Tuesday, September 30, 2008

freedom and restraint

Part of my recent spurt of getting-back-to-my-roots activities has included attending concerts instead of just playing them. This means that in the past few months I've been to a contemporary duo concert (a cello-violin duo that I know and play with here collaborating with a soprano-string bass duo from Ann Arbor) and my very first Civic concert as an observer, which is not a great showing but a lot better than much of the previous few years. And tonight I had a whole new experience: a baroque concert!
My friend Anna plays baroque cello with a group of early music enthusiasts that goes by the name of Baroque Band. She's been trying to get me to go to a show for about a year now, but I've always been too busy or lazy or poor to go. But I finally made it tonight, and it was such an experience! It was an all-Vivaldi concert, two concertos (sans soloists as we would think of it) plus the Four Seasons, known to many from various commercials, weddings, cheesy classical music clips for the general public, etc. But truly, this was the Four Seasons as I've never heard it before, and I loved it. The soloist, Monica Huggett, was positively amazing. I've heard these pieces a million times (or at least parts of them half a million times) but she made them her own. I don't know how well I can explain this, but here is my best shot: Many times, when you hear this music (or this kind of music), it's performed on modern instruments-- which are different in crucial ways, both in sound and playing technique-- and in a very straightforward way. Tonight's concert was on baroque instruments, and more importantly, took some incredible liberties with the tempo, tone, and even with notes. She slowed down, stopped, took huge amounts of time or none at all between thoughts, made noises that weren't remotely violin-like, gestured wildly while playing, and basically did things that I would never have the chutzpah to do myself while still maintaining the integrity of the music. It was so much more interesting! And I finally got a real sense of the seasons themselves. In Spring, she sounded like a bird, and it was gorgeous. Summer was intense, like going crazy from the heat. Winter was full-on scary for a while. The entire group started out playing ponticello (playing right next to the bridge, the piece of wood that holds the strings up), which makes this whistling, screeching, nearly toneless glassy noise. It gave me the shivers. (And actually this, among other aspects of the performance, reminded me greatly of contemporary music. It's a fine line. Historical connection suddenly became clearer.)
I talked to Anna after the concert, and I told her how amazing I thought it was. She told me that frequently people seem to think she's "going soft" when she tells them about how much she loves baroque playing. We as classical musicians tend to conceptualize baroque music as boring, staid, too full of rules and with not enough flash and glitter to hold our attention. But really, even though there are rules, there's this freedom that is maybe only possible within that kind of framework. And isn't that like so many other things? I'd like to live my life like a baroque violin concerto: I want to have my guidelines but still be able to dance inside of them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

trying new things

I'm aware that I've been posting perhaps excessively lately, and also that hardly anybody is reading this. (To those few: hi!) Ever since I moved into my own place, this blog has become much more important to me because it gives me a feeling that, even if I'm by myself, I'm still making a dent somewhere and putting something out to connect me to other people. Who's on the other side of that connection is less important than that the connection (or the potential of connection) exists at all. Maybe eventually I'll slow down, but for now this is a kind of mental health outlet.
That said, you may have noticed I've been cooking a LOT lately. I've been trying at least one new recipe most weeks, and many more on occasion. For instance, in the last week or two I've made these new recipes: Zucchini-Feta casserole, zucchini stuffed with cheese and almonds, and Texas sheet cake. I suspect there's more, and keep in mind that was just the new recipes. On the bill for tonight is soy mac and cheese (I haven't made this in years, and it's rainy today, and I'm excited) and perhaps a silken tofu lemon pie. I'm also planning on a white bean broccoli dip sometime soon and Jesse's fried green bean recipe from a few weeks ago. And tomorrow is farmer's market day, so tonight I get to plan out a rough menu for the week. It's an awfully good thing that I have this crazy metabolism, but I suppose I should work out or I'll die an early cooking-induced death.

placeholder post

I'm trying to formulate some sort of interesting and cohesive thoughts about something I was thinking about last night (Texas nostalgia, the cultural meaning of Texas, something like that) but it hasn't quite come together yet. Instead, here are some of the better anagrams you can make out of my name.

bad memoir
broad mime
rabid memo
maimed orb
mambo ride

Also, do you like my new layout?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the great race

So, the debate. I've never actually watched a presidential debate before, nor had I in fact ever seen Obama or McCain speak at length (the joys of not having a television and being too lazy to look things up on youtube...). I agree with erica: I was just kind of unimpressed. I was initially completely weirded out by how consumerist-ly it was presented; I understand that running for president involves whoring yourself out to a lot of people, and that the purpose of the debate is to have people watch and be somehow persuaded that you are awesome, but for a while in the beginning I got a distinct game-show vibe from the whole thing. And then, I was irritated by how neither candidate was actually answering the question prompts at all. I loved that the prompter kept getting on their cases about it ("So, could you actually answer my question?"), but it didn't seem to do any good. Ask Obama about how the economic bailout would effect his spending, and he just talks about a bunch of things he'll spend on (which at least made sense, to list his priorities, but it seemed so pre-prepared), and ask McCain and he just spews out a bunch of sound bites and talks about defense (scary). And that's how pretty much the whole evening went. I didn't expect much from McCain, but I had hoped for more from Obama.
We talked about the debate afterwards, and the general consensus from the group I was with was that viewers would just end up liking whoever they liked before. Except apparently me, because I'm now thinking about voting for Cynthia McKinney; Illinois will almost certainly go to Obama anyway, so why not vote for somebody who might not be so eager to get in on offshore drilling and would at least potentially use the phrase "middle and lower class"? Was anybody else irritated by the fact that Obama consistently talked only about the middle class and then trashed McCain for not talking about them? Erica and I talked about this, the fact that they just assume that poor people's votes don't matter. The lower class is not their target audience, and they made that very clear. Very inspiring.
Don't get me wrong: from the options available, I sincerely hope that Obama wins. McCain and Palin scare the shit out of me. I just hope he does a good job.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I clicked on one of those yahoo news links to an article about what celebrities eat at lunch interviews and what that says about them. It was a dumb article. It's unclear to me why I sometimes feel a need to follow those. But it did contain this snippet near the end.
"Chan Marshall, the singer-songwriter known as Cat Power, was less inclined to look for metaphorical meaning. In a meandering interview, Marshall at one point gave a detailed, 10-minute-long description of how to make the perfect cup of tea.
"Stir it," she advised. "Try to get like a tornado going in it."
Her culinary lesson, though, had as much to do with creating — much like her music does — a feeling. While the tea brews, Marshall suggests to pass the time listening not just to music, but also specifically to either Roberta Flack's "First Take," Mary J. Blige's "The Breakthrough" or James Brown's 50th-anniversary collection, "CD one, song number one until song number seven.""

Thursday, September 25, 2008

pies of all sorts

I made a birthday dinner for my friend Martha last night. I spent the day getting my kitchen in order and chopping things with a large knife, and then I got home from orchestra and made a huge mess. This always happens: just when I've finally done all the dishes, I go and make something that gets nearly every single one of them dirty again. Sigh.
Anyway, this was the menu: a vegetable pot pie filled with potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, marinated tofu, peas, and mushroom gravy; fresh green bean, blanched and covered in butter, salt and pepper; apple pie with sharp cheddar baked in and covered with some struedel topping (sugar, flour, and butter). Everything turned out well, I redeemed my favorite pie crust recipe, and there were enough people here that I don't even have too many leftovers. Just a lot of dishes to do.
One of my favorite recent food discoveries is the marination and baking of tofu. I made a broccoli stir fry recently that featured a curry-spiced baked tofu, and I fell in love all over again. Baked tofu has this crispy, chewy texture that I really like, and the marination makes it taste so good! Here are my two marinades so far:

(from the Thai Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry recipe in my Chicago Diner cookbook, which was excellent) 1/4 cup oil
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp curry powder
2 tbs nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
This had a nice bite from the curry powder that enhanced the peanut sauce that is the other main part of the recipe.

(from last night. I made this up! I was so relieved and proud that it tasted good. No measurements, of course)
red wine
soy sauce
rosemary (I used fresh from my under-utilized plant)
garlic powder
salt and pepper
(As a bonus, I used some of the marinade in the mushroom gravy for the filling.)

If you've never baked tofu, all you have to do is cut it into small cubes, marinate for a while (I like to do this for about two hours, but minimum half an hour), put it on baking sheet in a single layer, and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, stirring once or twice so that all the sides get crispy. Delicious!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

low fidelity

This might get a little ranty, and also contains a few plot points that could be considered spoilers if you haven't seen or read this already. So remember High Fidelity, that John Cusack movie from about 2000? I watched it several times, maybe two or three, between when it came out and roughly 2004. I liked it: cute, funny, John Cusack, quirky little fake indie movie. (Is it indie? I don't know. I just feel like it must not have been if everybody I know seems to have seen it.) Last week, on the way to Denver, I read the original book by Nick Hornby (also wrote About a Boy) set in London instead of Chicago. And I liked it a lot, actually, and felt like it said a lot of really interesting things about masculinity. I felt like the narrator was constantly being vulnerable in this totally asshole-ish way, but also seemed to be saying some things that seemed true enough to look twice at about the way men and women relate, like maybe it was a very pop version of a much more serious issue. There were some scenes that were vastly different than what I remembered from the movie, so I decided to stage a re-watching to confirm.
And god, I'm bored out of my mind. I actually can't get through it. I skipped a bunch of scenes, and I'm not sure I can finish even though I only have about ten minutes left. What I can't figure out is this: is it boring because I just read the book, or was it always boring? In any adaptation, some detail is going to be lost, unless you want your movie to be ten hours long. In this case, we are presented with the absolute bare bones of the major arguements in the novel (which is, essentially, the plot: arguements about semi-random shit) without any context or leadup.
But there were also so many poignant moments lost or altered. In the movie, Rob sees Marie LaSalle (a singer-songwriter that he later sleeps with) sing a song he hates (Peter Frampton's Baby, I Love Your Way) and says, "I always hated this song, but now I kind of like it." In the book, he cries, and is incredibly embarrassed by how emotional he is over his recent breakup (and that he's crying at a Peter Frampton song, of course). In the movie, when Laura's father dies she and Rob have sex in her car because she doesn't want to feel the pain of losing her father. I remembered that scene well, and it really is very poignant. But here's the book version: Laura wants to have sex in the car, and Rob rebuffs her by refusing to sleep with her because she didn't use a condom with Ian (her interim lover) and she might have AIDS. In his internal narrative, he states that he did this to hurt her.
These changes lose something not quite defineable but infinitely important that make the book funny and sad and truthful and the movie funny and irritating and Hollywood. I'm pretty sure that this is why I can't get through it. It used to feel more realistic, and now it just feels like a movie.
But at least now I have a nice little celebrity crush on Iben Hjejle, the Danish actress who plays Laura. So i guess I got something out of it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Today I went and played at a beginning orchestration class at a local college as part of an internship for dal niente. It's always fascinating to do things like this, to play things written (or, in this case, orchestrated) by people who don't play my instrument and in most cases don't play a stringed instrument at all. It really makes me realize how much information I have stored in my brain and my hands. When somebody writes something that goes against standard performance practice, it is goddamn hard for me to make myself do it. I look at it, and my brain says "No way! Do it the other way!" It looks absolutely ridiculous to me. It's not the fault of the people writing the music, because in order to know what I know they either need to do what I do or have spent a lot of time learning about it, and it's actually kind of fun to fill in some of the blanks. It allows us performers to hold forth with years of opinions that no one has ever asked us for before. "Don't write me too many fifths, that bowing is awkward, don't forget to change clefs for high notes, notate that articulation this way..." It makes me feel smart and useful, and it solidifies the ideas I have about playing while allowing me to fully exercise the anal aspect of my personality. Learning is fun :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

even skip loves margaret atwood

food is a good start to any season

Last night's equinox dinner was entirely enjoyable. There were six of us in attendance: myself, Rose-Anne (our host!), my first Illinois roomie Josh and his girlfriend Anne, and my cellist friend Anna and her boyfriend Nicholas. First off, I really just enjoyed the conversation. Everybody was different enough to put forth a unique viewpoint, but we also all seemed to have very similar food, moral, political and general life views. We discussed the pros and cons of freeganism, veganism, etc., the things we liked cooking, sustainable living, all sorts of things. It was fun :) And then all of the food was quite yummy into the bargain. We had: delicious hot crispy garlic bread, a black bean salad with avocados, cucumbers, onions, and this amazing lime-cilantro-jalepeno dressing, green salad with a white truffle and olive oil dressing, pesto spinach lasagna (just like regular lasagna with pesto mixed into the sauce), and a vegan pumpkin pie for dessert (I'll post the recipe at the end because Rose-Anne is in love with this pie). By the time we left to go home, I was so full of good food and good company that I could barely tolerate my own contentment. We're already discussing a follow-up dinner party; Nicholas has a condition that severely restricts his diet (all he could eat last night was the black bean salad), so we're going to have a Nicholas dinner where he can eat everything.
Okay, pie!
This is from my Chicago Diner cookbook, and normally it makes the absolute best pie crust ever, but I was kind of disappointed with it last night. So there will be some parenthetical revisions to show what I normally do as opposed to what the recipe says.
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (okay, so normally I just use two cups of unbleached flour, but yesterday morning when I made the dry mix I was like, oh, I have wheat flour! But it wasn't pastry flour, which may or may not have been the problem. So I would, in the future, use whole wheat pastry flour or just all unbleached flour. I still also just don't like whole wheat flour as much as I would like to, so that may have been the whole problem right there.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup soy margarine (of course, butter works just fine too)
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water (I also didn't measure the water, because I had halved the recipe and 1/8 cup just seemed a little silly. When will I ever learn that in baking, measurement is kind of important?)
Mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter until the mix is crumbly and pebble-like. Make a well, add the water, and mix until the dough forms a ball. Divide in half. Makes two pie crusts, so unless you double the filling you'll want to half the crust recipe.
(makes one pie)
3/4 lb firm tofu (but we used silken last night and I was happier with the result)
1 16 oz can of pumpkin or two cups fresh cooked pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbs oil
2 tbs molasses
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Blend everything in a food processor or blender. Pour into a nine-inch pie shell and bake for an hour at 350 or until cracks start to appear in the filling. Chill 2-3 hours before serving (or stick it in the freezer, which is what we did due to time constraints).

So the food was good, the people were good, the conversation was good. But for me, it all added up to more than the sum of its parts. In all truth, it reminded me of Tucson, of our paperchef parties (albeit with less anarchists involved, at least as far as I know), when everybody would help cook vast themed meals and talk politics. And god, I missed that. It feels like coming home, like I'm coming back to the things I loved to do and I'm finding out the I still love them. It's a pretty damn excellent way to feel.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

birthday glut

It's Birthday Weekend! Tomorrow is Tom, my boyfriend from high school; today is Anna; yesterday was Tabitha. (When Tabitha told me when her birthday was, I believe I said "Fuck." I knew I was in trouble, me and my apparent yen for virgos.) On top of that, yesterday was also the birthday of Martha, a girl I work with, and the belated birthday party of my cellist friend Anna.
So I'm living off of birthday cake and pizza, hopping from party to party. Today I'm all covered in glitter from Tabitha's surprise glam rock-themed party last night which I went to directly from Anna's pizza-making party, and tonight it's drinks at Martha's house. And tomorrow it's an equinox dinner at Rose-Anne's, with pesto lasagna and vegan pumpkin pie. At least it's not cake...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I'll get back to book reviews and such soon, but for now all I can think about is how nice it feels to really relax. Tonight, for the first time in several weeks, there is nothing immediate hanging over my head, and I love it. The audition is over, I went in today and did five flower arrangements for a fancy party that I was all worried about (pictures soon, perhaps), my initial grant letters are done, and I don't have anything to do tomorrow. Well, except send out press invites for dal niente... But whatever. Practically nothing :) So tonight is reserved for Margaret Atwood and a movie. Hooray for relaxing!


I'm back! It's not exactly a triumphal homecoming, but I don't really care. I played as well as I was prepared to play, which is saying a lot, and maybe I'm not entirely ready to move to Denver this instant anyway. I saw my family, got some excellent books from my grandmother (including Bastard Out of Carolina, Into the Wild (perhaps not excellent, but I have to give it a shot) and The Blind Assassin, probably my favorite-ever Margaret Atwood book), and ate some really damn good food at a Boulder teahouse. I had major person epiphanies in my hotel room. I got invited to a swanky Chicago bar by a man who works for a major fashion label on the plane while wearing unmatching and smelly clothing from Target and thrift stores. It was a strange trip, and I'm happy to be home and on the verge of going to sleep.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


This is post #500! Exciting or sad, depending on how you choose to look at it. I'm opting for exciting, personally.
I'm leaving in the morning for Denver, to hang out with my family and play my audition on Monday. I'm not as prepared as I'd like to be, but more prepared than I thought I'd be at many points in the last few weeks. I feel pretty okay about it, actually. I'll go, I'll play. Life will go on. I'll have time when I get home to do things like clean my house and read, things that have been getting neglected in the frenzy of orchestral excerpts and panic attacks. I'm quite looking forward to returning to normal life. So is my cat; he is not a big fan of my practicing, mostly because it diverts attention from him. I'm kind of amazed he hasn't pissed on my viola case yet.
So, bon voyage to myself!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


This is somewhat tangentially related to a comment chain on Rose-Anne's blog, and also seems like a good end-of-summer post. Plus I seem to be in a poetry mood lately :) I am always taken aback at how often life seems to be all famine or all flood and it's nice to know that Marge Piercy is too, at least about zucchini.

Attack of the squash people
by Marge Piercy

And thus the people every year
in the valley of humid July
did sacrifice themselves
to the long green phallic god
and eat and eat and eat.

They're coming, they're on us,
the long striped gourds, the silky
babies, the hairy adolescents,
the lumpy vast adults
like the trunks of green elephants.
Recite fifty zucchini recipes!

Zucchini tempura; creamed soup;
saute with olive oil and cumin,
tomatoes, onion; frittata;
casserole of lamb; baked
topped by cheese; marinated;
stuffed; stewed; driven
through the heart like a stake.

Get rid of the old friends: they too
have gardens and full trunks.
Look for newcomers: befriend
them in the post office, unload
on them and run. Stop tourists

in the street. Take truckloads
to Boston. Give to your Red Cross.
Beg on the highway: please
take my zucchini, I have a crippled
mother at home with heartburn.

Sneak out before dawn to drop
them in other people's gardens,
in baby buggies at churchdoors.
Shot, smuggling zucchini into
mailboxes, a federal offense.

With a suave reptilian glitter
you bask amidst your raspy
fronds sudden and huge as
alligators. You give and give
too much, like summer days
limp with heat, thunderstorms
bursting their bags on our heads,
as we salt and freeze and pickle
for the too little to come.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

the comfort of old pants

It's sunny outside this morning, a relief after yesterday's rain. It looks like a beautiful day, my coffee has a more-than-average level of creamy deliciousness, and it's cool enough in my apartment to wear my old bathrobe, the one I've had since I was about twelve.
Summer is nice, wonderful, great (especially after winter and a chilly spring), but in my mind it can't compare with fall. Fall is my favorite season here: not too cold yet usually, the leaves changing colors, an in-between season. But I think a large part of why I like fall is because of the clothes. I always have a slightly hard time in the spring, as we edge slowly towards summer and actual warmth, because it also involves a gradual unveiling of skin that I have become accustomed to covering up. I feel naked for weeks until I get used to the breeze on my shoulders, my calves. But in the fall, I get to reverse that uncovering and return to the clothes I love best. Somehow, nothing makes me feel more safe, sane, and stable than a good pair of corduroy pants, a sweater, some comfy socks, a quilt on my bed, my bathrobe. These are clothes you can snuggle into, clothes that have the function of protecting you from a chill instead of just existing to cover up societally unacceptable body parts. They exist to make you feel better.
When I was in Poland the first time, I made my students read poems with me, solely because I had a giant book of Neruda with me and no clear idea of how to teach conversational english to high schoolers. The best ones for that were from the Odas Elementales: odes to chestnuts, books, laziness, yellow birds, and tomatoes (that one was a huge hit). They were things that my students could relate to, that they could at least grasp the concept of. But apart from the tomato, one of my favorites is an ode to faithful clothing. It sums up my feelings, and even though it's a little long, here it is for your reading pleasure.

Ode to the Clothes

Every morning you wait,
clothes, over a chair,
for my vanity,
my love,
my hope, my body
to fill you,
I have scarely
left sleep,
I say goodbye to the water
and enter your sleeves,
my legs look for
the hollow of your legs,
and thus embraced
by your unwearying fidelity
I go out to tread the fodder,
I move into poetry,
I look through windows,
at things,
men, women,
actions and struggles
keep making me what I am,
opposing me,
employing my hands,
opening my eyes,
putting taste in my mouth,
and thus,
I make you what you are,
pushing out your elbows,
bursting the seams,
and so your life swells,
the image of my life.
You billow
and resound in the wind
as though you were my soul,
at bad moments
you cling
to my bones
empty, at night
the dark, sleep,
people with their phantoms
your wings and mine.
I ask
whether one day
a bullet
from the enemy
will stain you with my blood
and then
you will die with me
or perhaps
it may not be
so dramatic
but simple,
and you will sicken gradually,
with me, with my body
and together
we will enter
the earth.
At the thought of this
every day
I greet you
with reverence, and then
you embrace me and I forget you
because we are one
and will go on facing
the wind together, at night,
the streets or the struggle,
one body,
maybe, maybe, one day motionless.

Monday, September 08, 2008

city streets are slick and wet/ smell like rain and gasoline

It's cold and rainy here today. Luckily, I don't have to go anywhere for the rest of the day; unluckily, I am being a lazy ass. I haven't yet practiced, which is practically criminal at nearly 4 PM a week away from an audition, but god... I feel deliciously lazy, sitting here drinking my coffee in my pajamas and petting my needy cat while the rain falls outside. I made some damn good chili for lunch, although I did have a kitchen panic moment when my fake chicken pieces started burning and sticking to the pan while I tried frantically and fruitlessly to get the pinto beans out of the can and into the pan to stop the coming conflagration. Eventually they plopped out, but not before I knocked my spatula out of the pan with my frantic can-shaking and sprayed rice all over the strip of linolium that constitutes my kitchen floor. I also have plans to make Pescado Veracruz for dinner, a yummy tilapia, tomato, and black olive dish that I tried to make Erica and Cassalyn while I was in Alaska-- sans recipe and, it turns out, with very little actual idea of what went into the dish other than those three things, but it was still delicious-- so that's exciting.
Today is one of those days where I feel compelled to write even though I don't really have anything to say. Oh, except this: check out my friend Rose-Anne's cooking blog in my links. That girl loves her some basil.

Friday, September 05, 2008


My plants seem to be multiplying. In the past few weeks, I've acquired no less than seven new plants, bringing my household total up to ten. (There would be eleven, but I lost one basil plant to a kitten-induced fall from a bookshelf.) It gives me a great deal of pleasure to take care of my plants; the daily (or semi-daily) tasks of watering, providing sunlight and an adequately sized pot for these small lives makes me feel incredibly happy, like my life has a purpose beyond my own. That sounds a little intense for simple plant maintainance, but in truth these plants would die without me if left to their own devices in my apartment. It also makes me feel good because my plant history has a sizeable graveyard in it for all the plants that I've overwatered, under-cared-for, and otherwise led to their dooms. (I'm trying to tell myself now to resist the urge to water them so frequently, hoping that maybe it will teach me a little damn patience already.) So it makes me expecially happy that recently, my won-lost ratio is improving.
I've been thinking a lot in the past six months or so about how much I've always loved plants and the plant world, and how maybe I want to learn more about horticulture and grow plants for a living. Without my even realizing it, plants form a thread that stretches throughout my whole life (more or less). I remember spending so much time helping my mom and grandmother in their respective gardens, planting and weeding and picking and watering. One of my favorite ever smells is that of the tomato vine. In middle school, I thought I wanted to be a botanist because I loved learning about plants and their uses. Now I realize that maybe what I love is the growing of plants, their lives and folklore, and not their biology so much.
In addition to the plants that I've picked up here and there, I also recently germinated a seed for the first time in countless years. Maybe three years ago, a friend sent me something called a matchstick garden, a large matchbook filled with strips of cardboard with wildflower seeds glued to their tips. Finally, I've gotten around to planting a few of them, and there are tiny green shoots poking their way out of the ground. Every time I look at them, I think: Isn't this amazing? Seeds look so lifeless, but you put them in the ground and add water and they turn into living things. This phenomenon has played an incalculably large part in the history of the world, and we take it for granted. How many people appreciate seeds, take the time to plant them and witness the results? If birth is a miracle, so is germination.

a case of the crazies

Really, I hate auditions. It's stressed me out to the point where I'm drinking half-caffeinated coffee even in the mornings :( And god forbid somebody at work gives me crap about flowers... A week and a half and it will be over.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

no, not biblically

I've always thought of it as a cop-out drink, but for me decaf is a revelation. I can drink as much coffee as I want to without acting like a crazy person! Whoo.

Monday, September 01, 2008

these past years have taught me nothing

I don't think i wrote about this yet, but I have an audition in Denver two weeks from today. It's my first professional audition in almost a year and a half, and it's coming at the end of a summer when I almost didn't play at all, so I've really been trying to play catch-up and get my chops back at the same time as I learn a few new excerpts and brush off some old ones. (For those non-musicians, auditions consist of a minute or two of a solo piece and then a bunch of pre-selected excerpts from the traditional orchestra repertoire. There are standards, and usually a few maverick ones thrown in to mess with the audition-takers' heads.) I actually had determined that I was through with this, that auditions and I had parted ways, and I was very happy with the arrangement. But then an audition opened up in a place I wanted to move, and my entire family will be there the exactly same week, and here I am breaking out my Don Juan one more time.
It's so goddamn frustrating. I have been working on most of these excerpts for upwards of eight years now, and some of them haven't improved appreciably in years. Some of them have, in fact, gotten worse. I swear to god, the only time I've ever played Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream well was maybe seven years ago, the second time I ever did it for an audition. Since then, it's been a barrage of teachers telling me a myriad of different ways to play it better. My elbow should be lower, higher, head back, viola up, curved thumb, bent pinky, and, after all of that, relax! Because that's the crux of the problem: I can't relax enough to play through the piece, which is very light and delicate and involves a technique wherein the bow is bounced repeatedly on the strings. I have been spending eight damn years just trying to relax for maybe ninety seconds, and I still can't do it. It's incredibly frustrating on a number of levels, and also seems like a rather negative metaphor for my life. Sometimes it seems like, if I could just curve my pinky in the right way and let my wrist move easily, everything (and not just the piece) would automatically be better. I know it's silly, but the tension and my own personal struggle with anxiety seem to me like symptoms of the same issue. Are they related? Or just an unfortunate coincidence?