Linkage

I’m sick today so here are some links.

Click That Hood, a game which asks you to identify neighborhoods. I was lousy at San Diego, but pretty decent at Chicago, even though I’ve lived here for half the time. Go figure.

For those who care about beer, there’s been some news about the blocked merger of Inbev and Modelo. I recommend Erik’s podcast post on the structure of the beer industry (the three-tier system) for those who care about craft beer, and (with reservations) Planet Money’s show on the antitrust regulatory framework that is at work here.

Remember step functions from your signals and systems course? We called them Heaviside step functions after Oliver Heaviside — you can read more about him in this Physics Today article.

Did you know that Pad Thai’s “birth and popularity came out of the nationalist campaign of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, one of the revolutionary figures who in 1932 pushed Thailand out of an absolute monarchy?” Neither did I!

I need this album, since I love me some Kurt Weill. I can also live vicariously through NPR’s list of SXSW recommendations.

Bach Collegium San Diego Bleg

The Bach Collegium San Diego, a group with whom I sang on occasion has a Kickstarter going to fund a tour. Please consider helping them out!

The Bach St John Passion is truly coming full circle for the BCSD, as it was our debut concert in 2003. This year marks our second annual performance of this work. We are seeking to establish an annual tradition of performing a Bach Passion (and other Passion Music) near Holy Week and Easter leading to an eventual Easter Festival.

In order to help bring this annual tradition to reality, we’re asking that you consider helping to sponsor the 16 singers who will form the dynamic vocal ensemble that will propel this dramatic work. The size of the donation is not as important as the interaction and participation of our those who believe in our mission and work. We thank you in advance for your generosity and we look forward to seeing you at the performances in April!

Linkage

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I am going to try to post more regularly now, but as usual, things start out slowly, so here are some links. I’ve been working on massaging the schedule for the 2012 ITA Workshop (registration is open!) as well as some submissions for KDD (a first for me) and ISIT (since I skipped last year), so things are a bit hectic.

Chicago Restaurant Week listings are out, for the small number of you readers who are in Chicago. Some history on the Chicago activities of CORE in the 40s.

Via Andrew Gelman, a new statistics blog.

A paper on something called Avoidance Coupling, which I want to read sometime when I have time again.

Our team, Too Big To Fail, finished second in the 2012 MIT Mystery Hunt. There were some great puzzles in there. In particular, Picture An Acorn was awesome (though I barely looked at it), and Slash Fiction was a lot of fun (and nostalgia-inducing. Ah, Paris!). Erin has a much more exhaustive rundown.

Concert bleg : Mozart Requiem

This is my last concert in San Diego, schade! It should be a good one!

In Memoriam: Marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11

W.A. Mozart : Requiem in D minor, K 626 (Levin completion)

Bach Collegium San Diego
Ruben Valenzuela, dirigent

Claire Fedoruk (Soprano)
Angela Young Smucker (Alto)
Pablo Corá (Tenor)
Mischa Bouvier (Bass)

St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
San Diego, California
Friday, 16 September 2011
7:30 PM

Pt. Loma Nazarene University: Crill Hall
San Diego, California
Saturday, 17 September 2011
7:30 PM

Tickets available online.

Linkage

The fog in San Francisco (h/t Erin Rhode).

A general approach to privacy/utility tradeoffs, with metric spaces! A new preprint/note by Robert Kleinberg and Katrina Ligett.

Max breaks it down for you on how to use the divergence to get tight convergence for Markov chains.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival starts on Thursday!

Apparently China = SF Chinatown. Who knew? Maybe the fog confused them.

Yellow Face at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company

On Thursday I went to the last preview performance of Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company‘s production of Yellow Face, by David Henry Hwang. If you live in San Diego, go see it! It opened last night and plays through the end of the month.

Yellow Face poster

The play is a fictionalized autobiography, with Hwang as the main character, played by Greg Watanabe. Searching for an actor in his new play Face Value, Hwang casts Marcus G (Brian Bielawski), whom he thinks might be Asian. When he discovers Marcus is white, Hwang tries to give Marcus a backstory as a Siberian Jew (and hence Asian), but eventually fires him. The play flops weeks later, and Marcus and Hwang go their separate ways. Years later, Hwang discovers that Marcus has started to pass himself off as Asian and has become active and a bit of a celebrity in the Asian-American community, especially for political causes. Hwang finds Marcus toxic; he berates his ex for dating Marcus, he feels isolated. Hwang’s father and Marcus both become persons of interest in a congressional probe into Chinese financing in the US. In the end, of course, everything has to come out in the open.

In part, I read the play as Hwang dealing with the discomfort of being the spokesman for Asian-American theater and the expectations that come along with that. It also brings up the discomfort felt by Asian Americans (or anyone, really) when their struggles or concerns are co-opted by well-intentioned but overzealous white people. The historical context encompasses three moments in the 90’s : the casting in Miss Saigon of Jonathan Pryce, a white actor playing in yellowface, the 1996 campaign finance investigations into “Chinese influence” in US elections, and the 1999 railroading of Wen Ho Lee (the program has some dramaturgical notes in case you were asleep or too young in the 90’s). The play uses these events to frame Hwang’s vacillation between caring about the issues and being repulsed by Marcus’ involvement; Marcus uses his “yellowface” for good ends, but in the end he’s a poseur.

There’s a lot going on, and director Seema Sueko does a great job of keeping all the balls in the air while maintaining the narrative thread. The play is a farce, and while the madcap energy that the actors bring to their performances felt a little too extreme initially, in the end it felt necessary to keep the momentum going. I found the text a little uneven; the major climactic scene in which Hwang has it out with the yellow journalist from the NY Times is almost too measured and serious. Perhaps it’s the political climate we live in now — in a muckraking environment, an argument about blatant bias feels real, rather than absurd (or even hyperreal).

However, this production works well. All the technical details: the set, use of video projection, sound, lights, and so on, are well-suited to the space they have there. The ensemble (Albert Park, Michelle Wong, Jacob Bruce, and Maggie Carney) really work their butts off providing the diversity of performance and characterization needed to tell a decades worth of political and personal stories. Sueko uses the physical space of the theater to great effect, heightening the absurdity of situations, and using physical distance to complement and accent other sorts of “distance.”

So if you’re in San Diego, see this show — you’ll learn something!

UPDATE : I edited a bit above and realized that you could describe the NY times reporter as practicing “yellow journalism.” An implicit double entendre? I laugh!

Found art

As I went for a walk this morning I passed the Bank of America on University – usually a pretty deserted stretch but today brightly colored by the contents of an upended Monopoly set, bright yellow Community Chest cards and 10 dollar bills scattered on the sidewalk. In front of the doors, face up, a salmon “Get out of jail free.” A homeless man reaches down for the top hat.