Unreal Estate

It came to may attention recently that a site called Blockshopper (visit links at your own risk), which claims to offer 'real intelligence on local real estate', published my photo and biographical information in an article that states a falsehood.

The text in full:

Classical musician and photographer acquires Ridgewood Park 3BD

by Betty Verdun, published Sept. 24, 2010
Alton Thompson and Linda Thompson bought a three-bedroom, three-bath home at 2408 N. Riverside Drive in Ridgewood Park from Michelle Stencel and Jonathan Lowe for $625,000 on Aug. 27.

The 2,506-square-foot house was built in 1975 in Ridgewood Park. It is located in the Ridgewood Park subdivision.

Mr. Thompson is a professional classical musician and photographer who is now based in Taiwan. He serves as conductor for ensembles in Europe, Asia and the Americas, as art photographer with Alton's Images and also serves as a faculty member at various education institutes.

He has worked with the Hsinchu Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Taiwan Normal University Symphony Orchestra, the Taipei Symphonic Winds, the Dafeng Performing Arts Symphony orchestra, the Soochow University Youth Orchestra, the Taipei Men's Chorus and the combined choirs of National Taiwan Normal University.

He holds a D.M.A. in orchestral conducting from The Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Institute in Baltimore, received his M.M. in music performance from The University of Memphis' Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music and earned his B.M.E. in music from The Florida State University's College of Music.

According to BlockShopper.com, there have been 13 home sales in Ridgewood Park during the past 12 months, with a median sales price of $43,600.
Filed under: No story tag
Address: 2408 N. Riverside Drive

Buyer(s): Alton Thompson and Linda Thompson
Seller(s): Michelle Stencel and Jonathan Lowe
Sale date: Aug. 27, 2010

The reality: I bought no property. I don't know a Linda Thompson or any other individuals named in the article. I know nothing of the private enterprises named: Blockshopper, The Florida Authority, and Cornerstone Properties and Investments LLC.

The creators of this site have no permission to use a copyrighted image of my likeness nor my name and identity in the promotion of any product or service. No one contacted me for confirmation of this report. Contact information was readily available at the same web site from which my photo and biographical information were stolen lifted.
To the creators of this article: remove my name, identity and likeness from all materials connected with your business at once.

Personal recommendation to anyone considering a business relationship with BlockShopper, The Florida Authority or Cornerstone Properties:



Mahler at 150

For me, to create a symphony is to create a world.

- Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Today marks the 150th birthday of composer and conductor Gustav Mahler.

Richard S Ginell offers an appreciation in The Los Angeles Times. Enthusiasts and music professionals will already acquainted with the work and resources of the International Gustav Mahler Society. Don't miss 'How Gustav Mahler saved my life,' an entry by Tim Smith in his blog Clef Notes (Baltimore Sun).

For my own part, the symphonies of Mahler have been works that one befriends throughout like. Years ago, the cycle recorded by Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam provided an earth-shattering formative experience. There is a moment in the life of any young person (or at least, there should be) when one gets a sense of just how very much is out there. And my mountaintop orchestra experience in a concert hall remains a Mahler Ninth performance I heard in Philadelphia led by Klaus Tennstedt. Tennstedt had come through an ordeal with throat cancer. The music flowed out of him, and the Philadelphia Orchestra played for him as I have never heard them play for anyone else. The experience was powerful, and unforgettable.


Conductor's Notebook


July 4

Happy Independence Day, America.

Here's one of your own: Ray Charles.


Conductor's Notebook

American Opera

Just in time for July Fourth, music journalist Anne Midgette offers a detailed and exciting look at the world of American opera in a two-part survey for the Washington Post.

Part 1
American opera at a crossroads

Part 2
Small is the word for new American productions

Opera companies in America face increasing audience demand for innovative new works. The trend in new opera mirrors the trend in new ballparks: intimacy over grandeur.

Prepare to read about compelling new works that you will wish you could see. And thanks to an increasing number of creative partnerships among companies, you may.


Conductor's Notebook


Candid Interview

I was recently interviewed by one of those applications that find you on social networks.

Pepsi or Coke?
It depends on the rum.

Love is great, but I'd also marry for...
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

If you had a pet elephant, what would you name it?

Nick and Jessica could've worked things out if...
he hadn't been born a trilobite-eating cephalopod in the Ordovician Period and she a plains-dwelling indricothere in the Miocene. Such tricks of fate can doom even a love as deep as theirs.

Hello, Hi, or Hey?
Ni hao.

The key to success is...
in a very safe place where it's not likely to be disturbed.

I think I saw Carmen Sandiego in...
a Beitou hot spring, signing for towels with Lara Croft.

What will be your last words?
This reboot had better work.

Twitter or MySpace?
But I hardly know you.

What do you think you'll name your kids?
Wonder Girl 1,
Wonder Girl 2,
Wonder Girl 3,
Wonder Girl 4,
and Wonder Girl 5. After their mothers.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is getting between me and my...
tendency to repeat myself.

If I were pregnant, I'd probably crave...
a C-section before the real trouble starts.

I shower in the...
Feng Shui fountain at Taipei 101.

I believed in Santa Claus until I was...
told by a yeti that they'd eaten him years ago.

Love or lust?
Not sure. Could you ask me again in my other ear?

Girls go to Mars to get more...
superoxide anions and nitrogen gas.

What's your favorite jellybean flavor?
Navel of Wei Tang.

Who do you take after? Mom or Dad?
A deity in the form of a swan.

What's your favorite cheese?
Bruckheimer cheese. Cameron is too stinky and Emmerich is just foul.

Naked food fights are...
a great way to boost concert attendence.

What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
Wonder whether this present trend should continue. 

Why do Canadians enjoy blogging so much?
It's either that or moose-tipping.

What is your favorite word?

God is...
as God does.

How many people have you dated?
Enough to know it's a bad sign when she brings her invisible friend.

Ever broken a bone?
No, but I've dented a euphonium.

Would you make out with the last person who visited your blog?

You obviously missed the last Taiwan blog party.

I know it's time to clean the fridge when...
the cheese mold has evolved into a sentient life form with opposable thumbs.

If I were the first person to land on the moon, I would've said:
'Houston, Rhapsody Base here. The Gershwin has landed.'

If I were a super hero, my super suit would be made out of...
platinum. Then I could sell it on eBay and take the Catwoman shopping for lingerie.

How many Facebook users have you kissed?
Facebook users don't kiss. They suck face.

The answer to the ultimate question is...
'No comment.'

What will your wedding band be made out of?
Two trumpets, I think, with horn, trombone, and tuba.

Are you a 'glass half-full' or 'glass half-empty' person?
I never do anything half-glassed.

I squeeze my toothpaste from the...

Which side is your good side?
If you have to ask, you're not on it.

What would your clown name be?
Bopo Mofo.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
My Dinner with O. J.

Quick! Make up a number (example: eleventy seven).
Hoo-doo-win da-two-wa, skiddly-bop.

What are the odds that this interview never ends and is just a psych experiment?
I never give odds on ends.

How old were you when you had your first date?
Not sure, but it was a lunch rendez-vous. We ate paste.

If I woke up as the opposite sex, I'd...
throw my arms around me and give myself a hickey.

What question should they ask Miss Universe contestants?
Present a ten-point plan for achieving world peace.

What question would you ask God?
Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Did they ever... ?

I feel at peace when...
I'm torturing accordion players with scorpions and thumbscrews.

Bikini, Tankini, or Linguini?

What do you wish you had never done?
Accept my roommate's dare to walk up to that Virginia Tech linebacker and tell him I enjoyed his mother's performance in Girls Gone Wild.

What's your least favorite thing about the Coriolis Effect?
The vector formula for calculating the magnitude and direction of the Coriolis acceleration. I mean, who needs that?

What's your favorite blues lyric?
Woke up this mornin'. Of course, it's more interesting with the lyrics that come after it.

Would you rather own a dog named Growler or a parrot named Captain?
A tyrannosaur named Eater of Interviewers.

What should you really be doing right now?
Lying on a beach in Kenting.

Automatic or stick shift?
Mini Cooper or Lamborghini?

The sitcom about my life would be named...
Face the Music.

Would you rather meet your future in-laws naked or in bondage gear?
I guess I would rather they were naked.

Quick! Write the first sentence of a novel.
It was the best of hair days, it was the worst of hair days.

I want my last meal to be...
a Guiness-record submarine sandwich.

Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin?
Hey. Watch your language.

What's your favourite kids' cereal?
Lucky Charms. Great with Bailey's.

What's the most recent dream you remember having?
A nightmare. I was answering an interminable series of questions on some stupid social network.

I wouldn't mind being stuck in a closet with...
Juliette Binoche, two goblets, and an open bottle of Pinot Noir.

Why are there so many zombies on the Internet?

What celebrity do people say you look like?

I wonder about...
the best way to finish this sentence.

Sedan, compact, or sports car?

Do you play any instruments?
I had an ocarina lesson once.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no...
cognitive functioning and vocal apparatus sufficiently evolved to enable him to describe his lack of hirsute qualities in words. This inability, though considered an impairment in the species Homo sapiens, is characteristic of ursine species such as the one to which Mr Wuzzy  belonged. His remarkable dermatological predicament thus never came to the attention of neurologist Oliver Sacks, was never spotlighted in a subsequently celebrated case study, and was consequently overlooked by composer Michael Nyman as a subject for chamber opera.

I feel naked without my...

Which sport is the best to watch?
Golf. Ha ha. Just kidding.

If your house was on fire, what one possession would you keep?
My panache. 

I like to put ketchup on...
before I step out the door.

Bernard Haitink in Chicago

Bernard Haitink is taking leave of the Chicago Symphony. The Dutch maestro has served as resident conductor since 2006. The association has been a distinguished one. Haitink joined with conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez to inaugurate a Golden Age in the orchestra's history in preparation for the arrival of new music director Riccardo Muti.

Haitink now concludes the collaboration as Muti takes the helm in September. The orchestra has marked the occasion with a Beethoven symphonies cycle. The performances have drawn high praise.

In August Haitink will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in two performances of Bruckner's Fifth Symphony at the Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg.

Last year Decca commemorated the conductor's 80th birthday with a 7-CD release, available at Amazon UK.

Chicago Tribune
2010.06.16 'No loss of momentum as Beethoven review enters final lap'
2010.06.12 'Back to nature with Haitink, CSO'

New York Times
Bernard Haitink articles

Music Web International
'Haitink's Chicago Beethoven Cycle'

Chicago Classical Review

Proms 71 and 72
Haitink and Chicago: Turnage, Mozart, Mahler, Shostakovich

Boosey and Hawkes
Turnage Remains premiered by Haitink, Chicago

Telegraph UK
Haitink: 'I love power without responsibility'

Archiv Music Store: Bernard Haitink

Official Site: Bernard Haitink


Conductor's Notebook


Farewell to John Wooden

Legendary coach John Wooden died yesterday at age 99. He guided his UCLA Bruins to unmatched dominance in college basketball. His teams' achievements included ten national titles and an 88-game win streak. He was also a Hall of Fame player at his college alma mater, Purdue. Yet he also avoided talk of wins and losses, seeing athletic challenges mainly as challenges to character. He once refused to enter a championship tournament that denied one of his players a chance to play because of his race.

At games Wooden held a program rolled up in one hand and the plan secure in his head. He focused on details from the first practice, when he showed new players how to put on socks. The press hailed him as a 'Wizard' and many of his maxims entered lore. Yet he lived in the same modest home throughout his career. His name was listed in the public phone book. He wrote regular letters to his wife of many years, Nell, even after she died.

In a field where success is often defined as the acquisition of a trophy or a ring, Wooden defined it as 'knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.'

Hear him share his thoughts in this 2001 video.


Conductor's Notebook


7.11 Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse will be visible in the southern Pacific Ocean on 2010 July 11. The path of the moon's umbra makes landfall on a few islands and the southern tips of Chile and Argentina.

A partial solar eclipse will be visible over a much wider area, including all of Chile.

For more information visit the Nasa page for his event.


Conductor's Notebook

12.21 Lunar Eclipse

The 2010 winter solstice will coincide with a total eclipse of the moon on December 21. The eclipse will be visible across most of the Pacific Ocean and all of North America. Viewers in South America will see the moon set fully eclipsed as it sets. Viewers in Taiwan and Japan will see the moon fully eclipsed as it rises.

For more information visit the Nasa page for this event.


Conductor's Notebook



Moby-Dick, a new opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, enjoyed a triumphant premier last Friday at the Dallas Opera. The show boasts a strong cast: Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn (Ishmael), Morgan Smith as Starbuck, Robert Orth as Mister Stubb, and Talise Travigne as Pip the cabin boy.

Anne Midgette offers a detailed review of the premiere in her Washington Post blog The Classical Beat. The staging challenges surrounding a sea story with a giant whale were met with skill and aplomb, she reports, as Melville's prose was likewise well handled for sung texts.

Other reviews of the new opera include these:
Wes Blomster, Opera Today
Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
Brian Holt, Out West Arts
Gregory Isaacs, Theater Jones
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
William Littler, Toronto Star
George Loomis Classical Review
Steve Smith, New York Times
Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal
Conductor's Notebook


NTNU 'Rhenish' Concert

2010 April 27 Tuesday 19:30
National Concert Hall
Taipei, Taiwan

NTNU Symphony Orchestra
Apo Ching-Hsin Hsu, conductor

Concert: Rhenish


Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony 3 in E-flat Major 'Rhenish', opus 97

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b.1939)
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Пётр Ильич Чайковский (1840-1893)
Capriccio Italien, opus 45

Tickets at NT$200, 500, 800, and 1200



卓越作曲家慈薇莉希(Ellen Taaffe Zwilich)精彩眩技的雙協奏曲。



曲 目:SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish) in Eb major, Op. 97

ZWILICH: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra

TCHAIKOVSKY: Capriccio Italien, Op. 45










國家音樂廳 ( 台北市中山南路21-1號 )



One cliché to rule them all

I just saw the fourth headline in as many days using the formula 'One _____ to rule them all.'

The phrase has too familiar a ring now, fellows. Let's not hobble along with it any further. Bag it.

(Tip of the hat to Bob Thurston)


Conductor's Notebook


Aletheia Symphony Orchestra

The music of the iconic 'Three Bs'--Bach, Beethoven and Brahms--will be featured in a concert by the Aletheia Symphony Orchestra on April 21 Wednesday 21:30 at Taiwan's National Concert Hall. The orchestra is a division of the Department of Music at the historic Aletheia University in Danshui, New Taipei City.



Jennifer Higdon wins Pulitzer Prize

Congratulations to American composer Jennifer Higdon, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto. The concerto was given its premier by Hilary Hahn and the Indianapolis Symphony on 2009 February 6 and is the first self-published work to win the prize.

NewMusicBox has the story.


Wedding Vignette

My colleagues in the USA tell me that the season is now upon them.

You're a pianist who rehearses singers at the opera and performs in a chamber ensemble. To get to this point you've invested countless hours in practice time and thousands of dollars in instruments, scores, tuition and fees. And every year around this time, parents of brides start approaching you. Each set of parents announces that you have been chosen among all other pianists to perform at a very special event: the wedding of their daughter.

You thank them and tell them your fee. Two jaws drop. 'We never expected that you'd want money,' they say.

You could tell from their expressions alone that the gig was never going to happen. You're okay with that. If it's disappointing to learn your bank account won't get any help from this invitation, at least having the day free anyway will spare you playing your 167th 'Wedding Song' since your last recital.

But your knowledge that the encounter is going nowhere will not prevent the conversation requiring a few more minutes to spin out. Before the parents leave they must tell you, gravely, that they had always assumed musicians do what they do out of love for their art rather than the desire for material gain and that the honour of being chosen for such an important event would speak for itself. And now, thanks to you, both of them will walk away forever saddened at the realisation that Our Cynical Modern World Has Come To This.


NTNU Concert and Exhibition

green museum

You are invited!

April 10 Saturday 18:00 (6:00 pm)
National Palace Museum
Basement Level, Main Building
Taipei, Taiwan

NTNU Symphony Winds and Brass of the National Taiwan Normal University
Apo Hsu, music director
Alton Thompson, guest conductor and photographer

Admission is free to the public.

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Serenade for Winds opus 44 in D Minor

- IV. Finale: Allegro molto
Symphony Serenade Ensemble
Conductor: Alton Thompson

Eugène Bozza (1905-1991)
Variations sur con theme libre

- Theme: Andantino
- Variation 3: Allegro
- Variation 4: Calme
- Variation 6: Allegro vivo
Symphony Woodwind Quintet

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Selections from 'Pictures at an Exhibition'
NTNU Faculty Brass Quintet
(images by Alton Thompson)
- Promenade
- The Old Castle
- Interlude (Promenade)
- Tuileries
- Bydlo (Oxen)
- Promenade
- Chicks in Shells
- Limoges Market
- Great Gate of Kiev
Selected popular pieces
NTNU Faculty Brass Quintet

Symphony Serenade Ensemble (Dvořák):
Oboes: Chen Guan-Zhen, Wu Meng-Rong
Clarinets: Chen Zun Philip, Wang Yiting
Bassoons: Yu Cheng-Huan, Chen Guanrong, Yi 妘
Horns: Lam Yi-Chen, Li Huiyi, Zhang Yu-Wen
Cello: 萧惠
Double Bass: Hui Chien-Min
Symphony Woodwind Quintet (Bozza):
Wu Jianhui, Wu Meng-Rong, Lin Yu-Zhen, Chen Guanrong, Li Huiyi
Faculty Brass Quintet (Mussorgsky):
Wei Manshi, Wang Yang, Lam Yi, Chen Zeng 书桓, Yang Zhaoxiang


Conductor's Notebook


Muti Era begins in Chicago

Riccardo Muti took the helm of the Chicago Symphony this week as its latest music director. Choice quotes:

Symphony orchestras are the windows of a part of our great Western culture. The big orchestras such as Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago cannot close their doors, because if that happens it will be not only a scandal but also a disaster for society.
In a world full of violence, anger and crime, music can educate people's souls; certainly it can make society better.
What is vision? I do not see myself as St Francis, offering Chicago my beatific visions. Rather, in my first season, I see myself giving, together with this great orchestra, a panoramic view of the history of music. As we go along, we will try to find new ways to bring more people together, through music.

Read the complete report by the Chicago Tribune's John Von Rein.


Conductor's Notebook


Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on Tour

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, widely regarded as the world's finest, has been giving concerts in the USA led by music director Mariss Jansons. The performances have featured Dutch violinist Janine Jansen in the Sibelius Violin Concerto as well as Mahler's Third Symphony and Rachmininov's Second Symphony. Here are reviews from Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun and Alan Kozinn of the New York Times.

The orchestra offers ten free downloads on its web site for those who register.


Conductor's Notebook


A Rocky Philadelphia Story

By all accounts America's famed Philadelphia Orchestra is navigating a difficult transition. The music remains strong in its appeal but issues of money and community have the organisation struggling.

The orchestra's president arrived only recently. The music director and marketing director have yet to be hired. The Kimmel Center makes expensive demands. The orchestra reports 62% attendance and a looming deficit of US$7.2 million. Peter Dobrin, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports that the more worrying issue in the long term is the orchestra's relationship with its audience. Philadelphia's music lovers feel increasingly remote from the ensemble that was once their pride. They miss encores, meeting players, getting reliable news. The orchestra has been slow to accommodate commuter schedules with rush-hour concerts and Sunday afternoon concerts.

It all adds up to a rocky journey for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Time will tell if it ends with a triumphant run up the steps.

The full article appears at the Inquirer site.


Conductor's Notebook


Interview: 'Eyes on the World'

Alton's Interview

I enjoyed a recent discussion of photography with Carrie Marshall Kellenberger. Her blog My Several Worlds covers aspects of Asia-Pacific living and travel.

Catch the interview here. Many thanks to Melody Hsiao for providing the interview photos.


Conductor's Notebook


Taipei Artists exhibit


Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Alton Thompson

You are invited to join us for the Taipei Artists inaugural exhibit. The exhibit opens at the historic Taipei Mayor's Salon on February 9 Tuesday and runs through February 27. Daily open hours are from 11:00 to 18:00 (6:00 pm).

The show features work by eight Taipei artists working in a variety of media. I'm one of two them, with colour photographs on display. Other media represented include oil painting, black-and-white photography, watercolour on paper and watercolour on wood.

A special reception, open to the public, takes place on February 12 Friday 14:00-18:00 (2-6 in the afternoon). I hope you may be able to join us for this event as well.

More information about the venue, including directions and contact information, appears at the Mayor's Salon official site (mayorsalon.com.tw).

More information about the exhibit may be found at the event's Facebook page.


Conductor's Notebook


Fiendishly Good Fun

The Devil (Alton Thompson) and Soldier (Yi-An Chen) play cards to determine the soldier's fate in
The Soldier's Tale by Igor Stravinsky. The production by conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin event was the work's premier at the National Taiwan Normal University. (Photo by Melody Hsiao)

I had a rollicking good time in The Soldier's Tale Sunday night. Playing the archetypal villain helps, of course. You don't have to concern yourself much with your character's arc. You just take each scene as a new opportunity to torment your prey while making everyone in the room want to slap you. It's easy enough work for anyone who grew up with siblings.

I was delighted to learn that this production, produced by conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin, was actually the premier of the work at the university. From the outset Ms Lin brought ideas to the piece that made her Soldier's Tale a true ensemble work, for the actors as for the instrumentalists. Each character, like each player, had his or her moment. This wasn't one of those shows that one actor steals while the rest of the cast acts as foils. To begin with, no one steals anything from talented actress Yi-An Chen. The violin major at NTNU played the title role with zest and ginger, which is pretty much how she does everything else, too. Kris Falk used his Narrator spot as a springboard to create a kaleidoscopic array of distinct characters. Cipher Kao's images, in both publicity and on stage, drew knowing inspiration from Stravinsky's neo-classic priorities, including his savvy humour.

The high point of the show was exactly where it should be but often isn't: the ballet depicting the rendezvous of the Soldier and his bride. The scene was danced imaginatively by Yi-An Chen with Mr Ta-Wei Wang as the Princess. To have both Soldier and Princess played by actors of the opposite sex makes a playfully novel effect, but as the Soldier and Princess danced, this casting paid off in the increased sense of intimacy that develops between the two characters. Not only do they meet and get acquainted, but they inhabit each other's personas.

All of us in the cast are also musicians. We often remarked to each other in rehearsal that we were noticing details in Stravinsky's music in a new way. His music frequently alludes to some aspect of the setting or of a character, or to physical action. The references leap at you when you are involved in the work dramatically.

I was delighted to see friends there, like my classmates from the NTNU Mandarin Training Center and language exchanges who came. My sweetheart, Melody, got lots of good pictures for us and did us the favour of acting a bit part at the same time.

Congratulations to the company, especially to conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin and her adviser Apo Hsu. Great fun. And a distinct honour. Thank you.


Conductor's Notebook


Stravinsky in Taipei

2010 January 17 Sunday 19:30 (7:30 pm)

Igor Stravinsky
Octet for Winds
The Soldier's Tale (L'histoire du Soldat)

Taipei Chamber Players
Chia-hsuan Lin,

NTNU Historic Auditorium
National Taiwan Normal University
Taipei, Taiwan
Soldier: Yi-An Chen
Devil: Alton Thompson
Narrator: Kris Falk
Princess: Ta-Wei Wang
Admission is free to the public.

台北室內樂演奏家樂團 即將推出室內樂經典系列之一 ---- 史特拉汶斯基
曲目:木管八重奏 Octet for Winds
音樂戲劇--士兵的故事 The Soldier's Tale
時間:2010年1月17日 晚上 7:30
演出者:台北室內樂演奏家樂團 Taipei Chamber Players
陳羿安 Yi-An Chen(飾士兵, The Soldier)
唐博敦 Alton Thompson(飾惡魔, The Devil)
克里斯˙福克 Kris Falk(說書人, The Narrator
王大維 Ta-Wei Wang (飾公主, The Princess)


Conductor's Notebook


Google Stands Up

This week I've been preparing for a role in a performance of The Soldier's Tale. The theatre piece, drawn from a European folk tale, shows a person of essentially good character making an ill-advised pact with the devil. He soon learns that the acquisition of wealth is cold comfort for the price he pays. He learns that he can get out of the deal, but only by renouncing everything of the devil's he has acquired.

Interestingly, the news this week has presented a real-life enactment of the tale. Google, in party by taking the measure of the devil with which it has been dealing, has decided it doesn't like the deal, either.

Google has announced a 'new approach to China'. In the process it publicly exposes a rampant amount of spying and hacking originating inside that country. The spying is intensive and is not limited to users of Google. The Internet giant has announced that it will no longer filter news content in Google.cn as China's government has insisted. If it cannot offer the kind of open internet service in China that it does elsewhere, Google will leave.

Google opened Google.cn in 2006. Like other search engines operating in China, the service proved spectacularly unhelpful to China's citizens in locating a number of sites available to most people around the world. These include weblogs such as this one, social sites such as Twitter, human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House, and articles on subjects such as dissent inside China, Tibetan and Taiwanese nationalism, the Dalai Lama, the Falun Gong, and human rights topics in general. A search on the 1989 student protests at Tiananmen Square produces around 442,000 results on Google.uk; it produced no results at all on Google.cn.

But it will now. Google is now having discussions with the Chinese government about how to operate a more open service within the country. If the results of those talks are not fruitful, Google is ready to leave.

The move places China's government in a dilemma. The Communist Party that rules China is committed to filtering news that reaches citizens. But it is also committed to, and depends on, attracting foreign investment. It is especially eager to attract technology and communications companies. It is now faced with making a substantial shift in its approach to speech rights or, thanks to Google's exposure, establishing itself more prominently in the yes of the world as an enemy of privacy and the free exchange of information, even for people who live beyond China's borders.

A dilemma also faces Microsoft and Yahoo, two companies who have likewise cooperated on censoring content in oppressive ways in order to gain market share in China. They are now being called upon not only to defend their willingness to help an oppressive regime oppress its citizens for the sake of profit, but to explain what they intend to do to guarantee privacy for members' accounts.

BBC News presents the news concisely.

CNet offers a detailed look at how cyber-attacks operate and the implications of Google's move.

Guardian UK examines the story in a series of articles.

Taiwan News offers observations by a dissident now working in Taiwan.

Reprinted below is the complete text of the announcement as it appears in Google's official blog.


Conductor's Notebook

Google's 'new approach to China'

Reprinted below is the complete text of the announcement in Google's official blog.

A new approach to China

1/12/2010 03:00:00 PM
Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more
here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this Report to Congress (PDF) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (see p. 163-), as well as a related analysis (PDF) prepared for the Commission, Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time
we made clear that 'we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.'

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.


Conductor's Notebook


Audio Myths

Have you ever met an audiophile who pays high prices to get the very best connection cables? Who wants all the ultrasonic frequencies? Who swears that vinyl records remain unsurpassed for fidelity?

In Skeptic magazine this week, a sound engineer examines the superstitions and pseudoscience that circulate in the world of high-fidelity audio. The article, by Ethan Winer, shows how audio consumers are led astray by sales pitches, misunderstandings and placebo rewards. In the process, he offers an excellent primer in the way high-fidelity audio really works.

Audiophiles who prefer vinyl to digital playback are, of course, as correct as anyone can be about what they prefer. But it turns out that what they prefer in this case is not fidelity, as they claim, but distortion. Finding distortion pleasing is certainly allowed as an aesthetic choice. Rock musicians have lived by distortion for years, just as art enthusiasts exist who liked the Sistine Chapel ceiling better when it was dirty. One is entitled to one's tastes, but it does little good to justify these preferences by appeals to fidelity. What one loves is not fidelity to reality but the distortion of it that one has come to regard as an improvement.

The entire article may be viewed at Skeptic's reading room.


Conductor's Notebook


Computer Dreams

You know you're spending too much time on the computer when your dreams have pop-ups.

I was dreaming this morning and the pop-up came on and told me it was time to wake up. It was. My alarm was set to ring only a minute later.

Not a bad 'feature,' actually.


Conductor's Notebook


Image: Privé


Danshui, Taipei CountyTaiwan
台灣 新北市 淡水

Model: Cherry Chen
Makeup: Lunarlu Chen

©Alton Thompson 唐博敦


League puts magazine online

With the arrival of 2010 the League of American Orchestras has begun making its professional magazine, Symphony, available on the Net. Bookmarking this page provides access to all future issues of Symphony:


Features are displayed as they appear in the print publication. The interactive web page provides easy scrolls, text zooms and page turns. The first issue, 2010 January-February, is already posted.

Thanks to my colleague Apo Hsu for the tip.


Conductor's Notebook


New Year 2010

Here's wishing you joy, peace and abundance in all the days ahead.

From Taipei, Taiwan: happy new year!


Conductor's Notebook