Thursday, March 31, 2005

Is That a Wiggly Worm in your Mouth?

Here's a pet peeve of mine: when people write that they're waiting with baited breath when they really mean bated breath. Michael Quinion at World Wide Words tells us that, although the correct spelling is bated, it seems that baited will eventually be accepted, since it's used so often now. Ack.

When I read "baited," I think of hooks and worms and water and fish.

Bated, the past tense of bate, is actually a contraction of the word abated. Abated itself means, in this context, "To become or cause to become less active or intense" (from Bartleby.com). It comes from Middle English abaten, which is from Old French abattre, to beat down.

Quinion also tells us that the first recorded use of the term "bated breath" is from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:

"Shall I bend low and, in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness,
Say this ..."


Geoffrey Taylor, in the poem "Cruel Clever Cat," apparently had the same "baited breath" pet peeve that I do:

Sally, having swallowed cheese,
Directs down holes the scented breeze,
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.


~Website Recommendation~

World Wide Words ("Michael Quinion writes about international English from a British viewpoint") is chock-full of info about words and linguistics. I particularly like Weird Words, which includes blurb, cockamamie, dumbledore (not the one from Hogwarts), and Fred Himebaugh's favorite, synaesthete. Articles are listed here and include "Cyberplague: Help! A Prefix out of Control!" and "Beam Me Up, Scotty! The Linguistic Legacy of Star Trek."

(Hmm .... if I were a synaesthete, would I "sense" a complex fugue as feeling like wiggly worms run amok in my mouth?)

I'm adding this site to my sidebar under "Good Learnin' & Readin'. Enjoy!

Castrati Bad. Composer Good. Happy Birthday, Papa Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn was born on this day in 1732 the son of a wheelwright in Rohrau, a village in lower Austria near the border of Hungary.



Or was he born on April 1? That's what it says in the birth-register in Rohrau. Haydn is said to have declared, "I was born on 1 April, and that is the date found in my father's Hausbuch - but my brother Michael maintains I was born on the 31st of March because he doesn't want it said that I came into the world as an April fool."

Regardless, I say we begin celebrating Haydn's birthday, his life, and his music TODAY. And we can keep celebrating tomorrow if we so please.

Although Haydn was a contemporary of Mozart's (OK, he was more than 20 years older, but they were still contemporaries), he didn't have the musical upbringing of the kind that Leopold Mozart could provide. Haydn's father, Matthias, could not read music. He loved music, though, and played the harp. His son seemed to love music as well, and it was discovered that he had a good singing voice.

By 1740, Joseph Haydn found himself at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he would remain a chorister for nine years. Although the musical resources in Vienna were many, Joseph never had what he called a "proper teacher" and was largely self-educated in singing, playing instruments, and composition.

Haydn's voice eventually deepened, and he was forced to leave the choir. This was unfortunate, as the church was his livelihood, but it wasn't as unfortunate as what almost became his fate. He had such a beautiful voice that he was actually scheduled for castration, so that he could keep that voice as a castrato.

So, to our eternal gratitude, Haydn took the route of composer rather than castrato. He spent the bulk of his life employed by the Esterhazy family, teaching, composing, conducting, and continually educating himself in the art of composition. Because the Esterhazy palace was an isolated place, Haydn felt forced to resort to his own wellspring of creativity.

"My Prince [Nicholas Esterhazy I] was always satisfied with my works: I not only had the encouragement of constant approval but as conductor of the orchestra, I could make experiments, observe what produced an effect and what weakened it, and was thus in a position to improve, alter and make additions or omissions, and be as bold as I pleased. I was cut off from the world, there was no-one to confuse or torment me and I was forced to become original". --Franz Joseph Haydn
Ultimately, Haydn's compositions included 104 symphonies, more than 90 string quartets, 32 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas, and the major choral works The Creation and The Seasons. He lived a long life, dying at the age of 77 in 1809--nearly 20 years after Mozart's death.

Haydn seems to me to be among the most underrated classical composers. His music seems overshadowed by that of the younger Mozart (who happened to be Haydn's friend and respected colleague), and it shouldn't be. Although many influences went into the classical style, Haydn was pretty much the creator of what we consider the classical style today. And his symphonies are delightful. I'll post some links to listening samples if I can find some good ones.

Meanwhile, he's a nice sample of the first movement of Haydn's Sonata in E-flat (Hob.XV/52). Or go to this page of the Internet Piano Page to select other movements of same sonata.

Also, check to see if your library has Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company lecture series titled, "Great Masters: Haydn--His Life and Music." Highly recommended by me.

Update: A quick search of my personal blogosphere yielded a more thorough Haydn post written by Michael Blowhard. Go read it. It's what I wanted to write, but couldn't on this busy day in Cubicle Land. Michael also points to an essay on Haydn written by the Honorable Terry Teachout in Commentary magazine. (Unfortunately, Teachout's article is in the digital archives and is not available unless you've subscribed to Commentary.)

Another Update: Classic Cat has free downloads of all four movements of Haydn's Symphony No. 88. Peabody Institute has free downloads of all four movements of his Symphony No. 60.

Note: Many thanks to Lynn S. for correcting my glaring error of using the plural castrati when I should've used the singular castrato. Silly me ... I didn't even think about that. I'll punish myself tonight by allowing myself only one spaghetto for dinner.

Poor Laura?

I almost hate linking to the Saga of Laura K. Krishna, but, seeing as I've become addicted to it, I wanted to share it with you, dear readers.

Of course, the story--some say it's an April Fools hoax--is all over the internet, so chances are, you've probably seen it already. I myself found it at terminal degree.

Apparently, this really dumb college girl did a really dumb thing in asking comedian and blogger Nate Kushner, via AOL Instant Messenger, to write a paper for her in exchange for $75. He took her up on it ... and wrote a really awful paper. It included these lines:


“Your actions in each lifetime affect your karma, and if a Shudra watches dharma and greg, it will have a positive effect on his karma.”

“The second class is the Kshatriya, the warrior class, who acted as the protectors of the peace. I made a doody. Vaishya, the producing class, work as business people providing economic stability to the society.”

“The principle of Varnasrama Vindaloo Dharma, also known as Yachti, or caste, is one of the most fundamental aspects of Hinduism.”

He sent her the silly paper. And she turned it in.

Of course, Nate posted every step of this deal on his website, and the dean of Laura K. Krishna's school (both Laura's real name and her school name have been changed) contacted Laura. She's being made an example of what can happen if you try to plagiarize.

Whew. You know, she did a really dumb thing and is probably getting what she deserves ... but at the same time, I'm feeling a little sorry for her. Not a lot, but a little. I'm also glad that the dumb things I did as a college kid weren't broadcast all over the internet. (It helped that I was in college in the olden pre-internet days.) If the Hubster ever runs for president, I'm sure some of my dumb college-kid actions will come back to haunt me. (Lucky for me, the Hubster has no presidential aspirations!)

(Nah, I can honestly say I never plagiarized. I was the quintessential English-major nerd and loved writing papers far too much to cheat myself out of the opportunity to write them.)

I can see the Laura K. Krishna saga being required reading for college freshmen. The smart ones will at least learn that, if they try to plagiarize, they should at least read the plagiarized paper before they turn it in (duh!). But they'll all learn that, even though the internet has probably made it easier to plagiarize, it's also made it easier to get caught doing it.

I hate to sound so serious here. It's really quite amusing to read (not to mention addictive, as it's been updated several times since the original post).

Still, even though I'm glad she got caught, I can't help but feel a little sorry for her.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Plans, Plans, and More Plans

"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."
--Thomas Edison

"It will not do to leave a live dragon out of your plans if you live near one."
from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy."
--Robert Burns


That said, I'm making plans. Even though it is not particularly my nature to plan things.

Here are the plans.

Today: Go to my piano lesson make-up after work.

Today through May 12: Keep working at my current job (even though "seeming to do is not doing"). Enjoy the fruits of my labor (i.e., a salary and benefits) while I can. Continue with piano and composition. Make contacts, send out resumes, and try to get some freelance-writing work lined up for the summer.

May 13-May 15: Ride up to Trail Days. I don't get a big thrill out of Trail Days anymore, but a friend of ours just opened a hiker hostel up there and is saving a room for us. Plus, it'll be an opportunity for The Hubster to sell some of his books. And it will be nice to see our hiker friends who are there.

May 16-May 30 or so: Walk home via the Appalachian Trail (188 miles). At least one of those weeks should count as PTO from my current job.

June, July, & August: Play piano. Do freelance-writing jobs. Work on my hiking book. Work for Thirsty Turtle Press. Volunteer to do nice things for people. Pursue teaching job. Go to weddings as guest, pianist, and/or matron of honor. Work on novel. Show the Hubster what it's like to have a wife who actually likes to cook and clean when she has time.

August: HOPEFULLY start teaching. If I haven't found a teaching job, then try and figure something else out. Keep a-playin' the piano. Start planning Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.

August through May/June 2006: If teaching, teach. If I like teaching, see about getting certified. If I hate teaching, quit at the end of the year. If not teaching, continue freelancing and maybe wait tables or clean houses or something not too brain-taxing or computery or desk-joblike. Stay away from cubicles. Keep a-playin' the piano and a-workin' on the novel. Maybe sell house, depending on the circumstances.

Summer 2006: Hike as much of the Pacific Crest Trail as I can with The Hubster. (If teaching, then hike for a month or so; if not teaching, then hike the whole darn thing, if we can afford it.)

Fall 2006: If I liked teaching and wasn't so awful at it that I got fired, then go back to teaching. If The Hubster has to get a job elsewhere, and I liked teaching, then find a teaching job wherever we end up. Or set up a tent on some land we own in Ohio and build a little house while figuring out what to do next.

So, as you can see, nothing is set in stone. All I know is that I'm going hiking for two weeks after I leave this job. Hiking has a way of getting my priorities in order, so these plans may change once I get back from the hike. Because my head is too muddled and my mind too tired for my priorities to be in any kind of decent order whatsoever.

Today I am in a slump. After all the excitement and joy of yesterday, I crashed. It's my good ole bipolar alter-ego coming out, I guess.

Time for lunch.

Today is Vincent Van Gogh's Birthday


Les Irises (Irises)

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.
--Vincent Van Gogh

So I'm going to take a walk in the woods today.

And pay attention to things.

Spring Pools

Spring Pools

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods--
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

--Robert Frost

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Back from the Blogging Break

OK, so I was only gone a week. Kind of. But I think that was long enough. Here are Ten Things that Happened in the Interim:

1) My little sister ("Mu") got engaged to a nice pharmacist ("Stu"). Congratulations, Mu and Stu!

2) The Hubster and I took a whirlwind trip to Ohio for the purpose of doing some genealogy research on his family. We tramped through quite a few old graveyards, read old news articles on microfilm until our eyes fell out, and ate our weight in Ray's Pizza. Not my ideal way to spend Easter weekend, but it was a good trip in that I got to spend quality time with Ye Olde Hubster.

3) I resigned from my cushy, high-paying, great-benefits, 401k-totin' technical writing job. OK, so I did that today. (In case you were wondering, "Q" stands for "QUIT!") I'll work here till mid-May (meanwhile knocking LOUDLY on every opportunistic door I can find), and then ... trust that some of those doors will open. The plan is to actively seek seasonal work, freelance-writing jobs, and maybe some piano jobs. I'll never be a concert pianist, but I think I've definitely entered the realm of "good enough" for church/wedding jobs.

4) I realized that my writing has gone to pot. Sat down to work on my much-neglected novel over the weekend, and I kept falling into this jokey, chatty writing style so characteristic of my blog persona. With blogging, my hard-copy notebook/journal has ceased to be my primary source of reflective writing. That's something that needs to change.

5) Speaking of pot, or drugs at least, I spent several days enjoying the effects of a narcotic that was prescribed to me last week after I got a temporary crown at the dentist's office. Woo boy, but I can see how that stuff is so addictive. It's just like ingesting a Joyfully Positive Well-Being in the form of a pill. Much preferable, I declare, to molar pain.

6) My, but the blogosphere has gotten ugly over the whole Terri Schiavo thing. Poor woman. Poor family. It's all so sad, and it's sadder to see all the ugliness that has come out of it--the self-rightousness and the arrogance. Many thanks to you, dear readers, for not starting ugly debates here the few times I've posted on Terri Schiavo. There is plenty of space for debates elsewhere.

7) I've been thinking about writing one of those "100 Things About Me" lists that have been popping up all over the blogosphere for the past year. But I can only think of about six things that are remotely interesting. Sorry, y'all.

8) I finished reading Sophie's World. Interesting book about the history of philosophy. OK, so there were some sections that bored me (I cannot seem to read about Locke and Hume without falling asleep). But I loved the ending ... talk about a twist. The fictional characters turn out to really be alive, and they end up in an immortal sort of existence, on another dimension, with all of the fictional characters of the past. I've sometimes imagined that that happened with my own fictional characters ... are they still there, hanging out, waiting for me to revive them in those stories and novels that I started but never finished? Gypsy, can you hear me? Minnesota Dan? Miz Worthy? Oh, I forgot. Miz Worthy never wears her hearing aid.

9) I worked on Adagio Thing a good bit after returning from Ohio. I'm planning to give it lots of attention in the next few days (I meet with Vance again on Friday), so I may be blogging about it a good bit between now and Friday.

10) I missed everyone. I didn't even read many blogs while I was on my break. Just stayed away from the blogosphere completely. It's good to be back.

"Q" Just Might Stand for "Quiz" ... but it doesn't

You scored as Verbal/Linguistic. You have highly developed auditory skills, enjoy reading and writing and telling stories, and are good at getting your point across. You learn best by saying and hearing words. People like you include poets, authors, speakers, attorneys, politicians, lecturers and teachers.

Verbal/Linguistic

100%

Musical/Rhythmic

100%

Intrapersonal

75%

Bodily/Kinesthetic

57%

Interpersonal

57%

Visual/Spatial

46%

Logical/Mathematical

25%

The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
created with QuizFarm.com

I found this test at Marla Swoffer's blog.

It's Q-Day!

Doesn't anyone wanna know what Q-day is?

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Blogrolling Mystery

OK, so I installed Blogrolling a week or two ago, and it's been very convenient. Whenever a blog in the list is updated, it gets marked by little equal signs, like this:

=A Sort of Notebook=

Only thing is, it only indicates when some of the blogs are updated, but not all. And it doesn't always say if a blog is updated, only sometimes. Examples:

- Every time Pratie Place is updated, it's indicated in my blogroll.

- Every now and then, it will indicate that Reflections in d minor has been updated. Though I know that that blog is updated a lot more often than my blogroll indicates.

- It's never once indicated that The Muse at Sunset has been updated. Or The Upward Call. I moseyed over to The Muse a little while ago to find that Mr. Covington has been updating like a madman, and I had no idea.

Same goes for Kim at The Upward Call.

I've e-mailed the folks at Blogrolling.com, but haven't heard a peep from them. Perhaps some of my readers, all of whom naturally posess above-average intelligence, can offer a clue as to why some folks aren't being shown as updated?

Slouching Back Toward the Blogosphere ...

Here's a cool map showing who says coke, who says soda, and who says pop.

I say coke. It's understandable, since my parish is one of the red ones in which 50-80% of the inhabitants say coke.

I'm such a product of my environment.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Back on Q-Day

Q-Day is in my countdown in the sidebar. I'll be back a-bloggin' sometime around then. Meanwhile, I want to thank y'all for all of your nice comments. They definitely lifted my spirits today, more than you can imagine.

Have a good Easter weekend, everyone. See y'all on Q-Day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sick and Tired

I am sick and tired of blogging and am going to be taking a break, a real break, for a while.

I've received several negative e-mails and cannot seem to comment on other blogs without people reading me the wrong way. It started a couple of weeks ago, I posted something complimentary on someone else's blog and they edited my comment. When I asked why, it turns out he'd read my comment in a completely wrong light--had read it as me being smarmy and sarcastic. And his edit of it actually made it sound sarcastic. I'd commented on this person's blog before, so I was left thinking, "Why would he even think I'd write something in that tone?" For the record, that is definitely not my style, on blogs or otherwise. He apologized and everything is fine with him and I probably shouldn't even be writing this ... but it just seemed like it started several instances of people assuming the worst about me.

Today I got rather mean-spirited e-mail and was misunderstood for being "contentious" (not my word) in some totally innocuous comment I'd made on another blog. This time, I'd made what I thought was a witty, tongue-in-cheek comment, but it was misunderstood as something else. What is the deal, people?

So I don't know what's going on. Perhaps my frustrations outside of the blogosphere are leaking into my commenting and posting in the blogosphere. Whatever it is, I have enough to deal with in real life without letting things get to me elsewhere. And this blog isn't all that important in the scheme of things, not even to me, and certainly not to the rest of the world. It's not worth the grief it seems to be giving me of late.

I know this sounds super-sensitive (it is), junior-highish-I-taking-my-ball-and-going-home-ish, but I need to take a break. I'm tired and need to focus my attention elsewhere.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

Alternatively Speaking ...



You scored as alternative. You're partially respected for being an individual in a conformist world yet others take you as a radical. You have no place in society because you choose not to belong there - you're the luckiest of them all, even if your parents are completely ashamed of you. Just don't take drugs ok?

What Social Status are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Another Plunge into Music History

On March 22, 1687, when J.S. Bach was a mere two years and one day old, the illustrious composer and conductor under Louis XIV, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), died.

Lully was born Giovanni Battista Lulli in Italy, but he made his career in France and became a naturalized Frenchman.



Lully, who served in the French court as Louis XIV's compositeur de la musique instrumentale, was ultimately to control all music and musical performances as surintendant de la musique et compositeur de la musique de la chambre and maître de la musique de la famille royale for the Sun King. A famed dancer, mime, comedian and composer, Lully was the father of French opera, working with such names as Moliere and Quinault to produce both comic and tragic operas that included a good dose of dancing--the French royal preoccupation. He was also a major figure in the development of the French Overture, which was characterized by slow, dotted rhythms (ta-DUMMM .... ta-DUMMM ... etc.). The French Overture style became a regular tool for Baroque composers, including those outside France, such as Bach and Handel (think of the opening overture of Handel's Messiah).

Lully was a pretty fascinating and accomplished man. He composed, produced, and conducted approximately 20 operas and ballets (including training and coaching the singers and dancers). He introduced professional female dancers into the ballet, and he was responsible for the popularization of French opera across Europe in the 17th century.

Lully, who used a heavy cane to beat time for music when conducting, died under unusual and unfortunate circumstances. In January of 1687, while conducting his Te Deum (performed to celebrate the king's recovery from an operation), he accidentally injured his foot with the cane as he was beating time. The wound developed into an abscess, and gangrene set in. Less than three months later, he was dead.

Poor Lully. As Robert Greenberg says in one (several?) of his music theory lectures, for all Lully's accomplishments and importance in his day, he's since been flushed down the toilet of time.

Folks, in memory of Lully, I move that we dig out and dust off our auditory toilet plungers today, on the anniversary of his death. Listen to some samples of Lully's music here.

*****************

Also, for anyone who is interested, here is a brief history of French opera and the vital role that Lully played in its development. (Warning: lots of pop-ups at this site.)

Gurdon, "Screwtape Revisited"

"The wonderful thing for us? It is increasingly easy to take that Enemy-given sense of intrinsic worth and twist it into cruel self-interest. With man's vanity, and a little medical breakthrough here and there, we can tempt them the prospect of a life without illness, inconvenience, or parasitical relatives. It will, for humans, be heaven on earth."

Screwtape chuckles darkly. "And afterwards? Why, we'll get to meet them down here. In person. And the loveliest bit of all is that their good intentions will have brought them here."
Gurdon gives us a writer's take on C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, as applied to the Florida case, stem-cell research, and the "Right to Die." Thought-provoking. Read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Just What I Needed

Know what I needed today?

A good piano lesson. That’s what I needed. And that’s exactly what I got.

I told Deborah all the same things I wrote about here a couple of days ago. We came up with a way to make better use of my practice time so that I’m able to give more effort to the Dett and the Mozart.

About the Mozart … we’re taking some time off from it. I’d been working on it for an adult piano recital in Asheville, which was supposed to be this weekend, but it was cancelled. I pretty much have the piece down … so maybe it’s time to move on. And, when the next recital comes up, I’ll work on the Mozart again, along with whatever else I might be playing.

My thumb problems seem to be the result of several things. One, I have too much movement in my wrist, which forces my thumb to twist. So I need to keep my wrist firmer and let the movement be a more horizontal movement of the forearm. Plus, I need to relax my thumb. She’s been telling me this since Day 1. I don’t know why I can’t relax it. Why don’t they make Xanax for thumbs? I think another problem may be that I type all day, so my thumb is always on the space bar, tensed slightly because it gets used so much. So I think its natural habit is just to stay tense all the time.

I played the B-flat contrary-motion scale well! Woo hoo! And she said not to spend more than five minutes a day per practice on contrary motion scales. But she did encourage me to devote some of those 10-minutes-here-and-there practices to contrary-motion scales. Good. Because they need the work!

The arpeggios sounded fine, both in similar and contrary motion. I find contrary-motion arpeggios so much easier than contrary-motion scales.

We worked on the Dett for probably half the lesson. There is this section with crossed hands, and there are three voices singing, similar to what you might find in a Bach three-part invention. I hadn’t realized this before. Seeing it as a modern-day three-part invention rather than … oh, I don’t know, something else … made is suddenly make a lot more sense to me. So now I can’t wait to get home and practice, and learn the personalities of each “voice” the way I did with the three-part invention I worked on last year.

So, I’ll probably be blogging a lot more about Dett in the future. (Finally! It’s taken me a while to warm up to this piece, but this little three-voice thing has definitely motivated me!)

Celebrating Bach's Birthday

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta had a Bach Birthday Bash on March 18. It included a German candlelight dinner and, of course, a concert. My Presbyterian church had a hoe-down, which was unfortunately (thankfully?) not in honor of the great composer. (It was a lot of fun, though.)

History students at Moravian College are reenacting Bach's 250-mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck, which he took to hear the great organist and composer, Dietrich Buxtehude. The students' hike will be a bit shorter--20 miles from New Brunswick, NJ, to New York City, where they'll attend the New York Philharmonic's concert of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The performance, which will be tomorrow night, will be conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.

Quick bit of trivia #1: Moravian College, founded in 1872 in Bethlehem, PA, is the sixth-oldest college in the United States.

Quick bit of trivia #2: Bach got in a bit of trouble for that extended trip to Lübeck. He only had permission to be gone for four weeks (starting in November) and was expected to be back in time for the Christmas season. He didn't return to Arnstadt, however, until nearly three months later.

Quick trivia question: For what award-winning movie about a classical composer had Sir Neville Marriner as conductor?
(Hint: It's my favorite movie. It's about Mozart.)

Minnesota Public Radio offers reflections on Bach's birthday. (These reflections are actually from last year. Well worth the listen.)

This calendar of events makes me wish I lived in Calgary, of all places (but only if I could move back to the warm south immediately afterward).

Waterfall celebrates by starting her day with the Mass in B Minor. Again.

And God made it springtime. What better way to celebrate?

20 Things

20 Things I Love Doing (and how long it’s been since I’ve done them)

1. Swing dancing (3 years)

2. Backpacking (almost a year)

3. Reading for fun (less than 24 hours)

4. Playing piano (less than 24 hours)

5. Taking college courses (4 years)

6. Riding roller coasters (9 years)

7. Going to “80s Night” and dancing the night away (11 years)

8. Spending Sunday mornings at Highland Coffees in Baton Rouge, watching people and writing (4 years)

9. Spending time with my friend Amy Powers, whose birthday is today (1.5 years … but we haven’t spent real quality time together in more like 10 years).

10. Snuggling with the Hubster (5 days)

11. Snuggling with cats (three hours ago)

12. Writing (2 days)

13. Being with my AT friends (two months)

14. Going on a road trip alone, listening to Janis Joplin, and singing at the top of my lungs (the three have to occur at the same time) (3 years)

15. Watching Amadeus (1 month)

16. Spelunking (13 years)

17. Going to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (6 years)

18. Eating amaretto truffles while in a hot bath, with candles lit, and listening to music (2 years)

19. Playing softball (2 years)

20. Going to Lake Martin during nesting season (near Lafayette, LA) (2 years)

Bush Signs Bill That May Prolong Schiavo's Life

WASHINGTON (March 21) -- Terri Schiavo's parents won the chance to plea for their daughter's life in federal court with an extraordinary law passed in an emergency session of Congress that saw lawmakers choosing sides in an emotional family battle.

More here from AOL news.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Don't Forget to Celebrate

Don't forget! Tomorrow is J.S. Bach's birthday! More importantly, it is the birthday of Amy Powers!

Who is Amy Powers, you ask?

No, she's not a composer ... but she does happen to be a talented artist and storyteller. Amy Powers just also happens to be my best friend. In the whole world. And she sells neat stuff here. (I wonder who that birthday cake on the main page is for ...!)

Thoughts on Terri Schiavo, and Another

I haven't written much on Terri Schiavo, mainly because there is so much out there that's already being written, collected, disseminated, etc., by other, less self-absorbed bloggers.

One of those people is Catez at Allthings2All. She has been posting regularly about the progress (and now regress) of Terri and the whole sick issue of starving/dehydrating her to death.

I know--knew--someone who died of dehydration. Like Terri, he was very much alive and responsive to things, yet he was unable to help himself. The circumstances were very different, including that the person I knew was a small child, barely beyond infancy--one who could easily have survived a tragic ordeal if he'd been but a few years older.

I cannot explain the grief that his family, the friends of his family, and the extended community went through. I try to imagine what it must have been like for this child to suddenly find that his caregiver and food source were gone. No one saw him die. No one saw the pain that he must have suffered for the days he was without food and water. All they found at the scene of his death were the crumbs of a few crackers--I think animal crackers--that he had managed to forage from his room.

When I read about Terri Schiavo, I think about this little boy. He's been gone for more than ten years, and I still grieve to think of a life so needlessly extinguished. Maybe Terri Schiavo doesn't have the future that this little boy had, but does that really matter? If she is responsive, if she's not in a persistent vegetative state, why are people so determined to kill her? Why does she have to suffer helplessly the same death that this little boy suffered? What is so tragic (among other things) is that she hasn't been abandoned or left behind by those who love her; they all are the ones who have been abandoned and rejected by a sick system that sees murder as somehow merciful.

Catez has the latest updates, along with information about how you can help, here.

Poem for Palm Sunday

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action ;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav'n espy.

All may of Thee partake ;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine :
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th' action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold ;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

--George Herbert (1593-1633)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Discouraged

This is going to be a really boring post.

I'm discouraged about piano. As much as I love music and piano, there's a reason that I never pursued a career in it.

I've been through a million piano teachers. I generally spend the first few months wow-ing them. They're all excited about my natural talent and potential. I'm all excited about my natural talent and potential. I'm excited that they're excited.

I work really hard. I practice obsessively. My mantra is, "If you're not going to do it right, then just don't do it." It's a good mantra for practice sessions. It keeps me working until I have it "right."

After a while, I stop improving exponentially. I get bored, or tired. I get frustrated. The piano teacher gets frustrated. Bad feelings all around. Her naturally talented student with so much potential apparently isn't going to live up to that potential after all. Either the piano teacher was wrong, or I've somehow bamboozled him/her.

This leads to shorter and shorter practice sessions. I get discouraged more and more easily, and the discouragement causes me to fumble more, and the fumbling leads me to end my practice sessions early and frustrated.

I feel like I'm getting to that point now. There are no bad feelings right now as far as my piano teacher is concerned ... I love my piano teacher, and she doesn't put a lot of pressure on me, or any of her adult students for that matter. We all just a bunch of business professionals, moms, and cubicle dwellers. We do piano in our spare time.

I think part of my discouragement to do with the fact that other things in life get in the way of piano. Part of me is not happy with piano being "just a hobby," something I do when I have nothing else to do. Something I fit in when I can.

But what else can it be? If I'd gone to music school and spent most of my life practicing 8 hours a day, I can guarantee that be a pretty damn good pianist. As it happens, I'm just someone who has a nice touch, beautiful expression, a genuine love for music and piano ... but no great skills. Even if I could start devoting 8 hours a day to piano ... what would I do with it? Perform? Do weddings and funerals? Become a white-haired church pianist?

And then there is the whole other world of composition, but this post isn't about composition.

It's already gone on too long, in fact. So I'll separate the truly boring stuff (my practice session frustrations) in a little box below.

Practice Session Frustrations

Suzuki: Sometimes I feel like these are a waste of time. Basically, I am to learn these little pieces by ear, which is not all that difficult. Then we need to learn the Suzuki fingering, which I don't particularly like. We also need to learn the louds and softs ... and if feels very "kiddie." Why can't I just focus on the louds and softs in my Mozart piece, or another more interesting piece? My piano teacher reassures me that there is a point to this, and I trust her, which is why I diligently work on Suzuki at every practice session.

So I spend about 10 or 15 minutes on Suzuki. Twenty minutes if I'm working on something new.

Scales & inversions: These are a breeze. I've been playing all scales in all keys since I was a kid. They are more or less a warm-up for my fingers and a massage for my theory-loving brain. They take about five or ten minutes, depending on how many I do. But then I'm doing inversions using the octave (striking four notes per hand rather than just three), and it hurts my hand to stretch that much. (I have tiny li'l hands.)

Also, my right thumb always hurts. Imagine flexing/arching it backwards, really hard, for a few minutes. Imagine the dull ache it might feel afterwards. That's how my right thumb feels after two minutes of playing. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. It's not a problem with my left thumb.

Contrary-motion scales: Why can't I do these? Wrong question. I can do them. I'm finally getting them. But I can't do them fast or even at a moderately brisk pace. It has taken me FOREVER to learn them. My brain and fingers struggle with them. To get an idea of it, imagine doing addition and multiplication all of your life, and then, at the age of 35, being introduced to subtraction and division. Or being told that, from now on, you must read everything as reflected in a mirror. Ack! It's all backwards. And it is very discouraging that I, a person who usually picks things up pretty easily, still cannot play these things with any real skill.

These take me a good twenty minutes every night. That's because I want to do them right, and I can't stand to leave off them until I've played each assigned scale through four times perfectly.

Arpeggios and contrary-motion arpeggios: These are a breeze. Five minutes.

So. I've been practicing nearly an hour, and I haven't even started on the Mozart or the Dett--the "real" music I'm supposed to be learning. And by now, I feel tired and discouraged. So my patience is worn a little thin.

I end up spending maybe 10 minutes on the Mozart before I give up. I am starting to get sick of the Mozart. I love it, but I am sooo ready to move on to something new. I think that's part of the reason I haven't made a lot of progress on it lately ... I'm just not motivated. And I rarely even get around to the Dett. So it languishes. What progress I've made in the past is no longer there. (The little progress I do make is when I work on it before the Mozart in my practice sessions. But then I don't get around to the Mozart.)

My best practices are when I have maybe 20 minutes to spare between dinner and Law and Order: SVU, so I rush into the Inner Sanctum, go straight to a specific measure or set of measures in Mozart or Dett, and drill them over and over again for those 20 minutes. Maybe I should re-assess my practice time. Maybe I should plan 20-minute practices throughout the evening after work ... but that wouldn't be very realistic, since I do have other things outside of piano (husband, dinner, working out, reading, sleeping, and simply vegging out after a long and frustrating day at work.

Frustrating. I sure do use that word a lot lately, don't I.


P.S. I learned how to make pretty green tables. Cool, huh? :-)

Friday, March 18, 2005

An Afternoon of Music Education

Today was Music Theory Day! Yee-hi!

We worked on borrowed chords and Neapolitan sixths (which are really just another type of borrowed chord). I’d done a bunch of borrowed-chord exercises, and—wonder of wonders—I apparently understand borrowed chords pretty well. So we moved on to Neapolitan sixths.

That’s about it. It doesn’t sound that exciting. But it is exciting. We had some sample excerpts of music, mostly classical, in which the Neapolitan sixth was used.

Is it just me? It is intense enough to hear the music moving from one chord to another, but when some non-diatonic chord comes in … woo, boy! Slow down! It makes me want to do cartwheels. I can’t even express it. It’s just that, the more I learn about theory, the more exciting music is to me. It baffles me that I’m ever anything but joyful when there is music in the world.

On the way home, I was listening to WCQS, which plays classical music in the afternoons. Now, one of my favorite classical-music-station games is “Guess the Composer.” Another is “Guess the Musical Genre.” And then, of course, there are “Guess the Century,” “Guess the Instruments,” and “Guess the Key.”

So today it was a very classical-sounding piece. I could tell immediately that it was a string quartet in the classical style. It sounded a little like Haydn—whimsical and fun—but at the same time, it seemed to have a Mozartean complexity. (Geez, I sound like I know what I’m talking about, don’t I. Wait … I do know what I’m talking about. Sort of.)

But it didn’t sound like Mozart to me. I didn’t know why it didn’t sound like Mozart. It sounded maybe a little later than Mozart, but it wasn't quite Beethoven, or even Schubert.

So I gave up “Guess the Composer” and moved on to the “Guess the Key.”

Now, I do not have perfect pitch, meaning that I can’t just hear a note and immediately say, “oh, that’s my old buddy G-flat.” But sometimes I’m a lucky guesser.

I could tell that the piece had an E in it. And I could definitely hear an A. And it was undoubtedly in a major key. At first, I thought it might be G major, but I didn’t hear a C. So I finally decided on A major, since the A and E were so clear.

And guess what! It was in A major!! Is that not just so cool?!

As it turns out, it was a string quartet (No. 2 in A major) by a composer that I’ve never heard of: Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga (1806-1826).

Of course, I couldn’t resist researching him when I got back to the office. Here’s a bit of what I found:

Juan Crisostomo Arriaga was born in Bilbao, Spain, on January 27, 1806. At age 11, he started composing major chamber, orchestral and choral works, and at age 13 he wrote a two act opera, Los Esclavos Felices, which was successfully performed in Bilbao. At 16, he went to the Paris Conservatoire; there, his (now lost) choral work, Et Vitam Venturi was proclaimed by Cherubini to be a masterpiece. It took Arriaga a whopping three months to learn all the principles of harmony and counterpoint. At age 18, he was appointed a professorship at the Conservatoire. He was the youngest ever to be appointed such a postion there.

He died at the tender age of 19, after a brief bout with what is thought to have been tuberculosis. He was buried in a communal grave at the Montmartre cemetary. His work was pretty much forgotten for athe next century, but is both published and recorded today. His most notable surviving works are three string quartets (including the one I heard on the way back from Music Theory) and his Symphony in D Major.


According to my research, Arragia, even though he lived at the same time as Beethoven and Schubert, his musical style is more akin to the composers of the earlier classical period. Which explains why I thought he sounded a little bit like Haydn and a little bit like Mozart.

You can listen to samples of his work here (string quartets) and here (Symphony in D major, plus other selections).

Easy trivia question: What other composer was born on January 27 and wrote many brilliant works before dying at tragically young age, and was also buried in a communal grave?

Hint: Arragia was known as "The Spanish Mozart."


A Well-Tempered Blog

I recently came across a blog I hadn't visited before: The Well-Tempered Blog. The blogger, Bart Collins, provides links to articles and essays about pianists, piano music (primarily classical), Bach, etc.

I knew I would like this blog; his most recent post is titled, "Happy Birthday Mr. Bach." :)

The blog also provides some links to sites I didn't know about:

Music & Vision, a daily classical music magazine that has classical music news, interviews, opera reviews, CD reviews, and mp3s of featured CDs.

Project Gutenberg Sheet Music, a project for digitizing public domain sheet music.

The Virtual Piano Museum, with narratives and pictures of pianos through the ages, from Cristofori to today.

Unfortunately, the blog doesn't allow comments and has no e-mail address, so I'm not able to tell Mr. Collins how much I like his blog thus far.

Thaw

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and was relieved to see snow falling. The thermometer read 29 degrees, and the local news had a severe winter weather watch effective until 6:00 that evening. Relief. I wouldn’t have to go to work. I could stay home. The Hubster was out of town on a business trip, so I would have a quiet house to myself for the entire day.

After e-mailing the folks at work and checking my own e-mail, I headed upstairs for coffee and breakfast. Breakfast! When do I ever have time for breakfast anymore? My typical breakfast is an apple or a banana in the car on the way to work, washed down with coffee. That morning, I had a big bowl oatmeal. As I ate, I made a list of the things I wanted to get done on my day off (this multi-tasking habit is hard to break).

After filling the empty birdfeeder, I was heading for the shower when I took a side-trip to the Inner Sanctum. George was there as always, and my big blue book of Bach chorales was resting on the piano bench. Waiting for me.

So I opened the music and started to play. The chorale I opened to was an arrangement of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” I played slowly, as usual, and marveled at how Bach’s placement of chords, his approaches and departures, his use of non-chord tones, can make even the simplest constructions—an E7, for example, or a held note—seem so divinely inspired that I get all choked up as I play. I found another arrangement of the same melody, and then another. I played them all, thinking of how each arrangement was a gem in itself.

Thirty minutes later, I felt like a peace had descended on me. I felt better and more rested than I had in weeks, probably months. I left the Inner Sanctum, took my shower, played with the blog a bit, and then went back to the Inner Sanctum for a “real” practice.

I was still relaxed. I worked, seriously worked, on the little Suzuki pieces with a concentration I hadn’t given them in months. Then, on to scales and arpeggios. Then the Mozart. I played through the Mozart a couple of times—not practicing, really. Warming up. My back was starting to hurt a little, and I wanted to stand up and walk around a bit. Break time. I’d been in the Inner Sanctum with George for over an hour.

I played with the blog a bit more (this computer habit is hard to break!), then, noticing that the weather had actually improved, checked the forecast to learn that it, too, had improved. I had a library book to return, and I thought it would be nice to go to my favorite coffee shop, Panacea, to work on music theory and my novel. So I ditched the rest of piano practice and headed to Panacea.

I love this coffee shop. It’s in an old warehouse, with smooth cement floors and a high ceiling, and brick walls. The owner is a former AT thru-hiker from Mississippi, so we always have a lot to talk about. I feel welcome there. When I got there, it was crowded because it was lunchtime, so I had to stand in line. I didn’t mind. My usual impatience didn’t rise up, boiling, as is customary these days. I just waited. Patiently. I was in no hurry at all

Later, I sat down at a small, round table and took out my journal. I hadn’t written in my journal for two weeks. In the 20+ years that I’ve kept a journal, I’ve rarely gone more than two days without writing something. But the Depression has taken away any desire I might have to write anything.

Depression. That’s what I wrote about. It seems that a lot of bloggers these days are talking about depression and the fact that they have it. I wrote about this, and wondered why I haven’t gone into great detail on my blog about my own depression. I’ve hardly kept it a secret, yet I haven’t dwelled on it. So I wondered why I haven’t dwelled on it, since it does play such a major role in my life, especially lately.

I wrote four pages, and I never did come up with an answer. I got up to go get a refill on my coffee. On my way back, a man noticed my LSU sweatshirt and asked if I’d gone to LSU.

“Yes, I got my Master’s degree there.”

He’d spent a few years in Baton Rouge, and we talked a bit about LSU, then I went back to my table. The man at the table next to me had overheard our conversation and asked what I’d gotten my Master’s degree in.

“English,” I said.

“Literature?” he asked.

“Well, I started out in literature, but I ended up focusing more on rhetoric, composition, and linguistics.” Honestly, my Master’s degree work was a mishmash of things. As much as I love literature, I hadn’t liked studying it on the graduate level, even though I had straight A’s in it throughout grad school. I ended up branching out, taking classes in everything but literature, including undergraduate courses in education.

We chatted a bit. He was a painter and a graphic designer who was also playing hooky from work. He asked if I’d like to go out sometime. I looked down at my ring finger and realized, to my horror, that I’d left my wedding ring on the piano at home. I told him sheepishly that I was married, and that was that. We chatted a bit more, then we both got back to work. He left a while later.

I was re-writing all of the fingering in my Dett piece that I’d torn up a couple of weeks before. I took a short break to head for the bathroom, and on the way back, I talked a bit more with the man in his mid-50’s, who happens to be an avid hiker. Then I went back to the Dett. A little while later, the hiker got up to leave, but walked over to my table first.

“You know,” he told me, “I really regret that you have a husband.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re attractive, smart, and very interesting. It’s rare to find those three qualities in a single person.”

I was so shocked at the compliment that I didn’t say anything at first.

“I hope I didn’t offend you,” he said.

“No!” I grinned. “Not at all!”

Truthfully, he'd made my day. I hadn’t felt attractive in months, and my job lately certainly hasn’t made use of my brain. For the past year or so, my thoughts and feelings have just been kind of numb. And when I look in the mirror, I see a pale, tired woman who, for the first time in her life, actually looks older than her years. Two sharp lines have formed right between my eyebrows, from constant frowning and crying. My eyes are often red and irritated from all the crying. My body has started to sag from lack of exercise. Yet I’m often too tired to exercise and want to crawl into bed the minute I get home from work.

But yesterday was different. It was my day off, and I was in a good mood yesterday. When I’m in a good mood, my eyes are brighter, and I stand up straighter. And apparently, I’m prettier.

Next stop, after the library, was the health club. I had so much good energy that, after doing upper-body weights, I stepped on the the elliptical machine and didn’t step back off for an hour. Then I went home and read a bit on the couch while snuggling with the cats. Before I went to bed, I looked at myself in our full-length mirror. I liked what I saw. I suppose I looked just as saggy and old and tired as usual, but I didn’t see that. I saw a pretty blonde with a nice figure and a friendly smile. It was odd to look into the mirror and not be disappointed. It was weird to think of myself as “attractive.”

I messed around on the computer for a while, catching up on blogs and reading the comments to my own blog. I felt good. I felt alive. It felt odd, but good, to feel alive.

I went to bed around 10:30 and, for the first time in months, I woke up this morning feeling rested.

It was a much-needed day off.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Modernized

Not only do I now have Haloscan comments, but I've also put all my links into Blogroller. So, theoretically, when someone updates their blog, they'll get a couple of little asterisks by their name in my list.

If you hold your cursor over the blog names in my list of links, then you'll see a little pop-up appear with a short description of the blog. If If you're one of the many delightful people whose blogs I've listed, then you might want to see what description I gave you. If you hate it, or if you have something better, let me know, and I'll change it.

Aren't I just the nice little blogger?

Ten Down, Thirty to Go

I feel ten years younger after my day off.

Only thing is, I felt forty years OLDER before I took the day off.

So I still have thirty years to go.

If I take tomorrow off (as originally planned), then that's another 10 years. That'll put me at 55.

By the end of Saturday, I'll be down to 45.

By the time Sunday night rolls around, I'll be back to my youthful 35-year-old self.

So, I'm wondering if I should just take that other day off tomorrow. I have no deadlines, and I have plenty of vacation time.

It's tempting. It's tempting ...

A Belated Happy Anniversary Wish

... to Cousins Stacey and Drew. Hope y'all had a great anniversary weekend!

Comment Away!

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Unfortunately, I seem to have lost all of my previous comments. And I can't write "___ people love me!"

Boo hoo. Y'all still love me, don't y'all?

Update: I'm brilliant! I figgered out how to change the text in the comments link!!

Snowy St. Patrick's Morning

I'm taking the day off.

Stuff to do today:
1. Practice piano
1.1 Play Bach Chorales to my heart's content
1.2 Practice Suzuki, scales, arpeggios, and Mozart

1.3 Really practice Mozart
1.4 Practice Dett
2. Work on theory for tomorrow's theory lesson
3. Clean the guest room
4. Wash three loads of laundry
5. Work out/walk
6. Go to Asheville for doctor appointment (I might try to cancel it ... it's nice and quiet at home, and the snow is falling) (Cancelled due to inclement weather!)
7. Work on novel
8. Read
9. Study


Stuff NOT to do today:

1. Spend the entire day on the computer!!

2. Yield to the siren song of the oh-so-snackable Wheat Thins in the pantry

All in all, this should be a good day.

Note to commenters: I have been trying forever to answer your comments, but it appears that the comments feature is acting up again. Grrr!!!


Happy St. Patrick's Day! Don't forget your green!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Short Bach Post

OK, I seem to have graduated from memes to links. So I'll link away for today's Bach post.

Here are some Bach-related pages I've visited lately. I'll be adding them to my list of links soon.

BaroqueMusic.org has a detailed Bach biography, Bach's life in contemporary pictures (contemporary to Bach, that is) , and my favorite, Bach's Leipzig. This same site includes bios on other Baroque composers, including Corelli, Vivaldi, the exquisitely named Johann Josef Fux, Handel, and Purcell (who seems to have a really strange hairdo ... or wig).

Carolina Classical's J.S. Bach Biography has modern-day photographs of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where Bach spent most of the half of his life. It also has links to pdfs of a number of Bach's musical works.

And, if you're too lazy to click the links and read, then you can enjoy this picture of the Pfitscher Bach Waterfall. It's in Austria. It has nothing to do with J.S. Bach, or with me. But it's what you get when you do a Google search on "Bach" and "Waterfall." (No, I had no idea what to expect. Though, since Bach means "brook," I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find a Bach Waterfall.)



(Yes, I'm mindlessly bored at work today.)

Mrs. Gwen is Fine!

Mrs. Gwen is on her way home from the hospital. The tests went fine and they didn't find anything wrong with her. Yay!

Thanks to all for your prayers.

Feeling Meme-y Today

Actually, I'm just feeling profoundly uncreative and tired. So I'm doing memes and quizzes today. My apologies for the Bach-less posts of the last few days. I promise, I'll write more on Bach soon.

*********************

If you do this meme, please do let me know in the comments so I can go read your replies!

1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A SECOND HOUSE ANYWHERE, WHERE WOULD IT BE? Maine. Or Vermont.

2. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTICLES OF CLOTHING? My crazy purple gypsy skirts.

3. THE LAST CDs YOU BOUGHT? It was a Goldberg Variations CD that recently came out, but I can't remember who was playing them.

4. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING? Used to be 5:00. Lately I can't get up before 7:00.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE? The dishwasher.

6. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I do play an instrument. But if I could play a second instrument, it would be the oboe.

7. FAVORITE COLOR? Purple, purple, purple. No, I'm not a 14-year-old girl. But I still love purple.

8. WHICH VEHICLE DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR, MOTORCYCLE, OR SUV? What about van? I prefer vans. Not mini-vans. Big vans. After that, I like trucks. So don't ask me why I drive a Neon.

9. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE AFTERLIFE? Yes.

10. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK? The Velveteen Rabbit

11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON? Autumn

12. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT? Yuck. No tattoos here.

13. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Psychic powers.

14. CAN YOU JUGGLE? Nope.

15. ONE PERSON/PEOPLE FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO? My grandfather.

16. WHAT IS UNDER YOUR BED? Cat hair.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DAY? Sunday.

18. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SUSHI OR HAMBURGER? The sushi restaurant downtown has these really good vegetarian rolls, and I like them a lot better than hamburger. But I don' t like meat sushi.

19. FROM THE PEOPLE WHO NORMALLY READ YOUR BLOG, WHO IS THE MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND FIRST? I have no clue. Stacey, if she's reading.

20. ON WHICH BLOG DID YOU FIND THIS MEME? Terminal Degree

21. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER? Irises, with violets running a close second.

23. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL? I don't know. I love salmon served with asparagus spears. Then again, my favorite "eat-out" meal of late is "The Nantahala" at Nick & Nate's in western NC, which is a pizza with olive-oil glaze (?), garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and oregano. Mmmm.

24. DESCRIBE YOUR PJS. Jeans and t-shirt (but only on the days I'm too tired to change)

25. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST? French toast

26. DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB? No, not in the least.

27. WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB? Famous writer. Who hikes. And plays piano. And still manages to be a dream wife to the hubster.

28. WHAT AGE DO YOU PLAN TO RETIRE? Whenever. Probably at whatever age it is that I finally lose my mind and am committed to a mental institution or nursing home, with my expenses to be paid by the state because I won't have a penny. I do hope they have a piano there, though.

29. WHERE DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER? On the Appalachian Trail in Hanover, New Hampsire.

30. SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT YOU HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE. See the redwoods in California. Hike the Continental Divide Trail. Plus lots of other things.

In the Meme-time ...

10 Things I've Done that You Probably Haven't

1. Walked from Maine to Georgia in a single six-month hike

2. Been brainwashed by a guru

3. Had really short hair in the 70s (and I mean before Dorothy Hamill hit the scene)

4. Fell madly in love with Gilligan (yes, the one from the island)

5. This one's private. And probably illegal. But I'd wager that you haven't done it. At least not there.

6. Gave up a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to one of the best schools in the U.S. because I hated it so much after going there for a single semester

7. Submitted a novel for publication while in the 8th grade (thankfully, it was rejected!)

8. Wrote a book about hiking trails in the hiking mecca (ahem) of Louisiana (only 3 left in stock! order soon! more on the way!)

9. Toured the Holy Land and was there during the time of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

10. Sat at a table next to Hulk Hogan at an airport restaurant, and told him he was being rude when he growled at a kid who wanted his autograph, and scared the kid away. (Mr. Hogan ignored me. I stopped liking him after that.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mrs. Gwen

To those of you who pray, please pray for Mrs. Gwen. She's my sweet mommy, and she has to undergo some scary medical tests tomorrow.

The thought of her being sick makes me start crying right here in Cubicle Land. So I am hoping that nothing serious is wrong with her and that she'll get a clean bill of health.

Pinewood Derby Memories

Remember the Pinewood Derby? It's a Cub Scout thing. My brother participate for a couple of years before he quit the Scouts. And now my husband, a professional Boy Scout, is involved in the annual Pinewood Derby for his district.

Anyway, Dave Konig writes a nice piece on his Pinewood Derby memories--and why he hates the Pinewood Derby today.

Wandering Aimlessly

It's been awhile since I've had a chance to wander aimlessly through the links I've listed on this blog. Here are a few interesting things I've found, which I'll list in the inimitable 2Blowhards-style.

All Things 2 All's much-anticipated Science and Christianity Showcase is up.

The lovely Violet is featured on this week's Out of the Wilderness showcase.

Michael Blowhard writes in Hobbies about his father who, like my father, was a whistling small-aircraft flyer. Wonder if his dad was a ping-pong player as well?

I don't usually think things like, "Gee, it would be nice to have that person's life." Except when I read Terry Teachout's blog.

The Muse at Sunset used my ripped-up music as a starting point and has written a couple of informative and thoughtful posts on R. Nathaniel Dett, a notable African-American composer of the 20th century

Rebecca wonders why spammers can't spell. And she thinks Spamusement is funny, too, which shows that she has a capital sense of humor.

Wittingshire is celebrating St. Patrick's week with limericks.

The Internet Monk has a long post titled "Looney Tunes: The Whacked Out, Whipped Up, Wholly Scary Theology of the Praise and Worship Movement." He packs it full of what he calls "raw blarney" about the theology of the Praise & Worship music used in many of today's church services.

Marla continues to race back and forth between blogging and baby-tending.

Lynn S. has a good post about Life's Passion.

Kim couldn't be more frustrated with Booger Blogger comments. I must say that I feel her frustration--not just with comments, but with the (in)ability to get from the Dashboard to the Create Post page. (But hey, it's free, so I hate to complain too much.)

By the way, have I mentioned that it's the Hubster's birthday? :-)

Not Just the Ides of March

Today is the Hubster's birthday!



Happy birthday, Hubster!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Ping-Pong Googling & Dancing Tunes

From the History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. III, on "Tournaments Preceding the National Team Championships, 1952":

Down at the New Orleans Y (no USTTA affiliate there or anywhere in Louisiana), Oliver Galloway was the Men’s winner over Hugh Baxley in straight games. The two finalists were deuce-in-the-5th pressed in the Doubles by Levey/Schneider. Shirley Suffrin wasn’t…sufferin’, at least not for long, for she won the Women’s from Marjorie Robinson 21-5 in the deciding 3rd. YMCA Physical Director Warren Smith arranged age-classification matches for local boys, and he himself came runner-up in the Junior’s to Joe Kincaid. Later in the season, at Baton Rouge, Galloway will be beaten by former Louisiana State Champion George “Killer” Woods who will then defeat Mo Jashim in the final. Meredith Boggan/Jimmy Watson will be the Doubles winners over Jashim/John Naylor.
Hugh Baxley is my dad. He won the U.S. Open (amateur division) for table tennis in 1971. It saddens me that the greatest table-tennis player in history (my very own daddy) (yes, I may be a little biased) is only referenced a single time in a Google search for "hugh baxley table tennis," and the one mention is of him losing. My dad never loses at ping-pong.

That's just wrong. We should all write angry letters to the U.S. Association of Table Tennis and demand that Hugh Baxley be inducted into the Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

This is actually kind of a neat site. It has everything you ever wanted to know about table tennis, past and present. It includes a link to the Table Tennis Museum, which has a great collection of all kind of table tennis memorabilia, such as table tennis balls through the ages, early advertisements, vintage photos of famous people playing ping-pong (including Judy Garland, Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart, and Mao Tse-Tung, as well as "African natives" and "American Indians," to name but a few), cool stamps, and early sheet music.

Below are some of the early sheet-music titles.

"Ping Pong Quadrille"
"Ping Pong Polka"
"Ping Pong Barn Dance"
"Ping Pong Scherzo"
"Ping Pong Girl"
"Ping Pong Amour" (ooh, la la!)

... and my favorite, which my mom must have sung to my dad back in their courtin' days, "I Wants a Ping Pong Man." (Warning: The sheet music cover for this 1902 song, as you might expect, is racially offensive. Visit at your own risk!)

You know, if J.S. Bach hadn't pre-dated ping-pong, we might today have such masterpieces as "Ping Pong Courante," "Ping Pong Partita," and "Ping Pong Sarabande."

Seriously, there are some great pictures at the table tennis history site--some funny, and nearly all interesting. I want to post some of them here, but I worry about posting copyrighted stuff. So you'll just have to click on the link. Sorry.

Bach and God

"Bach gave us God's Word. Mozart gave us God's laughter. Beethoven gave us God's fire. God gave us Music that we might pray without words." - from outside an old German opera house

********************

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." -- J.S. Bach

********************

Conversation from an online forum on Bach and his music:

Q: What is the mysterious X which makes Bach's music so touching that even an agnostic guy like me feels like a Christian when listening to the St Matthew-Passion (BWV 244)?

A: You're not the only one, [playwright] Christopher Fry once wrote "Bach's music almost persuades me to become a Christian."

********************

"Bach, of all people, really had the 'God thing' figured out."--my piano teacher

********************

"J.J" and "S.D.G" ...

On Bach's surviving music, Bach inserted the letters "J.J." at the beginning of each composition, and "S.D.G." at the end. They are abbreviations for the Latin Jesu Juva ("Jesus Help Me") and Soli Deo Gloria ("To the Glory of God Alone").

Today is the Birthday of Albert Einstein

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I get most joy in life out of music.

-- Albert Einstein

************************

If I were not a musician, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn't be a physicist.

--Waterfall (who would be a musician if she were not a, um, cubicle-dwelling technical writer)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Synchronicity

Life is good. Right now, it's hard for me to believe the profound depression I've been in for the last few months. Strange how one little decision suddenly makes things start falling into place in a way you could never have imagined. Funny how everything comes together when you stop moving in the wrong direction and begin to move in the right one.

I know this is cryptic, but things are not completely in place at this time. The sunlight seems to be trying to makes its way into my little dark world, though. Hopefully I won't scare it off.

P.S. Since I'm no longer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I've postponed the hiking trip until later in the spring. The wildflowers won't quite be out at the end of March, but they should be in full bloom in late April/early May, which is when I'm rescheduling it for.

:-(

Catez at Allthings2all has written more on the Terri Schiavo case.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Civic Schmivic

I am not a particularly civic-minded person. I'm supremely introverted and like to be alone. Although The Hubster is on about six civic committees, I myself do not join them.

Wonder of wonders. I've gone against my own grain. I am now on a civic committee.

"What kind of civic committee?" you ask. "And how much wine had you drank before you agreed to join such a committee, you hopeless lush?"

I'd had two glasses of wine. But I would have joined it sober. 'Cause it's the area arts council's PIANO COMMITTEE!!

So. If a committee is focused on the promotion and appreciation of (1) George's cousins (2) the higher beings who play George's cousins, I'm all for it.

(For new readers: George is a piano. My piano.)

Attention Asheville-area Folks

There will be a benefit concert for tsunami survivors on Sunday, April 10, dedicated to child survivors of the tsunami. The music will be on childhood themes (for mature audience - not a children's concert, although children are certainly welcome). It will feature music for soprano & piano, solo piano, & piano 4-hands, presented by Ginger Haselden (soprano), Dr. John Cobb (piano), & Dr. Deborah Belcher (piano). The concert will begin at 3 p.m. on April 10 and will be at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Arden.

Folks, if you live in western North Carolina, I encourage you to go to this concert. Not only is it for a good cause, but you'll get to hear some excellent musicians, including my piano teacher, Deborah Belcher, whose performance will include Schumann!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Scrabble-rific

This is one of the funnest Scrabble games I've ever played.



And not just because I won.

Life, Music, Etc., Update

LIFE: Sucks. Really. I've been in a depressive slump for most of the week.

MUSIC: I've done a lot of listening lately, and some playing, and very little composing. Funny how the depressive episodes coincide with periods of creative nonproductivity. We also had a guest one night this week, and it's hard to practice when we have visitors. Not only do I feel like I need to be out chatting with the visitors, but the piano is also in the guest room, and I feel like I'm interrupting the guest's privacy by saying, "OK, I'm going to go hang out in your room, with the door shut, for a couple of hours. Please don't bother me while I'm in there."

There will be an adult piano student gathering and informal recital here in Asheville in a couple of weeks. I'm supposed to be playing the Mozart. It should be fun, even though I'll have spent the four previous days in the woods.

ETC.:Yes, folks, I'm going hiking!!!!

Ever need to just drop everything and head for the wilderness alone? That's what I need to do. Big-time. So the Hubster going to drop me off at a trailhead and I'm going to hike for three and a half days. My head is so full of knots these days; I'm hoping that a nice, long walk will loosen them up a bit.

I just wish I had three or four months, rather than a mere three or four days.

More Non-Classical Music

Can you believe it? No Bach? No Mozart? Once you're finished dying of shock, keep reading.

After reading "Why You Need To Know The Scots-Irish," to which the Blowhards recently linked, I ran a search on a local folk singer and friend of ours, Flora MacDonald Gammon. She is of Scottish descent and is very active in preserving Scottish heritage through song, storytelling, participation in regional festivals, and who knows what else.

My search led me to Voices of the Highlands, with mp3s of Flora singing, a capella, a couple of hymns: Child in a Manger and Psalm 121. The site include mp3s of other local folk singers, as well. But Flora is the best--very meditative. She also gives helpful background information on the songs she sings.

Cubicle Dweller's Lament

He said, "They ask you why do you ride for your money?
Why do you rope for short pay?
You ain't gettin' nowhere and you're losin' your share - -
Oh, you must have gone crazy out there."

But they've never seen the Northern Lights.
Never seen the hawk on the wing.
Never seen the spring hit the Great Divide - -
No, they've never heard old Camp Cookie sing.

--from "Night Rider's Lament" by Michael Burton

I'm just about ready to go crazy out there. Or in here. I've never seen the northern lights either, and I want to. Preferably while on a long backpacking trip. But for now, I'm satisfying myself here in Cubicle Land with these awesome photos from the Norio Matsumoto Gallery.

Garth Brooks had a hit with "Night Rider's Lament" several years ago, but my favorite version is the one from Nanci Griffith's album, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Screwy Blogger

Blogger is screwy today. Posting has been a pain. Hopefully they'll have it fixed soonly.

Casals on Bach

Music, this marvelous universal language understood by everyone everywhere, ought to be a source of better communication among men. -- Pablo Casals



Pau Casals i Defilló, commonly known as Pablo Casals (1876-1973), was born in Spain and was a famous virtuoso cellist and conductor. Of his many performances, he is best known for his late 1930s recording of Bach’s cello suites. In fact, Casals was largely responsible for the resurrection of the six cello suites, which had existed in obscurity until Casals happened upon them as a boy. The following excerpt, from an essay on Casals from Classical Notes, tells the story.

Casals landed his first professional job at the Café Tost in Barcelona. Soon he began to devote one night each week to classical music, to which he was becoming increasingly attracted. […]

During his stint at the café, an event occurred that would transform not only his own life but the entire course of music appreciation. During one of his father's visits, they stopped in an old shop in search of scores to expand the repertoire for his classical nights. As Casals later recalled in a 1970 memoir, he "came upon a sheaf of pages crumbled and discolored with age" – the six unaccompanied cello suites by Bach, written around 1720 and completely forgotten – Casals' music teachers hadn't even heard of them. Casals was staggered by the "magic and mystery" of such rich writing for his instrument.

“All I could do was stare at the pages and caress them. ... I hurried home, clutching the suites as if they were the crown jewels. ... I read and reread them. I was thirteen at the time, but for the following eighty years the wonder of my discovery has continued to grow on me. Those suites opened up a whole new world. I began playing them with indescribable excitement. They became my most cherished music. I studied and worked at them every day for the next twelve years.”

Once Casals did begin to play the Suites in public he launched a full-scale reassessment of Bach. Although they had previously been dismissed as cold, academic exercises, Casals plumbed their depths and poured out radiant poetry.

Casals cut the Suites in four sessions from 1936 to 1939. [These recordings] remain one of the touchstones of recording. Although he had been playing the music for nearly a half-century and was at the height of his powers, his renditions at first can disappoint, as they seem full of "errors." Rather, Casals paints a complex and intensely human portrait of Bach, flaws and all, enlivened with a huge variety of tone, volume, rhythm, tempo and expression, ranging from hushed, pensive probity to rough, lusty vigor.
Following are a few more of Casals’ quotes on Bach.

Bach is the supreme genius of music... This man, who knows everything and feels everything, cannot write one note, however unimportant it may appear, which is anything but transcendent. He has reached the heart of every noble thought, and has done it in the most perfect way.

*************

The greatest gypsy violinist of the era played the adagio from Bach's G minor Solo Sonata. It was the most fiery, the freest Bach I have ever heard. Also the best. This gypsy had none of our fears and inhibitions about what to do or not do in Bach. He played uncensored, from the heart.

*************

Put aside convention and play as I believe Bach himself played, with great freedom. Play uncensored, from the heart.

*************

And my favorite, from when Casals was in his early 90s:

For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with the feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day it is something new, fantastic and unbelievable. That is Bach, like nature, a miracle!

Suffering?

Steve Landis of my AT list pointed his fellow AT enthusiasts to this link, by blogger, writer, and adventurer Brianne Goodspeed, who thru-hiked the AT last year and is now living in Africa.

She writes the following:

Now I am in Cameroon and I wish the same thing because these, too, are happy times. The other day I went to visit the Lamido, who is basically the king of my village. I told him that I hoped my family would visit. He said, “Of course. Otherwise they will think that you are suffering.” We laughed because we both know the truth—I am not suffering.

Unfortunately, I think that that’s the way most people I love see me [i.e. suffering] because it is only when I’m grunting through the mountains or sweating my ass off in Africa that I am actually happy. That is, it’s only when I’m [proverbially] on the road that I’m not suffering.
...

All this begs the questions of what it is to suffer. If you want to see me suffer, watch me sell retail during the holiday season. Or watch me train to become an accountant. Or watch me substitute teach. I have done all those things and each, I assure you, is suffering. My heart turned foul. I resented my own birth. I felt like a lonely victim, trapped on the road to hell.
...

Here in Africa (as on the AT, which is so fringe that it doesn’t really count as the US), my spirit is at ease. Every day, I wake up knowing that I have to chance to learn and to do meaningful work. I feel like I am contributing to my community. My basic needs are met. That, fundamentally, is all I need in order not to suffer.
...

Here, as on the trail, I wake up thankful ... And so, as I wake up each day and sweat my ass off & swat bugs & poop in a hole and plant trees in the desert, I urge people not to worry. I am not suffering.
Maybe some of it sounds a tad melodramatic ... but I know exactly what she means. When I was in southwest Virginia on my thru-hike, it turned cold. Really cold. Below-freezing-every-day cold. I won't bore you with the details (you can read plenty of them here), but suffice it to say that my quality of life on the trail took a nosedive.

My journal entry for one of those cold days starts out like this:

"I walked in rain for the third day in a row today. I woke up at Laurel Creek this morning, rain pitter-pattering on my tent fly. I waited patiently for it to stop. It didn't. Finally, I ate breakfast, then packed up everything I could from inside the tent. By 7:00, I was on the trail, and the rain fell steadily down.

"Five miles and a few hours later, I took a break at Jenkins Shelter. The day was so drizzly and cold that I considered stopping there for the day."
I remember that I sat there for a long time, considering. I had no motivation to hike that day (a rare thing for me!) The thought of stopping, snuggling into my warm sleeping bag, drinking tea, and reading, was quite tempting. It was rainy, I was cold, and it was pretty much a miserable day so far.

But I kept hiking soon enough. Less than an hour later, I was on the trail again. As I walked through cold, icy mud that was just beginning to thaw, I thought to myself, "Would I rather be here, in all this cold and struggle, or would I rather be relaxing at a coffee shop in Baton Rouge, writing, drinking coffee, munching on a bagel, and listening to jazz, soon to head for the stressful technical writing job that I left behind?"

I'll let you guess what my answer was. :-)

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Me Romantic Mushy Head

It's time to come out of the closet. The romantic-mush closet, that is.

Now, it took me years, years, to admit to myself that I was a nerd. That I was not a Cool Party Girl. It was difficult, but I felt such a release after owning up to my nerdiness. Only then could I truly learn to embrace life and value myself.

Now, I am owning up to something else: I am a romantic mush. My head is full of melted butter. I would rather cry in my beer (if I liked beer, that is) while listening to Emmylou Harris than debate politics or show off how smart I am. Oh, I would so love to be intellectual and cynical and smart ... but I just can't do it anymore.

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to come out of the closet of Romantic Mushiness at this time. It's just that I'm going through another Schubert-Standchen phase. This always happens when I go through a Schubert-Standchen phase. Perhaps it, too, shall pass.

I do go through Schubert-Standchen phases. Sometimes I'll go for hours at work, listening to every recording of Standchen that I can find (a couple of links are at the end of this self-absorbed post).

I generally go through these phases when I'm feeling melancholy. Not depressed, but melancholy. Big difference. Depressed is bad. Melancholy is sad but poetic. Melancholy makes me want to write and play the piano. It's when I'm melancholy--not depressed--that I do my best writing. And today I'm melancholy. (Unfortunately I'm also at work, but that's another story.)

So I'm listening to Standchen. I don't know what "standchen" means. (OK, I just googled it. It means "serenade.") All I know is that it is the title of one of Schubert's many songs, and it is absolutely beautiful. And melancholy. Romantic. Just makes me want melt into the industrial carpet.

I don't have many recordings of Schubert's songs, but I do have this one at home. Standchen is also on it (selection 6), as is the hauntingly beautiful Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen (selection 2), as well as the well-known Die Forelle (selection 3), Erlkonig (selection 11), and others.

There's a nice violin version here (Disc 2, Selection 2). And I like the cello version (selection 5), performed by Maria Kliegel, which is available in its completion through naxos.com

(This is meditative stuff, so if you're in the mood for hip-hop or techno-pop, you might be better off listening to something else!)

(P.S. I am so completely self-educated and ignorant when it comes to music. If any of my fellow romantic mushes out there have recommendations for other CDs of Schubert's songs, I would love to hear them. Even if you're not a romantic mush, please feel free to leave your suggestions.)