Carmen (Bizet, 1875): Man disregards advice from woman, with grave consequences.
Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck, 1762): Man disregards advice from deity, with grave consequences.
Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner, 1843): Woman disregards advice from ghost pirate, with grave consequences.
Così fan tutte (Mozart, 1790): The composer does not like his wife.
Fidelio (Beethoven, 1805–14): The composer likes the idea of having a wife, but would settle for a free and just society.
Tristan und Isolde (Wagner, 1865): The composer likes other people’s wives.
La Traviata (Verdi, 1853): All you need is love.
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo, 1892): The tears of a clown, when everyone’s around.
Die Zauberflöte (Mozart, 1791): You say you want a revolution, and your bird can sing.
Rienzi (Wagner, 1840): The composer would like to make some money in Paris.
Tannhäuser (Wagner, 1845): The composer demonstrates that the Twisted Sister/Tipper Gore feud would have had a much larger body count had it occurred in medieval Germany.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner, 1868): The composer thinks you should know that he read your review and it still stings a bit.
Parsifal (Wagner, 1882): The composer spent a lot of late nights thinking aloud in his dorm room the semester he took Intro to World Religions.
Falstaff (Verdi, 1893): It might actually be possible to improve on Shakespeare.
Roméo et Juliette (Gounod, 1867): But not like this.
Das Liebesverbot (Wagner, 1836): And absolutely not like this.
La nozze di Figaro (Mozart, 1786): Rich people are terrible.
Madama Butterfly (Puccini, 1904): Americans are terrible.
La Bohème (Puccini, 1896): Infectious diseases are terrible.
Das Rheingold (Wagner, 1869): Teutonic deities are terrible.
Guillaume Tell (Rossini, 1829): Habsburgs are terrible.
Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss, 1874): Operetta is terrible.
For nearly all of my adult life, a large part of my job has involved communicating technical concepts. I like to imagine that I’ve developed a consistent voice, style, and visual language, and I’m also inclined to imagine that it has taken me a long time to get here. I recently needed to look over an old deck and was surprised to note that many elements of my current (and presumably at least somewhat refined) style were present in a talk I gave over a decade ago as a graduate student.
Here’s the old talk; for comparison, here’s a talk I gave this January. While I’m still improving at giving talks and designing visual explanations, I guess things haven’t changed as radically as I might have assumed.
I was reminded today that the delights of good cookbooks subsist not merely in explaining how to prepare particular dishes of interest but in introducing wonderful things that one didn’t even know were of interest.
This is true of the best technical writing structured around a cookbook metaphor, as well.
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