Saturday, December 19, 2009

Musical Milestone

6 or 7 years ago, way back in my senior year of high school, I sat down and recorded a short, 3-part musical piece inspired by Dante's Inferno and submitted it to my English teacher for extra credit.

2 years ago, I decided to apply the advice of my writing instructors --share, share, share! Don't be a hoarding miser! --to my music, and began uploading videos of my original compositions set to image slideshows on youtube.

Last night, I received a comment that simply made my day:

We're reading this in my English class and [our] teacher showed this to us to help us understand it better. It's beautiful.

And so my music has come full circle! Hard to believe it's actually being used as a study aid somewhere and that there's even enough appreciation to inspire a student to leave this wonderful comment.

Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Global Stupid

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Demon in the Freezer

Richard Preston has quickly shot up the ranks in my esteem, so much so that I feel once again compelled to post an excerpt, this time from his book "The Demon in the Freezer." It is not often that I am impressed by a religious experience of any sort, but I was quite taken by the following tale.

Baba Ram Dass spoke glowingly of a holy man named Neem Karoli Baba, who was the head of an ashram at the foot of the Himalayas in a remote district in northern India where the borders of China, India, and Nepal come together. Girija Brilliant was captivated by Baba Ram Dass's talk of the holy man, and she wanted to meet him, though Larry was not interested. Girija insisted, and so they went. They ended up living in the ashram and becoming devotees of Neem Karoli Baba, who was a small, elderly man of indeterminate age. His only personal possession was a plaid blanket. He was a famous guru in India, and the people sometimes called him Blanket Baba. The Brilliants learned Hindi, meditated, and read the Bhagavad Gita. Meanwhile, Larry ran an informal clinic in the ashram, giving out medicines that he'd taken off the bus when they'd left it in Kathmandu. One day, he was outdoors at the ashram, singing Sanskrit songs with a group of students. Blanket Baba was sitting in front of the students, watching them sing...

Blanket Baba got a sly grin and started chanting, in Hindi, "You have no money...You are no doctor...You have no money," and he reached forward and tugged on Brilliant's beard.

Brilliant didn't know how to answer.

Neem KAroli Baba switched to English and kept on chanting. "You are no doctor...UNO doctor...UNO doctor."

UNO can stand for United Nations Organization.

The guru was saying to his student (or so the student now thinks) that his duty and destiny --his dharma-- was to become a doctor with the United Nations. "He made this funny gesture, looking up at the sky," Brilliant recalled, "and he said in Hindi, 'You are going to go into villages. You are going to eradicate smallpox. Because this is a terrible disease. But with God's grace, smallpox will be unmulun.'" The guru used a formal old Sanskrit word that means "to be torn up by the roots." Eradicated...

Brilliant packed a few things and left the ashram that night --the guru seemed to be in a rush to "unmulate" smallpox... When Brilliant walked into the office of the WHO, it was nearly empty. It had just been set up, and almost no one was working there...

"I was wearing a white dress and sandals," Brilliant says. "I'm five feet nine, and my beard was something like five feet eleven, and my hair was a ponytail down my back." Grasset had no job to offer him, so Brilliant returned to the monastery and, having not slept in at least thirty-six hours, reported back to the guru.

"Did you get the job?"
"Go back and get it."

..."I went back and forth between New Delhi and the ashram at least a dozen times. All my teacher kept saying was, 'Don't worry, you'll get your job. Small pox will be unmulun, uprooted." When at the ashram, Brilliant meditated. He would assume the lotus position...

Neem Karoli Baba would notice he was meditating, and he would walk up to Brilliant, yank an apple out from under his blanket, and throw it at Brilliant's crotch... The guru seemed to be hinting, Brilliant says now, that he needed to stand up on his feet and get back to the WHO in New Delhi, where his job awaited. [Pages 63-65]

Okay, this excerpt is getting unwieldy. To cut a long and interesting story short, Larry Brilliant eventually meets the head of the smallpox eradication program, is hired as a typist, then becomes a leading force in the successful eradication of the smallpox disease.

So, in part thanks to the borderline insane ramblings of a real-life, Yoda-like Indian guru, the most dangerous, deadliest human disease was all but eradicated from the face of the earth. Wow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

Starring David Cross and Will Arnett. HBO is picking up the American rights. I can't wait. This clip had me laughing my ass off.

American Todd Margaret (David Cross) bluffs his way into an apparently great job opportunity, heading up the sales team in his employer’s London office. All he has to do is sell several thousand energy drinks before his boss visits him in a week. Simple. Apart from the fact that he knows nothing about British culture and nothing about sales. This is further complicated when he lies continuously to cover his ignorance and spectacularly fails to impress Alice the first beautiful girl he meets.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Thanksmaskuh!

Many thanks to Corey and Jackie for hosting a lovely dinner party!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cold Case -- Paranormal SCVNGR Game

Introducing COLD CASE, the interactive fiction, augmented reality, cellphone-based text game built for the SCVNGR platform.
...hello? ...can you help me? You're receiving messages from the Otherside. Help the soul of a deceased young woman remember clues about her murder so that she might finally rest in peace.
COLD CASE is a free, location-based scavenger hunt that takes you through parts of Boston's back bay area. The game can be played with any cell phone that has text messaging or through SCVNGR's official iphone application (recommended).

Just text the word PARANORMAL to SCVNGR (728647) to get started!

COLD CASE was designed by Depth Deception and deployed December 2009.

Not in Boston? No worries! You can can still make it through the game fairly easily (but with point penalties) by using the HINT system. How's it work? Just text HINT once you've started the game! You have 3 guesses before you are skipped ahead to the next clue.

You can also text SKIP, but in practice, this sometimes skips two clues so use it sparingly. Happy hunting!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Women Composers

Where are all the women composers? As I scroll through my ipod, the apparent lack of a female presence seems glaring and disappointing. Why haven't more ladies taken up the big orchestra sound?

Well, that's not exactly the case. Don't forget the venerable Shirley Walker. Haven't heard of her? Well, if your childhood was anything like mine, then you've most certainly heard her music. Ms. Walker was responsible for the amazing soundtrack blasting behind Batman: the Animated Series, the animated movie spinoffs, and the Superman cartoon, among other things.

Let's listen to some samples, shall we?

She's also responsible for my favorite Joker theme, the carnival-like music that is woven into the following rhythmic piece:

More Joker theme:

Her Superman Theme is so good it demands a place next to John William's famous theme.

Listen to Shirley herself as she deconstructs the Batman theme:


Oh, and I almost forgot! Yoko Kanno deserves a shout out. How about her stirring choral piece Escaflowne: Dance of Curse:

Her work on Cowboy Bebop is as varied as it is genius:

Green Bird (Spoiler alert)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gimme Dat Christian Side Hug


Monday, December 7, 2009


Friday, December 4, 2009

Variety is the Spice of Life

Now that I'm jobless and subsisting on a diet almost entirely of PB&J, I'm constantly reminded of a story from childhood. Back when I was a young boy in Rhode Island, I lived across from what I considered to be my second family, the Lowmans. It seemed like I split my time evenly between the two homes. Some of my favorite things about lunch with the Lowmans were the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Forget the bitter wheat bread that my mother used, the Lowmans had white bread, sweet and fluffy. And forget the boring grape jelly of my household; the Lowmans wouldn't settle for anything less than strawberry jam. A revelation. Back at home, my mother's sandwiches were fine, but they seemed plain and usual. Sure, they were lovingly cut into four squares, but they lacked the exotic, sweet tongue smack that the PB&J from across street always elicited.

Fast forward some years later. I've long since moved away and I'm visiting my old friend, The Lowman's son, my blood brother. As we reminisced about our good ol' days of summer fun and PB&J's, I discovered he had a very similar impression of the sandwiches, only in reverse. As it turns out, he was a great fan of my mother's sandwiches. He relished the savory taste of grape jelly and wheat, the caring way they were cut, and the double layer of peanut butter. To his mind, his family's PB&J's were bland and boring, but my family's sandwiches were exciting and new!

It just goes to show you, there is truth in the old adage, "variety is the spice of life." Sometimes, trying something new opens up exciting new perspectives. As for me, I still prefer strawberry peanut butter sandwiches on white bread, but I've borrowed my mother's technique of spreading peanut butter on both sides to add another layer and to stop the jelly from seeping into the bread.

The best of both worlds. Bon Appetit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Bear

Written by Jay Fuller

Johnny pulled up his trousers and waded into Stuckey pond. He shouldered his handmade fishing pole like a rifle. The line and hook trailed behind him, cutting the surface of the water like a nail across glass.

Birch and sumac trees had begun to show signs of the coming autumn. Here and there, deep reds and amber yellows dotted the surrounding forest. The stagnant, hot air of the summer season had started to give way to cooler breezes. Johnny relished the occasional chill. His feet plopped into the muck beneath the water’s surface, which oozed between his toes.

He stopped once he was partway submerged and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a writhing earthworm and pierced its midsection with his fishing hook. He cast his line toward the center of the pond, where the water was dark. The bait plunged in with a tiny splash. Johnny counted the ripples as they made their way back to him.