Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wir danken dir, Gott

Folks, I'm sorry I haven't been posting much of late. I can only appeal to the demands of academia again. In the meantime, here is another favorite piece of music: the opening sinfonia to "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir" (we thank you, God, we thank you), by Johann Sebastian Bach, which is a reworking of a violin partita. I haven't been able to find a version of this on YouTube that I like, since they all place an emphasis on the organ, and my few years of attending church as a kid ruined me for organ music. Fortunately I found a version on Grooveshark that is all strings -- in fact, I think it's the same version I originally heard and loved which may explain why the organ versions don't move me as much.

This piece epitomizes baroque music for me. It's just magical. If I had to point to one piece of music that captures everything I love about classical music, this would be it. Take a listen.

Update (23 Oct): For comparison, here's the violin partita he culled it from (#3, Preludio):

Like my wife says, it's hard to believe all that is coming from one instrument.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...

...until you're on the other side and realize there's nothing to eat but grass. I just read a hilarious and disturbingly accurate article from Cracked: 6 Reasons Your Plans to Move Abroad Might Not Work Out. Number 3 is "What You Hate About America, You Find Everywhere". I read this article Friday afternoon, and it was incredibly appropriate because that morning my wife and I observed a white European being insanely racist towards a black African, racism on a level that is all too common in Europe but would never happen in the States. Seriously, if the racist stuff that flies under the radar here happened in the States, cities would burn. It's mind-boggling. Probably the most blatant example of this is Zwarte Piet, "Black Pete". You see, in the lowlands, Santa Claus has a black slave named Pete who accompanies him wherever he goes. His job is to scare the children into being good. Because being black is scary. Oh, and also Pete is always portrayed by white people in blackface. Notice I write "white people" not "white men"; Pete is often portrayed by women.

Of course, another point made in the Cracked article is that when you live overseas you eventually start blaming your host culture for every single thing that you find offensive or annoying. For example, customer service is, as far as I can tell, an American phenomenon -- or perhaps an Anglo phenomenon. So is lining up to get on a bus, train, elevator, etc. So is safety. My wife and I were once walking down a busy street and passed a circular saw, plugged in and spinning, just laying there. No protective guard or anything. Some workers had been doing something with it, and went to take a break. Nobody else thought it was unusual to have a saw that could cut off their legs spinning away in the middle of the sidewalk, they just stepped around it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Future Space

Future Pundit is a blog that focuses on all things technological. However, I'm really just interested in his posts on space exploration and space colonization.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pajamas Linkfest

Here are a few interesting links from Pajamas Media, a collocation of bloggers. They tend towards libertarianism, but my interest in the stories below are not primarily political.

-- NASA’s ‘Shuttlyndra’ a Massive Waste of Tax Dollars by Rand Simburg who also blogs at Transterrestrial Musings.

-- Literary B-Sides: Five of the Most Under-Rated Books from Famous Authors

-- The Sicko Side of the Sci-Fi Circuit. I'd never heard any of this before, but I've never been to a SF convention.

-- Islam's History of Forced Conversions. Interesting, but purely anecdotal. He sees parallels between a recent event and an event from several hundred years ago. He needs to point to more than two examples in 500 years to make his case.

-- No More Harems: The Hidden History of Muslim and Ex-Muslim Feminism. Inspiring.

-- Hey Lady Gaga, Kids Have a Time-Tested Answer for Bullies: Punch Them in the Mouth. Fairly self-explanatory.

-- Deconstructing Mad Men’s Title Sequence. I watched some of the first season, but it didn't do anything for me. The title sequence, however, is haunting.