Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia

Speaking of the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia, here's an incredible recording of cellist Wells Cunningham accompanied by...himself (in some of the most unusual violin playing I have ever seen).

"I couldn't find a violinist to play with, so I decided to just learn the violin part myself," he explains.

As the padre says, "입 없으면 입몸," né?

A Classical Music Video

Two Julliard students (and Andover alums) have a dream of creating a unique music video for the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia.

From Ari's introduction on their Kickstarter project page:

« The classical music industry is changing. As a violinist who's about to leave the safety of Juilliard and enter the real world, I'm slightly concerned for my well-being; there are more truly exceptional musicians competing for careers and jobs than ever before. But as a lover of classical music, I'm frightened. Our audiences and our funding are shrinking, and as other forms of entertainment evolve to become more and more accessible, classical music is falling behind. But our product—our music—is as amazing as ever. And so not only are we (Meta, Rod, Caitlin, and I) unwilling to accept the possibility that classical music audiences might continue to shrink—we feel strongly that, in this age of internet and media, our audiences should actually be growing. Despite its traditional (and often archaic) image, classical music is relevant to all of us, and we are convinced that exposure is all it really needs in order to thrive.

This brings us to our video. Meta Weiss and I will play the music (Meta is a cellist—also at Juilliard—and I'm a violinist), while Caitlin Ward will design the set and costumes and Roderick Hill will direct. By combining all of our passions, we hope to create a video in which our respective art forms intersect. While music videos are common in popular music genres, they are less prevalent in classical music. When I was a kid, Disney's Fantasia was one of my favorite movies. In my opinion, the visual aspect didn't detract from the music—especially because the animations were designed with the specific pieces in mind. Similarly, in our video, the fashion and film aspects will be inspired both by the music and by Handel's time (1685-1759).

We decided to use Kickstarter because we want to secure the highest quality recording, video, and lighting equipment, as well as materials for the sets and costumes so that our video can be truly exceptional. »

Monday, March 28, 2011


Pebble Beach, 1997

나 自身에 대한
Selbsterkenntnis도 Fragen도
많아지는 것 같다.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Mikado

New resolution: Attend more student theater productions on campus.

I was inspired this evening by the Yale Gilbert and Sullivan Society's rendition of The Mikado, "a satire of English aristocracy set in feudal Japan." As the Yale G&S Society's website explains, the comic opera "tells the story of a lovelorn prince disguised as a commoner, an innocent schoolgirl, a hapless Lord High Executioner, and a pompous Lord High Everything Else."
"Since its 1885 premiere, Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s most popular operetta has been performed throughout the world, translated into several languages, and has been referenced and often satirized in motion pictures, stage plays, and even television shows...Even though The Mikado takes place in Japan, not England, the story is classic G&S. Nanki-Poo has fallen in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum. She’s engaged to her guardian, Ko-Ko the tailor. But Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting (a capital crime in the city of Titipu). He’s granted a reprieve and appointed to the post of Lord High Executioner. Because Ko-Ko was next in line for execution, he can’t cut off anyone else’s head until he cuts off his own! But the Mikado decrees that if no executions take place within one month, Titipu will be reduced from being a city to a mere village." (Lyric Opera of Chicago)
The Yale G&S Society cast - HI KEVIN!

As the Yale Daily News review notes:
The shows’ blessings go beyond its visual aspect. The script’s original humor is augmented by Yale-specific lyrics, written by Sam Kaufman-Martin ’14 and Austin Kase ’11. Both Ko-Ko and the Mikado list those annoying individuals who deserve a good beheading, poking fun not only at modern celebrities like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black, but also denouncing Yale stereotypes like overzealous DSers, narcissistic theater majors and girls a little too obsessed with James Franco, lending The Mikado a relatable air despite its foreign context and implausible storylines. 

Friday, March 25, 2011


Listening to:
Surely there is a God in heaven.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steven Pinker

Finally made it to my first Master's Tea at Yale: Professor Marvin Chun hosted internationally renowned linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker this afternoon at the Berkeley Master's House, which was packed with scores of students eager to hear Pinker speak about the human mind. As Professor Chun noted at the beginning of the talk, the huge turnout evidenced the fact that "cognitive science is very much alive and well at Yale."

Pinker began with an analysis of the 164 irregular past tense verbs in the English language, highlighting some of his research in the field. He also explained his support for expanded use of the passive voice, citing relevant research on the greater cognitive burden of certain embedded sentence structures (although I think a bit extra exercise for short-term memory might be beneficial for many of us).

During the second half of the talk, Pinker focused on his work in social linguistics. In particular, he outlined his theories regarding the use of innuendo in language. According to Pinker, the fact that "coffee doesn't mean coffee" is an example of the role of indirect speech in conveying potentially awkward or inconvenient messages in a manner that leaves enough ambiguity to avoid jeopardizing interpersonal relationships.

(Listening to Pinker speak was particularly meaningful for me, not only because he is about as famous a superstar as anyone in the world of cognitive science, but also because I spent a good portion of my time and energy senior year of high school trying to disprove his claim that music is "auditory cheesecake," i.e. an evolutionarily superfluous art form that developed by piggybacking on preexisting cognitive structures and mechanisms.)

Incidentally, the Master's Tea also reminded me that I need to put Pinker's The Stuff of Thought on my summer reading list.


Spotted at Atticus

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Andover vs. Harvard?

In a gutsy article in US News and World Report, Alex Heffner describes his disillusionment with his "overrated" Harvard education. He writes:
I am as frustrated here as I had been in 2004, when I sought to escape from the standardized scholastic culture of a top-ranked public school on Long Island. Its statewide recognition for achievement bore no meaning for me in classrooms where my fellow middle-schoolers mocked me for my interest in discussing material and its relevance in current events. Around that time, I learned about an age-old boarding school—and the collaborative nature of its student body. I remember being impressed by the student-teacher ratio—small classes, sometimes just four or five people—and by learning so much about and from each other. I often feel obliged to tell people, even if they don't ask, that it was Andover (not Harvard) that taught to me to think and write critically.
Glad to see that Heffner's still alive and well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked."
- Bernard Meltzer

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Nine bánh mì sandwiches, two candlelight vigils, plenty of sunshine and one broken lamp later, spring break has come to an end.

On a brighter note, KASCON, the largest and oldest ethnic student conference in the country, took place at Yale this weekend, with hundreds of students from college campuses across the country attending the annual event. I missed most of Friday's events due to a flight delay, but I had the opportunity on Saturday to hear from keynote speaker Senator Paull Shin, whose story is truly inspiring. I also attended a thought-provoking seminar led by Michelle Milee Chang, the founder and CEO of non-profit organization Ambassadors for Sustained Health (ASH).

Kudos to the KASCON XXV executive board at Yale for organizing a successful conference!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Agora Now

ag·o·ra  noun (ˈa-gə-rə)
: a gathering place
: marketplace in ancient Greece
: (Portuguese) now

Headed to Agora with Emily last week for a late-night caffeine kick and was relieved to see that the charming Montrose coffee establishment is back in top form after a Halloween weekend fire that burned down parts of the café as well as the antiques shop next door. Same superb selection of coffee, tea, wine, beer and soda; Greek yogurt; awesome jukebox; generous tree-shaded patio. Still resisting the urge to use complete sentences.

(Succumbing) As CultureMap notes, there are some new upgrades:
Agora devotees worried that the coffeehouse's Greco character would be forever altered by the blaze, but owner Michael Sotiropoulos implemented smart innovations that leave the original alternative flavor intact. Along with a new roof, Sotiropoulos installed new wood floors, railings and air conditioning. Diehard Agora goers will notice sly updates, like tinted windows on east and west-facing walls and corner resting spots. The steep staircase and balcony setup is the same, and although the majority of the furniture has been replaced, Sotiropoulos culled pieces from Montrose antique ateliers to maintain the established style. Other bonuses: A top-notch Italian espresso machine and expanded surface parking in the lot formerly occupied by Antiques Warehaus, which completely burned down in the fire. Expect a food stand to pop up at any moment in the empty lot.
Unfortunately we were too late to catch the belly dancers or the new food truck in the parking lot, but what's the rest of this week for, right?

Here's a tour of the new Agora with CultureMap and Sotiropoulos:

My only objection is that, in the process of rebuilding the second story, they decided to eliminate the outdoor balcony seating overlooking Westheimer—where will future generations of H-Town teenagers be able to create their own embarrassing stories?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dim Sum Sum

Among the three foods I miss most when I'm away from home (and the first ones I seek out when back in town) are Tex-Mex, barbecue and dim sum. Restaurants offering the first two are spread throughout the city, not surprisingly, and though proper Houstonian has at least one Tex-Mex and one barbecue joint to swear by, there is no clear consensus on a city-wide winner; some are more famous or storied than others, but passions for the numerous contenders seem to vary by age, class, neighborhood, political preference and even the types of vehicles driven by the regulars.

Due to the city's large Cantonese population, there are also a decent number of first-rate dim sum spots, mostly concentrated in the Bellaire/Chinatown area. But in terms of both size and reputation, one local institution outshines the rest.

The appropriately named Ocean Palace is a grand, two-story Hong Kong-style dim sum hall complete with sufficiently gaudy chandeliers and a lotus flower pond. The sumptuous offerings include everything from roast duck and black bean clams to shrimp shumai and two kinds of chicken feet. Accompanied by steaming pots of jasmine or chrysanthemum tea and topped off with beautifully flaky egg custard tarts.

Upstairs dining hall

The best part about dim sum, of course, is that all you have to do is wait for a cart to pass, inspect the goods, and point to what you'd like to have on your table.

Sesame balls and happiness

Here's the highlight of my conversation with the seven-year-old boy sitting next to me:
他: What's 245 times 45?
我: I'm not sure. Would you like another prawn?
他: It's 11025. I checked on the calculator this morning.
我: Cool. Thanks.
他: (Turning to his mother) Mom, I don't think he's especially bright.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I'm not sure why I find this commercial so amusing—perhaps I wouldn't if I understood what it was saying. Maybe it's the boy's facial expression at 0:07 or the pronunciation of dosirak (Korean for 'lunch box') with a Russian accent. Or maybe it's funny only because I'm sleep-deprived...

Equally entertaining are the search results in Google Images for 도시락 (dosirak). There are some very artistic mothers* out there.

*I'm sorry for the gender normativity. But then again, most of these dosirak-makers are living in one of the most Confucian societies in the world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On Investing

From a Skype conversation with a friend:


You know those words on vocabulary lists (especially in foreign language classes) you're convinced you'll never need?

Like Herbergsmutter (female youth hostel director), a word I learned in first-year German. Or caballo (slang for heroin), which I had to memorize junior year of high school in my Spanish film class. Or 水利 (shuili, water conservancy), from the ninth lesson of my outdated Chinese textbook.

These are the kinds of words we dutifully study for exams but then quickly forget while learning new, more useful vocabulary. Do I really need to know how to score smack in Madrid before I've mastered irregular verbs?

Such was my opinion of 萝卜 (luobo, radish), which I had to memorize during a unit on Chinese food. Not planning to be closely involved with edible root vegetables in China, it's a word that I learned, planned not to use ever again, and subsequently forgot.

But today, after a foot massage in Chinatown, I actually needed to use the word luobo during a conversation in the parking lot of Diho Plaza. An animated couple was trying to explain to me, over the din of honking cars, the different properties of 白萝卜 (daikon radish) versus 绿萝卜 (green radish) according to Chinese traditional medicine.

I swear, I couldn't make this stuff up even if I tried.

教訓: Don't overlook page 237 of Discussing Everything Chinese, Vol. 1 (though I still doubt I'll ever need caballo in my back pocket).

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The entire population of Houston seems to be out and about this week, as evidenced by packed tables at al fresco dining establishments throughout the city. Lured by highs in the low 70s, a steady breeze and Texas blue skies, I'm also making an effort to soak up as much of this sunshine and azalea-studded greenery as possible for the remainder of spring break.

I'm currently sitting at Brasil, the hipster-infested café in Montrose famous for decent music, good coffee, great sandwiches and terrible service. But with this much caffeine and sunshine streaming through the space, I can't even complain about the decidedly un-Texan brusqueness of our waiter.

I cropped him out (you can still see a bit on the right).
72 °F
"La estupefacción prolongada engendra la estupidez."
- José Ortega y Gasset

Friday, March 11, 2011

Konjunktiv I

Speaking of the fairer sex, seeing Niki chasing geckos around the yard this afternoon prompted me to think more about my 이상형...just kidding.

On the contrary, I was actually thinking at the time about—nerd alert—German verb tenses, particularly Konjunktiv I, which I find especially useful.

The German language has two forms of the subjunctive mood, Konjunktiv I (subjunctive I) and Konjunktiv II (subjunctive II). Though they can both be used in the past and present tenses, Konjunktiv I and Konjunktiv II are also known as the present subjunctive and past subjunctive, respectively, because of how they are constructed.

Of the two, Konjunktiv II is more similar to the subjunctive mood as it is used in English and most Romance languages—it is used to signal doubt, uncertainty, obligation, desire or politeness or to describe situations contrary to reality. At other times, it is used to form the conditional tense and also as a replacement for Konjunktiv I when the indicative form and the Konjunktiv I form of a verb are identical.

Konjunktiv I, on the other hand, is reserved for indirekte Rede (indirect or quotative speech), including indirect questions, commands or extended direct discourse. Along with a pronoun shift or the use of dass (that), Konjunktiv I is one of the three ways in German to signal indirect discourse. Here is an explanation from my copy of Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik (Rankin and Wells):
In both English and German, indirect discourse is usually introduced by a frame that includes a verb of speaking or thinking, such as sagen [to say] or meinen [to think/mean]. In English, this frame must be repeated each time an indirect quote is given—"Mary remarked..., and then she said..., and finally she noted..."—in order to make it clear that it is Mary's speech which is being reported, not the opinions of the author. In German, a writer can simply state the identity of the source at the outset, and then proceed to use subjunctive I verb forms (or subjunctive II substitutes when necessary) throughout an extended passage with no further frames necessary.
In many cases of indirect discourse, especially in spoken language, the indicative is a viable alternative "when mediating speakers have no need or desire to distance themselves from the message being conveyed." But by using the Konjunktiv I, "the message bearer can accentuate the indirect nature of the message." As such, it is particularly common in print media and formal writing, "where journalists must take pains (often for legal reasons) to dissociate themselves from what someone else says."

If the advantage of the German present subjunctive is not immediately clear to you, here's a passage from Der Besuch der alten Dame, a tragicomic play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt that we read in Frau Svec's German class at Andover (with Konjunktiv I verbs bolded), followed by the much less efficient English translation:
In der langen Tischrede des Bürgermeisters beteuerte er, man habe sie nie vergessen. Schon damals habe jeder den Zauber ihrer Persönlichkeit gespürt. Unvergessen sei sie geblieben. Ihre Leistungen in der Schule würden noch jetzt von der Lehrerschaft als Vorbild hingestellt. Sie sei im wichtigsten Fach—Pflanzen- und Tierkunde—erstaunlich gewesen. Ihre Gerechtigkeitsliebe und ihr Sinn für Wohltätigkeit habe schon damals die Bewunderung weiter Kreise erregt. 
(In the mayor's long after-dinner speech, he stressed that people had never forgotten her. Even back then, [he said,] everyone sensed the magic of her personality. [He stressed again that] she had remained unforgotten. [He mentioned how] her achievements in school were still held up by the faculty as a model. [He noted that] she was astonishingly good in the most important subject—plant and animal studies. [He said that] her love of justice and her sense of generosity had, even then, led to widespread admiration.)
Practical, nein? The only other language I'm familiar with that has a verb form analogous to Konjunktiv I is, believe it or not, Korean. In Korean, the verb suffix 고 + 해(요) is used for reported speech, eliminating the need to repeatedly emphasizing the third-person perspective, much like the present subjunctive in German.

I'm not sure exactly where over the North Sea the English language lost Konjunktiv I, but it was a sad day for typesetters and legalistic minds alike. Anyone want to join me in petitioning Congress (or the Queen) for the reintroduction of the present subjunctive? With the reduction in printing costs for all government documents, it could be a first step toward reducing the national deficit. At least until the country's ink makers decide to form a lobby.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zantedeschia aethiopica

I awoke this morning to the metronomic drilling of a very persistent pileated woodpecker outside my window. Though the heavens may conspire to prevent me from sleeping in late during spring break, praevalebo!

I was also pleasantly surprised by the following arrangement of calla lilies I found sitting on my nightstand:

I think I had a minor epiphany about my 理想型 while gazing at the elegant white spades.

Ok, enough introspection—time to go whack some golf balls with the padre. Text me if you're at Memorial Park and want to meet up.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bánh Mì Count: 4

Today's stop on my quest to find Houston's best bánh mì sandwich was Miss Saigon, a Vietnamese café near Rice University. Definitely more upscale than the average shop on Bellaire, Miss Saigon sells its bánh mì sandwiches sell for four times the price at Don Cafe. But Don Cafe's hearty sandwiches are priced at a mere $2, so even four times that is a bargain, especially for the Rice University area. And the way that those crisp, crinkle-cut pickled carrots contrast with the tender grilled pork!*

(Plus there's this really cool mural of Bến Thành Market in Ho Chi Minh City on the back wall.)

*Apologies for the sentence fragment. But if I completed the sentence, there could be a serious risk of driving back to Rice Village right now for more juicy goodness.


Most normal children are told to finish their food so that they can be big and strong or because there are starving children in Africa. Growing up, my violin teacher instructed me to eat more so that I could perform with the emotional gravitas of David Oistrakh. (It's a wonder I never had any eating disorders.)

Below is Oistrakh playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Movement II - Canzonetta, which is often described as a "song without words." The movement, though modest in comparison to the much flashier first and third movements, is warm and romantic while remaining gracefully restrained.

Somewhat unusually, Tchaikovsky instructs the soloist to perform the Canzonetta con sordino (with a mute), which enhances the subdued lyricism of the movement. Oistrakh ignores Tchaikovsky's instructions, but it's difficult to argue with the impact of his masterful interpretation. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quest for the Perfect Bánh Mì

I've decided to search this week and next for the perfect bánh mì, a classic French-Vietnamese sandwich filled with multicultural goodness. Here's a description of the sandwich from the New York Times:
If you haven’t tried a classic banh mi, imagine all the cool, salty, crunchy, moist and hot contrasts of a really great bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Then add a funky undertone of pork liver and fermented anchovy, a gust of fresh coriander and screaming top notes of spice, sweetness and tang. 
Introduced to Vietnam by the French in the early 20th century, the first banh mi (pronounced BUN-mee) were just bread, butter and ham or pâté — the traditional, minimal Parisian sandwich. “Then, the Saigonese made things interesting,” said Andrea Nguyen, a writer and food historian, referring to the riot of garnishes that lifts the sandwich from good to genius. The banh mi popular in America are in the style of Saigon — now Ho Chi Minh City, though most Vietnamese-American families, driven from the country in the 1960s and ’70s, during the war, stick to the old name. Stacked with variations on cured and cooked pork, green herbs, sweet pickled vegetables, sliced chili peppers and at least a swipe of mayonnaise, banh mi are enfolded in a crisp, slim baguette. They are so rich in history, complex in flavor and full of contradictions that they make other sandwiches look dumb.
Enticing, nay? And Houston, with the world's third largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam, is an excellent place to look.

P.S. My first stop was Don Cafe (which I hear is owned by a Memorial couple) at 9300 Bellaire Boulevard, where I ordered the barbecue pork and the ham and pâté sandwiches. I would have taken pictures had I not devoured them in all their crunchy happiness in record time.

P.P.S. If any fellow spring breakers in H-Town would like to join me on my quest, let me know when you're available.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Just want to share the following song, which Mother showed me after lunch today:
"아메리카노 (Americano)," a cheeky ode to cheap caffeine by Korean artist 10cm. The catchy tune merits a listen on its own (plus, for those who can understand them, the lyrics are highly amusing).

"어떻게 하노..."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Der [cantabrigische] Junge und sein Hund

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
- Phyllis Diller

"If a man smiles all the time, he's probably selling something that doesn't work."
- George Carlin

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Recess Begins

Back in the H for a much needed break—I'm looking forward to two weeks away from reading responses and InDesign and iCal.

Three highlights from my trip home last night:

1. On the Amtrak train from New Haven to Newark: "So that's when I had my existential crisis." That was the beginning of a very noisy, hour-long phone conversation of the woman seated directly behind me. It's not that I have anything existential crises (which I hear are healthy in small doses) but if the entire train car is staring at you, and I can hear intimate details about your life over an "on-the-go" playlist that began with Brad Paisley and ended with Knorkator, then you're probably being too loud.

2. Later on the train: Met a Colgate grad (from Sugar Land, incidentally) working for an interesting for-profit environmental company in New York.

3. At Newark Liberty International Airport: Dinner at Vino Volo. After years of enduring stale, overpriced sandwiches and sugary smoothies, I've become fairly jaded by airport dining options. So it was a pleasant surprise to find great food at a decent price in the Newark airport. I was skeptical at first because Vino Volo is a self-described wine bar, and food almost seemed to be an afterthought on the menu, but because I was starving and running out of time before my flight, I decided to try my luck. Both of the items I ordered—a chicken salad ($6) and a brie-prosciutto sandwich ($5)—were delicious and (because the operation seems to make most of its margin on wine) reasonably priced, especially for dinner at an airport restaurant.

Business Sphere Magazine - Spring 2011

For those of you wondering why I've been MIA for the past couple weeks, here's the (finally finished!) answer:

In Business Sphere magazine, our writers address the complexity of business from a student perspective as it relates to a wide variety of popular news. Business Sphere aims to serve as a platform for increasing awareness of and interest in the far-ranging implications of business in social, economic, legal and political arenas.

In this issue of BSM, we present an exclusive interview with writer and entrepreneur Peter Shankman, whose ideas have revolutionized social media around the world. You will also read about the growth of Emirates Airlines, the award-winning flagship carrier of Dubai. In other featured articles, Yale students cover topics ranging from credit default swaps to high-speed rail infrastructure.

Our spring issue also contains a special section dedicated to the Asia Tomorrow Conference, the annual flagship conference of the Yale Undergraduate Business Society, co-hosted by the Yale School of Management's South Asian Business Forum. You can read more about Asia Tomorrow's exciting schedule and speaker lineup starting on page 4.

Special thanks go to the Yale Undergraduate Business Society and our corporate sponsors for their continued support and collaboration. I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank-you to the editorial and design teams for their tireless efforts, without which this publication would not have been possible.

We'll be distributing 1000 copies on campus the weekend after spring break, so keep an eye out for them then. Happy reading!