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Songs from great uncle Bert Hodgson


I mentioned my 3x great uncle Bert Hodgson a while back. I thought it was interesting that he was a songwriter, since he’s the only other composer I know of in my immediate lineage (that is, not including distant cousins). At long last, I found some recordings of at least a couple of his songs. The secret was that they weren’t listed under his name, but rather under the artists who recorded them. I was browsing through mentions of his name in old newspapers from Knoxville (where I found the above article as well), and found mention that a Maynard Baird and his band had recorded some of his songs, which then came up on YouTube. So here we go, here’s some music by good old great great great uncle Bert…

Not sure why he never became internationally famous… (sorry Uncle Bert; for what it’s worth, neither have I… but I’m not dead yet, haha!)

Anyway, it’s awesome to finally find some of his work! And it looks like the Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound has some recordings of his songs on old 78s. Just last week, Eric Dawson mentions him in an article:

There was also a record show, where TAMIS acquired a singular acetate recording by Maynard Baird, probably the most popular musician in Knoxville during the 1920s. Baird and his jazz band recorded several tunes at the sessions; this 1950s-era acetate finds him still going strong on a tune by Bert Hodgson.

I definitely hope to contact TAMIS soon and find out if I can have a listen to these somehow! Cool stuff!

The color green and the musical fifth


I recently bought the latest album from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus. Symphonic metal, very cinematic, operatic, bombastic, and… metallic, I guess? A good portion of it is in Italian, so I can’t understand it without looking up translations, but it doesn’t stop one from enjoying the music itself. I listen to operas in foreign languages, after all. (And Italian is the proper language for symphonic metal. All educated people agree on that.) Anyway, this particular track gets stuck in my head: In Tempo Degli Dei (translating to Time of the Gods?) … Check out the epicness:

I was curious as to what that guy was saying at 2:51. It’s a quote from the diary of Italian thinker and painter Gustavo Rol, which translates to:

I discovered a terrible law that links the color green, the musical fifth, and heat. I have lost my will to live. I am frightened by power. I shall write no more!

… What?! How enigmatic. What the heck is this “terrible law”? And who is this guy anyway?

Gustavo Rol does not seem to be very famous outside of Italy. All I can find on him in English, other than his brief Wikipedia article, is this website, which states that Rol was:

a spiritual Teacher of Christian-Catholic orientation, who lived in Italy in the twentieth century (1903-1994), gifted with many “paranormal powers”, which he defined as “possibilities”.

These “possibilities” include “clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition, retro-cognition, telekinesis, materialization and dematerialization of objects, doubling, levitation, time travel, healing powers, xenoglossy, lightening strikes, diagnosis of illnesses (endoscopy and ability to see an aura), transfer or agility, etc.” The site states:

The intertwining of mystical aspiration and rational analysis of what surrounded him, united with curiosity, stubbornness and will, led him to the conviction at the age of 22 that it was possible to predict the color of the cards without seeing them after having passed randomly in front of a tobacco shop window where decks of cards were on display. It was a challenge that began almost like a game, but after two years of attempts he managed to predict all 52 cards in a deck. On that day, July 28, 1927, he was in Paris, and he wrote the following in his work diary:

“I discovered a terrible law linking the color green, the musical fifth and heat. I lost my will to live. Power frightens me. I will write no more!”

He began to develop his possibilities from that moment on and onward into the following years.

Regarding “the law”, the site quotes Rol as saying:

I began with the cards: why should it be impossible to predict the color of a face down card? I tried and tried again, but for a long time I could not do it. Then one day I looked at a rainbow and it was then that lightening struck. I realized that the color green was the central color, the color that kept the others united. I measured the vibration of the green color and discovered that it was the same as the musical fifth, and that it corresponded to a certain degree of heat. I then began to predict the cards accurately, and little by little to do all the other things…

I’m not quite sure how green keeps the other colors “united”. It has a frequency of 526 Thz (according to Wikipedia). A musical fifth has a frequency ration of 3:2. The highest frequency visible to the human eye lies around 789 Thz. The ratio of 789 Thz to 526 Thz is, aha, 3:2. Furthermore, the ratio of 526 Thz to the lowest visible frequency, 400 Thz, is very close to 4:3, the perfect fourth. So translating colors to musical degrees, green indeed lies at right about the musical fifth. Is this what Rol meant? I don’t know. Interesting, though.

What does this have to do with heat? Something about thermal radiation? And what does this all have to do with telepathic possibilities?

I have no idea at this point. I’ll have to continue thinking about it.

Unfortunately, beyond the aforementioned website, there’s not much info about Gustavo Rol out there, at least not in English. There is one book on Amazon in English about him, but it looks to be a collection of anecdotes from witnesses of his “possibilities”, which seem a bit like tall tales in and of themselves, and I’m not sure are very valuable to someone who just wants to understand exactly what insights Rol may have had.

I shall write no more!

The problem with the new Ghostbusters trailer

The trailer for the new upcoming Ghostbusters was recently released, and immediately widely hated. (Check out all the disapproving thumbs-down on the video, for example. This leading, of course, to claims of sexism!)

I think the problem is the “tone” or “style” of the humor illustrated in the trailer is completely inconsistent with the dry humor of the first two original films. Compare:

with this sort of humor:

See the difference? In the first two films, the characters are serious people. They might get sarcastic (particularly Bill Murray’s character), but that sarcasm is born of trying to deal with a serious situation and keeping sane, à la Gregory House, not of just being a silly person in general. All this comic-relief is needed to accept the otherwise ridiculous premise of people trying to catch ghosts with strange science, but the conflicts themselves are serious. That is, the humor helps lampshade the far-fetched premise so that the premise can be accepted. This happens to some degree in almost every fantasy / sci-fi story (see the quibbling droids and Han Solo’s sarcasm in Star Wars, for example), and when it doesn’t, you usually get something that seems way too cheesy or pretentious. The humor allows acceptance of the far-fetched premise.

And now back to the new Ghostbusters trailer, and what do we have here? We have a “goofball” comedy. Crazy wacky characters! Silly barfing ghosts! Hyuck-hyuck! The characters and the situation are no longer serious, they’re all just part of an eccentric comedy romp. This style of humor can work well on its own; plenty of films employ it to great success. But in this case it’s just not consistent with the franchise they’re trying to continue, so the whole thing feels like an insulting parody, or a kidnapping of the beloved franchise. It feels like the filmmakers were not truly fans of the originals, or didn’t really understand them, or are just incompetent filmmakers in general.

The Storm Cometh

Composer Cloud

I recently realized EastWest libraries offer a subscription service for their (otherwise very expensive) sample libraries called Composer Cloud, so I subscribed and have been experimenting with what their libraries have to offer. Here’s a short piece I recently wrote completely with some of their libraries (mainly Hollywood Strings, Hollywood Brass, Symphonic Choirs, and StormDrum):

I still have plenty left to experiment with, but so far I really like their Hollywood Strings, Hollywood Brass, and Symphonic Choirs libraries (though I doubt I’ll have the patience to use their word builder any time soon; ooh’s and ah’s are fine with me for now). And of course StormDrum has some great film-score-ish percussion available. They’re hard to resist playing with, even though I fear they may sound a bit cliche and generic these days. Oh well, too bad, I still want my turn to play with them! I’m not so impressed with their woodwinds, though; they sound pretty bland to me. I haven’t installed Garritan Personal Orchestra on this new computer of mine yet, but I hope to. I definitely prefer GPO’s woodwinds, which sound much more lively and real to me. Same goes for GPO’s harp. I also need to put my Bela D Media Celtic Winds on this computer so I can try mixing in some Irish whistles perhaps, or uilleann pipes.

Anyway, hope to write more music soon! I’ll probably write more pieces around the two minute mark. It’ll allow me to experiment a bit more, plus two minute tracks have a greater chance of being licensed I guess.

By the way, I hope you appreciate my harmony in the above composition; it may be subtle, but I tried some techniques I’ve never tried before, like going from a G# minor chord to an E minor chord for that eerie (perhaps cliche) film score-ish sound. I also use some suspended and augmented chords somewhere in there too, albeit rather subtly. Trying to expand my harmonic palette. You should be proud of me.

Who cares if Death Note is rated R?

According to this article about the upcoming Death Note film adaptation (which hasn’t, the article points out, actually been greenlit yet):

When asked about the target audience for the film, [producer Roy Lee] replied, “It’s definitely for adults. It is zero chance it will be below an R-rating,” and went on to say that the tone of the film “will be one of the first manga adaptations that feels very grounded but still has fantastical elements.” That sounds like something [director Adam Wingard] could definitely nail.

Oh, whoopee-doo. I’m not sure this, in and of itself, is anything to be excited about. The strengths of the anime, at least in my opinion, have nothing to do with how “adult” it is; for example, how the violence is portrayed is a stylistic decision. It can be intense and gory, or more comic-book like, à la Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Either could work, as long as the style’s consistent, so who cares? The fun of the anime, in my opinion, is the story itself; the chess-like cat-and-mouse game between two brilliant un-average thinkers, and their differing philosophies in defining “justice” that serve as the foundations for their opposition. I hope whoever writes the film doesn’t just take all that for granted because some animated sequences were fun to watch, thinking he can just trim the story that’s already there down to something film-length and have it still work with maybe just some editing for the sake of exposition and pacing. Because then we’ll wind up with crap for story. Or worse, something like The Guest, in which there hardly even is a story at all, just a guessing game that ends up going nowhere, so you had better enjoy the action sequences for the sake of themselves, because they serve no greater substance beyond themselves… Because in Death Note, they do, gosh darn it, so don’t butcher it too much!

(For the record, I have nothing against what the producer said; he was just answering a question. I just think the question itself is irrelevant, unless perhaps someone feared a PG rating? And being pleased with the answer just means you’re a fan of the franchise for very different reasons than I.)

And, of course, I’m crossing my fingers that the filmmakers aren’t fans of the nonsense over-acting from the English dub:

My 2015 favorites

I’m pretty late this year, but who cares? Here are my favorites from 2015! As usual, for books, the nominees are books I finished reading for the first time in 2015, regardless of their publication date. Movies and film scores must have been first released in the USA in 2015.

Year’s best live action film:Jurassic World

Year’s best animated film:Inside Out

Year’s best film score:Pan

Year’s best nonfiction book:Book of Talent

Year’s best fiction book:Fugitives of Chaos

Presidential cousin…

Our local paper was recently bought by a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which led me to briefly browsing Warren Buffett’s Wikipedia page, where it mentioned that he’s “of distant French Huguenot descent.” Not sure why this is considered noteworthy, but whatever. Anyway, I am also “of distant French Huguenot descent”, from my 10 x great grandfather (if I counted the generations right), good old Benoit Brasseur, or Old French Grandpa Benny as we call him in the family. So what Huguenot is Buffett’s Wikipedia page referring to? Could it be the same one?!

Nope. Wikipedia’s page is referring to a Mareen Duvall. But Duvall’s second wife, and the one Buffett is descended from, was Susannah Brasseur, daughter of Benoit! So that makes my 10 x great grandfather Warren Buffett’s 7 x great grandfather, making Warren Buffett my 8th cousin, 3 times removed! So the local paper is like a family business now.

But there’s a bonus relative, too. Also descended from Mareen Duvall and Susannah is a president of the USA! As in… the current one. Bleh! Old cousin Barry, 11th cousin, once removed.

(Other famous descendants of Mareen Duvall include Harry S. Truman, Dick Cheney, and actor Robert Duvall, but my brief Googling around seems to indicate that these famous guys are descended from Duvall’s first wife rather than his second.)

Of course, these connections are so distant that they’re completely and utterly unremarkable, but it is interesting to actually be able to trace a path.

Frequently asked questions about the cookie-based diet


This holiday season, I’ve been trying out a new diet that I call the cookie-based diet. It involves eating cookies all the time. Here I try to answer some questions and concerns people may have about this diet.

Q: Is it unhealthy?

A: When people hear about the cookie-based diet, they immediately assume that it’s unhealthy. After all, cookies are full of sugar and lack vitamins and nutrients. As it turns out, these concerns are well-founded. The cookie-based diet is extremely unhealthy. Risks include everything from diabetes and cavaties to an early death. But this concern also completely misses the point of the cookie-based diet, which is to throw health concerns to the wind and eat more cookies.

Q: When will I know when to stop the cookie-based diet?

A: Never.

Q: Should children try the cookie-based diet?

A: No one at all should try the cookie-based diet, but this isn’t about shoulds and shouldn’ts. This is about cookies.

Q: Should the cookie-based diet be government funded?

A: Yes. Everyone has a fundamental God-given right to cookies, therefore the government should help provide cookies to those who cannot bake cookies themselves or buy them at the store. Please write to your congressmen and elected officials, telling them how important cookies are to you. Bribe them with cookies, of course.

Q: Should I eat cookies that fall on the floor?

A: Eat all cookies.

Q: What should I do if someone else wants to eat my cookies?

A: Eat more cookies.

Q: I am concerned about cookie riots and cookie wars.

A: You are afraid of these things because you have not eaten enough cookies. Cookies will give you peace of mind.

Q: At what point does the cookie-based diet become cookie idolatry? Isn’t it immoral?

A: The All Great and Powerful Cookie doesn’t think so.

Q: Don’t they call cookies “bisquits” or something in the UK?

A: A cookie by any other name, blah blah blah.

Q: Are your answers becoming more and more insane?

A: Cookies.

Q: Are you OK?

A: Coooookies.

Q: What happens if–


Q; W;’a





Over Christmas I got into a discussion about the modern ideas of “privilege” and “diversity”. If I’m talking to people I know, I can get a bit too enthusiastic in such discussions, so I’m not sure I explained my my understanding / viewpoint very well. So I’m going to sum them up here to get it off my chest.

My basic premise is that it is unjust discrimination to make decisions about who to hire or admit to a school or club or whatever based on race, religion, sex, background, etc., when such traits do not matter to the decision being made. (Sometimes they do matter. For example, if you’re hiring someone to do construction work, it is not unjust discrimination to hire a physically fit young man rather than a man with no arms. It is discrimination, but it is not unjust to hire a person who can do a job better than someone else in regards to the qualifications the job entails (assuming those qualifications are themselves just and not designed to justify unjust discrimination). Another example: it is not unjust discrimination to hire actors of various races to portray historic figures of the same race for a film or a play. It is not unjust discrimination to not hire a non-Christian to teach at a Christian school. It is not unjust discrimination to have a boys and girls locker room and bathroom, or boarding school, or scouts, or whatever. Etc, etc.)

As far as I can tell, the promotion of seeking “diversity” on campus or in a workplace leads to (whether intentionally or unintentionally) unjust discrimination. That is, it leads to hiring or admitting (or not) people based on traits that have nothing to do with how well they can perform the job.

Of course, one must first ask the question, “What is diversity?” Given a group of people, how exactly do you measure its diversity? I never really got a straight answer on this. In my view, every group is already diverse by virtue of being made up of different people. Every person has different life experiences and different points of view with which they can contribute to a group. To claim that swapping one person for another (based on some irrelevant trait) makes a given group “better” (by virtue of now being more “diverse”) seems rather judgmental to say the least. On what grounds can such a claim ever be made?

The next question is then, of course, “Of what value is diversity?” Granted, it’s hard to answer this question without answering the the question above. I don’t think I got a straight answer on this either, but it usually has something to do with different points of view offering considerations you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. What exactly these considerations might be, and how they might be measurably “better”, I have yet to understand.

One argument may go like this: A school has a chess club, and all the club members are nerdy white males. Because of the club’s lack of racial diversity, a non-white and/or non-male student will not be inspired to join the club. I must interrupt the argument here, for I must naturally question whether the interest in the club should at all include anything other than an interest in chess itself. That is, of what importance is it that the club is made up of white males? Is it not racist and/or sexist to assume that one cannot join the club because one’s skin color or sex differs? Is it not unjustly prejudiced to assume the club members will not appreciate such a new member despite such differences? The argument then concludes that the club should actively seek to be “diverse” so that potential new members will not feel discouraged from joining. But, again, I fail to see the need for this, as my interruption explains: a potential new member should not be judging whether or not to join the club based on anything but his interest in chess. And, by extension, the chess club is not obligated to present itself in whatever manner that would make potential members feel welcome other than their devotion to chess itself (especially when this manner is ultimately measured in traits like skin color or sex).

In the real world, one may readily observe that there are clear correlations between one’s interests and traits like skin color, religious backgrounds, sex, age, geographic location, etc. Someone arguing for diversity may see these correlations as evidence of rampant unjust discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious.

On the contrary, it is completely natural and need not be counter-acted. (In fact, trying to counteract it is futile.) Your interests do not form in a vacuum. Of course your interests will be influenced by the people you grow up with and the culture you are exposed to. Why is this a bad thing? It does not imply that you can only be interested in certain things, assuming you are not judging the “diversity” of your interest area before pursuing it (that is, being prejudiced). And, again, it does not obligate anyone to switch interests or encourage interests in others for the sake of “diverse” representations among areas of interest.

As for “privilege”, the discussion never really got anywhere. I often find the term used as an ad hominem attack to end discussions without having to actually argue one’s case (as in, “Check your privilege!” = Your ideas need not be considered because your race, sex, religion, or whatever implies that you haven’t had to suffer like I have, therefore I don’t have to listen to you), or as a way of trying to justify unjust discrimination (as in, “I have suffered in some way you have not, therefore I’m entitled to something special and you are not”).

Of course it is true that there is unfairness in life. Some people are born with diseases and hardships, some people are born to wealth and influence. Different people with different backgrounds will have different life experiences. Some will have to struggle for decades so that their children may live a better life, while others will grow up in mansions. While we are obligated (by love, not law) to treat everyone equally (that is, without unjust discrimination, not without any discrimination at all, as explained earlier), we are not obligated to make everyone’s circumstances themselves equal. Circumstances, in and of themselves, are irrelevant, as I’ve blogged about before.

So fighting for special treatment (after comparing circumstances, real or imagined) makes no sense, and in fact only perpetuates any unjust discrimination one may seek to end. After all, if you’re not fighting for equality for everyone, then you’re not really fighting for equality at all.

Finally, there may of course be arguments about the distinctions to be made between “special” treatment and “equal” treatment, just as there may be arguments about the distinctions between “just” and “unjust” discrimination. But one has to be ready for such arguments; merely trying to sweep them under a rug with claims of “privilege” is hardly going to convince anyone not already considering themselves somehow “unprivileged”. (That is, when you make these discussions about “privilege”, you’re really just encouraging everyone to A) compare themselves to others and to B) think of themselves as somehow not “privileged”. After all, you get nothin’ extra for being “privileged”. And everyone can find something, so we just end up with the Suffering Olympics and all the prejudice, racism, sexism, etc. that come with them.)

So that’s my understanding of these issues; I hope you appreciate the privilege of reading them.