Winter I – Allegro non molto

January 9, 2010

It snowed here in Dallas on Christmas Eve. My brothers and I decided we had to do something to take advantage of the situation – but there wasn’t yet enough on the ground to have a snowball fight (that came later). So we put on trenchcoats, got out the toy guns (including a homemade model of an M16 rifle – that’s what I’m holding), and started filming stuff.

Then, as we were filming, we realized we had no characters, no story, really nothing except two guys in different color coats shooting at each other. So we decided, in lieu of trying to add those things, to make it a music video for Vivaldi’s Winter, the first movement: Allegro non molto. Because classical music, Weird Al, and the soundtrack to that Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode are the only things my family listens to.

Anyway, today, my brother finally finished editing it, and we uploaded it to youtube. For reasons, it’s not available in Germany.


The Bard in the Mead-Hall

February 14, 2009

A few friends and I recently had an interesting discussion – what would our ideal earthly existence be like? It can’t be Heaven, but you can pick the landscape, the political nature of your city/town/whatever, your own occupation and political and social role, the architecture you want, even modify the laws of physics to some extent… so, what would I do with this opportunity?

After some discussion, it came out that my ideal existence could be summarized as being the bard in the mead-hall…

I’ll start with the landscape and weather. There’d be stark mountains, plains, a mysterious forest, and an ocean (but no beaches – just sheer cliffs of varying height everywhere). It would generally be cold, varying between a bit below freezing and, at the warmest, maybe 60 or 70 degrees. Mostly overcast, sometimes raining or snowing, rarely sunny (though not never). A northern climate. (Which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s read what I have to say about heat vs. cold.)

On to the city itself. I’d pick a small community, just a few thousand, where I can know a sizable portion of the population and talk to whoever I wanted, but not really be obligated to talk to anyone. We’d all live in separate small, simple houses, kind of like the huts you’d see in medieval towns, but with indoor plumbing, and congregate in the communal feasting hall, one of the two large buildings in the town. The other, bigger one would be the library-cathedral, done in the Gothic style.

As to the political structure of this town; it’d be basically feudalistic, I guess, but the main feature is that it is in constant war with a neighboring and extremely evil city, or perhaps monster (which would make this even more like Heorot Hall from Beowulf). Why do we need to be fighting? Because otherwise life would get boring. Remember, this is not Heaven. Eternal existence in an earthly paradise with nothing to try to accomplish, but with mankind still fallen, would, I think, not be very paradisaical. We need something to struggle for – what better way than to have an undeniably evil enemy to fight against? The stories of the war would be told in the feasting hall, everyone would fight and so have some experience of something grander than themselves… but the war would always stay distant enough not to threaten the town itself.

But what would I do in this town? I certainly wouldn’t want to be the king or a warrior or anything like that. I considered being just one of the intellectual class (which there would be – even if everyone is educated, not everyone is equally intelligent), but I realized that wouldn’t really satisfy me. It’d be too boring; again, there’d be nothing to fight for, or rather nothing to really try to accomplish. I’d rather be a bard, composing and singing tales in the mead-hall. Then I could have a goal – write something great. Much more interesting.

This hypothetical paradise is supposed to include other personal stuff, so I guess I’ll include that too; I’d be married, I guess, to someone much nicer and more social than I am (that’s almost necessarily true for me, of course), and probably have kids too. Oh, and there’d be a bunch of pet wolves in this town, and I’d have at least one. I considered taking a super-power like flying or something, but then realized that actually sounds kind of boring. I’d rather have basically what I describe above.

This is an interesting exercise because it gives the audience a view into both your personality, and your world-view – and shows how much the two are intertwined. I’d choose to be the bard in the mead-hall because that’s what suits my personality the best – but it suits me the best because of my views on the nature and significance of literature.

Try it yourself – it might help you figure something out. I didn’t realize that my town needed to be at war with something evil until constructing it with the assumption that it would be at peace and realizing that it wouldn’t work.

Jonathan Coulton

January 28, 2009

It iced over here (i.e. Irving, TX) last night. I love cold and gloomy weather, so it was fun; I was walking around campus while everyone else was huddled in their warm dorms/apartments.

But then the next morning classes were canceled and I was mildly irritated. So, these are probably the exact opposite reactions to this turn of events than what most people had.

The good thing is, the Aquinas Lecture (a once-a-year thing where the Philosophy Department brings in someone cool and has them lecture about Thomas Aquinas) wasn’t canceled, so I’ll be there tonight. And probably won’t get a chance to make an actual substantial post today. Or tomorrow, or this weekend. Thus you get this post.

What I am going to do is point you towards the awesomeness of Jonathan Coulton. He’s a programmer turned musician who sings about what nerds find amusing; evil geniuses, Mandelbrot sets, and unrequited love. Plus all his stuff is under a Creative Commons license, meaning you can download it all for free, legally. Almost makes it worth it pay for it.

The Land of the Ice and Snow

November 11, 2008

This last weekend, I went to Stockholm, in Sweden, leaving on Friday and returning early Sunday morning.

Now, I went to Stockholm just because it’s in Scandinavia, and I wanted to go somewhere in Scandinavia before the semester ended. I bought the tickets back in September, but didn’t do any research whatsoever before going, and so had no idea what to expect. I was prepared to be disappointed.

It turns out, though, that Stockholm is simply a stunning city visually. The mood of the city was set by its beautiful blondes in somber black clothing walking amidst multi-colored ancient apartment buildings as if the two went naturally together. This fit perfectly with the weather, which was chilly but not cold, and very slightly overcast). There was also natural beauty; walking along the harbor was amazing, and some of the islands (like Kastellholmen) were a mix of rocky and grassy parkland and quaint-looking 18th-/19th-century “castles” and churches.

So it was a lot of fun to just walk around the city, and I did that a decent amount. This is one of my favorite things to do in new cities, after all; when I was alone in Cologne for eight hours over ten-day I just wandered around aimlessly for at least two or three of them. I think Stockholm is one of the best cities I’ve been in for simply wandering around for aesthetic pleasure.

But my other favorite thing to do is to go into random churches, and at this, Stockholm failed. There were very few churches – well, fewer than in, say, Rome or Munich – and those that there were, were Lutheran. Going into Lutheran churches does not particularly interest me.

This was, of course, expected. I knew Scandinavia was mostly agnostic, and nominally Lutheran not Catholic. But it was still disappointing, in a sense; I could not help but imagine how awesome Stockholm would have been if it had had this going for it as well. If Stockholm had been Catholic, I think it might have been my favorite city in Europe so far.

But that is just wishful thinking. Obviously Stockholm is not going to turn Catholic any time soon. That leaves me seeing Stockholm, and thus all of Scandinavia, in a wishful light; it was amazing, but it could have been more, so much more.

Come Wind Come Snow Come Winterland (January)

January 2, 2008

January in Texas is not like January anywhere with decent weather patterns. In other words – it doesn’t actually get cold. It gets somewhat chilly, but no more.

It’s interesting, though; I’m from Texas, and I complain about the weather here, but many of the people from further north prefer the Texas weather to their own. This reminds me of the opening of the TÝR song Eric the Red;

What brings you here my friend, what brings
you north to where hell is of ice
South from the sand dunes where hell is of
fire, why have you come so far

In the south hell is of fire, but in the north hell is of ice. Hell, in other words, is weather taken to the extreme – if you live in a cold climate, you have to fight the cold to live, but if you live in a warm climate, you have to fight the heat.

My preference for snow over a burning sun would seem, then, to be a case of the grass being greener on the other side. Perhaps it is. I suspect that if I lived somewhere cold, I would dislike the extreme cold just as much as I dislike the extreme heat

I would still prefer, however, to live in the cold rather than the heat. It seems to me that it is more natural to have a hell of ice rather than a hell of fire. After all, heat is energy, and cold is simply the absence of heat. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the evil to be fought to be an absence of energy, rather than to have evil be a positive force? Thus a cold climate is better than a warm one, because it will make you fight the cold rather than the heat.

If I can reference Dante’s Inferno, look at the ninth circle of hell – the sinners there are trapped in ice, not fire, and that is a worse punishment than those in less low circles perishing in flame.

So… who from Wesnoth or Orbivm does this make me? Well, clearly I have to be someone from a fairly warm climate, warmer than average. Wesnoth doesn’t really have any warm climates, so it’ll have to be from Orbivm. The most obvious place to go would be Nemidia, so I’m going to say – Jugarthus Massaesylus. He was born in Nemidia but ended up in the north, in Silvia, and died there alongside his commander Caius Regilius. I imagine he too preferred the cold over the heat; otherwise he would not have traveled several thousand miles north from his homeland as he did.

Jugarthus’s main role in the Legion is to act as advisor to and mouthpiece of Caius Regilius, the tribune.  Now, another thing about this month will be… I’ll have a rather large amount of free time. We don’t go back to school until the 22nd. During that time, hopefully, I’ll be able to get quite a lot done. Hopefully. But if I imitate Jugarthus in this, as I suspect I will, I won’t actually accomplish much because I can’t initiate anything myself – I can just seize upon something and run with it. We’ll see.

So here’s a picture of Jugarthus. Remember, it’s not pink, it’s tcolor.

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May showers

May 9, 2007

We’ve been getting some crazy weather down here. Namely, a whole bunch of thunderstorms. It’s been pretty fun, actually; I like the rain, and we’re in a drought so the more the better.

However… the Rangers baseball game I tried to go to last Wednesday got rained out. Not cool. I really wanted to see the game against the Yankees, and they’re not coming back the rest of the season.

Still, it actually is fun, in a strange way, to wait in the stadium for the game to start (too bad it never did). It was raining pretty hard, and we were pretty much sheltered but not completely secure, so that was kind of exciting. And I ended up talking with my dad and brothers intermittently for about an hour about random stuff. We would talk about Jericho, then about whether the storm was going to end, then about baseball, then be interrupted by a huge burst of thunder, then talk about Jericho again.

Which brings me to my point – I have become an expert in waiting. I actually enjoy it now. I usually spend about two hours after school waiting for my parents to pick me up and come home. I spend these two hours doing whatever I want. Sometimes I have to wait for four, five hours. A year ago I would have gone crazy having to wait four hours to get home, but today I do it fine.

Now, let’s combine these two. Thunderstorms, and waiting. Well, waiting means I’m probably an elf, having lots of time to burn. Thunderstorms means I’m a Sidhe.

I know – Leithan!

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