Friday, December 31, 2004
Thursday, December 30, 2004
This prompted a strange look from the friend (who shall remain unnamed), and this comment: "See, everything you say is over my head."
Now, isn't Lemon Yellow the brightest crayon in the box? What is so "over the head" about that? And if you compare intelligence to Crayola® crayons, well then, someone like Einstein would be a Lemon Yellow crayon, right? Intelligence-wise, I guess I'm maybe Orchid or Salmon or Carnation Pink--bright enough to hold my own, but not blindingly bright. No Lemon Yellow, indeed.
Then there is the issue of the white crayon. Would it count as being bright, since you can't even see it unless you're drawing on colored construction paper? If a person has "white-crayon intelligence," does that mean they're only bright in comparision to a dimmer environment? Kind of like some freshman comp students? You know, the average (or less-than-average) students who think they deserve an "A" from you because they got "A's" in English at their low-performing high school? Can you look at them condescendingly and call them "you worthless bunch of white-crayon thinkers," and leave it at that?
Can anyone tell me why I have this leftover English-major tendency to find metaphors in everything?
Also, is it racist to call someone a white-crayon thinker, I wonder? Or to call Apricot and Peach crayons the "skin colors," as we did when we were children? According to the crayon information page, there used to be a peach-like Crayola® crayon called "Flesh," but it was changed because children of many colors use crayons--not just the peach-colored children. My favorite crayon was always Indian Red. Oh geez. I promise I wasn't trying to be racist. Of course, Indian Red has since been changed to "Chestnut," to avoid offending anyone.
Is there an online Intelligence Test to tell us what crayon colors are symbolized by our IQs? If there isn't, well, there should be. Or maybe there's a test that tells us our personality traits based on our favorite crayon colors. I'll google it and get back to you.
By the way ... Lemon Yellow IS the brightest crayon in the box, isn't it? Or at least it was until it was RETIRED in 1990. Maybe the arteries in its pointy-headed, Crayola®-box-sharpened brain hardened and it wasn't so bright anymore. Hmph. More Crayola® crayon trivia here and here.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
"Never leave me for five days again, or I will incinerate you with my X-ray vision. I don't care how many catnip-laced toys you give me for Christmas."
She really said that. Scared me half out of my wits. Guess I won't be taking any more week-long holiday vacations.
Actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sardonic, seen-it-all cop on TV's "Law & Order" and scored on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died of prostate cancer at 69, a representative of the show said Wednesday.I'm so sad. Jerry Orbach was one of my favorite actors. I loved him as Detective Lenny Briscoe in Law and Order.
Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said.
That's what I cheerily told my boss this morning. Then, fearing I would look like I was sucking up to him, I added, "I'm glad to be back home." As in, not at work.
He laughed. He's a good egg. I think he knew what I meant.
I've developed the annoying habit of referring to nice, well-meaning people as "good eggs." I've got to stop doing that.
I have much to blog about. There are about 10 mini-essays brewing in my head from the past five days of life in south Louisiana. Alas, work calls, so I'll need to wait awhile before boring y'all with my details and observations of Christmas 2004.
Dear Friend of eMi,
As you've mostly likely heard by now, a tidal wave of "biblical" proportions has struck the shores of southern India, washing away everything in its path. The massive Hindu population of the Prakasam District in Andra Pradesh is turning to the Church for help. They are literally standing at the doors of the 100+ churches that eMi has constructed via the Village Church Project for India Christian Ministries (ICM) and these people are desperate. This is our opportunity to respond with the love of Jesus.
The 300 pastors working with ICM that minister in this district are using these churches as relief shelters. These pastors need food, water, supplies and blankets to distribute to the 25,000 people who were shocked by this massive destructive force. India Christian Ministries has been a good friend of eMi and a trusted ministry partner for many years, and we need to stand with them and equip them as they strive to meet the needs of these people.
I received the following email today from James, the director of ICM:
"As of today, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where ICM works, more than 100 bodies have been found. Thousands of people are missing, and over 25,000 people from the 80+ villages along the coastline are now homeless. People have lost everything they owned, they are without food, and the water sources are polluted. It averages about $50 to provide a family with a week's worth of food ($10), a set of clothing for each person (around $20), a large blanket and a large mat ($20). If we can't do all of these things, we can do at least food, though it is my heart to do all of it. The next step is rebuild homes in the communities...and put the church in the center of the community and rebuild the villages."
Will you commit to help a family begin to rebuild their life with your gift of $50? I know we're in the midst of the holidays, but I hope you'll consider this opportunity to help those who have lost everything. If you can do more, please consider giving to help two, three or even ten families.
We will send 100% of your contribution directly to India to be distributed to those in need. If you would like to help us meet this critical need, please reply to this email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make a pledge. Type "India Relief" in the subject line. Then mail your tax-deductible contribution to eMi, 130 E. Kiowa, Suite 200. Colorado Springs, CO 80903. We are requesting you notify us of your pledge via email, so we can notify ICM immediately the amount of our financial commitment for relief supplies.
Thank for considering this urgent request.
eMi...designing a world of hope
engineering ministries international
130 E. Kiowa
Colorado Springs, CO 80903 USA
719-633-2078, ext. 101
I got this letter via Jeremy Phillips of World Harvest Mission. We met Jeremy and his family recently, before they headed to England to do mission work. He writes that eMi is a reputable organization that is well known to WHM; check out their website for more information about eMi.
Update: This blog is a sort of clearinghouse for information on the disaster relief effort. Got the link from Mr. B.S.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute). For a complete
Which Mozart Opera Does Your Life Most Resemble?
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I found this little quiz through terminaldegree.
That picture up there looks kinda like an AT hiker trekking down the green tunnel, does it not? Now, if only the steps at the end were the escalator up Mount Katahdin ...
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Of course, when all the loud music started, I got panicky and couldn't find the button to click to turn the volume down. So, after what seemed an eternity of fumbling with the mouse and slamming it on the mousepad a few times (as if that were going to help matters), I reached down and hit the hard drive's ON/OFF button. Had to hit it twice before it took.
I don't think you're supposed to do that.
Today was piano day. Life is good.
Counselor / Social Worker
Teacher / Professor
Clergy / Religious Worker
Does anyone see "Cubicle-Dwelling Technical Writer" in there? Hm? Hm? What about "Writer" and "Musician?" Uh-huh. Just as I thought.
Or maybe I should have been a priest.
Harry Potter Personality Quiz by Pirate Monkeys Inc.
It seems that Mr. Fred O. Sphere has been wearing his tin-foil hat again. He blogged today about Meyers-Briggs personality types (he’s an INTJ). It just so happens that I’ve had several good discussions about the whole personality-type thing in the last few days.
Of course, that’s not all that unusual for me. Due to some research that I did in grad school (on personality type and writing/learning styles), I know a bit about the subject. So, when personality types come up in conversation, I can actually become quite talkative. Last Friday, after some discussion over lunch, I e-mailed a quickie Meyers-Briggs test to all of my co-workers. Interestingly, the one co-worker that I really seem to identify with just happens to be the only other NF in our division. The rest of ‘em are a mix of NTs, and SJs.
As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I am a pretty strong INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling Perceiver). Once I tell people what that means, they look at me rather skeptically.
“You’re not an introvert.”
“Oh, yes I am.”
“No way. You’re probably the least introverted person I know.”
“No, I’m pretty introverted. You’d be surprised. I’m really shy, too.”
And I just smile. Looks like I’ve successfully bamboozled yet another person. They should know that no extravert in their right mind would spend as much time alone as I do, reading and writing and practicing the piano, not to mention hiking solo from Maine to Georgia.
Thing is, we introverted shy types learn to pretend in order to please the extraverts of the world and get them off our backs. My particular survival tactic is to make people laugh by engaging in silly word play. “OK, I’ll socialize with you for a couple of hours, and I’ll even make you laugh and be the life of the party, but please, please, please let me go home after that and spend a week reading and writing and playing my piano. Alone.”
It’s not really like that, but there is a grain of truth to it. I had a great weekend because the Hubster was in Ohio and I basically spent the entire weekend reading, writing, practicing piano, and working on music theory/composition exercises. Gloriously alone.
I think this is part of why Christmas stresses me out. It’s so social. And it’s so ongoingly social. All the parties, presents, and general visiting leave my poor little introverted psyche exhausted. Just thinking about it all makes me tired. Even though I know I’ll enjoy seeing family and friends, I know I’ll be ready to get back home, get through the week of work that follows, and then spend the following weekend reading, writing, and playing the piano. Alone.
OK, enough navel-gazing. Time for me to get back to work.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
I think part of it is the bustle. And the hustle. Christmas just makes me tired. And I don't even get into the whole decorating bit. Shopping for presents makes me tired. Trying to figure out what people will want when I haven't seen them for a year makes me tired. Going to holiday parties (three last week) makes me tired. Traveling makes me tired. Hearing the same old Christmas songs over and over again every year--and each year in new and more hideous versions by the pop stars du jour--makes me tired. Reading all the "Christmas/Kwanzaa/etc." contraversy crap makes me tired. Trite little sayings like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" make me tired.
Part of my fatigue and depression, too, probably results from the fact that everyone I work with (including me) is burned out and greatly in need of a vacation. So we're snippy. Or just silent.
Music isn't doing much for me these days. I spent most of the morning listening to Beethoven's early symphonies, then tried switching over to Planet Zeb. Nothing worked. So I'm not listening to anything.
Tonight we have to clean house. But first I have to get my hair cut. And I have piano tomorrow, the last piano lesson of the year. And we have to pack. I just feel tired and overwhelmed and depressed.
I probably shouldn't be blogging this, but I am anyway. So there. :)
By the way, my cat, Beau, has started his own blog.
Click here to explore a really cool set of linguistic maps. Brings me back to those delightful days of linguistics classes when I was in grad school.
Warning: For those who are at work and are supposed to be doing, well, work stuff ... this is a bit of a time waster. Of course, if your job is in the field of sociolinguistics, it's probably OK. :-)
P.S. Here's what I say:
Ant (for my Aunt Joyce); Ain't (for my Aunt Elaina and Aunt Ruby)
b'KAHN (Not sure why ... I don't know anyone else who pronounced "pecan" this way. Could have something to do with my hearing loss.)
Y'all (my Ohio-born Hubster says "yins")
Eye gunky (that one isn't on the linguistics map list either)
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are entertaining and imaginative, creating whole new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you have a whole league of imitators, none of which is quite as profound as you are. Stories and songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your eternal battle with the forces of evil.
Which literature classic are you?
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Monday, December 20, 2004
Think this is Time's birthday gift to Rebecca?
Rebecca is my newly 22-year-old sister, and she just happens to be, erm, quite an enthusiastic fan of Dubya & all things Republican. (Is that an understatement?)
Happy Birthday, Rebecca!
At 5:15 this morning, I heard Not Yet stirring next to me at Gooch Gap Shelter. I knew it was time. Today was the day we would summit Springer Mountain. Today we would complete our thru-hikes.
The night before, as I lay in my sleeping bag, I was a little sad. Although the past month had brought rain, snow, sleet, hail, thunder, lightning (yes, lightning!), and bitter cold, I was going to miss the AT. Cold or not (it was 18 degrees), it was my last night in a shelter. I missed my trail life already.
5:25 a.m. It was time to get up and get moving. Not Yet looked at me and grinned. "We're gonna make it!" she said softly, and I grinned back. We were going to make it—nothing could stop us now!
But it was slow going from the start. It was so cold that it took tremendous motivation for me to emerge from my sleeping bag and prepare to hike. I checked the thermometer on my pack: it was a frigid three degrees below zero in the shelter.
Not Yet and I packed as fast as we could, but it took a long time because we kept stopping to put our hands on our stomachs to thaw our fingers, which were painfully numb with cold.
One of the most unpleasant sensations a thru-hiker experiences has got to be that of putting cold feet into frozen boots. I'd tried several methods of preventing my boots from freezing at night, but nothing has seemed to work with the cold temps we've had lately. I spent several minutes working those boots on this morning; they were frozen solid, and it was like trying to put on boots that were three sizes too small.
Finally, after more than an hour, we were ready to go. The cold nearly had me in tears; I had the familiar sense of nausea that I always get when the temps drop below 20.
We first hiked 0.1 miles to Not Yet's car. Her fiance, Macon Tracks, would drive it up USFS 42 and hike the final mile with us to the summit.
The two had planned to thru-hike the AT together; however, Macon Tracks started having foot problems in Tennessee/North Carolina. Although he had to quit hiking then, he's remained a big part of Not Yet's hike by slackpacking her the rest of the way. I joined them a week ago at Nantahala Outdoor Center, primarily so I could be with other people in the cold weather. But I must admit that I welcomed the chance to hike with a light pack for a week!
We stashed our excess gear in the car and started hiking. I was miserable with cold, but I was also excited about reaching Springer, which was about 16 miles away. Not only would Springer signify the end of my thru-hike and the reaching of a major goal, but it meant that I would be sleeping INSIDE that night. . .and the next night. . .and the next night. . . .
To be honest, though, I wasn't in the best of spirits. My fingers and toes were completely numb, and it was hard to breathe through my balaclava. My eyes were the only part of me that wasn't covered, and the cold stung the skin around them. I just kept hiking. I've learned that, after an hour or so of hiking, my hands and feet warm up. I've also learned that, once my hands are warm, my attitude and mood improve tremendously.
It took awhile. Finally, around mid-morning, my feet and hands began to thaw at the same time. I winced at the familiar burning, aching sensation in my fingers and toes that signals the thawing. I don't know why it has to be so painful, but it is. In what first became a daily routine for me in the Smokies, I stopped, threw my hiking poles down, clutched my hands together, and groaned in pain for several minutes.
Did someone say I don't deal well with cold weather?
Not Yet was very nice."I know how painful that is," she sympathized. "Just keep hiking!"
"I just hope this is the last time today that they have to thaw out," I winced, and we hiked on.
But it only the first of several times that day. Whenever we stopped after that—especially if I had to take off my mittens for a few seconds—my fingers became painfully numb and had to thaw again. I just hiked on and tried to ignore the pain.
During our lunch break at Tray Mountain Shelter several days ago, my boots froze as I was wearing them. Today, they were already frozen. Everything else froze, though—my water, my zippers, my candy bars, even my pigtails! The condensation from my breath even froze the bottom part of my balaclava. At one point this afternoon, my water bottle, which I had re-filled only minutes before, leaked onto my rainpants and left a thick line of ice running down them. But on we hiked.
The day was beautiful. The perfectly clear sky was a deep blue, and the bright sun reflected on the snow, making everything glisten and shine like a lovely white sequined dress. It was so bright that I found myself wishing for sunglasses.
The trail itself looked pristine. It was covered in snowdrift—much of it one to three feet deep. Not Yet and I had planned to run the final 16 miles to Springer, but we had to settle for a slow trudge through the snow, which often came up to our knees and sometimes to our thighs. The up-and-down terrain, which would have been a workout in itself, was especially hard when it was under several feet of snow.
We stopped at the side trail to Hawk Mountain Shelter for lunch. It was about eight miles from Springer—a good spot for a break. We were too tired to walk to the shelter, so we sat on a snow-covered log for about 15 minutes—just long enough to wolf down a few granola bars, a Snickers, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, and a Power Bar.
It's said that your whole life flashes before your eyes when you're about to die. Well, my whole thru-hike seemed to flash before my eyes as I walked the final eight miles to Springer. I fondly remembered June 20, 2000—the day I had summitted Katahdin. I thought of how much I enjoyed staying at Pine-Ellis B&B; in Andover, Maine. I thought of Isis and Jackrabbit, and how much their friendship enhanced my hike through the White Mountains.
I also thought of the magical day in Vermont when I met up with Swamp Eagle, Nimblewill Nomad, and Belcher. I thought about the Purcells in Falls Village, and of the kindness they had shown me. I smiled as I remembered the morning I woke up at Fingerboard Shelter in New York; Yossi, a section hiker offered to let me use his cell phone, so I was able call my mom from the AT to wish her a happy birthday!
I thought of how I'd survived the Pennsylvania rocks, and I remembered my happy, peaceful days of hiking through Virginia. I thought about the cold and snow in Tennessee, and how thankful I was for trail angels like Dave at MRO in Damascus and Bob and Pat at Kincora, who had helped me to get through difficult times on the trail.
I also thought of my deceased grandfather, Leo Baxley, whose presence I have felt so many times on my thru-hike. I first felt that he was with me in Maine as I climbed Katahdin. After that, I would often get an intense feeling that he was nearby, especially in the mountains. I could sense that he was walking these final miles with me, watching over me, making sure, as always, that I safely reached my destination.
I smiled a lot and cried a lot during those final miles. The hike wasn't quite the "victory lap" I'd imagined, since we were moving so slowly and I never did stop feeling miserably cold. But then again, nothing on this hike has turned out the way I imagined. And that's good.
We reached USFS 42, 0.9 miles from the summit, at approximately 2:45 this afternoon.
"Is this where everyone was supposed to meet us?" I asked.
"I think so," replied Not Yet.
The parking lot was deserted, save for a blue truck, covered in snow, that belonged to two section hikers we'd met the day before.
We found a note on the information board from Matt, who'd spent the previous night at Hawk Mountain Shelter. Reading it, we learned that USFS 42 was open but barely passable. As a result, the people we'd expected to see—Macon Tracks, my mom, my dad, my sister, and my friends Jim and Maggie—were nowhere to be seen. So Not Yet and I started up the final 0.9 miles to the summit.
Not Yet raced ahead, but I was so exhausted by the day's hike that it took every ounce of energy I had to keep moving. Finally, I could see the plaque that marks the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Not Yet was standing there with Matt. We all hugged, laughed, congratulated each other, and took pictures.
My Springer summit was similar to my Katahdin summit in that I was too tired to jump up and down, yell, and otherwise express my jubilation at reaching the big goal. We were happy but subdued. The last month of hiking had been tough, and we were all glad to end this long, arduous trek through the cold and snow.
It was a fitting way to end our thru-hikes. Not Yet and I had talked about how Mt. Katahdin is sort of an exclamation point for northbounders ending their thru-hikes, and how Springer is more like a period at the end of a sentence. We'd all had incredible journeys, we were tired, and now it was time to go home.
On the way back to the parking lot, we saw Macon Tracks. He'd been able to get Not Yet's car a mile up USFS 42, but no further. This meant that we would need to hike five additional miles to his car. We were all exhausted, and my legs and feet were numb with both fatigue and cold, but we had no choice other than to keep walking. So we kept walking.
After several hours, we finally arrived at Amicalola Falls Lodge, where my parents and sister had reservations. Macon Tracks, Not Yet, Matt, and I spilled out of Not Yet's tiny blue car and went into the lodge for a very happy reunion—Matt with his mom, and I with my mom, dad, and sister.
And so "normal life" began tonight. No more sleeping outside, no more hiking all day long, no more following white blazes. I'm too tired now to think about the significance of all that, or even how I feel about it. I'm planning to post one more update in which I write about those things.
But for now, it's time for bed. Six months ago today, I summitted Mt. Katahdin, and today I finished my 2,167.1-mile trek south on the Appalachian Trail. I'm tired, but it's a "good tired." And now it's time for me to get some rest.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Now, I've had an idea for many a year about writing a musical based on one of my favorite Hans Christian Andersen stories. This bit of Ninsterschmaltz would be perfect for the rich-people's-dance-scene. Hee hee!
So, whether I ever write a musical or not, well, I have me some music. It started out as a music theory/composition exercise and just sort of took on a life of its own. I called my sis and played it for her and she loves it, schmaltz and all. Hee hee! Ha ha! Ho ho! Maybe I'll be a real, live composer after all!
Mo' later. I'm going to read a bit of Twenty Years After, then go to bed.
P.S. It's STILL sneauxing.
But for the moment, I'm going to snuggle with kitties and watch the sneaux fall.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Hikers, you'll like this one in particular.
Update: I sent the link to the folks at work, and they did not see the humor in the drawings. They looked annoyed that I had interrupted their hard work replacing F8-Exits and writing things like, "This page intentionally left blank." Sigh. I will never fit in.
Update #2: I am hearing titters from the next cubicle. And a guffaw from across the building. Perhaps they're beginning to "get it" after all. I knew they'd come through for me. Those co-workers of mine are good eggs.
By the way, I got this link from a fellow ex-English composition instructor, Mister B.S.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
When I moved to Asheville, I had no plans to take piano lessons. I'd pretty much become one of those adults who "used to take piano" but doesn't play anymore. Besides, I was busy enough with hiking, being a newlywed, learning my new tech writing job, etc. But I did miss piano. And, on the rare occasions that I did sit down to play, I would think to myself, "Self, you really should take lessons again. Nurture that smidgeon of talent now, before you end up with carpel tunnel or arthritis."
So one day, on a whim, I made a few phone calls and a few inquiries ... and within a week, I had a piano teacher.
It has felt like a long road to "recovery"--not only have I had to re-learn some things and break some bad habits, but I had to deal with a bunch of negative emotional stuff that tends to come up whenever I let my "artistic" self come out. Also, my poor ego ... I used to play quite well, and it was hard on my ego to be learning things that were at the same level I'd played in high school. But the ego got over it. I love piano too much to let my silly ego get in the way.
And it's been good. I think I'm playing better (technique-wise) than I did in college. I know I'm enjoying piano more than I ever did. I'm not at the level I was in college, but I'm getting there. Here are the pieces, etc., I've learned this year:
Bach, Invention No. 12 in A major
Bach, Invention No. 13 in A minor
Bach, Sinfonia No. 5 in E-flat major
Chopin, Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1
Mozart, Fantasie in D minor, K. 397
Suzuki Book 1 (by-ear pieces)
All major and minor scales and arpeggios in four octaves
Contrary motion scales
Inversions in all major and minor keys
La, la, la.
I didn't start the theory/composition lessons until the spring. Between piano and theory, I feel like a regular old music student.
I've definitely improved in a year, though it's felt like a very slow and sometimes painful improvement. I didn't have a piano in the house until this summer; before that, I went back and forth between a few churches and the UNC-A practice rooms whenever I could find the time. Even now, with a full-time job and the rest of the trappings of being a grown-up, I'm lucky if I can practice a whole hour each day.
Deborah said that there are periodic "adult student piano recitals" in this area. Maybe I'll participate in one of those. I haven't played in a piano recital since college. It might be fun.
Then again, it might be a nightmare. We'll see.
I'd still like to do a "Waterfall the Unassuming Cubicle Dweller Wows Audience by Playing Lots of Difficult Classical Music with Astonishing Brilliance and Elan" recital, but there are no plans for that as of yet. We'll see, we'll see, we'll see. It's something to dream about.
Beethoven was born in Bonn on December 16 (probably) in 1770, which would make him 234 years old. Exactly 200 years older than me, give or take a few months.
I feel a special connection to Beethoven. I mean, the guy was short, born in '70, had a capital "B" in his last name, entertained fantasies regarding his true parentage, was deaf, played the piano from childhood, composed, loved to take long walks (even in the cold and rain), was a terrible housekeeper, took great pleasure in word-play, had stormy periods of depression, loved C-minor and E-flat major, and suffered from uncooperative hair. We're practically twins.
Happy Birthday, Beethoven! Here is a site with Beethovenian arrangements of "Happy Birthday," just for you!
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
When I say "I miss the trail," I don't just mean the Appalachian Trail. I mean "the trail" in a more general sense. I miss day-to-day trail life.
I miss piano, too. The piano room was freezing today, so I only made it about six minutes (enough time to fumble through the Mozart Fantasie) before my fingertips began to show signs of frostbite. So I headed back to Cubicle Land.
Today, I'm replacing screen shots. Why? Is it because the content of the screens have changed? Is it because they look shockingly different from the previous version of the software?
Or is it because every "Exit" button in the software was changed from F8-Exit to [F8] Exit, and because every said "Exit" button was moved from the right side of the screen to the left, in every screen in the software?
Fun, exciting day. Some days I just want to F8-Exit the office and go hiking. I'm sorry, I meant that I want to [F8] Exit the office and go hiking. My mistake. Silly ole me.
493 more days (or something like that) till the PCT. When I'm freezing my hiney off in a cold rain somewhere in Oregon, miserable because I'm tired and hungry and scared and won't have a shower for three more days, I'll think to myself, "Would I rather be out here on the PCT ... or would I rather be sitting in temperature-controlled Cubicle Land, replacing F8-Exit screen shots with [F8] Exit screen shots?
I know what my answer will be.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Tomorrow is the birthday of one Ludwig van Beethoven. I'm trying to figure out what I'll do to celebrate, in addition to the obvious all-Beethoven 24-hour music fest that I'll give my good ear. If anyone has any suggestions for other celebratory activities, or has their own Beethoven-birthday rituals they'd like to share, the Comments feature is just a click or two away!
ONWARD TO MUSIC ...
The hubster was gone for several hours last night, so I spent the evening with my beloved, bejowled, and bewigged one. Went through chorales, playing them, looking for instances of how he resolves seventh chords (and all their inversions) and tritones.
I do declare, sometimes I am so completely happy that I can read music. That I can just open up to a Bach chorale and play it. Sometimes, if I think about the fact that I have this skill, it nearly reduces me to cheesy tears of gratitude. Really. Then I get even cheesier and become tearfully grateful that my family had a piano, and that my parents sent me to piano lessons. Cheesily, tearfully grateful.
After basking in Bach for a while, I moved on to my latest Theory assignment: writing and harmonizing "answer" melodies to the "question" melodies I worked on last week. That was harder than I thought it would be. There are just so many possibilities. And I keep trying to break the rules. It's easy to just sit down and improvise on a tune, but it's hard to do it by the rules. And I still don't know the rules well enough (yet) to be able to break them.
ONWARD TO MY LITERARY LIFE ...
I'm reading The Da Vinci Code, so I don't know if you can really call me "literary" these days. The Da Vinci Code started out mediocre(ly?) and has gotten progressively worse. I'm tempted not to finish it. My poor brain is crying out for something more stimulating. Heck, it would be happy with a mere interesting character--something this book fails, sadly, to provide.
And it's a best-seller. Everyone's reading it, and everyone seems to love it. I do not understand.
No wonder I don't fit in with most people. Grumble, grumble.
Anyway, The Da Vinci Code is not a good book (sorry, mom). At least, it's not in my opinion. I'm going to go ahead and finish it, though, and maybe I'll write a review then. Hopefully I'll finish reading it soon because I'm ready to read something good.
ONWARD TO PIANO ...
I have a delicious lunch hour ahead of me: an appetizer of scales and arpeggios, a main course of Mozart, and a dessert of Chopin. I always have Chopin for dessert. He's almost as good as chocolate. Maybe better.
OK, so that last paragraph was just a little story to lead up to this adorable picture of my son:
But I am tired, though.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Now that I'm in western North Carolina, I see plenty of sneaux. And there's plenty of it out there this morning--the first sneaux of the season. Fine with me. It's pretty. I got ready for work and got into my Neon and headed to Asheville. Turns out there is a mess of wrecked 18-wheelers on the I-40 and traffic is backed up for 10+ miles. I turned around and came home. Waiting for a co-worker to e-mail me a document I've been working on so I can work on it here. I'm planning to go to work in a couple of hours ... but it's sneauxing really hard. This Louisiana native is not comfortable driving in this stuff. Particularly in a Neon.
I usually don't envy teachers, but I do this morning. All the schools in the county are closed.
If it would only sneaux harder, I might be able to stay home and work from here. I don't want to have to drive in it. It scares me. I am a south-Louisiana-born-cold-weather-scaredy-wuss. Please let me stay home today. I have plenty of work I can do, just as soon as it pops up in my e-mail. I'll probably be more productive here than I ever am at the office.
Let it sneaux! Oh please, let it sneaux some more!
Monday, December 13, 2004
What a dee-lightful pianokeysiastic lunch hour I had today!
I practiced the Sextus spells for a little while, then moved on to the true raison d'etre of my lunch hour: piano.
Technique-related things take up a good half-hour of practice sessions these days. That is a little frustrating, since I only have an hour of lunch hour for practicing, and I'd rather just be able to sit down and play beautifully and effortlessly for that hour. The technique practices are certainly worth the time and effort, though. I'm just happy no one else has to listen to them.
Then on to the Mozart--my pulsating Wolfie. Today I focused on the theme (one of many) of pounding, pulsing, whatever you want to call it. All through the Andante and Adagio sections, there is this constant sense of pulsation, of insistent repetition. Sometimes it's obvious, like when the E "pulses" in measure 20. Sometimes it's not so obvious, like with the soft pulsing D in measure 12 or the intense, fast pulsing G# in measure 53.
But I practiced the piece with an "ear out" for pulsation-type motives. And as I practiced with attention on all of the "pulsings," obvious and otherwise, it just seemed like a completely different piece than the one I'd been playing all along. Kind of like looking at a picture in terms of negative space--it's the same picture, only it looks different because you're perceiving it differently. This change in perception made sections of the piece seem less sweetly melodic and more ... sinister. More intense.
It was cool.
Of course, when I focused on the pulsings, I realized that they could sound a lot more, well, pulse-like, more sustained, than I was making them sound. So that's what I worked on. Pulsing. Sustaining the pulses. Using them to create a delicious sense of dark, underlying tension that doesn't wane. All while keeping a sense of steady control. A challenge, but such a thrill when I actually seem to approach the effect I'm striving for.
I just re-read what I wrote, and it sounds kind of erotic.
Sigh. I love piano. I love Mozart. I love life.
Anyway, I moved on to the Dett after that. Then squeezed in a playing of my beloved Chopin Nocturne in Bb-minor before heading back to Cubicle Land.
What a lunch hour. Good practice.
Perhaps I've internalized the Harry Potter thing a wee bit too much. But it always seems to help me if I can superimpose some sort of fiction over the reality of what I'm learning. It makes concepts easier to understand and remember. And it gives life to the nuts and bolts of things.
In music theory, I think of different techniques and concepts as "spells"--you know, those little one- and two-word commands Harry gives when he points his magic wand at something. "Accio Firebolt!" will summon his Firebolt (broom) because "Accio" is the summoning spell.
Well, I have spells for music theory. "Secundus Domino!" is the "secondary dominant" spell. It's like magic. You throw a secondary dominant into an otherwise bland chord progression (Secundus Domino!), and the progression suddenly gains zing and warmth and beauty. "Chordus Ninthus!" adds a ninth to an existing seventh chord, giving it a jazzy, restless, lovely sound. "Circulo Progressio!" is to incorporate a circle progression, which adds this clean sense of order and progression towards closure.
So, it's silly, but, to me, these techniques really are like magic. Perhaps this is because I'm a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of music theory. The techniques just make the music come alive, even more alive than it already was. I can take an uninspired-sounding melody from the theory exercises--or make up one myself--and, using these "spells" as a starting point, create something of beauty. Without even really trying.
Of course, I am trying. I'm having to learn the spells. And I'm a long way from knowing them well enough that I can just apply them without thinking about it. So, for the time being, it really does seem like magic.
So I learned a new concept on Friday at music theory: augmented sixths. You basically use them as a way of approaching a V chord from an inverted vi chord. Turns out there are several variations on the plain old sixth in a vi-V progression:
The Italian Sixth (Sextus Italus!)
The German Sixth (Sextus Germanicus!)
The French Sixth (Sextus Gallicus!)
(My apologies to Latin scholars ... I don't know much Latin and am getting the "spells" with the help of an English-to-Latin dictionary I found on the internet.)
And that's what I'm going to spend my lunch hour doing. Practicing the Sextus spells.
Does anyone know a spell for making the lunch hour hurry up and get here? And then making it last for three hours instead of one?
Hurry-O, Lunch-O! Pianokeysio!
Are we there yet?
I spent the weekend with hikers. I love hikers. Hikers are good. Hikers are my friends. I fit in with them.
It was POG's annual 40th birthday celebration in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Good "trail town." We just had a handful of folks this year, so it was a subdued weekend. No complaints from me. I like subdued.
It was also a weekend of campfires, vino, trail stories, cold rain, deep sleep, memories, and laughter. We went on a shopping spree Saturday afternoon at Bluff Mountain Outfitters. (Bluff Mountain Outfitters, Mount Rogers Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia, and The Backpacker in Baton Rouge are the shopping-spree-establishments-of-choice for this girly-girl, by the way). Didn't buy myself a thing, but I did get the hubster his Christmas present.
I have lots to write about today, so stay tuned. It's time to get to work, however, and I have a lot of it to do. So I'll leave you with this poem, one of my favorite "hiker poems." Enjoy.
THE MEN THAT DON'T FIT IN, by Robert Service
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
But, it's also the birthday of my brother Jonathan, who is 25 today (if my calculations are correct). A quarter of a century. Happy birthday, Jonathan!
Friday, December 10, 2004
So I was at naxos.com this morning, in the Composer Search section under "P" because I wanted to listen to Palestrina, and saw the name, "Poot, Marcel."
I giggled. His last name is POOT?
I thought to myself, "Self, you are horrible, immature, and most uncouth. Laughing at that poor man's name like that."
Then I giggled again. "His last name is really POOT?"
My curiosity raised, I clicked the link. And learned that Marcel Poot was a Belgian composer who lived from 1901 to 1988 and was considered to be among "the most remarkable musical personalities of his generation of Belgian composers." Poot "left behind an extensive selection of mainly instrumental works for orchestra and chamber ensembles." Who knew? He wrote seven symphonies.
So that's what I'm listening to today. His music is very, very lively and impulsive sounding.
Speaking of music, I haven't given a music update lately. That's because poor music has been on the back burner for a few days.
PIANO: Had a good lesson on Wednesday. Worked a lot on technique-related things, not so much on playing things through. The Dett piece is requiring me to learn how to play lots of big chords and octaves rapidly without straining my Hobbit-sized hands. So we worked on ways of doing that.
COMPOSITION: Music theory "class" is in a few hours, and I can't wait. I'd wanted to spend some quality time with Bach Chorales last night, now that I seem to have become "unstuck" in my theory education. But that didn't happen. Just didn't happen. Was supposed to, but didn't. I've written several exercise arrangements (in different established styles) of a melody that I harmonized this past weekend, and it's been lots of fun. Like learning new spells with my compositional magic wand: "Stylus brilliantus!" "Stylus andantino!" "Stylus marcio!" And this wonderful music just happens. I'm continually amazed by it.
PLAYING BY EAR: I learned recently that my ability to play things by ear is a special gift. I knew it was a special gift that I could do this when I was four because, I mean, how many four-year-olds play the piano? But I didn't know that playing by ear is an ability that is enjoyed by only a minority of adults. So I've been feeling thankful lately. I only have one ear that works, but it more than makes up for the fact that the other ear is deaf as a post.
LISTENING: Mostly I've been listening to religious choral stuff. Palestrina, Bach (yes, I've been feeding the Mass-in-B-Minor addiction again), and a capella arrangements of Christmas songs. I guess it's the holiday spirit. Fa la la la la.
Meeting other thru-hikers, other like-minded folks, the people that I belong with. Eating a big, fattening meal without hating myself for it. Walking ten, fifteen, twenty miles a day. Sleeping the sleep of the dead every night. Playing mind games with the mileages and the profile maps. Wondering if this uphill is ever going to end. Seeing the road at the bottom of the downhill, wondering how long it will take to get a ride into town.
Carrying everything I need on my back ... well, almost everything. What I don't have, I'll get in town at the store or the post office. Being hungry, genuinely hungry, and not bored-munching-hungry like I get in Cubicle Land.
Seeing for miles around every day. Mountain peaks, blue skies, clouds in the distance, and not a single computer, building, car, or television. The day's toughest decisions being, "Snickers ... or Power Bar?"
Stinking. Reeking to high heaven. Being dirty. Crusty dirty. And then finding a shower in town, and watching the dirt and grime come off, watching my "tan" return to my normal skin color as the water runs over me. Having healthy hair not stripped dry by hair products and repeated washings. Having a healthy body and a healthy heart from all of the walking.
Being with Dan, a.k.a. Sheltowee, a lot more than I am now. Spending time together when neither of us are stressed or depressed over our busy jobs, unrealistic expectations, "not-enough-time" complaints, or widening hips and expanding bellies. Walking in peaceful solitude on the trail, seeing his footprints, knowing he's just a few thousand feet in front of me.
Hitting the trail landmarks, the places I've dreamed of seeing, from Campo to Kennedy Meadows to the High Sierra to Crater Lake to the volcanoes to Manning Park. Singing to myself as I hike: everything from John Denver songs to selections from "The Marriage of Figaro," to whatever little ditties I happen to make up on the way. Memorizing crazy long poetry and chanting it as I take each step ... "There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold ..."
Sleeping on the ground, next to Sheltowee. Talking and snuggling under the stars. Listening to the sounds of the animals in the night. Watching for tracks as we hike during the day. Catching sight of wildflowers. Noticing how the trunks of one species of tree differs from another. Trees ... seeing the great redwoods.
Seeing old friends: Dodger, Belcher, Navigator, Twig, and any number of hikers that we've met before that we just "happen" to see on the trail. Meeting new friends, new friends that will become friends for life, as trail friends so often seem to do.
Chasing dreams. Living life. Thru-hiking. Five months of freedom, starting in the spring of 2006. I'll miss my piano terribly, but oh, will it be worth it.
Thursday, December 9, 2004
In the dream, it made perfect sense. Gilligan shows up in my dreams every now and then; he's done so ever since I was a little kid. I even wrote down one of the childhood dreams for a creative writing project, and it turned into a rather twisted, drug-induced-sounding short story. Dan begged me not to post it on the blog. In the dream, Gilligan single-handedly saved me from a terrifying dentist appointment with the Professor. And in another one, he rescued me from those awful monsters in "Land of the Lost."
Gilligan was my first love.
But Gilligan as Prometheus? How is it that this book came out in 2001 and I've never even heard of it??
Can someone say, "Amazon.com Christmas Wish List"?
P.S. I learned of this book in this review of the new reality show, "The Real Gilligan's Island," which I did not see. Apparently, I didn't miss much.
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
I was first introducted to Spam haiku by Kim, who was my manager at IEM. It was my first day of work. She was showing me how to access the company intranet on my computer, when, out of the blue, she called up a site that offered such pearls of poetry as these:
Blue can of steel
what promise do you hold?
salt flesh so ripe
Can of metal, slick
soft center, so cool, moistening
I yearn for your salt
and who dares mock Spam?
you? you? you are not worthy
of one rich pink fleck
Grotesque pinkish mass
In a blue can on a shelf
Like some spongy rock
A granite, my piece of Spam
In sunlight on my plate
What do you do when, on your first day at your new job, your new boss interrupts your training session to share Spam haiku with you?
You think to yourself, "I'm gonna like this job!"
And I did.
So, without further ado ... (drum roll) ... here's the Spam Haiku site, for your enjoyment.
KEITH B. SHAW SR.
MONSON - Keith B. Shaw Sr., 75, died Dec. 7, 2004, at his home in Monson. He was born Sept. 1, 1929, in Hersey, Maine, the son of Solomon and Ressie (Botting) Shaw. He owned and operated a boarding home in Monson for many years and made many friends among the hikers of the Appalachian Trail. He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Pat (Boyington) Johnston Shaw of Monson; a son, Keith B. Shaw Jr. of Monson; a daughter and her husband ... six stepchildren ... a brother ... two sisters ... several sisters and brothers-in-law ... 16 grandchildren and 18 great-grand-children; many nieces, nephews and cousins. ... Those who wish may make donations in his memory to the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, P.O. Box 283, Augusta, ME 04332-0283.
This is a sad day.
So I'm trying to work, but my mind keeps going down memory lane ... or trail. Maine was such an experience, and my stay in Monson was a good one. Here's a picture Keith took of us having dinner at his place our first night in Monson:
That's Singletrack (a northbounder) on the left, then Matt, Isis, Jackrabbit, and Highlander in the back. Blue Skies and I are at the far right of the picture. The other two guys (whose backs are to the camera) were weekend hikers, and I don't remember their names.
Here's my journal entry from Monson, where I stayed with the Shaws, ate yummy blueberry pancakes, and took the first "zero-mile" day of the hike:
Battered, blistered, bitten, and bleeding, we (Matt, Blue Skies, and I) made our triumphant thru-hiker entrance into Monson, Maine, today. The last town stop for northbounders with sights on Katahdin, and the first for southbounders straggling out of the 100-Mile Wilderness, Monson is a bit of a promised land on the AT. Shaw's Boarding Home, where I am staying, is a trail institution; for the past 24 years, Keith Shaw and his family have provided over 29,000 weary thru-hikers with delicious home-cooked meals, hot showers, good company, and much-needed rest.
Hiking the 100-Mile Wilderness was a real challenge for me, particularly when it rained. The AT here consists of rocks, roots, and mud, making for precarious hiking in wet weather. Hiking down White Cap Mountain in the rain was a test of concentration, patience, and endurance; one small misstep on a slippery rock or root could result in a sprained ankle-—or worse.
When the weather is nice, we are rewarded with sweeping vistas from rocky mountaintops-—a perfect reward for the treacherous climbs that characterized the second half of the Wilderness for us.
Another characheristic of the Wilderness has been the BUGS. Mosquitos ravage us in the morning, then the black flies join them in the afternoon. And sometimes the big, shiny deerflies will join the bloodsucking party as well. No one goes unscathed. We all are bitten from head to toe, despite our bug headnets (the height of thru-hiker fashion!). We wear 100 percent DEET like it's aftershave or one of those good-smelling body sprays you get from Crabtree & Evelyn. I always feel silly spritzing it behind my ears, as if it is a fine perfume, but that's one place the bugs love to bite! I sometimes think that the true test of our endurance is NOT the rugged terrain, NOT the heavy packs, NOT the blistered feet . . . it's the bugs.
Even though my hike has been tough at times, it's already been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. While taking a day to do the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail (a side trail off the AT), I found myself thinking about how ALIVE this world is, and how ALIVE these Maine woods are. As I climb over mountains, I feel like I'm walking across the massive backs of great beasts, furry with moss, lichens, flowers, grasses, and trees. I almost expect the mountain to breathe, stretch, and roll over in its deep sleep.
And then there are the tree roots. They, too, seem so alive as they reach out hungrily in all directions, slithering over and around the rocks like great tentacles. At Gulf Hagas, trees seemed to grow right out of rock high along the gorge walls. Down below, water has carved rock so smoothly that the rocks look liked mounds of potter's clay, and not ancient stone. Butterflies flutter along the creeks, now one, now two butterflies, circling each other as they fly. Ants make their homes in and near the rocks in the water, and I sit wondering how they got there, and where they get their food. In the forests, the new growth of hemlock and spruce is bright green, making shoots of green fire of their fingertips. Nature is so unimaginably miraculous and beautiful, and I feel so lucky to be here in the midst of it all. Even though the trail is unbelievably hard, it has definitely been worth the struggle these first hundred miles. Onward to Georgia!
Thanks to Papa Bear for passing on the link. It is "the passing of a legend," indeed.
Tuesday, December 7, 2004
Then the nice people at work asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with them. I said no. I told them I needed to go practice piano. I said I needed to go.
Now, if I were a conservatory student or a professional musician, that would be one thing. Then I would have to practice. But I'm just a Cubicle Dweller. No one is making me do this. There is no deadline hovering the near future. There are no recitals planned, ever. I don't need to practice.
I think I'm probably rude and unfriendly because, well, even though I don't need to practice ... I still choose piano over socializing with my fellow Cubicle Dwellers nearly every single day.
I'll try to be more social in the future. Because I like the people at work. I just live for my lunch-hour practice sessions. That's all.
The creative juices seem to be flowing. I also worked on different piano arrangements of a melody last night from the Music Theory book. Practiced writing the same basic tune, with the same basic progression of chords, with various accompaniment styles: minuet, waltz, Alberti bass, sweeping broken chords a la Chopin, etc. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This is very, very exciting. I feel like I'm finally getting past that wall I've been hitting in Music Theory/Composition.
Can you tell I'm tripping on this whole creativity thing? I'll crash eventually (it's a manic thing), but for now ... whoo-eee!
My favorite keys are C minor and E-flat major. Both keys have three flats, so there is something that I must like about three flats. They probably mold more easily to the hands, I would guess. And I despise playing anything in E major, for some reason. Maybe it's just harder for my tiny hands to play. I also love flats and do not love sharps. Weird.
As far as listening, I like things that have a C-natural and a G-natural in them. And for composing, I tend to gravitate to the old stand-bys, C minor and E-flat major.
Still, it's interesting to read the things that have been said in the past regarding "affective key characteristics"--or the mood set by particular keys.
Someone on the list posted Affective key characteristics from Christian Schubart's Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806), translated by Rita Steblin in A History of KeyCharacteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. (UMI Research Press, 1983) . Pretty interesting stuff. Here's what it said:
Completely Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naïvety, children's talk.
Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key.
A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key.
The key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key.
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.
Feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key.
The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God.
Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major.
Complaisance & calm.
Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.
Triumph over difficulty, free sigh of relief utered when hurdles are surmounted; echo of a soul which has fiercely struggled and finally conquered lies in all uses of this key.
A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language.
Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,--in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.
Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.
Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.
Grumbler, heart squeezed until it suffocates; wailing lament, difficult struggle; in a word, the color of this key is everything struggling with difficulty.
This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.
Pious womanliness and tenderness of character.
Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world.
A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.
Strongly coloured, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring coulors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere.
This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting ones's fate and of submission to divine dispensation.
The site includes other interpretations of the "mood" set by a particular key. I don't know which (if any) were written prior to equal-tempered keyboards. But it's interesting reading (if you're interested in this kind of thing).
For example, Scriabin thought of "C" as "red" and "B" as "pale blue," and Charpentier's Regles de Composition (ca. 1682) sees F major as a key of "furious and quick-tempered subjects." Helmholtz's Tonempfindungen, on the other hand, sees F major as a key of "Peace, joy, light, passing regret, religious sentiment."
My favorite keys are the keys of "all languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul" and "love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God." The key I like least is that of "noisy shouts of joy." Why am I not surprised?
Monday, December 6, 2004
And, since I want to be a composer when I grow up, they asked me to write some songs for their next CD.
Am I not getting enough sleep, or am I getting too much?
I don't have much to write about today because I'm behind in my work (thank you, Mr. Sinus Infection) and have some catching up to do. Also, I spent most of the weekend in one of three places: in bed, on the couch, and at the piano. Some good things did result from the restful weekend, however. Here are some of the things I managed to accomplish:
1. Finished reading Lewis Agonistes and started (finally) The Da Vinci Code.
2. Spent hours upon hours of quality time with the cats.
3. Worked really hard on the Allegretto of the Mozart piece.
4. Took more notes on the novel and am ready to piece together Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2.
5. Took some really good notes for the piano essay draft.
6. Harmonized the melody exercises for Music Theory and started working on a composition that kind of flowered from one of the exercises.
Writing--whether essays, fiction, or music--is hard work, though. How my sluggish brain rebels against it! It would much rather laze on the couch and watch reruns of "Law and Order: SVU." Once I really start writing, however, I don't want to stop. This was particularly true with composition this weekend. I half-heartedly got to work harmonizing the one-note melodies on Saturday evening, but then something magical happened. I came up with these gorgeous accompaniments. New Age-y, yes, but gorgeous. I know, I should be more modest, but I was as flabbergasted as my parents were when I called them and played the arrangements over the telephone.
It was kind of like a toddler being amazed and excited at the fact that it has just created a poopy. "Mommy, Mommy, look what I made!"
I stayed up till midnight, playing with chords, writing down my arrangements, analyzing what I'd written. Finally, I wrote it all down in "block-chord format," and it sounded boring. But when I played it as a piano piece and not a choral-sounding thing ... wow.
Everything I write sounds really jazzy. I love major sevenths, and ninths, and thirteenths. And secondary dominants. Those are fun. I feel like Harry Potter with a magic wand ... I can say something like, "Secondarius Domino!" and TA-DAH! this beautiful music just happens.
Yes, I'm probably just in the novice stage. This wonderful Music Theory Magic Wand is making it seem like everything I touch can turn to gold. (Ninthus Chordus! Circlio Progressio!) A year from now, after I've learned a lot more, maybe I'll be jaded and tired and smile fondly at the "good old days" when I was so new to all of this and nearly overwhelmed (in a good way) by the basics of music theory and the potential for composition.
But for now, I'm going to enjoy it. I like this.
Saturday, December 4, 2004
Now, I've written about the wall I've hit in numerous posts, so I won't bore you with that again.
But I think I've figured something out, with a little (a lot) of help from Vance, my Music Theory teacher (who also happens to be an iNtuitive Feeler, I learned yesterday!).
He'd wanted me to take these little four-measure, one-note melodies and harmonize them using all available triads in all available inversions, along with diatonic sevenths in all available inversions. And use non-chord tones freely.
For some reason, I would just stare at the page of melodies and feel befuddled. I'd try to harmonize, but my mind would immediately say things like, "Nope. Can't do that. Parallel fifths," or "Nope. Can't do that. Big conclusive V-I cadence in the middle doesn't sound right," or "Nope. Can't do that. Doubled third in the 6 chord."
It was like being in a maze but finding that, no matter which way I went, I was destined to hit a big ugly wall. No cheese. Not even one moldy little crumb.
Now, I suppose it's good that I've internalized the rules so well. But ... I seemed to have let the rules stifle what little creativity I could use in these exercises.
So, yesterday at Music Theory, Vance said to play one of the one-note melodies a few times, just to "get it in my ear." So I did.
"Now," he said. "Add some accompaniment in the bass. But don't worry about making them into 'block chords.' Just play what feels right. Play what sounds good to you."
So I immediately went into what I call "New Age Mode," a sort of Yanni-ish, George Winston-y style with harp-like broken chords in the left hand hand. It's really a type of improvisation that I can do without thinking. And the little melodies sounded much bigger and quite pretty. Even though I played some weird chords that I "hadn't covered yet" with Vance.
I'm not a big fan of the New Age piano music I've heard. Oh, I think it's pretty and relaxing, and I have several new-age-piano CDs, but I don't find it that interesting, musically. And part of me is definitely jealous of folks like Yanni and George Winston, who have acquired fame playing something that I know, I KNOW I could play. For writing music like the music I KNOW I could have written. For being famous while I sit here in Cubicle Land and write things like, "This page intentionally left blank," for a living.
So I tend to pooh-pooh my New Age style. Yes, there is a green-eyed monster in the cubicle.
"Don't worry about it," said Vance. "Just play that way, just to get the music and the chords in your head. Worry about writing the block-chord harmonies later."
So I did that.
And I realized--and I told this to Vance later--that part of my problem is that I'm trying too hard to play by the rules. Part of me, the straight-A student of old, thinks that, if I could only learn the rules, I'll be able to compose. Something in me just wants to get an "A" in composition. Because an "A" will mean I've succeeded.
But I'm a grown-up, and I'm not taking this "class" for a grade. I'm taking it because I want to compose. There are no grades. There is just the goal of being able to write down on paper what I hear in my head. My measure of success is exactly that: my measure. Not the measure of some teacher who is following a set of scheduled lesson plans with a numeric grading system for right answers and wrong answers.
And it's not just about the rules. I'm letting the rules smother any attempt at creativity. I'm paying too much attention to what's "supposed" to happen (theory-wise), instead of really listening to what DOES happen. I'm too much in my left brain and need to go spotted-unicycle-riding-with-a-yellow-parasol in my right brain for a while.
So my assignment for this week is to (1) experiment with New-Agey broken-chord arrangements of the little melodies, and then when I have some chords I like, (2) write in the corresponding block chords and analyze what I've written.
I've already done one little melody, and it's so pretty I think I might do something more with it. Add a few lines. See if I can't come up with something interesting.
Vance is wonderful.
Piano class yesterday evening was great, despite the fact that I accompanied most of everyone's performance with my hacky cough and snorty noises. I felt like crap. But the Mozart sounded the best that I've played it so far. I went through the Suzuki melodies with just a few minor mistakes, and I think it helped the other Suzuki (beginner) students to hear them. Turns out one other student is an iNtuitive Feeler. There are more of us out there than I thought!
It's noon on Saturday, a beautiful day outside, and I'm at home drinking hot liquids and taking Robitussin after a long night of waking up every ten minutes to visit the bathroom for one cough-hack-snort-spit session after another. I really wanted (needed) to go hiking today ... maybe tomorrow. For now, I need to rest. Then cough and spit. Then compose some more. I feel like crap, but it's a pretty good day anyway.
Friday, December 3, 2004
Seriously, it looks like I've come down with a sinus infection of some sort. I've felt like crap for several days now and had a bit of laryngitis the other night. Was hoping I'd feel better if I came to work (plus, I didn't want to miss Music Theory and the piano group class this afternoon), but I don't think I'm going to make it through the day.
When I lived in Baton Rouge and my grandmother (Mom-D) was still alive, I worked just down the street from her apartment in the assisted living facility off of Essen Lane. On days when I felt bad, or tired, or just needed a break, I'd go to her apartment. We'd chat, watch some TV, just relax. I'd go back to work an hour or so later (my company had flex-time), feeling better. I probably visited her two or three times a week, sometimes more.
All morning, I've kept thinking, "I should just go to Mom-D's and visit and rest a bit." And then I remember that I'm no longer in Baton Rouge, and that Mom-D is no longer with us. It makes me sad. She would have been 87 last month.
Oh well. I think I'm going to head home. No use sitting here feeling like crap, unable to work.
Which reminds me that I've been meaning to add to my "blogroll," or the list of blogs I link to. I've been putting this off because the prospect of finding them all and adding the link information is just too overwhelming. But it's Friday, so I'll work on that for a bit today.
The blogs/websites I visit daily are primarily those of people who are somehow related to me: my brother Jonathan, my cousins Stacey, Drew, and Veronica, Cousin Shorty, and my birthmom, Sherry (who does not want to be linked).
But I do visit a few others: The Corner is a lot of fun, and I always find food for thought at Proverbial Wife. Reflections in d minor (a music/culture/etc. blog) is also interesting, and it made me smile to see that Lynn linked my blog several days ago.
Other music/culture bloggers I read, though not every single day, are Alex Ross, Scott Spiegelberg, Marcus Maroney, A.C. Douglas, and Jessica Duchen.
I also like Instapundit. And I visit 2blowhards on a pretty regular basis.
Wow. I thought there would be a lot more than that. I guess I don't goof off at work as much as I thought I did.
I'll add some of these to my blogroll (right-hand column) a bit later. Meanwhile, go to the Weblog Awards and vote for your favorite blogs! (Sorry, mom, my blog isn't one of the choices.)
So ... I'm going to share with you, my vast blogging audience (ha!), an account of my "activities"--the daily things that take up my time. And with each, I'll give a bit of background so you'll have some idea how important different things are to me. Maybe you, my objective readers, will see something I can't. I'm open to advice and suggestions.
1. Piano--If you've read this blog for any length of time, then you know that piano is important to me. Yes, I guess piano is just a "hobby" ... but at the same time, if I may be so bold, I'm ... um ... really good at it. Whew. There. I said it. I have been blessed with musical talent, more so than a lot of people. In fact, Deborah introduced me to people last week as "the most talented student I've ever taught." It was humbling, but at the same time, it made me wonder if, all these years, I haven't been giving myself enough credit (ah, the curse of low self-esteem!). Because I do have some natural talent. So ... while I love piano and all, part of me feels like I need to practice, that I need to nurture this talent. It's like a seed in me that longs to grow and flourish. So piano isn't something I can give up.
2. Music Theory/Composition--OK. I think of myself as a composer more than I think of myself as a pianist, which is weird because I'm much better and more experienced at piano than at composing. But I think that's only because my "talent seed" of piano has been nurtured a lot longer than the one for composing. But I know that seed is there, and I think it has the potential to grow even more than the piano one has. It's almost like I have a mission to compose. So I don't feel like I should neglect composition either--particularly now that I'm studying one-on-one with a talented theory teacher with whom I have a good rapport.
3. Writing--I'm blessed. I've been blessed with a talent for writing, too. Writing is the "seed" that has received the most attention and nourishment over the years. And it's the path I've chosen for a career, even though technical writing (and even hiking-guidebook-writing) isn't the type of writing I thing I was ultimately meant to do. As far as writing, my strengths are (1) essays and (2) stories. Of those two, I have more experience writing essays, but I have more fun writing stories. They come naturally to me. I have this wonderful imagination, and I feel like it's been stifled for a long, long time--by busy-ness, by depression, by stress, by insecurity (low self-esteem again!), by many things. But, as with piano and composition, I don't believe it is something I should neglect. Because I've been given a talent--and I should sow those seeds. Particularly since I started this novel. I feel like the novel is another "mission."
4. Precepts--I've mentioned Precepts on this blog but haven't gone into great detail, partly for fear of scaring people off. Precepts is a Bible Study, a very in-depth Bible Study, designed by Kay Arthur. Every Thursday night, I meet with a group from the First Presbyterian Church to discuss some aspect of the book of 1 John. The study is a 12-week study of 1 John. If you're at all familiar with the Bible, then you know that 1 John is a teeny-tiny little book. 12 weeks is a lot of time for a teeny-tiny little book. But the study actually requires a good 5-6 hours per week of study (in addition to Thursday night meetings). "Study" includes looking up cross-references, studying the Greek translations and various verb forms, learning the context of things, journaling, "soul-searching," etc. It's very involved. And it appeals mightily to my need for intellectual stimulation. Plus, I'm searching for my own answers, spiritually. So I don't feel like Precepts is something I can let go of. Because this is important. The next study is going to be Genesis, and I don't want to miss that, either.
5. Church--As I said, I'm looking for answers. And, after a journey from Christianity to atheism to agnosticism to a floaty Waterfallish New-Agey pantheism to something like I-don't-know-what-theism (remember, my worldview is quite scrambled), I'm trying to figure things out. I found a church with nice people and (usually) good music. So I'm participating in that and even working with kids on Sunday evenings (it feels good to be doing something positive for others). I'm getting a lot out of it, for the most part, but it does take time as well. But I can't take that out of my life.
6. Poetry--This is only every other Tuesday night for a few hours. It's like a night of fine wine after drinking water for the other six nights. I enjoy the people, the discussion, the fact that I leave the group deep in thought--and stay there for a few hours or days after it's over. I can't give poetry up.
7. Exercise--This has, unfortunately, been on the back burner. I haven't ballooned (as I feared I would if I quit exercising), but I'm definitely jiggling a WHOLE lot more than I did a year ago. Plus, I constantly feel sluggish. I need to get back into my workout routine. I have this wonderful, healthy, functioning physical body, and I hate to think that I'm not doing everything I can to keep it that way. By working out now, I can help prevent osteoporosis down the road. But these days, I'm lucky if I make it to the gym twice a week.
8. Marriage--Dan and I both need to work on this. We get along wonderfully and are still as madly in love as we ever were, but we don't see each other enough. He works so much (lots of nights and weekends), so I've gotten accustomed to "doing my own thing." So, on the rare nights that he doesn't have to work, I end up being busy with something else. Not good.
9. Friends--I've been so out of touch with my friends. This is OK, for the most part; I'm very much an introvert and don't want or need much time for socializing. But I do have certain good friends--Karen, Amypowe, Tina, Janie and Randy, etc.--that I've all but lost touch with, and that's not good.
10. Hiking/Walking--This is sort of under the umbrella of working out, I guess. Since 1993, I've walked an average (probably) of 4-5 miles per day. My sanity depends on it. Once upon a time, I hiked all the time. Now that I live in western North Carolina, I'm lucky if I get out to the trails--or even my neighborhood for a walk--once a month. It's just that by the time Saturday rolls around, I'm so exhausted from the previous week that the thought of getting in the car to go walk 5 or 10 miles is simply overwhelming. But I do figure I'll satisfy my hiking needs on the PCT in '06.
11. Reading--I love to read. There are few things I love more than reading. It's my ideal pastime. And the only time I ever save for reading are the five or ten minutes at night before I nod off to sleep. Which means I never remember much of what I read.
12. Work--Ah, yes. This is the one thing that I would gladly give up, yet it's the one thing I cannot give up. This job--this uninteresting, unchallenging, unfriendly, maddeningly stable job--is what provides me the money and stability to pursue all of these other things. Along with work is the commute, which takes up 1.5 to 2 hours of every day. I do make the most of the commute with Teaching Company lectures, but I sure would prefer to read, or write, or do something else other than drive. I think--I know--I'd rather be an English instructor at the local community college, but (1) no jobs are available right now, and (2) I wouldn't make nearly as much money. And the money we're making now is all going into a piggy bank (figuratively speaking) so that we can afford to thru-hike the PCT in 2006 AND take a few months afterwards to readjust to civilization, find jobs (which will finance the next hike), move if necessary, etc. We live on a shoestring now, even though we could afford to live a bit more "luxuriously," but it's all because we're saving money for the big hike.
So, I have a lot of stuff to fit into each day. I didn't even include cleaning house, making dinner, shopping for food, washing the car, washing clothes, writing my monthly hiking article (ack! dealine next week!), journaling, etc. Sometimes I fit those things in. Sometimes I don't.
But lately, though, it seems like I don't have time for anything. I just don't know which things to cut out of my life. Or even to cut back on. The only thing I would willingly give up is the job/commute, but the job is the center of the wheel. Without it, the center would not hold.
I'm just rambling. It's late, and I'm very, very tired. Good night.