Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Up up up up up

The last few days have been fabulous. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but there you go. Here is a summary of things that contributed to fabulosity:

Monday the Divine Love seminar moved back into the cozy seminar room instead of the impersonal large classroom. As a result (I think), our discussion was lively and engaged. Immediately following seminar, I ordered a pizza and had a fun meeting with three other musicologists to plot our Distinguished Lecture Series for next year. Yeah, I know, this doesn't sound like fun to you. Even less so when I explain that the meeting was about funding. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it because it made me feel like I was getting something done, something that would affect other people in some way. Sweet.

Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in over a week (not counting the time I went and basically stood around feeling unmotivated for 30 minutes before walking home again), and it really jump-started my cheerful and my enthusiastic. I do believe in exercise, I do, I do, I do believe in exercise. And also spooks. I was in such a good mood after exercising that my 1.5 hour bus ride to Ye Olde Tea Shoppe didn't even faze me. I did experience the obligatory guilt that wracks me whenever I'm late for anything, but it passed. My tea companions didn't seem to mind. They were The Mysterious X, as usual, and a friend who has yet to be encoded. I am still deciding between "Peaches" and "Cream;" the other name will affix to her significant other. Right now I'm leaning toward Peaches, but I will take suggestions from anyone who knows them.

Four or five cups of Darjeeling later, I headed home to write my Meet Me in St. Louis paper. It flowed easily and quickly, which makes me think it actually was crap, but as of now I still assess it as pleasant and delightful. I had guzzled the caffeinated tea under the impression that I would need to stay up all night to write said paper, but my productivity knew no bounds, and I was well over half done when Z2 and Gris arrived for red wine and Settlers of Catan. This marked the second day in a row on which I welcomed colleagues into my home, making them all feel more like friends. Which, I believe, they all are. After a good game (read: a game I won), they headed home and I, just as easily as before, churned out more paper. I was done before midnight, but still so hopped up on caffeine that I stayed awake until around 2 AM. Even that didn't shake my mood, though, and I maintained cheer until falling asleep.

Today I left for school before 9 AM, an unusual occurrence to say the least; leaving the house early makes me feel good even when dog tired. School was completely positive from 9:35, when I arrived, until 6:04, when I left. Class was engaging and entertaining, my voice lesson was both productive and hilarious, and the time when I was not involved in either of those activities was much less frantic than I anticipated. Plus there were cookies.

After school, I cooked a real meal for the first time in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaages. A salad, entrée, side dish, and a beverage, all delicious. Well, the side dish was rice, so a bit boring but still good. To go with the meal, what could be better than finally arriving at Once More, With Feeling in my Buffy re-view? Or in this case, perhaps I should spell it revue. So many things to adore about this episode, and I have often rhapsodized on it in person, so I won't repeat the gibbering now, but one thing must be said: Joss Whedon's lyrics are way better than Richard Rodgers'. That's right; I compared a TV writer to a Golden Age Broadway legend and the TV guy won.

And those are some of the highlights of my fabulous days. Not big things, I grant you, but if you scroll back up you'll recall that I don't know why they added up to such a good attitude. I'm just grateful.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Have Confidence, or Why Richard Rodgers Should Have Stuck to Notes

"Strength doesn't lie in numbers,
Strength doesn't lie in wells,
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers,
When you wake up, wake up! It tells me
All I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own,
I have confidence in confidence alone,
Besides which, you see,
I have confidence in me!"

There are so many, many problems with this song. For those who are unfamiliar with The Sound of Music, it was the last collaboration of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and between the stage and screen productions, Hammerstein died. Unwilling to accept this fact, Rodgers decided to become his own lyricist for a disastrous few years. In 1962, he created No Strings, a show whose lyrics are merely insipid. In 1965, for The Sound of Music film, he created "Something Good", pushing the boundaries of insipid beyond all reasonable expectations, and "I Have Confidence", whose lyrics leave insipid in the dust and burst through to surrealist. What on earth does the passage quoted above mean? "All I trust I leave my heart to"? Is this some sort of sick last will and testament? Does Maria really believe that sleep is a panacea for the insecure? Above all, is her grammar so poor as to believe that "I have confidence in me" is the right formula for her climactic phrase? Not to mention the idiocy of "hav[ing] confidence in confidence alone" (emphasis added) and immediately contradicting this sentiment with "Besides which".

Let me disclaim: I adore this film. I find it uplifting in a way that few Nazi films can manage. I understand that its history is amazingly inaccurate and that it whitewashes rural Austrian collusion with the Nazis, but that didn't matter to me at age 6 or so when I first saw it, and my subsequent education can't tarnish the gut reaction it still gives me.

But, but, and once again but (a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reference for those who have read the book)--I can't quite forgive the man for forcing the staggeringly articulate Dame Julie to commit emotionally to those garbled sentiments for the sake of a ridiculous rhyme and a skewed scansion.

Really, Dick, you should have stuck with Larry Hart. He knew how to write a song for a stripper who reads Schopenhauer, and he could make you believe it. An Austrian nun-reject-turned-governess is a piece of cake after that.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day of the Diva

At the LA Times Festival of Books, I saw Julie Andrews. She can, she says, still fly with an umbrella, though it gets harder as she gets older.

This evening, I watched Meet Me in St. Louis, starring the one and only Judy Garland.

Happy gay day, everybody!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday of oddities: Yet Another List

Things I did today:

1. Went shopping for relentlessly nutritious breakfast foods and horrible acid drain cleaner. Felt quite strange about this juxtaposition.

2. Took the lazy bus route to school. This involves taking three buses instead of one just to avoid walking the three blocks to my usual bus stop. The 105, which I take for all of three blocks, is invariably empty except for me and occasionally one middle aged woman riding for the same three blocks. Today I was the only passenger, which apparently brings out the religious nut in the bus driver. In response to my polite "How are you?", he informed me that once, 27 years ago, he saw the face of Jesus Christ three times in one day. I dutifully made impressed noises for the thirty seconds that remained of my ride, and then debused as rapidly as possible. His impassioned advice about "holy living" will stay with me until...well, I already forgot the details, so I guess not for long.

3. Discovered that "Songs of Solomon," the collection of sacred vocal music by Salamone Rossi (1570-c. 1630), is a four-hundred-year-old pun. The music contains a total of zero settings of the Song of Solomon (aka the Song of Songs), the text I was seeking; the composer seems to have thought himself clever for having the same first name as Solomon the Wise, and named his song collection in honor of that commonality. Which leaves me at a loss for my paper that was going to focus on the nonexistent setting.

4. Hummed for an hour. First voice lessons after some weeks off always frustrate me, as I hate losing technique, but my current teacher is good about reminding me of my progress as the lesson continues, so I can usually rein in my frustration. Also she's a yoga teacher too, and that always makes lessons fun. Another thing that made this lesson fun was the discovery that we've been to the same thrift store in San Francisco, despite the fact that I've been to San Francisco a grand total of twice in my life, and have never even seen most of it. My teacher bought her shirt, purse, and wallet in the same place that I recently bought a stuffed hedgehog and tortoise.

5. Baked most of my emergency cookie dough. For a month I've had a huge double recipe of chocolate peanut butter cookie dough waiting for the right moment to spring forth from the icy depths of our Frigidaire, and the meeting I've scheduled for tomorrow afternoon seemed like a good excuse. There will be all of four people there, counting me, and one of them is also baking. Plus I still have teglach left from Passover. These circumstances might perhaps suggest that my baking was unnecessary tonight. Pshaw, say I. Baking is always the right thing to do.

6. Made a list. Lists make me feel like I'm organized. In reality, I am not organized. The fact that I absentmindedly left school on Wednesday with neither my iPod nor my shoes attests to this fact. Today I managed to remember all of my belongings and apparel. Hooray for me!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

I just watched the movie Blue Velvet for the first time. Up until this evening, the phrase "blue velvet" had one association for me, and one alone: junior high school show choir. We were the Blue Velvet Show Choir, adorned rather bizarrely with imitation blue satin bow ties and cummerbunds. I didn't know how to snap my fingers, and I was ashamed to admit this, but the pleasant (and amazingly tall and old and scary) eighth grader who sat next to me managed to cover up for me until I learned. We sang arrangements of "Proud Mary," "For the Longest Time," and, of course, Blue Velvet, with the idiotic choreography that is de rigeur for such ensembles.

Contrast this, if you will, with David Lynch's film. My brain may explode.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Several things that are floating around my head tonight, in hyper-organized list format (which does not reproduce the highly scattered manner in which they rotate through my fevered brain):

1. Academic composers. Many (though certainly not all) of them are jackasses. According to Medvyed' (a famous musicologist who is only anonymous because I like making up code names), "composers do not usually have intentions such as we would like to ascertain." He means that performers whose highest goal is to reproduce composers' intentions are generally fooling themselves. However, I believe he is dead wrong when it comes to academic composers; they actually do have all of those nit-picking, absurd, control-freakish intentions. This is what makes so many of them jackasses. If you are a friend of mine who is studying composition at a university, this isn't about you. I promise.

2. The Body SPOILERS AHEAD! This may be the very best episode of Buffy EVER. I watched it yesterday and cried without stopping the entire 47 minutes. It's been said before, and often by me, that the reason it works so brilliantly is the complete lack of music in the episode, the absolute silence that invades the scene when people stop talking. This is true, but it's not the whole story. The musical gap heightens the emotional tension and surreal realism of the episode, but the writing, directing, and most of all acting are the things that completely rip my heart out every time. Kristine Sutherland was pretty much the best actor and character of the series, and her performance is gut-wrenching even in the few brief scenes (flashbacks and dreams) where she appears alive in this episode. Her growth as a parent is one thing that never gets noticed by even the most rabid fans, and it makes her, with Tara, one of the best examples of stereotype subversion on Buffy. I'll expound on Tara at a later date, but for now I just needed to work through the emotion of seeing Joyce die again. Wow does it hurt, in ways that fiction probably shouldn't but often does, for me.

3. School. This quarter, to which I have been looking forward for weeks if not months, is proving less fabulous than I anticipated. My classes, while fine, are not nearly as orgasmic as I predicted, and they feel more like slogging through than delighting in new ideas and knowledges. Boo for that. I expect things will pick up soon, but for now I'm only really enjoying my intro seminar.

4. Singing! I have an appointment for my first voice lesson of the new quarter. Thank Nonspecific Deity! Not taking voice lessons drives me moderately nuts. I'm also participating in a Corpus Christi chant thingy, which means once a week we read through part of the liturgy in old-fangled notation and learn how to make it not sound like crap. This pleases me mightily. Best of all, the piece we discussed in seminar today is made of unmitigated awesome, and several other people agreed, so I think we have enough interested singers to put together a sing-through, or several, or a performance (optimistically). If you are in LA and are a tenor, we can probably use you. Stupid SATTTB voicing.

5. Summercamp. Many of you, dear readers, don't know what my summercamp is. That's just too bad, since I don't have the energy to describe the bizarritude of it right now. The thought that I wish to relate is that I have decided to bring booze to it. This is a surprisingly large step for me, as I have never really drunk at camp. Results of this experiment will be posted in late June.

6 and final. Katharsis. According to Sugar (author we read for class, clever disguised by simply misspelling her last name), the concept of catharsis is intimately related to pre-Christian blood sacrifice. A cleansing by blood of guilt (see also: crucifixion). On my trip to NY, I had a fabulous experience of katharsis wherein Snoopo and I skewered our family, at length, over drinks. For the first time in my life, I was able to rip into my relatives the way I felt they deserved with someone else who felt the same way. We both still love our screwed-up family--that was not at issue--but we were finally able to relieve ourselves of the huge burden of 'not talking about it' that marks pretty much all of our family interactions. I think it was cathartic (through katharsis) for both of us. I remembered this with intense relief on Passover, when I would normally have been with them all and instead was running my own seder.

That's all for tonight. I must go back now to reading endless articles by the aforementioned Medvyed'. Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Passing Over

For the first time in my life, I got to celebrate Passover without the religion part. The only mentions of God were (a) anecdotal, (b) derogatory, (c) both, or (d) blessing the wine and the matzo, since those are short and I like the way they sound. It was a vast improvement. I basically slimmed down the seder to the bits that I remembered from past seders, which were few and oddly assorted. I think, for the future, I'd like to have a more formalized service than the "I forget; I'll look it up on Wikipedia" version that I led last night, but this was a great first one. There were seven people there, counting me, and one hedgehog. He ate some of the teglach, eventually, but ignored the charoset I gave him.

My eventual plan, I think, is to get a copy of the Haggadah I've always used, a highlighter, a sharpie, and several other online versions of the service, and transform the old family Haggadah into the new feminist-queer-atheist-musico-political-extravaganza Haggadah. The four cups of wine and all of the songs will be reinstated (our family skips most of that), and lots of enslavements other than the Jews in Egypt will get airtime. I also want to emphasize the pagan celebration of the vernal equinox that was the original source of the holiday. Hopefully by next year I can figure all of this out.

Food changes for next year (so I can look it up here in advance):
1. find some way to work protein into the meal, though not too much. It's supposed to be a pile of carbs.
2. Chocolate easter bunnies.
3. Teglach in a larger pot with less chance of boiling over and covering my stove in honey. Also, perhaps making it with passover flour if I'm feeling crazy.
4. 2 small kugels instead of one huge one. Way easier to flip.
5. Apparently doubling the matzo balls isn't enough. Triple them!?
6. Non Israeli matzo, no matter how far I have to go to find it. Damn Whole Foods.
7. Better tzimmes recipe. This one was meh.
8. Try roasting the egg and eating it.
9. Figure out a way to work eating the feminist orange into the service.
10. Most important of all, chocolate matzo AND chocolate-covered matzo. I will search high and low, near and far, and have them mailed from Brooklyn if I have to. There WILL be chocolate-y, matzo-y desserts next year.

Those who attended are welcome to add other food- or service-related suggestions. Those who did not attend are also welcome to suggest awesomeness.

Oh, and if anyone speaks Hebrew, I'm going to need to conjugate Avadim Hayinu in various other persons and tenses. Help!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Today I discovered that my department has a secret parallel existence on LiveJournal, an existence of which I was completely unaware. I think perhaps I will spend an inordinate amount of time catching up on online gossip now that I know of this.

My own blog has felt rather lacking in luster recently, so I will attempt to spice it up:

The Mysterious X and I traveled into unknown territory last night with the Pseudocologist (doesn't that sound almost like a real word? It's my contraction of pseudo-musicologist.) to celebrate Wednesday night right with a viewing of the incomparable Teenagers from Outer Space chez Gris. Ich bin's nicht lives directly above, and joined us for the end of the film.

Speaking of the film, I had no idea until watching it that the shadow of a lobster could be so terrifying. Really. Or at least, apparently, if one goes by the reactions of the actors. The Martian "gargans" are lobsters that grow to "one million times their original size" and seem to lose their corporeality along the way, though this does not merit a mention in the dialogue (a term I use loosely).

Today I went on the first field trip I'd been on since high school. The Music in LA seminar went to a postmodern hotel and observed its sonic space. No joke. I won't blog the details or an explanation of what the hell that means, as they would be (a) boring and (b) probably false, since I'm not clear on the whole thing.

On Monday (lack of linear timeline => postmodern?), I received a surprise visit from someone whose code name I am too lazy to look up right now. We had a rather crazy night, beginning at 12:30 when she and her friends arrived, and ending some time after 4. Details are being withheld to protect the innocent. And also because it was days ago and I forget the details.

Divine Love, my 17th century music seminar, is frustrating me. Approximately 3 billion students are sitting in on the seminar because the professor is famous and the topic is supposed to be one of her best. While I don't fault anyone for wanting to attend what might be the last iteration of the class, I just can't get into the spirit of it all; there are too many people for it to feel like a conversation. Instead, it feels like a meeting, with speeches and an audience. At this point, I'm staying in the class solely for the purpose of somehow writing a paper on Sister Act and connecting it to 17th century mystic theology. If that paper doesn't materialize, I will be quite sad.

Here's a thing that has been pissing me off to no end recently: Stuff White People Like. It's not a link because I don't want to support more people reading this garbage. It's basically a pernicious project of mapping various classist assumptions onto a racial framework that just perpetuates race/class unification. According to SWPL, I am approximately 47% white, a patently ridiculous number. Why is this so skewed? Because I'm not rich enough, primarily. White = Rich, they say. My percentage would be far lower if I didn't (1) grow up on the coast, (2) care about the environment, and (3) go to college. I originally intended to make a separate post (cleverly entitled "Stuff this White Person Doesn't Like") about this, but I decided that burying it at the end of a long post would reduce the possibility that I might in any way contribute to the popularity of filth.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Apellationally Linked

Several people have been on my mind this week who have an odd thing in common. The Mysterious X, for one, is now officially my roommate-elect. Huzzah!!! She and I have much domestic discussion in store, which I find oddly exciting. Further domestic excitement comes from Fenchurch, who is giving me the last piece of my kitchen furniture (another bookshelf) as soon as we are both available to move it here. Z1, whom I saw on my trip east, complimented me on my appearance, yet another oddly exciting event. And the Brooklyn Bridge, who was far too ill to visit for long in Providence, told me (in his flu-stricken delirium) how important I am to him; I hadn't realized that our relationship still mattered to him, and even though I didn't relish his miserable state, I liked hearing that.

Continuing the theme, I recently spent far too much time thinking about two 19th century Tsars of Russia. Neither one of them was as interesting as any of the four people mentioned above.

The Return of the Queen

After a week on the east coast, I return triumphant to Los Angeles. A few thoughts upon arrival:

1. It is possible to make the most interesting subject intensely boring with dedication and effort. Pal Joey is a wonderful show, but even such a subject can lose all its lustre in the wrong hands.

2. The next time I go to a conference, I will not schedule every single meal with old friends. I had a chance at lunch with a smart and sexy man that I passed up to meet Ginger and Novgorod. Sigh...

3. The Providence Singers are not like other choruses. They have a much higher awesome factor, on top of their musical abilities. I almost couldn't restrain myself and broke out into lusty singalong at their concert. My basses rocked the house, as always, but they could have used an extra rocker.

4. My college friends are some of the best people there are. Despite flaws, they just kick ass. I suppose I knew this before, but the trip renewed that knowledge. I love them so very very much.

5. I wear the cheese; it does not wear me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I will be taking a week off from the blagosphere, as I journey 3,000 miles through the corporeosphere to conference and reune. Au revoir!