An article I wrote last week: The Surrealist Photos of Bob Dylan by Daniel Kramer and Daniel Schatzberg.
This is a protest song:
Cov-ered in a cloak of de-cen-cy,
Liv-ing in the land of the brave and free,
Drink-ing the nec-tar of sweet suc-cess,
Step-ping o'er the bo-dy of Ten-der-ness.
And it doesn't matter what you do,
And it doesn't matter what you say,
Trapped in a place that does-n't know me,
An-gry wind blows through the streets of this town,
Back home, the flood wa-ters are now gone,
Back home, there's black pes-ti-lence in the well.
And it doesn't matter what you do,
And it doesn't matter what you say,
And it doesn't matter what you think,
And it doesn't matter who you could be.
C omit 3.............................
The truth is whatever they say it is,
C omit 3......................
The lies are whatever they do.
R.I.P. Joe Strummer. God bless Mick Jones.
If you’re interested in Impromptu, you might want to attend the Twin Cities Lisp Group Inaugural Meeting:
9 June 2009, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM CDT
Common Roots Cafe
Corner of 26th and Lyndale, Minneapolis, MN
My girlfriend, Julia, and I saw Chris Mars last night in Edina at a book-signing/small exhibition he was doing for his new book Tolerance. Chris was a very cool and very nice guy.
Besides talking to Chris, the best thing was seeing his paintings in the flesh (so to speak). Photographs of his paintings don’t do them justice. There is a luminosity shining out through some of the figures in the paintings that makes them seem alive and more engagingly hopeful than their reproductions in the book.
A recurrent theme in the paintings is the idea of people being cast out from their natural homes and place in society and alienated from those still living within conventional society. And the outcasts are the victims of some of their fellow beings. There is a tension between two opposing groups in society. Those being abused and those doing the abusing. Those still living within the system and those who have left it voluntarily or have been forced out. But it’s not as simple as some people being good and some people being bad. There is a general darkness and malaise in the paintings showing that there are darker forces at work and perhaps the oppressors are simply pawns of these larger forces. The villains are simply those who didn’t have the moral strength to stand up to these larger forces.
The outcasts and misfits are quite often pictured living in the street while houses glow warmly in the background. While they might yearn for the comforts of their old homes, these outcasts haven’t forsaken their integrity, purity, and sympathy for fellow beings.
As for the oppressors in the paintings, you don’t know whether you should pity them, hate them, or both. On the one hand, there are larger forces at work, political and corporate, that make it easy and expedient for them to play the role of bullying martinets in service to the real powers at work. On the other hand, not everyone in the paintings has given in to these larger forces. Some of the people being bullied have no choice in the matter because of physical or mental illnesses or weaknesses that make it hard or impossible for them to resist. But others have the honesty and integrity to see through the lies and resist, while helping those who aren’t strong enough to fight back on their own.
The conventional attitude today seems to be that playing by the rules of large corporations (or morally corrupt political leaders), getting what you think is “yours”, and looking the other way when it’s convenient for your conscience to do so is the cool, smart thing to do. That’s what winners do. And you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the winners/losers line. Chris Mars’ paintings show the ugly lie behind this attitude and way of living. The oppressors and the ones who look the other way are the truly ugly ones in the paintings. They might think they’re not the ugly ones (or, maybe, deep inside they have doubts), but they are.
But, as I said, there is something hopeful shining out of the paintings I saw last night in Edina that I don’t see quite so clearly in photographs of the same paintings (maybe I’m just not perceptive enough). I don’t know that there is reason for hope, but, even if there isn’t and things will always be more or less as they are now, I know which side I want to be on.
You should buy his book, and try to make an effort to see the paintings themselves. See Chris’s website for details on showings.
Greil Marcus will appear at a screening of “I’m Not There” at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on Nov. 1st.
I spent the last 72 hours programming in the ICFP Programming Contest 2008. I actually took vacation days on Friday and Monday so I could fully participate. It was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely do it again next year. The organizers did a great job.
Here are the really good things about this year’s contest:
- The problem was nice. It wasn’t one of those either-you-see-the-solution-or-you-don’t-see-it problems. Yet, it kept you engaged for the full 3 days and there was still a lot of stuff I would have liked to have tried but didn’t have time for.
- They offered support for Mac OS X. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Now, here are the bad things about this year’s contest:
- Common Lisp was not a fully-supported language. Yes, that’s right, in a functional programming contest, Common Lisp was not a fully-supported language. I know, I know. You were allowed to submit a static binary written in any programming language you wish, and this was supposedly not a ‘barrier’ to using other languages. Well, I’m sorry, but it is a barrier if you’ve never before in your life prepared a static executable from Common Lisp for Linux and rarely even use Linux. I hate to rail on the organizers about this, but I really do think in a contest designed to promote functional programming, you should have Common Lisp (and Scheme and Haskell (which they did have)) as officially supported languages. Couldn’t they have left out, say, I don’t know, Java? I was really looking forward to using the contest to increase my Common Lisp skills a bit. However, I knew that my Linux/command line ineptitude would mean I’d spend 71 of the 72 hours trying to create the executable. So, I went with Python.
- They didn’t come out with the Mac OS X sample server at the start of the contest. It came out (if I remember correctly) very late on the first day of the contest.
So, those are my 2 criticisms. The first, I think, should not have happened. As far as the second goes, I realize the contest organizers are not running this for my benefit, so I am grateful that they did give testing support for Mac OS X, even if it was a little late.
Here are the things I learned and plan on doing differently next year:
- Have a Linux box ready next time and get used to it well before the contest. Learn how to make a static binary from Common Lisp ahead of time. (But, please, just add Common Lisp back to the list of official languages next year and drop Java or whatever.)
- Have a team. Maybe if you’re Richard Stallman, you could win the contest by yourself, but I’m not Richard Stallman. I think a team of four (like the Beatles!) would be perfect. There were a lot of things I just didn’t have time to try. Wild ideas that might or might not have panned out. With 4 people, if one person wanted to try out a wild idea he had and it failed, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Also, with 4 people, you could have one person writing test cases and testing. Also, with 4 people, you could motivate each other to keep going. 4 people all working in one house together would have been ideal.
- Use source code control. Even with just one person writing code, this would have been nice. What I basically did was save off ‘committed’ versions of files in zip files with time stamps. This basically amounted to source code control but it was error-prone and not as simple as just right-clicking on a file in Eclipse and saying “check in”.
- Most importantly: In the next year, continue learning all the important Paul McCartney bass lines from Revolver to Abbey Road (inclusive) and finish reading and doing the exercises in Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.
So, thanks to the organizers for running this. Now I just have to try to get out of this [t|w]ired, dead-on-my-feet state and rest up 2 days for the Google Code Jam (and (of course) go to work in the meantime).
I don’t know the correct format for screenplays, so this is just free form.
Camera zooms in on four people playing Scrabble: 3 are modern-day Moneybags types, slick and smooth. The fourth is a little girl.
As is usually done in Scrabble, they take turns putting down words. The little girl puts words like “bunny”, “flower”, and “Mortimer” (her pet rat’s name, but I guess the audience wouldn’t know that) down. All living things. The business guys keep putting the same word down on the Scrabble board: “CO2″ (yes, I know that Scrabble doesn’t have “2″ tiles). Maybe every time they do this, they also take some Monopoly money out of “the bank”. Maybe not. That might be mixing up games too much.
At any rate, eventually, the rich guys run out of spaces to put down more “CO2″s. So, they start pushing the little girl’s words off the board and adding more “CO2″s.
After a while, they knock over the table holding the Scrabble board and walk away (I guess they got bored). One of them casually pushes over the girl in her chair as he’s walking away. Maybe he walks back and, in an absent-minded manner, picks up the small little girl’s purse that fell out of her pocket, opens it, finds there’s nothing of worth in it, and tosses it aside.
Alex Ross’s appearance at the Fitzgerald with Fred Child and the Turtle Island String Quartet last night was excellent. I wish it could have been twice as long (maybe on successive nights) so he could have covered more of the book.
For example, I wish he could have talked about the “Death Fugue” chapter, which I found especially fascinating. What does it mean when someone like Hitler is an appreciative (and knowledgeable) classical music (or just music, for that matter) fan? They did talk about Shostakovich and Stalin however.
Anyway, the last bit of the talk about the current state of music was excellent and I’m sure very inspiring for young composers. Me, if I were a young composer, I’d want to be a Milton Babbitt “Who Cares If You Listen”-noise rock composer.
Ross is appearing next on Nov. 10 at the Miami Book Fair (details TBA). For more details on the book tour, go here.
WHAT: The New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross, author of The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, joins Fred Child, host of American Public Media’s Performance Today®, for an evening of music and conversation, with music provided by the Turtle Island String Quartet.
WHEN: Wednesday, November 7, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E Exchange St, St. Paul
TICKETS: $20; MPR members receive a discount. Contact the Fitzgerald Theater box office at 651-290-1221 or visit www.fitzgeraldtheater.org.
TUNE IN: The event will be recorded for broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio’s Classical Music Service (date TBD).
Alex Ross, one of the leading classical music writers in the country, will join Performance Today host Fred Child for an evening of music and conversation to discuss Ross’ new book, The Rest is Noise. The Turtle Island String Quartet’s famous ability to cross genres will provide a musical complement to Ross’ exploration of the stylistic range of 20th-century music.
With his book, The Rest is Noise, and his blog of the same name, Ross tackles head-on the notion that classical music lives in a vacuum, observing the changing attitudes within the classical music world toward “accessible” music. In a “compulsively readable” style, Ross looks at musicians as diverse as Strauss, Gershwin and Philip Glass, casting their stories against a backdrop of the upheavals of 20th century history.
Together with the avant garde, jazz-infused Turtle Island String Quartet, Ross will discuss the changing trends toward the viability of all musical genres.
About The Rest is Noise
“There seems always to have been a ‘crisis of modern music,’ but by some insane miracle one person finds the way out. The impossibility of it gives me hope.” —Björk
“…[T]his is no plodding history. With his typically lyrical and attentive style, the author presents a lucid, often gripping story of a complex history.” —Kirkus Reviews
Ross’ first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, is a cultural history of music from 1900–2000. Just published, it has already received resounding acclaim, and Ross’s appearances have attracted enthusiastic capacity crowds.
“The Rest Is Noise shows why 20th-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise,” said Ross. “It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art.”
The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the 1920s, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, to downtown New York in the 1960s and ’70s and beyond.
About Alex Ross
Hailed as “the best listener in America” by the New York Observer, Alex Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorker since 1996 and his blog, The Rest is Noise, is one of the first stops on the Web for insightful music talk. His work has also appeared in The New Republic, The London Review of Books, Lingua Franca and The Guardian. From 1992 to 1996 he was a critic at The New York Times. He has received two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism, fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin and the Banff Centre, and a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center for contributions to the field of contemporary music.
About the Turtle Island String Quartet
Since its inception in 1985, the Turtle Island String Quartet has fused the classical quartet aesthetic with contemporary American musical styles, exploring a world of genres including folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, rock and hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India. The group has recorded for the labels Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc; contributed soundtracks for major motion pictures, TV and radio credits such as The Today Show, All Things Considered and A Prairie Home Companion; and collaborated with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor and Kenny Barron, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons Dance Company.
The group’s latest album, “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane,” explores Coltrane’s repertoire as translated to strings, with a blend of composition and improvisation.
About Fred Child
Fred Child is the host of American Public Media’s Performance Today, the most listened-to classical music radio show in the United States. Child is also the commentator and announcer for Live from Lincoln Center, the only live performing arts series on television. He was the host of NPR’s Creators @ Carnegie and he contributes CD reviews to All Things Considered and his classical music reports appear on Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. He’s been a contributor to Billboard magazine and a commentator for BBC Radio 3.