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Posts posted by ubernym

  1. Please note that the following statements are in relation to "popular" music, which is defined as modern music, typically with a singer. I'm not including concert music (i.e. classical/chamber/orchestra/etc) or jazz music in my comments, because I think that it would be unfair to compare Britney Spears to Miles Davis, or Nickelback to Kronos Quartet. There is a certain amount of high-mindedness associated with "non-pop" music, and we're not having a conversation about that right now.

    The mechanics of listening to music are universal, but the reasons are not. Justifications of individual taste are rarely helpful, because each of us has a unique perspective.

    For example, I have a friend who likes a lot of different pop music, but the common thread that ties all of his likes/dislikes together is whether or not the music has a charismatic singer with compelling lyrics.

    I also like a lot of different music, and my friend and I have many similar likes. The key difference is that I'm not as interested in lyrics and singers as he is. Sure I appreciate them, but because I'm a musician and because I'm a hobbyist in music production, my reasons for enjoying a song extend beyond good lyrics and into the realm of production values, arrangement, instrumentation, etc. I look at the whole picture, and I can enjoy a well produced, well played song even if the lyrics are shiny and vapid. My friend cannot do the same, however he can enjoy some pretty terrible guitar playing and even worse production values if the singer has something interesting to say.

    Is my approach to music enjoyment better or more accurate than my friend's? Not even a little. He has some very good arguments for why lyrics matter so much, and I think I have some good arguments for why arrangement and production matter so much.

    It doesn't matter.

    The material point is that we're both thinking about why music matters to us, and that we've considered the reasons we enjoy it. Nobody is right, and nobody is wrong. Music is firmly an aesthetic choice, and the factors which play into our personal enjoyment of a song are as individual and unique as our personalities and the histories which formed us.

    I am a musician, and can enjoy music in many forms simply for the sake of its musical qualities. My friend is a writer and a poet, and he appreciates music with a literary keen to it. My wife is an actress and a singer, and she enjoys music of the theater above all else. My dad was an aspiring filmmaker when he was a kid and is such a movie buff, and he loves movie soundtracks and any kind of music that paints a cinematic image. My brother-in-law is very athletic and loves to dance, and he tends to enjoy any song with a driving beat. Another friend of mine is a seriously good guitar player and he really loves jam bands and guitar jazz. Most visitors to this site are or were serious video gamers at some point and we enjoy hearing interpretations of musical themes from our favorite video games.

    Live and let live, and if you think that some genre of music or the majority of offerings within that genre are irredeemably bad, that's fine. You're entitled to that opinion. If you start judging people who listen to something of which you don't approve, and you start calling those people names just because they don't like the same music as you, or because they have different, maybe even more superficial reasons for liking music than you do... do you really think you're accomplishing something by riding the high horse?

  2. Wait, what? Masamune had a different name in the original Japanese? I've heard nothing of this. (The Gurus and Ozzie/Flea/Slash I did know about, though.)

    According to wikipedia:

    "Grand" and "Leon" in the Japanese version creating the sword "Grandleon."

    ...which is pretty lame, and I'm glad they changed it.

    Also, I'm about 8 hours in and its awesome. I personally like the new localization. It seems in many ways more mature and subtle.

    Oh man I haven't had this much fun in ages!

  3. I bought it. Funny thing, I've never bought Chrono Trigger in any of its other iterations. First time I played it was when I borrowed it from a friend. Second time, was on (ahem) a SNES emulator. And then I played it on my brother's PS1.

    Even on the emulator, it felt..not quite right, and the PS1 version load times were irritating to say the least. So for me, $40 for one of my all time favorite games is well worth it.

    Now we just need to convince the powers that be to release a Mother trilogy on DS. I'd gladly pay $100 for that.

  4. Great job everyone! I also appreciated the critiques, and only feel bad that I never had time to vote. Being a new father with two jobs is a little hard on my schedule.

    Blue.Nocturne: I noticed you had a problem with a chord that was a little dissonant. If only I had time to fine tune this piece. I sent it in as a pretty rough draft. It was one of those chords that sounded really great stretched out across my piano, and it didn't really translate well into strings only. I should had added some other instruments to layer the chord better.

    I also appreciate the more technically-minded comments about EQ and reverb. Always helpful!

    Even though I didn't get to vote, I would have voted for Maquis as the winner. That piece was excellent! Gave me chills, and fit your description very well. I read the story to my wife and then she listened to the piece and it actually brought a tear to her eye. That's good writing!


    I also agree that there wasn't a bad egg in the basket for this theme. Great job everyone. I can't wait for the next theme (hope I'll have time) and I hope we get this much turnout next time.

  5. I'm a sentimental sap. At least when it comes to books, music and film/plays. Though I rarely cry when real life is involved. When it's real, the tragedy of it is to overwhelming for tears and I just get quiet and numb. My family ridicules me for this.

    But oh man, if I had a nickel for every time a song has made me cry, I'd have like $13.50 or something.

    I tend to cry in movies if there's a certain convocation of music and the moment. But if we're just talking individual pieces of music, here are a few that stand out in my mind the most:

    1. Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland. But it has to be the fully orchestrated, full ballet version, not the medley suite version most people know. There is a big damn difference. I first heard this piece on a plane from Denver to Dallas. There's this moment right at the beginning where the winds are building on these add9/sus4+4 (or something) cluster chords and there's some solo violins drifting over the top... I was visibly weeping in my coach class seat. As soon as we landed I bought the CD. That was about ten years ago and it's one of my favorite recordings still.

    2. Leonard Bernstein's Mass, by Leonard Bernstein. At the very end. I listened to this whole broadway style catholic mass, which was full of all kinds of shocking and offensive lyrics. It's this journey from religious ritual into debauchery (and the idea that the two are not far removed from each other to begin with) and then back into faith and hope. And it's that moment at the end when you think that people are way to messed up and that they've ruined everything and then this child starts singing, and everyone joins in this very simple, very hopeful chorus. I cried like a baby.

    3. Keith Jarret's performance at La Scala. So Keith Jarrett is this great jazz pianist who occasionally does these all-improv concerts which are recorded. One time he's at La Scala in Milan (I think it's in Milan) and he's doing his thing and there's this moment of intensity followed by utter musical bliss. I remember I was sitting on my best friend's living room floor while listening to this, trying to hide my tears.

    I also have an album of christmas carols sung by the Cambridge Singers which usually chokes me up, and Arvo Part's works are quite emotionally disturbing to me. Also when my wife and I saw the musical version of Little Women, and there's this part when the sickly, soon to be dead little Beth is playing the piano and singing this stupid song about going to the bay or something but the whole setup of it just dissolved us both into blubbering idiots.

    Carousel made me cry too. Again at the end, when the deadbeat dad is up in heaven realizing what a moron he was. It's so sad!

    I'm barely scratching the surface here.

    I'm a big crybaby. Don't hit me!

  6. Let me clarify my view, also. It's possible that my word count is off too, but you (Imagery) said that you couldn't post the entry because it was too long by a mere 14 characters...so imagine if he were to try and whittle down the entry even a little bit. Then we would be able to have all the entries actually in the thread, which is a lot easier (IMHO) to parse out when it comes time to review everything.

    So I'm looking at this from a rules perspective and a simple ease-of-use perspective.

    I'm also looking at this from a trying-to-help-a-fellow-writer perspective, because I think asking Zeality to try and shave off a few extra words accomplishes something else for his benefit, in that is forces him to look for things in his piece that might not be as good as the rest. Again, I'll cite Ernest Hemingway:

    “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

  7. At the risk of sounding utterly pedantic, Zeality's entry is over the 2500 word limit. It's not over by much, only about 60 words, but those 60 words would make the difference between being able to post the entry in the forum...

    Would it be so terrible to ask Zeality to trim the entry to fit with the rules of the competition? I don't want to discourage participation so if that is too unbearable a request than feel free to disregard my suggestion. But really, everyone else played by the rules and it's not unreasonable to ask Zeality to make a slight revision...I'm sure he could find 60 unnecessary words in his piece.

    It might even increase his chances of winning (remember Hemingway)!

    I'm just a humble participant, so if I'm out of line you can just ignore me.

    Now if you'll excuse me I need to re-apply the masking tape on the bridge of my glasses. *snort*

  8. The Golden Zither, by Ubernym

    The palace garden was quiet in the noon sun, and Ying Gangsheng frowned.

    “My garden is a puzzle,” he said. “It grieves me.”

    Han Wa was silent. This was his talent: to speak only when addressed, and to be cunning for his master. He kept his head bowed, looked at the garden. The ground was yellow dirt and yellow grasses. The trees, though he could only see their trunks from this angle, were dusty and dry. Old bones of the earth.

    “What can be done about my garden, Han Wa?”

    Han Wa lifted his head a little. “It is said, my lord, that there is a great wizard who travels the land. He possesses a magical instrument. I have heard that he plays upon this instrument to make the fields grow for the poor.” Han Wa bowed his head again.

    “Superstition is for peasants,” said Ying Gangsheng, “and I am the emperor.” He walked to a tree, dry and fat with knots. He placed his hand on the trunk and closed his eyes, breathing deep and slow. He looked to Han Wa like a monk trying to channel the tree’s spirit. But the emperor’s eyes were hungrier than a monk’s, and Han Wa saw no peace in them.

    The emperor turned to Han Wa and said: “What will the people think if I seek a wizard with a magical instrument?”

    Han Wa knew Ying Gangsheng’s true meaning. “I will be discreet, my lord.”


    Years passed. Emperor Ying Gangsheng made conquests and killed many sons. His coffers grew fat and the borders on his maps expanded. Still his garden remained fallow, and still the wizard was not found.

    In the first year, Han Wa had sent three of the emperor’s best scouts to find the wizard. Only one returned. His eyes were full of sadness. In second year, Han Wa had sent nine of the emperor’s finest scouts. Three returned. Their eyes were also full of sadness.

    In the third year, Ying Gangsheng said this to Han Wa: “Perhaps this wizard does not exist.” Han Wa again knew the true meaning behind the emperor’s words. Failure was unacceptable. He had only one choice.

    “I will go and find this wizard” said Han Wa, “and I will not return until I have found him.” He left that night.


    Han Wa left and he was gone for a year. The emperor killed more sons, though he made fewer conquests. He eventually believed that Han Wa was too ashamed to return. He thought about burning his barren garden to the ground.


    One evening an old man approached the palace grounds. He was very old. He walked slow and his back stooped a little because he leaned on a stick. His face carried the wrinkles and lines of great age. He looked like a very old tree, knotted and gnarled and creaking.

    Strapped across his back in a weathered case was the form of a zither.

    “Hold!” a palace guard barked at the old man as he approached the gate. It was hard to tell if the old man had actually stopped, he moved so slow. The guard hefted his pike and stomped the ground. He said: “What do you want old man?”

    The old man’s eyes were beady pearls, glittering darkly under the millennial folds of his brow. He nodded and opened his palm in some lost gesture of peace unfathomable to the guard.

    “My name is Su Tan,” he said. “I am only a poor musician. I have come to play for the emperor.” He brought the case round from his back and opened it a little. The soldier caught his breath a little as he saw a a glint of gold and strings.

    The soldier regained his composure, remembering his duty. He relaxed his grip on the pike, and nodded, “The emperor expects you. Follow me.”

    At this time of day the emperor was in his dining hall, eating his evening meal. The table was spread with every kind of food in the kingdom, enough to feed a hundred men. The emperor ate alone.

    He did not look up from his meal, but he knew who the old man was. “You are the wizard my advisor told me about.,” he said. Su Tan only gazed at the emperor as he ate. After a long pause, the emperor Ying Gangsheng spit out a bone and slammed his fist on the table. “I am your emperor! I have addressed you and demand an answer!”

    “My name is Su Tan,” he said. “I am only a humble musician, and I have come to play music in your garden.”

    “Then I will take you to my garden now.” Ying Gangsheng’s temper eased as he rose from the table. Two guards appeared from the shadows and flanked the old man as they walked to the garden.

    They entered the garden and the emperor dismissed the guards. “I have nothing to fear from an old man with a zither,” he said. “He probably isn’t even a wizard!” Emperor Ying Gangsheng scoffed. Su Tan smiled a little, his dark eyes twinkling.

    “Well get on with it, old man!” said emperor Ying Gangsheng, growing impatient. “I have waited too many years for this moment.”

    The old wizard Su Tan said nothing. He moved to the center of the dead garden and sat down in lotus form. He took his zither out of the old sack. Its gold body burned deep in the light of the setting sun. He laid it across his lap and for a moment the silence in the air was like a thousand sleeping monsoons. Even the emperor was still.

    The first finger plucked the first string. A note sang out soft and low. It resonated in the walls and the trunks of the dead trees. The string vibrated and the emperor thought he saw golden dust bouncing off of the quivering string, like pollen from a flower.

    Another note was struck, followed by another, and another. The air changed. Su Tan played a haunting melody that twisted and grew with each passing note. And as each note sprung from the golden zither, the garden began to grow.

    First the grass shook, then leaves sprouted on the trees. Flowers erupted from bare patches of dirt and vines snaked across the walls. The tree trunks writhed as their bark changed from dusty grays to deep browns sticky with sap. The whole garden was alive. It was beautiful and terrible and miraculous.

    The song ended and Su Tan sat in peace, eyes closed. A vine had begun growing across his feet.

    Emperor Ying Gangsheng was awe-struck. His garden had never been so beautiful. Its beauty reminded him of a blackness in his own heart which he had never been able to satisfy. Now, for the first time, he began to feel the blackness receding, and he wanted more. He wanted to quench the blackness in his heart for good.

    Ying Gangsheng eyed the golden zither. “Old man,” he said, “it is clear to me that you are no great wizard, but your golden zither holds all the magic. No peasant like you could have obtained such an instrument but by theft. No doubt this belongs to more worthy hands. You will give it to me.”

    Su Tan’s eyes darkened. He set his grip on the zither and said to the emperor: “It is not for you. You are the least worthy of all men to play this instrument, and I will not give it to you.” Su Tan stood and began packing the zither back into the sack.

    Ying Gangsheng was outraged. “You dare insult the emperor!” He advanced and drew his sword. Su Tan ignored him. “If you will not give me the zither, then I will take it from you!”

    With two deft strokes the emperor cut the old man down to the earth. Su Tan lay in a heap at Ying Gangsheng’s feet. Some of the old man’s blood had sprayed across the emperor’s robes, etching deep stains into the fabric.

    The golden zither had been cast aside, and lay nestled in the new underbrush. It gleamed in the twilight. Emperor Ying Gangsheng grabbed the instrument and clutched it close to his breast, feeling its warmth, thirsting after its power.

    He sat in the grass and laid the zither across his bloodied lap. Ying Gangsheng was not as masterful as Su Tan, but as emperor he was musically trained and new the instrument’s workings. He plucked a string, felt it vibrate and spread across the garden.

    He began to play a simple melody he remembered from his youth. It was not as beautiful as the old man’s melody, but the effect was unmistakable. The garden grew and grew and grew with each note, flowers springing, tendrils curling and trunks expanding.

    The emperor was enthralled.

    He was so entranced with the power flowing from the golden zither and the endless growing of the garden that he did not at first notice the change it had wrought upon him. Just as the zither sang and the garden sprang forth with new life, Ying Gangsheng’s body began to shift.

    He felt his skin drying, tightening, and then slackening, as if he was being stretched and pulled like soft wax. His movements began to slow, became more deliberate and more fluid. His vision dimmed. He felt colder.

    Still he played on.


    Late that night, Han Wa returned from his journey. He knew he had failed. He was ashamed, and thought he might kill himself. But Han Wa was honorable, and did not seek to escape the wrath of his master. He knew he must make a full account to the emperor.

    He approached the gate. Han Wa declared himself and was allowed to pass. He enquired where he might find the emperor, and the guard said, “The emperor is in his garden with a man who plays a golden zither.”

    Han Wa’s eyes widened and he rushed to the garden. If the guard’s report was true, he might be spared. As he neared the garden walls, a faint melody filled his ears. It was a simple child’s melody, but it was filled with power and mystery. Surely this must be the great wizard, he thought.

    The garden was dark, lit only by the stars and moon. It was full of greens and blues and purples and the verdant shade of night. It quivered with life. Han Wa was sure this was the fabled player.

    A dark figure sat in the center of the garden, crouched over a golden zither. Beside the player lay a lifeless heap. Fear struck Han Wa’s heart. He approached the player. To his horror, he saw an old man, ruined and wrinkled beyond recognition, with milky eyes and gray whiskers.

    Han Wa saw that the old man was wearing the emperor’s robes, and the robes were stained with blood. He rushed to the old man and shook him. “What have you done!” he cried. The old man looked up, startled, as if he had been under a spell.

    The music stopped, and the garden was silent. The old man tried to speak but only croaked. Han Wa pushed the old man aside and moved to inspect the lifeless heap. It was only a pile of peasant’s robes. “What have you done with the emperor’s body!” Han Wa shouted at the old man. The old man tried to speak again, smacking his lips like a fish out of water.


    The old man had killed the emperor, this much was clear. Though they never found the body, the old man was executed for treason in front of the imperial palace. The emperor was dead, but the garden continued to grow as all gardens do.

    The emperor had left no heir, and the brothers of the sons that had been slain by the emperor Ying Gangsheng fought for the right to the throne. The country dissolved into warring states and the imperial palace was abandoned. It fell into disrepair.

    The garden grew. One day it overtook the final wall of the palace.


    Many years later, as a peasant wandered through an ancient forest in search of firewood, he spotted a shining thing beneath a fallen tree. He knelt at the fallen tree and pulled at the object.

    It sparkled and burned bright through the green-dappled sunlight. He plucked the only remaining string. It was a quiet note, but the peasant almost thought he could hear the ancient forest reverberate that golden tone all the way to the heavens.

    He hid the zither back beneath the tree and never told a living soul.

  9. Okay, I've submitted the next theme, so get ready!

    I'm also in favor of changing the thread title to the full name of the competition. It may affect search purposes, but these threads are time sensitive and get the best exposure as we post in them and keep them on the main page of OCR. Might get some curious visitors if they see the full name of the compo on the front page instead of a cryptic acronym.

    Just my two farthings...

  10. Personally, I often try to start completely fresh with these competitions, not using any "old ideas". I do this not because I think it's cheating (I don't), but because it forces me to be really creative.

    My last entry was completely made up and written and completed within about four hours. Is it my best work? Probably not, but the point was for me to do one thing from concept to complete. Even though I won the compo, it wouldn't have mattered to me if I was dead last because practice itself was so rewarding.

    So while it may be within the rules to write something from your originally authored universe, I would personally recommend NOT doing that and forcing yourself to do something completely original, even if you're worried it might not be that good.

    Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but I view these competitions as opportunities to really practice the craft of writing, specifically the important skills of expediency and flexibility.

  11. Gray was one classy dude.

    Not to be morbid, but the death possibility isn't so far-fetched.

    Example: My best friend committed suicide several years ago, and nobody knew about it on the net, except for here, when I made a thread about it in UnMod. But he wasn't a member here so it wasn't obvious, and UnMod was a private forum, and I never mentioned any of his online names. Last time I checked his blog was still up and his gmail account was still active, or at least gmail didn't return a test message I sent (I was curious). If someone knew him by an internet alias, there would be know way of knowing that he was dead, as he kept both worlds far apart from each other. In fact, I was the ONLY person who even knew that he had an internet presence in the final year of his life.

    It's already been said that GL was very private online, and it wouldn't surprise me if he is equally private offline, so if something happened to him, nobody who knows him offline would even realize that people in a forum on a website might want to know about it.

    That's the craziness of the internet: it's created a bifurcated reality. We create these topical communities and they evolve into structures that seem so much like a real neighborhood we sometimes take for granted how much of it is an elaborate facade.

    You call me Ubernym, but none of my friends even know that I have a username like that. If I died or was somehow unable to get online, nobody in my circle of friends or family would even consider telling you guys about it, or anyone else online for that matter (not to say that I'm like GL, or that anyone would really even care if I disappeared from OCR, I'm obviously not).

    GL once told me to keep a secret too, but it was pretty mundane and had nothing to do with his current absence.


    1. Death

    2. Workaholic

    3. New username, internet identity emancipation

    4. Just doesn't care anymore about this community

    5. Moved to a country with no internet access. Like maybe he's living butt-naked in the Amazon drinking hallucinogenic herbs with a shaman

    The simple fact remains that we will probably never know, unless someone gets serious goes all Matlock on our asses. That would probably be inappropriate and disrespectful of one who so jealously guarded his online privacy.

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