Author Archives: J39M

About J39M

Julian is something of a (self-declared) weirdo who enjoys quiet pondering and aimless wandering. When that's not on the roster, he can be found practicing his scales and arpeggios on any nearby piano. Julian has a singular, non-homosexual fixation on the pianist Rafał Blechacz, and can be frequently heard spazzing out about him. Julian loves Studio Ghibli films and won't miss up any opportunity to fanboy about any one of them. His running favorite is probably "Spirited Away," closely followed by "Howl's Moving Castle" and "My Neighbor Totoro." The film score that holds his heart, though, is Yuji Nomi's gorgeous creation for "The Cat Returns."

Branches shed mints

Were it another in your stead,
Afire, ablaze, beholden to Faust.
Yet Gloria, Gloria – amen –
Sing wider still to all.

Trust never what sulks ahead,
Nor admit contentious sound.
Now wary of all glum,
Now carillon bells together call.

Luminous in the seabed,
Feeble in the lighthouse.
But sonorous in the sanatorium –
and reverent in the hall.

J39M

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Some scattered thoughts on TLJ

I just saw The Last Jedi and I really want to scrawl some random stuff down.

Here’s an unpopular shot across your bow: I’m in love. I have a new favorite Star Wars film.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Actual spoilers follow. Please stop!

“We are what they grow beyond.”

In that vein, deposition is a often necessary component of growth. It’s not abrupt or necessarily bad storytelling (though we can quibble about the execution) – but unseating a chrome dome, slicing a wrinkly birthday cake, and briefly failing to emulate the crew on the HMS Bounty are all characters striking toward something greater.

One exception lingers – our favorite, in search of a parent or two, now having lost what she briefly gained. As exemplified in the cave, though, her greatest struggle is within. She remains unable to do away with her fascination with who she is. She’s not unlike that one punk-ass bitch (was his name Matt?) in this. Her greatest trial is something that is yet to be shown on screen.

The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars film in which I genuinely (and surprisingly) didn’t care at all about the tech. Bio-hexacrypt? Hand-wave it away. Miniature Death Star tech? Another big Maltese Falcon. I seriously don’t give a shit – not in the negative way, but in the sense that I’m going to turn my ears off if somebody’s going to complain about the tech, because to my mind, they are missing the point. Nobody ever read Matthew 4:1 and said “Oh for fuck’s sake, another story of venturing into the wilderness? What a lazy rehash of Exodus 13:18.” I grant you that Starkiller Base was not the best-executed device, but the key point is the same. So it is with the huge battering ram cannon.

To me, Star Wars has always been the following:

  • Egalitarian escapism
  • Opera buffa (of the highest form – no slight to Johnny)
  • Cyclical in nature
  • A story about people coming into themselves

So I think I would only be mildly annoyed of our good JJ undoes Rey Random’s lineage – but I could get over that. Other than that, I see no real constraints on how IX will progress.

Bravo!

J39M

Get Elon on Azraq and Zaatari!

I remain deeply skeptical and resentful of the Christian Science Monitor for their questionably technical infrastructure and for their abjectly miserable support staff. (I sincerely hope I never have to straighten out anything with either one ever again lest I go jump in a lake.)

That said, I’m also easily distracted and almost as easily placated. The December 5 edition of the Monitor Daily is the best pick-me-up I’ve experienced in a long time. The gorgeous picture of Joseph, Moreblessing, and Meryl Mutsakani is the most beautiful photo I’ve seen all year. Their story is compellingly told and (probably unjustifiably) fills my heart with hope for Zimbabwe. If ever I were to be hoodwinked by emotional journalism, I’d at least want it to be written like this.

Further down, it pains me to read again about the Syrian refugee crisis, but the sudden solar deus ex machina brightens up my day. It’s especially gratifying to see no celebrity appeal in the article; the easiest and flashiest path would have been to consult SolarCity and Elon Musk on how to power the Azraq and Zaatari camps. The UN – perhaps not intentionally – casually showed the wider application and utility of solar power by turning instead to the IKEA Foundation and to the KfW. In the wider context of renewable energy, this is a modest proof that solar power isn’t just a Silicon-fueled conspiracy. If it can provide serviceable power to a refugee camp, it can provide for just about anything.

J39M

“Mindless Deadrun” take BB

I have invested quite some time on this arrangement and I’m fairly satisfied with the results. The limitations of the intertwined piano 4-hands format I chose mean that this arrangement is lobotomized. There’s no way I (me “up” and me “down” depending on where I was perched on the bench) could hope to match the colors of a full orchestra. Just listen to me fumbling the sixteenths when a string section would breeze effortlessly through.

A few notes –

  • I’m fairly proud of my synchronization, but I have no idea if that will suffer when I work my way up to the proper tempo.
  • That weird trill is supposed to be a snare drum. Limitations of the medium.
  • I left out the repeat and the huge bass drum strike at the end of the piece. But I know that the simulated bass drum sounds cool!
  • I got completely bum-lost in the middle and that made me very sad, but at least I came back in the end.

Dvorak and your home row

It occurs to me that I learned all the important keybindings in my life on Dvorak.

This means that hjkl in vim are 75% not in my home row. J and K are within reach of the left hand (and conveniently next to each other, thank goodness). While H lies right under my right index finger at rest, L is a slight stretch to the top with my right ring finger (P on standard QWERTY). Life with vim and other vim-like tools is a daily awkward keyboard etude.

It’s occurred to me several times before that I could rebind these keys (and relearn them all) so that I wouldn’t have to think so hard when I drive other people’s machines and have to type like a blundering idiot. The main reason why I don’t do so is that I prize being able to meaningfully echo my own inputs back to myself in my mind. Deleting a line sounds like “deedee.” “Good game” takes me to the top of the file; “GEE” drops me to the bottom. “Control – deedeedeedeedee” takes me on a leisurely stroll down the text. This sense of control allows me to constantly remind myself how to use vim rather than rely solely on muscle memory. Then I invert ordering of mental sounding to keyboard input: I say to myself “jay jay” and use that to override my hands to tap “J” with my right index finger. “Deedee” is done with my left middle finger (when usually it looks like “hh” by my outstretched right index finger).

Re-derivation in the moment is a moderately useful skill that I like to cultivate even for useless things like this.

J39M

Shooting a whale in a teacup

Before Rogue One came out, I remember reading some excited comments on Reddit amounting to a score wishlist from Giacchino. Most of that wishlist came true: first and foremost, Darth Vader’s theme got a good showing (Krennic’s Aspirations and Hope). This is like shooting a whale in a teacup; Giacchino could have stuck in an Imperial quote played by a Peruvian pan flute and made the crowd go wild.

The finer points of the A New Hope score that the aforementioned comment hoped for were the insidious minor-third motif (which I hadn’t really taken notice of before) and the over-the-top Death Star flourish.

To my delight, Krennic’s Aspirations fulfilled the former almost gleefully. Giacchino really did his homework, I imagine. However, the Death Star motif didn’t get any showing that I can remember. In fact, the Death Star doesn’t seem to have any particular musical motif for itself in Rogue One since it is rarely the focal point in this movie.

A shower thought came over me tonight: the 2 firings of the Death Star provide a musical foil to each other from film to film. The cue Destruction of Alderaan is chock-full of dramatic tension, whirling up and down the heartstrings before culminating in a shocking and angry resolution in which Leia’s home is destroyed. The big ending to The Battle of Yavin evokes Holst (a bit like the opening Tantive IV chase) with no less bombast, going for the wholesale brass fortissimo to keep the audience engaged.

Compare these 2 examples against how things played out in Rogue One. In Star-dust, the quiet, almost nonchalant destruction of Jedha is just background noise while Jyn tearfully reconnects virtually with her father. One of the quickest genocides in galactic history plays out over quiet piano chords with minimal orchestral work. The cue and scene are serene, because the emotional crux of the scene lies between Jyn and the unreachable Galen. In Your Father Would Have Been Proud, the rate of mickey-mousing drops below zero as a choir layers a slow-paced cue over the abrupt destruction of the upper Citadel tower (and the death of Orson Krennic). Again, the action need not be frenzied because the outcome is inescapable. Jyn and Cassian have no way out; all they can do is collapse on the beach and wait for their time to come, soaring away on a heroic refrain of Jyn’s theme. The Death Star is mostly irrelevant in the scheme of things, having failed to interrupt the rebel transmission.

Compare the cues against each other and you see that we lose nothing by the omission of the quasi-motif of the New Hope Death Star. Rather, the musical blindness to the Death Star prevents the audience from being distracted by what is the largest on-screen object, enhancing the flow of the story.

Mistake of the day: pyinotify

I’m rewriting an old application. The next-gen evolution here is that instead of a time-based loop, I’m rewiring the flow of execution to take cues via pyinotify. (I was terribly proud of calculating the average song length in my library and using that to decide the loop timing.)

I followed the example code and read the documentation. I found that the key takeaways were

  1. I was to use WatchManager.add_watch to monitor my file. In this case, that’s ~/.quodlibet/current. The documentation clearly states that files and directories both are watchable – though the tutorials only seemed to cover directories.
  2. I watched for the event pyinotify.IN_MODIFY – because I would be waiting for a file modification.

When I tried a dummy run just to see things in action, the event process was triggered as expected. However, processing had fallen through to the “default” event – not IN_MODIFY as I wanted. To make matters worse, no further events were ever seen again (even when they should have happened). I was only getting the one event – and the wrong event, at that.

There’s no head-scratching here. When I added some more verbosity, my gross mistake became very clear. The process of changing ~/.quodlibet/current is to write the new one out to a tempfile and then swap it into the “real” current file. This is two(-ish) events in ~/.quodlibet, and neither of them is a modify to ~/.quodlibet/current.

EDIT: I think the once-off happens because your watch is invalidated. When the tempfile clobbers ~/.quodlibet/current, the underlying file is no more – so you’re watching a ghost whose name was already usurped on the filesystem.

The correct approach is to watch ~/.quodlibet and match on the exact file being reported in the event fire.

J39M