From the archives: June 2006

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What a load of B.Sc.

Friday, 16 June 2006 — 4:44pm | Scrabble, Tournament logs

I now have a degree. Well, that was easy. In fact, it was easy to the point that I’m not sure it qualifies me for anything.

Note that I’m not making any claims about doing well… that’s a separate challenge entirely, and one that is caught in a balance of pride and shame (as opposed to accomplishment and failure, which run along a very different axis).

Not long ago, I lamented that my knowledge of the U of A Cheer Song was limited to its recitation by tone-deaf student politicians, but after hearing it played by a wind band, I have to say that I’m quite taken with its splendiferous bombast. As readers have no doubt discerned from the foci of this here gonzo-guest’s maverick wedding journalism, ceremonial music programmes are something I like to see done right. In this case, what did the trick was a dash of Gershwin and a slice of Williams (The Phantom Menace, but with “Duel of the Fates” taken a bit under tempo).

Convocation was otherwise a nonevent, far overshadowed by the opening of the first new Pixar feature in a year and a half. Cars is wonderful, Pixar is a perfect seven-for-seven, you should stay for the credits, and I’ll go into detail some other time… maybe. First, I’ll see it again.

So let’s talk Scrabble.

If you want to read an account of last weekend’s Calgary Summer Tournament from a player and division from which you might actually learn something, I recommend the two-part Division 1 account located here and here. If not, then I guess you’re stuck with me. And not only do I make mistakes, I have a photo album to prove it.

As Paul says in his journal, “Bad luck and bad decisions are a lethal mix. You can win playing poor and getting lucky, and you can overcome bad luck with good play.” So when you miss easy bingos, lose an obscene number of challenges, draw racks like LRSSS?? with no open lanes on the board, and throw IIIIO back in the bag only to have to toss IIV later (and still draw four more Is to play off in the endgame), you can pretty much consider yourself screwed.

Take Round 13, for instance, where I was saddled with dreck on a tight board for most of the game when I gave myself an improbable opening with GNU, and held EEIGNS?. Since DOGY was in the way down the centre column and the only letter that goes at the end of GNU is an S, any seven-letter word I found would have to have an S in the fifth position in order for me to play it.

As it happens, there are two. The one I didn’t see was GENESIs. The one I did see was GrEISEN, and I was delighted to see that my opponent courteously left the spot open for me to play it. And then I realized that I didn’t remember if the correct spelling was GRIESEN* or GREISEN. It was an epic battle between the I-before-E-except-after-C dictum that never really works, and the chance that the word might be of German origin.

In Scrabble, you’re so used to seeing everything uppercase that sometimes, what I try to do when figuring out if a word looks right is write it down lowercase and see if it looks familiar. I tried it here, and it only served to confuse, since I’d never seen either one written lowercase before. Since I’m not a geologist who deals with altered granitic rocks, I’ve never had to use the word in a proper, contextual sentence.

Needless to say, I played the wrong one, and since my opponent didn’t know either one (and had a precious lead to protect), she challenged it. At the end of the day I was at 7-7 (-202), which should give you a sense of how bad my losing margins were compared to my winning ones. I also posted my lowest bingo count in any tournament in years. School’s out; time to start studying.

Musicians take note: in one game, I played QUARTAL*, absolutely convinced it was an acceptable word, and it was challenged off the board by an opponent who knew her Qs. At the time I suspected it was a word from mathematics, but I was actually thinking of quartal harmonies, which are chords built on successive fourths. Jazzmen dump them faster than a sack of tea in Boston Harbor on account of their utility in adding flashy sixths and ninths to just about anything.

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Scenes from the Wedding of Beatrice Portinari

Saturday, 3 June 2006 — 2:38pm | Classical, Music

I have a fascination with sculptures inspired by fictitious characters, like that of Sherlock Holmes outside the Baker Street tube station in London, or the bronze Eleanor Rigby seated on a bench in Liverpool underneath a dedication “to all the lonely people.” Today I learned that in Madrid, there is a monument to Cervantes that comprises a stone sculpture of Dulcinea del Toboso. If you know your Quixote, you know why this is interesting: how, exactly, does one visualize a fiction within a fiction?

I may or may not have had a point there.

Somebody important to me got married today, and I wish her all the best.

There’s nothing quite like a musician’s wedding, because the musical programme is bound to be exquisite. Today’s ceremony featured a live string quartet that ran the whole gamut of tearjerking Italian opera before the Bach processional, among their selections the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (which you might recognize from the film Raging Bull) and “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (itself notable in Peanuts lore as the aria that Peppermint Patty skates to in the television special She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown). The recessional was Gardel’s Por una cabeza, which is the tango of choice in too many films to count, one of which concerned the Holocaust and also had a critical scene featuring Bach.

It was all very pretty and perfect, and I’ve come to the conclusion that wedding ceremonies just aren’t the same without live music. And I’m not just saying that as an egotist who once took a Catholic wedding as an excuse to play selections from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Then again, as a Lutheran service, the proceedings were musical through and through. Hymns have a way of pushing you a bit higher than you can go, but I always appreciate the reinstatement of music as an activity of the community, which you see so rarely these days aside from jazz jams and the national anthems before a hockey game. In some cases, it may be for the best. I never did figure out the melody to “Ring out a cheer for our Alberta”, and I blame the fact that I don’t think anybody else did either.

What you don’t see every day, though, is a surprise sermon preceding the vows that doubles as a chemistry experiment involving fish tanks, food colouring and Barbie dolls. It was scripturally over the head of this here heathen, but engrossing all the same.

Some time ago I made an observation about wedding music that I’m surprised I never posted here. It took less than a century for Wagner’s Lohengrin (“Here comes the bride”) and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” to become wedding pieces standard to the point of being cliché. Given sufficient momentum, there’s nothing to say that in less than a hundred years, the same can’t happen to John Williams’ celebration march at the end of Star Wars, complete with Chewie not getting a medal. I, for one, will do my part.

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