Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everybody Dies

I first heard The Ladies Who Lunch in about 1979, when I rented the LP of Sondheim's "Company" from the Rock Island Public Library (though back then, "Barcelona" was my favorite piece, because I could just about follow the story -- alcohol-fueled late-life cynicism is not so accessible to a 12-yr-old).  But today, for the very first time, I realized that the key line at the end of LWL isn't "everybody does", but "everybody DIES." So the lines are:

Look into their eyes
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.

Dear Sondheim -- I want to cry when I think about how you scored this.  Yes, my panties are in a bunch!  Why on earth did you put "dies" at the climax of a transitional line -- that's not even transitioning to bigger, but to smaller ("A toast to that invincible bunch / The dinosaurs surviving the crunch")?  In fact, this whole fucking final stanza is denouement -- the center of the song is OBVIOUSLY the one right before it -- "Another reason not to move, Another vodka stinger" is the heart, and the drunken, wrenching "aaaaahhh" that follows it is the soul.  You can't just throw "You'll see what they know: Everybody dies" in afterwards like that.  Say, fellows, I have an idea!  How about if after the Titanic sinks, a goddamn giant narwhal comes and spikes all the drowning Irishmen on his unihorn?   After Hamlet dies, why don't we have Fortinbras come in and set fire to the fucking castle?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

du coq-a-l'ane

I remember a lot about Gravity's Rainbow, which I read twice, but (why "but?" why not "and?") most of what I remember is pornographic.  Or quaint: 

Down the toilet, look at me
What a silly thing to do!
Hope nobody takes a pee
Yippee dippy doo.

That was from decades-old memory, so certainly error-riddled; don't go quoting me.  Hell, don't bother with Pynchon any more -- have you seen what's going on at the amateur porn sites like xtube?  I'm not talking about the videos -- I mean the communities coming together in the margins.  (Heh.)  Cocksmen strut and wag, and then have little chats with their viewers in asides, in which all boundaries of sex, age, and beauty are disregarded; the leatherbear with trussed-up balls is wildly cheered by his fellow burlies and the definitely-not-his-ilk lady watchers alike -- and he responds appreciatively to each in turn.  Sometimes suggestions (as to sound, camera position, technique) are traded, and worked into future opera.  The atmosphere tends to be enthusiastic (indeed, much more so than most other parts of the web), generous, and non-give-a-fuck-ish -- I'm guessing like a pre-HIV bathhouse, but, honestly, I have no idea.  It seems to be something entirely new;  a real queering afoot.  I feel like a late Victorian confronted with the first village telephone: I sense the earth moving under my feet, but I don't know what direction it's headed.  

For one thing -- who *are* any of these people (I mean the community of watchers, mainly)?  Avatar pics represent something or other -- the person's fascination or hiding place -- but talk about displacement.  This isn't technische Reproduzierbarkeit -- it's fucking the machine, through the machine, as the machine.  Which isn't news.  But who knew that it would seem so playful?  Like a bunch of bonobos -- more campy than dystopic, really.  So far.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thirteen ways of looking at May 6th, 2010


Radiohead -- Faust Arp


In the machine learning class at G today, we watched a video by DPC on the basics -- modeling documents as vectors of word occurrences (with one dimension per word -- meaning an unvisualizable number of dimensions).  Reducing a document to a bag of words always seems so deeply wrong -- like technical stock market forecasting.  Even if it works for some set of problems, you're throwing away so much feels like a Ptolemaic model, like a fundamentally flawed, inelegant system.



1 potato
several organic carrots
a jar of minced garlic


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


I had thought that June 5th was going to be pretty tough on my embouchure, playing for eight hours during the day in a chamber music workshop.  But today I signed on to sub for a bassoonist in an orchestra above my level that's playing a concert the night of the 5th.


Amon Tobin -- Verbal


When I was a child, I was afraid of this movie -- my dad had the soundtrack, and the chaos, insistent rhythm and wild wailing in the opening track terrified me.  I could hardly look at the album cover, I was so frightened.  Then when I was in my twenties, I finally saw it (on ARD, I think) -- and I really loved it.  I bought the soundtrack on CD.  But now that I've read Obama's criticism of it in his biography (his mother liked it, and O rightly nails the naive primitivism) I'm kind of embarrassed about liking it.  But I love it.


How long does it take to bake a fucking potato?  Jesus Christ!



Why is online chatter so snarky?  Is it that the absence of human aura drives a violent free-for-all, along with the abandonment of the primate rituals of hierarchy and conciliation that evolved over the millenia to protect us from one another?  Is snark violence by other means?  Or is it the natural currency of the hyper-democratic online society, in which 14-year-olds jostle with bankers and blogger moms for attention?


The FAQ on the "Hells Angels" website uses the word "metonym" three times.


Bebel Gilberto -- Samba e Amor

Monday, May 3, 2010

Miniver Cheevy

We are having a team outing to "Iron Man 2" on Friday.  I looked up reviews and decided to read Anthony Lane, who tends to put the "too" in "too clever by half," but rarely is dull.  His review of IM2 was paired with one of "The Duel," a Chekov story that I've always found compelling and unsettling because it cuts too close to the bone -- like an Iris Murdoch novel.

...the team outing to IM2 is, I am given to understand, entirely voluntary.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Gyulchatai, show your sweet face"

In honor of C., who is single-tweetedly responsible for the reawakening of PT, I devote this post to my favorite Soviet film -- Белое солнце пустыни -- which is available in its entirety on google videos (though you'll have to bring your Russian phrasebook, as subtitles are Not Included). Now -- time to blast off!