MacBook Pro: one-two punch

Apple has issued a recall for selected first-generation MacBook Pro batteries, like mine. For once, the issue isn’t fire, but “underperformance” (whatever that means). I put in for the recall today and they indicated I should get the new battery in about 4-5 working days, so I hope to be able to report some information by the end of the week.

On another note, or rather high-pitched whine, it looks like Apple may be finally acknowledging the noisy MacBook Pro problem. For the uninitiated, MacBooks Pro frequently exhibit a high-pitched noise when running on battery power, though disabling one of the two processor cores stops the noise for some reason (as does doing something that forces the second core to be used, like opening a webcam window). The one sentence note on the support site says “If your 15-inch MacBook Pro emits a high-pitched buzzing sound, please contact AppleCare for service.” Well, OK. I’ll do that later this week and see what the actual response is.


So the only thing cooler than singing with Seiji, Heidi Grant Murphy, and Nathalie Stutzmann is having them show up at the choir party afterwards.

It was a weekend of brushes with fame, in fact, some closer than others. Leaving the dress rehearsal yesterday morning, I walked away from the shed and spoke to Lisa, and her first words were, “You touched Seiji!” I responded that I hadn’t been that close, and she said, “No, you dummy, he was standing right in front of you when you exited the hall. You almost ran him over.” Um, oops. In my defense I was still hyperventilating a little bit from the finale.

Then last night the chorus was entering the stage through the side door of the shed, a path which winds by the dressing rooms of the guest performers and the conductor. An older gentleman stepped by as I walked in and commented, “What a long line of performers.” I walked past and did a double-take: it was John Williams, the former Pops conductor and current film composer, who’s been around quite a few Tanglewood performances this summer. I had been within a step of barreling into him on the way to the stage. I walked on by, noting the vaguely familiar woman standing across the hall. When I saw her later at the after-party, I placed her: Mia Farrow. Both were there to say hi to Seiji.

And me? Too gobsmacked, and honestly too tired, to say anything to any of them. Oh well.

Mahler’s 2nd with Seiji

Two notes on last night’s performance of Mahler’s Second (“Resurrection”) Symphony at Tanglewood with Seiji Ozawa at the helm.

First, I should know better than to try to make a critical analysis of any work before I actually sing it. A tenor near me was lamenting his difficulty in hitting the high notes at the end of the last movement, and I responded, “There are, I think, some works that are so transcendent that they even transcend the ability of the performer to finish them.” Of course, in the actual performance, it was my voice that cracked on the first fortissimo B-flat on the penultimate page of the choral score. As Monty Python would say, so much for pathos.

Second: I entered the weekend with some uncertainty about Maestro Ozawa’s conducting approach, having gotten accustomed to Maestro Levine’s undemonstrative, understated style. I still have some reservations after the concert. Seiji’s approach to conducting is dynamic and evolving, and I thought at some points that he was placing too much emphasis on emotional content and not enough on precision. But there were decided benefits to his approach too. His dance (and that’s the only thing to call it) on the podium demonstrated to the audience how the music should be interpreted emotionally just as it gave guidance to the orchestra and chorus on how to interpret it musically.

And besides, it’s hardly fair to take points off for precision when he was conducting the entire massive symphony from memory. In fact, I am humbled and shamed about all the times I complained about singing from memory, as he was not only cuing every section perfectly but also mouthing the words to the chorus at the same time, all without opening his score.

Pictures from the Mozart residency

tangled wood at tanglewood

Better late than never. A set of pictures from the Mozart Tanglewood residency is up at Flickr. This is different from the previous set primarily in that there is sunshine, so the pictures look like something other than mud.

Still to come: pictures from this residency, provided it stops raining; pictures from our recent kitchen cabinet demolition; and maybe even pictures of me in a white tux jacket looking spiffy. But don’t hold your breath about the last one…

Duh: Bloggers “don’t pass the maturity test”

Interesting article in the New York Times about the impact of blogs on the Lieberman/Lamont primary: In Race, Bloggers Throw Curves and Spitballs. The title should tell you what’s coming: hand-wringing about the role of blogs in political discourse, combined with laments about the maturity of blog writers and a harkening back to the good old days when the campaign controlled “the message.” In fact, the second page contains what is perhaps the perfect quotation, from a pro-Lieberman blogger:

Mr. Gerstein complained that for all the reasoned arguments by some bloggers, too many resort to crude humor and angry diatribes that “don’t pass the maturity test.”

“Too much of what passes for political commentary in the blogosphere is pretty juvenile and petulant, and that’s not the way you persuade people,” he said. “If the blogging community is going to have a real impact, they’re going to have to have a reckoning soon about their place in the real political world, because in that world there’s a caricature of them as being dominated by crazies.”

You can quote me on this: that’s a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit.

First of all, the quotation shows a profound misunderstanding of the nature of blogging and bloggers. There is no “dominating” the blogosphere, just as there is no controlling its speech. Blogging is free speech. Everyone is free to say whatever they want to say in a blog about any political race. The campaign can wring its hands, but the truth is that people have opinions that aren’t in sync with the message that the campaigns want to project. Really, the last thing that the people who have opinions about politics want is to have those opinions subjugated to the message of the campaign. That has never worked, from the Roman forum through the water cooler, and it won’t work in the blogosphere. If I want to state an opinion in the blogosphere, I’m free to do so.

In fact, let’s state two. First: Joe Lieberman’s argument that questioning the administration’s actions in Iraq is equivalent to acting against the country’s interests isso servile, craven, reprehensible and counter to the interests of democracy that they constitute a dereliction of his duty as a senator. Second. Ned Lamont is coasting pretty well on anti-Lieberman anger among the base and has a long way to go before he can prove to me that a Senator Lamont won’t be the new boss, same as the old boss.

See how easy that is? It’s speech. It’s free. And if you don’t like it, respond in kind. Don’t try to silence me.

Finally, I think the most fundamental misunderstanding here is the conflation of anti-Lieberman blogs with organized opposition. While some of them may well fall into that camp, I’m pretty sure there are a bunch—like me—who are just citizens with opinions and a publishing tool. And when you look at it in that light, it becomes a different argument. Consider:

…for all the reasoned arguments by some voters, too many resort to crude humor and angry diatribes that “don’t pass the maturity test.”

“Too much of what passes for political commentary in the electorate is pretty juvenile and petulant, and that’s not the way you persuade people,” he said. “If the voting community is going to have a real impact, they’re going to have to have a reckoning soon about their place in the real political world, because in that world there’s a caricature of them as being dominated by crazies.” [Emphasized words substituted to prove the point]

Bottom line: the bloggers are citizens. You should respond to them accordingly. In the final analysis, the best thing to do is to respond with persuasive speech, and there hasn’t been anything from either the Lieberman campaign or his independent supporters that persuades me that he’s worth keeping around.

Friday Random 10: At-least-it’s-not-a-drought edition

So here I am, actually on vacation, no calls to take later for work, in Lenox, Massachusetts, between days of my residency at Tanglewood for the Mahler 2nd. “Oh that magic feeling…nowhere to go.” And of course it’s pouring. Er, has poured, is currently spitting, but looks like it might pour again any second.

What’s a depressive guy to do? Why, crank up the iPod, of course. Today’s random 10 is brought to you by the fine drip coffee (since the espresso machine is broken) and free wifiat the Lenox Cafe, an outpost of Barrington Coffee:

  1. Sufjan Stevens, “Vito’s Ordination Song” (Greetings from Michigan)
  2. Nada Surf, “Blankest Year” (The Weight is a Gift)
  3. Shannon Worrell, “Shoot the Elephant” (The Moviegoer)
  4. Soul Coughing, “Maybe I’ll Come Down” (El Oso)
  5. R.E.M., “Lotus” (Up)
  6. Neko Case, “That Teenage Feeling” (Fox Confessor Brings The Flood)
  7. Tori Amos, “Toast” (The Beekeeper)
  8. Lambchop, “Suzieju” (How I Quit Smoking)
  9. Minus the Bear, “Drilling” (Menos El Oso)
  10. Mission of Burma, “Nancy Reagan’s Head” (There’s a Time and Place to Punctuate)

Two views of Mahler’s Second

I’m back at Tanglewood, for the last time this summer, to perfom Mahler’s Second (aka “Resurrection”) Symphony with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the BSO. This will be only the second time that I’ve performed the work, and the contrast is pretty significant.

This time, I can hit the high B that the tenors have in the last movement (the only movement in which the chorus sings). I feel as though I’m in command of the music. We’re singing mixed—two tenors next to two sopranos on one side, two altos on the other, and two basses in front of us—which was common under Seiji Ozawa but which we are doing for the first time since I joined the chorus last summer (not counting Pops performances). This means that each of us has to totally know the music—especially since we’re singing from memory.

Last time? Last time was over twelve years ago. The Virginia Glee Club had been invited to join several other Virginia choruses in a performance in Roanoke, which I remember (somewhat improbably) as taking place in a large basketball arena, and that the singers were in the upper bleachers. And I remember driving there with Don Webb and Eric Rothwell, in Webb’s Japanese import with the license plate VMHLB2, and listening to Prince as we talked about the music that we were singing that season. And improbably, on that two hour drive between Charlottesville and Roanoke, just as we were discussing the endless mass that we had been performing all year, which was written by Cristobal de Morales and based on a well known medieval “Ave Maria” chant, the Prince disk worked its way around to “Sexy MF.”

And somehow, someone was singing along to the Ave Maria chant at the same time someone else was singing along to the Prince tune, which yielded “Ave Ma-ri–a…” “shakin” that ass, shakin’ that ass!”

At which point I realized that we were all going to Hell. Forever.

For this reason, my memory of Mahler’s Second is a little dim. So I’m glad I have a chance to do it properly.

Well, duh: Emusic wins with DRM free downloads

I don’t know why it should surprise me that eMusic is now the second leading download service behind iTunes on the strength of its deep (albeit jazz- and indie-heavy) catalog and its MP3-based DRM-free downloads, but it does. (See this decent profile in USA Today for details.)

The most irritating sentence in the article? “That eMusic has found any traction is surprising, as it doesn’t have any big hits. No music from major labels means nothing from chart-toppers such as Shakira, Beyoncé or U2 — but plenty from Scott H. Biram, the Pipettes, Dashboard Confessional and Peaches.” It’s not surprising to this music lover. Hits are for music industry people, so they can make a quick buck and get out; music lovers prefer something real, such as the Merge Records catalog, the Prestige and Riverside collections, Alan Lomax recordings, Harmonia Mundi… Ah, but I’ve said it all before.

Common sense in Virginia?

The Tin Man: Virginia Amendment. Tin Man points to an interesting poll that shows that Virginia voters are much less likely to approve the specific anti-gay-marriage amendment language that will be on the state ballot this fall than they were a year ago when asked about a general defense of marriage amendment.

How to read this? Either Virginians are anti-gay but recognize the threats posed to heterosexual unmarried couples imposed by the proposed amendment, or they find it easy to be bigoted in general terms but reluctant to impose specific anti-gay language. Or maybe people’s minds have changed over the last year. Anyway, a small ray of hope from my home state.