Friday, March 31, 2006

The Big Apple ... again

After Tue's concert and a sleepless night of work, I left for NYC. Amtrak. Best choice for the purpose. The train goes smoothly along the Hudson Valley providing you a nice scenary which reminded me a lot of Viseu and the long way home from Timisoara to Sighet (an unbarerable 14 hrs) in my student years:)). This was a lot faster: just 2 hrs and 10 mins to Penn Station. Along the way I did get to chat a bit with the violin solist from the London Phila's concert (getting back to Munich) and congratulate her. a very nice girl btw.

Finally, I started to read a novel which is sitting on my shelf for too long. (which was also dedicated to me like this: "Nu-i de citit decat pe avion cu motor"- you know who you are) :))) anyways, at least I have started it, nope? Ohh's GALAPAGOS by Kurt Vonnegut. Good stuff!
I did enjoy another stay in Manhattan. Although I start to despise more and more some features of New York City (e.g. Holland Tunnel, streets and subways) it is still prevailing as my favorite US city. Indeed: the city that never sleeps - and I didn't sleep much in it too- :). GSP Grantees from Eurasia got together for a three day conference, networking and a scientific exchange of opinions and "clash" of sciences. Clash is kind of pushing it; political science has little to do with econometrics and that small amount isn't expected to pass the thourough and critical eye of (even) one (economist) that could be in the audience.That being said, overall it was a good meeting; heterogeneity was the word of the day although political science and economics were heavily represented. Besides the 9-5 schedule we did taste some of the local night life and it was great although hard to keep the pace the second day after just couple of hrs of sleep.

Saturday after the conference I finally got a chance to hang out and visit parts of the city that I haven't seen before: Columbia University, St. John Divine Cathedral, uptown Manhattan, Northern Central Park West plus the usual suspects Time Square, Battery Park etc etc.

STILL so little time but so many to do & see. :((
'Till nexxt time....

Best Things Are Free

Last Wed. I had the pleasure of seeing the LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA live at Proctor's in Schenectady, NY. Although I couldn't figure out what were they actually doing in this place (not a very well educated crowd in classical music,as many noticed) I was just pleased to see them perform under the wand of Yan Pascal Tortelier, after its famous conductor, Kurt Masur, cancelled the appearance due to a viral infection. I consider myself just a novice in the classical repertoirs but I guess everybody should start with something closer to the best available; in this way, LPO would have been a great chance. Two hours and a half of excellency -- Britten, Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky--- The other presence on the scene beside the conductor was a violin soloist from Germany, Arabella Steinbacher,also excellent. Overall, AAA+ and the best thing was the price:free! courtesy of RPIs great care for culturalizing its students and my determination to get up at 7am in order to stand in line for tickets!:))
Totally worth it though!

The most hectic two weeks this year..

It seems that Spring is coming in a very fast pace and with it my life caught much speed as well. This two weeks where full of everything: excitement, work (a whole lot) and fun (as much as possible). Things like sleep or rest were forgotten completely during this period and I felt again like in my student (bachelor) years back in Timisoara in the extreme Western Romania. Looking back on those times I just can help to smile and get back into that certain mood. Back to the issue in hand, I had to come up with a proposal for a fellowship that I was stubborn enough to try and apply for even though I found about it really really late (1 week ago). Thus basically I had to do a lot of literature review and crystallization of ideas into 20 something pages that are both convincing and reliable from a scientific point of view. Usually this kind of stuff requires at least a couple of weeks; I had only four days before leaving for NYC for a conference. In the spirit of "everybody loves a good challenge" I also did it!:))..and pretty well as the referees agreed..
the only drawback was the lack of sleep which kind of overwhelmed me after this crazy week..

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cuban music

This week I listened to a lot of music from Cuba. I have listened before stuff from Buena Vista Social Club and other artists but now it was more methodical (actual LPs) than before where I had just some tracks. This stuff sounds fantastic and I guess it is the best latino music that I have heard; usually I don't dig it that much. I tried some Peruvian one and it was ok. I just know much nicer from those bands singing in public squares back in Europe. But this one was more traditional and less appealing.

Getting back to the issues,
Buena Vista Social Club (4 out of 5)
This album is named after a members-only club that was opened in Havana in pre-Castro times, a period of unbelievable musical activity in Cuba.While bandleader Desi Arnaz became a huge hit in the States, several equally talented musicians never saw success outside their native country, and have had nothing but their music to sustain them during the Castro reign. Ry Cooder went to Cuba to record a musical documentary of these performers. Many of the musicians on this album have been playing for more than a half century, and they sing and play with an obvious love for the material. Cooder could have recorded these songs without paying the musicians a cent; one can imagine them jumping up and grabbing for their instruments at the slightest opportunity, just to play. Most of the songs are a real treasure, traversing a lot of ground in Cuba's musical history.

Buena Vista Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer (5 out of 5)
Picking up where Buena Vista Social Club left off, BVSC Presents Ibrahim Ferrer soothes with the hushed romanticism of Cuba's yesteryear while boasting the talents of one of its greatest singers, Ibrahim Ferrer. Again there's an all-star lineup of musicians led by pianist Rubén González and singer Omara Portuondo creating music at the renowned Egrem studios, whose live room brings the slow lucidity and intense vigor of the Cuban classics to life. --Karen K. Hugg

Ibrahim Ferrer, Buenos Hermanos (4 out of 5)
At 77, Ibrahim Ferrer has lost none of his cheeky charm. Buenos Hermanos lives beautifully up to its title--"Good Brothers"--with those Cuban stalwarts Cachaito Lopez and Chucho Valdes joined by that genius of the electric guitar, Manuel Galban, and with the Blind Boys of Alabama enriching the basic mix.

Ibrahim Ferrer, La Colleccion Cubana (5 out of 5)
I guess that most of the people discovered him through BVSC. This is IH at his best.
A collection of Gems Rarely Heard Outside the Shores of Cuba.These Recordings Come from the Vaults of Cuba's State Owned Egrem Records Label and Are a True Revelation for Anyone who Has Turned on to the Bvsc. (Ferrer's Voice was Even Sampled on the Animated Side Project of Blur's Damon Albarn's Gorillaz' Debut Album)

Cubanisimo, Unblocked (3 out if 5)
This is a good collection of Cuban songs performed by a band of virtuosi fronted by the great trumpet player, Jesus Alemany. It's an excellent introduction to the range of Cuban jazz, as the dance tracks include such rhythms as rumba, cha-cha, son, danzon, and pa'ca. So they say, at least:)), I mean it is fine, just less than the previous ones. I hear that other releases are better than this one.

There was another one, by Bayuba Cante but I didn't find it worth mentioning here. Conclusion: good stuff, very entertaining and sounds excellent on powerful soundsystems. Try on!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Just a strange 9.03

Just another day. A bad one though. Felt like every little outside factor was completely against me; thus I stopped trying to impress it and focused on my own stuff. After all there's always so much one can do for himself without carrying about the rest of the world. And, I may add I am pretty good at this although it doesn't strike me as something to be particular proud of.:)). I can believe that next week is the Spring break which will surely fly faster than a humming bird but especially that in exactly one month I'll be older by (another) year. I am quite busy these days and I am pretty sure that this de facto state will continue all semester at (very) least.
But tomorrow is another day and a good one too ! FRIDAY:))) {Thank God} I'll guess i'll try some of that relaxation thing myself; I heard it's quite nice:)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The next hurdle: Econometrics

YES. It is. "A must" for all economists that are taking the path of the grad school. and like most things in this period, it is probably going to be a self-taught class. For me it is hard: no serious background in statistics and econometrics from my previous bachelors in Romania, where Business and Economics become congruent and the emphasis is one the former since: a) it is easier to draw management diagram and matrixes that don't mean much at all empirically b) people are going for the cash vs. the science (in most cases). But, naturally, econometrics is universal, has different names for different fields, etc. and it is also used in the business environment (the smart and big ones, at least; because they care and they can do it).
Getting back to the issues at stake here, a small step for mankind, probably, but a giant one for me, to try and understand so many new concepts (like ergodicity, martingales,etc) and methodological issues (Chow, Wald tests..etc) that are totally new and hard to grasp from a kind of technical grad book like Hayashi ( But I guess that is the "fun" in grad school that everyone is talking about. He-he:)
Bottom line: I do appreciate it more now and I think it is interesting to push yourself as far as you can; you gain a lot and it feels good to look back and see your progress in such short time. Felt the same about micro; the neoclassical hardcore stuff. Nowdays the battle is to shift this old paradigm into something more general and updated to our new, conscious realizations of the systems (entropy, underestimated externalities, unlimited growth myth, qualitative growth vs. quantitative one, etc) But that's another topic.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dreamscapes And Dark Places: Music Videos Spawned from Surrealism

An event of surrealist music video clips here at RPI.
"In the past decade, the structure of the short snappy music video has not only become fodder for the likes of the commercial MTV set, but a goldmine for major artists and film directors to work with – and within – the limitations of the specific structure of the music video clip." (EMPAC)

Overall feeling:
Cool suff, big projection and powerful sound. All you need to dive in this world.

Entr´acte (1924) a 13–minute surreal film by René Clair preceded the 1 hour compilation of music videos. People were inventive even back then with limited shooting techniques.:)

The Doves-Sky Starts Falling (nice visuals and concept)
Beck-E Pro (a classic by now -- love the ending --)
LCD soundsystem-Tribulations (interesting)
Daedelus-Just Briefly (interesting video, but I was more into the music-it is also a Nija Tune artist)
Múm-Will The Summer Make Good For All of Our Sins? (very strange video and music but worth trying)
Pinback-Fortress (simple, fun and powerful)
Amos Tobin-4 Ton Mantis (one of my favorite artists, strange video though, towards dark, kitschy commercial)
Carpath North-Human (Denmark if i remember right, EXCELLENT)
Ladytron-Destroy Everything You Touch (weak stuff)
Bjork-Triumph of a Heart (funny)
Röyksopp-What Else is There? (hmmm- interesting, but no so good afterall)
Aphex Twin-Come to Daddy (another classic, creepy video from the dark master of techno)
The Arcade Fire-Rebellion (not my type of music + weak visual stuff)
Björk-Hyperballad (nice track, among few that i "get" from her releases:)..)
FC Kahuna-Hayling (excellent)

I would have had some more. There are so many good ones outthere. However it was a good mix!