MUSIC: CSPhil – Mahler 6

Symphony No. 6 in A minor Composer: Gustav Mahler Conductor: Josep Caballé-Domenech Date: April 22, 2017 Before going to see this performance, I knew very little about Gustav Mahler. Because of a Tom Lehrer song (see video below), I knew he was married to a woman named Alma, and I knew he composed a piece called "Das Lied von der Erde." And while I still know little about Gustav Mahler, I can make some interesting assumptions based on how he composed. After all, when a piece requires over 100 instruments, including two harps, two timpani, a celesta, and an instrument specially made for this singular symphony, you can tell Mahler didn't conform to traditional standards. I can practically hear him instructing his orchestra. I can hear him saying he wants more cowbell, because dang if there isn't plenty of cowbell in his 6th symphony. The richness and diversity of sound produced by this large orchestra leaves the listener with many instruments on which to focus. I'm sure repeated...
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BOOK: The Infinite Lawman (2016)

The Infinite Lawman Year: 2016 Author: E.M. Lockaby Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I do have to admit that the cross-genre Cyberpunk/Western novel, The Infinite Lawman was an interesting idea. I hadn't seen these two genres combined before, so the combination certainly had an original feel to it, at least initially. There were certainly a few moments where some of its sources showed themselves, but the strength and pace of the story helped to alleviate these concerns. Although, if this is the first book in a series, I'm not entirely sure where it can go from here. Before I get any further into my review, I did find it odd that the margins were so enormous on this book. The page numbers were also all on the same side of each page (in the gutter for the left-hand pages), and the font was quite small (so as to fit in the small space provided by the enormous margins). I can only assume...
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BOOK: Amped (2012)

Amped Year: 2012 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 522 minutes / 8.7 hours Having read Where’s My Jetpack? and Robopocalypse from Daniel H. Wilson, I had some high hopes for this book. Clearly, Wilson has a depth of knowledge about current and upcoming technologies that allows him to write succinctly both non-fiction and fiction. He can fuse the science with either humor or action and maintain an accurate sense of it without having the details bog down the plot. In Amped, Wilson explores a world where humans use technology to assist their bodies, either to overcome a disability or to overcome their humanity. Unlike Robopocalypse, which was primarily a collection of intertwined vignettes, Amped follows a single individual through the effects of a fear-filled society charged by an inferiority complex. While the main thrust of the plot is about mental augmentation, there are mentions of other exciting technologies, including self-driving trucks and mechanical exoskeletons. Overwhelmingly, though, the brain-altering technology is the focus, as it hurtles...
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MOVIE: Passengers (2016)

Passengers Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours I have to admit that the plot presented in the trailers of this movie intrigued me. However, in its execution, Passengers (2016) left much to be desired. Of course, this was mostly due to the film using just enough “physics speak” to be partially accurate, but incredibly wrong. Those parts stuck out to me in this movie and I kept scratching my head while watching it and saying, “Wait a minute . . .” That being said, not all of Passengers was bad, just a pretty big chunk of it. I did appreciate the moral conundrum that Jim (Chris Pratt) encountered in the movie’s first act. It did add a bit of predictable drama to the characters, but depicting his struggle highlighted his humanity. In this plot with a clear three-act structure, this first act was the highlight that eventually devolved into a ridiculous setup for the final reveal. With each new character introduced,...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Hindemith: Mathis der Maler

Symphony Mathis der Maler Composer: Paul Hindemith Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: April 15, 2017 Contrary to what I initially thought, this piece was not by Gustav Mahler or even about Mahler (notice the absence of the "h" in the title). Instead, this symphony was an effective musical representation of an artist's work which itself had a hermit saint as its inspiration. Through the "behind the scenes" provided by the Philharmonic before playing the entire piece, I learned that Hindemith paid a lot of attention to the symmetry and mathematical balances in his music. From utilizing the golden ratio to palindromes to balanced and unbalanced movements, there was more to Hindemith symphony than met the ear. What was also interesting was the artist whose works were inspirations for this symphony (itself being part of a larger opera). Mathis Grunewald didn't have many works to his name, but the ones we do know about are certainly impactful. Just as an example, the piece included in this post was just one...
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BOOK: DreamLync (2015)

DreamLync Year: 2015 Author: K.A. Black Length: 122 pages I initially had my doubts about this book. There have been plenty of stories written about the challenges and cautions of a simulated society. From The Matrix (1999) to Sword Art Online, the blurred lines between the real world and a digital one are well within our reach as a global community. And while books like Ready Player One certainly have a nostalgic feel to their plotlines, DreamLync manages to flip the concept on its head and show how hard it is to pull oneself from a heavily digital social experience. While I would argue that the timeline for this book would be in the next 20-30 years, instead of more than 100 away (just look at Her (2013) for example), the same interpersonal problems will likely still exist. Told via the almost forgettable "everyman" John Adams (not to be confused with either U.S. President), DreamLync shows the reader a world that could easily be ours (without...
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BOOK: Goldfinger (1959)

Goldfinger Year: 1959 Author: Ian Fleming Length: 509 minutes / 8.48 hours For many years, I was aware that the James Bond series of books did not follow the same order as their respective films. Given the action/adventure spy thriller genre these books were written in, it is possible to mix them around and still have a good understanding of what’s going on, even if some of the references made within the novels could only be understood by having read the previous books in the series. In some respects, it is disappointing that the film franchise didn’t capitalize on a continuous narrative that the books provided. If the stories are out of order, then it 's hard to build up the constant battle between James Bond and the Soviet spy agency, SMERSH. Fortunately, since I had read a few of the first books in the James Bond series, I could appreciate Auric Goldfinger’s connection to the organization. That being said, I seemed to have jumped...
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MOVIE: Moana (2016)

Moana Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours Let's get one thing straight: computers are incredible. Each successive year that passes, I find my eyes blown away at the amazing capabilities of computers to create the kind of imagery found in movies like this. From hair and water effects to some of the more supernatural aspects, the visuals of this film are quite commendable. Sure, Zootopia (2016) looked good too, but since its characters weren't human or in a "human" environment, it was difficult to see just how amazing the visuals could be. But this was likely due to Zootopia having more focus on an interesting plot instead of stunning effects. I am impressed that Disney has taken the leap to another non-white "princess" with Moana, but much of the cliche trappings of this type of film are out in full force. If I were to tell you Disney made a coming-of-age movie featuring the main character with an animal sidekick, a mute...
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BOOK: Dragon Airways (2016)

Dragon Airways Year: 2016 Author: Brian Rathbone Length: 202 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** A book filled with equal parts fantasy and steampunk, Dragon Airways delivers on the promise of flying the skies on the back of a dragon. Brian Rathbone does an expert job of fusing diesel engines and magic stones in this exciting story. Not only is the setting interesting, but most of the characters are quite engaging as well. Because of this, Dragon Airways was a pleasure to read, and I voraciously read every page that was available to me. While I did thoroughly enjoy reading this book, there were a few things that made it a little difficult to follow along. First, some of the minor characters weren't that well-developed (or non-existent after the first few chapters), which made it difficult to know who they were, especially when some of them had multiple names and titles assigned to them. Secondly, I minimally understood the layout of the world...
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BOOK: Robopocalypse (2011)

Robopocalypse Year: 2011 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 759 minutes / 12.65 hours With the ever-increasing proliferation of “smart” technology throughout our society, the thought of a robot uprising remains fixed in the back of our minds. Since the introduction of the concept of robots decades ago, humans have feared their uprising to usurp us as the dominant sentient beings on our planet. Now, as we rely on our computers, smartphones, and connected devices to help run our lives, the threat of a full-on apocalypse resulting from their sentience seems more possible than ever. Author Daniel H. Wilson has certainly done his research on the “what if” scenario of a robot apocalypse (or the titular Robopocalypse, if you will). He manages to build the progression of a robot-themed doomsday scenario from the machines we know and use today. Many of the machines’ decisions and strategic moves mostly make sense. That being said, I did have a few issues with the book and its structure. First...
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