Sunday, December 01, 2013

Landing Pattern

I just flew from Pittsburgh to LaGuardia this evening, and the plane's landing pattern was the one where you slide up Manhattan from south to north and then start a 270-degree turn over the George Washington Bridge. Fortunately I was in a window seat on the right side of the plane, so I got to watch the cityscape go by. It's one of the great views of New York, especially at night. The place looks positively delicate, and the lights are beautiful. Even the housing projects look beautiful.

The Freedom Tower looks better from that vantage point than the ones on the ground that I've tried so far. The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings are still the class of the skyline by a wide margin.

On a more prosaic level of city appreciation, the MTA started running an express bus between LaGuardia and the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop in Jackson Heights earlier this year, and it's basically the best bus line ever. A straight-up boon for you and any flight attendants in your life.

Thanksgiving night at Chris & Jeana's was a fine occasion, par for the course, and I rode with Mom & Dad & Mike & Cameron to Pittsburgh for a highly relaxed couple of days (board games, pizza & movie night, etc.) and brunch with the grandparents this morning. Snow on the ground in both Rochester and Pittsburgh, the first real snow of the year from my perspective. Not a bad vault into December by any stretch.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Further Brother Nonsense, Patent Office Dept.

An exchange edited down between some emails and texts between Jack and me this afternoon, starting when he shared some of the news of the day:


Aw, man, you can’t patent human genes? I had so many of those in the works.
This used to be super hard, but with a human gene mutation anyone can do this. The mutating process will be accomplished through a patentable method of organic stasis indcution and targeted DNA intervention with radioactive Thorium. It also enables a speed burst. 
(maybe you guys write that part, I just put it here in case)

Okay but what if it’s a gene that’s naturally found in deers but it’s my idea to add it into humans. I am just saying that I deserve to get the patent money because I’m the one that invented “mantlers” 



I love this guy’s understanding of how patents work.

I’ve been the worst offender in terms of blog quietude and arguably more of our day-to-day nonsense should be shared rather than buried in our GMail accounts. But somehow, casual workplace email correspondence is a particularly comfortable medium for spontaneous character generation.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

All the Right Moves

I know I've been on a serious blogging drought here, for the past year. But! Something has finally passed my attention with sufficient profundity as to document it and share it here.

First, go here: Australia: Life Explodes.

Next, click the green "WATCH THE PROGRAM" button in the right hand corner of the episode's homepage.

You'll have to watch an advertisement, but once it's finished and the program starts to play, fast-forward to as close to 32:42 as you can without going over that mark. Then watch the next 10 seconds or so of the program.

That is all.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen

I don't get to hear concerts with Nate any more, but over the past couple of weeks the youngish Jerusalem Quartet took their four-concert complete Shostakovich cycle to both Portland and New York, so we at least got to hear some common sounds at a remove. I write this in the expectation that Nate will share his doubtlessly copious Shostakovich-thoughts at some point, too.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center had been advertising the series for a few weeks; seeing posters about Shostakovich in outer-borough subway stops delighted me quite a bit. Nate saw the complete set (of course), and I made it to two of them, encompassing quartets no. 2, 3, 7, 9, 13, 14, and 15.

Normally I'd have more to say about the Ninth Quartet, which has an ambitious scale and an especially urgent expressive impulse. But my lasting impression from the two concerts is very much from the late quartets, Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen.

Thirteen I knew the best, having heard it in concert and even before that loved it for its modernist edge, unusual for Shostakovich. In context with the other quartets I found it extremely unsettling. It's an angry piece, raw and out of place, inviting the frightening question of what kind of pain would drive him to write something so far away from his normal voice. The program note reminded me that he composed it in between hospital stays, in deteriorating health, and it was impossible not to envision the enclosure of a hospital bed and fever dreams. A strong note in my feeling afterward is guilt for having liked the piece without acknowledging exactly what an evil experiences it suggests for its composer. I doubt I'll hear it the same way again.

Fifteen is his last, and one of his final works, understood as an elegy written for himself a few months before his departure. Late Shostakovich is all sparse, cryptic stuff, but even in that context Fifteen sits a distance beyond. It sounds less a final expression of life than a series of prepared public remarks on the occasion of death. Not a question of coming to grips with a farewell, but sketching a series of quizzical situational observations having unambiguously reached its doorstep. There are doses of anguish and bleak humor and some beautifully heartfelt sentiment, and I shouldn't go without marveling at the first movement, a peaceful mulling-over of what I assume is Russian orthodox chant. But the feeling overall is resolved and muted and very hard to figure out. The Jerusalems played it with the lights down low, which is apparently a performance tradition for some quartets.

The one that haunts me is Fourteen, though, the next-to-last. Where Thirteen and Fifteen seem to inhabit the boundaries of a defined emotional space (however pained or remote they might be), Fourteen seems to wander an open ground. Musically, its memorable feature is a recurring impulse towards sweet, folk-like tunes, including a fairly jaunty opening theme. But the accompanying rhythms lose their structure, and the harmonies fall slack into odd dissonances. It's not grotesque, or even that unsettling most of the time; just odd and elusive. There are long stretches of spare, slow, monologue-like music, and episodes tend to arrive and pass without reaching climaxes or establishing dramatic purposes. Overall it struck me as an extremely interior piece, like the depiction of a wandering train of thought, passively encountering various quiet moods and mental images. It has a memorably peaceful ending, beautifully set up as the last movement trails off. But I still can't make heads or tails of it, and the musical material itself is so wispy that only a couple of melodies and gestures are still in my ears. I find it extremely difficult even to describe the piece in words.

The members of the quartet played with constantly evident conviction and a rich expressive range, and the acoustics in Alice Tully Hall are grand, so all was well on the performative front.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Say! I Like Them

Maddie made green pancakes for breakfast this morning.

You can't taste the spinach at all!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Indefinite Subway Reading Commitment

2013! A year far in the future!

One of my more makeable new year's resolutions is to start reading more. Specifically, I mean reading more while I'm on the subway, as opposed to doing the NY Times crossword puzzle app on my iPhone with my left hand while hanging onto the overhead bar with my right hand. I got hooked on this commuter behavior shortly after purchasing the iPhone. Then I looked up at Christmas and realized I'd only read like two books since springtime, and I got sad.

(Noted in passing: one of my other more makeable resolutions is to start writing more again, which means writing at all, and which means here on the blog. Hello again!)

Anyway, I of course immediately adjusted my behavior with no difficulty. Since I got a Kindle for Christmas (thanks, parents!) I can impulse-buy reading material now. I've been skeptical about the whole Kindle thing, basically on account of being old-fashioned about books, but I like the impulse-buy angle. For example, all the political blogs ran obituary appreciations of Richard Ben Cramer a last week, who I'd never heard of, but I could immediately impulse-buy What It Takes, which I'd just learned was a classic account of the 1988 presidential primaries. Just a couple of screen taps, and boom, I'm into the Amazon store and automatically charging ten dollars to Maddie's credit card somehow.

So that's one aspect of Kindle book buying. Another aspect is that it's not extremely apparent how long a book is. For example, I got about five chapters into What It Takes (which starts out with a kind of intertwined biography of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, which is a lot more absorbing than it might sound) before getting curious about its length. In real life, the book is famously long, 1,072 pages long; the paperback edition weighs a pound and a half. Who knew!

I'm enjoying myself with it immensely, so no complaints (I'm into the initial encounters now with the personages of Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart), but it's funny to only catch on to an Indefinite Subway Reading Commitment well after that commitment has been made. And it still doesn't feel like physical size, just an endless procession of page-turning screen taps.

Meanwhile, Maddie goes on standby this week and she gets the Kindle, since I told her back when I was still skeptical about the whole Kindle thing (i.e., sometime before a week ago) that she can take it any time she wants. So I guess I'll pick up a New Yorker or something? I dunno, man, resolutions are hard.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"I allow myself to imagine this day to contain the stirrings of our professional relationship"

I present the following email thread between Jack and me from late last week, prompted by a "career opportunity" fired my way via LinkedIn.  Third party's name changed.

* * * * *

Your Exceptional Skills Caught my Eye
To: Nate
From: Trent

I wanted to reach out to you because your profile and experience really stood out to me.
I’m not certain if you are looking for something new right now but maybe you'd be willing to discuss your future and aspirations?

There are many opportunities for extremely talented people like you, specifically in Ruby on Rails development.

A developer who can write truly elegant code is a very rare thing to find. I think you have what it takes to make a huge impact within many of my clients and wanted to know if you could set aside some time to speak about what you might be looking for in your next position.

Even if you aren’t quite ready to actually make a move I would still like to start a relationship for when that day comes. I can be reached at [non-local phone number redacted] or at [email redacted]
Hope to hear from you soon.


(View Trent's LinkedIn profile)

* * * * *

To: Jack
From: Nate

This LinkedIn recruiter spam is amusing to me tonally, though I guess that approach must work on somebody.  To my mind, "Even if you aren’t quite ready to actually make a move I would still like to start a relationship for when that day comes" just makes you sound like you're trying to start an emotional affair on Facebook.

* * * * *

To: Nate
From: Jack

I do not normally contact anyone on LinkedIn but in your case I find myself too intrigued to resist. As soon as I saw your profile I felt an immediate connection, even though we have never met before today. A sensation of excitement overcame me as I traced my eyes over your resume, both at first blush and as I allowed myself to read it again and again. Is it even possible that our professional lives haven't touched yet?

There are so many opportunities for someone like you in my business. Perhaps you are happy where you are in life. I would never deny you any of that happiness, but I ask you to read my letter and wonder if I might offer you something even more. There is a richness, an uncharted satisfaction for you to explore in my business. I sense it in the firmness of your ambition and in your competencies. I sense it in your deep appreciation of the elegance of JavaScript programming and website design, interests which I share with you with sheer intensity.

If you would see fit to forgive my breathless rush to action, I would suggest that we should perhaps speak, of the present or the future or of my business or of any topic upon which our pleasure alights. Perhaps you might discreetly choose to set aside some time that we may become more intimately acquainted. I promise that none may need know, save ourselves. I feel no need to shy away from a full discussion of your talents and of the needs of my business.

I urge you to assuage the doubts that must be overtaking you! Oh, I feel them too. Yet it is with an undeniable flush of anticipation that I allow myself to imagine this day to contain the stirrings of our professional relationship.

Please reply quickly. I shall bear your dissuading words if I must hear them, but I beg of you, do not be cruel. I may be reached at [fake email redacted].

Yours in my heart,

(View Trent's LinkedIn profile)

* * * * *

In correspondence with others I described the original missive as "[sounding like a] recently divorced 50-year-old on a Christian speed date" and "about 55% of the way to being an Ashley Madison profile" but I think Jack nailed it, obviously.