The soundtrack CD of Spirited Away I ordered from arrived today, and it’s wonderful. While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that I don’t like Disney songs – there are, after all, some great ones – would it really hurt them that much to make a film without a single song? If they have made such a film, I certainly haven’t seen it yet.

Spirited Away didn’t have any singalong songs, and I think it’s the better for it. It has a much grander range than any Disney film I’ve seen recently, and the classical style with a Japanese twist is perfect for the film. There are few cliches in the score, and there are several tracks which I’ll be certain to play to death soon enough.

Interesting factoid: Child actress Daveigh Chase has appeared in both Spirited Away and Donnie Darko, the two most recent films I’ve seen. Evidently she has a good agent.

Small World Big Piano Silliness

A conversation with my girlfriend from yesterday, paraphrased:

Me: “This is the Jools Holland album I bought the other day. I read an interesting review which was generally positive except about the silly piano flourishes that Jools always seems to squeeze into places where they shouldn’t be.”

Her: “Well, maybe people like him for the silly piano flourishes.”

Me: “Maybe they do. But I think that he overdoes them sometimes.”

[listens to music as a particularly florid flourish segues in]

Me: “There you go.”

Her: “Okay, you’re right.”


Me: “See, there’s another one.”

Buying Music

I have a serious aversion to buying music; I’ll readily admit that I get the vast majority of my music from the Internet (without paying, obviously). Over the past few weeks, that’s changed considerably.

Part of the reason is that I’m at home and it takes longer to download high quality mp3s. Also, with the demise of Audiogalaxy, I’m finding it a lot more difficult to find good mp3s in the first place. Another reason is that I’ve finally realised that it’s quite nice to have all of the songs from one album, especially since it looks better on my iPod.

I’m not buying my CDs from stores, online or offline – I still think it’s too expensive. I’m not prepared to pay any more than £10 for an album, and even then I’d have to really want it. However, on eBay and Amazon Marketplace (basically a more organized version of eBay) I can find albums that fall within the £3 to £7 range. The upshot of it all is that I’m paying about 20 to 35p per track, which seems like a perfectly reasonable amount.

I also get to keep the CD, from which I can rip at whatever quality I want. Plus, it’s all completely legal. The point of this little story is that until online mp3 stores (e.g. Pressplay) can offer a better deal on price or convenience terms, I can’t see any reason to use them. Right now they’re all too expensive, they have limited libraries, the music you download is often protected and you obviously don’t get to keep the CD*. So they’ll have to do a lot of work to persuade me to hand over my cash.

(All of this only applies to people like me though – you probably couldn’t get the latest music via Amazon Marketplace or eBay for at least a month. But I don’t want the latest music, so it’s okay.)

*I’m not that bothered about this, but I am bothered about being able to convert my music into whatever formats I want.

Nutcracker Lemmings

It just occurred to me that there must be an entire generation of kids (they’re probably adults now) who only know Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and other classical works, by their use on Lemmings. There don’t seem to be that many games using classical music these days, although I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have noticed either way.

It’s strange – I make it my business to stay very up-to-date with the latest PC and videogame news, partly because I find it interesting and partly because I have the vague idea that knowing all this stuff may prove useful one day. Yet I don’t play computer games any more, with the notable exclusions of Dance Dance Revolution and Civ3.

Call me jaded, but I don’t think I’m missing much. It seems that most new games are just prettier versions of old genres; I don’t need to play Virtua Fighter 4 or Super Mario Sunshine (which are both very fun games) to know how things work. Games like Rez, Black and White and Halo are different, but then there’s only so much time in the day and money floating around. What’s a gamer to do?


While I was working at UC San Diego earlier this summer, I’d often hear some music (country style, usually) wafting over the trees as I was walking home. For about a month, I never really had any idea where it was coming from – I assumed that it was maybe from the bar or the faculty club, but neither explanation made any sense because they were too far away.

Anyway, someone eventually explained to me that the music was coming from a tree. The Singing Tree, which was in the middle of the mini-forest that I walked past every day, was made out of metal. I expressed the opinion that this was a bit peculiar, and was then told that the Tree had two siblings – the Talking Tree, and the Silent Tree, which were both also metal. Apparently the Talking Tree has startled more than a few freshers in the middle of the night by randomly quoting poetry.

The three Trees look pretty realistic, other than being metal, which is why I managed to walk past them for a month without them registering on my mind. Here’s a photo of the Singing Tree, and the Silent Tree. The Trees’ strangeness hasn’t escaped otherse – here’s a cartoon someone drew about them.

I Wish I knew

Correction to an earlier post: It seems I made a common mistake when I said that the Barry Norman film night tune (I Wish I Knew) was first written by Nina Simone. It was in fact first written and performed by the Bill Taylor Trio. Thanks to Tom for pointing this out.

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful:

People on Metafilter liked my post about aerogel (inspired when I saw these pretty photos). I’m very pleased about this – Metafilter is being swamped with too much news culled from CNN, Slashdot, Kuro5hin and other web news portals these days, so I thought the readers might like a change and see something new. And they did.

I received an email from Giles Turnbull about how he liked the design of this weblog. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy receiving emails like that.

I had a moment of epiphany about a particularly troublesome bit of revision concerning DNA recombination. I’d spent about five minutes trying to figure out the exact mechanism, drawing things on bits of paper, when it suddenly struck me that I should look at the diagrams backwards.

I remember sitting in a friend’s room last term, when he put on some new music. I immediately jumped up and exclaimed, ‘Hey, that’s the music to Barry Norman’s Film Night!’ He corrected me and said, ‘No it’s not, it’s by Nina Simone and it’s called I wish I knew.’ And so it was, and in that moment he unwittingly had given me the secret of the song’s name which so many people loved but didn’t (and may still not) know.