April 24, 2012

Random Wiki Article - List of Unusual Deaths

I have, on the random occasion, sat and pondered about how I would die (assuming that Jehovah's day doesn't come before then), and I wondered that after I died how many people would be bothered to come to my funeral, not that I really want one to be held in my name. I personally don't find it appealing nor worth the trouble for others to summarize my uneventful life.

I'd imagine whether I would die from some incurable sickness, purely from old age, some traffic accident, overdose in caffeine, a heart attack, or maybe choking on my food. This afternoon, one of my friends posted in his news feed the following link to the Wikipedia article on a list of unusual deaths. This article kept me entertained for almost one hour.

It turns out that people have died from:
  • choking on a piece of hair while drinking milk;
  • a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing;
  • attacked by a Cassowary;
  • a broken neck when the owner's long scarf got caught in the wheels of a car;
  • two strokes after reading a negative premature obituary of himself;
  • drank himself to death with carrot juice;
  • alcohol intoxication after immersion for twelve hours in a bathtub filled with 40% ethanol.  It was believed that she had immersed herself as a response to the SARS epidemic;
  • collapsed of fatigue and died after playing the videogame StarCraft online for almost 50 consecutive hours;
  • drowned after his kayak was capsized by a swan, which then proceeded to block him from escaping to shore.

So, how will you die?

PSotD - Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor

Title: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18 Mvt. 1 - Moderato
Composer: Sergei Rachmaninoff
Performed by: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Fritz Reiner
Piano: Arthur Rubinstein
Year: Composed 1900-1901
Notes: The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, is a concerto for piano and orchestra, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901. The second and third movements were first performed with the composer as soloist on 2 December 1900. The complete work was premiered, again with the composer as soloist, on 27 October 1901, with his cousin Alexander Siloti conducting.

This piece is one of Rachmaninoff's most enduring popular pieces, and established his fame as a concerto composer. he opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tolling on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme.

In this first section, the orchestra carries the Russian-character melody while the piano makes an accompaniment made of arpeggios riddled with half steps. After the statement of the long first theme, a quicker transition follows until the more lyrical second theme, in E flat major, is presented. The agitated and unstable development borrows motives from both themes changing keys very often and giving the melody to different instruments while a new musical idea is slowly formed. The music builds in a huge climax as if the work was going to repeat the first bars of the work, but the recapitulation is going to be quite different.

While the orchestra restates the first theme, the piano, that in the other occasion had an accompaniment role, now plays the march-like theme that had been halfway presented in the development, thus making a considerable readjustment in the exposition, as the main theme, played by the orchestra has become an accompaniment. This is followed by a piano solo, which leads into a descending chromatic passage and concluding with an eerie french horn solo. From here the last minutes of the movement are placid until drawn into the agitated coda, and the piece ends in C minor fortissimo.

Quotes from Max Harrison's "Rachmaninoff: Life, Works, Recordings" and Geoffrey Norris' "The Master Musicians: Rachmaninoff"

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943)

Google Drive Release Imminent

By now many people may have already heard about Google's solution against popular cloud storage services such as DropBox and Box. Google Drive is definitely in development and should be released soon. According to some sources, consumers using this new service will get 5GB of storage for free. In addition, users can also purchase additional storage capacity to a maximum of 100GB for a monthly fee.

Google will be looking to target both consumers and businesses with Google Drive. The new service will take advantages of most of the cloud services we have used in the past such as Gmail, Google Images, Google Docs and Google+. No one is certain of the release date but every seems to say its bound to be released this week. 

As a huge Google fanboy, I have already closed down my DropBox and Box accounts and currently using Ubuntu One as my cloud storage service. If Google Drive supports Linux on release date, I will definitely switch over from Ubuntu One. As of now, we play the waiting game. One question remains: Will you be switching to Google Drive?

Anime Review: Grave of the Fireflies

Another great classic anime by Studio Ghibli once again. Grave of the Fireflies is another touching story that will definitely affect your emotions one way or another.

Grave of the FirefliesSynopsis:
In the aftermath of a World War II bombing, two orphaned children struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside. To Seita and his four year old sister, the helplessness and indifference of their countrymen is even more painful than the enemy raids. Through desperation, hunger and grief, these children's lives are as heartbreakingly fragile as their spirit and love is inspiring.

What would you do if you lived through World War II and the family you have left is your sister. What would you do? The story of Seita protecting and caring for his sister and himself whilst encountering helplessness, desperation, hunger and grief, is one that will break your heart. Grave of the Fireflies is not a fairy tale despite Seita's attempts to make Setsuko think that they are living in one. The film sadly follows their lives in this bunker where they don't battle soldiers and warmongers, but try to battle scabs, starvation and sorrow. In an interesting light, despite the very graphic and violent scenes that the movie opens with, the rest of the movie does not deal with fighting and war, but more of the war's impact on these two children. As you watch you will feel a sense of attachment to the pair as they struggle to the end.

Art and animation for this movie are truly beautiful even though the film was made in the '80s; yet it still looks amazing. The film is gruesomely detailed, showing the exact look of a body burned beyond recognition, the little nits and lice that thrive from destitute and unhygienic living conditions, the bones pressing against skin that has been denied nourishment. There's something darkly, hauntingly beautiful about the artwork for this anime. The character design is realistic, and watching Seita and Setsuko, well, it could be any two Japanese children. Which I think means a lot more in the grander picture: how many boys and girls just like them have been victims of the second World War? Possibly more than we truly want to know.

Grave of the Fireflies has an excellent soundtrack. The technical aspects of this film are near perfection. The score utilises melancholy sounds, but it understands the quality of silence just as well. There are few silent scenes in anime that have managed to bombard a listeners' very emotions. But where there is no vitality, where there is no life, then there is no sound. And when it's all over, the bustle and noise of life continuing swells and crashes. Grave of the Fireflies captures that perfectly.

Seita is truly a hero in all our hearts. His many attempts to save his sister, Setsuko, really encourages us to motivate ourselves in overcoming seemingly impossible problems in life. Setsuko is just naturally cute and innocent. The way that these to interact with each other truly brings out the love between siblings- how one must protect the other. The characters were few, but the impact was great.

Overall, it was a touching and emotionally saddening film to watch. The horrors of war cannot be fully describe in text, and must be shown through beautiful artwork and melancholy music. It is one film that you will not forget even after you have watched it a long time ago. It really impacted me and I definitely will not forget the film. Another great masterpiece by Studio Ghibli.

A touching story of brother and sister surviving in the aftermath of war.

ART: 8
Beautifully illustrated and animated.

An excellent soundtrack that indirectly affects the viewer's emotions.

Charming and cute characters that will sure to leave an imprint in your memory.

It is truly a tragic film, its sad but enjoyable.

Another great film by Studio Ghibli that successfully brings out the horror of war.

Ubuntu 12.10 Named ‘Quantal Quetzal’

Ubuntu 12.10 finally has a codename -  Quantal Quetzal.

Writing (in lavish quantities of alliteration) on his blog, Mark Shuttleworth gave reasoning behind the codename for the Ubuntu 12.10 release, which, he says, will largely focus around ‘Quality’.

"Quality comes from focus and clarity of purpose, it comes from careful design and rigorous practices."

And, in order to live up to the ‘resplendent’ bird it’s named after, Shuttleworth says:

"Q will be all about style on the client, with a refresh of our theme and typography, a start on new iconography and perhaps even a new form factor taking flight."