The pits

I spent much of the holiday weekend updating my computer’s operating system and dealing with the consequences. While banging my head against the wall, I reflected on how Macintosh computers have evolved over the years and what is likely in the future. If Apple continues naming its operating systems after places in California, I have suggestions.

Before Mavericks and Yosemite, Macintosh operating systems were named for big cats. When Apple exhausts geography, they might consider botany. Manchineel, Gympie-Gympie and Gifblaar would all be splendid names for products of contemporary software giants.

Five months early

Fall here so far has been mild and warm. It’s fooled the lilac at the corner of the house into blooming, and some of the bulbs I planted last month have already popped up. There may be some frost this weekend, but otherwise it looks like winter will hold off a little longer.

There is finally some decent fall color around town, the best from maples such as this one near my parish church, below.

There are more pictures here.

Continue reading “Five months early”

Today’s quotes

Severian:

One of the most bizarre things about the Current Year is how quickly and thoroughly the shenanigans of our globohomo pirate overclass has turned me into a goofy Commie. I sound exactly like — if not far worse than — the goofiest hippy-dippy professor I mocked so mercilessly back in undergrad. I will never, ever wear Birkenstocks, nor a long gray pony tail behind my bald dome, but in every other way I’m just like those guys.

US out of everywhere? Hell yes, and much faster! The CIA is starting wars for fun and profit? Not only are they doing that, they’re trying to provoke insurrections right here at home, too, with the eager help of their Mini-Me’s in the FBI, who are so corrupt that the only decent thing to do is root for the Mob and the drug cartels. Manufacturing Consent reads like a how-to manual these days, and 1984 is the 50 Shades of Gray of the political class. They were right by accident, those hippies, and for all the wrong reasons, but… they were right.

Maureen Mullarkey:

As of October 24, the number of roses sent was 14,159. Had anyone thought to send Pelosi a dead fish instead? The stink of some 14,159 fish carcasses piling up in the mail room of her DC office would correspond perfectly to the stench of the abortion regime she represents.

Boo, boo

A couple years ago I posted a Halloween playlist focusing on eccentric music most people have never heard. This year I’m trying something a little different. Here’s some seasonally-appropriate piano music, some of which you may know and some of which may be strange to you.

Charles-Valentin Alkan was allegedly the only pianist of their generation whom Liszt found intimidating. A reclusive eccentric, he wrote uncompromisingly difficult music that only in recent years has begun to enter the repertoire. Here’s Marc-André Hamelin with the finale to Alkan’s “Symphony” for solo piano, which has been characterized as a “ride through Hell.”

Raymond Lewenthal, who kick-started the Alkan revival fifty-odd years ago with his Alkan recordings, plays the entire symphony here. It includes a funeral march followed by a macabre minuet. A couple more pieces: “Les diablotins,” featuring tone clusters long before Henry Cowell was born; “Scherzetto.”

Liszt’s various “Mephisto” waltzes are too obvious to mention. Instead, here’s his set of variations on “Dies Irae,” “Totentanz.”

Bonus: from Liszt’s late, experimental works, the “Czardas Macabre.”

Possibly the finest Halloween music ever composed is Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit.” Here’s Martha Argerich. (When Argerich was a student, her teacher at one point thought she had been slacking off and therefore assigned her “Gaspard.” Argerich didn’t know that it was nearly impossible and learned it in a week.)

(This brings back non-treasured memories. Early one morning many years ago, the jackass in the apartment next to mine set the building on fire in a bungled suicide attempt. Fortunately, I was awake and the fire alarm worked, and everyone got out of the building safely. The firemen had the blaze under control before the flames reached my place, and I was able to retrieve most of my possessions later. However, there was much smoke and water damage (I boasted that I had the largest collection of dirty books in town, none of which were pornography). One of the casualties was Argerich’s early Ravel record, including “Gaspard,” which had been on the turntable when the fire started.)

So you don’t like piano music, but you want to hear something beyond “Monster Mash”? Lee Hartsfeld has you covered. He’s recorded and restored ancient 78 rpm records of Halloweenish music and made them available to download here and here. And here. The selection is amazing — the first batch includes Leopold Godowsky playing Edward MacDowell and Zez Confrey playing Zez Confrey. There’s Cole Porter and Paul Whiteman, jazz and ragtime and novelty tunes and much more, some terrific, some ridiculous. It’s worth a download or three.

Today’s quote

J Greely:

I used to think that the world-building of Fallout 4 was the least-believable thing about the game, with people failing at even the basics of creating a pre-modern society after a full 200 years, and still living in rubble-filled open-air unheated shacks in Boston. They’re not even keeping out the rain, much less the snow, and are wearing filthy clothes scavenged from the ruins. Twenty years, sure; fifty years, maybe, but two hundred years of taping together rotting lumber and pulling clothes off of mannequins?

Then I saw how people responded to Covid-19. China didn’t need nukes to destroy American society…

In related news, I am disappointed to find that there are no In-N-Out Burgers in Kansas.

***

Bonus quote, from Maus at Severian’s place:

I’ve never felt like a typical Boomer, a fact that I chalked up to having much older parents (1916 and 1927) who ran a fairly strict, traditional household. But my focus shifted to much more obvious conflicts with the later Millenial and Zoomer cohorts, whose world views are materially and spiritually foreign to me. Ultimately, I’ve concluded that generational parsing is driven by cosumerism’s need for market segmentation, for which emphasis on conflicting differences is the sine qua non. It’s simply not a useful heuristic for assessing the worthiness of any particular individual I might encounter with an inclination to form a deeper association of any sort.

Home from Korea

There is extensive coverage of Fr. Emil J. Kapaun’s return to Kansas here. His tomb is in the Wichita cathedral, which for many years was my parish church.

There’s quite a bit more about Fr. Kapaun here.

Incidentally, the first high school I did time in1 was named for Chaplain Kapaun, but don’t hold that against him.

Mysteries of the plains

According to Jules Verne in Master of the World:

“Lake Kirdall in Kansas, forty miles west of Topeka, is little known. It deserves wider knowledge, and doubtless will have it hereafter, for attention is now drawn to it in a very remarkable way.
“This lake, deep among the mountains, appears to have no outlet. What it loses by evaporation, it regains from the little neighboring streamlets and the heavy rains.
“Lake Kirdall covers about seventy-five square miles, and its level is but slightly below that of the heights which surround it. Shut in among the mountains, it can be reached only by narrow and rocky gorges. Several villages, however, have spring up upon its banks. It is full of fish, and fishing-boats cover its waters.
“Lake Kirdall is in many places fifty feet deep close to the shore. Sharp, pointed rocks form the edges of this huge basin. Its surges, roused by high winds, beat upon its banks with fury, and the houses near at hand are often deluged with spray as if if with the downpour of a hurricane. The lake, already deep at the edge, becomes yet deeper toward the center, where in some places sounding show over three hundred feet of water.
“The fishing industry supports a population of several thousands, and there are several hundred fishing boats in addition the the dozen or so of little steamers which serve the traffic of the lake. Beyond the circle of the mountains lie the railroads which transport the products of the fishing industry throughout Kansas and the neighboring states….”

If Verne’s account is accurate, Lake Kirdall would be in the Manhattan/Fort Riley area. I’ve lived in Kansas the larger portion of my life, and I’ve never noticed any mountains in all my wanderings around the state, let alone mountain lakes. Evidently French science-fiction writers know as much about the plains states as Japanese blues bands do about the deep South.

Joseph Moore mentioned the lake in his review of Master of the World, cited by John C. Wright in his list of “The Fifty Essential Authors of Science Fiction.” I hadn’t read Verne since grade school1 and was curious, so I tracked the book down. It was okay, but just okay. I’m surprised that Wright included it in his note on Verne. It may be that I expected the wrong things from it, or that I need to have read more of Verne to fully appreciate it. Brandon Watson gives it a recommendation, along with a couple of related novels.

The greatest mystery to me is, why did Verne invent a lake in a spot where two minutes with an atlas would have told him that it couldn’t exist when there was the quite real and remarkable Crater Lake in Oregon available?

***

David Breitenbeck:

Among its many other marks, one sign that the American education system is a complete fraud is the fact that English classes never present H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, R.E. Howard, Walter B. Gibson, or the like as examples of American Literature for students to read.

Catching up: anime

Exaggerated and unfair, but true.

***

The car over the harbor show

I finished OddTaxi. Noir with (mostly) cute animals works pretty well when the writing is strong. It likely is the best show of the year, though I can’t say for sure because I haven’t watched more than a few episodes of anything else. Considered as anime, it’s something out of the ordinary and worth sampling if you have an interest in animated storytelling. Considered as noir, I’m not so sure. My knowledge of the genre doesn’t extend far beyond “Watching the Detectives,” and I suspect that connoisseurs might find the ending unsatisfyingly upbeat. Iniksbane has mixed feelings. Nick Creamer discusses the first episode in detail here.

And that’s it for 2021. Nothing this fall looks interesting, so I’ll pop in a disc of Hozuki or Humanity Has Declined when I’m in the mood to watch something.

Continue reading “Catching up: anime”

Nine octaves

Does your Fazioli seem tame? Do you feel limited by your Imperial Bösendorfer? Try a 108-key grand piano from Stuart and Sons in New South Wales.

***

If you want the extended range but don’t have an extra $300,0001 handy, Modartt’s New York Steinway D goes down an extra octave to a very low A, and up a fourth to a high F. The additional notes aren’t particularly musical — the low ones are mushy and metallic, the high ones have barely any perceptible pitch — but they might occasionally be useful for musical eccentrics, and a virtual grand piano is a lot cheaper than the real thing.

Language, language

If you view the Constitution of the United States in the National Archives Catalog, you’ll see a curious notice on a background of light blue. You’ll see it also if you look at the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights.

Yeah, this warning about language probably appears on every single National Archives Catalog page, not just these three. The website crew can’t possibly think the Constitution itself contains “potentially harmful content.” Right?

Virtual noisemakers

Possibly of interest to those who make music with their computers or might want to do so: IK Multimedia is currently running a “group buy” of much of their software. If you purchase one of the eligible items, after you install and authorize it you can then download at least eleven thirteen twenty-four more software packages of equal or lesser price for free. I stretched my budget a bit to participate, but it will be a while before I know the new toys well enough to discuss. The “MODO” Bass, at least, I’m pretty sure I’ll use.

I got curious about the music software I most frequently use and noticed something odd. IK Multimedia is an Italian company. Applied Acoustic Systems is Canadian. Arturia is French, as is Modartt. Native Instruments and u-he are both German. My digital audio workstation is Logic, an Apple product, but Logic originally was developed by the German company C-Lab/Emagic, from whom I initially purchased it over twenty years ago. There are a lot of other music software developers, and it’s possible that there are some significant makers from the USA that I’ve overlooked. However, the synths and samplers I usually load in my DAW are all from foreign lands.

Thistles, plums and limestone

Cirsium undulatum

I recently visited a nearby “nature center.” It’s no substitute for the botanical garden in Wichita, but it’s not a waste of time, either. Its focus is on plants native to Kansas, and there are a number of trails there that I will explore on future visits.

I did find some color there, and a plum.

Lobelia siphilitica
Cassia fasciculata, or Chamaecrista fasciculata. Or Cassia chamaecrista.

Continue reading “Thistles, plums and limestone”