May 15, 2007

Astronomy Pic Of the Century


(From Edge, via Positive Liberty).

Posted by JohnL at 09:59 AM | Comments (3) |

May 10, 2007

Phantom Bach Music

Robbo has an interesting bit up today about the Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor (not the far-superior Dorian one, mind you).

First, I have to disagree with Rob's reflexive dismissal of the Bach:Led Zeppelin analogy that Camille Paglia makes in the article he's initially discussing. I know it's a matter of taste, but I at least have experienced emotions inspired by the "heaviness" ("darkness"?) of the organ literature that are very similar to emotions prompted by hard rock and electric blues in the Zeppelin tradition. And I know plenty of rock musicians and metal fans who also like heavy baroque music.

Second, I share Rob's dislike for the Stokowski version of the T&F in d.

Finally, unlike Rob, for the reasons laid out in another article he cites (and which I cited about a year ago), I still believe that the T&F in d was not authored by Bach, at least not as an organ work. I had the privilege of attending a master class with Peter Williams back in 1999, and he delivered quite a persuasive argument that it was not a Bach organ work. Even when compared with other "youthful" Bach organ works, it just sticks out like a sore thumb. Williams then presented his compelling case that the T&F in d was most likely a transcription from a piece for solo violin.

For further reading, this article expands on Williams' core idea, but explains how the T&F can be "suspiciously" easy to re-transcribe for play on a 5-string cello.

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 AM | Comments (3) |

May 09, 2007

Cold War Space

Speaking of Dyna-Soar, via Gravity Lens I recently discovered Deepcold, an interesting site featuring the Soviet and American cold-war-era space projects. Check out the Dyna-Soar renderings here.

Posted by JohnL at 12:42 PM | Comments (2405) |

May 03, 2007

Nun wollen wir singen das Mailied

Mailied (Literally, Maysong)

Wie herrlich leuchtet
Mir die Natur!
Wie glänzt die Sonne!
Wie lacht die Flur!

Es dringen Blüten
Aus jedem Zweig
Und tausend Stimmen
Aus dem Gesträuch

Und Freud' und Wonne
Aus jeder Brust.
O Erd', o Sonne!
O Glück, o Lust!

O Lieb', o Liebe!
So golden schön,
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höhn!

Du segnest herrlich
Das frische Feld,
Im Blütendampfe
Die volle Welt.

O Mädchen, Mädchen,
Wie lieb' ich dich!
Wie blickt dein Auge!
Wie liebst du mich!

So liebt die Lerche
Gesang und Luft,
Und Morgenblumen
Den Himmelsduft,

Wie ich dich liebe
Mit warmem Blut,
Die du mir Jugend
Und Freud' und Mut

Zu neuen Liedern
Und Tänzen gibst.
Sei ewig glücklich,
Wie du mich liebst!

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ~1775

English translation here.

Posted by JohnL at 02:04 PM | Comments (0) |

May 01, 2007

John's Reading Report - April 2007

I've been doing a lot more reading than blogging recently. But that just means I've got lots of fresh material to write about.

Here's what I've read since my last report:

Old Man's War, John Scalzi (Excellent old-school SF! I wouldn't say he's derivative of Heinlein, but definitely writes in the same fine tradition. If you're reading me, you probably know that John Scalzi keeps a great blog, too).

The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester (I'm surprised this one hasn't been made into a movie yet. [Wait - I wonder?])

The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, Sidney Poitier

In progress:

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins

I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter

The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God, David J. Linden

On deck:

1776, David McCullough (Yeah, I know it's been waiting on the "to read" list for 3 months now. Best intentions and all that...)

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Daniel C. Dennett

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God, Carl Sagan (edited by Ann Druyan)

I used to be extremely interested in the philosophy and science of human consciousness. When I graduated from high school in 1986, I planned to pursue a double major of Linguistics and Computer Science at UT and become a researcher in the field of artificial intelligence. I was a Doug Hofstadter disciple, reading and re-reading Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, studying formal logic, teaching myself different languages and alphabets. There's a story as to why that plan went off the tracks, but I'm not telling it yet.

Long story short, I am now (and again) very much interested in the science of thought and the mind. Having suffered a brain trauma of sorts 25 years ago (the abuse by my uncle), and having gone through a paradigmatic response to that trauma during the past 25 years, I am fascinated at how the hardware and software in my skull have operated. While I still believe in free will, I now see and want to better understand the deterministic elements of consciousness.

This month's Heinlein quote (which my illustrious co-blogger and I happened to independently choose, for entirely different reasons) echoes that theme, and I will be building on it in future posts.

Posted by JohnL at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) |

Heinlein Quote of the Month (May 2007)

"Am not going to argue whether a machine can 'really' be alive, 'really' be self-aware. Is a virus self-aware? Nyet. How about oyster? I doubt it. A cat? Almost certainly. A human? Don't know about you, tovarishch, but I am."

- Manny Garcia O'Kelly in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Posted by JohnL at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) |