Monday, June 16, 2003

This saturday night was our third installment of opera care of Opera Theater of St. Louis (OTSL) and a generous gift of season tickets from my parents. Three weeks ago was "Tosca," two weeks ago was "The Abduction from the Seraglio," and this weekend's performance was "Flight" by Jonathan Dove. "Flight" was written for me - maybe too much so. It was a very well combined melange of post-minimalist styles, which should have had me mesmerized, except the stystic flavoring from other composers bordered on plagiarism. I spend much of the first act cataloguing the exact works being lifted. A lot of Steve Reich (my favorite composer), especially his "Desert Music;" some bits of Philip Glass' more recent works interspersed - including using a counter-tenor for the lead, reminiscent of "Akhnaten;" a little Leonard Berenstein for familiarity; and I'd swear I heard something akin to Pierre Boulez thrown in to make it interesting. My father and I discussed the opera at length during the intermissions, and I found that my real complaint was that the constant shifting between musical styles removed any coherency from the score, for me anyway, which is exactly opposite any of the works by the original composers. It has made me look forward all the more to seeing "Nixon in China" by John Adams at Opera Theater next summer.

Here're some more sites on minimalism:

  • Satie and minimalism: why Eric Satie and not Terry Riley created the genre.
  • Eric Satie Homepage: I don't necessarily agree with the above site, but I do like Satie.
  • The Official Terry Riley site: the father of the genre - I'm not sure he has any recollection of the '60's, so he's probably happy to give Satie all the credit.

Steve Reich has really carried the torch of minimalism through the years, and with an incomparable sense of composition. John Adams began strongly in the minimalist camp with pieces like "Shaker Loops," but quickly moved into post-modernism with more lyric works like "Harmonium" - sometimes a little too Disney, but still enjoyable. Philip Glass was my introduction to the genre and was a hero of mine until I heard a recent interview on NPR, during which he said he was embarrassed by his earlier, minimalist compositions. Beh! Terry Riley really did start the field, in fact most of the other composers played in his ensemble before going on to their own works, but I'm not entirely sure where he is now - and by the look of his website, I'm not sure I want to know.

Thursday, May 22, 2003
If I could easily append a sound object to the blog without being sued by someone, it would be a track from El Baile Aleman, by Señor Coconut. According to the article, El Baile Aleman "is nothing other than a set of Kraftwerk tunes gone Latin, performed as cumbias, merengues, and, of course, cha-cha-chas." Considering my love of Kraftwerk, Antonio Jobim, and Esquivel!, I can't imagine a more fitting musical expression. Give a listen to Robots.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Time for some reader mail:

Dear Sir,

My spaniel is poorly behaved and, I feel, needs to be thoroughly humiliated. Do you have any SPCA approved doggy torture devices?

Disgruntled in Detroit

Dear Disgruntled,

Why yes, a fabulous new line of canine humiliation apparel has just finished the testing phase and is now commercially available from a firm in Japan. Check out their site at:

Dear Sir or Ma'am,

What's it like using a urinal anyway; I mean, what's the big deal? I'll hang up and take my answer off the air.

(none given)

Well (none given),

As a matter of fact, anyone with the right equipment can use a urinal and have a great time doing so. So say the makers of "You're In Control", MIT's answer to MSN's iLoo. And to the people who are so interested in finding something to do during their long hours on the potty, I can only say: eat more roughage.

Thanks for the letters, Mike.

Friday, May 09, 2003
Once every few decades, some scientists in some university's comparative medicine department with far too much free time (and probably a surfeit of non-denatured ethanol) take it upon themselves to prove the old "give a room full of monkeys with typewriters enough time and they'll write the complete works of William Shakespeare (hopefully the Abridged version)" hypothesis. The last attempt I remember hearing about in high school determined that the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) preferred certain letters over others, which unfortunately were not R, S, T, or E - the result was deemed a failure. Well, it was about time someone tried this with real monkeys (chimps are, after all, apes), and the results couldn't have been more gratifying. Witness for yourself the splendor of Notes Toward the Complete Works of Shakespeare by Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan, Sulawesi Crested Macaques (Macaca Nigra) from Paignton Zoo Environmental Park (UK).

According to the report, "At first, the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it. Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," says Mike Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies. Eventually, the monkeys produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in. Clearly, the macaques had always been bothered by their names, especially the lead male, Elmo. After several attempts at displaying this displeasure using their own language of throwing faeces, the monkeys settled on a prolonged written hiss. Bobo, the African Green Monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) in the next cage over commented that it was "just a matter of time" through a series of otherwise obscene hand-gestures.

Monday, April 28, 2003
It's all just a little too convenient. According to every source on Japanese cuisine I've ever consulted, the single most unpalatable food to non-natives is Natto. As it happens, a recent Japanese study reported by Reuters has uncovered a new vitamin - pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) - which is found at high concentrations in, you guessed it, Natto. It sounds like a government sponsored ad campaign to me, if only because "PQQ" looks a little too much like an emoticon to not be geared toward the Hamtaro crowd.

Friday, April 18, 2003
BERLIN (Reuters) - A German company said on Thursday it wants to market a new condom to improve men's sexual performance by numbing the penis to prevent premature ejaculation.

The condom, which would carry thin film of anaesthetic on its inner lining, has yet to win regulatory approval.

"Men tend to get turned on more quickly than women," a spokesman for Cologne-based firm Condomi told Reuters. "Our condom will even up the odds by numbing the man's sensitive regions -- but not the whole body like when you're drunk." (Dude)

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Experimental use of Jarvis products on human subjects reopens study into human sexuality.

Did I mention: budgies.