perform the Kennan, Mvt III (4 MB, MP3) Play along with the Kennan at home (21KB, MID)

Later on in the program, Jason Price gave one of his masterly renditions of a solo work that was the equivalent of a homeless man on the subway talking to himself -- these performances never did much for me, but the other trumpeters would spend hours afterwards discussing his awesomeness.

The hour closed with a saxophone sonata, which can can also be found in the dictionary under "perpetually unnecessary".

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken five years ago today, on October 8, 2009. We are on the porch of our giant room at an all-inclusive resort on the south shore of Kauai. It was only the day before that Rebecca had gotten me to the island doctor who intensified my prognosis from sore throat to strep throat, so I spent most of this day drugged with alternating doses of antibiotics and pain pills -- unable to taste any food or sample any all-inclusive beverages.

To while away the day, we reserved a private cabana on the beach and spent nearly the entire day in the shade. For lunch, Rebecca had a funny drink at the pool bar and some fish tacos, while I had some more drugs.

We did a couples massage in the afternoon which was pleasant, if a little weird. They set up a giant white Ebola tent right on the sidewalk to the beach, so we were isolated from prying eyes but still heard ambient walking all around us. And that night, we returned to one of the onsite restaurants for the most delicious ahi nacho platter of all time, other than the fact that nachos interact with strep throat like Wolverine's claws on a wall made of garden slugs.

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Pagans in Vegas by Metric:
The latest album from Metric is consistently good -- though nothing jumps out with the quirky idiosyncrasies of Grow Up and Blow Away, the songs are polished and employ electronica effectively without going overboard (unlike the Cardigan's Gran Turismo album). A representative song that I enjoy is Fortunes.

Final Grade: B+

Mad Max Fury Road (R):
This is a completely pointless movie in the "Tom Hardy has his mouth covered up so you have no idea what he's saying without turning subtitles on" genre. It's an art director's wet dream and does some effective world-building in between endless sequences of action, but unless you're in the mood for a two hour car chase, or are a Mad Max aficionado, you're not going to get anything out of watching.

Final Grade: C-

Dust by Hugh Howey:
The final book in the trilogy returns to the characters originally introduced in Book One, which makes the plot more empathic. The story has a few great reveals left up its sleeves, and the ending is satisfying, although one of the story threads seems to end very abruptly in order to give more space to the other. I'm not a fan of the tagline on the cover, which sounds like a Mitch Hedberg joke. "Every beginning has an end. That's a good place to stop!"

Final Grade: B+

The 40 Akerz Project by Nappy Roots:
The latest album from Nappy Roots is boringly forgettable. It sounds like most of their best voices have left the group, and the bulk of songs are just raps over mellow, repetitive loops. It also sounds like one of the members is a recent atheist, and you know this because he tells you about it every time he gets to insert a verse. Stick with Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz and the era of the rapping Waluigi.

Final Grade: D

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Maia Month #15 Battle Report

Maia is now 1 year 3 months old. Though not noticeably heavier, she's a little more gangly -- able to climb up onto unexpected surfaces or reach things on shelves. It's also clearly easier to transfer the car seat between cars and carry her out, rather than load her up in the car seat in the house and try to carry the whole mass together.

Maia has started standing in brief doses (first real attempt was on 9/24/18) and eats all sorts of solid foods in spite of having just 4 - 5 teeth. She will eat hummus for days, along with boiled carrots, egg and cheese, bananas, yogurts, lentils, and bits of restaurant meals. She takes one far-too-short nap that averages just under 2 hours each day, but also consents to lying in her crib for an eventual sound sleep from 9:30 PM to 9 PMish every night.

My life is cruising along at this point in Maia's life. Raising a baby is not unlike starting a campfire. Initially, you expend tons of energy getting the kindling just right and teasing the right amount of oxygen into place. You brave smoke inhalation to coax the fire into a sustainable roar and try not to add damp wood that will smoke or do anything to accidentally snuff the fire out. After it's burning steadily, you can add some firewood every so often and let it take care of itself.

In baby terms, you spend all of year one doing precise measurements of food, tracking the amounts of sleep or lack thereof, and overthink each potential dimension of what it will take to get your kid into a cheap state school in 18 years. After year one, you can toss a new log on the baby every so often and trust that it will continue thriving without overthinking things too much.

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Friday, October 08, 2021

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Spypoint Force-20 Trail Camera:
This is a great outdoor camera in the under $100 range. It's easy to set up, runs on 8 AA batteries, and records to a standard SD disk. The night vision works well and the motion sensor does a reasonable job of ignoring false positives.

Final Grade: B+

Bosch, Season Seven:
I was really frustrated by the "slice of life" style of the early seasons of Bosch, full of long, lingering reaction shots and scenes that didn't do much to propel the plot. It took four seasons before I really appreciated it. The seventh and final season wraps everything up nicely although the series is less about a huge culmination and more about hanging out with the characters for a little bit longer. Not the best season, but definitely not the worst (which was probably the one where Bosch tried to be Jack Bauer by infiltrating a pill mill by himself). Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Money Heist, Season Five, Part One:
The next drop of episodes in the second heist (Season 3 - 5) keeps you guessing and has some strong character moments and resolutions. However, it's held back by some overused flashbacks of characters I cared less about and way too many guns. It reminded me of the difference in tone of LOST when there was just 1 gun on the whole island and LOST when everyone had a semi-automatic rifle. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Off to the Races by Jukebox the Ghost:
An album of pleasant pop songs that starts strong and becomes more forgettable as it goes on. They share the same sound as several other groups in this area of music, but have some nice hooks. Just over 30 minutes long, which is a negative for me.

Final Grade: B-

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