Saturday, April 19, 2008

king kong

I've been watching old episodes of this tv show, Veronica Mars, which is about a high school student (Kristen Bell) who helps her father (Enrico Colatoni) out at his detective agency, solving local mysteries while trying to solve the murder of her best friend and searching for her runaway mother. Okay, so it's decent and fairly addictive, as it would pretty much have to be to be in order for me to watch more than one episode in a sitting. I get kind of annoyed at the high school aspect of things sometimes, things like our hard-bitten heroine pining over her last homecoming dance or how she can't eat lunch with her old crowd of snobby rich assholes anymore. Partially it's because, however realistic those emotions are when you're in high school, they're kind of boring and repetitive when you're not. The other part is, as Tabitha pointed out, I didn't give a shit particularly about homecoming anyway even when I was in high school. It is kind of fascinating (for me, anyway) to really think about high school; I have a hard time remembering what it was like to really live under somebody else's ideas of what I could and couldn't do, to not be living my own life. But anyway...
What's really getting to me is the racial issues that underlie the plot but are not necessarily discussed. All the rich assholes are white (and the notably rich characters are almost all assholes at least part of the time, with occasional redeeming or sympathetic moments), all the poor kids are black or latino; in fact pretty much all of the black characters (including teachers and such) are poor. While this may or may not be somewhat realistic, it's never pointed out, never discussed. Veronica has two people within the show that she continually counts on as friends: Weevil, a latino motorcycle gang leader, and Wallace, a black guy (a new kid at school) that works in the local convenience store. At the beginning of the series, I actually thought Veronica and the poor black kid were going to hook up; instead they abruptly become platonic best friends, she dates yet another white asshole and he dates one of the only black female characters on the show, who's main part of the action is that she gets swindled by some local kids running a transparent internet scam. She disappears after the all important homecoming dance, which is particularly irritating to me. It's like she's a bit part just so Wallace can be with somebody for an episode instead of being a kind of nonsexualized sidekick for the whole season.
All of this is whatever. I feel kind of like I'm being racist for just pointing out that who everybody ends up with seems completely predictable in tvland. But there have been a few moments that have really given me significant pause. The first involves Wallace: he does something proactive, I can't even remember what, and Veronica calls him King Kong. (This buzzed me particularly hard because of my friend Raquel's recent post about the shape issue of Vogue, which featured a cover picture of a slim white woman and a muscular, pissed-looking black athlete.) The second is a power struggle between a rich white asshole character, Weevil, and a not-rich black teacher. Although the white asshole character initiates almost all of the shit that passes between the three, the teacher aims pretty much all of his derogatory comments (and many are extremely low blows, including classist remarks and completely unnecessary shit-talking) at Weevil. Weevil points this out: "You talk to me in class and I respond, and we both fail our tests. You talk back to the teacher and I laugh, and we both get detention." The anger between Weevil and the teacher is pretty damn palpable; it was probably the most realistic thing I've seen on the show so far.
I don't know what any of this means. Am I reading too much into it? Am I not? I just wish they'd talk about it, even a tiny bit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'd gesture back, but you might run me down

I finally managed to retrieve my stranded bike today due to the fortuitous overlapping of a day off and a day with decent sunny weather. But on my way home, as I was crossing a busy six-cornered intersection (where three streets pass through one point and it's generally a little nerve-wracking to ride a bike through), I heard honking and turned to see a white middle-aged man in a pickup truck gesturing angrily at me.
Of course, that kind of ruined the ride for me. I spent the rest of the trip home wondering what I could possibly have done to this man to make him react like that (I was riding over on the side, as much out of traffic as I could be, and making my way across the intersection with all due haste when the event occurred). Does he just have a grudge against bikers in general, and I happened to not fit in with his idea of what should be happening at that particular intersection? Chicago's drivers and bikers have what I presume is a typically contentious big-city relationship; there are just too many people trying to get too many places and not watching as well as they could be. When the city recently passed laws designed to protect bikers, mostly consisting of fines and other legal reprimands for things like dooring people or not leaving enough space between a moving car and a moving bicycle, there was an outpouring of comments from drivers asking whether bikers would start being similarly punished for blatantly breaking traffic laws and even endangering drivers through reckless behavior.
Even though I've mostly been a biker in this city, I can definitely see the point. (Or part of the point: I still think it's stupid and annoying to give bikers tickets for running stoplights in the middle of the night or not coming to a complete stop just before a hill, but I also think that we should probably try to follow at least the common-sense types of laws. I just tend to treat them more as guidelines.) Traffic here is bad, and I've definitely seen lots of bikers do things on the road that caused more inconvenience for others than I could personally take responsibility for if I were to consider behaving the same way. But at the same time, I ride in constant fear of being doored, hit, run off the road, and yelled at just for my presence. I guess all I'm saying is, I won't cut you off in traffic and slow you down too much if you don't knock me off my bike or gesture rudely when all I'm trying to do is cross the street and behave like the car that the law pretends that I am.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

lazy saturday

There are several things I should be doing right now, like showering and practicing Schubert 7 (the "chiropractor" symphony because it's long and has lots of playing), but instead I'm drinking too much coffee and reading people's blog comments and occasionally leaving misspelled comments of my own. My nose seems to be permanently stuffed despite the allergy medication I took at 2 this morning because I couldn't sleep because I was stuffy, but I don't know why. It's rainy and cold again, and my bike is stranded in Roscoe Village until it clears up enough to ride it back.
That's all. I suppose I'll get going soon enough.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

think pink

This is an article my friend Jessie sent me about fashion and the city he's currently in, Jaipur. I know architectural fashion probably isn't any new thing (in fact, I'm pretty positive it isn't), but I still like it. I tend to like conceptual mishmashes, like the cello concerto I played recently by Ligeti where the cello soloist was specifically ordered by the composer to play under the rest of the orchestra, and so mostly goes completely unheard. It's supposed to say something about oppressed voices: this person, screaming but being covered by others, who eventually breaks free but is so tired that they just fade away. The piece ended with a cadenza that was nearly inaudible, ending with the soloist just tapping her fingers on the fingerboard and trailing off into complete silence that we were sometimes able to convince the audience to hold for probably up to a minute at times.
Anyway, so I like conceptually cool things, even if they don't always come out in the wash (somebody mentioned that a concerto where you can't hear the soloist seemed pretty anticlimactic, and who am I to say?). And I like when one art form draws inspiration from another, like a piece I heard by Debussy that had a movement based on a poetic form called a pantoum, with repeated lines of text replaced by repeated musical phrases. This fashion article reminded me of that. Plus I like the idea of a pink city :) People nearly threw a fit when the latest el line here was christened the pink line, with all these mid-twenties guys (at least in the articles I read it was mostly mid-twenties guys quoted in opposition) saying disparaging things about girly colors. Grow up, Chicago.

Friday, April 04, 2008

clarity of intent

Sometimes I forget what a genius Mozart was. I don't get to play much of his music, frankly; we spend a lot more time with later composers like Shostakovitch and Tchaikovsky and Debussy, wonderful composers who happened to write music that's bound to get your heart pounding with joy or anger or righteous indignation regardless of how much you know about classical music. When I took music theory in college, I was always incredibly impressed at the remarkable amount of structure that composers have within their pieces. A truly great piece of music often has intricate details, chords that mean certain things or cadences that only resolve once in an entire piece or what have you, that are mostly lost on modern listeners. Hell, I don't hear this stuff, or at least not frequently or consciously. But it's like writing, there are threads reaching out all over connection parts of the piece that give it cohesion.
Anyway, it tends to be easier to hear this in later composers, maybe because they started assuming we all didn't know shit, I'm not sure. I mean, it's pretty easy for most people to hear a melody and connect it with an image (like Berlioz's idee fixe or Strauss's tone poems) as long as they've read their program notes and are paying attention. But do we really hear it anymore when Beethoven throws a "wrong" chord in at the end of a cadence in one of his symphonies? Because when he wrote it, that pissed people off. The man was a rebel with all that wrong-chord shit. And Haydn wrote tons of music jokes into his pieces that make me giggle when I listen to them, but all most people remember is the Surprise Symphony.
Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I like playing older music, like Handel and Mozart, partially because it's so tightly structured that when they do something different it's fabulous, like a victorian lady musician suddenly starting to do a striptease on her piano (one of the only instruments ladies were allowed to play in that era because it placed them in profile to the audience instead of face-on). It's unexpected, and I have to chuckle and say "Damn, Haydn, way to rock the boat!". But right now I'm playing Mozart's 41st Symphony with a not-incredible orchestra and just relishing all the little details. Mostly it's just fun and games until the last movement, when he suddenly starts bringing everybody in with the same melodic figure but at all kinds of different parts in the measure. And damn if it doesn't work out. And then, in the fabulous coda, every theme from the whole symphony comes back all at once, all played together and you suddenly realize that they all fit together. And all I can think is my god, Mozart was a genius, he was planning this all along! And I wish everybody in the audience could feel the way that makes my heart pound.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I don't have much to say today, just that the other main hit on my blog tends to be for the term "defloration," which just makes me think of people looking up porn. Why can't I get more hits for Dorothy Allison or drag kings or something?