Oct. 9th, 2016 12:14 am
silverflight8: watercolour wash with white paper stars (stars in the sky)
Well, I haven't posted for awhile and this time I have a legitimate reason - my computer crashed really badly and I have just agreed to pay a horrible sum of money to have it fixed. (A comparable new one would be three or four times more expensive D:) It auto updated to the anniversary edition of Windows 10. I don't regret updating to 10 - security, far more efficient space use - I think it was just really bad luck. I've never actually had a hard drive crash on me before.

Also the timing was rather bad -it was RuneScape's double xp weekend! I played only a little on the Saturday evening. Figures, hmph.

I read some O R Melling (don't remember it being so YA but I was actually in that age bracket then), finally Heidi again, though my friend has left Switzerland and is doing a thing in London, and am reading The Secret Country by Pamela Dean. Pretty good but the general bickering, constant simmering of unhappiness of like all the children is preventing me from simply eating it up. I also read The Gilded Age, wick is about Anita Hemmings, the first African-American woman to go to Vassar, and she did it by passing for white. I enjoyed it a lot (maybe I should read more boarding school stories), but I also feel like Anita was never angry. Kind of like how I feel I was sooo angry at her treatment compared to Fanny's own feelings in Mansfield Park.

Carmen at the opera - omg. I enjoyed it a lot, A+ would attend again. Sadly another modern update....as a young person who has not seen a ton of opera, I wish I could see more with original settings. This one was very gritty and the stage very minimalistic. I also was slightly disappointed with the habenera, which should really ooze sex appeal; it was all just sorta restrained. And it's not like the rest of the opera was restrained, which was weird. Maybe the Carmen just wanted a very different interpretation? Also, there was a lot of male nudity for a change! In addition to all the female nudity, more forgivable in this opera... It opened with a man in only his underwear running endless laps around the stage - at least thirty or forty, as punishment I think. The other characters just acted like he wasn't even there. Escamillo was amazing and wore the brightest yellow suit imaginable, and pulled it off. The children had clearly been told to sing at the tops of their lungs for Avec la garde montante and were pretty adorable.

I've also been doing a lot of Ingress and letterboxing. There's a very active ingress group locally and I made level 8 a bit ago, which isn't the highest level but the one where you get access to the best gear available. I like the urban exploration thing a lot (thus also letterboxing).

I did calligraphy with my log and decided to look at all my nibs:



I use all them except the Hunt globe and 102 and the speedball b nibs. OK, the 102 I use for touch up because the top is so fine it catches on everything and then ink splatter, the globe is inflexible and gives me no line variation, and the b ditto - the b all give really thick lines too and no line thickness variation. I used the c-2 for the cover page. I'm not sure I can even write consistently with the c-0, which is even broader - you need so much ink on it you practically have to redip after every stroke. And the line gets thinner as you go down!

I also carved my own stamp! I bought a few cheap pink erasers, scoured the internet for inspiration and guides, and used an exacto knife. Worked out pretty well but I'm not so good at stamping while outside without a table! It's been fairly addicting. I found 3 stamps today (failed to find 2) and really want to go tomorrow too. I have an ingress farm to go to tomorrow morning (almost completely cleaned out of gear - been destroying enemy portals a lot. Lots of fun. What's building compared to getting to smash my nemesis's portal?) But afterwards, more stamp collecting.

Fall is coming in slowly and I want the weather to hold so we get a nice pretty leaf show.
silverflight8: Different shades of blue flowing on a white background like waves (Fractal)
I saw Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung (a double-bill opera) last last week. This was going to be my catch-up post, but I think just talking about the operas is going to be quite long. I also saw Age of Ultron two weeks ago and still haven't written about it.

Bluebeard's Castle )

After the intermission I saw Erwartung, which is by Schoenberg.

Now Erwartung )

Tonally, in subject and focus and everything, they were a complete 180 from the Barber of Seville, which I watched just a few weeks before that, which I loved to pieces. Of course, since I had two tickets for each opera, I managed to take the friend who likes Wagner to Barber of Seville, and the newbie to opera to Bluebeard's Castle/Erwartung *facepalm*
silverflight8: watercolour wash with white paper stars (stars in the sky)
I went to the symphony to hear Dvořák's 9th symphony (his New World one) last night.

It was honestly blow-your-mind good. Oh my god. It was really, really, really good. Words fail me. I've never gone to a bad symphony because they're really good, but some concerts are just good1 and then you have the kind where you float home on the subway. Or at least I do. I texted one of my friends on the way back to tell her she had to go see it if she could get tickets (there's one more concert.)

I was not familiar with the first movement but you can hear the theme of the Largo in it, actually. And for once I could actually follow the themes, to some extent. I studied music history and a lot of famous pieces and so of course you end up learning about stuff like sonata form (exposition--development--recapitulation) but for all the theoretical bits, I have never been very good at actually listening for the themes and hearing them get developed. All the music just goes by me like a big river of sound.

The Largo was amaaaaazing and we went from the third movement right to the fourth which startled me (I wasn't watching and thought maybe the conductor fell off his podium for a minute, there was such a crash of sound.) Or at least, I assume that's where the movement ended. I never did study this symphony. But the second and third movements were like musical catharsis. I love that theme so, so much. Oh my god. It's like hope and discovery and everything wonderful all mixed up together in sound. I've listened the later movements before, but hearing them in person was beyond everything.

It was just exquisite and almost silent, and then huge and all-encompassing other times. And sweet. The conductor was lots of fun to watch (he jumped!) and just really good at coaxing out that kind of contrast. There was also like six double basses and I could really hear them supporting the whole thing. The brass sounded like they were having fun; when they go off they can drown out the strings almost entirely.

Before intermission and the symphony they also had Oscar Morawetz's Carnival Overture which was tons of fun (this is a composer I need to hear more of) and Sibelius' violin concerto.

But the New World symphony, it was the highlight. It completely made my week.


1 Like I went to one a few weeks ago (Beethoven's 9th! Huge choir for the last movement) and confirmed that despite the amazing pianist soloist, I'm not a fan of Rachmanioff. I don't know what it was. Not the first time I've listened to him and I feel nothing except hope it'll be over soon and onto something more exciting.
silverflight8: watercolour wash with white paper stars (stars in the sky)
I went back to the Gardens to take more pictures! Here's last time's post, for reference--almost exactly a week ago two years ago. (ETA: by which I mean when I started composing this entry, April 27, but it is clearly no longer April 27 oops.) They're wrapping up their Easter show--there were lilies absolutely everywhere. I wish I could bottle their essence and upload it onto the internet, because the whole conservatory smelled like lilies.

I think my photography has improved. I'm much happier with my photos, at least; I'm using the same camera which helps in comparison. I think a lot more about light, at any rate--everything is light, everything.

I came home with 200+ pictures, but after weeding out the blurry ones, the uninteresting ones, the duplicates or near-duplicates, here are the highlights! They're all flowers, and because I am a terrible botanist (or rather, not a botanist) I know pretty much none of their names. Look, I studied ecology and human biology in high school, we didn't do classification! (I wish we had though.)

Nineteen large pictures of flowers under the cut. I actually resized them in Lightroom this time, so no links to larger versions; these are the largest size* )

*Though seriously, if you see a picture that you like and would like a full-size copy, I am more than happy to email you one (or more than one, seriously). I am not a professional photographer and I in no way will ever make money from this, and I basically take pictures because it makes me happy and I like sharing them. You all are welcome to use the images.
silverflight8: Different shades of blue flowing on a white background like waves (Fractal)
I went to see Mahler's 9th Symphony yesterday and I still have mixed feelings about it. I went with M, who sings with me in the choir. She loves Mahler, so it was perfect.

Symphony 9 is all about death. He had lost his daughter Maria a few years before, and it's just perfectly on point in so many ways. It's programmatic, I suppose--it tries to depict a storyline/emotion through music. And there are parts where the music is frenzied and furious, and other parts yearning: apply your the X stages of grief and thoughts about death here. It's not atonal, it hangs onto some semblance of harmony, but it's very dissonant sometimes. And there is no resolution ever, except at the very end of the entire symphony. The whole orchestra--and it was a huge orchestra, there must have been a hundred players, there were seven double-bass players (!!), an uncountable army of violins and violas--would sometimes start rushing into a huge loud frenzied passage, and then the cymbals would crash from the back and that was it, there was never any resolution. Tease the fifth, and never go back to the tonic. It was really hard to tell when movements ended, because of this; even near-silence occurred in the middle of movements.

The second movement was my favourite; it was a parody of several dance forms. It started out good-natured, soured, and after another crazy build-up of sound the orchestra went quiet, and then back into the genial original form.

The final movement is Adagio (slow), and is considerably less dissonant. It's the 'peace at the end of the struggle', I suppose. Mahler's a rather morbid composer; he quoted at the end a passage from his older piece Kindertotenlieder (ie songs about dead children, what on earth) about sunlight on the hill (where it's implied basically where his daughter Maria was resting, sjdkljf).

The problems I had with it was mostly repetition. Oh god, Mahler, we get it. We got it the first time, and the second time, and the third and the fourth and fifth and sixth time. When the resolution finally came, he repeated it again and again and again. It was an 8pm concert and both M and I had worked a full shift that day, so I was nodding off in the first movement and in the midst of the clapping after the first movement M said she was falling asleep too. The fourth movement just dragged on; the strings were excellent but it was slow and just went on and on. I like the theme of peace at last, but peace is not very interesting when it's extended like that.

Other thoughts about the concert: someone should write a symphony where the only point of the movements is so that the audience has a break to cough. There was no intermission (two hour concert) so after the first movement there was a huge outbreak of coughing and hacking. Also, someone decided to unwrap a lozenge or candy right in a quiet part. Good job. Seriously, do that sometime else, you can control that. Also the Adagio happened, and someone had an extended coughing fit which they obviously tried to muffle, and I realize that it's involuntary and they can't help it, but the Adagio is so quiet and meant to be peaceful and is sometimes literally only a violin and a viola playing and therefore very quiet and ARGH! Also, there was a part where the strings did not move together and the thought that crossed my mind was "look at the conductor!" and yes, I have been in choirs for way too long.

If I could, I would ban all applause ever after performances. I hate curtain calls, I hate applauding for minutes at a time, I hate being a performer getting applause for so long. And after a movement like that Adagio, which is so quiet, so slow, so peaceful, the applause breaks in and completely shatters the peace.
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
I think I passed Lucius Malfoy by the subway station the other day. Long white-blond hair, tall man, black coat; I turned to look and it's definitely Azkaban-era Malfoy, with stubble. It was great. I'm going to pretend that he's wandering round my unglamorous Canadian city just because.

I saw the very first flower of the year--the hothouse daffodils that have been planted out from indoors don't count--a small clump of purple crocus. Unfortunately I think the weather report says snow tomorrow (??) so bye bye, little white flowers that haven't bloomed yet :(
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny

Corwin, Lord of Amber, escapes from the dungeons of Amber to fight back against his brother Eric, who has usurped the throne of Amber, slipping between shadow worlds.

This is an extremely peculiar book. Corwin can 'walk in shadow', which means he can move between what amount to parallel universes. The novel opens with him walking out of prison and meeting with a wounded man named Lance (i.e. Lancelot). Corwin proceeds with Lance to Lorraine, a place that bears similarity to Corwin's own land--but this is a shadow of the other one. It's sort of Avalon, but not. Then they go off and have a battle...and Corwin unwittingly tells an impostor how to use the Pattern of Amber.

To be honest, this novel confused me a great deal. I see now that it is a second novel in a series (...this would explain rather a lot) but as I complained in a previous entry (here) the language wavers between very modern and archaic. In a way that might have been deliberate, but to me just sounded muddled. As well, the references were mixed too--there are references to our world (except one where there is no settlement on Africa) but also names like Ganelon (Song of Roland!) and of course the Arthurian influences (most notably Lancelot.)

I don't know if I want to try any of his other books. It was a tiny book but I didn't come out of it really liking anyone, except maybe Benedict, who seems to be the most level-headed of the bunch of brothers.


The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier

I also read The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier some...months...back. Fortunately I still have a copy and some of my thoughts written down.

The Floating Islands follows Trei, an orphaned boy, as he searches for his distant relatives living on the Floating Islands. These islands, adrift dozens of miles above the sea, are their own principality, defended by their geography. Arriving by boat, Trei is immediately struck by the kajuraihi--winged men that fly with crimson wings supported by dragon magic.

When he arrives at Canpra, the capital city, he meets and is accepted by his uncle into the family. He discovers he has a cousin, Araenè, who is a skilled chef, but he isn't in the household for very long when he successfully passes the initial test to become a kajuraihi. The test involves jumping from stepping stones to stepping stones between two islands, and then a further test by the dragons on the island.

Meanwhile, Araenè has a secret life of her own--when her parents are absent, she dresses as a boy and sneaks to the lectures at the university. On one such trip, she comes back and finds a door--walks in and finds Master Tnegun, a mage, who offers her a Dannè sphere and the assertion that she is a mage, if she won't stifle her magic.

Both of them become significant when the political tensions between the Floating Islands and the militant Tolounn, where Trei comes from, begin to heat up. Seeing the Islands as a new land to annex, their mages have found out how to suppress the magic that keeps them floating and protects them, and try to take over.

My thoughts )


And lastly, a picture. I was out today and saw this thing. I stared at it, and then walked by, and then turned around and had to take some pictures because...what?

image under cut, sfw )
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
I'm tired, I spent all day running about with friends (fun but exhausting), I have to get up tomorrow at a reasonable hour, and I can't go to sleep, apparently.

What was going to be an hour of bowling turned into an hour of bowling, then a quick run to the mall (one friend is leaving for two months tomorrow, and needed to return something), then about four hours at karaoke. As a result, I've been earwormed terrifically with this song. I am going to link you to the video with lyrics, because the music video is an incredibly emotionally-manipulative, sad piece of...of...film. WHY are so many Chinese music videos so sad?


(Totally unrelated.)

You know, when I used to live in a 4-person household, the milk never went bad. This is because other family members are much bigger fans of milk and obviously we'd drink it long before the expiry date. But on my own, I keep milk mostly for tea, and sometimes I'm unpleasantly surprised by curdled stuff. So I've gotten used to sniffing and tasting milk very carefully every time to make sure it's still okay.

Milk is such a ubiquitous thing that I used to drink it without ever thinking about taste. But now that I have to assess its freshness, I can taste so clearly the animalness of it. It's not milk, it's quite unavoidably liquid that came from an animal, and while it doesn't really gross me out, it's so weird. How does this even come through taste? I think I'd like to go back to my ignorance.


THERE ARE TOO MANY BOOKS IN MY ROOM. They're on my shelves and on the floor and under my desk and under my bed and on my night table and stacked on my table and desk and EVERYWHERE. It's starting to drive me a bit bonkers. Every time I tidy up, they just get sprawled everywhere again. I need to make another trip to the library, but I haven't reviewed them yet! Oh god.

While I was waiting for friends this morning--I love them, but J was a full hour late and generally they're never punctual--I sat in Chapters and read Karen Miller's Empress. I've read Karen Miller before--she wrote some really great stuff set in the Star Wars Prequel EU mostly focused on Kenobi and Skywalker (easy path to my heart). Empress is gritty fantasy instead. Somehow, considering the extensive torture sequence in Wild Space, in which iirc Kenobi touched a lightsaber to his wound in order to use the pain to connect with Coruscant (AUGH), I'm not terribly surprised by the darkness of Empress.

The interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that while I'm interested in continuing with Empress, which starts off with the protagonist (a girl) watching her mother be beaten and then raped and being subjected to regular beatings herself--as indeed all the women are in this tiny, desert-locked village--I couldn't get more than five pages past Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Like Empress, Wolf Hall starts with a son getting beat by his father, but I think there's a vein of kindness running through Empress that I really didn't think was going to happen in Mantel's novel, and I immediately ditched. Hekat in Empress is definitely subjected to highly distilled misogyny, but she gets away, and starts exploring a new land. Mantel on the other hand--well, it's straight up historical fiction, and there's no getting away.
silverflight8: Barcode with silverflight8 on top and userid underneath (Barcode)
I'm starting to think that Lightroom's "auto tone" is set producing pictures that look like a different era.

So I have these photos, right? They're a bit underexposed (too dark, all the contrast's in shadows). Lightroom, upon hitting the auto-tone button--controlling exposure, contrast, highlights/blacks/whites/shadow clipping--generally reacts as though the photos were taken in the pitchest, blackest night ever and yanks exposure way up.

It reminds me so much of old Polaroid pictures, is what I'm saying.

Here, I'm rubbish at explaining pictures via text. Examples under cut (I tried to make them small! I swear! Someday I will be able to fight with sizes, but Lightroom's export dialogue is obstructive and Photoshop is really overdoing it. But hey they are all the same size, so I can tell you numbers: 3,504px × 2,336px.)

3 pictures of the same bird )

Incidentally if you ever wanted to know about grain, or ISO, you can use the size to zoom in. These pictures were taken at ISO 400, and you can see clearly that they weren't enough to offset the dim light--I probably should have pulled it higher. When you zoom in, or even at this size, you can see there is random noise. The colours don't blend perfectly together.


silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)

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