Georges Bizet's 'Carmen Suite No.1: Les Toréadors'
Herbie Hancock's 'Chameleon'
Pop and rock:
Van Morrison's 'Caravan'
(Above: Australian Cardinal George Pell.)
There has been debate recently about the power of the N.S.A.--and no, this time it's not about whether or not the N.S.A. should be able to spy on people. The debate this time is more concerned about the kind of technologies and powers the N.S.A. has developed. In the aftermath of the ransomware cyber attack that occurred recently, people are concerned about the N.S.A.'s rushing to develop new technology without first ensuring that they can properly encrypt and protect it so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Officials are puzzled about the cyber attackers' motives, which appear not to be financially motivated, but rather apparently seem to be centered around Ukrainian tax accounts.
After the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a partial form of President Trump's travel ban until they officially ruled on it in the fall, they released details of what the 'partial travel ban' would entail. Siblings are allowed into the country, considered close enough family to warrant this, but nieces, nephews, and grandparents are not. Step-siblings and half-siblings are also allowed.
Australian Cardinal George Bell, one of Pope Francis' closest advisors, has been charged with sexual assault.
After losing support from some Republican senators, Senate House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided to go back to the drawing board. A vote on the bill to replace Obamacare will not take place until after the July 4th recess. Sources say that McConnell is also allegedly considering working with democratic senators to draft bipartisan legislation.
After getting wind of an alleged chemical weapons attack planned by the United States government, the president and other advisors promised punishment in return. Now, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Mattis, has claimed that the threat is gone, and Syria has halted its plans to carry out the attack. Whether or not the attack ever existed is up for debate, but many sources in the cabinet seem to claim that it did.
With Xi Jinping in Hong Kong for the first time in his term as head of the Chinese state, the New York Times published this article to take a look at what this may mean for the democratic or sovereign future for the small island. Is Hong Kong the same place it was 20 years ago, when Britain relinquished control?
Have a great Thursday, folks!
Also, as a side note--what today's title is referencing (a previous song of the day):
If any of you are just joining us here, I'll explain in brief what this segment of the blog is--each day I post a track in jazz, classical, and then more modern rock 'n' roll, pop, or experimental (admittedly, by modern, I've mostly meant the 60s and 70s so far), as a means of trying to expose people to different music. If anyone has a suggestion for a song of the day, please send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, without further ado:
Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18: 2. Adagio sostenuto"
Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine"
The Who's "My Generation"
This song became an anthem for a rebellious teenage generation in the late 60s.
Here is The Who performing the song at their legendary Woodstock performance. (For those of you who don't know what Woodstock is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodstock
Have a super Thursday! Only 2 more days!
Applying to college can be an incredibly daunting task. There's multitudes of applications to fill out, seemingly dozens of essays to write, forms to check, interviews to attend, and plenty of worrying that seems to come at any given moment. There can seem to be a pressure to really set oneself apart from the rest of the field--a feeling that in order to get into the college of my dreams, I need to be the perfect candidate. The reality of it is this--college admissions is a wildly imperfect science. There is no metric to assign a score to an applicant--there's no numeric scale that can measure the worth of any given student. Obviously, there are many factors that contribute to admissions decisions--some quantitative and some qualitative--and institutes of higher learning do have some way of filling their class each year. Some applications must be better than others, right? So what is it that makes an application stand out above the pack? What can one do to make themselves a better applicant--a better candidate?
Obviously, there are certain factors that are incredibly important and quantifiable--SAT and ACT scores, GPA, etc. These, whether one likes it or no, are important determining factors and should be treated as incredibly important. While they're not the only factors at all (and really should not be treated as such), they give the admissions department at a college an important numerical baseline--they show what you're capable of in an academic setting. And because they are numerical, they are easy to sort through, compartmentalize, or whatever else it is that the admissions departments do. These provide a number and a (perhaps poorly designed, but that's not for me to say) measurability to the candidate.
However, colleges don't just look at test scores--if they did, their classes would probably be fairly homogenous. It's an indicator, but not the only or best indicator of a student's potential and ability. This is where extracurricular activities come into play. These are also hugely important in the college admissions process. President of the astronomy club? Awesome. Played varsity soccer for 3 years? Fantastic. All of these things give a more complete picture of a student than just test scores alone. Not to mention the fact that American institutes of higher learning are more and more prioritizing (contrasted with their European counterparts) well-roundedness in a student. Imagine that you're a college admission officer--you have two profiles in front of you. Both are exceptional test takers and have the highest possible scores, but one of the two is also a concert pianist. Who are you going to take? Obviously, the one who has the more interesting and impressive extracurricular record (this is an exaggerated situation, but an example nonetheless).
Then, there's the essay--the object that gives a voice and some vestige of personality to the profile which otherwise just consists of a list of achievements and scores.
But last year, Harvard received more than 34,000 applicants to fill the class of 2021. Out of that number, it seems incredibly likely that there were more worthy candidates than there were available spots. There were probably too many candidates with stellar SAT scores, too many candidates with great GPA's and phenomenal extracurricular activity resumés, and too many great essays for these simple factors to completely allow the admissions officers to easily select a class. With top institutions such as this, it's never really an easy decision, and it seems likely that a great college will have to reject many great candidates.
This can probably seem pretty discouraging, but one has to think of it as an opportunity--as a challenge one can be excited about. One has to think: How can I differentiate myself? What can I do to stand out from the crowd? How am I unique? And often, these attributes may manifest in ways that are not immediately obvious from an application. And this is why you need to give colleges something tangible--something that shows them that you are a fantastic college candidate, that you are more prepared to take on the occasionally difficult, often quite independent learning challenge that is a college or university education.
What if there were a way to do something original--something creative and revealing of your personality that also shows a preparedness in doing college level work?
Well, there is!
A research project is an incredible way to accomplish all of these. Research is the driving learning and discovery force in intellectual academia--it's the kind of work college students, grad students, and professors all do. It is the staple food of institutes of higher learning, if you will. Carrying out some kind of research as a high school student will put you way ahead of the game, and it will also show colleges that you are ready to perform the kind of work that they expect--it evinces a kind of intellectual maturity and dedication to a lengthy project, and it shows that you will be ready to do college-level work from day one, something that can't be said of every applicant.
But doing a research project can do so much more than show you know how to do research--it can almost function like an extra essay in a lot of ways. First of all, if you carry out a research project until the end, it will deliver a tangible result that you can show off. This is huge. Being able to talk about an experience is one thing, but having a physical document of the experience itself is an incredible resource. Besides this, a research project also allows another glimpse into your personality. It reveals an interest and shows off the kinds of things that drive you--the kinds of things you're really passionate about.
A research project is an opportunity (and even more than an opportunity, it's also an interesting process that will help you to learn something about your field and learn something about yourself, immersing yourself in a creative project that you are dedicated to) to grow as an intellectual and also help differentiate yourself as an ideal college candidate. There are plenty of college applicants with marvelous test scores. But it's the creative aspects--the essays and special extra steps like research projects--that really can differentiate you and take you from being one of the pack to being above the crowd.
Doing a research project is a fantastic chance to have a great time delving further into one of your interests and also boosting your resumé to make yourself a more ideal, college ready candidate. A research project really is a fantastic idea.
Today seems to be a relatively quiet day in the news, however, there are still some significant stories.
Yesterday, a south bound A-train derailed in New York City's subway system. The issue has ignited debate about the outdatedness of the system, which in many cases has not changed equipment in decades. New Yorkers are increasingly becoming frustrated with delay times, and now it seems that safety might also be an issue to contend with.
In Washington, a vote on the Senate Health Care Bill has been postponed until after the July 4th recess. President Trump recently said that he thought they were very near passing the bill, but there are still several holdouts in the Republican camp.
Debate in the aftermath of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire has escalated--there is argument over the effects of the mass privatization of buildings and safety regulations. It was recently found that one of the nearby buildings that was evacuated would not have passed building codes in New York City.
In the aftermath of a mass cyber attack, officials are trying to figure out the best way to move forwards. The attack involved people hacking and subsequently threatening to delete victims' personal data unless the victims paid.
And in science, there is a new initiative to beam communications into space. Are we alone in the universe? And if we're not, what next?
Have a lovely day, everyone!
(Above: One of the iconic shots from the director's A Trip to the Moon.)
Today, I'd like to spend just a brief couple of sentences introducing you all to one of the most important filmmakers of all time, of whom D.W. Griffith (known as the grandfather of the modern day feature length film) said: "I owe him everything." Méliès, in many ways, invented the art of narrative cinema. By imbuing his films with a story, he changed the way that people viewed the art form forever. His films are quite old, but most of them are very short, and they seem like nice little windows into a past--they become little 'pataphysical artifacts, or a time machine into the way people looked at film and fantasy. His most famous film is Le Voyage dans la Lune, or A Trip to the Moon (filmed in 1902). It details the journey of two primitive astronauts who go to the moon and battle the Selenites (moon-people) there. Below, I've attached links to that as well as some of his other short films. Enjoy the works of this cinematic founding father!
As a little bonus, here is the music video for Smashing Pumpkins' song "Tonight, Tonight," which is an homage to A Trip to the Moon.
Hi all! As a reminder, send me songs you'd like to be featured in this segment!
Claude Debussy's 'Réverie'.
This piece is fairly exemplary Debussy--it entrances the listener with its phrased lyricism, and its interesting use of bizarre scales (such as the whole-tone scale, which Debussy was quite fond of).
Wes Montgomery's 'In Your Own Sweet Way'
Montgomery was one of the first and most influential jazz guitarists.
The Velvet Underground and Nico--'Sunday Morning'
This song is the first track on New York band The Velvet Underground's first album. The album is often hailed as one of the most influential rock records of all time, infusing the genre with bits of avant-garde, noise music, and more experimentation, as well as offering a much more gritty picture of New York in its lyrics than previous songwriters had ever dreamed of.
Happy listening, all!
Hi all! My post for this week's edition of ''Great Movies' will be shorter than last time's. My goal here is to pique your interest and perhaps inspire you to watch something you might not have otherwise watched. Also, as a reminder, please send me suggestions and a short blurb about the movie you chose! These can be as short or long as you choose--the goal here is just to turn this into a more communal forum. We want to hear from all of you! As a reminder, my email address is email@example.com.
Today's 'Great Movie' is Weimer Republic (the name for the German state between the years 1919 and 1933) director Robert Wiene's 1920 proto-horror classic, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). The film is a landmark work in the movement that has since been called 'German Expressionism' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Expressionism). German Expressionism is a movement notable for its filmmakers' rejections of the natural objective reality--they instead opted to portray their subjects in distorted forms, strange perspectives, and odd colors, hoping to evoke subconscious emotion through their subversion of expected forms.
This film tells the story of a deranged hypnotist and his somnambulist ('sleepwalker'--though here it's almost more of a dead man come to life) who come to a small town in Germany and commit a series of heinous, ghastly crimes. There is also the insertion of a frame narrative, which has come to be somewhat controversial in retrospect (the Wikipedia page for the film has a good description as to why, though I'd recommend seeing the film first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cabinet_of_Dr._Caligari).
However, the film's most interesting element is its overall look--its incredibly distinctive mise-en-scène, or the setup of the shot--what's there before the camera starts rolling (e.g. lighting, makeup, set design, etc.--here's the wikipedia page on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise-en-sc%C3%A8ne). The lighting is fragmented and abstract. Buildings are jagged and terrifying. There seem to be shadows lurking in the shadows. Lamp posts are no longer merely sources of light, but terrifying, jagged monsters that lurk in the night. It is one of the most interesting looking films ever put to celluloid--despite its age (97 years now!), the strangeness of the set design still makes it feel remarkably unique and invigorated. It is strangely affecting.
Though it is a silent film, it is incredibly gripping, and a must see for anybody who takes cinema seriously or considers him or herself a film aficionado. Dr. Caligari remains subconsciously affecting, and still creepy, even nearly a hundred years after its release.
Today there will be only two songs of the day, as I'm combining the classical and jazz categories to fit one (somewhat longer) piece, which seems to defy an outright categorization into either--so, without further ado...
Classical and jazz:
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I'm sticking with the rhapsody theme from yesterday and choosing Gershwin's 1924 masterpiece today. Melding jazz elements with certain aspects of classical composition and orchestration, this 'jazz symphony' is one of the most famous works by an American composer and one of the most famous works of the 20th century. Beginning with an iconic clarinet glissando, the piece features several rhythmic, key, and dynamic changes as it soars around. Gershwin allegedly said that he wanted to capture the sound of New York City in the early 1920s. Since its publication and initial performances, recorded versions of the piece have been featured in several movies and television shows. Enjoy!
Rock and pop:
The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"
This track, featured on the Beach Boys heavily influential and masterful 1966 album, Pet Sounds, is often ranked as one of the greatest love songs of all time. And for good reason--it's an absolutely gorgeous track. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has cited it as his favorite song. Pet Sounds is ranked second on Rolling Stone Magazine's '500 Greatest Albums of All Time' list, and 'God Only Knows' is frequently cited as the best song on the album. The album is also largely credited with inspiring The Beatles 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Happy listening! And please send me songs if you would like certain ones to be featured!