Thursday, July 17, 2014

Deep Thoughts

During my recent vacation I had the misfortune of witnessing two sublime musical events: One was seeing Natasha Paremski play Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto (immediately dubbed "Rock's Turd" by quick-thinking music critics), and the other was attending a live performance of Mozart's Requiem in D Minor. Both were profound, noble, beautiful beyond compare; but hearing such masterworks also compelled me to evaluate my own life, an exercise I detest. Instead of being able to muse upon my own greatness and simply say to myself whatever words came into my mind - activities which I enjoy heartily - I was instead stunned into silence, and slowly, against my will, forced into the odious task of self-reflection. What have I done so far with my life, I thought, and what will I do with the usual biblical threescore and ten? Mozart and Mendelssohn were composing deathless music while still in their teens; Goethe began incubating the idea for Faust while only a boy; Liszt wrote the first version of his finger-breaking études when he was only fifteen years old. What was I doing around then? Obsessively working on my Starcraft win/loss ratio, and worrying whether my acne and alarming profusion of nasal hair were diagnostic of a thyroid disorder.

The way to happiness, as I am continually reminded, is to actively avoid any contact with anyone greater than you are; and if any acquaintance with a masterwork must be made, if only to be able to talk about it with an air of superficial sophistication, better to read a summary or criticism of it and find out what others have said about it, rather than experience the real thing. Or, if you dare, come into contact with it, but do not linger over it, or let it become part of your internal world, lest you realize how depressingly unfurnished and impoverished it really is. Read Madame Bovary quickly, for example, without pausing to observe how much craftsmanship and precision goes into every sentence, and how carefully weighed is each word; listen to the Jupiter Symphony only to become familiar with the musical themes, without thinking for a moment what kind of miracle this music is, and how no one will ever again write quintuple invertible counterpoint with such elegance and ease.

But should you ever chance to happen upon someone who makes you realize that this person thinks better than you, feels deeper than you, and has a vision of life rising above the paltry, the partial, and the self-defensive - horrors! - merely remind yourself that you would have been the same way, if only you had the advantages this person had while they were growing up, and only if you possessed the same temperament as they do - which, when you think about it, is really just a random occurrence. In this way you can begin to feel a bit better about having contributed so humiliatingly little; in this way, everyone can fancy themselves an embarrassed genius.


In any case, I've gotten a couple of comments and have made a couple of small changes to the SPM automated first-level script, such as catching whether certain files exist or not, and also dealing with runs that do not contain a particular regressor, which may be present in other runs. According to my imperial tests, it should be able to handle anything you throw at it. Maybe.

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