Tommy Ingram's Eclectic Variety Show

How these curiosities would be quite forgot, did not such idle fellows as I am put them down.

Category: Asides

Django, Elgar, and others

I finally got round to seeing Django Unchained. Much like Inglourious Basterds, it’s very funny, very violent, and very disturbing. Tarantino manages the tension in a scene like a virtuoso, Foxx is a badass but with depth, Waltz is an amazing actor, and the other leads distinguish themselves as well. The KKK raid scene with Jonah Hill (who’s beginning to make a name for himself as a real actor) is a particular comic high point. The depiction of the pre-Civil War South is raw and unsettling. It’s something that needs to be seen and rarely is, but it is not for the squeamish. The idea of all this being done by a white guy adds an uncomfortable racial twist to a topic that already has enough—Basterds did not have the same problem, oddly.

I finished Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II on Friday evening. I hope to put up a full review some time soon, but I can’t do it right now because I’m busy mentally preparing for an important concert. Speaking of which: tomorrow, April 8, is the final performance of the University of Manitoba Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 season. On the program is Mozart’s Symphony no. 33 in B-flat Major, K.319; Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations (Edvany Silva, cello), and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, op.36. This is the orchestra’s final performance under the direction of Richard Lee, who is leaving the WSO and the U of M after this season. The concert is 7:30 at Westworth United Church. Tickets are $15 or $5 for students.

I’ve had a lot of fun with the Elgar, and it’s taught me a lot about symphonic playing. People familiar with the piece will know that the principal clarinet features very prominently throughout, but especially in the thirteenth variation, where I play an extremely quiet solo above barely audible strings and a timpani played with coins for a mechanical effect. It’s the most tense, poignant moment in a piece full of tension and poignancy. It’s an honour to be able to play it, and a great learning experience besides.

As for Richard Lee, I have gained a lot from my brief period playing under his baton. He is ruthless and uncompromising but fair. He’s done wonders for the U of M orchestra, and I hope he succeeds in his future endeavours.

The really good news is that, with classes drawing to a close, I will soon have the time and energy to post more often in this space. I have lots of ideas floating around that I would love to put into words, and by the last two weeks of April, I’ll finally be able to.

Still alive

How time flies. It’s been nearly a month since the last time I posted anything up here, and longer since I’ve put up anything worth reading. Music-wise, I’m not really in a place where I have time for a lot of writing I’m not getting paid for. There are ideas bubbling in my head for articles and projects, but they’ll have to wait until the end of April.

In the meantime, I’m slowly working my way through Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, a game that is fantastically difficult to find. I’ve been looking for it for years, but I’ve never seen it anywhere but online stores and only at exorbitant prices. A while ago my brother bought it and we’re playing through it co-op. A full review might be forthcoming some time in the next few weeks, but for now let’s just say that, while it’s a lot harder to take seriously than the first game, it has many of the same attractions. It’s good fun, if you can get ahold of it.

December update, and a piece in Strange Horizons

My article on Wagner and epic fantasy is in this week’s Strange Horizons. Go here to check it out, and be sure to donate lots of money to them. They’ve got a good racket going.

Next week is my long-delayed review of The Hobbit. I have a few other reviews in the pipeline and some other stuff, but I’ve depleted the reserve of finished posts I built up during the summer and the upcoming semester is going to be insane. Expect posting to be somewhat more sporadic during the next two or three months.

That means I probably won’t be doing an Oscar thing this year. It’s difficult to get ahold of all the movies in time and even more so to watch them all between the announcement of the nominees and the night of the big event. I have to pump out the articles at a rate that is too fast for me, and as a result they rarely turn out well. Also, I think I have a big rehearsal on the evening of the awards ceremony. I’ll still try to watch as many of the movies as I can, and at the very least do some kind of post-mortem.

In other news, I am going to be performing twice in the WSO’s New Music Festival at the end of January—once as a member of the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble and once with my woodwind quintet.

The UMWE will be performing at NMF 3: Ghost Train on 30 January at the Pantages Playhouse, alongside the Winnipeg Winds and an ad hoc picked band known as the U of M Flute Ensemble. The program includes a new piece by Andrew Staniland called Four Horsemen, for wind ensemble and electronics, and Colour Wheel, a band piece by the eminent Canadian composer Malcolm Forsyth. The flutes will be performing NMF headliner Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint. Tickets are $10; festival passes range from $59 to $99.

The quintet will be doing pre-concert entertainment for 1 February’s NMF 5: Glennie & Reich part 1. We’re performing Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles, an interesting little piece that blends rhythmic complexity, melodic and harmonic economy (the first bagatelle uses only four notes), and extreme catchiness. This is difficult music, but well worth the effort. Also featured is the premiere of Jeremy Hill’s Two Pieces for woodwind quintet. The performance begins at 7:30 on the Concert Hall’s Piano Nobile. The concert itself includes Reich’s Tehillim and the North American premiere of Jonny Greenwood’s Suite from There Will Be Blood. Tickets for NMF 5 start at $23.75, with discounts available for seniors and students. See the NMF site for more information.

Other than that, I’ve got nothing to say. Happy New Year, all.

Update, 25/11/2012

I’ve been letting this place run on autopilot for the last few weeks. This has let me spend a lot of time practising, performing, going to concerts, and getting absurdly small amounts of sleep. I haven’t been doing much writing (aside from the unsexy but moneymaking kind), but you may not have noticed because there’s been a steady flow of articles forthcoming from here, many written in the summer. Unfortunately I’m starting to run out (some of them are in a half-completed or unedited state) and I’m hitting a busy patch—the last couple weeks before exam time.

That means that for the next week or two, posting here will be sporadic and untimely. Hopefully once classes have ended I will have time to do some more articles for this space.

In the meantime, I have some very good news. At this time I don’t want to be too specific because some details remain to be finalized, but an article I wrote back in August is going to appear in a pretty major SFF publication early next year. I am immensely pleased.

Black Mesa: Source

So Black Mesa: Source finally came out. I know I’m not the Half-Life guy anymore, having studiously avoided touching the subject for almost a year now, but this is pretty interesting to me. I’m not playing it at the moment, but I am watching it being played. It looks very well done.

As an aside, the situation with the Half-Life series is like this: it’s on hiatus until December. At that time, I can finish up with Opposing Force and then decide if I’m going to do the next three games and the related articles I had planned. In the meantime I’ve started a new series of posts on Demon’s Souls, which I played in June and wrote throughout the summer. I expect that series to go to ten or fifteen parts without an interruption; there are currently four parts completed and scheduled.

A few notes on reviews

Reviews seem to have been a common theme of this summer. There were articles about book reviews being too nice, then an explosion of posts on the opposite phenomenon and the advent of Stop the Goodreads Bullies (who, lately, put humour next to literature, privacy, and racism on the list of things they don’t understand, and tried to take on James D. Macdonald, an endeavour in which they are hilariously out of their depth). Most recently, there has been concern about fake reviews on Amazon. I feel that this, like many other topics, would benefit from an injection of my opinion. So, in no particular order: Read the rest of this entry »

Twitter

If anyone is interested, I am now on Twitter.

ParaNorman

I was going to do a real review of ParaNorman, which I saw on Friday night, but I really don’t have anything to say about it except: go see it. If you need more information than that, Moviebob’s review is a good summary. Seriously, I didn’t have even the remotest interest in it when it was being advertised, but I’m glad I saw it (incidentally, between The Raid, Cabin in the Woods, and now ParaNorman, Moviebob’s recommendations have been working well for me lately).

It’s a children’s movie, but one of the best kind: the ones that don’t talk down to kids. It’s not so much that there are jokes for the parents that will go over kids’ heads—rather, it deals with subject matter of interest to children in a way that’s entertaining to everyone. There are visual gags for those with a sharp eye, a script packed with good lines (“I’m nothing if not liberal, but this limp-wristed hippie crap needs to be nipped in the bud!”), a set of voice actors perfect for their roles, and something rarely seen in kids’ movies: actual dramatic pacing. There are even moments of silence. There are also moments of John Goodman. What more could you possibly want? Go see it.

A Nature Walk

Dammit

Stumbled on a neo-Nazi site while searching for information on Adorno and Wagner. I hate when that happens.