Well, I saw it. 10 AM on Saturday. It was as expected. Amazing special effects, sequel-itis, and that sinking feeling that now I have to wait until November to finish the story. I’m just glad it’s only months away and not years.

The first Matrix was awesome because nobody had any clue what to expect. That was out of nowhere. Now we’ve been saturated by it. We know what the story is about. So the thing is really there to satisfy our craving for more. Much like the iMac – sequels are really hard to do. There were certainly scenes in there that just made me say “WTF?” – Like the big git-down funky dance scene in Zion with the hot and heaviness and all that. OK, ok, we get the point. Get a room already… oh OK they did. But still – there was hardly a point to all that and it seemed like the whole scene was inserted just for the sake of having some steam to look at.

With that said and out of the way – the movie was totally freakin’ awesome. Nice twists to the whole reality of the Matrix and the plot itself, gripping white-knuckle scenes, badass special effects, and I have got to get me some of those threads those dudes are wearing. I’ll spare any further details for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Spirited Away

I just watched Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “Spirited Away” on DVD. This movie is a fantastic tale about a young girl that is lost in a spirit world as she tries to save her parents. As she takes up a job in a bathhouse for the spirits, she is put through several trials all in an effort to turn back the spell that has been cast upon her parents and to find a way out of the spirit world. This is an amazing, fascinating, must-see movie. I had seen Mizayaki’s old Totoro episodes and there was definitely a huge resemblance in the character and feel between the two. The artwork in this film is gorgeous, and the story line is strangely captivating. The whole thing is like one big dream sequence, almost as if it was written from a subconscious state (and for that matter, so is Totoro). And at the same time the movie really does a beautiful job of highlighting, from a childhood perspective, so many experiences and emotions such as apathy, fear, courage, determination, and love. This one definitely goes into my list of favorite movies of all time.

Bach Progress

I have made good headway into the Prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No. 3, and just about nailed the Allemande and the Bourrées. The Prelude is the key part of this piece and has the trickiest fingering problem in the middle section. I somehow got it going again and remembered all my old fingerings, so it’s just a matter of athletics at this point – putting the strings down to the fingerboard with enough conviction and getting the strings to respond properly. Really, it’s almost no problem if I play it détaché, but getting the notes to speak when played legato that is my challenge this evening.

I also put some new fingerings into my two Koussevitsky shorts – the Valse Miniature and the Chanson Triste. These seem to help my intonation. Again, it is finding the phrasing with the bow that I need to work on – especially with the Valse. I got this Liben edition with a different bowing than I am used to, and I’m trying it out, but it just sounds so rigid and pedantic this way. I think I’ll go back to my old bowing…

Oh goody – my books shipped from Liben. I ordered a new copy of Simandl’s Gradus Ad Parnassum (or as I call it: Gradus Ad Nauseum), a few other technique books, and a few pieces of music. It’s all replacements for crap I had before but cannot find. I can’t believe how much of my old music is missing, while so much of it is still around and intact. Weird. Well it should be no wonder – I’ve moved like 7 times since I last saw it all…

I think I’ve identified a wolf tone on A at the first harmonic. The open A sounds fine. This first harmonic up just seems to conflict with the motion of the spheres or something. I’ve found a workaround with the way I attack it with the bow, but it’s going to have to get addressed sometime because I don’t want to keep compensating for this note in such a key position.

Overall I am amazed at how quickly I am getting my bass playing back in to shape. Practice is a wonderful thing. I can already tell some things sound much better than before, mostly because my bass was never set up properly before and now it really is much easier to play and better sounding.

Suppression of Dissent

Yesterday as I was speaking with some co-workers about the McCarthy hearings, and I had remarked that the same kind of thing was going on today. One of my co-workers asked me who was being profiled by the government in this day and age, and I was a bit surprised that he didn’t know the answer – the answer of course being Muslims and political dissenters.

Government profiling of people here in America based on their religious or ethnic backgrounds or even their political opinions is as rampant today as it ever was. The INS has unfairly targeted immigrants of certain muslim nations for questioning, tracking programs, and in some cases detainment and deportation. Meanwhile dissenters against Bush’s hawkish policies have been subject to mistreatment by law enforcement agencies, discriminatory employment practices, mass media censorship, and even secret government profiling of individuals.

The ACLU has released a document entitled “Freedom Under Fire: Dissent in Post-9/11 America” It’s a good overview of both the current state of the suppression of dissent and it also puts everything into historical context – this is nothing new to us and something we need to continue to fight for. If you don’t realize that people in America are still subject to these sorts of injustices, then now is the time to open your eyes.