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On Showrunners

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Life Nov 08 2014 · 240 views

In terms of changing fundamental aspects of Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies did more than Steven Moffat.

I'm not trying to advocate for Moffat's writing; I find it tedious, prone to overly emotional appeals, filled with plot holes, and beset with pacing issues. As far as good ideas for series go, each successive series since Matt Smith took over the role has been worse than the last, although I think Death in Heaven was an improvement over The Time of the Doctor. (To be fair, watching my toenails grow would have been preferable to The Time of the Doctor.)

However, I don't find every criticism of Moffat legitimate, for as much as I may agree with many of the commonly brought-up points, others stand out to me like sore thumbs. (As a disclaimer, I should probably say that this isn't directed at anyone.)

So, Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Russell T. Davies as showrunner. Over the course of that season and all of David Tennant's run, we learn that
  • The TARDIS doors are the same on the inside.
  • The TARDIS looks vastly different on the inside.
  • The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords because the others are all dead.
  • The Doctor is fine with having a romantic relationship with a companion.
  • The titles no longer feature the Doctor's face.
  • John Simm was a totally out-of-character Master.
As far as Show-Changing Events are concerned, the third is the biggest. It literally changed the course of the show, from the Doctor being a rebellious child of Gallifrey to its lone, remorseful survivor. This was the biggest plot point to date, and all of it was offscreen, and there was no real established reason for it other than ... well, RTD wanted it.

And no one hated him for it.

We skip ahead to the 50th Anniversary Special, easily one of my favorite episodes of the revival. In it, we learn that Gallifrey's fate is sealed in a parallel universe through the combined efforts of the Doctor's incarnations. The end result is practically the same in that the Doctor cannot get to Gallifrey and does not nullify the Time War as a terrible chapter in the Doctor's personal history.

And a lot of people hated him for it.

So the question is: what gives? Are there enough voices in the fandom willing to criticize Moffat for every decision he makes? Is anything associated with his name tarnished, regardless of whether or not it's problematic?

To some extent, Moffat is subverting decisions that RTD made, especially in the Capaldi era. The 12th Doctor is more aloof and alien, the TARDIS is the most classic design in the revival, the faces are back in the titles, and the Time War has been—as mentioned above—quasi-subverted.

If you dislike his writing because "he's changing the show," you're looking at Doctor Who since 2005. In the scope of its nearly fifty-one years, both RTD and Moffat have made radical changes.

tl;dr Moffat's issues lie more in his execution of concepts than the concepts themselves.


Thoughts on Grammar

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Life Oct 07 2014 · 396 views

Perhaps I've always been wrong.

I've always been one to really notice when other people don't use proper grammar. I blame my mother for this. To us both, seeing something grammatically incorrect is like hearing fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.

Yet over the years we've both been put into a great many positions where this has caused problems. It mortifies me when I look back at tracts of writing and find errors, and I'm one to extensively rewrite and proofread everything I write - blog posts, e-mails, even texts in the few instances where I've written them. Heck, I just rewrote the entire previous sentence out of a mix of habit and compulsion.

Part of this stems from a kind of perfectionism that I've had to overcome in order to finish any creative endeavor I've ever undertaken. Part of it is as I've recounted - a lifelong obsession with proper grammar. But truth be told, I think a lot of it has come from not wanting to look like a fool on the Internet, which is a vast, wonderful, and occasionally scary place where first impressions mean a lot more and false information travels with the same speed as fact.

Grammar is supposed to make language clear, concise, and intelligible. We may be able to understand simple language devoid of grammatical rules, but the ability to truly and deeply understand nuances in a society without grammar is tantamount to impossible. Even with the seemingly arbitrary rules which grammar provides for us, there is the possibility for misunderstanding. That's another slice of the equation for me - a fear of being misunderstood. All too often I fear as if this has worked against me, almost as if my compulsion to refine and rewrite actually decreases my overall clarity.

This is why there is nothing like talking to someone face to face. Writing is full of pitfalls of miscommunication and misunderstanding, regardless of grammar. Body language and tone of voice communicate far more than words can alone, and what would otherwise be an ambiguous sentence in text can be as clear as a midday sky with tone of voice and perhaps a few well-placed hand gestures.

That said, much of grammar is an exclusively textual thing. It's technically not right to end sentences with prepositions as much as it's technically not right to split infinitives, but this is how we talk. I do it far more than I can even keep up with because, for all my inclination for noticing these kinds of errors, they are so deeply ingrained into the way we speak that they go past my ears without That Part of my brain catching them.

I have gotten better at this, I think. Other's grammatical shortcomings don't bother me nearly as much as they used to, although I tend to squirm internally every time someone screws up the usage of "well" and "good." Grammar takes the role of guidelines rather than rules - important, to be sure, but not the be-all end-all by-the-book my-way-or-the-highway set of rigid rules that must be followed.

Part of this was my realization that the world won't change, especially since I've never been one to point out another's grammatical mistakes unless a) I've turned into a jerk after a very bad day, or b) someone says something so incontrovertibly and unbelievably stupid that pointing out typos and grammar flaws becomes a mere bullet in a round of ammunition, which I proverbially load if I so choose. Otherwise, since I wasn't trying to fix what I saw as a relatively minor (but annoying) issue, it was an internal problem.

Posted Image
[xkcd #1108]

But back to my opening point: perhaps I'm wrong about all of this. Perhaps my view of grammar, though evolved from an admitted high horse, is still too high of an expectation. Perhaps I've spent too much time on the Internet where folks don't have qualms about not capitalizing their sentences or ending them with punctuation. If my position had never evolved at all, I'd be unable to enjoy half of the things I do - heck, I'd be incapable of making up any of my status updates (despite the recent claims of a quasi-anonymous member on a popular blogging platform, I maintain that they are hilarious).

I'm not perfect and I've come to realize that many things I thought to be immutable facts all of five years ago are suddenly not. I attribute a lot to those who talk about social justice, and although I have my problems with its surrounding culture, I'd be a lot worse of a person overall if I were still in the dark about those kinds of issues.

My sense of what people should and shouldn't do when it comes to this matter has eroded, as in the examples I mentioned above, but is it wrong of me to ever mention someone's error online if I am unaware of the poster's background? I occasionally provide helpful feedback to members in the Library about grammatical or spelling errors I find, if there is a repetition of the same error, but a) I keep it as helpful and non-confrontational as possible, and b) it is out of not wanting anyone else to be perceived poorly because of a simple mistake. If someone is consistently misspelling a certain word or typing in run-on paragraphs, I feel as if it's part of my duty - especially as a staff member - to help.

There is only one time in recent memory where I chided someone for their grammatical inadequacy, and it was in response to the same quasi-anon I mentioned earlier. In a series of four messages, each less coherent than the last, their grammar deteriorated along with the logic behind their argument. In my responses to these messages, I dedicated scant few sentences - two or three out of veritable walls of text - to examining their lack of grammatical accuracy as a tangential point to my logical deconstruction of their argument. I was not going after them solely because of this, and in fact, I would say that the vast, vast majority of what I wrote pertained to breaking apart a really weird and problematic point of view.

But even in that mere sliver which I devoted to the side-note of pointing out their lack of grammar, did I go too far? Is it a stain on my escutcheon caused by overzealousness in annihilating a harmful point of view?

I don't know, but maybe I was wrong to do so.

And if I was wrong then, perhaps I always have been.


The New Word Filter

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, BZPower Aug 21 2014 · 214 views

I sincerely congratulate -Windrider- and the rest of the gang for knocking out something that was long overdue. (Come to think of it, Takuma is probably much happier than I am.)

Over the years, I've heard many people discuss changing the word filter. Heck, I knew people were kicking around that idea when I joined nearly eight years ago; Taka-Tahu-Nuva mentioned to me that discussions were going on back when I sent him updates to the BBCC History topic. It was full of what were, objectively, bizarre and silly holdovers from the past, as vestigial as the policies that have been culled from the rules in recent months. "Jerk" and "idiot" were two that always really bugged me, because they're pretty tame words. Filtering the former out only made it look worse and the "cool dude" of the latter lived in infamy.

I'm mainly going to talk about the latter filter, because I hated that thing.

However, there are a lot of folks on the member rolls, active and inactive, that liked it. Its actual purpose was to prevent members from spamming forums by calling each other idiots, and it long outlived that function. It was a fad. I never understood the explanation of keeping it around because its reason for implementation might once again rear its noobish head, and I certainly didn't understand excusing its continued presence by claiming that it was somehow an integral part of BZPower.

I certainly understand the viewpoint that those folks come from. "Cool dude" is as much of BZPower history as the Secret Stomach Message. Yet BZPower has survived without connor's infamous message, as it was deleted along with the rest of the Archives. Yet it is preserved in a great many ways: through screenshots, the Wayback Machine, and - perhaps most importantly - through BZPower's culture.

We no longer need to filter the word idiot, because "cool dude" is part of our culture. It's part of BZP lore and tradition. Call me crazy for saying that a web site has a culture, but how else can you explain the memes that have perpetuated themselves on BZP and could not make the jump elsewhere? I only need to point to the Secret Stomach Message as an example of this.

A web site is more than a single filter that is as long and unfunny as a Family Guy episode. Keeping it around to be a part of BZP tradition - when it will continue in perpetuity nestled inside its bubble of bizarre infamy, regardless of whether or not it's in the filter - was, I believe, harmful to BZPower's perception for a couple of reasons.

The first was amongst prospective members. While I doubt anyone has ever not joined (or left) BZPower because of something as small as the word "idiot," filtering it was one of the things that presented BZPower as a site still rooted in the past.

The second was in stories. Be they in the Library, OTC, the Blogs, or anywhere else, words like "idiot" and "jerk" - words many people use, and useful words when it comes to both fiction and in recounting personal stories - were avoided. The only time I've ever seen the word used in the Library before now was in 2006, when bonesiii inserted some carefully placed dots to evade said filter. (I remember reporting it, but I don't believe that anything came of it.)

Ever since then, I've seen a number of instances where flow and realism would be improved by the addition of words such as those, and now writers are free to use them.

Third, "idiotic" has never been (and hopefully never will be) filtered.

Finally (and I haven't seen this point raised anywhere else), we turn to the Comics forum, which I have patrolled since my promotion. Many times, comic makers would make innocent comics which would happen to have a filtered word in them. I always regretting having to report them because I felt like we were handling non-issues.

Comparing those filters to the "first to post" filter is tricky. I haven't seen anyone say "first to post" in a while. Its presence, which I miss only vaguely, was not as obtrusive and it got back at members whose posts would otherwise be annoying. It was a precision strike, unlike the cool dude cluster-bomb.

I will say it before and I'm sure I'll have to say it again in the future: BZPower is resistant to change. Its longstanding members, by and large, have grown so attached to aspects of the site that necessary and overdue changes - such as updating the front page - meet with some manner of resistance every time an issue of its ilk arises. I can count myself in amongst those members; my eight-year BZ-versary is next month and Senior Staffhood is six months out. But I've seen BZP in the old days and the new, and I've had to come to terms with my conclusions.

Fundamentally, what is nostalgic to members of a certain age is the exact opposite of what will sustain BZPower in the coming years, especially if the rumors of BIONICLE's return turn out to be true.

I applaud and urge on the implementations of reform that BZPower still needs. Its overdue makeover may be long in its gestation and yet longer until completion, but things are happening.

And that makes me happy to be a part of this community.


So I Read TFiOS

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Life Jul 17 2014 · 217 views

There's a number of ways to word the first paragraph of this entry, but suffice it to say that I've been a fan of the vlogbrothers since late last year, when I stumbled across their educational videos and then to their main channel. The great thing about the Green brothers' work is that even if you're not watching one of their myriad educational channels, you still end up learning something. They have a passion and excitement about the world that, frankly, few others have.

The fact that people dislike John Green is not something that particularly bothers me - after all, no one will be universally liked or appreciated. Like everyone, he has flaws - but most of the criticisms I saw of him were blatantly untrue slices of Internet hearsay. Reasons given were illegitimate and that made me kind of sad.

But I really had to withhold judgement, I thought, until I had the chance to read one of Green's novels, books which seem to elicit sharply divided opinions. When I had the opportunity to read The Fault in Our Stars, I would have been remiss if I hadn't taken it.

So I did. I read the whole thing in about six non-consecutive hours. (I'm a pretty fast reader.)

The end result was just sort of ... meh.

Regardless of my positive opinions of him as a video blogger and person, I have to say that he's actually a really bland writer. I'm not going to comment on the story itself because one cannot blame the "problematic" aspects of a story on the writer (which is the origin of most legitimate-looking John Green hate)*, but I can comment on the characters.

Green's characters don't have individual voices. Sickly, bookish, introverted Hazel speaks with the same advanced eloquence as the public-high-school-educated Gus. But it's not just there - alcoholic Van Houten is as well-spoken as his continually frustrated assistant Lidewij, and the parents of the main characters - aside from the tear-prone father of Hazel are practically indistinguishable from one another.

I could legitimize Hazel and Van Houten - perhaps Lidewij as well - but the fact that the dialogue of any one character could be given to any other character with only a little bit of recontextualization is not a good sign. Throughout the whole book, not one person spoke in the way that normal people speak.

It was, by extension, impossible for me to feel any kind of sympathy for these characters. Granted, I haven't cried over a fictional character since I was about four years old, but I was kind of thinking that it would change because everyone always goes bananas over John Green's ability to wrench waterworks from the eyes of his readers.

It's not like I was expecting some kind of modern classic from whence quotes would be hewn for books whose publications are four hundred years distant. But for all the hullabaloo of John Green's writing abilities, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a tad bit disappointed.

* TFiOS, for its shortcomings, does not romanticize cancer, or illness, or disease in general. I've lost two of my grandparents to cancer, and it's not pretty at any age. Given Green's background, which he has talked about extensively, anyone who claims that TFiOS romanticizes disease is hearing it from someone else and/or completely skipped the passages where the characters discuss just how disturbing/dangerous doing so is.


Representation, Part II

Posted by Sumiki , in BZPower, BIONICLE/LEGO, Rants, Not Essays!, Writing Apr 21 2014 · 341 views

Specifically, with regards to the gender imbalance in modern media:
I'd like to see a story where, during the writing process, the characters are completely fleshed out and developed. Genders would be assigned at random at the end by computer generation, so as to avoid any unwanted author-based prejudices.
Obviously this example refers to a book, but the same process could go for anything.
(I was going to say more, but I think this pretty much speaks for itself.)


On Representation

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, BZPower, BIONICLE/LEGO Apr 17 2014 · 442 views

BZPower is the only place on the Internet where I feel as if I can truly state what I feel without fear of someone seeing half a sentence and assuming something terrible about what I'm trying to communicate. I take a middle-of-the-road approach and try to see the good in people, and I feel as if BZPower is the only site that won't blow up in my face when it comes to moderate viewpoints.

- - - - -

Well, the latest firestorm of drama hit BZP earlier - this time on representation in media. It's a change of pace from what these flare-ups are normally about, but that doesn't mean that it's not an important and hot-button issue.

My three major points are bolded.

There is no excuse for not having female characters in modern media.

None whatsoever.

First, though, let's look at what representation really is.

Representation is, for the most part, determined from capitalistic tendencies. Once the media gets in its collective head that the men are the people they should be focusing their energies and spending their money on, the vicious cycle begins. This goes for race as well - I was watching an episode of the brilliant late '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun the other day and the main characters - aliens in the show's narrative - said that they'd chosen to be white because that was the color of everyone on TV. While a throwaway gag in the context of the episode (one which poignantly highlighted the inherent absurdity of racism), it stuck with me.

Women make up half of all the people on Earth, so it's much easier to explain a male-dominated media as an offshoot of a patriarchal society. But if we defocus the issue from one of representation of women and into representation as a whole, things get quite a bit dicier.

People of all races, genders, and orientations exist. I mean, there are over seven billion of us now, so even the most minor of minority groups have significant numbers. One would think that what would follow would be representation for every group equal to their number.

Unless you've been living under a rock, however, it's clear that it hasn't happened.

So ... why?

Some point to internalized prejudices. While this could account for some media behavior, I harbor serious reservations that it accounts for all media - and all media are affected by this. What, then, is the most logical explanation?

Like I said - by following the money.

If you're a member of a group, you're going to want to get a cut of the majority. In America and much of the West, this means white people. If you're the biggest ethnic group, people who want to market stuff to the mainstream will probably market it towards you, because that's where the money lies.

If you're a member of a minority group, I think it's only fair to have media representation for you. The culture that led to the situation we're in has to change.

When minorities appear, they are often in token form. I shouldn't have to explain why this perpetuates stereotypes, but if we look at this from the broad view that I keep trying to get at, then we see that the smaller the minority, the less of a chance that a character from that minority will appear in media. Why? Again, money. If you're a studio executive and you want to make a movie sell, would you include characters that the perceived "majority" would relate to?

Most of them answer "yes," because it's the easy way out. Only now are we started to see the inklings of a fundamental change. The more bits of media that have minorities that are successful, the more that the people who are in charge of the media will see the fundamental error of their ways.

Here's another thing to keep in mind here: Representation does not always mean positive representation.

Let's take The Big Bang Theory. Among its quartet of protagonists, a trio represent some sort of minority: asexuals, Indians, and Jews. All of which are, at some point, played for laughs - or for whatever the writers think is funny. (It's not funny.)

When the most prominent asexual character in modern media is Sheldon Cooper, you know something's gone off the rails somewhere along the line. While gay characters are on the rise, a lot of them are accompanied by harmful stereotypes. Don't even get me started on bisexual erasure and the dearth of pansexual characters.

Hypothetically, every movie and book and TV show could change tomorrow to one where women outnumber men, but yet the women are always portrayed with harmful stereotypes. Let's imagine the same with sexual and ethnic minorities. You'd have more representation, but if it's with even more sexism, racism, and homophobia, how is that better? Mathematically speaking, it's actually worse.

Let's not support mere representation. Let's support good, positive representation. Let's prove to the media that they don't have to follow where they think the money is, but rather, where the moral thing to do lies.

I welcome discussion on these issues, but I am not afraid to defend myself if I see something I wrote taken out of context.


The Strangest Pieces

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 12 2014 · 202 views

I swear this isn't a music blog.
(Okay, it kind of is.)
I've listened to a wide swath of different pieces of classical music, and I occasionally come across some things that are just ... well, strange. We're talking off-the-wall levels of goofy here.

-----La Monte Young - Piano Piece for David Tudor #1

This piece doesn't even have a proper score, just a sheet of paper telling the performer to come out onto the stage with a bucket of water and a bale of hay for the piano to drink and eat. Performance consists of either feeding the piano or letting the piano feed itself, and that the music is over once the piano had been fed.

-----Erik Satie - Vexations

Satie's Vexations is a remarkably unassuming piece of sheet music - but inspection reveals a peculiar direction in the corner: if you want to play it 840 times in a row, Satie advises performers to prepare beforehand, "in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." John Cage - who will appear later in this list - was inspired by the inherent ridiculousness of Vexations and organized its first performance in New York in 1963. It lasted 18 hours and was played by a dozen pianists working in shifts.
-----Karlheinz Stockhausen - Helicopter String Quartet

The controversial Stockhausen composed Helicopter String Quartet to be part of one of his massive operatic projects. Each string quartet member is lifted in a different helicopter, and they coordinate their playing in tremolos, with the intended effect of making the helicopters instruments themselves. The piece is by far the most complex string quartet ever written.
-----Karlheinz Stockhausen - Fresco
Fresco is not composed with the audacity of Helicopter String Quartet, but nonetheless makes this list because of the scandal that marred its only performance to date. Written as background music for four orchestras situated around a hall, the instructions in Fresco irritated the classically-trained performers. Tensions between composer and performers grew wider, and some performers tried to refuse playing it, only to realize that they were contractually obligated to do so. (This didn't deter the concertmaster, who threatened to kill the head conductor.)
Remaining performers did so under protest, and the performance was a complete disaster. Performers took to practicing other repertoire instead of following their score as an act of protest, pranksters and hecklers distracted the few that stuck to Stockhausen's instructions, and the performance was halted when somebody cut out the lights on them.
-----Erwin Schulhoff - In Futurum

A lot of people are familiar with John Cage's famous "silent piece," 4'33", but it's not here. Few are aware that, while Cage's motives were different, the idea of a completely silent piece was not his own - the first one was composed by the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff over thirty years before Cage. In Futurum - with its ostensibly crossed hands (the clefs are switched) and irrational time signatures (3/5 and 7/10) - appears as the third movement of his piano collection Fünf Pittoresken. The rest of Schulhoff's works take influence from jazz, making In Futurum all that much more remarkable in its uniqueness.
-----John Cage - Atlas Eclipticalis

Cage's music ranges from the serene (Dream, In a Landscape) to silence (4'33", 0′00″, One3) to more or less off-the-wall concepts. Atlas Eclipticalis is for any number of instruments playing the music however they wish, with the sheet music consisting of star charts graphed onto music paper. Because of the undefined instruments and the lack of both tempo and dynamic instructions, performances of Atlas Eclipticalis are all remarkably different.
-----John Cage - Organ²/ASLSP

A fan of extremes, Cage wrote ASLSP (standing for As Slow As Possible) for piano. The piano version usually takes around an hour to perform ... but the organ edition, owing to the nature of the instrument, can sound indefinitely. It wouldn't be on this list if not for an organ that was built expressly for the purpose of performing the piece - an organ piece that will end in September of the year 2640. But, while slow, it's still - theoretically speaking - not as slow as possible.
-----György Ligeti - Poéme Symphonique

Ligeti's music is full of rhythmic variation and unique sonority. Equal parts rhythmic experimentation and avant-garde parody, the score calls for 100 metronomes, all of which are set to different speeds.

-----Leo Ornstein - Suicide in an Airplane

This piece isn't really strange in the ways that the others are, but it honestly has one of the most metal titles of any piece of music I've ever heard of. I've decided to hone my orchestration skills and I've chosen this piece because of its musical depiction of a dogfight and rumbling engines, which is equally well suited to an orchestral sonority.


Music Since the Twentieth Century

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 11 2014 · 130 views

After my opinions on Mozart and much of the Classical era, I got to thinking about modern classical music, which in this sense means any music written after 1900. I have ... mixed feelings, shall we say.
Time for another music history lesson.
By the turn of the century, late Romanticism was beginning to die out. Gustav Mahler was writing symphonies of epic proportions, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy were defining a musical style dubbed "Impressionism" - though Debussy hated the term - and Alexander Scriabin was writing increasingly mystical music based on his own egomaniacal philosophy. These folks, and figures like them, were continuously evolving the musical language that had existed more or less continuously from about 1600, when the Baroque era started. Romanticism was fracturing, and there were sub-groups of composers who sought their own styles, and composers who simply struck out on their own path.
As time went by, harmony was extended, and by 1900 the usage of chromatic harmony - a technique whereby harmonies are derived from both pitches within the scale of the music you're working in and from without - was everywhere. In many composer's eyes, these kinds of rich, expanded tonal structures would go on indefinitely, with composers adding to the additions that had been accrued over the years.
Other composers thought that there simply was no place to go, that traditional tonality had reached its breaking point, and new rules had to be developed. Scriabin, who started out writing very Chopinesque music, evolved his own brand of harmony derived from fourths, altered dominant chords, and a few stunning examples of bitonality in some of his late preludes. Igor Stravinsky embraced rhythmic drive (and bitonality as well) in The Rite of Spring, which was so groundbreaking that the first performance was marred by a riot in the Parisian audience.
Most lasting was the music of the so-called Second Viennese School, headed up by Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg's first few opuses show the influence of Mahler and is filled with intense chromaticism - so intense that even those early works - far and away his most accessible pieces - were met with incomprehension at their first performances. Undaunted, Schoenberg veered into extreme atonality, writing pieces such as Pierrot Lunaire. Pierrot made waves not just with its atonality, but for its unique ensemble (known henceforth as the Pierrot Ensemble) and with its half-speaking, half-singing writing for voice.
But Schoenberg, for all of his cacophonous music, realized that this kind of free dissonance and atonality - something that composers such as Charles Ives and Leo Ornstein had experimented with - needed some sort of structure to hold it together, just as tonality had held music together before him. To make a long, diagram-necessitating story short, he came up with something called the 12-tone technique, whereby every note was sounded equally through the use of tone rows, which were essentially randomized chromatic scales.

Schoenberg's two major pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg, took Schoenberg's techniques and personalized them. Webern idolized Schoenberg and often moved just so he could be near him, and took the 12-tone technique and honed it to a disjointed science. Webern was known for writing exceptionally short pieces, and his piano music is characterized by its brevity, sparseness, and unholy dissonance. He died at the end of World War II after a trigger-happy American soldier saw his cigar and mistook him for an enemy soldier ... but strange composer deaths are a story for another time.
Despite the fact that his music was aesthetically terrible, Webern became one of the most important modern composers, for the avant-garde for most of the rest of the century followed his lead to some extent. The 12-tone technique was applied to other areas of music - instruments, dynamics, note lengths - to derive an incredibly strict kind of "total serialism," where the composer writes a few rows and the music more or less writes itself.
Alban Berg, on the other hand, experimented with making Schoenberg's ideas accessible. He wrote a masterpiece of a Violin Concerto and an opera, Wozzeck, which half-succeeded in this endeavor. He's considered the easiest atonal composer to listen to. His middle-ground approach makes him an oddball figure on both sides of the fence.

But back to Webern, whose techniques had a significant impact. Pierre Boulez took Webern's usage of serial composition to every extreme imaginable, writing music where every imaginable aspect is controlled by rows - pitch, velocity, register, etc. While Boulez has always composed this kind of music, even he realized that total serialization leaves no room for creativity.
The Greek composer Iannis Xenakis took off in a different direction. A mathematician and an architect, Xenakis was one of the first composers who took to "Musique Concrete" techniques - sound collages of recorded tape. Aside from his solo percussion pieces, his music is frankly ridiculous, as he wrote music based on mathematical formulas. Similar approaches were taken by Karlheinz Stockhausen, a controversial and influential figure in the sphere of electronic music, and who once wrote a string quartet where every instrument is lifted on a separate helicopter.

(Don't ask.)
I give all these examples to illustrate one point: since Schoenberg, many composers have taken refuge in music that is of theoretical interest, but not traditional musical interest. Say what you want about Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez, and Xenakis, but their music is aesthetically unpleasing. They thought that there was nothing of strict musical interest left to say, and so they found their own paths.

These paths are now showing themselves to be dead ends. The same strict adherence to predefined sets of rules makes much "modern" music as boring and as aesthetically similar to music of the Classical era.
But it's not like all 20th-century composers took to serialism. Alfred Schnittke and György Ligeti were remarkably innovative and wrote significant pieces without adhering to the strict serialism that had gripped much of the classical music cognoscenti. Schnittke likened his departure as getting off an overcrowded train, and Ligeti mercilessly parodied his fellow composers in his Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes.
Other composers, such as Henryk Górecki, Lowell Liebermann, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and John Corigliano have abandoned serialism in favor of a return to late Romanticism, a kind of musical reboot. They all have written music of musical and theoretical interest. Even Krzysztof Penderecki, a noted avant-garde composer who gained fame through his manic pieces for string orchestra (Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and Polymorphia among them), abandoned that style, saying that we "must go back to Mahler and start over."
Suffice it to say that I very much agree with Penderecki.


Why I Don't Like Mozart

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Music Feb 08 2014 · 230 views

Let's get this out of the way: I really love classical music, and I kind of know a lot about it. I'm willing to bet that I know more things about music history than anyone else on BZP ... save for perhaps -Windrider-. Dude's a beast when it comes to this sort of stuff.
Most people don't really hold opinions on classical music one way or another, and those that do generally see it as monotonous and boring. I've never really held this opinion, but my favorite music has always come later in music history - not with the dissonance and atonality so revered by the composers of the 20th century, but with the Romantic era.
I'm using "classical" in a broad sense because I'm really not the world's biggest fan of music from the Classical period. Those who aren't as familiar with this history may be a bit lost at this point, so I'll see if I can't briefly recap some of the details.
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance are more or less grouped together in one era of music history. This was a very long era, but there were crucial innovations in harmony, melody, and musical notation. By the high Renaissance, polyphony - multiple melodies at once - was extremely common, and the best composers were able to write motets that used up to 40 distinct voices. Polyphony was music.
Around 1600, as musical instruments increased in quality and secular music became a more popular genre, the Baroque era started. Baroque music is often characterized as architecture, and Baroque composers were, as a general rule, ridiculously prolific. (Telemann is still the single most prolific composer in history, and Vivaldi nearly got thrown in an asylum when he interrupted himself at his day job - as a priest - to write down some notes that had occurred to him.)
Baroque music still drew on the polyphony of the high Renaissance to a certain extent, but by and large this kind of writing wasn't very common. Most Baroque composers used one or two melodies, with the notable exception of Johann Sebastian Bach. His keyboard music - especially his complex fugues with their finger-breaking polyphony - was considered antiquated, and his sons (he had a whopping 20 kids overall) were considered better composers than he was when he died. His reputation was revived when his works were rediscovered in the mid-1800s, and now, he's the only Baroque composer most people are familiar with.
All of which brings us to Classicism, where musical form became a bigger deal. Instrumental sonatas, symphonies, concertos, and string quartets became standard forms, and methods of writing for those ensembles were also standardized to a certain extent. Essentially, if you have a theme or two, you could plug those into sonata form, add a few basic harmonies, and boom, you've got a sonata movement. Simplicity and clarity became the name of the game in the Classical era.
The three major composers of this period were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. While many like to group their music together as the "First Viennese School," the music of these three were different. Haydn, speed-writing symphonies for the court orchestra under the Esterházy family, was, as he said "forced to be original," although many of his 100+ symphonies are not particularly innovative, as he had to conform to the musical tastes of both the Esterházys and their guests. His contributions to form have long since outlived him, and due to his productivity and his standardization of forms, he is known as the "Father of the Symphony" and the "Father of the String Quartet." Haydn's contributions to form and the language of Classicism cannot be understated.
Beethoven was widely different - while he started out fixed to Classical molds, he experimented with pushing the limits of what said forms could handle even before he realized that he was going deaf. When he came to terms with this, his experimentation led to more innovative and trail-blazing music, dispensing with convention after convention. He replaced the minuet with the scherzo in his later symphonies, looked towards Romanticism with his Sixth Symphony and a great number of his piano sonatas, didn't stick to traditional movement numbers in his late piano sonatas and string quartets, and famously introduced a chorus in the last movement of his Ninth Symphony.
Now for Mozart.
Mozart was hailed as a child prodigy, composed prolifically, and died at the young age of 35. In that time, he stuck to the already well-defined Classical forms, choosing to do as much within those constraints as he could. However, there really wasn't much more that any composer, no matter how great, could do within those forms - forms that were already well established by Haydn by the time Mozart began composing.
Haydn, though his music contains an aesthetic similarity, was creative as a musical troll. His Symphony No. 94 - nicknamed the "Surprise" - was designed to wake up sleepy members of the court with a massive chord following a very soft passage. His Symphony No. 45 - nicknamed the "Farewell" - sent a message to his patrons to let the musicians return home by letting players leave as the last movement progresses. Haydn chose the unusual F# minor as the symphony's home key, and had to get special crooks for his orchestra's horns to play.
But Haydn's formal unoriginality is explicable, as we know that he had to compose musically conservative pieces in order to get paid and did quite a bit under those kinds of restrictions. Mozart was, for most of his time as a composer, not hindered by a particular court. He was, more or less, freelance. Financially insecure, Mozart had the opportunity to be an innovator such as Beethoven came to be later, but did not.
Mozart, for his part, did write a few brilliant pieces in his later years - his unfinished Requiem, his Clarinet Concerto, and his late symphonies among them - but in his entire oeuvre these masterpieces are relatively few. If you took all of Mozart's works, put them into a list, and then randomized it, chances are you're not going to come out with one of his great works. Most of his pieces have a similar mood, and as mentioned, they nearly always stick to a predetermined form. In this sense, a great many are interchangeable.
In the end, this all comes down to my personal preferences and musical tastes. I know that Mozart holds a special place in many people's hearts, but as someone who has listened to a wide swath of his pieces, I really don't see what all of the fuss was - and still is - about.


J. J. Abrams, George Lucas, and Greg Farshtey

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays! Feb 04 2014 · 304 views

Long-time Blogarithm viewers may remember a long rant I wrote about the link between Star Wars and BIONICLE with regards to their respective prequels. In it, I made the case that fans of a certain thing have higher expectations and preconceived notions regarding backstory.
I thought that it might be time to significantly expand on that train of thought by considering the monstrous job that now lays ahead of J. J. Abrams, a task that is both Herculean and nearly Sisyphean in its proportions.
The post-Return of the Jedi world saw the beginning of what would become known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now, the EU is huge - not just with more licenses than you can shake a lightsaber at, but with games and books that delve into the mythology like never before. It's pretty insane how much canon Star Wars material is out there. The fans have been accustomed to the Expanded Universe and the stories that are from the EU are as - in some cases, more - revered than the movies that started it all.
Let's face facts: J. J. Abrams will not be able to make a Star Wars movie without contradicting the Expanded Universe. The EU also relies so much on its own internal canon that contradicting one thing would likely cause a domino effect and negate pretty much every EU story that fans have come to love.
The so-called "Thrawn Trilogy" is a good example. Set after Return of the Jedi, the Thrawn Trilogy were a series of books by author Timothy Zahn that chronicled the main characters fighting off what remained of the Galactic Empire and fighting an Imperial admiral named Thrawn. It's considered to be one of the definitive EU novels and were considered frontrunners to be turned into Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
Well, as it turns out, they're not going to be made into movies, which means that they - along with quite a lot of the EU - is going down the drain, so to speak.
The only way that effigies of J. J. Abrams aren't burned by rabid Star Wars fans is if, hidden behind all of those lens flares, he's actually a genius beyond mortal comprehension. However, I hope no one takes it as an insult if I say that I sincerely doubt that, even when taking into account the existence of Fringe.
The common problem is that fandoms generally expect consistently high-quality material from content creators. Star Wars had such a following that the prequels were bound to disappoint, regardless of quality. The pre-A New Hope universe was not nearly as explored before A Phantom Menace as the post-Return of the Jedi universe is right now. (I hope that made sense.)
All of which brings us to Greg Farshtey. BZPower did not grow to have the most members of any LEGO fansite without reason. BIONICLE was big, and BZP's heyday saw a level of traffic and server-busy messages unheard of today, all because of BIONICLE. We appreciated Greg's dedication and his interaction with the community, which is unheard of amongst the content creators of such a large fan base.
Nevertheless, voices of dissent emerged, which only became more prevalent in the post-Great Downtime BZP, after Greg disappeared due to his personal life and LEGO's new interactivity policy. Opinions on Greg's writing skills are lukewarm at best, as fans have matured and looked back on Greg's methods of storytelling with more critical eyes. (Time Trap is a great book and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.)
Why? Well, we had become accustomed, as a community, to Greg's presence. Without it, I believe that criticism of his writing would have come about much sooner. We, as fandoms are wont to do, came to expect an inhuman level of quality from Greg, as the Star Wars fandom is expecting an inhuman level of quality from Abrams and his gang.

After all, Lucas got enough flak for the prequels.


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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo

"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva

BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex

What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus

I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok

Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker

Sumiki - hat-wearing ladies man. - Black Six

He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist

I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens

I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig

I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk

I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome

Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex

Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz

10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome


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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)


1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/13 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
8/27/13 - 8/5/14 - None
8/12/14 - Another Chro Original
8/19/14 - Kanohi Zatth
8/26/14 - Miniland Hatpile
9/2/14 - S. S. Starfish
9/9/14 - Special - Claude Hairgel
9/16/14 - Green Flame
9/23/14 - Avohkah Tamer
9/30/14 - Special - The Havoc Wreaker
10/7/14 - Fire Snake


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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.




ToM Dracone
-Toa Lhikevikk-
Dirk Strider
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
Toa Robert
The X
Dave Strider
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Commander Helios
Popup2: The Camel
~Shadow Kurahk~
~System Of A Down~
Kohrak Kal17
Jackson Lake
Thunder on the Mountain
Ackar's Follower
Bitter Cold
Doc Scratch
Mendicant Bias
Darth Eryzeth
Toa of Vahi
Makuta GigaDon
~Toa Drokonas~
Progenitus Worldsoul
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
Bohrok Kal
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
.: WoLVeRINe :.
Alternate Velika
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
The Great Forgetter
Thomas the Tank Engine
Jonah Falcon
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
knuckles chaotix
The Bean
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Toa of Dancing
Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light



Vorex: Keeper of Time


Toa of Smooth Jazz



Dual Matrix

rahkshi guurahk
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle

so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra

You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.

It's a long story.


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