03/2002

Friday, March 01, 2002

I need to work harder at keeping my reason for being here in perspective. Although I don't write any less than I did as an undergrad, I could be devoting so much more energy towards composition. The various tasks and procrastinations I take part in aren't bad or unproductive for the most part; I just need to make sure they don't overshadow the fact that I'm here to study composition. All the other activities should really be secondary, and could probably be done at any point in my life after school. An aspiring composer who doesn't devote one hundred percent to composing is like a theorist who doesn't theorize or a nutrition major who doesn't eat.

I suppose that part of the problem is just the open-ended nature of all music-related fields. Practicing and writing are essential for improvement, and need to be a daily regimen. Unlike more tangible fields, these activities can't be "saved for tomorrow" or crammed at the end of the week. A day missed can't just be made up the following day: every single day with a below average compositional effort is one less day available for writing in your lifetime. The fact that there is no rigid structure to this gives music majors the illusion of copious free time, which makes it easier to falsely justify extra pursuits.

I've always had a mindset capable of pursuing many different tangents at one time. Recognizing the danger of devoting too little time to composing will probably do little to change my current agendas, but I think it does help, at least mentally, to take notice of it.

To help me learn MIDI orchestration, I've been re-arranging classic game MIDIs for the SC-8850. Here's the "Ghosts" theme from Ultima VII as originally written, and re-orchestrated for only acoustical patches, with a touch of controller modifying. It still sounds a bit wooden, but I'm learning how to more accurately reproduce a variety of performance techniques.

    Original (MP3, 684KB)
    SC-8850 (MP3, 657KB)

This iteration of the URI! Domain has now been around for seven months and over two thousand four hundred visitors. It's even scarier to realize that the site has existed in some form for almost six full years now. The first three years had a visitor count in the thousands, but I was unable to keep statistics for two of the six years. Summing them up, that's a lot of people with nothing better to do...

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Saturday, March 02, 2002

I finally got around to watching the Final Fantasy movie this morning and it was definitely impressive. The story is a generic sci-fi plot that develops through the addition of plot-holes, and the music, though played by the London Symphony Orchestra, is fairly uninspired, but the visuals alone are worth the price of admission. Final Fantasy is the first movie to attempt computer-rendered humans, and the results are very lifelike and fluid.

One of the biggest problems with computer renderings is the suspension of disbelief from problems such as weight and the accurate representation of physics and particle effects. The movie does such a good job at its presentation that I often forgot I was watching a computer-animated movie. Several scenes were lifelike enough to have come from any big budget live action movie. If you have any interest at all in computer graphics or visual technology in general, you shouldn't miss this one.

I've never been a big fan of the Final Fantasy series of video games, although they've developed a massive following since their early days on the NES. I've always found the plots hackneyed with too much lost in the poor Japanese translation. Characters only ever emote their feelings with "Uhhh" and "Argh", and there's always a token black guy with a big gun yelling "Yo!".

"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing." - Ralph Richardson

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Sunday, March 03, 2002

There hasn't been a gratuitous picture of my cat in a while, so here's one to rectify that situation. This one was taken in September of 2000.

I ordered a few texts on design patterns and effective programming this weekend in preparation for my summer job. Now is about the time that I need to pull my computer science alter-ego out of mothballs so I'm current and ready to be a full-time programmer again. Luckily Java still seems to be the industry standard for large-scale designs so I don't have to learn a new language quite yet.

The first thunderstorm of the year rolled through yesterday and last night so it'll probably be shorts weather again pretty soon. The novelty of Tallahassee weather still hasn't grown old.

Mother falsified scores for 'boy genius' son

On Gaming and Substance Abuse:
"Kids, don't try this at home. Drugs and gaming don't mix, unless it's a six-pack of Jolt Cola. Then you'll play like a strung-out lab monkey. Beer is not a good idea either. Take this from someone who stayed up too late one night drinking beer and playing EverQuest. I woke up the next morning with my character dead and no idea where the corpse was. Doh!" - Gamespy's Mark Asher

On Computer Game Reviewers' Hygiene:
"This game has some pretty bad faults in home-life. A character usually requires a 30 minute shower ... per day which is not a realistic standard since many people shower every two days, and not for as long." - from Strategy Informer's review of an expansion pack for The Sims

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Monday, March 04, 2002

The first of three composition faculty candidates was at school today trying to convince people that he was right for the job. Emphasis seemed to be placed on his morning session teaching secondary dominants to freshmen, reinforcing the general consensus that composers are just retarded theorists who happen to write in their spare time. He seemed to be an amicable enough fellow despite his tendency to overexplain and not look people in the eyes, but I can't really judge his qualifications for the job from just a couple hours of contact.

First Ginger and now this... why don't people just stay home?

The cynic's approach to lyric poetry :
"The poet William Matthews (1942-1997), ... once offered ... what he called 'a short but comprehensive summary' of all the subjects for lyric poetry.

    1. I went out into the woods today and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.
    2. We're not getting any younger.
    3. It sure is cold and lonely (a) without you, honey, or (b) with you, honey.
    4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice versa, and in any case the coin is too soon spent and on we know not what.
    "

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Tuesday, March 05, 2002

One thing I really miss in modern popular music is the "satisfying ending". The rise of radio as a lucrative transmission medium brought about the extinction of most song endings. Radio stations try to limit or remove all dead air from their broadcasts, so most employ the practice of fading in a new song as the old one fades out. Fewer modern arrangers use endings at all now, since they'll most likely never be heard on the radio.

Songs that stop but don't end tend to fall into two major categories. The first type concludes on a neverending vamp which gradually fades into obscurity, as if the writers knew they had something catchy but couldn't figure out a clever way to end (think KISS and "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night"). The second type just picks a random spot and stops, most often on an unstable metric beat or at the end of an antecedent phrase, leaving the listener "hanging". These songs can hide behind "artistic expression" as their reason for a stupid ending.

Type one songs can (and often do) mutate into type two songs when the band is lucky enough to be popular and go on tour. Obviously when live, the band can't just fade out (although there are some band that probably should, permanently), so by necessity they just have to stop somewhere. My guess is that the lead singer chooses the stopping point for his own benefit, so he can shout that first line once more and look "cool".

Of course, there are tons of examples of music from the past fifty years that have solid endings, like much of the work by Kansas, Tower of Power, and Dave Matthews. Many of the more modern examples of endings tend to be by groups inspired in part by jazz and the big bands. It seems that groups with a stronger instrumental drive choose to end more than singers with backup bands.

I could be a theoretical musicologist, except they're probably not allowed to use the word 'stupid' in a thesis.

A story from the "Absurdity in Airport Security" file

Tourist: "How do I get to Natural Airport?"
DC Resident: "Excuse me, do you mean 'National Airport'?"
Tourist: "Uh, I thought it was 'Natural,' like it was just natural -- you know, they didn't have to build anything."

- recounted in Bob Levey's Washington

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Wednesday, March 06, 2002

The second composition candidate came today. I liked the orchestral piece he played in the afternoon, but wasn't too impressed with his morning teaching demonstration. He really just took the class through a step-by-step series of examples, presuming that the underlying concepts were already strong, and never actually explained any of the concepts he was supposed to teach. He also didn't seem to have very good classroom management skills, and his self-effacing manner hurt his presentation more than it helped it (in my opinion).

I finally got an e-mail from the SCI listserv which must mean I'm a member now. I registered back in November and the check finally cleared in January.

"I frequently compare a symphony or a sonata with a novel in which the themes are the characters. After we have made their acquaintance, we follow their evolution, the unfolding of their philosophy. Their individual features linger with us as if present. Some of these characters arouse feelings of sympathy, others repel us. They are set off against one another or they join hands; they marry or they fight." - Arthur Honegger

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Thursday, March 07, 2002

Dave McGarry has some new recordings up on his site, so check them out if you're interested . Army of Advisors and Tollway South are both well-done -- the rest are still in transit over my slow modem. It'd be nice if he could get a small group back together for some recording, as I still like a lot of his non-solo recordings the best. As for the remixes, Andy did a really great job with Back on the Ground, although the drums on 24 & 6 sound way too wooden and fake. I'm not sure I like the strings at the end either.

It's peculiar that all three composition faculty candidates are clustered right at the beginning of the alphabet. I hope the Search Committee wasn't using the Yellow Pages approach to picking finalists.

I was reading an FSU newspaper earlier that someone had left out on a bench, and wondered about the universality of bad student writers. Wherever you go, the student-run newspaper seems to be written by horrible Journalism majors who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag. Stories tend to be peppered with irrelevant quotations, trite observations, and a general lack of focus. Movie reviews tend to be the worst (even worse than sports columns). Every student movie reviewer tries to write like a hard-boiled movie hack and ends up with either a superficial analysis of nonexistant themes, or a third-grade book report. What happens to these students when they graduate? Do a significant number of them actually get jobs in the competitive market?

"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read." - Frank Zappa

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Friday, March 08, 2002

Since it's the last day of classes before Spring Break, everyone is out and about, driving off to their island paradises for the week. Most of the undergrads seem to have left yesterday, with the exception of music majors, who had to stick around for exams given by their heartless professors. Hopefully the fat-ass upstairs with the video game that requires jumping will be away all break too. You'd think that after his daily regimen of video-gaming (during my specified hours only, of course) he'd sound a little bit lighter by now.

I don't have any big plans for the week, although there's a lot of work I plan on getting ahead in. By the end of the week, I'd like to:

    1) Do my pedagogy presentation
    2) Make parts for Outlooks, I and II
    3) Get closer to finishing Movement III
    4) Complete the Ewazen MIDI accompaniments I started last semester
    5) Work ahead through a few Fugue assignments
    6) Do my Jazz History final project
    7) Start analysis for next month's pedagogy exam
    8) Add a page on DOOM to this site

Of course, I consider four of eight to be an unusually productive week, to take distractions into account. Depending on my mood, I may not update this News page everyday -- updates might end up being sporadic, erratic, or uninteresting.

"A woman accused of hitting a homeless man with her car, driving home with him lodged in her broken windshield and ignoring his pleas as he bled to death in her garage, is not the monster being portrayed by prosecutors, her attorney says." - from the "Lawyers who have their work cut out for them" file

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Saturday, March 09, 2002

Today, I did three fugue assignments, composed for three hours, practiced for two, read all the necessary form books, and finished up my web page section on DOOM (which will go up tomorrow). If every day were this productive I could get all my degrees by summertime.

I also had a bowl of Chunky Sirloin Burger soup (with vegetables) for lunch.

"In 1958, Cesare Siepi was playing the part of Don Giovanni in the Vienna State Opera. The script called for him to descend into Hell using a stagelift. So, Cesare said goodbye to the world, and stepped into the netherworld, but the lift got stuck halfway down, leaving his head and shoulders visible to the audience. Stage technicians brought the lift back up and tried to lower it again, but it got stuck a second time and was raised back to stage level. Cesare sang in Italian, 'Oh my God, how wonderful -- Hell is full!' " - recounted in Uncle John's 14th Bathroom Reader

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Sunday, March 10, 2002

While doing research for my Game Music Week last month, I stumbled across zDoom, an application which allows you to play the original Doom games in Windows with added 3D features . This makes the Doom games (which are all DOS dinosaurs) play at higher resolutions and seem like Quake or Unreal. So when not doing other things these past few weeks, I played through the "official" ninety-six levels of Doom 2. It's amazing that I can remember very little from a Combinatorics class taken two years ago, and yet I still have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the secret zones in the Doom levels. Playing zDoom inspired me to dig up the old deathmatch WADs I created in high school and write about them -- you can find this new section on the Games page.

This past week, I also played and beat Ultima VII Part 2 again, thanks to another helper application which allows both "Voodoo Memory"-based Ultima games to work great in Windows. I think it's still one of the best roleplaying games ever made. Sometime this summer I'm going to archive all my old games on a single hard drive with all the copy protection and DOS bypassers, just for nostalgia's sake. There's actually very few games that I didn't beat at one time or another, and most of those are from the past few years.

I finished the book Effective Java yesterday. Despite the pricey cover charge, it was a really good reference manual. The book is written by an architect who actually worked on much of the Java API, and covers elusive use topics not normally found in Java books. Most books teach you how to code in Java, or show how to use the API, but very few books actually discuss non-class specific implementations to any great amount, and this book fills that gap nicely. Next up is Design Patterns which cover designs and solutions for problems which aren't language-specific.

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Monday, March 11, 2002

My cable was finally fixed yesterday. Apparently, the Comcast technician who visited the complex two weeks ago unscrewed some connections, and when he reset everything he left mine hanging loose, just connected enough to get a weak signal. I hope they don't charge me for the tech visit -- all they had to do to fix it was rescrew the cable.

More MIDI fun... Here's the "Love: A Virtue" theme from Ultima VII as originally arranged, and then mixed for acoustical instruments on the SC-8850. Even without any musical knowledge, I think you'll hear a drastic difference in the quality of the recording. I especially like the flute patches on this billy. I'm having fun making up arrangements of these old soundtracks, even if I don't stray too far from the originals.

    Soundblaster Version (MP3, 370KB)
    SC-8850 Version (MP3, 388KB)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Yesterday I started breaking down examples for my pedagogy presentation and made parts for the first and second movements of my quartet. Composition is going well too, although the piece took a detour yesterday and ended up somewhere unexpected. So far it's resisted my attempts at getting to the ending I had in my head, so I'm just going to let it drive for awhile and see where it takes me. I'm hoping to finish the essence of this movement sometime this week.

Here's a funny commercial for Chun King Chow Mein from the 50s. This kind of Chinese mocking would never get by in today's climate (MP3, 942KB).

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Wednesday, March 13, 2002

The story at Cheney Daily finally ended yesterday and the site was immediately taken down. The registration for the site seems to be slated for the 23rd, and I guess the owner just got tired of updating. It's too bad it couldn't have ended a little better though. There was far too much left unresolved, and no sort of climax at all. Perhaps someday it will reappear as an archive somewhere for people who never got a chance to read it.

Tallahassee employs a Spanish moss picker. This morning, I saw him drive down the median in his sporty tractor, picking up dropped Spanish moss with a set of litter tongs. Of course, he left all the litter where it was.

Enough of the flute; it's time for drum patches now. Here's a MIDI excerpt from a theme of Doom ][ with the standard MIDI drum kit and then the "Power" kit of the SC-8850.

    Soundblaster Live! (MP3, 864KB)
    SC-8850 (MP3, 864KB)

LA pissed at Britney
Pop queen Britney Spears fled for cover after having urine thrown at her as she filmed a TV ad. The star was bombed with buckets of urine by angry neighbours as she sang on location in the early hours of the morning, according to the News of the World.

Residents staged their protest at around 4am in downtown Los Angeles, hurling bucket-loads at the 21-year-old singer as she performed in the street below. - recounted at Portal of Evil news

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Thursday, March 14, 2002

I'm almost done with my pedagogy presentation -- hopefully I'll be able to move on to something else by tomorrow. I'm also in the final tag of my third movement. I need to start thinking about what my next project will be for the remainder of this semester.

When I was in Blockbuster yesterday, I happened to realize that Jennifer Connelly of A Beautiful Mind was also the main character in Jim Henson's Labyrinth from the 80s. Huh.

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." - Mel Brooks

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Friday, March 15, 2002

This morning, Kathy, Mike, and I went out to Wakulla Springs for hiking and touring. There wasn't much happening on the nature trails, but it was a nice enough locale, and the bugs were at a minimum. After the hundreds of shouting third graders left the park, we also took the wildlife boat tour on the Wakulla River, which was chock full of assorted wildlife. I've posted pictures on the Photos page from the trip. There were a few more, but somehow they got corrupted between my camera and the computer.

I did in fact finish my pedagogy presentation handout late last night, so now I just need to proofread and print it for Wednesday. Next I'm going to start analyzing works for the next pedagogy exam and do my jazz history final project. I don't know if I'll actually finish my third movement by Monday, but I'm definitely going to try.

"Wow, A whole twenty-eight people in the study! This is the kind of in-depth study we need to see reported as news. Yay for ABC! When Family Feud samples more people than you, you know your study sucks." - Chet of Portal of Evil, on a recent driving study

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Saturday, March 16, 2002

I finished a very interesting autobiography of Henry Mancini today, Did They Ask about the Music?, which I stumbled across in the library a couple days ago. I'd recommend it if you have any interest in Mancini, arranging, or film scoring.

This week's Movie Night selection was Orange County. Although it wasn't particularly good, it was occasionally funny and harmless entertainment. Last week's movie, Curse of the Jade Scorpion was a little bit better, although I find it amusing how Woody Allen writes his scripts so he's always the hypoteneuse of some love triangle. I guess it's just as ridiculous as Clint Eastwood starring himself as a geriatric sex symbol in his movies.

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Sunday, March 17, 2002

Well, it's the last day of Spring Break, and there's now only twenty-five class days left in the semester. Course signup for next fall begins on Tuesday so I'd better start looking into what still needs taking. This week was pretty productive -- I completed five of the eight tasks I set out to do. When not working, I caught up on my list of unseen movies that people have recommended in the past. This included: Score, Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Reservoir Dogs, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, the last of which was especially good.

I think that my string quartet is finished now. Feel free to give a listen and e-mail me your comments.

    Outlooks I: The Cynics (MP3, 6:00, 5.6MB)
    Outlooks II: The Optimist (MP3, 4:38, 4.4MB)
    Outlooks III: The Freewheeler (MP3, 4:37, 4.4MB)

Here's a few links that have been building up on my News to-do list all week:

President continues to put foot in mouth
Gamespot: Melodies, Where Have You Gone? Part 2
The Fightin' Whites

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Monday, March 18, 2002

There was another good episode of Alias on last night -- it's a show that's gotten continually better as the season progresses. I'd have to say that it's even better than The X-Files was in its heyday. I watched that show fairly regularly in its middle seasons until it got stupid. Alias manages to be cheesily entertaining while having a smart, cohesive story .

I picked up a copy of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack this weekend while out and about. It has covers and originals from various songs in the movie, and there's some really interesting montages on it, if you can ignore the vocal stylings of Ewan "Belty" MacGregor.

The final composition faculty candidate came today, and he was easily the best teacher/theorist of the three. His music didn't really do much for me -- it was difficult notey music that sometimes seemed to derive itself from math and theory rather than inspiration. I brought in Loneliness for a mock lesson, as I did with the other two candidates, and his comments seemed to be in much the same vein as the others. I wish I had a cleaner recording of that piece. It's one of those recordings that means well, but could be a lot tighter around the edges.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Someone else reached this site after searching for "dancing squirrels" yesterday. I'm not sure which is more peculiar -- the fact that people are searching for dancing squirrels on the Internet, or the fact that this site ranks highly for that search.

It turns out that the grant for the electroacoustical music studio was denied, so there will not be a studio at FSU in the near future. Dr. Wingate says that he has no plans at the moment other than to carry on through the semester, but I have a feeling that he may seek greener pastures after his time is up. I'd no doubt do the same in his situation, though it's disappointing to lose a professor that I really work well with in lessons and tasks.

The problem with having an FSU mail account, besides the needlessly cryptic username and domain, is the large number of school-sponsored spam-lists they sign you up for. I got a foward this afternoon reminding me about Asian Awareness Month. Last time I checked I was still Asian, so I've done my part.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2002
    FGM on Winning Team for Defense IT Contract Worth $2 Billion
    DULLES, VIRGINIA - March 19, 2002: FGM, Inc. announced today that they are on a winning team for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) "Encore" procurement worth $2 billion over seven years. The nine contracts awarded are for information technology services, hardware, software, and enabling products to support areas including command and control, intelligence, mission support, and the DISA's Global Information Grid (GIG). FGM is part of the Northrop Grumman Information Technology Systems team that will provide worldwide support to the Department of Defense (DoD), other Federal agencies, state and local governments, and U.S. Allies through this contract..

That's where I work! Whee. In less heroic news, however:

    Missing 'Asteroids' champ found dead in California
    The world record holder for Atari's classic arcade game Asteroids was located by game record keeper Walter Day of Twin Galaxies after nearly 20 years of searching. Unfortunately, the Asteroids champion, Scott Safran of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, died in 1989 after falling off a roof during an attempt to save his pet cat .

My presentation on first-movement concerto form went pretty well this morning. I've posted the text of the handout on the Writings page under Music Research for anyone interested. I believe that should be the last major presentation I have to do for many years to come.

There's nothing new on the composing end right now... I'm just busy editing and proofreading scores and parts for Outlooks so I can start soliciting performances. This morning I planned out most of next semester. It looks like I'll be taking eleven credits -- 6 of thesis, 2 of trumpet lessons, and 3 of an elective class (possibly Instrumental Forms). After next semester I'll have finished Masters work, with about four semesters worth of work left for the Doctorate.

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Thursday, March 21, 2002

The head of the department spoke to a few composers after class yesterday about our opinions of the three faculty candidates, although the decision had already been made. Although we weren't supposed to be told who was hired, it became entirely apparent that they've hired Dr. Broening of the University of Richmond, with Dr. Callendar of Northern Illinois University as a backup. It was mentioned that the race was extremely close and that the final decision came down to teaching experience and gut instincts on intelligence. It's interesting that they wouldn't want the best composer to fill the position, but I guess the committee has different priorities when it's composed largely of theorists, rather than composers. Both of the two candidates are agreeable, of course; the finalists just weren't ordered in the same order as I would have expected them to be.

I think my summer plans are fairly codified now. After an exam on April 23, I'll drive up to Blacksburg on the 24th and spend some time there as my "vacation". Then I'll settle into my dual residency in northern Virginia and start working full-time on May 1. I'll stop working on August 2, and return to Tallahassee some time in the following week. That will give me about two weeks to take care of residency, help people move, and get settled in before classes start on August 26.

I've posted a few recently scanned pictures on the Photos page -- mainly some pictures from Pool Table day, and a few extras from more recently.

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Friday, March 22, 2002

I don't have any big weekend plans. The score and parts for Outlooks are finally complete, so I guess I'll start thinking about what to write in this last month of the semester. I also need to do some pedagogy analysis, do my jazz history final project, and finish off the Ewazen MIDIs so I can take them to Tech in April.

This week's Movie Night selection was an oldie, Sling Blade, from 1996. It was a good movie, although no one can seem to figure out the joke about the two good ole' boys pissing off a bridge.

More SC-8850 fun... this is a theme titled A Little Cheesy Funk from long ago. Oldtimers may remember it as the theme song of the Writings page from the second edition of the URI! Domain in 1998. Trumpet and trombone patches are historically weak but the jazz drum set patches are as clean as can be.

    (MP3, 723KB)

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Saturday, March 23, 2002

Today was Jazz History final project day, so I spent the afternoon transcribing three solos: Miles Davis on "All Blues" and "Freddie Freeloader", and Wynton Marsalis on "Well You Needn't" with Herbie Hancock. Given the choice between transcriptions, a standard paper, and an interview with a jazz legend, I opted for the easy way out. Transcribing is fun when you've got a good recording. However, transcribing bebop is only fun when you can slow the recording down.

I was going to post my list of uneducated Oscar guesses today, but I'm out of time and the list is incomplete. I'll try to post it tomorrow before the telecast. I'm not a big fan of the ceremony itself -- I usually just read the winners list the morning after. The whole idea of the film industry giving itself awards is pretty absurd -- it'd be like all the composition majors here getting together and passing out Prix de Romes within the group.

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Sunday, March 24, 2002

"He has no genitalia, and he's holding a sword." - Dustin Hoffman, describing his Oscar to the audiences

It's time for the URI! Domain's Horribly Uneducated Picks for the Oscars?! Since I've actually seen very few of the movies nominated this year (the ones with dots next to them), I'll do what any good statistician would do -- make things up, rely on natural prejudices, and go on gut instincts. Feel free to e-mail me if you blatantly disagree with a pick, or I've overlooked one of your all-time favourite movies.

Best performance by an actor in a leading role

    The Nominees:
  • Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind
    Sean Penn in I Am Sam
    Will Smith in Ali
    Denzel Washington in Training Day
    Tom Wilkinson in In the Bedroom

    What will happen?
    Russell "Let me recite my poetry" Crowe's recent spat with another awards group is probably fresh in everyone's mind (and he got one last year), and Will "Soon Tom Hanks will be taking the parts I turn down" Smith has yet to learn any humility. In the Bedroom isn't quite mainstream enough, so the award will go to either Denzel or Sean Penn. In this post-terrorist "feel good movie" environment, they'll choose a protagonist character over an antagonist, putting Sean Penn in the spotlight.

Best performance by an actor in a supporting role

    The Nominees:
    Jim Broadbent in Iris
    Ethan Hawke in Training Day
    Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast
    Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    Jon Voight in Ali

    What will happen?
    I haven't seen any of these movies, but every review I've read about Sexy Beast raves about Gandhi's burning intensity in his role as a gangster. Ben Kingsley will take this one home.

Best performance by an actress in a leading role

    The Nominees:
    Halle Berry in Monster's Ball
    Judi Dench in Iris
  • Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
    Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
    Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary

    What will happen?
    It was tough enough getting a comedy on the ballot, so Zellweger won't get any more favours today. In such a visible category they'll choose a young attractive actress with more drawing power, so Halle Berry will get her first Oscar. Moulin Rouge will do well in other categories but it's not quite mainstream enough to be "allowed" to get many awards.

Best performance by an actress in a supporting role

    The Nominees:
  • Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind
  • Helen Mirren in Gosford Park
  • Maggie Smith in Gosford Park
    Marisa Tomei in In the Bedroom
    Kate Winslet in Iris

    What will happen?
    Gosford Park had far too many characters for any one actress to stand out, since all British characters look the same to American viewers. Kate Winslet was in Titanic so she needs to spend a few more years in movie purgatory before she can get an Oscar. Since Marisa Tomei got an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny which was a comedy, no less, Jennifer Connelly will walk away with the Oscar.

Best animated feature film of the year

    The Nominees:
    Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
    Monsters, Inc.
  • Shrek


  • What will happen?
    Shrek wins hands down. Jimmy Neutron was the movie that no one went to, and everyone thought Monsters, Inc. was just another Toy Story.

Achievement in art direction

    The Nominees:
    Amélie
  • Gosford Park
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings
  • Moulin Rouge


  • What will happen?
    Gosford Park could have been set at any other generic British setting with its cookie cutter Hallmark Hall-of-Fame made for TV castle. Though it will be close, Harry Potter will edge out Moulin Rouge for the award.

Achievement in cinematography

    The Nominees:
    Amélie
    Black Hawk Down
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
    The Man Who Wasn't There
  • Moulin Rouge


  • What will happen?
    Moulin Rouge, the two-hour music video, will easily take home the statuette.

Achievement in costume design

    The Nominees:
    The Affair of the Necklace
  • Gosford Park
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Moulin Rouge


  • What will happen?
    Costumes in period pieces are boring. Affair of the Necklace could have reused the costumes from any Shakespeare remake, and Gosford Park could have borrowed the costumes from Clue and still been successful. While we're on the subject of borrowing, Gosford Park should have borrowed Clue's plot too. Moulin Rouge will just barely edge out Harry Potter.

Achievement in directing

    The Nominees:
  • A Beautiful Mind
    Black Hawk Down
  • Gosford Park
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
    Mulholland Drive


    What will happen?
    Lord of the Rings won't win -- having appeared in fifty categories this year, it will start to blend in on the ballot and voters will think it's just a watermark. Besides, that director has two more chances to get an Oscar in the coming years. Hopefully Robert "Point the camera at a wall and hope someone walks by" Altman of Gosford Park will go home disappointed too. Mulholland Drive was too long ago to remember, so A Beautiful Mind will get the nod, despite the accusations that the real-life man written about in a book that was fictionalized for a movie may have been gay.

Best documentary feature

    The Nominees:
    Children Underground
    Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton
    Murder on a Sunday Morning
    Promises
    War Photographer


    What will happen?
    This will be the award where everyone fills the popcorn bowl and empties their respective bladders. Even the newspaper journalists won't remember who wins it when they write their articles tomorrow. To determine the winner of this category, I approached a panhandler on the street who chose Murder on a Sunday Morning, because of its salacious title. I'm sure the Academy will do the same.

Best documentary short subject

    The Nominees:
    Artists and Orphans: A True Drama
    Sing!
    Thoth


    What will happen?
    No other movie but Sing! could win this award. The reason? It ends with an exclamation point! That makes it better! It's carrying on the tradition of Hello Dolly!, Swing!, George M!, and Adolf Hitler: The Comedy!. Hot dog!

Achievement in film editing

    The Nominees:
  • A Beautiful Mind
    Black Hawk Down
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Memento
  • Moulin Rouge

    What will happen?
    Really, how can you judge this category without seeing what was deleted in the super-duper special-edition five-dollars-more DVD? I would choose Memento just because, but the award will go to Moulin Rouge since rumour has it that Ewan "Belty" MacGregor sang for fifteen more minutes in the uncut edition.

Best foreign language film of the year

    The Nominees:
    Amélie
    Elling
    Lagaan
    No Man's Land
    Son of the Bridge


    What will happen?
    There will be a tie between Amélie and Lagaan, because one has an accent égu and one has two consecutive As. Amélie will take the trophy, because voters will recognize its name from the other categories it's nominated in.

Achievement in makeup

    The Nominees:
  • A Beautiful Mind
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Moulin Rouge

    What will happen?
    They must have used a lot of makeup in A Beautiful Mind, because as you know, schizophrenics look different from normal people. Moulin Rouge carries this category too.

Achievement in music in connection with motion pictures

    The Nominees:
    AI
  • A Beautiful Mind
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
    Monsters, Inc.


  • What will happen?
    I've heard great things about the Harry Potter soundtrack -- that it manages to be John Williams-y without being Raiders of the Lost Ark-y, and that it's a very mature and appropriate body of music. So why not choose it?

Best original song

    The Nominees:
    "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc.
    "May It Be" from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    "There You'll Be" from Pearl Harbor
    "Until" from Kate & Leopold
    "Vanilla Sky" from Vanilla Sky

    What will happen?
    Voters seem to like the cutesy "friends 'til the end of time" songs from animated flicks, and judging from the title, Monsters, Inc.'s song fits that bill perfectly. This has got to be the most boring assortment of titles. Ever.

Best motion picture of the year

    The Nominees:
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Gosford Park
    In the Bedroom
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Moulin Rouge

    What will happen?
    In bizzaro world, where I controlled the votes, A Beautiful Mind would get the nod, or Memento would be added to the list. I would also be taller. Since this is the real world, Gosford Park will win, because it's "deep" and "innovative" and no one wants to be ashamed in front of their peers for "not getting it". Moulin Rouge was great, but not best picture material, and Lord of the Rings is a fantasy flick, putting a few strikes against it.

Best animated short film

    The Nominees:
    Fifty Percent Grey
    For the Birds
    Give up Yer Aul Sins
    Strange Invaders
    Stubble Trouble


    What will happen?
    I'm going on titles with this one, so Stubble Trouble will win this award. How can you go wrong with that title? It sounds like a light-hearted romp with zany cowboy hijinks, but with a foreboding undercurrent of dissension and black politics (hence, the "trouble").

Best live action short film

    The Nominees:
    The Accountant
    Copy Shop
    Gregor's Greatest Invention
    A Man Thing
    Speed for Thespians


    What will happen?
    Gregor's Greatest Invention will take this award. Nobody (I hope) wants to see a movie short about a man thing, and straight-laced voters will think Speed for Thespians is a documentary on drug use in the alternate sexuality counterculture.

Achievement in sound

    The Nominees:
    Amélie
    Black Hawk Down
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Moulin Rouge
    Pearl Harbor


  • What will happen?
    Either Black Hawk Down or Pearl Harbor will win, because things blew up pretty nicely. I'd choose Black Hawk Down because it didn't have Cuba Gooding Jr. trying to act.

Achievement in sound editing

    The Nominees:
    Monsters, Inc.
    Pearl Harbor


    What will happen?
    Who cares? I'll play the Cuba card again and choose Monsters, Inc..

Achievement in visual effects

    The Nominees:
    AI
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
    Pearl Harbor


    What will happen?
    Voters will choose Lord of the Rings over AI because it's been passed over for so many other awards and deserves a booby prize.

Screenplay based on material previously produced or published

    The Nominees:
  • A Beautiful Mind
    Ghost World
    In the Bedroom
    Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
    Shrek

    What will happen?
    The source material for Lord of the Rings was only good because it was the first high fantasy tale of any kind. Shrek was funny but not "best" material, unless The Cookie was in the original. For this one, I'll choose In the Bedroom because it too has been passed over for bigger awards.

Screenplay written directly for the screen

    The Nominees:
    Amélie
  • Gosford Park
  • Memento
    Monster's Ball
    The Royal Tenenbaums


  • What will happen?
    Even though other screenplays may be more deserving, I choose Memento as my number one draft pick, simply because it's one of my favourites. Since the Academy has a six-month memory, Monster's Ball will win, because its the only one not set in a pretensious period setting.

In other news, Freddie Got Fingered was voted as the worst movie of the year, earning five Razzie Awards at the ceremony .

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Monday, March 25, 2002

Nine of twenty-four correct categories in the Oscars isn't bad for a neophyte such as myself. It's too bad, though, that Memento didn't get nominated more or win anything.

I had a pretty good lesson today -- Dr. Wingate was impressed with the last movement of the string quartet. Now that scores and parts are taken care of, I guess I should start soliciting performances. If their litigious problems have been solved, I can check with the Audubon Quartet up in Blacksburg, as well as the student quartets here.

Operatic vibrato has got to be the most horrible affliction the human voice can suffer.

Man pins burglary on 'evil twin brother'

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Tuesday, March 26, 2002

With Jazz History cancelled and sunny skies, Kathy, Mike, and I went down to Marsh Sands beach for the afternoon. Of course, the clouds rolled in about an hour after we got there, but it was a fun jaunt nonetheless. There was the normal assortment of wildlife, including several mating horseshoe crabs and some dead fat-ass jellyfish. I took a few pictures of the beach and Mike's dog, but probably won't get around to putting them up until the weekend.

My trumpet playing has steadily improved since I went back to "twice a day" after break, so hopefully Badinage will go well in three weeks time. I still hear the Hummel guy practicing the same trumpet measures as s/he was a few months ago without improvement. Also, the practice rooms were scrubbed and cleaned by Tau Beta Sigma last weekend. It's nice to see a music organization do something -- at Tech, TBS just sat around gossiping and acting bitchy.

I finished off the last of the sonata forms for my pedagogy analysis this evening, so now I just have to do the rondo forms before the test on Friday. Luckily, I remember several of the outlines from my sophomore level HAMS class, so I can quickly refamiliarize myself with them, even though I no longer have my original marked up anthology.

Man drives into Florida mosque: It happened not two miles from here, and yet I don't hear about it until it's on the national news...

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Wednesday, March 27, 2002

It was flute night at the O.K. corral last night. Of six pieces on the New Music Ensemble concert, five involved a solo flutist, and three of those were for solo flute. Apparently we're not supposed to call them flautists anymore -- when I corresponded by e-mail with the flute professor at Tech last year, I got this reply:

    "First of all, I don't use the word 'flautist'. This term was very much 'in vogue' some time ago, but has fallen out of polite usage in recent times. It is considered an affectation in the English language, and should be reserved to describe those practitioners of the instrument who play in an affected manner. Europeans, on the other hand, are not near as sensitive about such matters as are we Americans. (Don't we all take ourselves too seriously!)"

I guess, like Gordon Korman, we should all just start calling them "flute-guys".

I finished the last of my pedagogy analysis this morning after my weekly grocery shopping trip, so other than the grade-school-style notebook to be turned in at the end of the semester, I don't have any pedagogy projects hanging over my head. After the jazz history test next week, I hope to spend the remainder of the semester listening and writing, especially since I don't do nearly enough of the former.

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Thursday, March 28, 2002

After a couple months of starting and stopping, I finally finished The Muse that Sings over Spring Break. The book itself isn't so long; I just wanted to read it slowly to absorb everything. The book is a collection of interviews rewritten in prose form, from a wide assortment of living composers on their creative process and thoughts about composition. From its forty dollar price tag, you can tell that it's a niche market affair, and non-composers probably will not appreciate it as much as composers.

I found the book to be very interesting, if not informative. Most of the process ideas presented are so personal that it would be worthless to attempt to mimic them, but it's inspiring to see how other people approach the composition process. Ultimately, most of the book's value lies in its use as a catalyst for composition -- after reading a chapter at random, I am more likely to sit down and compose. If you are a composer who sometimes struggles to begin a composing session, or a non-composer with a high tolerance for people who talk too much about themselves, this would be a great book to read.

The Movie Night selection this week was Snatch, but really could have been called Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels Part II. It was a good movie, but essentially reprised the plot of the older movie with more well-known actors (they were even written by the same fellow). The accents were much more unintelligible in this one as well.

Former New Zealand chief claims Quayle threatened him
Aborigine demands right to spear officer

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Friday, March 29, 2002

Yesterday I finished creating the accompaniment MIDI to the second movement of the Ewazen trumpet sonata. It was easily the most difficult one to do musically because of the rubato nature of slow movements. Using the Gekker-Ewazen recording as a model, I timed the piece measure by measure and adjusted MIDI tempos accordingly. Also, there were a large number of pedal markings that had to be manually inserted into the score every half a measure. If I have time, I'll finish off the third movement this weekend.

This past week, I reread Peril's Gate. I always try to reread good books a few months after getting them to take everything in more methodically. The first reading is usually a barn-burning page-turning, and the second always reveals details I didn't catch on the first try. The book is still very good, but towards the end, the plot necessitates a review of all the major events from the earlier books. Like flashback episodes on sitcoms, it's fun and helps to get new readers up to speed on the story, but in this case I think it was just a little too long.

Here's a couple space-related pictures that have been making the rounds and ended up in my mailbox:

    Shuttle payload (257KB)
    Earth from space at night (96KB)

"I realize you may think I'm nuts, but anyways, I am getting paid for doing this." - professor, after noting that there's probably Grails floating around inside the "holey" spaces in a student fugue

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Saturday, March 30, 2002

These past couple days have been Reich days. I checked out the 10-disc retrospective of Steve Reich's music from the library and I'm almost done listening to disc 10 right now. I'll try to post my thoughts on the set and particular songs tomorrow. In my quest for more familiarity with modern composers, I also wanted to check out the 10-disc boxed set of John Adams, but the library seems to have lost it (like the fifty other odd CDs that "just don't seem to be on our shelf anymore"). I'm not sure how you lose a 10-disc set -- it's not like you can hide it behind another CD or run it over with your car without noticing, but I guess when you work in the library, anything's possible.

Here's another revamped MIDI theme which I finished last night -- The Llama Fanfare (MP3, 734KB). Oldtimers will recognize it as the theme song from this website from 1996 - 1998. New visitors would hear the entire fanfare, while repeat visitors would be welcomed back with a personalized greeting and one of four short variations on this theme (thanks to clever use of cookies).

I was doing a little tinkering with the code of my puzzle applet yesterday, so for kicks, here's a puzzle for Mike. Click on any tile next to the white space to move it

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