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Thoughts on James Horner

James Horner is probably my favorite film composer, but he gets a bit of flack for "borrowing" cues from other composers, and reusing his own themes in multiple projects.

My thought is that he's just a student and lover of music, and whether it's "borrowing" or an "homage," wasn't trying to fool anyone. Nobody would try to claim motifs and cues from composers as famous and as widely heard as Prokofiev or Copland as their own.

Just for fun, here are some samples of Horner using similar styles, or almost exact cues, from other composers. I pulled some of these from various lists, but many of their video links were broken, so I've found working replacements. Some of these YouTube videos allow embedded viewing, but others don't unfortunately.

Star Trek II

First, compare Battle in the Mutara Nebula with this part of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky.

Battle in the Mutara Nebula

Star Trek III

The previous example was at least inspired by Prokofiev, but this section from the destruction of the Enterprise scene is practically identical to Juliet's Funeral from Romeo and Juliet.

And speaking of Juliet's Funeral...

The "Stealing the Enterprise" scene is one of my favorite from all of Star Trek, partially because of the great music. Compare the opening of this scene with "Death of Tybalt." James Horner seems to be pretty fond of Romeo and Juliet!

Stealing the Enterprise

It shows up again in Willow!

An American Tail

Copland is another of my favorite composers, and apparently Horner was also a fan. Though I'd say this track from An American Tail is a bit more on the "copy" rather than the "homage" side of things...


While Goldsmith scored Alien, Horner did the sequel. There are some similarities between Aliens and Khachaturian here. I've read that Cameron wanted to channel a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey here, which itself used Khachaturian.


Revisiting Willow you'll notice quite a similarity to Schumann!


Prokofiev has to be Horner's favorite composer. Here he channels parts of Ivan the Terrible.

Battle Beyond the Stars

Now this one is a bit odd. Battle Beyond the Stars was released in 1980, just three years after Star Wars, and one year after Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

In general this score seems to be a rough draft of Star Trek II. You could play large parts of this score and I would probably say it came from Star Trek II if I didn't listen too closely.

This was early in Horner's career, and I can only imagine that he loved this score, but didn't get a chance to do it right with the time or budget he had, so he perfected it for Star Trek II. You'll note lots of cues and other ideas that are heard again and again, but appeared here for the first time.

This opening track has powerful cues that are almost identical to Star Trek II. And is that Goldsmith's Patton?

Now for the very odd part... This movie came out one year after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for which Goldsmith did another of my top favorite scores. The beautiful "Illia's Theme" is probably my favorite piece he ever created.

And one year later, Horner just uses it in Battle Beyond the Stars:

Oh, and don't forget Krull (1983):

As Stravinsky apparently once said, "A good composer does not imitate, he steals."

Ben Sinclair's avatar

Chirp with the Yaesu FT-1XD under OS X


I picked up a Yaesu FT-1XD at Ham Radio Outlet in Anaheim, and was having some trouble getting it to work with Chirp under OSX. These notes are mainly for my future self, or anyone Googling for information.

The FT-1XD includes the SCU-19 programming cable, which is just a Prolific PL2303 USB to serial adapter. Yeasu doesn't provide an OSX driver, but you can get one from Prolific.

Here are the steps to get it running:

  1. Download the PL2303 driver from Prolific.
  2. Download the Python runtime and the latest daily build of Chirp here.
  3. Install the PL2303 driver and restart
  4. Install the Python runtime
  5. Run Chirp
  6. That's it!

Ben Sinclair's avatar

PDP-11 Success!

After a lot of tinkering and some replacement parts, the PDP-11/23 seems to finally be running reliably!

The current configuration includes the 11/23 CPU, 64K of memory, and the serial interface. I also have my two RLV11 boards for running the RL02 drive installed, but those are not yet working.


I did have some bad memory boards, but I also didn't know that the CPU test required more than 32K of memory. So I did have everything working at one point, but the test wouldn't even start. With 64K of known good memory, it runs and passes!

My next step is getting the RL02 drive running, which may be very difficult if the complicated drive mechanism needs work.

Here it is running the CPU test:

CPU Test

Ben Sinclair's avatar

FileVault and Login Weirdness

I've been having strange login issues with my new Macbook Pro, and finally figured them out. It turns out that I didn't fully understand how FileVault encryption works.

I was seeing the following issues:

  • On restart, I would see a photo-based login screen, which wanted my iCloud password, then I would see another username/password login screen, which wanted my local password. Also, it was strangely focusing the password field instead of the username field.

  • The first login screen wasn't using my login preferences of username/password instead of photos.

  • Running in clamshell mode, I was never able to get the login screen to appear on my external monitor after a restart.

For the first issue, I tried all sorts of things, then decided to disable, then re-enable iCloud. After doing that, I only saw the initial photo-based login screen.

The second issue is where I realized everything was due to FileVault. No matter what I did with the login preferences, the login screen always showed the user photos and the shutdown/restart options, which I had disabled in preferences.

Eventually I figured out that with FileVault, the login screen is provided prior to OS X booting, which is necessary for it to decrypt and boot OS X. That login screen has no preference options, and always shows user photos. Disabling FileVault will cause only the actual OS X login screen to appear.

The third issue was also related to FileVault. When showing the FileVault login screen, it hasn't yet booted OS X, so it doesn't know about my external monitor.

I'd really prefer some control of the pre-OS X login screen, as I don't really want my actual name showing up on the login screen. I prefer just an empty username field. And of course it would be nice if it knew about my external monitor, but doing that without an OS might be pretty tricky.

So now I have to decide between wonky booting and logging in, or having strong encryption.

Ben Sinclair's avatar

Atom Editor

After much messing around with text editors, I've been using Github's Atom for a while now and really enjoy it! More on this and my semi-failed vim adventures later.