Barcelona is no longer a bargain.
I read this statement in a travel guide, about the restaurants in Barcelona. This is true. If you go out for a sit-down meal, especially if typically it involves some seafood or paella at a Barceloneta outdoor restaurant, which appears to be not so up-scale, chances are, you two will spend around 50 euros at least.
Luckily (or unluckily), I'm not so into seafood and paella, or any "good" food usually served at restaurants. I mostly eat Asian food and no seafood, no red meat. That leaves me the best bet to have a good meal in Barcelona from the Middle East cuisine.(since it is not very common to find East Asian food).
I like the several pita inns, turkish, and Pakistani restaurants in la rambla. The chicken wrap is the best--it is healthy with chicken and many kinds of veggies, but also quite delicious and quite fulfilling. I usually get hungry fast--but this small wrap keeps me full for a long time(than a pita wrap in the US, say).
Tapas are also excellent food, in which you can taste the thousands of years of history that was mixed into the delicate seasoning and texture and flavors of these octopus, croquets, and jamons. But the thing is it feels weird to go for tapas on my own, so I only go with friends.
I hear much worse things about thefts in Barcelona and Paris. But they are not entirely untrue.
Once I just got off the metro, and was on an escalator in Barcelona. I felt someone was touching my backpack so I kind of moved it around a bit. There was a wild looking woman behind me (but not apparently a thief). Later I found out that my backpack was unzipped for the most part. But nothing was stolen. Because I alerted her that I was paying attention.
When I was in Paris once I got on a train, and several people to my left were making some strange moves as if it was too crowded than it actually was. Suddenly a man on my right was also blocking me from moving, and I found that my bag was half unzipped. I felt the man was digging in my right pocket of my pants. I immediately slammed my pocket and a plastic bag in his hand went flying. I did nothing and he got off.
PAST EVENTS HIGHLIGHTS
Reading fascinating stories of patients with brain deficits is always the best pastime for me. Today I was reading Oliver Sacks' great classic The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and I have to agree that this book is more than a documentation of neurological disorders, but really is a inquiry into the very nature of what makes us human in brain terms.
What strikes me the most is the repeated discussion on the power of music and art to harmonize brain functions. In one case, one man with perfect eye function has completely lost his visual processing and live in a world of pure music. He recognize people not by their face, but only by their voice and 'body music' (he is not blind, he can see well). In another case, a man has long lost his ability to retain short-term memory and always lives as if this moment is the year of 1945, when he is 19 years old. His intelligence is fine but cannot solve complicated problems because he quickly forgot the previous steps and the question. He has lived in a Home for several years but cannot remember and identify any one he sees everyday. However, when he comes to the church, participate in the religious activity and singing, he exhibited great power of attention and concentration for quiet a while. He came to enjoy gardening, and managed to remember quite well the path and structure of the garden when he cannot remember the layout of his home where he lived for years.
This is the power of music and art. I think language is more complicated and another example, where the brain processing exhibit some effect of modularity and is able to function relatively well despite the total loss of other general functions. It also shows that, as brain plasticity has shown, a cognitive task like playing music and learning a new language has the effect of generally activate multiple brain regions and improve the general cognitive performance of the brain. I believe this is a great hope for any brain patients.
Thinking of it from the perspective of evolution, I have a new insight. Patel has hypothesized that even though there is no evidence that music is an advantage for selective adaptation, music is a powerful invention that once invented, the human race would never live without it. He made an analogy with fire, and cited that music has also changed our brain structure forever. I think the power of music as demonstrated in Sacks' patients is yet another evidence that music and art in general has a special place in the cognitive functioning of human brains. Invoking a cognitive task like music is much beneficial to the brain's cognitive functioning as well as pleasure stimulation, and perhaps that is one reason we cannot live without it once we have cultivated experience with it. It involves the part of human experience that is fundamental and harmonizing. It is perhaps part of both a cause and result of the higher cognitive functioning that defines us as human. If we consider the two-way interaction of brain evolution and human culture, perhaps what defines us as human might have emerged from both nature and culture.
This week we have started essentia tutorial at MTG. We run it on a linux virtual machine with ubuntu, and compile it from the source. We either use ipython or ipython notebook with pylab environment. It has quite nice tools for extracting features out of audio recordings. I will yet to explore its details. It will be announced as free GPL for sharing in a few months after some more contributions and testing, research with it from within MTG. website: http://www.mtg.upf.edu/technologies/essentia.
As part of CompMusic we are organizing two concerts of Indian Art Music, one on June 19th on Carnatic music, with Vignesh Ishwar, from IITM, and another on June 21st on Hindustani music, with Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli, from IITB. Each concert will be preceded by a Lecture Demonstration.
This is perhaps my first most complete experience of Hindustani music. It was much better than listening to recordings. I was able to read some of the tala and raga charts and map some scales and tala cycles. I especially appreciate the 2-3-2-3 cycles, Jhaptal, which is really inconspicuous because the melody is quite fluid, but if you pay attention you can catch the cycle. Also Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli played a little hand powered organ, which was amazing. This guy is a genius-both a high achieving vocalist and a engineer working on audio signal processing.
What strikes me the most is the contrast of the situation of traditional music in China and in other cultures that we study at CompMusic, such as Indian. We have no problem to recruit from India, or Turkey, highly skilled professional or semi-professional level musicians who have greatest passion for their traditional music and at the same time are able to carry this passion into their professional career as a researcher in sound computing and MIR. In China, the prospect is pretty sad because not only we can barely find this kind of double talent, but the general number of people who are interested in traditional music is very low. Every traditional art form, almost, are marginalized and is no longer relevant to most people's modern life. Seeing the most beautiful and unique traditions of Hindustani music, I cannot help but feel that how sad would it be if every country you go (like China), people are all playing pop, rock, jazz, and classical music from the West and there is nothing unique to see at all. It's a great loss.
One of my favorite pieces at the SCL concert, the sounds of all sorts of cultures in Barcelona. Listen at: http://justeluis.wix.com/sound-of-culture, listen to the 'COMPOSICIÓN FINAL'.
This is one of the coolest and most creative concerts i've been to. I enjoyed it so much primarily because of its resonance with my passion for sound, sound experience, and sound editing and creative sonic experience in music with technology and techniques form audio signal processing. This is just so me. I adore the idea of creating musical works based on a sound experience perspective that is extracted from and integrated into our daily experience--we don't normally realize how important sound is in our life, and how amazing that fact is. That is, us human beings take great pleasure and great utilization from the sound of everything (or some things...). Why is that? Why is our brain's pleasure got stimulated just by some mechanical vibrations; and how does it make sense out of these chaotic signals? These are the fundamental puzzles that motivated my interest in auditory perception and music/language processing in the first place, and the best embodiment of this in music is seen in this concert. Website contains individual project links and their use of sound materials from FREESOUND (concert website: http://soundcreationlab.hol.es | Phonos website: http://phonos.upf.edu/node/728?language=en)