Thursday, March 29, 2007

Descriptor Plus

The University of Michigan's vehement diversity quest seems like it's taking a step in the right direction. A Daily article today mentions the use of software that analyzes neighborhoods' socioeconomic status and academic competitiveness for consideration in admissions.

There is a strong demographic imbalance in underprivileged schools; actively recruiting from such schools should begin to take care of (1) rectification of social injustices, and (2) diversity. Since these factors correlate with racial backgrounds, it seems like the U has found a partial workaround to "increase diversity" since the banning of affirmative action. It will be interesting to see, via enrollment statistics next year, whether this is a sincere effort at diversifying the incoming class on many levels, or a disingenuous prop used to put a few more black people in the classroom.

The burden of increasing the value of education is shared beyond the University of Michigan though; trying to equal out racial inequalities that permeate every level of American society just by creating a system for admission into college will not work.

There is a separate issue at hand too: The effects of artificially inflating an applicant's score to place them at a "higher-tier" school when they would be a satisfactory fit for a "second-tier" school. I will probably write about that later. This book has been eye-opening.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

the bass trombone

I got a phone call today from Professor Jamie Nix, former director of the Michigan Marching Band. The College Band Directors National Association Conference is taking place over the next few days, and the Florida International University band director's bass trombone was stolen at the Miami International Airport.

This is, of course, a geeky retaliation for the infamous brawl that took place during the football season.

"Now, that's what I'm talking about," Thomas said as the brawl raged out of control. "You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don't come into the [Miami-Dade County International Airport] playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator to get in that thing."

So I was summoned to save the day. (Nevermind the fact that the performance majors need theirs daily.) Some University professor will be honking away on my bass trombone starting at 9am tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2007

OBERON

Happy Oberon Day!

(Except, of course, in Illinois. But the Chicagoist blog finds the silver lining.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

300 etc

The Canadian Brass concert in Hill last night was incredible. First, complaining:

The clap-happy audience really got on my nerves. The worst part by far was the behavior during the performance of Samuel Barber's String Quartet No. 1. This is a haunting and beautiful piece made famous in Platoon and Amelie. At one point in the middle of it, the group paused to take a breath. Someone clapped during the pause. The piece ends with a sustained note that, upon its conclusion, could've lingered and resonated in the perfect acoustics of Hill for a full minute without me breathing or blinking. Instead, the exact instant the quintet stopped playing -- to say nothing of the note, just the second they stopped blowing air -- someone claps furiously. This person is probably the guy who sprints out of the theater the instant the credits roll and gargles with mouthwash immediately after swallowing a sip of wine.

Other than that it was fantastic. It was great seeing Brandon Ridenour up there, and a whole lot of PNHS faculty and parents came to see their hometown boy sharing the stage with legends. Good for him.

I finally saw 300 today too. It was exactly what I expected. Gerard Butler's Leonidas exuded sheer badassery up there with Neo and Tyler Durden.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mother Nature loves March 13th

Check out the dates of record temperatures for March 13th. We may well break it today, and unsurprisingly see snow by Friday. Perhaps it's becoming a tradition.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not Important Tournament

Ahh, spring! The time of year when black and gray North Face vests are swapped for light blue and light orange North Face vests. Anyway:

-After months of losing on the road and late game coaching collapses, the University of Michigan graduates yet another senior class of basketball players without an NCAA Tournament berth as attendance in Crisler reaches a 25-year low. Bill Martin has always been about the almighty Dollar and not results, but it's clear that the lack of the latter is affecting the former. It's now hitting him where it counts. He should realize this soon; his skepticism has grown, but not sufficiently to raise any concern of the firings that need to take place. Sorry, Tommy. You're a nice guy, we appreciated your 'anonymous' donation of Maize Rage tickets for two years, and you've recruited good talent, but you have one tournament berth in 10 years as a head coach.

-The Canadian Brass will be performing with Portage's trumpet prodigy Brandon Ridenour next weekend at Hill Auditorium, and Danielle and I will be in attendance.

-My coffee maker stopped working today after serving me dutifully nearly every single day since August. Considering it cost me all of $12, I'd say I got my money's worth.

-I played racquetball yesterday which was my first real exercise in 6 months. Technically, I walk 3 miles a day at a brisk and slightly panicked pace (to and from work twice), but I don't really count that. My sedentary lifestyle didn't affect me nearly as much as I thought it would, but I was clearly feeling its effects. I'm glad the weather will facilitate biking soon.

-Battlefield 2 still has some demo servers online and I've been able to play some consistently fun matches. I've only scraped the surface of its possibilities, but it feels both immersive and intense. I was genuinely scared the first time my tank was strafed by an F-15E, and the impressive shadows and thunderous sound effects only heightened my panic. I may be desensitized to violence, but that doesn't mean this stuff still doesn't affect me.

-Vanguard Press currently lists Tom Grace as one of their featured authors on their "about" page.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

On Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter is like Sarah Silverman if she were a Republican comedienne: Deliberately offensive in an unprecedented way, but she speaks with such an oopsie flair that the charming innocence of her delivery trumps the rhetoric with its ironic positivity. Her brazen intolerance is her sustenance, so she says anything she wants and receives free air time while the republicans try to benefit from it because the people don't see many democrats fighting back.

This situation is similar to Tim Hardaway's comments a few weeks ago, in that I do not care about Tim Hardaway, but rather the underlying attitudes that he broadcast. John Amaechi, about whom Hardaway spoke, was actually glad Hardaway said what he did because it finally meant the presence of public, high-profile bigotry and hatred couldn't be denied anymore. Coulter should be similarly thanked (not the right word), because her crass marginalization has at least opened the door for discussion. It's still sad that her use of a term to dehumanize and disparage, whether or not it was used entirely in the pejorative, was met with cheers and applause. There's already a Time Magazine article that touches on the circumstances if her slurs were racially and not sexually oriented.

In some aspects I'm fine with putting her in the spotlight instead of burying her; she probably did more damage to her party by alienating a larger group of undecided moderates.

Monday, March 05, 2007

MMB video project?

A man in the alumni pep band contacted me last week about a project he wants me to work on. A friend of his (I think), an older man who was in the MMB in the 50s and 60s, has scanned dozens of pictures and has audio clips from his time in the band. They needed someone to help edit them together. This sounds like it will be a fantastic synthesis of several of my main interests: the MMB, digital video editing, and making money.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Parking Continued


 

The point of my appeal in the first place was that I could prove the officer's claims wrong. If they're just going to repeat what's on the ticket, what exactly is the point of the arbiter? It took them 6 weeks to print out what was already written on my ticket and mail it back to me. What a waste of a city salary.

I would imagine court costs beyond this point are more than $25, so... congrats, Ann Arbor, and Officer Peariso. You fleeced me out of lunch for a week. Though I'd appreciate it if, in the future, you tried to suck a little less at your jobs.


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Animation

I woke up this morning not to my alarm, but to the clackety-clack of frozen rain tickering down my window. All the cars outside are coated in a frozen bumpy crust, and it's windy, so the walk should be brutal. In like a lion, I suppose.

For years, I've been wanting to watch the short films that get nominated for Oscars. The Michigan Theater finally came through this week and I got to see all the animated shorts last night. They showed the five nominees and five additional shorts. The winner, The Danish Poet, certainly deserved it. It was a 15-minute flat animation about the serendipitous events that lead to parents meetings, clever and intriguing and funny all the while.

I also enjoyed One Rat Short, a gritty love story between two rats, because of its astounding technical achievements.

The raunchy computer-animated A Gentleman's Duel was wildly entertaining, though not quite Oscar-worthy material.

My only complaint is whatever copies they played were really heavily compressed. They were obviously projecting a screener DVD into the theater, and the compression artifacts made it very difficult to see any sort of darker scenes. This would be fine if we were only charged a couple dollars to see it, but if I'm paying full price I expect full quality.

Finally, I'm not sure whether to be really excited or discouraged by this review of the movie 300. On one hand, I hope there's more substance to it than just CGI brutality, but on the other hand, occasionally I'm just in the mood to watch stylized primal violence. It seems 300 will deliver both in spades.