Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mmm... The Land of Chocolate...

Ayer yo fui a Hersheypark en Hershey, Pennsylvania, con un grupo de Latinos (y algunos gringos) de mi iglesia. Hersheypark es un parque de diversiones como Busch Gardens, pero con chocolate en vez de cerveza. Hay montañas rusas, un carrusel, y también un parte que es parque acuático. Yo no fui por allí porque no había traído traje de baño, pero sí fui a las montañas rusas, y el carrusel era muy divertido. Lo del parque que no me gustaba era que la tierra no es llana; no sé cuantas millas caminamos, y me parecía que siempre caminabamos hacia arriba.
Hacía mucho calor por el medio del día, y pasé un rato en el aire acondicionado de Chocolate World, otro lugar al lado de Hersheypark donde se explica cómo se hace el chocolate. También tiene tienda muy grande donde se puede comprar una tableta de chocolate que pesa ¡cinco libras! En Chocolate World me refresqué con un gran banana split.
Después regresé al parque y pasamos por las montañas rusas hasta muy tarde cuando comimos y entonces miramos a los fuegos artificiales. Pasamos la noche en acampar al otro lado de la calle y hoy regresamos a Virginia.
Me disfruté mucho de ir allá con esa gente. Podía (o sea tenía que) practicar mi español y conocí a muchos nuevos amigos. Todos son amables y espero pasar tiempo con ellos otra vez.
Pero en este momento estoy muy cansado y me voy a dormir. Estoy feliz porque mañana es Memorial Day y no tengo que trabajar; puedo dormir y descansar por todo el día.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Correspondence from a Rodent

I received the following letter in the mail today:
May 18, 2007

Dear MIT10-er,

Thanks so much for your 2006—2007 gift to MIT! Having made a gift this year, when you only recently graduated and perhaps aren't exactly "rolling in the dough," makes you not only doubly special, but also a certified friend of mine.

But what of it? Pride, that's what! And commitment! And the bliss of supporting an institution devoted to the common good! All are yours to enjoy because you made an annual gift to MIT. So, too, is the enclosed "Friends of Tim" card that's been personalized just for you.

Take this card and put it in your wallet. Have it, hold it, and proudly display it wherever you go. Soon you'll discover what every other card-carrying Friend of Tim knows (in addition to the sheer rapture of simply being a Friend of Tim): that you can walk among the beavers with pride.

See ya next year!


Tim the Beaver, MIT Mascot
That's right, I now have a card in my wallet proclaiming my friendship with a cartoon beaver. You know, before, I had some doubts about making a donation when I still owe them so much in loans, but now it all feels totally worthwhile. This sheer rapture is some pretty great stuff, let me tell you. It's nearly enough to make me almost forget, for a veritable plethora of nanoseconds, all about the many many thousands of dollars I owe the 'Tvte.

I will say this: as corny as it is, it's nice to be appreciated once in a while; the Perkins Loan people never send me thank you notes, they just send me more bills. So, you're welcome, Tim the Beaver. I am your Friend. Now tell the blasted Alumni Fund to quit hitting me up for cash.

Friday, May 18, 2007

To Boldy Go Where No Symphony Orchestra Has Gone Before

I've been rewatching TOS for the past few weeks, and it's been extra-noticeable to me this time* how much the music provides evidence of a low budget - even more than the special effects.

This show came out in 1966; it would be another decade before George Lucas and friends would invent the technology to create convincing special effects for cheap. So, I'm really not sure how much different the effects would have been even if they'd had twice the budget.

The music is a different story. In some sense it's Wagnerian, in that different situations have particular themes that get played. However, it isn't that the theme is worked into a new piece of music; they just replay the prior recording. So, you have episode after episode replaying exactly the same incidental music. The suspenseful theme heard during the standoff in The Corbomite Maneuver gets rehashed for Dagger of the Mind and countless other episodes (at least, more than I've bothered to count), which ends up greatly diminishing its suspense.

To contrast this, look at The Next Generation or the other later Star Trek series in which each episode had its own score. They still reuse motifs, but they are newly recorded each time. The music winds up matching what we see on screen much better, enhancing the dramatic effect rather than detracting from it. TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise were all nominated for or won Emmy awards and ASCAP awards related to their music.

Now, sure, certain episodes of the original series would still be kind of goofy even with super awesome music (especially that one with the Space Hippies), but it definitely would have helped. After all, try watching Star Wars on mute and see how ridiculous the dialog is without John Williams' wonderful score.

One more thing: it would also have been good not to spend so much time at recognizable Southern California rock formations.

*Possibly because the last series I went through before this was Batman: The Animated Series, which consistently put a lot of effort into its incidental music.