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Noise

November 8, 2017

Now that the heat has turned on in our building and the valve on the radiator is hissing quietly behind me, it seemed like a good time to write about noise. I also just finished reading John Cage’s “Silence”, which is really one of the most fascinating considerations of the concept of noise and sound out there, I reckon. Instead of thinking of sounds as being ‘ok’ or ‘allowed’ or ‘noise’ in relation to the ‘real music’, Cage wanted to be able to experience sounds as they were, without judging whether they were right or beautiful or served any particular purpose:

I imagine that as contemporary music goes on changing in the way that I’m changing it what will be done is to more and more completely liberate sounds from abstract ideas about them and more and more exactly to let them be physically uniquely themselves. This means for me: knowing more and more not what I think a sound is but what it actually is in all of its acoustical details and then letting this sound exist, itself, changing in a changing sonorous environment.

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Fall

November 1, 2017

New Zealand doesn’t really have “Fall”. In Wellington we barely had seasons! Over here people talk eagerly of trips to see “the colors”, and New England fills with visitors. I suppose it is similar to the Japanese craze for blossom season in the chasing of just the right times and search for intelligence as to which areas are peaking at which times. There are even forecasts:

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Fear

October 23, 2017

Though we don’t even own a TV the news of America’s worst-ever mass shooting was still everywhere. Partly in response to this, work organised an “active shooter” session basically about what to do if an out-of-control gunman turns up in the office.

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Opera

October 10, 2017

Seeing as it is ultimately the reason why I am now living in New York, and since we’ve now been to the Met twice to experience it live, I thought it was time to branch into a bit of pondering about the point of that most extravagant and possibly old-fashioned of art forms: opera!

Before meeting Lis, I had heard and gone along to a small amount of opera, but generally ignored it and listened far more to instrumental music, or music where the words and meaning are not such a crucial part – stuff like jazz, other forms of classical music (chamber music, symphonies, piano music etc.) and metal. In instrumental classical music, like in abstract art, you can get the strange sensation of feeling that the piece is constructed ‘just right’ and ‘makes sense’ even though it’s impossible to explain why, or what sense it is that it actually makes.

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Private Institutions

October 6, 2017

One of the first conversations I had with a workmate here was about the incredible amount of money it is possible to spend on rent in Manhattan, and finished with him saying (paraphrasing) that this is the city of FOMO. No matter how much you earn, it is easy to feel like you earn next to nothing. There is a sense that there is a mystical group of people out there who you never see but who float around in top floor penthouses and restaurants where the affordable option is a $400 lunch.

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Work, work

September 26, 2017

Now that I’ve been in my new job for three weeks, perhaps it’s a good time to write a little bit about what I’m doing and some of the differences between Stats NZ and Columbia, and more widely between work in NZ and work in the USA.

As I mentioned in a previous post, being born in the USA means I can just rock up and get a job with no visa hassles. Very luckily for me, I managed to find this job and recognise that it would suit me really perfectly, and even more fortunately the people in charge thought so too. The interview process was definitely a little less strictly defined than the Stats ones that I’ve been on the other side of the table of recently, but that suits me and I do like to think that I’ve managed to get some idea of how to act in an interview, even though I haven’t done a huge number in my life.

I ended up having a number of more and less formal chats, plus a SAS programming test/homework, which then progressed into an interview with another manager about a slightly different role which suits me even better than the original. As with the housing, it all seemed to fall into place and made me think it was likely all a scam which would never work out. But I just thank my lucky stars that the study decisions and career path I’ve gone down have somehow ended up in me being employable in the USA in 2017, at least until the robots destroy us all.

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Washington Heights

September 19, 2017

If you look up Washington Heights in the New York Lonely Planet guide you’ll find that it is rather low in the list of priorities. Aside from the Met Museum’s Cloisters outpost and the Hispanic Society of America’s galleries (alas, the latter closed until 2019), there’s a mere smattering of minor sites. In other words, a normal tourist probably would never make it up this far. Harlem, sure, there are some big and famous places and everyone’s heard of it. But Washington Heights, I never even heard of it before I came here!

I shall provide you a map so you know where I’m talking about, and another map which is very much out of scale and demonstrates the neglect (particularly because Hamilton Heights seems to have been partially an invention of people who didn’t want to be a part of Harlem):

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