Movie: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012)

A Christmas present! It’s just what I’d hoped for in the Lord of the Rings series: a telling of the story that focuses on characters first, and uses effects as embellishment. Sure some battles are longer than they need to be, but we also get songs and dialog that will be too long for some,…

Live Music: Heinavanker

I can’t remember the last time I heard a good Estonian vocal ensemble! My Aunt Julia provides a rare opportunity to experience six expert vocalists from Estonia create heart-stilling harmonies based on meditative, monastic-sounding early sacred music and Estonian folk hymns. The effect on me is simultaneously simple and complex, the apparent simplicity of voices…

Live Music: Charles Fisk plays Chopin and Debussey

Flood warnings on the radio accompany a hard rain as we make our way to Shelburne, Vermont to see my grandmother Ruth. We feel fortunate to make it in time for dinner and one of the musical performances Ruth, at 91, arranges for her community. Tonight a pianist from Wellesley College performs a mix of…

Live Music: Carpé Diem String Quartet

I’m not expecting much from a free concert at Saginaw Valley State University, but I’m really pleasantly surprised by this quartet. They are clearly fine, professional musicians and are having fun while playing really rich music. Their credibility is established with a fairly classical sounding piece full of rich harmonies and tones, then they cut…

Book: Dark Star Safari / Paul Theroux

A good recommendation from Ann, Theroux narrates his overland trip across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. Full of high-powered observation, criticism, even mockery that constructs a convincing portrayal of the often desperate African life that most tourists intentionally avoid. His analysis of the effects of foreign aid to Africa is enough to give me…

Book: Uncertainty / David Lindley

I’m fascinated by the huge disruptions that early 20th century discoveries in math and physics caused. The upheaval caused by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is definitely one, and this cogent, readable history of it is really satisfying. It’s not technical, but it provides enough explanations to make the conflicts tangible. My understanding of anecdotes like Schrödinger’s…