Friday, 2 June 2000
The Green and Slender Willow
Shostakovich, Six Romances on words by Japanese
poets, op. 21 for tenor and orchestra. The
current poem is called An immodest glance and reads (in English):
The green and slender willow
had her swaying trunk laid bare,
when the wind blew, and drew
the branches aside.
And today, my beloved,
I glimpsed your legs,
when the wind blew
and played with your light dress.
Racy stuff, classical music, you know!
The makers of the computer games Thief (and its sequel,
memorably called Thief II) have gone
out of business.
I would have liked to have written yesterday, in order to help clear
the entry deficit but my computer was down and out
all morning and receiving the ministrations of a qualified
professional (i.e., not me!).
Monday, 5 June 2000
Bruckner, Madeleine’s world and Maurice
Bruckner, symphony #6 in A major. The recording
I’m listening to is a Naxos
one, with Georg Tintner conducting the New Zealand Symphony
Orchestra. This is the only recording of the work that I’ve
heard, so I’m not in much of a position to judge its merit.
I’ve come to like the work through it though, so it can’t be all
- Madeleine’s world
by Brian Hall.
This was a very enjoyable morning’s read on
Saturday. It is perhaps slightly susceptible to the charge of
being a bit cute and sentimental, but I think this inevitable
aspect of talking about small children is kept very well in
Maurice by E. M. Forster. Are you sick
of hearing about Forster yet? Somewhat to my surprise, I’m not
sick of reading him yet. Maurice is quite
different from the previous novels. Forster required it to be
published posthumously because of its subject matter: the story
of a young man coming to realise that he is homosexual. I am
only up to the point where Durham has declared his love for
Maurice, and where Maurice, not yet figuring out the nature of
his own feelings, rejects him. Then Maurice has a little
break-down and sees the light.
I’m enjoying it so far. Maurice is, despite himself, turning
into a reasonable person in front of our eyes, and it's
simultaneously an engaging romance. So far anyway. Naturally,
if it is to be like other romances, there will be all sorts of
trials and tribulations to suffer through first. Assuming that
it's going to continue to be an accurate picture of the time,
the homosexuality will cause its own problems.
Tuesday, 6 June 2000
- Listening to:
- Pergolesi, Stabat Mater. This is the
one work that Pergolesi is really famous for. It
is scored for two voices (a soprano and an alto in
the recording that I'm listening to), strings and
continuo. Pergolesi died at the age of 26, and this
work was written in the last weeks of his life.
My second-to-last entry attempted to use the HTML <blockquote>
device to present the text of the Japanese poem. I used <br>
elements to end the lines, and to put a blank line between the two
verses. Disturbingly, even such a simple task as this ends up looking
different on the three different browsers I have access to, Netscape,
Internet Explorer and Lynx.
Explorer seemed to do the best job; it indented the text, and was
happy to put the blank line in place. Netscape neither indented the
text, nor put a blank line in between the text preceding the poem and
the poem itself. I put an extra <br> into the text just to fix
this, so now the Explorer version looks odd because of the extra
line's worth of white-space. What a pain!
It seems that Google has come up with a new form of web-searching,
Wednesday, 7 June 2000
Plant and Fiji news (with robotic delivery?)
Bach, English suite #1 BWV 806.
My famous weeping fig (it’s featured in every incarnation of my Cambridge home page
since I got here in October 1994) is looking a bit poorly these days.
I think it’s because it went for rather a long spell without being
watered. Although I’m now being much more conscientious about giving
it regular doses, it still seems a bit unhappy. I don’t need to give
the trunk any more than a gentle shake and I’m guaranteed to have one
or two pale leaves detach and come floating down. Further, the leaves
seem happy to do it on their own overnight, so one corner of the desk
is gradually being covered in dead leaves.
Fiji is to be excluded from some high-level body within the
Commonwealth until there is a resumption of the rule of law. At the
moment, the coup leader, George Speight is insisting that he be prime
minister in any interim government appointed before new elections are
held under a new, suitably racist constitution.
The news-reading “robot” Ananova
(also described in this
Washington Post article) would tell me all about it, if only I
wasn't running Linux, I guess.
Friday, 9 June 2000
Mahler, and writing
Mahler, symphony #3. This is Mahler’s longest
symphony, and the longest symphony of anyone’s commonly
performed. My recording (on Naxos), takes one hour and
forty-one minutes. Of it, Mahler said that it should contain all
My entry deficit is finally beaten with this entry.
I am back to my three-a-week average, and is all well with the world.
I’m currently writing an article which really needs to be submitted
today, so I will be terse, and say just to look out for it in the Computer
“That’s hubris, that is.”
“Yeah, I’ll say; cocky authors, who d’they think they are?”
Tuesday, 13 June 2000
Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance marches.
These are the quintessential Imperial English tunes. It’s easy
to imagine the feeling of Victorian pride and confidence that
might have attended their first performances. Of course, maybe
I’m imagining a pride too far. Circumstances when they were
written may have been utterly unlike the way we imagine them
now. Nonetheless, this is the aura I think most people attach
to them now. Women in the elaborate dresses; men with monocles
and an Empire on which the Sun never sets.
Maurice by E. M. Forster. This conveys
rather a different picture of a similar era needless to say.
However, I’m afraid to report that I haven’t made any progress
with it at all. This is because I was in London over the
weekend. We went to see the Tower of London on Sunday.
It’s an impressive building, and fascinating for the history
that it “embodies”.
Wednesday, 14 June 2000
Bits and bobs
Chopin, 24 Preludes.
Here’s an interesting piece on the way in which
the government here wants to legislate to allow itself
the right to monitor all e-mail as a matter of course.
...the Home Office, which knows little of business
and even less about the internet, but is endlessly attentive to the
needs of the police, the security services and the Byzantine
imperatives of official secrecy.
Here’s a response.
Friday, 16 June 2000
- Listening to:
- Martinu, Cello Sonata #2, H340. This is angular,
modern music, written in New York in 1941. It takes a little
bit of getting used to. With the help of the BBC music
magazine, I am accumulating a list of positive reviews of
cheap Naxos recordings of things I haven't heard before. This
way I get to broaden my horizons but do it pretty cheaply.
The BBC has been annoying me a bit of late. In Britain, there has
been a bit of a brou-haha of late about asylum seekers. The
government now seems to feel that it can't be seen to be "soft" on the
issue, the Conservative opposition party having made popularity gains
by casting itself as the hard-line option.
So, not so long ago, there was a story about a plan the government had
to increase the numbers of rejected asylum seekers who were deported.
Apparently, many who fail to gain asylum still manage to stay in the
country anyway. So, the impact of the policy was described solely in
terms of absolute numbers of people who would be housed in camps and
then deported. Year by year, the plan was for this number to
increase. What annoyed me was that it was not at all clear what these
numbers meant. Was the fact that they were increasing an indication
that they were going to be handling a greater proportion of rejections
in this way, or was it an indication that the number of rejections was
going to go up as a proportion of the number of asylum seekers, or was
it an indication that the number of asylum seekers was going to be
The whole story made me quite irritated. Talk about a classic case of
in public discourse. The Refugee Council didn't
tell me enough to be able to figure it out either.
Monday, 19 June 2000
Forster and English football
Chopin, a CD called Rondos and variations
played by Idil Biret. The current track is called
Variations brillantes. It seems an accurate title.
- E. M. Forster's
Well, how wrong I was. Clive Durham
didn’t work out at all. Sorry for the spoiler, but I have to
say that it wasn’t really a conventional romantic novel at all.
It did have a happy ending though. I liked it a lot. I think I
may even put it above Howard’s End in my Forster
A passage to India by, yes, you guessed
it, E. M. Forster. I’ve read Part I of this, and have liked it
a great deal so far. More on it as the story develops. I
wonder though what someone like Kipling made of this when it
came out. Apparently (according to the blurb on the back of the
book), this was Forster’s most successful novel and has sold in
The English football team won their group match against Germany 1-0 on
Saturday night. The fans went a-rioting in Charleroi (Belgium) and
around 500 of them were arrested. As I believe the Duke of Wellington
said of his army,
I don’t know what they do to the enemy, but
they scare the hell out of me. This country is bizarre; it
will serve them all right if the team does get kicked out of the
competition, as I heard the authorities have suggested.
Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Beethoven, symphony #2 in D major, op 36. This is a
recording from 1963 with Herbert Karajan and the Berlin
Philharmonic, a very famous coupling. Nonetheless, as
Hofstadter says in Le ton beau de Marot (not a bad
book BTW), it’s Beethoven who should get top billing.
I actually have a box set in front of me of all of the 1963
recordings of the nine symphonies. I chose this particular CD
because it couples the 2nd with the 4th symphony. Of the nine,
I know the 4th least well, so I like to listen to its freshness
and surprises. Does this mean that other music, which I’ve
listened to many, many times is stale? Well,
maybe stale is too strong a word. No, I like to hear the
familiar development. I like to hear again how beautiful it is,
even though I know what’s "going to happen".
How am I a geek? Let me count the ways...
One of the ways is that I'm a definite map-geek. I've been amusing
myself with MapQuest, and
zipping around the world, looking at maps of all the places I've
lived. There are varying levels of detail available. Best of all was
where I was able to see the street where I lived. (The link is to a
larger view, where it's easy to see the neat fact that Montréal is a
city on islands in the middle of a river.)
in Miyagi prefecture Japan wasn't great, but Nadi,
Fiji is definitely worst. Few surprises there I suppose. It's a
shame that even at their most detailed, the maps never get as nice as
those that you can get in paper from the Ordnance Survey. But again, few
Friday, 23 June 2000
Bach, St. Matthew Passion. This is probably
Bach’s most famous choral piece. It’s great, wonderful even.
You might take or leave the religious
content, but it’s glorious music either way.
EBay: Sound or Not?
I’ve been interested in the E-Bay
auction company for a while in a totally academic way (I’ve never
used it, and checking that the above link worked was my first ever
visit to their site). Comment elsewhere is not very positive, so I’m
not very keen on the idea of using it myself.
Most positive is probably David Chess’s
account, which conveys the excitement quite well. But then, just
how secure is this setup anyway?
This article from the New York Times is all about a suspected ring
of "shill" bidders, i.e., bidders who bid up the sale price in an
attempt to net the seller a better deal.
Rational buyers should not be taken in by such schemes, whether or not
the seller shill-bids themselves or has others to do it for them. If
you bid what you think the item is worth, then you will either get it
for that price or not, and it should be no concern of yours that
someone else may end up paying more than they really wanted. Maybe
they’ll sell it onto you later.
More worrying is Phil Agre’s
description of the scheme on EBay for communal monitoring of
buyers and sellers’ behaviour. Basically, Agre points out that there
is not much incentive to be negative in one’s comments about others,
thereby devaluing the information there.
Monday, 26 June 2000
A Passage to India
Mozart, piano concerto #9 in E flat major, KV 271.
- A passage to India by
E. M. Forster.
I greatly enjoyed this novel. In some ways,
it was more of the same. Certainly Forster seems to relish
the chance to describe the interaction of two worlds,
where one world is the conventional English setting familiar
to him, and the other is something exotic. Sometimes the
focus is on the impact of the exotic on the English, as in
the two Italian novels (Where angels fear
to tread and A room with a
view), and sometimes the other way around gets
most attention, as in Maurice and
In APTI, the principal character is probably Aziz.
He opens and finishes the novel, and we get to see his internal
thoughts and emotions most of all. It's difficult to know how
likely a person he is, but at least Forster had actually been to
India, so he’s probably not a complete fabrication of what
Forster thought Moslem Indians should be like. It's really only
during the novel’s central crisis that Aziz is apart from the
narrative. Instead we get to see the English administration
springing into sickening action.
Finally, I find the novel’s denouement very effective. This is
in complete contrast to The longest
To read next:
Plums of P. G. Wodehouse. This is another volume
courtesy of the Folio
Incidentally, the English football team are out of the Euro 2000
competition. They lost to Rumania, and didn’t need to be kicked out
for the bad behaviour of their fans.
Wednesday, 28 June 2000
- Listening to:
- Stravinsky, Symphony of
Psalms. This is a recent recording with Pierre Boulez
conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. It has picked up a not entirely
review at the BBC music magazine. I don't have any
other recording, so I can't tell at this stage.
movement, which I'm listening to now, is quite beautiful and serene,
with hushed voices singing over a gentle tympani pulse.
Of course, we're all big fans of Open Source
days. Whether you're an old style believer in the way of the FSF and the GNU system
, or perhaps a
more liberal, caring, 90s kinda person in the mold of Eric Raymond
's famous Cathedral
philosophy, you know that free software is where
However, it's also important to realise that it's not a panacaea.
John Viega describes the way in which open-source does not cure
security problems, and can even exacerbate them (because they're more
readily found) in this interesting article
and Eric Raymond (again) describes a similar
issue with respect to the Quake 1 game.
Not that I lap up everything Raymond writes. He has an essay on
the right to bear arms that I find completely astounding.
Friday, 30 June 2000
Pop psychology and a HP nay-sayer
Fauré, piano quartet no. 1 in C minor, op. 15.
Ever wondered why computer hackerdom is predominantly populated by
males? The ABC (US version, not Australian) has an
explanation. It’s a classic example of psychology by anecdote,
and pretty unilluminating as a result.
What about a nay-sayer on the Harry Potter books? Here’s