As usual, if someone wants to see these pictures and does not have the necessary secret incantations that the swerver will require, just drop me a note.
Nope, this is not about Oscar Wilde. It's just a quick note, mainly to myself, about the huge importance of a simple, earnest, face-to-face or maybe mind-to-mind talk every once in a while. The wonderful feeling of picking up a messy, tangled ball of yarn, then slowly, methodically unraveling it, inch by inch, thread by thread, and then seeing that it has nicely come apart into a few long, straight, shiny separate threads, none of them torn up, none of them damaged in any way. The breath of relief when you finally know where you stand, and the nagging doubts and ambiguities haunting more than one person for a couple of weeks are conjured away once and for all. The delight and more relief of having really managed to steer off a very improbable, but even so faintly possible in a very dark scenario, course that would wreck lives, a course that would end up with people walking in darkness as destruction lay around us. The warm feeling of having gained a true friend and lost... nothing really, nothing but a whole slew of dark thoughts and doubts in your own sanity.
Life is good again - it has been some kind of wonderful recently, but it is even better now. Well, okay, so it is not perfect - but then, if it were perfect, it would be no fun at all, right? Ask Dr. Faustus for a second opinion, if you won't take my word :) Once again, thanks, you know who you are, for actually bringing it up! And... thanks, you ought to know who you are, for the unbelievable patience, trust, and restraint!
Okay, now I'm really off to sleep, lest Vasil's anger strike me down for using nearly-terminal tiredness as an excuse for weaseling out of an invitation to his place, even flavored with an offer to sleep over ;)
In the spirit of Dune:
Cameron was my friend. He may not have known it, but he was. He taught me that a life worth living is a life worth sharing with others - family, friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers. He taught me that a moment worth living is a moment worth giving to others - with no thought of ever receiving anything in return. He would not spare time or energy, he would devote more effort than anyone thought possible to just being there and helping other people along - even people he had never met, people he would never meet, people to whom he was just a name - we were all people to him, and he was there for us.
I will remember Cameron.
And here I was, just about to write "The more things change, the more they stay the same" - which they do, there's no denying it. Come to think of it, I did write it, too, didn't I now? Yet suddenly, it seems that the quote in the title (which I chose for this entry's title the moment I heard it in the movie, about an hour ago) seems much more appropriate; along with another one, of course.
"Welcome to the human race!" And what a race it is, indeed!
Believe it or not, spring has arrived! There has been no snow for the past week, there have been pretty much no cold attacks in the past three or four days, there has been a lot of sun and days when you wished you didn't have to stick it out at the office, and longed to grab a couple of pals and run out into the green, into the wilderness, into the quiet realms of Nature... The winter frosts are over, it's time for the spring to bring along the merry shining of the joyful sun!
And while it's true that I may be writing this somewhat under the impression of the just-ended birthday party (nope, not mine, there's still quite some time till that one :), it's definitely not just that - I've seen quite a change in both Nature (weather, flowers, plants) and people's behavior in the past few days. Let's hope that March doesn't hold a whole lot of surprises still to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world, much like the German April - "April, April der weiss night was er will" (April, he doesn't know what he wants). Or even if it does, the secret is out now - springtime is here, if only for a couple of days!
If you are reading this, and you are actually interested in the computers/programming section of this blog, then you probably also know who Bjarne Stroustrup is - if not, take a look at his homepage at AT&T.
However, it's not Stroustrup himself that this entry is concerned with, but rather something he wrote about comparing one programming language to another. In this particular case, he wrote about comparing C++ to any other language, but his points are quite generic and really valid across the board. This is something that *is* worth remembering and bearing in mind the next time someone tries to drag you into a religious war of programming languages.
It's been an amazing week - or rather, ten or eleven days - or rather, ten or eleven 24-hour periods, for some of what was technically termed 'days' was spent in more or less well-deserved rest and sleep, what with the holidays on and around Bulgaria's national holiday, the 3rd of March. For various reasons I put off writing this until the spree was over, and now I'll hopefully remember enough to have something to actually write down. The best thing, the most amazing thing, about it was the combination of wonderful music tightly packed into a somewhat short time period, and all the people I knew, people I thought I knew, people I got to know, and people I think I may have more or less got to know during that time... and if all that sounds crazy, just read on for the music part - it is usually the easiest part to understand ;)
It all started on a Thursday - February 24th. The original plan for the day was to let Vasil take me to a Bulgara live gig. However, for various reasons I decided to skip on that particular evening, and to go see some kind of movie instead. So there I was, strolling into the Multiplex cinema complex, walking up to the roster, looking for a movie - pretty much any movie - that would sound like fun -- and then... and then there it was:
I first heard some songs from the Phantom of the Opera back in, oh, something like '89 or '90, I guess - and immediately I was converted. An year or two later I saw one of the movie versions (not sure exactly which one), and the conversion was complete. In the next ten or fifteen years I would catch myself humming or outright singing "Music of the Night" every now and then, or drawing curious stares from people on the street when I'd just up and break into the "man and mystery" verse of the "Phantom of the Opera" song. The two Andrew Lloyd Webber cassette tapes are probably the ones most worn out around the house, since my parents and my sister share the addiction, albeit in a somewhat lighter form :)
And then they go and make a splendid, a brilliant, an awesome new version of the movie! The orchestra... the singing... the sights... the feeling... Well, let's put it this way - if you've never seen this movie or play, and you have at least a little bit of patience for opera music, just go and see it. If you have seen some of the previous versions, or you're among the lucky ones who have seen it live, then - again, just go and see it. In any case, after seeing it, you might understand why I went to see it again a bit later (see below), and why I'm going to see it yet again come Friday or the weekend. Then, of course, there's the question of ordering the DVD when it becomes available - or rather, nope, there is *no* question about it.
On Friday, February 25th, there was nothing much music-wise, but a birthday party instead - Velko, a friend from quite some time ago, gathered a lot of old and new pals at the Cocktail bar (and if there's somebody in Sofia who is reading this and does not know which Cocktail bar I'm talking about... but this is best settled offline, with a visit to the establishment in question :). There sure were a couple of surprises there - some people I'd not seen for a long time and quite looked forward to seeing there, some people I'd not seen for a long time and had absolutely no idea they would be there - actually in at least one case I was certainly not alone in the (pleasant, mind you!) shock of recognition. That party also served as a kind of a finally-let-em-know occassion and a precedent in a way quite closely related to the reason why this blog has not seen many updates in the past month or three, and maybe a liberation of sorts.
Another thing that happened there was that in the end, there were just four or five of us left, mostly people whom I hadn't seen for a while, and it was quite the natural thing to do to invite them to the Bulgara gig on Sunday... once again, see below. This touched off a series of events which ended up as this whole amazing week-or-ten-days-or-ten-24-hour-periods thing :)
Saturday, Feb 26th, was spent in a mostly harmless way - resting at home, listening to this or that CD, fooling around with a couple of FreeBSD ports, reading Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver which I believe I've mentioned before... until the wee hours of the night, when it was time for another piece of music...
A couple of months ago, my cousin Ralitza told me about a musicish movie she'd recently seen - the Bulgarian translation of the title was something like 'The Drummer'. I was like, okay, I'll get 'round to watching it some day. On that Friday, I'd picked it up at the rental, just in case it turned out to be good... and on that Saturday, I opened up the DVD case, took one look at the DVD, and almost screamed - why'd she never told me the original title of the movie! :) That was one that had been on my oughtta-see-real-soon-now list for almost as long, if not longer - but never really got around to asking about it at the rental. The movie is excellent, the acting is excellent, the music is great - if you're into... mmm, okay, pretty much any kind of music that includes drums and particularly drum solos, what the hell *are* you waiting for?
February 27th - Sunday bloody Sunday... Well, okay, this one was not as bloody as the previous one, the 20th, when the final exams for the Perl course were quite an experience to remember - both for us and the, erm, *other* students :P Still, it was kinda related to that occassion, since the afternoon started with a meet-up of a couple of people in my class at FMI - a kind of survivors' party after the finals session :) Then, again, I used my awesome powers of mind control and convinced two fellow students to come along to the Bulgara gig - when I'd actually never seen the band before! And once we were there... Again, I don't know what to say. If you've never heard them, then any description I can give will be awfully inadequate. They play traditional Bulgarian folk instruments - kaval (a kind of a wooden pipe), tambura (something almost like a mandolin, but not quite), gaida (a bagpipe), gydulka (I don't know how to explain that one... but it's a string instrument with a really nice sound), typan (a large drum, usually a goatskin one, I think), other percussions, and a bass guitar. They play variations on traditional Bulgarian folk motives - with a twist, and it's that twist that makes them different. It's not exactly a taste of hard rock, it's not exactly a taste of classical music, it's something more - you have to see it to believe it. As Vasil said, it's pure music for the soul. Suffice it to say that after the end of their first set, nobody had actually noticed that they'd been playing for forty minutes straight - all we knew is that they'd been playing and we'd been listening and now we'd have to wait a couple of minutes until their next set and that'd be a *very* long couple of minutes...
Oh, and when I say nobody, I mean nobody of the people I knew in the audience - the five-sixish ones that'd come since I'd managed to convince them, pretty much bluffing blind, that they'd like it, then there was Vasil, and then - I was surprised, though I shouldn't have been - he'd recruited Emerald and Lina. Actually, I believe it was Lina who first mentioned that on Monday, the very next day, we really ought to be at the Fans club to see Balkandzhi - another band that I'd heard a lot about but never actually seen live. So that's where we ent up on Monday - after I'd pulled another trick at the Network Security lecture and rounded up Drumev (hey, he doesn't have a blog yet, does he now?...). On the way, my cousin Ralitza called, and so the Balkandzhi virus spread even more :)
Ah, you wonder about their music? Well, it's also based on Bulgarian folk motives, but they've definitely added a hard rock feel to it. It's... strange. It's... pleasant. It's... rock. It's... beautiful Bulgarian folk music seen in a new way. It's... worth listening to, over and over again.
Nothing happened on Tuesday ;)
Wednesday... Wednesday is somewhat difficult to describe, what with the way it almost blended into Thursday. In the morning, a sprint across Sofia - FIBank for the university fees, the Musical Theatre for tickets for something you'll read about further down, FMI for the university fees, the Faculty of Physics to shed some of the tickets... The afternoon was a bit quieter - most of it I spent at Bulgaria Online, where Vlado Karavelov shot some trouble with a colocated machine (*grumble*SATA*growl*). We went on to the LUG/FSA/IBB weekly meet-up for a couple of beers and some talk of the "no, we're *really* not going to talk about computers tonight, honest!" type ;) Lina and a friend joined us there, since it had turned out that she'd never actually visited the Cocktail bar and, for various reasons, was interested in giving it a shot (pun almost intended). So on we went, while a couple of friends were already there... then some more came, and the whole thing ended up with a couple of rounds of cards at a friend's place until the not-so-wee hours of the morning. It was a funny feeling - on Bulgaria's national holiday, we watched the sun rise on our way home...
Thursday was peaceful, at least for me, although I turned down a couple of invitations - my mind was made up to rest for the Andrew Lloyd Webber marathon the following day. For Friday, March 4th, brought us - in the Musical Theatre - the first night of...
Yes, that's right, Evita was about to open at 6pm. Before that, though, there was another one - it didn't take me long to convince Drumev, Lina, and a couple of others, that they really, really wanted to see the Phantom of the Opera (remember when I said I'd watch it again, and again, and again...) So on Friday I got up early, got a lift as my father went to watch the Bulgaria - Georgia tennis match for the Davis cup, then walked the other half of the way to the Arena cinema complex at 1:20pm, so I could get in and grab a handful of tickets for the 2:20pm show... and that's when I found I had a Situation Normal on my hands. Drumev and I had spoken about the Phantom on Wednesday, and had settled on going to see it on Friday - and it crossed neither of our minds (or at least what would pass for a mind in a normal person... not so certain in our cases) that Friday is the day that most Bulgarian cinemas pick to change their schedule - and guess what? There was no 2:20pm show, and I don't mean that in the Matrix sense!
After a bit of a discussion and a bit of nagging the (extremely polite) lady at the box office with stupid questions about the number and length of the trailers, we decided to bite the bullet, see the 3:10 show, then run for it. Well, we bought the tickets, we saw the movie, we heard the singing, we loved it - and Drumev accused me of ruining any chance of him going to a live opera performance in the next month, after the bar was raised *that* high.
After that, it was a mad rush to get to the Musical Theatre on time - and we made it! "Evita" was excellent, although there is, as usual, a thing or two to grumble about - like the occassional sluggish acting of the crowd, or a couple of false starts in Ludmila Kozareva's high-pitched songs. But if one starts looking for things to grumble about, there are always a couple to find - and in my opinion, this show was indeed excellent. Afterwards, we - or rather, Drumev and Elen - got a couple of false starts of their own until they hit upon the right ATM and the right street to join us at Krivoto, where Lina was wondering what had happened to Asen's mobile phone. Eventually, he and TheFlash also came along, and the conversation started veering in all kinds of weird directions - and the beer and the rum kept flowing - and we all saw that it was good ;)
Saturday... Saturday was an easy day with a big fat "Tortilla Flat" label on it. No, not exactly Steinbeck's, not the Sofia restaurant, either - I mean the rock band. The band that Elen had been speaking of for a long, long time; the band that I'd heard play once for about half an hour, but I'd been dog-tired by that time and went home, although I liked their playing; the band that can play so many different kinds of music - rock'n'roll, reggae, hard rock, blues, and play them all in a style of their own; the band that was able to get all the people at the Fans club to shout madly for an encore; the band that was able to get all the people at the Fans club to stare in awed silence as they picked up their guitars again and played a faultless "Another Brick In The Wall"; the band that was able to merge "Twist and Shout" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" into a single intense performance; the band that has to be heard to be believed (hint: the Fans club, March 26th ;)
On Sunday I didn't quite manage to wrap up a bit of FreeBSD work in time to visit Drumev for a game of Scrabble, but I did get there in time for the party - and then so did Marin, Velin and Sve, although they were kinda tired and left pretty quickly, and Elen and Lina, who didn't, and a lot of others... That made for a couple of weird moments, when pretty much half of the people at the party had attended the Perl course, and there were a couple of "Aw, no escaping y'all, is there" lines thrown mine and Marin's way, but it all added to the overall experience :) There were a couple of interesting discussions about music, movies, school (not just university level, either), fantasy, roleplaying, and whatnot, and then of course there were the cats, which also served as a great conversation-starter and -shaper (nope, not in the traffic sense... although, come to think of it, pretty much all traffic would stop when a cat would stroll nonchalantly in, so he would get all the attention he wanted, which was exactly as it should be with cats and people). The whole thing ended, at least for me, somewhat unexpectedly, with some Perl course work, and much later, absolutely unexpectedly, with two Helloween hymns in the strangest setting and context.
And that, folks, is what happened to me over the last ten or so days; and to paraphrase a programmer's complaint about documentation, "If it was long and intense to experience, it should take long to write about". Now those who have reached this point have probably noticed that the main theme throughout seems to be music - and music is what kept me going through the working day today, the '96 recording of Jesus Christ Superstar (yeah, yeah, Andrew Lloyd Webber again... and thanks, Lina!), and the Deep Purple Anthology, the two CD's of which I was quite amazed to find, still in working order, waiting patiently in my CD-case to be remembered and... no, "listened to" is not right - neither for them, nor for Jesus Christ Superstar... "experienced" is more like it (and thanks, Drumev, for reminding me to dig up the Purple anthology!)
Oh, and - kudos to those who figure out the reference in this entry's title; pluskudos to those who actually *remember* the motto, and doublepluskudos to those who can name (from memory! no Googling or site-seeing allowed!) the previous and next ones!