Mr. Conductor

I recently watched the 2002 Russian film Russian Ark, a 90 minute film done entirely in one take. The premise was a bit bland, there’s not really a story in the traditional sense, it’s more like a romanticized time-traveling tour through a grand museum. (The Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg; looks like an awesome place to visit, even just for the beautiful grand palace architecture.) Anyway, near the end there’s this dance scene with an orchestra playing in this huge ballroom and the conductor looked really familiar. I was sure I had seen him in college.

In my college days, George Mason University offered students free concert tickets (if there were any left), which I took advantage of whenever I could. Usually free student tickets get placed in the way way back of the balcony, but one time I was seated in the front row, so close I could reach out grab the conductor’s ankle. OK, maybe not that close, I was a bit off to the side, but it was pretty close. I could definitely read the string musician’s score from my seat, so it was quite close. I had hardly any view of most of the orchestra, but I was up close and personal with the front row musicians and looking right up the right side of the conductor. And the conductor was hard to forget. He was really into the music, and was a bit distracting for someone in the front row, because I could hear him grunt throughout the music, and even see the sparkle of small bits of spittle that would fly out when things got particularly impassioned.

So I’m watching Russian Ark and the conductor looked familiar and I thought: “That’s the guy! Isn’t it?” So I had to look through my programs to confirm that, yes, it was the famous Russian conductor Valery Gergiev. You can see that he has a memorable face, and does indeed grunt and make noises while conducting. Below, for example (at 45:45). Fun stuff.

Slash as a conjunction word

Here’s an interesting article about the word “slash” becoming a new modern conjunction word, as when people say the word to mean what its corresponding symbol means in writing, as in: “I think I’m going to watch TV slash take a nap.”

I have used the term myself, though not often, and I would never spell out the word in writing, such as in a blog/article.  (See?)  And when I say it, I prefer to physically slash the air with two fingers for gesticulatory emphasis.

Of course, we can quickly infinite loop the definition of “slash” by defining it as “and slash or” meaning “and and slash or or” meaning “and and and slash or or or” ad infinitum.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see how language evolves like this.  I’m always annoyed when people say “that’s not a word” as if only some select group of humanity has the ability to decide what is and isn’t a word.  There’s a fine argument to be made that just making up a word or changing a word’s definition without anyone’s consent will only hurt your chances of being understood when you try to communicate, but if the meaning is clear by the word’s context and the origins of the word’s roots, language can be completely gruptious.

Arthur C. Clarke on the future…

Few things:

– I didn’t realize he had that sort of accent; I imagined something more Britishish
– I like how future cities always seem to be taken over by what that time period considered “modern” architecture. I can’t imagine our sense of style changing that rapidly over too short a period of time. But of course I only say that in retrospect…
– In some sense he’s right that communication (the Internet) has transformed business and economics, but so far not nearly as much as he predicted. We still have to commute for work, for example.
– I guess someone predicting the future and giving no dates can never really be wrong.

Sounds good…

I didn’t really learn anything from this (because, you know, I’m just so smart), but I thought this was a great primer on how sound works, and how it relates to music. I think it just goes a bit too fast. Slow down!

She says at about 10:55:

And we’re still pretty far from developing technology that can listen to lots of sound and separate it out into things anywhere near as well as our ears and brains can.

I wouldn’t be so sure of that…

Zombie ants

According to this article:

Research in a Thai rain forest has shown the fungi, a species of Ophiocordyceps, forces an infected ant to wander drunkenly over the forest’s low leaves before clamping its jaws around the main vein on the underside of a leaf in an ant zombie graveyard.

How pleasant.