Saturday, July 31, 2010

living with pain

Time for a brief foray into something completely new—medicine!—well, sort of, at least. Really what I want to talk about is our society's approach to pain, suffering, and disease.

Whoa, that's a hefty topic! Well, there's a personal experience behind it, one that's affected me significantly over the last few years. Hopefully I can convince you that my story is relevant more generally.

Friday, July 30, 2010

shameless self-promotion, balanced by shame-filled self-criticism

A little more summer reflection, this time, in the form of self-evaluation of some of my performances from last spring. After a few months, I feel prepared to listen to them with open ears and resist the urge to instinctively cringe. Instead I cringe now as a real response to what I'm hearing! Just kidding...mostly...

Anyway, I start with what was I think my biggest over-achievement of the whole year: the Chopin Scherzo that closed the program of my recital.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

how do people really listen to music?

In my post-World-Cup attempt to find some other meaningful aspect of life, I'm going back tomy one tried-and-true blogging topic: soccer....wait, I mean, music! Life has indeed been hard the last few weeks, but it's time to move on and explore some new things musical and otherwise...For today, a quick reflection on some stuff I learned about music this year...

Going to school for performing "classical" music is rough, because it turns out most people don't really like classical music, at least not enough to pay me to play it for them. As a result, I spend a lot of my time wondering and trying to find out why people don't more closely share my taste--especially in an effort to understand my future audiences, but especially to see if their taste could be re-classified as some sort of medical disorder.

In all seriousness though, I discovered something this year that is at once completely startling, but also one of those things I kinda knew all along: people in general don't listen to, and are incapable of comprehending, form in music at anything but the smallest scale. In general, people listen to music moment-by-moment or minute-by-minute without making meaningful cognitive connections between larger segments.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

world cup final, part 2

Thoughts on the refereeing: it wasn't good, but it could have been worse. Howard Webb probably didn't help himself by unnecessarily booking van Persie and Ramos early on, but a lot of the critics are a little harsh to suggest he should have stayed out of the game. Yes, we'd all like to watch games where we don't notice the referee, but it's hard for the referee to avoid attention when players make challenges like this. That's a red card if I've ever seen one, and was one of Webb's mistakes. Other crucial ones: Puyol should have been booked for his challenge on Robben in the second half...Webb played the advantage, but it's one of those where the foul should have been called after Robben lost the ball, or at least the booking should have been given to Puyol after the play.

The world cup final: "Don't you love this game in the most hateful sort of way?"

That's what I texted my sister right after Andres Iniesta FINALLY gave Spain the winner in today's game, and it sums up my thoughts pretty well.

As I said earlier in the tournament Spain are a difficult side to support, and watching today's game was 115 minutes of torture followed by a moment of bliss. It would have all seemed like such a waste of a tournament if it had gone to penalties, and especially if Holland had won. Why spend so much time agonizing over a sport when the winning team kicks and fouls its way to victory in the ugliest manner possible? Iniesta, like he did against Chelsea, saved the day again. In the inevitable and everlasting battle between between artists and kick-boxers, between style and ruthlessness, the right side won. A victory for soccer!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

the final is coming!!

The final is coming!!

Spain were brilliant against Germany, and should have had more goals to show for it. Germany, on the other hand, didn't play a great game for a few reasons. The first was the unfortunate absence of Muller, who was dubiously suspended for a second yellow card against Argentina. Trochowski, his replacement, doesn't have the same quality. The next reason was the rather poor play of Oezil, who had been, I think, Germany's best player so far in the tournament. He looked quite nervous from the start of the game, and never really settled. With his frequently botched touches and poor passes, Germany couldn't get much going forward.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

more on Suarez handball, and why it matters for the rules, the integrity of the game, etc.

This Suarez controversy may be more complicated than I my original reaction implied, and it's definitely useful as a thought-provoker about what has quickly become a theme on this blog: the economics and psychology of soccer.

A reader commented on my last post about Suarez:

"Can someone please explain to me how this handball was fundamentally different from other fouls in soccer? (Personally, I don't think that it was)...You say: "The whole point of having punishments for breaking the rules is to deter players from breaking the rules." This is definitely not true in soccer. For example, if two players are fighting for the ball in midfield and one of them is holding the other's shirt because he is about to lose the ball and a foul is called, it will not deter the player from doing it again."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

world cup thoughts of the day, part 2: the other quarterfinals and my final predictions

Told you so about Germany-Argentina! The team I've been touting since their first game against Australia came through again, though even I didn't expect them to destroy Maradona's side so comprehensively. Do you know when the last time was that a team scored 4 goals in a row in two straight games in the World Cup? It was Brazil, in its two final first round games against Scotland and New Zealand, way back in 1982. This was Germany, in two straight knockout phase matches, against two of the pre-tournament favorites. England had only given up one goal prior to facing Germany, and, let's be honest, it wasn't much of a goal. Argentina paid dearly, I think, for sticking with Higuain in attack over Milito. He was decent, and even created one good chance for himself, but in the end I just don't think he's nearly as good technically. Messi was brilliant as usual, but even he couldn't win the game by himself.

Spain again didn't live up to their quality, but did enough to beat Paraguay. They really started to play sometime after that bizarre sequence of play with the two missed penalties, and after Torres was replaced with Fabregas, who was excellent after coming on. The big question for Spain will be who starts in attack against Germany. Will del Bosque stick with Torres, who has yet to do much in this tournament except give the ball away, or go with Fabregas in a 4-5-1? Based on what I've seen, I'd have to go with Fabregas.

world cup thoughts of the day: end penalty shoot-outs!

Possibly the worst part about the World Cup is the fact that penalty shoot-outs are still used to decide the winners of knockout-phase matches.

Like their problems in the run of play, the first problem with using penalties in a shoot-out is that they're too damn easy to score (about 80% success rate). Any professional player should make his penalty, and thus, a penalty shoot-out inevitably produces villains, and rarely produces heroes (except for, occasionally, a goalkeeper). More often though players miss the target or hit mediocre penalties and have to live with it for four years.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Suarez handball, continued

Apparently FIFA is considering extending Suarez's ban. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be absurdly stupid to leave the suspension at just one game.

The whole point of having punishments for breaking the rules is to deter players from breaking the rules. What punishment would be adequate to deter Suarez, or another player in his place, from doing the same thing in the last five minutes of the semifinal, or god forbird, the world cup final? Certainly a one match suspension isn't gonna do it. I'm thinking five at least, and probably more like 10-15 international matches. (In these instances, a ban that extends beyond the World Cup would mean the player would miss his country's following competitive this case those games wouldn't be nearly as important as the World Cup games, but a large enough suspension would keep most players from pulling a stunt like Suarez). If FIFA leaves the suspension at just one game, then I suspect we could see some other teams start playing with 11 goalkeepers instead of one toward the ends of their World Cup knockout matches.

world cup thoughts of the day, part 1: Ghana-Uruguay

As I lay awake last night, unable to sleep, I was thankful for the fact that I didn't see the Ghana game live, and thankful that, prior to hearing about the game, I didn't really care about the result. Even as a disinterested neutral, watching the replays was almost too much to bear.

For those who don't know yet, Suarez was recently handed a one-match suspension for his handball in the final minute of extra-time.

It is another horrendous decision, this time made by the FIFA board almost a day after the match was completed. Watching the replay, it's obvious that Suarez is guilty of blatant cheating, and should play no further part in the World Cup.