Interactive Graphic on the State of Gay America

From the Guardian’s Data Blog (impressed that the Guardian has a beat just for data, “the oil of the 21st century”).

Achieves the rare goal for an interactive figure of being pretty intuitive, and working both at the “glance” scale and the “detail” scale.

Certainly does a good job of letting me disqualify states and regions for my next move!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/may/10/data-visualisation-us-gay-rights

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Nice rundown on the new MacBook Air

Looks like it’s worth the upgrade (particularly since I’m still using a 2008 Air, referred to as a “toy computer” in the article, ouch!). The ridiculous audio port overhang issue of the first generation ones is long since solved. But no retina display 😦 And their restlessness with reconfiguring MagSafe is annoying.

Still for $999? Pretty sweet.

Jacqui Cheng’s ArsTechnica review is clear, candid and helpful.

Interviewing Žižek

Not for the timid! Decca Aitkenhead (a magnificent name, no?) is up to the task in The Guardian. In addition to spouting lots of showily transgressive, obscenity-laden nonsense (sexual and otherwise), he makes a few trenchant points.

I try to steer Žižek on to the financial crisis, and to the role his admirers hope he will play in formulating a radical response.

“I always emphasise: don’t expect this from me. I don’t think that the task of a guy like me is to propose complete solutions. When people ask me what to do with the economy, what the hell do I know? I think the task of people like me is not to provide answers but to ask the right questions.” He’s not against democracy, per se, he just thinks our democratic institutions are no longer capable of controlling global capitalism. “Nice consensual incremental reforms may work, possibly, at a local level.” But localism belongs in the same category as organic apples, and recycling. “It’s done to make you feel good. But the big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.”

Makes me wonder what an interview of Karl Marx by Oscar Wilde would have been like.
Full piece at http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/jun/10/slavoj-zizek-humanity-ok-people-boring?INTCMP=SRCH

Isn’t that a lot of exams to grade?

Stanford collaborates with an online platform to facilitate conversation among the 400,000 students taking its online iTunesU courses.

Not remarkable in itself, but the numbers are amazing.

Social Network for Class of 400,000
June 19, 2012 – 3:00am
By
Elise Young
Stanford University began sharing recordings of events and faculty presentations on iTunes U in 2005, and since then it has steadily increased its online offerings. With the launch of the updated iTunes U app in January, Stanford began to offer supplemental materials, such as assessments, quizzes and exams, with its 13 courses.

Full article at
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/06/19/stanford-adds-social-learning-component-free-online-course

Nessun Dorma (abbreviated)

“Nessun dorma” is getting its regular 15 minutes of fame again. The tenor showpiece from Puccini’s last opera Turandot was a Pavarotti trademark and turns up in lots of contexts that evoke literal or metaphorical triumph. In the opera, it’s the tenor who triumphs, at least if he can sing the full high B that closes the aria. He also wins the heart of the icy soprano (who basically has a sing-off with him in the previous act.)

The music appears pretty regularly in pop culture; remember the 1990 World Cup? It was an effective signature tune for that, and one senses Puccini probably was smiling. What’s caught my ear more recently is it appearance on TV talent competitions over the last couple of years, including last month’s “American’s Got Talent.”

To wit, two examples:

Here’s Paul Potts from Britain’s Got Talent: 1k08yxu57NA

Or Luiz Meneghin from the U.S. version.

Generally, I’m all for any visibility for opera at all. Although neither of these people really sing the aria all that well, it hardly matters. They are both amiable types and the Brazilian guy has some character to his voice. More power to them. Nobody who loves opera should turn up his or her nose at competitions, as they are certainly prevalent in this art form and in classical music generally. We should be so lucky that millions might get as engaged in the plight of young operatic talent as they do with the contestants on the “Idols” and Got Talents. Maybe a viewer will watch and get intrigued? The YouTube counter on Potts is at an astonishing 95 million.

The problem for me is that what these 95 million are watching is barely barely “Nessun Dorma,” but a ridiculous truncation of it. In its original form, it’s not a long aria: about three and a half minutes. Apparently that is 90 seconds too long for TV, as the contestants cut the middle out.

Is the fear that audiences will bail because it’s ‘operatic’ and thus broadcast poison? Is this most direct and accessible of opera composers really too recondite? Does every aspect of music have to fit the Procrustean bed of a TV show format?

I don’t know what effect the shortened version of the aria would make on somebody who hadn’t heard it before. Although the studio audiences and judges certainly seem pretty verklempt after hearing only the opening and the last bit. To me, that triumphal high B doesn’t make musical or dramatic sense in the shortened version, as nothing builds to it. Is three minutes really beyond our attention span for music (although not for the surrounding talk)? Did the audience in the theater actually hear the whole thing? Then why not show it?

Whatever the reason, everybody’s seem a little scared of the full three and a half minutes of romantic vocal glory. The great Swedish tenor Jussi Björling wasn’t, and you shouldn’t be either. Here he is.

Vincerò!, indeed.

I’ll leave it for another post to talk about what made Björling’s voice so affecting.