Too much culture

Here’s a month’s accumulation of video timewasters.

One of my Christmas gifts was Eight Days a Week, an account of the early years of that band from Liverpool. It reminded me of the story of a certain other band. Bonus: Neil Innes vs. the Beatles.

A biography of one of the great British eccentrics. (Here’s an uninterrupted performance of one of the musical numbers.)

For those with certain, um, unusual tastes, here’s a documentary on the Shmenge Brothers.

It looks like Batman Ninja will be, at the very least, a good-looking movie, but what interests me is the writer, one Kazuki Nakashima.

And now for some high culture:

And finally, the only version I can tolerate of a certain overly-popular baroque piece, performed by the idiosyncratic Jun Togawa.1

More spiny things

I came across a few free online cactus and succulent journals. All make their back issues available for download.

Cactus Explorers

Essex Succulent Review

Xerophila — a bilingual magazine, in Romanian and English. You may need to download the PDFs to read them; viewed online, the text in one language is overlaid on top of the other, making it unreadable.1 Special Issue #5, February 2015, is of particular interest. It’s devoted to the volcanic Rangitoto and White Islands in New Zealand:

… Claude Sarich, a sulphur miner working on White Island in 1931–32, left a vivid description: “The worst hell on earth, a place where rocks exploded in the intense heat, where men had to wear wool instead of cotton because cotton just fell apart in just a couple of hours, where they had to clean their teeth at least three times a day because their teeth went black, and where the land shook violently and regularly sending rocks flying through the air”.

Schütziana — Devoted to the genus Gymnocalycium.

It may be expensive to skim through these, or Succulent Sundae, while your browser is open to the Mesa Garden seed lists.

Addendum: A curious historical note from a biography of German cactus grower Walther Haage:

In the Third Reich the “non-Aryan” cactus had to live underneath the tables.

Plant identification

Cardcaptor Sakura is back. The first episode of the new series spent most of its time reintroducing the characters from the original, and I can’t say just how triumphant this return is likely to be until I see more.

There is a lot of floral imagery. Cherry blossoms, above, are inevitable in the first episode of any school anime. Others seem more arbitrarily selected, and are sometimes hard to identify.

Continue reading “Plant identification”

Wrong notes

Nicholas Slominsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, a compendium of harshly negative reviews of composers from Beethoven to Varèse, is fun to browse. Years ago I based a little name-that-composer quiz on entries in the book. That quiz is long gone, along with the rest of my first weblog2, so I’ve compiled a new one. See if you can identify the composers and works from the following excerpts. In a few cases, the critic speaking is also noteworthy.

I’ll post the answers sometime next week.

1. Crashing Siberias, volcano hell, Krakatoa, sea-bottom crawlers.
Composer, composition

2. ____ was abominable. Not a trace of coherent melodies. It would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of these hideous discords.
Composer, composition, critic

3. It is mathematical music evolved from an unimaginative brain … How it ever came to be known as The Tenth Symphony is a mystery to us.
Composer, composition

4. The overabundance of dissonances and the incompetence in handling vocal parts in ____ reach the point where the listener can not be sure of the composer’s intentions and is unable to distinguish intentional wrong notes from the wrong notes of the performers.
Composer, composition

5. The ____ is filthy and vile. It suggests Chinese orchestral performances as described by enterprising and self-sacrificing travelers. This may be a specimen of the School of the Future for aught I know. If it is, the future will throw the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven into the rubbish bin.
Composer, composition

6. If the reader were so rash as to purchase any of ____’s compositions, he would find that they each and all consist of unmeaning bunches of notes, apparently representing the composer promenading the keyboard in his boots. Some can be played better with the elbows, other with the flat of the hand. None requires fingers to perform nor ears to listen to.

7. ____ sometimes sounds like a plague of insects in the Amazon valley, sometimes like a miniature of the Day of Judgment … and for a change goes lachrymose.
Composer, composition

8. It must be admitted that to the larger part of our public, ____ is still an incomprehensible terror.

9. If it were possible to imagine His Satanic Majesty writing an opera, ____ would be the sort of work he might be expected to turn out. After hearing it, we seem to have been assisting at some unholy rites, weirdly fascinating, but painful.
Composer, composition

10. As a kind of drug, no doubt ____’s music has a certain significance, but it is wholly superfluous. We already have cocaine, morphine, hashish, heroin, anhalonium, and innumerable similar productions, to say nothing of alcohol. Surely that is enough. On the other hand, we have only one music. Why must we degrade an art into a spiritual narcotic? Why is it more artistic to use eight horns and five trumpets than to use eight brandies and five double whiskies?

11. Cunning must be the coinnoiseur, indeed, who, while listening to his music, can form the slightest idea when wrong notes are played — its difficulties to the eye being doubled by the composer’s eccentricity of notation.

12. To hear a whole program of ____’s works is like watching some midget or pygmy doing clever, but very small, things within a limited scope. Moreover, the almost reptilian cold-bloodedness, which one suspects of having been consciously cultivated, of most of ____’s music is almost repulsive when heard in bulk; even its beauties are like the markings on snakes and lizards.

13. ____ always sounds to me like the upsetting of bags of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer.
Composer, critic

14. ____’s symphonic poem ____ is not just filled with wrong notes, in the sense of Strauss’s Don Quixote; it is a fifty-minute-long protracted wrong note. This is to be take literally. What else may hide behind these cacaphonies is quite impossible to find out.
Composer, composition

15. The ____ has pretty sonority, but one does not find in it the least musical idea, properly speaking; it resembles a piece of music as the palette used by an artist in his work resembles a picture. ____ did not create a style; he cultivated an absence of style, logic, and common sense.
Composer, composition, critic

16. There is only one thing for a man like ____ to do if he desires to escape oblivion, and that is to plunge into the grossest materialism in music and seek to puzzle or shock you, because he cannot touch your heart.

17. ____ had not much to say in his Fifth Symphony and occupied a wondrous time in saying it. His manner is ponderous, his matter imponderable.

18. … I shall hot criticize this music; quite to the contrary, I will say that this is wonderful barbaric music, the best barbaric music in the world. But when I am asked whether this music gives me pleasure or an artistic satisfaction, whether it makes a deep impression, I must categorically say: “No!”
Composer, composition

19. The Paleozoic Crawl, turned into tone with all the resources of the modern orchestra, clamored for attention at the Philadelphia Orchestra concert when ____ was given its first airing on this side of the vast Atlantic. It was the primitive run riot, almost formless and without definite tonality, save for insistently beating rhythms that made the tom-tom melodies of the gentle Congo tribes seem super-sophisticated in comparison … Without description or program, the work might have suggested a New Year’s Eve rally of moonshine addicts and the simple pastimes of early youth and maidens, circumspectly attired in a fig leaf apiece.
Composer, composition

20. The ____ threads all the foul ditches and sewers of human despair; it is as unclean as music well can be.
Composer, composition

21. I can compare ____ by ____ to nothing but the caperings and gibberings of a big baboon, over-excited by a dose of alcoholic stimulus.
Composer, composition

22. … if the crude expression be permissible, I should say that what was at the back of ____’s mind was an alarm of fire at the Zoo, with the beasts and birds all making appropriate noises — the lion roaring, the hyena howling, the monkeys chattering, the parrots squealing, with the curses of the distracted attendants cutting through them all.
Composer, composition

23. Again I see his curious asymmetrical face, the pointed fawn ears, the projecting cheek bones — the man is a wraith from the East; his music was heard long ago in the hill temples of Borneo; was made as a symphony to welcome the head-hunters with their ghastly spoils of war!

24. ____’s violin concerto sounds, in its brutal genius, in its abolition of all formal limits, like a rhapsody of nihilism.

25. (the amoeba weeps)

Update: The answers are here.

Ten years ago

I don’t call any work of art a “classic” until it is at least ten years old. 2007, which ended ten years ago today, was an unusually good year for anime, the best I remember. What 2007 shows merit the accolade?3

I hereby declare the following to be classics of anime.

Dennou Coil — The characters are mostly fairly ordinary4 and not punks at all, but nevertheless this tale of augmented reality and human connections is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in cyberpunk and related genres.

Mononoke — These spiritual detective stories, stylized almost to the point of ritual, remain Kenji Nakamura’s best effort, though everything he does is worth your time.

Oh! Edo Rocket — Sometimes utterly silly, sometimes dead serious. This wild hodge-podge is nominally set in 1842 Edo, but it’s an Edo with television, internet and blue beasts from outer space.

Seirei no Moribito — A fantasy adventure with well-developed, sympathetic characters and a good high-stakes story. It’s worthwhile for the art alone. It would probably be a good show to watch as a family.

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann — It took me two tries to get into this ridiculous, bombastic, over-the-top extravaganza, but it was worth it.

There were a few that almost made the cut: Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei, Hayate no Gotoku 1, Moyashimon 1. I might add Baccano! to the honors list, but I need to re-watch it first.

What series might I declare classics during the next ten years? Almost certainly Madoka Magica, Shin Sekai Yori and Kill la Kill. What else?

2008, 2009: Nothing.

2010: Probably The Tatami Galaxy and possibly Katanagatari.

2011: Perhaps Natsume Yuujin-cho 1.

2012: Mouretsu Pirates had a good chance, bolstered by its outstanding re-watchability. Perhaps also Girls und Panzer, Humanity Has Declined and maybe, just maybe, Joshiraku.

2013 and beyond: Maybe Gatchaman Crowds, Kyousougiga, Pupipo and Flip Flappers.

I haven’t seen everything, so I probably missed a few. I also watch much less nowadays than I did ten years ago, which is probably why so few recent series have impressed me.

That other Christmas song

Petrus T. Ratajczyk isn’t available to record the tune I think of as “Santa Wears Jackboots,” and Vince Furnier’s version is mere schlock rock, so I thought I’d see how Hatsune Miku would do it. Nota bene: it gets loud.

Technical stuff for the curious: The guitars are the AAS Strum GS-2. The rest, except for Miku, are components of NI Komplete, run through various NI and Logic plugins.

Update: “Pay attention to the “I(Nice)” function.”

Girls with guns

Before Koichi Mashimo’s trilogy1, there was The Nutcracker, as produced annually by Friends University Ballet.

I spent the evening tonight taking far too many pictures at the dress rehearsal. I’ll eventually post a bunch on my photo weblog, but it will take a while to go through them all.

Update (December 10): I’m through with the party scene in act one. The pictures are here.

I’ve put one in puzzle form below the fold.

Continue reading “Girls with guns”

Dianthus nergalis, and blogging in 1842

Ruri’s Law: the vast majority of people are idiots

Crunchyroll continues to license interesting older anime. Recent acquisitions include the willfully eccentric Oh! Edo Rocket1 and Tatsuo Sato’s first major series, Martian Successor Nadesico. There’s also the exceedingly odd Cromartie High School. In all three, anything can happen.

The very early days of the internet

I’ve compiled a short wish list of shows that the people at Crunchyroll might consider for future acquisition.

Dennou Coil — It’s available on disc, but I don’t think this classic Miyazaki-does-Ghost-in-the-Shell series has ever been legally streamed in North America.

Shounen Onmyouji — Protagonist Masahiro is the only shounen hero who doesn’t make me mutter “idiot.” The show was one of the last licensed by Geneon USA and was orphaned when the company went out of business. The later discs are virtually unobtainable.

Katanagatari — Also available on disc2, but I don’t think this eccentric and ironic chronicle of extreme swordsmanship ever been legally streamed here.

Crest/Banner of the Stars — Possibly the best thought-out dramatization of war in space.3

Pupipo — Short and funny doesn’t mean trivial.

Continue readingDianthus nergalis, and blogging in 1842″

G, D, A, E, sometimes A, E, A, E

Over the years I’ve watched my young friend Roger Netherton develop from a talented youngster to a first-rate fiddler. I’ve mentioned him numerous times, e.g., here, here, here and here; you can find additional mentions by searching here for “Roger.” He focuses on old-time music, but that’s not his only interest. He taught himself Japanese well enough that he was able to skip the first year of Japanese language class at college and start with the second year. He later spent a semester at a college in Japan. He did the translations for my notes on installing Hatsune Miku, which is the most-visited page on my website. Here he plays a melody from the anime Someday’s Dreamers, accompanying himself on piano.

Roger is finally ready to record an album. His Go Fund Me page is here. If you like old-time fiddle, you might want to check it out.


Like hell I’m giving these jackasses my phone number. It looks like it will be about two weeks before I visit Anime New Network again — if I bother. The encyclopedia is sometimes useful, and perhaps 10% of the news is actually noteworthy, but the rest is just a waste of pixels. I can do just fine without it.