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| 2019 | one thought at a time |

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09 | September

21 | If there is one thing I hate, it's websites with pop-out videos and intrusive sign-up forms. I'd love to ignore all of them but, recently, everyone and everything seems to be slapping them onto their online presences. Click whores, the lot of them.

20 | North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades. And Europe has lost just about half of its bird population since 1980. A frightening development, mostly due to an unsustainable food and farming system.

19 | "The Four Notes of Death," a.ka. "dies irae".

18 | A bit longer today, and for S.K., just because.

I grew up with a mother who, when I was a child, played piano regularly at home and made me fall in love with many (Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg and, especially, Mussorgsky) of the classical pieces she played.

But, my favorite one, amongst a personal collection that today spans half of my living room, has always been one single composition, Robert Schumann's "Von fremden Menschen und Ländern," a deceptively simple tune that packs an incredible lyrical punch. Little did I know that one day it would actually characterize a part of my life.

Today, I have an endless number of recordings of exactly that one piece, but absolutely nobody - no matter what critics and whoever might say - has ever recorded a better version than Maria-João Pires, whose rendition mirrors - down to the proverbial "t" - what I remember from my childhood. To my ears, it's the only absolutely perfect interpretation that I have ever had the great fortune of listening to.

Unless you count my mother's, of course.

Classical music does not have to be complicated to move your soul.

P.S.: There's no immediate version online, but Amazon has a brief snippet. If you happen to have Spotify, here you go ... exactly the version I adore.

17 | One thing that has been bothering me for many years now has finally reached the headlines. I'm just surprised that many of the issues haven't had a more prominent spot in the media for much longer. People are finally beginning to notice that they are being massively manipulated. Amazon has always manipulated search results, but a new algorithm suddenly makes the headlines? Really? Search results everywhere have been and will be manipulated because that has a noticeable effect on citizens/consumers. And, today, Bill Gates "criticises political calls for breakup of Big Tech". Why am I not surprised?

16 | Ric Ocasek passed away and whenever I hear his name (and whenever I spin "The Cars'" debut album), I'm immediately taken back to my time in Copenhagen, Denmark, when "Good Times Roll" and "My Best Friend's Girl" were hits and I when spent quite some time at Chris D's (and Dina R's) place. Great memories.

15 | [written on the 16th] I cannot remember a summer that lasted that long, from early May until middle of September. So, yesterday, I stayed away from computers and gadgets and spent an entire day moving around and soaking in the Indian summer sun. If this is climate change, let me have more of it. ;-)

14 | Good old Ludwig van would have turned 250 this year, so various labels are releasing Beethoven monster box sets around November. The two main contenders: DG is releasing its 180-hour "Beethoven 2020 - The New Complete Edition" (which is the one I have set my sights on) and Warner Classics is releasing its 80-CD "Beethoven – The Complete Works". Comparing the two, the main difference is that Warner favors entire cycles by the same artist, ensemble or team of performers, whereas DG seems to be shooting for the "best individual recording" route. There's also a substantial price difference with the smaller Warner set coming in as the clear winner.

13 | I spent a terrific evening with two former students and a colleague of mine at a wonderful restaurant in Speyer, one of Germany's oldest cities. Speyer is dominated by the Speyer Cathedral and our restaurant, Avant|Garthe was practically just a stone's throw (or two) away. Excellent food and extensive and very good wine menu, plus great service. Highly recommended.

12 | The other day (German only) I read a spot on and verbally very aggressive and even abusive post that, unfortunately, I can agree with 100%.

For those not in the German know, the author - vehemently - complains about the changes in online discourse, about activists that will jump on anything, everything and anyone (at a moment's notice) to advance their presumed agendas, to just feel alienated or to just complain for complaining's sake. It's a change that has kept me away from online discourse for years now.

11 | I'm looking forward to Stephen King's new novel, "The Institute", which has gotten some pretty good advance reviews. Even the New York Times liked it.

10 | I love to read. I had thousands of books before I decided to downsize; today I still have a couple of hundred left over. I also always enjoyed indulging in post-apocalyptic fiction here and there and it is absolutely crazy how that genre has exploded globally these past few years, especially post-apocalyptic fiction published by "indie" (self-published) authors. I guess Donald Trump, climate change, the rise of right-wing and nationalist movements as well as diffuse fears have elevated the genre to bestseller status. Authors most of you have probably never heard of, like A.G. Riddle, Jack Hunt, Kevin Partner, Bobby Adair, T.L. Payne, T.W. Piperbrook, W. J. Lundy, Matthew Mather and Nicolas Sainsbury Smith, have sold millions of books. The world is apparently going to hell in a hand basket. Good riddance.

09 | Today marks my third full year without a TV. I don't miss a thing.

08 | Vivaldi's (much) better Opera browser is now available for Android in a pretty stable beta version. Check it out!

07 | Now that I'm not on WordPress anymore, the new "Twenty-Twenty" theme that Anders Norén is putting together for the new November release is the first one I really like. Typical! You can already play around with it by downloading it from GitHub, but remember that it's a work in progress.

06 | "It's like if people come into your house and television really attaches you to people in a way that is extremely powerful ... and, it's humbling. Thank you!"

05 | Where I live, we've had the most spectacular "summer" this year (which seems to finally be coming to a close this weekend). Since sometime in April, we've only had very few single days that could be described as "half-decent", the rest were "brilliant": sunshine, warmth and heat, all day long, every day. Wonderful, especially since I moved to a new place with two fabulous balconies just in time. But nature suffered, tremendously. Most of the farmers I know around these parts took a serious hit with large sums of money lost and I haven't really seen a larger patch of green grass for months.

04 | One of the silliest trends on YouTube is the one of people filming themselves or others watching and reacting to other people's videos (I would call that "meta-watching"). While googling around for possible reasons why people would "enjoy" doing or watching that, I came across an interesting article on ArsTechnica: "The science behind the insane popularity of “react” videos on YouTube."

03 | If you move around social networks frequently, so-called influencers are usually a serious pain in the ass.

I do follow one single "influencer" from Germany, McWinkel (Mathias Winks). Why? He's the genuine thing. At a time, at which people were trying to leave a footprint on the Web, he worked his way up the hard way, worked his ass off for years, remained sincere, has a ton of humor and has something to say to his everyday followers, no matter how mundane those things might be. I love watching him trying to etch a new/secondary career out where he lives (southern Spain) and I wish him the best of luck. MC has become my only daily indulgence, ... because.

02 | Start.me is one of the most useful services in my everyday online life. Although bookmark managers are often called antiquated, they are not. With start.me, I have - browser-independently (and across all of my devices) - access to everything I visit on a regular basis and it allows me to keep a well-organized link "vault" because adding new links to existing groups and pages is a breeze. Do check it out if you'd like to stay independent of browser developers who just love to screw things up fundamentally or, because they don't care, often accidentally mess up or even delete your carefully curated bookmark lists. Links: start.me | about | blog | pricing

01 | Ever so often, a must-have archival music release pops up on my radar (and kills my wallet). If you are at all interested in early pre-Capitol recordings of Nat King Cole, Resonance Records is set to release a nearly-200-song anthology of music, which will be the first complete collection of Cole’s pre-Capitol recordings. Word on the street is that it's probably going to be the 7-CD/10-LP collection to get. Arriving on November 1st.

08 | August

31 | I have become a lazy sod. Because all the various sound systems at my place support streaming and/or USB, I have taken to downloading one-, two- or even three-hour mixes from YouTube, which I can then just throw on and not move for said amount of time. One day, I'll end up like those obese humans in WALL-E. Currently, I'm enjoying, for example, the two-hour melodic progressive house mix of "Shingo Nakamura".

30 | I hate designers. One of the worst things about the mobile version of Microsoft Outlook is that it doesn't collapse convoluted folder structures but lists each folder and subfolder separately ... and then has the nerve to add important system folders at the end of said list. Happy scrolling.

29 | A bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall, put up a sign in the shop window which couldn't be more appropriate: "Please note: The post-apocalyptical fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs." (link)

28 | I'm old-school. I like Bill Maher, a sharp-witted man with an agenda I can often agree with, but trampling on an enemy's grave is just extremely awful taste. Talking about David Koch, a man whom I sincerely disliked and whom I tried to ignore as much as possible, Maher said: "He and his brother have done more than anybody to fund climate science deniers for decades, so f@ck him. The Amazon is burning up. I'm glad he's dead and I hope the end was painful." That is the kind of (political) discourse that will take / is already taking us back into the Dark Ages.

27 | On the day I was born, the United States launched the Mariner 2 space probe, which flew past Venus the following December. I've been a space buff ever since.

26 | I've always been more of a Star Trek guy (with the new "Star Trek: Picard" series in the pipeline), but those two new Star Wars trailers for the film and the series look pretty darn cool: "Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker" (official trailer) | "The Mandalorian" (official trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series)

25 | I'm a 100% sure that 99.9% of the people didn't notice, don't care and couldn't be bothered, but Facebook canned the "Epoch Times'" massive attempt to support Trump via 1.5 million dollars worth of Facebook ads. Not surprisingly, "Epoch Times" is, amongst others, a front for the Chinese Fallun Gong "movement" (which moved those ads to other pages, like "Honest Paper", "Patriots of America", "Pure American Journalism" and "Best News" [note the, uhm, interesting names]).

24 | Having been on holidays in Spain many times in my life, I support "The Kellys", who went on strike for a full day yesterday, protesting the exploitative working conditions at hotels in their country.

23 | If you happen to have any of these CDs at home, you might be able to secure some serious cash.

22 | Bill Burr, my favorite comedian, talking about groups allowed to pre-board at airports nowadays: "I saw this guy get on a plane. He wasn't in uniform, he didn't have kids, he had all his limbs, he wasn't limping, he didn't have a cough ... he just walked on the plane and I said 'Who the f*ck is THAT guy?'". (YouTube: Bill Burr’s Issues With The Airline Boarding Process).

21 | Underwater looks like a mix between "Aliens" and "The Abyss". Might just be my kind of film. Coming to a theater near you on January 10, 2020.

20 | I already flew to Mars with the last mission (I've been a Martian since August 30, 2015, and have collected 614,810,630 frequent flyer miles so far) and decided to fly along with the 2020 mission as well. Here's your chance to do the same: "Send your name to Mars" (until Sept. 30, 2019, 11:59 p.m. ET).

19 | Cool video: "Light Year & Milky Way - NASA Video".

18 | I have - after a recent culling -11TB of (legal) music. Is that too much?

17 | On Instagram, I've met a ton of people who are as crazy as I am, probably have relationship issues, don't know where to put their music ... and are in danger of having to choose. I love them all. :-)

16 | Today, I met a student whom I hadn't seen for at least 10 to 15 years or more. It was like yesterday. Life is like that.

15 | Samsung has decided to get rid of the headphone jack on those Note 10 gadgets. They used to make fun of Apple doing that ... and then deleted all of the references to those videos. For a HiFi- and video freak, a dongle just doesn't cut it. Neither does a notch. There are simply too many hipsters around today who wouldn't even object if you removed the screen from their treasured mobile phones.

14 | One of my favorite YouTube channels is the one that Martin Miller keeps. Martin Miller is an exceptional guitarist and musician who records a seemingly endless stream of excellent videos (in his library-like studio), featuring a whole slew of studio cracks that are way above your average suspects. You really should check them out! And one of Europe's best drummers, Felix Lehrmann, is a fixture in those recordings. It doesn't get much better than this!

13 | Today I managed to accidentally tip over a full glass of red wine which, of course, spilled into the (brand new) backpack that was standing immediately below the scene of the crime. And that was just the beginning of a bad stretch.

12 | Hollywood rarely does it for me these days. Today, 99.9% of the films I watch are "off the grid". But "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" was one of the best films I have watched these past many months (there are more, quite a few, but I'll keep those for future posts).

11 | Ages ago, I decided to leave most social networks behind (I'm still around Instagram). Reason? I got seriously tired of elderly angry white men (and very few women) dominating every single exchange. It is amazing how many of the people I followed - who used to have something to say - turned into misanthropic individuals. Life's too short.

10 | I've been following Kinga Glyk - a 22 year-old, I think, bass player from Poland - for quite a while now. She has that special tone and talent for groove that already raises her above most of the other players I often come across. On YouTube, check out, for example, these three fun cover snippets, "Earth Wind & Fire - September", "Charlie Puth - LA Girls" and "Bruno Mars - Finesse". She's also well-versed in other genres. Have a look at a snippet from the 2017 album production "Difficult Choices" or her trio's cover of "Donna Lee". Definitely someone to watch.

09 | The next extreme heatwave is crawling in again and before it hits us full force, a colleague and I enjoyed a long lunch at our favorite restaurant. There was a guy sitting behind us with a T-shirt that I thought was quite funny: "Pink Freud - The Dark Side of Your Mom" (on the T-shirt, a portrait of Freud basically replaces the Pink Floyd prism on the DotM cover). I really had to laugh and thought it was quite original, but a quick Internet search uncovered approximately three trillion variations (of course). Still, funny. I often wonder though (as an old friend of mine used to say:) "Who the hell comes up with this sh*t?" Is there job description available? :-D

08 | Amazon is cornering the online book market with a 72% (and more) share. As a result, author's earnings are dropping, sometimes dramatically, and Amazon is pretty much free to demand, for example, horrendous "stocking fees" from self-publishing authors and to force global publishers to reduce production costs. Amazon also owns "Goodreads" and "Audible", something I didn't know. Not a good development.

07 | German "Spiegel Online" doesn't want people to withdraw from public debates because it hurts the democratic process. I don't care. I withdrew years ago because the culture of debate has changed so fundamentally that I'd rather stick a fork into my eye.

06 | The "Loudness War" is far from over. Santana's most recent "Africa Speaks" has zero dynamics, Toto's "XIV" had equally horrible mastering, and so did Van Halen's "A Different Kind of Truth". No wonder. All the musicians involved are too old to have even average hearing capabilities.

05 | Ever since Facebook bought Instagram, it has turned into sh*t show of equal proportions. Every fourth post is an ad and more are on the way or already implemented, drafts work or they don't, the algorithm(s) suck. The usual failure that immediately comes to mind when I think "Mark Zuckerberg".

04 | When Ken Burns' "Jazz" arrived on the scene, both TV series and book, jazz fans were up in arms, and rightly so. Some even went so far as to describe how "Ken Burns Murdered Jazz". Years later, "The Greatest Tootle" is still the funniest and pointedly accurate summary of the gobbledegook people like Wynton Marsalis, master of revisionist history, and Stanley Crouch, disliked across most jazz boards, vomited onto screens across the globe.

03 | Dust is this wonderful science fiction short-film channel (also on Youtube) that produces consistently good films and series that with a short running time still manage to top 90% of what Hollywood produces. Have a look at a random selection: Zero | FTL | The Black Hole | The Ocean Maker (animated).

02 | Privacy and data protection are important, but the EU has created the usual data protection monster ("General Data Protection Regulation") that hardly anyone understands, nobody in his right mind would want to research in detail and most courts have not even tested yet. My privacy page is longer than anything I have ever written and, to be quite honest, I know it will not stand up in court because it was meant to harness global players, not your average bloggers with 7 readers.

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