singing cow

All signs point to yes.

It appears that my Carnegie Hall debut will be March 7, 2010, singing "Ch'io mi scordi di te" (Mozart) -- orchestra, piano soloist, the works.

Wolfie's been so good to me, I figured I might as well invoke him at my debut. :)

Assuming I don't crash and burn Wednesday -- which I won't -- this will be happening. Very excited about it.
cow

Why the Words Don't Matter

Long ago, in a universe far, far away, I wrote a little essay on Christmas. I was looking for it tonight during a discussion I was having with bmh4d0k3n -- so I'm reposting to make it easier to find.

Why the Words Don't Matter

(Or, alternately, why it's ok for EVERYONE to celebrate Christmas... I've been thinking on this topic for sometime, but hadn't decided on whether to post this, till Rudebekia said something that prompted it...)

Back when I lived with my parents and involuntarily participated in their quite fundamentalist religion, one of the themes I heard over and over, particularly in regards to Christmas and Easter, that there was Power in the Word. That is, the words were the important thing. This concept was particularly applied to songs and such, with emphasis on words like "blood," "sacrifice," etc. I heard sermons about how Christmas belonged only to Christians because of the power of the word, "Christ"-mas.

In the intervening years, I've heard many arguments about why non-Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas, how Christians should observe Christmas and what the meaning of Christmas really is. In the end, it all seems to boil down to the idea that the WORDS of Christmas define the holiday.

I've come to realize that this is a gross misconception, and I'd like to explain why, if you can sit through a (fairly) short sermon. I'll even give you a handy-dandy outline of my holiday exegesis:

1. Christmas, the All-Purpose Holiday (or what we all know about its having been co-opted from other cultures).

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2. The Importance of Holidays (or why we NEED Christmas).

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3. Why the Words Don't Really Matter.

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4. Finally, Why Anyone Should Celebrate Christmas if They Want to (or why non-Christians celebrating Christmas doesn't dilute its meaning).

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cow

I want to share!

I feel like I'm a kindergartner again, wanting to share with the class... We did something in class tonight that was fun, and allowed me to create something I am pleased with.

We were exploring the connection between art and music and literature, and since we "learn by doing," we all actually participated in an exercise one might use in a class.

We were given a selection of fine art images to look at, and selections from music, and we picked images to go with the piece of music we heard, and discussed that. Then, after that, we each picked the image and music pair we liked best, to create a story from the merging of the two. No one picked the musical selection I did, so I got to create my musical story alone. We had about 15-20 minutes, so I wrote a short story. I'm fairly pleased with it because a) I'm happy that I could create something of interest in that short of time, and b) it was very well received.

So! I would like to share! It is probably better experienced -- I read it aloud, and we saw the image and heard the music. Obviously, I can't read it aloud for you, but this is the closest thing I can get...

This is the image I picked:

This is the music I chose:


And this is my story:

One night, it hits him in an instant: he is lonely. He's always been solitary, of course, but never before has he felt the weight of the silence as he does right now.

He looks around his studio and searches for comfort in his work; none is there. Everything that he previously loved he now finds unsatisfying.

Perhaps that's what he's really feeling! Not loneliness, just...dissatisfaction. Yes. He needs to create something new -- something pure and fine and beautiful.

He begins that very night and barely even stops to eat or breath. He doesn't feel obsessed or agitated. What he feels, in fact, is anticipation: What will this new work be?

He pours himself into the work and it is the sum of his wishes, hopes, dreams and expectations.

Eventually, the form of a woman emerges. She is every perfect thing that he can imagine; she is the shape of his own soul.

The closer he comes to completion, the more love he feels for his creation. He speaks to her, sings to her...even dreams of her.

As he swells with this strange love, he is oblivious to the changes around him. His other creations try to warn him: they scream in silence, watch in disbelief, but he is deaf to anything but her.

At the moment of completion, he is overwhelmed by his achievement. Breathless, he reaches to her, embraces her, presses himself to her.

And, as the silent witnesses around him watch in horror, his marble Goddess slowly returns his embrace...

cow

Hugo, Girl!

I don't know if I've ever actually mentioned this before, since I'm usually just whining about how life sucks in here, but I love fantasty/sci-fi, and read a ton of it. Lately I've been on a real sci-fi kick, so I decided I'd read through the Hugo nominees for best novel of 2009, just to see how my tastes compares to Joe Q. Public's.

I had already read Anatham and Zoe's Tale, so I read Saturn's Children, am reading The Graveyard Book now and that just leaves Little Brother. I'm sort of not sure what I think, actually, so here's a quickie run-down.

Anathem:
This is an odd one. I've read most of Neal Stephenson's work and enjoyed it, but this is, well, meh. The concept is interesting, I suppose, and it was certainly unusual -- a secular convent for mathematicians -- but it was also about 3,000 pages long, most of which was filled with mind-numbingly boring discussion of speculative math for alternate worlds. And I say that as someone who generally quite easily follows the science and even some of the math of hard sci-fi. I mean, I found the discussion of crytography in Cryptonomicon fascinating. I guess the bottom line is, I won't be reading it again any time soon, so not a winner for me. Also, the XKCD on novels that make up too many words and fingered Anathem? is right on.

Zoe's Tale:
With this book, I've read all of Scalzi's sci-fi works. (He has some non-sci-fi stuff I will pick up shortly.) I enjoyed all his books very much, and I read his blog, so I suppose he's probably my favorite author on this year's list. That said, I think Zoe's Tale is my least favorite of his works. It isn't an insult or a diss -- it's not bad, per se -- it just wasn't really my favorite. It was interesting to fill in all the gaps from The Last Colony, and it was, I suppose, a pretty credible attempt at Grown Man Writing From the Perspective of Teenage Girl, but again, I've read and reread the rest of his books several times, and I don't think this is going to be in that category.

Saturn's Children:
I read a lot of dystopian futuristic sci-fi, so this book falls into a niche that's right up my alley. In short, it's a future where humanity is dead, but the world and expansion into space continues via the androids humanity created to be their servants. There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of sex in this book, but it's about the least sexy sex you've ever read and it makes its point very well. This novel's protagonist is a female sexbot, a human replica created solely to serve man, programmed to be aroused at the site of old, white males, and submissive to the nth degree to the afore-mentioned old, white males.

The crux of the plot revolves around the idea that in the absence of humans (and human directives), the social order of the world is more or less hellish. Haves (the aristo class -- robots who model themselves to be anime in appearance), and have-notes (basically, everyone else, most of which have been either kept in their original slavery, or enslaved via slave AI chips that override the bot's original personality -- it's a nice touch that the bots built solely to be slave workers are called arbeiters [as in, arbeit mach frei] and one of the indignities thrust upon said slaves is that they are not given the capacity for sexual contact).

It's an interesting story, but also, all told, a rather disturbing one. As the layers of the conditioning used to create the submissive, sexual obedience in the humanoid sexbot heroine are revealed, it's a little sickening -- mostly because it's not real hard to imagine it actually happening, whether to robot or actual human. I wouldn't call this a specifically feminist work; I don't think that's how it is intended. It is, however, a very blunt, very bleak, very accurate description of what a male-dominated society would produce if it were possible.

So far, this has been the best of the lot. I'm trying to figure out precisely what I think of the book as a whole. I enjoyed it, and kind of wish there would be a sequel so that we could find out what happens to our heroine. However, I also think the ending smacks, a great deal, of the infamous deus ex machina. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but basically, there's a huge build-up to the climax, and then it sort of fizzles out with a whimper. How ironic, all things considered, ha. Still, it's an interesting read (though probably not for the overly politically correct or easily offended).

***
 
So that just leaves The Graveyard Book and Little Brother. I'll get back to y'all on those as soon as I've finished those.
cow

On Guilt

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

-- Wislawa Szymborska
cow

(no subject)

One of the things I really love about the Kindle is Amazon's "random free books" thing. Every now and again, they select books that you get for free. Sometimes they are crap, sometimes they are not.

I just finished reading a 6 book set of fantasy by Robin Hobb because the first book in the series was free, and it was great.

They've also started offering classics free as well. I could just find the Gutenberg texts, but I hate having to hook up my Kindle physically to my computer. Downloading them is just so much easier...

---

I see in the list of free right now is Darwin's Origin of Species and Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks. I should read these, but I really can't seem to bring myself to do so.
cow

Hell yeah, Aretha.

Take me to heart and I’ll always love you
And nobody can make me do wrong
Take me for granted, leaving love unshown
Makes will-power weak and temptation strong

A woman’s only human
You should understand
She’s not just a plaything
She’s flesh and blood just like her man
If you want a do-right-all-day woman
You’ve got to be a do-right-all-night man

They say that it’s a man’s world
Well you can't prove that by me
And as long as we’re together baby
Show some respect for me
cow

Oh, and by the way...

It occured to me that I didn't mention it here. For those who don't read Facebook or whatever, I got accepted into the graduate music program at Columbia University. I still quite can't believe that I am now an "Ivy League" student. The poor redneck in me is waiting for people to start laughing and say the joke's on me, but they've already taken my money, so if they do, I'll sue, heh.
cow

Wikipedia Game!

I love Wikipedia and I love games, so I thought I'd pass on monkeyman's new wikipedia game:

How Many Links to Elvis?

1. On the main Wikipedia page under 'Navigation', click on the Random article link five times in a row.

2. In whatever article you are taken to, click on a link in the article itself only, not in the menus to the side, that will take you an article closer to
your ultimate goal. In other words, choose the link that seems most likely to have some sort of relation to Elvis. ;)

3. Keep going from article to article until you land on
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley !

This was my first game:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%27s_University_of_Belfast_(D%C3%A1il_%C3%89ireann_constituency)
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanities
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music
5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_popular_music
6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

Only six degrees of separation between an early 20th century Irish political constituency and Elvis...what a small world! :D

Thanks, monkeyman!


PS, I did another one:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southeast_Roseau,_Minnesota
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Census_Bureau
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_United_States
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis,_Tennessee
5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley
cow

(no subject)

Got this from NHowells -- a lot of these I started, didn't care for, so didn't finish. Many others, I just have no desire to read. Sometimes, you know enough of hate (thank you, Mr. Frost) that you don't need to go there. Anyway...

The BBC allegedly believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here -- How do your reading habits stack up? [bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish]

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