Saturday, June 19, 2010

chinese tones

I head to Taiwan in a few weeks. So I am self teaching myself a bit of Chinese. In this language, it is all about the tones, inflecting the voice to go up, down, or up and down. This is terribly difficult for me who puts a lot of natural inflection in my voice when speaking. It is a constant battle of repeating exactly what I heard and not raising my voice to indicate a question. Thank goodness no one is in the car listening to me.

2010 World Cup

Oh how I love soccer, the beautiful players playing the beautiful game. This year's cup has been a bit strange. England has drawn for both of its opening games. Spain lost its first game. Germany lost its second game. And the US actually has a chance of making it to the next round. Apparently the African teams want to show off their chests as all of them are wearing tight fitting shirts. ESPN just figured out that they should put the team colors on the ever present score bar. And finally, the universal sign for "that was a nice pass but I missed it" is a thumbs up. I look forward to second half of group stage.

driving to the end of Texas

After my mother pointed me toward a performance of The Secret Garden in Corpus Christi, TX I decided to drive down and quench my need to see it again. For those of you who do not know, Corpus Christi is on the southeastern coast of Texas, an inlet on the Corpus Christi Bay in from the Gulf of Mexico. I drove down IH-35 to IH-10 and finally to IH-37 (a highway on which I had never driven) all the way to exit number 1, seemingly the end of Texas. It was hot but I walked along the bay for a little while. The show was good for what it was able to do but there was no live orchestra so timing was an issue and the scene changes were choppy so they provided a lot of distraction. I always viewed them as happy narrators of the story but maybe I had forgotten how very creepy the ghosts of the story were. In the end, the show was not great but it did fill a gap and it was fun to drive to that part of Texas.

Star Wars in Concert

I know it does not say much to be a Star Wars fan these days but I am one. I used to watch the movies over and over again on a worn out copy video taped from television. I know the characters, have read books in the extended universe and have played the video games. I would say I am an above average fan.

That being said, I am a geek for the music. I own the Original Soundtrack Anthology and can sing almost every note by heart from both the original and prequel films. I count them as one of my top five favorite soundtracks, probably top three. So I was lucky to have been paying attention when I saw that the touring Star Wars in Concert was coming to Austin and on my birthday. I bought myself a floor seat and had little expectations give it was in a basketball arena.
Boy was I surprised. First, there was an entire exhibit in the halls prior to the concert itself complete with costumes and props from the movies, picture taking opportunities with a live stormtrooper and R2D2, and the highlight, a copy of the original hand written score. I bought myself an R2D2 tote bag and went to sit and listen to the warm up.
While waiting, there were intermittent sound effects being played over the speakers: Darth Vader's breathing, Chewbacca's growl, a tie fighter fly by. And this was my first hint that the sound was going to be amazing. The orchestra complete with full choir were on a riser and the size was enormous since there are a large number of unique instruments needed for some of those eccentric sounds of Star Wars. Surrounding the orchestra were, what I imagine, speakers on stands but they had bright circular lights which we learned later could change color and added an impressive effect to the show. The high definition LED screen was centered above the orchestra in such a way that there was no bad seat. I have since read it is the size of an IMAX screen and built especially for the touring concert.

The opening was perfect starting with the "20th Century Fox" theme and the "Main Titles" as every Star Wars film does. We are introduced to Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO and was the narrator of the even. He was perfect, expressing the exact dramatic tone and joking about the intelligence of Threepio and his impact on the saga. The first half contained the main themes and also music from the prequels and though the prequel films are less stellar than the original films, the music is definitely a strong rival. While the music plays, images and sometimes full scenes from the movies are played on the screen, sometimes with dialog but most of the time without. I have to say, I am a sucker for the slow motion image combined with the sweeping orchestral score. Needless to say, this concert made my heart swell. The second half contained mostly the original film music and added a laser show. The lights, the film images on the huge screen, and above all, the sound. For an arena that was not built for sound, I felt like I was in a theater with THX. I could hear all the instruments perfectly and there was no distortion or high timbre echo. It was without a doubt, amazing and completely made my birthday.

end of an era

Two incredible tv series came to an end this past May. Two tv series which changed the face of television. Both had novel storytelling, astronomical production values, and memorable characters. Both captured the audience for multiple seasons and created ample fodder for the water cooler. Both have been at the top of my favorites list since they began.

No one character has held my attention for so long as Jack Bauer. Sutherland's portrayal of the John Wayne of terrorism kept me involved in every "24" season. When he was on the screen I screamed yippee ki yay and when he was not, I cringed. The plots were typically unbelievable and I honestly lost track of them not because of their complication but because I did not care. The show's signature premise of events happening in real time became second hand at the end and someone, somewhere must have a list of the number of times Jack was shot, stabbed, tortured, or killed. But his heart was true, his patriotism unbending, and his strength beyond words. It was fitting that he wavered at the end and that Chloe was his anchor back to the Jack we know and love. There were other characters through the years for which I also had some love namely Chloe, Tony, Aaron Pierce but I will miss Jack above all. Goodbye.

The phenomenon of "Lost" was great to say the least. The intertwining of flashbacks, flash forwards, and flash sideways to life on the island was clever and entertaining. That and the characters were either love-able or hate-able. I enjoyed the ending episodes though I cried when Jin and Sun died. The end was satisfying, answering most of the questions with fantastical yet believable elements and closing the circle with the return of most of the main characters. That was my favorite part even above the heaven and redemption portions. I will miss the characters and beauty of the show. Goodbye.

The one thing I will miss most of all is the beautiful, thematic music of Sean Callery's "24" and Michael Giacchino's "Lost". Not many shows get full season soundtracks but both of these have had multiple soundtracks released and I proudly count them in my collection and frequently heard. With these I can relive the shows forever.

that crazy gemini thing

No posts since April. That is so not good for me. I use this blog as a way of getting those nagging thoughts out of my head. Being a gemini, thoughts flitter and fling often enough and about several different topics. As such, I am going to have several posts in a row to try and calm that crazy gemini thing of mine.