Steps and Leaps

The fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing invites looks ahead. When will we again leave earth orbit and explore the solar system?

America's current plans are to return to the moon and move on to Mars in Project Constellation. The Vision for Space Exploration sees the establishment of bases on the moon as a means of learning to sustain extraterrestrial bases for for extended periods while conducting research and living off the land. This will be the springboard for journeys to Mars.

The official site for Project Constellation offers news, specs, images, and video.

The BBC interviews the designers of the next generation of lunar landers. Called Altair, the lander for the Constellation missions improves on the Apollo original in a number of ways. At the same time it bears a family resemblance to its predecessor. In other words, this new lander is no pin-up, either.

Two of the Apollo 11 astronauts have expressed their desire to see higher priority given to the exploration of Mars. Michael Collins says 'I worry that the current emphasis on returning to the moon will cause us to become ensnared in a technological briar patch needlessly delaying for decades the exploration of Mars - a much more worthwhile destination.'


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Joyce Chiung-Yin Chang

Violinist Joyce Chiung-Yin Chang (張瓊尹) will be performing in recital this weekend.

2009 July 25 Saturday 19:30
Taichung, Taiwan

Beethoven: Sonata for Piano and Violin no. 3
Schumann: Sonata for Piano and Violin in A minor, opus 105
Ysaye: Sonata opus 27, no.6
Chausson: Poeme, opus 25
Tchaikovsky: Waltz- Scherzo, opus 34

Ms Chang, a native of Taiwan, is currently a resident of Baltimore, Maryland USA. She is a graduate of Taiwan's Soochow University and is now completing a graduate degree in violin performance at the Peabody Institute.

For more information:

Telephone (Taiwan): 0919 088 746
Telephone (International): 886 9 1908 8746

E-Mail: lemon0407 AT gmail.com

Web: RichnChiung blog and Facebook events


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Marcus Roberts

It's always a pleasure to see Marcus Roberts (hats off to another Florida State grad) getting the press attention his musicianship warrants. This week New York Times reporter Nate Chinen cites the 'warm balance of mind and heart' evident in the playing of the Marcus Roberts Trio at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Frederick P Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Jason Marsalis performs on drums and Rodney Jordan fills in for Roland Guerin this week on bass. The full review appears at the New York Times web site.

The Marcus Roberts Trio is engaged at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola through Sunday. Sets are at 19:30 and 21:30 with 23:30 sets added on Friday and Saturday. For ticket information call 1 212 258 9595.

Marcus Roberts recently released a new album, New Orleans Meets Harlem, Volume 1 on the J Master Records label. A new album, From Rags to Rhythm, is due for release on the same label later this year.


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Onion sold to China

The Onion reports that its entire news organisation has been sold to a conglomerate in China.

Content is being revised to reflect the concerns of the new owners. A sampling of headlines from the latest issue:

Internet Adds Twelfth Web Site

Potato-Faced Youngster Lauded For Memorizing Primitive 26-Character Alphabet

Sports: Yao Ming!

Photos: Clear American Sky a Constant Reminder of Industrial Inferiority

Opinion: American Children Like Me Are Lazy And Insolent And Must Try Harder

Opinion: The Internet Allows for a Free Exchange of Unmitigated Information


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6.22 Solar Eclipse


National Taiwan Normal University
Taipei, Taiwan
台灣 台北 國立臺灣師範大學
© Alton Thompson 唐博敦
/ Altons Images

A solar eclipse over Asia this morning produced crescent shapes when the trees filtered sunlight.


Conductor's Notebook


Moon Men

Here are glimpses of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, courtesy of the BBC, Esquire magazine, and Space.com respectively.

Armstrong rarely makes public appearances, but the Smithsonian Institute was able to secure him for a speaking engagement at the recent John H Glenn Lecture for 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11. Armstrong shared some cogent observations about the celebrated 'space race' between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Don't miss this engaging 60 Minutes interview with Armstrong at the Hammer and Feather blog. The Apollo 11 commander is unusually candid and gregarious in this video. Special moments abound, such as the moment Armstrong and Walter Cronkite are brought together to watch a recording of the landing broadcast.

This video from the BBC looks back at the journey taken by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.


Conductor's Notebook


Soaring Voices

The ninth annual Taipei International Choral Festival will soon be under way. This thrilling event, hosted each summer by the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation, is always a highlight on Taiwan's busy musical calendar. Outstanding choirs come to Taiwan from all regions of the world for a series of concerts and events.

The festival's organisers have a gift for discovering outstanding performers and composers who excel in areas far beyond the usual media haunts as well as bringing in iconic groups that are well known to all. This year's festival features the Ateneo Singers from the Philippines, Philomela and Club for Five from Finland, the Choir of King's College from Cambridge in the UK, the University of North Texas A Capella Choir from the USA, and the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus and Chamber Choir of Taiwan.

The festival features daily concerts in the National Concert Hall beginning on July 26 Sunday and concluding on August 2 Sunday. Details about performers, programs, schedule and ticket purchases appear at the festival web site. Inquiries may also be made here:

Telephone: 02 2773 3691 (International: 886 2 2773 3691)
E-Mail: ticf AT tpf.org.tw


Conductor's Notebook

First Steps, New Worlds

Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available−once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes known−a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.

− Sir Fred Hoyle, British astronomer, 1948

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

Neil Armstrong

Forty years ago today beings from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. They came in peace for all mankind.

The image above, captured by astronaut Neil Armstrong, is the first photograph ever taken on the surface of the moon.

BBC Special Report & Features

Apollo 11 Fortieth Anniversary

NASA Apollo Missions Site

Apollo 11 Gallery at the Smithsonian

Apollo Image Gallery

Apollo Landing Sites viewed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Origin of the Moon (YouTube video)

Project Constellation: Return to the Moon

Richard Hollingham: 'Why go back?' (BBC)

The Apollo missions changed forever the way we view our planet, our universe, and ourselves.

Until Apollo the idea of a spherical earth meant, for most people, that the earth had no edges. A journey on its surface could go on forever. The traveller would encounter an ever-renewing land-and-seascape with no boundaries, edges or drops. In the popular imagination, a round earth meant an endless earth.

All that changed with the Apollo missions. For the first time human beings could look back and see their home world complete. In an instant everything changed. Our home planet now appeared finite, and fragile, and beautiful.

The bonanza of information yielded by the common missions continues to generate new discoveries. At the time the Apollo missions were planned, two theories prevailed about the moon's origin. One, called the 'twin' theory, said that the earth and moon formed at the same time. The other, called the 'adoption' theory, suggested that the moon was a wandering body that had been captured by earth's gravity. Geologists were eager to learn more about the moon's composition so a winner between the two theories could be declared.

The materials returned from the moon contained surprises. The moon, it turned out, is rich in material found in earth's crust, like basalt, but poor in heavy metals, like iron, which are abundant in earth's core and in asteroids. These discoveries threw cold water on both scenarios. If the twin theory were true, both the earth and the moon would be made of similar material in similar proportions. If the adoption theory were true, the moon would have more iron than it does.

Neither theory worked. The surprising likelihood: the moon is actually earth's child, born of an ancient collision between an infant earth and an object the size of Mars.

Today, in preparation for the return of our species to the moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is now mapping the lunar surface. The Orbiter has already managed to glimpse five of the six Apollo landing sites. These historic photos are our first look at the moon bases since we left them. Higher resolution images are soon to come.

The goal of the Orbiter, though, is not to document the past but to help us plan the future. The detailed images of the lunar surface its cameras provide will help scientists to choose sites for future exploration. Project Constellation is America's plan for returning to the moon and journeying beyond to Mars.

A toast to Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and the entire team on this anniversary. Here's to first steps, and to new worlds.


Conductor's Notebook


Forty Years Ago

The Apollo 11 crew crosses the access walkway on the day of launch, 1969 July 16.


Conductor's Notebook


Asia Trombone Seminar

The Asia Trombone Seminar hosts an all-day trombone festival this weekend at the historic NTNU hall in Taipei. Admission is free to the public.

7.19 Sunday 9:00-21:30
Asia Trombone Seminar: Recital Festival
Concert Hall, National Taiwan Normal University
Taipei, Taiwan

9:00 - James Olin
10:45 - Michael Davidson
12:15 - Kuang-Ching Sung Showcase
13:00 - Ryan Seay
14:45 - Unai Urrecho
16:30 - Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto
19:00 - Alexander Nyankin
20:30 - Denson Paul Pollard

Shyan-Jer Lee is principal trombonist of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan.
Kuang-Ching Sung is principal trombonist of the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan.
Terry Shiu is associate principal trombonist of the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan.
Huai-En Tsai, artistic director, is a graduate of Soochow University in Taiwan and the Peabody Conservatory in the USA.
Ryan Seay is a graduate of the Curtis Institute, USA.
James Olin is the principal trombonist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, USA.
Michael Davidson is the trombone professor at the University of Kansas, USA.
Unai Urrecho is trombone professor at the University of Suwon, South Korea.
Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto is principal trombonist of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, USA.
Li-Chung Chang is former principal trombonist of Taiwan's National Symphony and lecturer at the National Taiwan Normal University.
Alexander Nyankin has appeared as a concerto soloist with the Kaohsiung City Symphony, Taiwan.
Denson Paul Pollard is the bass trombonist of New York's Metropolitan Opera, USA.

The featured composer is Ming-Hsiu Yen, a native of Taiwan. Ms Ming is a two-time winner of the University of Michigan Concerto Competition. Featured pianists for the festival are Chao-Wen Cheng and Ming-Chin Wu.


Conductor's Notebook

Jazz at Da'an Park

The next outdoor performances in the Taipei International Jazz Festival will take place on 7.25 Saturday 19:00-22:00 at Da'an Park in Taipei.

More information is available from Taipei Swing at their main site, their events page at Facebook, and at Chinese-language blogs here and here. Also contact:

0988 556 606 (Internationally: 886 988 556 606)


Conductor's Notebook

'Harmonious' Myth masks Turbulent Reality in China

A brawl that erupted among workers in a Guangdong toy factory on June 25 sparked mass protests in Xinjiang on July 5. Over a hundred people have lost their lives and over a thousand have been arrested. Dru C Gladney, in an informative essay, explains the complex reality that churns behind the facile myth of a 'harmonious' China.

Foreigners and the Chinese themselves typically picture China’s population as a vast Han majority with a sprinkling of exotic minorities living along the country’s borders. This understates China’s tremendous cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity—in particular the important cultural differences within the Han population. Across the country, China is experiencing a resurgence of local ethnicity and culture, most notably among southerners such as the Cantonese and Hakka, who are now classified as Han.

Gladney notes that 'it has become popular to be ‘ethnic’ in today’s China.' But even the majority ethnic group, the Han, is not as myth represents it.

The supposedly homogenous Han speak eight mutually unintelligible languages (Mandarin, Wu, Yue, Xiang, Hakka, Gan, Southern Min and Northern Min). Even these subgroups show marked linguistic and cultural diversity. In the Yue language family, for example, Cantonese speakers are barely intelligible to Taishan speakers, and the Southern Min dialects of Quanzhou, Changzhou and Xiamen are equally difficult to communicate across. The Chinese linguist Y. R. Chao has shown that the mutual unintelligibility of, say, Cantonese and Mandarin is as great as that of Dutch and English or French and Italian. Mandarin was imposed as the national language early in the 20th century and has become the lingua franca, but, like Swahili in Africa, it must often be learned in school and is rarely used in everyday life across much of China.

Much more turbulence may lie ahead for China's leaders. 'Cultural and linguistic cleavages,' says Gladney, 'could worsen in a China weakened by internal strife, an economic downturn, uneven growth, or a struggle over future political succession.'

The full essay appears at the Wall Street Journal site.


Conductor's Notebook

Zhao Ziyang remembered

The memoirs of Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽) have now been published. This is a boon that was achieved against long odds indeed. Zhao, once the Chinese Communist Party general secretary, supported Beijing's student democracy activists in 1989. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Even after his death in 2005, public mention of his name remains taboo in China.

The Taipei Times published a two-part interview this week with Bao Pu (鮑樸), who helped make Zhao's memoirs available to the world.

Interview Part 1: 'Zhang's tapes tell his side of the story'
Interview Part 2: 'History of Tiananmen Massacre still alive'

When asked about the state of 'progress' on human rights in China, Bao observed: 'The reform process practically ended in 1992 after Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) southern tour [of China] because the debate was over and China was on its course — that is, a commitment to free market and also a renewed sense of authoritarian autocracy. So there was no more debate, no more packaging or proposals for political reform...'

Zhao's memoirs have been published in English translation with the title Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang. Amazon makes the book available in paper and electronic formats.


Conductor's Notebook


The Least Free Places on Earth

'As the United States celebrates its Independence Day, here's a look at some places with nothing to cheer about.'

Indeed. Today millions of people throughout Asia, Africa and Oceania find themselves still living in constricted circumstances enforced by sociopathic leadership. Bravo to Freedom House and Foreign Policy magazine for this compelling photo essay that offers glimpses into The World's Bottom 21: our planet's least free societies.

Freedom House is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing a clear voice for democracy and human rights worldwide.


Conductor's Notebook