A Brilliant Idea: Concerto for Nora (the Cat) and Orchestra

Com­pos­er and Con­duc­tor Min­dau­gas Piecaitis in Lithua­nia had an idea. Why not build an orches­tral accom­pa­ni­ment around the now-famous YouTube video of Nora the Piano Cat? The result is a bril­liant, if some­times quirky piece of music that gen­tly and play­ful­ly inter­acts with the cat video.

Despite the title ‘CATcer­to’, this is actu­al­ly a sen­si­tive and at times con­tem­pla­tive piece, and shows just what a com­pos­er can do, how they can make some inter­est­ing com­po­si­tion­al choic­es in response to almost ran­dom events, and make sense of it all. As Igor Stravin­sky once said: “The more con­straints one impos­es, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbi­trari­ness of the con­straint serves only to obtain pre­ci­sion of exe­cu­tion.”

We now live in an Inter­net-con­nect­ed world, where dig­i­tal video, com­posers and cham­ber orches­tras can all some­how blend into some­thing that’s…well, Art. I’m all for it.

Helen Back (As In, I've Been To)

I’m a lit­tle bleary-eyed, but I am here, awake, and still able to blog. I believe that I’ve exor­cized all of the demons (or dae­mons for the UNIX folks out there) that were putting in the SPAM in my posts and RSS feeds. I did locate code in my xmlrpc.php file that had a graph­ic of a spi­der (in ascii — how old school!) and then a bunch of what looked like Russ­ian. It had every­thing but ‘From Rus­sia with Love’ in it. I didn’t keep it around long enough to fig­ure exact­ly what it was doing, but after sev­er­al tries at clean­ing out, I inevitably had to blow away my Word­Press install and rein­stall from fresh files. After all of that, rein­stalling and recon­fig­ur­ing plu­g­ins, re-enter­ing and updat­ing pass­words, and ping­ing servers,  I final­ly appear to be back in busi­ness, and most of what I had is back (save a few plu­g­ins and oth­er niceties).

So, by way of a test, here’s a video I took with the Flip Cam­era of our sec­ond vis­it to the Night Mar­ket in Rich­mond last night. This evening I had Bánh mì (the incom­pa­ra­ble Viet­namese sand­wich­es of ham, paté and crisp veg­eta­bles on crunchy French style baguettes) and Tai­wanese deep-fried squid which was absolute­ly fan­tas­tic. Pam had a Green Papaya Sal­ad with shred­ded beef jerky and a pip­ing hot waf­fle filled with red bean paste. Too bad the video can’t be smelled or tast­ed.

This is also a first attempt at using the quick and dirty Flip­Share soft­ware to make a movie from my short clips, and despite the rather ugly open­ing titles, I think it actu­al­ly does a pret­ty good job.  It’s cer­tain­ly faster than iMovie, but then again, I didn’t do much but trim a few of the clips. Let’s hear it for raw video, free of spam!

Apologies for the SPAM

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, yes­ter­day my blog was hacked, and done in a way that I can’t (after a near­ly sleep­less night) extri­cate the poi­so­nous code from it. After going round and round with no solu­tion, I’m com­ing to the con­clu­sion that I’m going to have to do a com­plete wipe of it and start from scratch. I’m hop­ing that I can retain my pre­vi­ous entries, but I can’t let this go on much longer, and have to find a way to get this garbage out. My sin­cere apolo­gies, and I hope that I’ll be able to get this run­ning again soon.

Summer in the City

It’s been a while since I’ve writ­ten any­thing, main­ly because I always feel the need to take a lit­tle time off in the sum­mer, par­tic­u­lar­ly since this sum­mer weath­er has been so spec­tac­u­lar­ly good. True, it has been a lit­tle warm, and even on some days, down­right hot. Still, that hasn’t kept us from get­ting out and enjoy­ing the city, vis­it­ing with friends, tak­ing long walks along False Creek, and even a few out­ings with the car.

An Intimate Evening with Hummingbird604 and Some Exotic Potent Potables

It was one of those hot nights in Down­town Van­cou­ver when we went out one of the evenings a cou­ple of weeks ago. Rather than try and escape the heat (as any sane per­son would do), we embraced it. We climbed the stair­case to the third floor of The Net­work Hub, one of the shared office space and social incu­ba­tors in town on West Hast­ings and Richards, a cou­ple of blocks away from Water­front Sta­tion. Hummingbird604 (AKA Raul to those who know him), host­ed a small group of friends and blog­gers to try out some inter­est­ing new bev­er­ages from Chi­na. When we arrived, we were greet­ed by Christy Nguyen and Min­na Van of Urban­bel­la Mar­ket­ing Group. To go with the liq­uids, they had already begun to put out some Chi­nese food (which was help­ful to see how the liq­uids might go with dif­fer­ent dish­es).

The 15 or so of us dug in and chat­ted as we were try­ing to keep cool. I was hap­py to see plen­ty of friends, includ­ing Gus (and Russ), Tanya (with her new fiancé, Bar­ry), Degan, Eri­ca and John.

So what were we try­ing? There were three dif­fer­ent items. First, there was a red wine, a saki (or rice wine) and a whiskey, which we could try straight up as well as a mix­er in a sort of lemon­ade (which was per­fect for a hot night). I opt­ed imme­di­ate­ly for the most unusu­al (at least for me) thing to try first: the whiskey, straight up from a shot glass. This is not because I want­ed to get drunk fast, but because I tend to be a bit of a purist when it comes to liquor, and love Sin­gle-malt Scotch. I was also intrigued, because this whiskey , called Chu Yeh Ching Chiew, was, as an accom­pa­ny­ing infor­ma­tion card put it:

…a spe­cial ancient liquor made from tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese herbal recipe. It has (a) trans­par­ent gold­en and slight­ly green colour, and intense flo­ral herbal aro­mas of dried apri­cot. It’s off dry with a hint of anise and packs a lengthy fin­ish.

What this infor­ma­tion does not include (and which the name and pic­tures on the bot­tle do), is that this is alco­hol fer­ment­ed from bam­boo shoots. I tried it and was impressed. To me, it had the strength of an Irish Whiskey, but the fin­ish was exot­ic; with a bit of gin­seng, and per­haps anoth­er spice. Here’s what the bot­tle looked like:

 Bamboo Whiskey from China. Photo courtesy of Hummingbird604

Bam­boo Whiskey from Chi­na. Pho­to cour­tesy of Hummingbird604

Here’s my own pho­to of the bot­tle:

My own photo of the same bottle

My own pho­to of the same bot­tle

The com­pa­ny who pro­vid­ed it is Hi-Bridge Con­sult­ing, although as I men­tioned, Urban Bel­la was the Pub­lic Rela­tions firm who arranged for the tast­ing. I have to say that this prod­uct, with some repack­ag­ing, and per­haps a new, Eng­lish name, could do extreme­ly well. They also offered it in a lemon­ade mix­er, which wasn’t as inter­est­ing (but did prove that it could be a fine mix­er), but I have to say that straight up, it is a very impres­sive drink. I pro­pose that they call it, Bam­boo Mist, and put it in a dis­tinc­tive, frost­ed bot­tle with bam­boo brush style let­ter­ing on the label (and keep the bam­boo leaf art as well). Mar­ket it to upscale liquor stores and put it in the sec­tion that has oth­er drinks strong­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a coun­try (like Jame­son Whiskey, Aqua­vit, Midori or per­haps Sabra). I real­ize that some of those are liqueurs, but hope­ful­ly you can see where I’m going with this. In addi­tion, there’s the whole sus­tain­abil­i­ty angle, since bam­boo is one of the world’s most sus­tain­able nat­ur­al resources (it grows in a vari­ety of places like a weed). Many peo­ple in North Amer­i­ca have floors and fur­ni­ture made of bam­boo. It makes excel­lent cut­ting boards. If you don’t use a lot of nasty chem­i­cals, it also can pro­duce won­der­ful, earth-friend­ly and silky fab­ric. One of my all-time-favourite T-shirts is a long-sleeved green­ish cocoa one that feels an awful lot like silk. It is also wash­able and wicks per­spi­ra­tion well. To have a whisky from the same mate­r­i­al seems a nat­ur­al for a mar­ket­ing cam­paign that not only plays off the exot­ic sound of liquor from ancient Chi­nese bam­boo groves, but also of a whisky that ecol­o­gy-mind­ed folks can love as well. Are you lis­ten­ing, Hi-Bridge?

There was also a less impres­sive Sake (Sake from Chi­na? Well, OK) which did have a strange, thick, almost choco­late taste and con­sis­ten­cy, and an extreme­ly undis­tin­guished Caber­net Sauvi­gnon (sor­ry), but the Chu Yeh Ching Chiew (although the name doesn’t exact­ly trip off the tongue for those who don’t speak Chi­nese) made the evening, which in addi­tion to friends, imbib­ing and talk, also includ­ed some appro­pri­ate Chi­nese food to nib­ble on.

We All got together for a group shot near the end of the evening. Photo courtesy of Hummingbird604

We all got togeth­er for a group shot near the end of the evening. Pho­to cour­tesy of Hummingbird604
Another Evening

As I men­tioned, Pam and I have been tak­ing lots of walks after din­ner (main­ly to walk off the meal — we have been eat­ing so well late­ly!) One time we actu­al­ly drove some­where, how­ev­er, was a trip down to Rich­mond for the famous Night Mar­ket. It’s an open air mar­ket in an indus­tri­al park, far from every­where, but you feel as if you’ve gone fur­ther. Besides the booths of every­thing from socks from Korea and iPod/iPhone acces­sories from Chi­na, there are the food booths. Oh. My. I real­ly do love street food, and this was no excep­tion. In addi­tion to some fan­tas­tic squid, cooked up on the flames right in front of us:

Squid! Yum!

Squid! Yum!

I also got a ridicu­lous­ly fun (and sil­ly) spi­ral of a fried pota­to, driz­zled with a hot and sweet chili sauce. Tru­ly a won­der­ful blend of ‘carny’ food and Thai-style spices. As you can see, I was grin­ning like a kid. I think I’m real­ly get­ting psy­ched for our trip to South­east Asia that we’re just start­ing to plan for next year:

Me at the Night Market

Me at the Night Mar­ket