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Friday, December 21, 2007

Break on through to the other side

I have been avoiding blogging because it so much has happened that writing about it is a daunting task. To lubricate the muse, here is a video that I have just watched many times in a row.

The Jingle Cats - White Christmas

Finals are over, and if the Facebook-propagated way to check grades through some kind of security flaw on the university's website is to be believed, I made it through without blemishing my 4.0, huzzah.

Finals week just about killed me, though. I hit upon a novel way of dealing with the psychological stress of 18.5 credits: every time I finished the final piece of assessment for a course, I would subtract that course's credits from my total. After the orchestration reading, for example, I was only really taking 15.5 credits. After my jury, I was down to 14, and so on. For some reason, this approach helped.

I feel like the papers I turned in really weren't my best work, but only enough to get me the grade I needed, which is a shame because they were damn interesting papers. I wouldn't mind readdressing a Marxist analysis of the music industry in grad school one day - though no doubt, by then, someone will have already written the thesis.

This week, I have a temp job in an office in Conshohocken to help pay the Christmas bills. This is important because I have been rather taken by a dress on eBay, and through the listing, by the designer, Jessika Madison-Kennedy of Dadadie Brucke. Seriously, I think this might be the new style I've been vaguely searching for these past few years.

Finding a new visual style is important right now because Matt and I are about to completely overhaul this website using this magical thing we have for two weeks called spare time.

In PHILADELPHIA IS MY OYSTER news, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival announced their new season with the quote: "Romeo & Juliet is directed by Carmen Khan and features Festival favorite David Raphaely and Festival newcomer Melissa Dunphy in the title roles."

Also, here is a link on the Philadelphia Orchestra website to the Network for New Music concert at the Kimmel Center next month, with a composition by me. I wonder if the fact that I am so tremendously excited and puffed up about it somewhat negates the "real composer" cred. Incidentally, if you're interested, Network for New Music has a YouTube channel.

Speaking of composition, I had the overture and an aria from the Gonzales cantata played at the end-of-semester composition final, and they've been picked up for the New Music concert at West Chester University on January 31st, which is exciting. I really should devote some of my newfound and short-lived free time to finishing as much of that sucker as I can; I'm terrified that if I delay too long, Gonzales will blow over in the news, given the fickleness of the American press and public. I was pleased to note that he made Bill Maher's Dickheads of the Year list.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I'm having a composition performed at the Kimmel Center!

Way back in May, West Chester selected me as one of a group of composers participating in the Network for New Music's 2007 Poetry Project. Basically, students poets write poems, student composers blindly select from those poems and write art songs, and the best ones are performed.

Results are in, and my song was picked! I will be one of six student composers performed at this concert at the Kimmel Center. I am so happy!

The song is called "Black Thunder," and the poem was written by Luke Stromberg, who also goes to West Chester, as it happens. Dan Shapiro, fellow WCU composition major, is also having a song performed. I can't wait for rehearsals to begin.

But for now ... back to writing an essay applying Marxist theory to the music industry. It's an exciting topic, but sudden immersion in Marxist theory is proving a little rough.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Greetings, spooks!

The Department of Homeland Security reads my blog!

Well, not really, but it is funny that I mentioned they hadn't cashed my citizenship check, and it's cashed the very next day. Not that this means I'll be able to vote next year -- there's still circa eighteen months of "processing time" to come.

I am recovering from pulling an all-nighter from Monday to Tuesday. Aside from a twenty-minute nap between classes yesterday, I was awake for over 40 hours. I didn't leave the music building for 25 hours during that time. But my major orchestration project is done, and I made the deadline, huzzah. However, I did totally screw up a concert last night by failing to turn a page in time for a giant cello solo in the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings. Oops. My toes are still in curl.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you, amen

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was race to my laptop. As I do every morning. But this morning, I specifically raced to check the Australian election results and YOU LITTLE RIPPER!!

John Howard, the racist, short-sighted bastard whom I clearly recall speaking out against Asian immigrants in the 1980's, has lost. The slightly-right Liberal Party has been replaced with the slightly-left Labor Party (which, in American terms, translates to the liberal party being replaced by the hippy communist unions welfare state liberal party). More than this, John Howard lost his seat, the first PM to do this since 1929.

Kevin Rudd, the new PM speaks fluent Mandarin. In fact he was a diplomat in Stockholm and Beijing for seven years. Diplomat ... you know, as in diplomacy. What is this strange and foreign concept, di-plo-ma-cy?

Rudd also promises to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the USA as the only major country that refuses to sign on. And, hey, maybe it is too late, but at least Australians aren't sticking their head in the sand like so many Americans and refusing to believe in global warming (or evolution, for that matter).

The Labor Party also has a female deputy leader, which may not mean we're quite as progressive as New Zealand or India or Ol' Blighty, but at least we're not as bad as America getting there.

In bizarro (old) news that tells of how removed from Australian politics I have become, I only just found out that the representative for my old seat, Kingsford-Smith, has been Peter Garrett, lead singer of Midnight Oil, for the last three years.

I am completely delighted by all this news.

More so because, having filed for US citizenship in September, I was not allowed to vote in the Australian election (voting in a foreign election would void my citizenship application). This puts me in the surprisingly uncomfortable position of being unable to vote in any election for the first time since I turned 18. Since there is a massive backlog of citizenship applications, I won't be able to vote in the US election next year either (hell, the BCIS haven't even cashed the $675 check I sent them, a sure sign they're in trouble). I sort of feel as though my human rights have been infringed.

In personal news, Mum got out of the psych ward last week. She still sounds a bit high to me, but ... what can I do?

Since I haven't blogged in forever, here are a bunch of links and random trivia.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I told you so

It seems while I was away on vacation, Mum was committed again. Great.

No other details yet. Trying to call Trevor (who left voicemail messages), but he's not picking up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Meltdown refrozen

Apologies for the minor meltdown late last week.

My mother has bipolar disorder. It's nice to type that on a blog, where I can't gauge my readers' reaction and feel the level of discomfort in the room rising. Having a mental illness in the family is unpleasant for many reasons. One of them is that the social stigma attached to mental illness is so strong that I can feel people desperately looking for a conversational escape route as soon as the words "my mother has bipolar disorder" leave my mouth. I'm sure if the words were "my mother is blind" or "my mother has multiple sclerosis" or even "my mother has Alzheimer's," they wouldn't react in the same "Jesus, get me out of here" way. I wouldn't have to watch their gaze dart or their feet shift or their hands squirm if I revealed my mother's diabetes or my dad's death from prostate cancer*. People have a problem dealing with mental illness.

And so do I. My problem is that I am 10,000 miles away and there's nothing I can do about it, and the guilt is sometimes overwhelming. Another problem I have is that perhaps the only person in a position to do something about it - my mother's boyfriend Trevor - is schizophrenic and possibly also in the midst of an episode.

My mother's mental illness first manifested in 1987, when I was seven years old. It's not the regular, run-of-the-mill bipolar disorder, but a severe type exhibited by only 1% of all bipolar sufferers; even with constant medication, she suffers from recurring episodes, usually annual, which land her in psychiatric wards for between two weeks and three months. She's been doing particularly well in the last four or five years, with episodes limited to only two every three years; unfortunately, these have seemed to coincide with Matt's visits to Australia, with the result that every time my husband has met his mother-in-law in her home country, he's had to visit a mental hospital. Yes, there is a dark humor in the situation.

I grew up with bipolar, the always looming fourth (or perhaps fifth) member of my not-so-nuclear family (nuclear in a different sense of the word, maybe). It complicated everything. Perhaps the only uncomplicated moments I spent as a teenager with my mother were when her episodes became obviously intolerable and easily diagnosed, and I marched her into emergency wards to have her committed.

I don't know if she's definitely having another episode. She's definitely been having some relationship issues. Last week, she called to tell me of Trevor's erratic behavior, and followed with a few erratic conversations of her own. "We are one!" she bellowed at me. "If you die, I die. If I die, you die. Say it!" "Yes, Mum, we are one," I said in despair, and I felt my gaze dart and my feet shift and my hands squirm as they gripped the phone, desperate to hang up and escape.

I talk about my mother because she affects me every day, even when I don't speak to her, and right now, she's affecting me more than usual. When I mention her mental illness, I don't want my audience to feel pity for me or react with shock. I don't want them to fidget and change the subject. I wish my mother's (and therefore, my) problems were as unworthy of comment as a broken arm or a stolen car, that people would understand the appropriateness of simply saying, "Eh, that sucks," and letting me speak.

When I was a teenager, I noticed a trend among my closest friends. "Troubled," I called them. They were intelligent kids who all came from backgrounds with some sort of enormous hurdle. Unbelievable parental abuse. Spectacularly broken homes. Sexual trauma. Unconventional sexual or gender issues. It didn't really matter what the hurdle was, as long as it was being dealt with in some way**. It was like one-on-one group therapy. I could say to my friends, "My mother threatened to kill me with an axe," and I wouldn't be met with pity or shock, which only make me feel worse. I would just be met. "Oh yeah?" they'd say, and they'd laugh with me, because sometimes all you can do is laugh.

I guess I moved somewhere very different when I came to America. I have the most wonderful stable home life possible. I don't have to take care of anyone. Nobody is actively undermining my self esteem. Perhaps as a result of all this stability, my friends in this hemisphere are remarkably untroubled in comparison to my Antipodean friends. The downside is that when my past comes knocking, I am no longer surrounded physically with people who will only say, "Eh, that sucks," and maybe throw in a few horror stories of their own to make me feel better.

So, in part, I think the meltdown I had in school last week was about that. At least I managed to keep it fairly private; there is nothing more pathetic that a woman pushing thirty weeping in a building populated mostly by teenagers. The catalyst for the meltdown was being bullied into performing on the cello without notice in a masterclass -- immediately after a lengthy conversation about Schumann's bipolar disorder. I probably would have gotten along very well with Schumann's kids.

Feel free to post "Eh, that sucks," in the comments. Throw in horror stories if you have them.

* For Jason's sake, I should probably acknowledge that "my mother caught HIV from teh gay sex" would probably be worse, but dammit, this is my bitching session.

** In retrospect, one of the pre-requisites for obtaining membership of the Troubled club seems to have been dealing with hurdles by succeeding in an extraordinary way in one (or many, or every) other area of life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I am so freaking emo right now. I spent half my day at school crying and the other half trying not to cry. If I were any more fucking lame, I'd be cutting myself and listening to My Chemical Romance.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

short cuts

If you haven't seen the picture all over my Facebook/Myspace profiles, I had myself a haircut last weekend, right before the lovely Cliff and Danan and Tony Randazzo descended upon our house for a mini ETS get-together. Not that I have much time these days to spend on ETS, but it is nice to see people again in the flesh.

More daring even than my haircut, I am entering L'homme Armé in the SEAMUS electroacoustic composition competition, since I don't have anything to lose; nothing is going to come of it, because the piece is in a vastly different style to the usual SEAMUS ambient noise fare. The deadline is before the New Music concert, so I had to mock up something approaching a recording this weekend. The daring part is posting it here so you can listen to it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Citizenship ahoy

God bless the land that gave us birth!
No pray'r but this know we.
God bless the land, of all the earth,
The happy and the free.
And where's the land like ours can brave
The splendor of the day.
And find no son of hers a slave?
God bless America!
God bless the land, the land beloved
Forever and for aye!
God bless the land that gave us birth.
God bless America!

This week, I filed my citizenship papers. I cannot wait for my vote to not be counted like everyone else's!

I am seriously excited to complete the civics test and prove that I am more qualified to be a citizen than most natural-born Americans. Matt quizzed me the other day with the practice questions at the back of the citizenship guide, and I got nearly all of them right - including naming the original thirteen colonies off the top of my head, yay! I missed the questions about Patrick Henry (unheard of in Australian history classrooms, and his name is too goddamn generic to stick in my head) and how many members there are in the House of Reps. An informal questioning of educated Americans in my college classrooms reveals that, in fact, nobody knows how many people are in the House of Reps.

The answer, which I will now remember for life, is 435. (Answer subject to change following the next census).

The processing time for the I-400 is something like two years, so it's likely my vote officially won't not count until 2012.

In unrelated news, I am completely addicted to Scrabble on Facebook.

  • Jason sent me a link to this completely terrifying and wonderful video of two robots covering Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." The robots are playing percussion and a theremin, and they are doing rather a wonderful job.

  • The Blob was filmed around Downingtown, where I live. In this trailer, you can see a shot of the diner which is just down the road.

Speaking of the theremin, I am currently modifying mine to include a sort of fingerboard, for more accurate intonation -- I have to play it at a concert next month of new music at my college. On the program: that L'Homme Arme thing I composed last semester. I have to retool some of the actual music as well. Hopefully I'll get a decent recording.

Speaking of things musical, I did a transcription of NIN's The Becoming for Know the Score. The new version of Sibelius with Sounds Essentials is lovely, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

King Tut

Immediately after the Gibson lecture, Matt and I made a split-second decision to visit the Tutankhamen exhibition at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. It was something of an indulgence - the tickets are $30 each - but we're both nursing childhood Egyptophilia hangovers.

My admiration and fascination for the exhibition was, however, tempered by an incredible omission. Firstly, let me explain that the famous gold-and-lapis face mask of Tutankhamen is used on every - and I mean EVERY - promotional image for this exhibition. Brochures, banners, posters, billboards, official websites: they all feature the face mask front and center. The front steps of the goddamn Franklin Institute even depicted it. The entire exhibition was designed to mimic the experience of entering a tomb, with the main burial chamber as its highlight. And yet, upon entering the "burial chamber," as you have no doubt guessed, the archetypal Tutankhamen artifact was nowhere to be seen.

No, wait, it was worse that that, because you could see it -- there was a stone platform in the middle of the room where the sarcophagus should have been, and on the face of the platform, an image of the sarcophagus and face mask were projected. Using a projector. Insult to injury.

I asked a security guard if she was aware that the sarcophagus appeared to have been replaced with a freaking light display, and she wearily directed me to some museum staff (the poor guards must get a lot of complaints in that room), who informed me that the mask never travels and is safe in Cairo.

And I'm totally fine with that -- except, GEE, MAYBE THE EXHIBITION SHOULDN'T HAVE USE THAT IMAGE ON ALL THE ADVERTISING, THEN. I mean, at the very least, they should put a sign at the entrance informing people that the mask doesn't travel so that you don't spend your time at the exhibition rampantly anticipating what turns out to be a slideshow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I want to throttle my orchestration professor.

I mean, he's cool and all, and a decent teacher, but goddamn, this was the homework for this week. Keep in mind that I am in no way hurting for things to do.

"Due Tuesday, Sept. 18
1. String project reading session: bring three revised scores and a set of parts to class.
2. Wind project. [Bring to class – digital and printed] Compose an original work in any style, approximately 2 minutes in length scored for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon."

ARGH! Having never written anything for winds before, writing the second project tonight was like pooping a pineapple. In a hurry.

So, yes, in case you were wondering, school is driving me nuts. I've probably bitten off more than I can chew with twenty credits, and I've embarked on a ridiculously ambitious composition project for the semester - I'm writing a cantata based on the senate judiciary hearings of Alberto Gonzales. Come on, if you had an idea like that, you'd sacrifice sleep and sanity to follow through as well. The only question in my mind is whether to call it Gonzales! The Cantata or stick to something more straight. I spent my first semester weekend cutting an 11-page libretto out of 240 pages of transcript from two separate hearings and his resignation speech. That's probably at least partly why I'm scrambling to catch up in every other aspect of my college life. Don't even ask me about practicing the cello.

The highpoint of my excessive workload is a 5-page essay assignment defending the authenticity of a modern-day rock protest musician. I will give you one guess which musician I picked. In fact, I give you no guesses; you ought to know.

The worst thing about all this is I love it. School is killing me, and giving me murderous thoughts, but I fucking love it. School is crack. I would make a pun here about school shootings, but add that to the faux death-threat at the beginning of this blog entry, and I'd probably be dragged off to a loony bin tomorrow. Just so everyone knows, I'm not thinking at all of pulling a Columbine. Hell, I even think the Second Amendment should be repealed.

I need sleeeep.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Robert Jordan is dead. Fucking ARSES. FUCK.

NOW what am I supposed to do with the summer after I finish my degree?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another Reason I am a Fucking Basketcase

This morning I had a nightmare that I got a B in one of my courses.

I am not even kidding; that was the entire gist of the dream. I was mortified.

I am so embarrassed by my pathetic psyche.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Most awesome thing I did over the summer: attend a free lecture given by William Gibson concerning his new novel, Spook Country (awesome; buy it).

Gibson is taller and lankier and more bent than I imagined him to be. He reads his own work well, unlike many authors, and seems to find glee in swearing in front of his audience; I wonder if this is because he's in the USA.

At the end of his lecture, he took some questions. I learned that he didn't realize that he had given the main character in Pattern Recognition (my favorite book; buy it) the same name, phonetically, as the main character in Neuromancer (introduced the term 'cyberspace' to the world; buy it) until he was most of the way through writing the former. It doesn't make any difference to me; if I ever feel and subsequently succumb to the urge to procreate, all my children will be burdened with the name Case or Cayce. I'm a bastard like that. Then again, I was named after a character on Days of our Lives, so I suppose being named after a character in a novel is a step up.

Gibson bemoans readers who find his work deeper and more knowledgeable than he believes it to be. He has a modest belief that he is a "master of bullshit," and that those who read deeper meanings into his work are "seeing faces in clouds."

I counter that some people subliminally create deeper meaning and interesting connections. Without comparing Gibson directly to Shakespeare, which would of course be a terrible sin, I doubt the bard consciously intended even a tenth of the subtext and symbolism attributed to his work by modern interpreters. I don't think Jackson Pollock had any clue he was painting fractals which years later could be analyzed to establish authenticity. I don't think Stravinsky sat down and drew up an octatonic tonal plan for the "Rite of Spring" before putting pen to manuscript. Sometimes, talented minds can make these kinds of leaps and design these structures without conscious effort.

Or maybe I'm just trying to comfort myself for falling for the bullshit.

In any case (pun unintended ... or was it?), at the end of the Q&A session, Gibson specifically asked for a question from "one of the ladies" (reminded me of this wonderful interview with Bruce Campbell: "We've gotta get more chicks at these conventions... Men are fine, but I get sick of lookin' at 'em after a while"). So I stuck my hand up.

I was speaking to Gibson. Impersonally, on a microphone and across a room full of people, but I was nevertheless speaking to William Fucking Gibson. </creepy fangirl> I asked about the disturbing rumors I keep hearing about the Neuromancer movie, and what he thought of plans to turn his books into movies. I know it's kind of a faux pas to ask about movies when you're talking about books, but what the fuck, I was genuinely curious.

The gist of his answer was:
  • He thinks filmmakers shouldn't turn books into movies, but should make up their own stories. Then again, he concedes, he's a writer.
  • Pattern Recognition was at one point going to be filmed by Peter Weir (Aha! Hence the Picnic at Hanging Rock reference in Spook Country, possibly!) in a "rock solid" deal, which subsequently fell through.
  • Neuromancer is under option until February 2009, so expect a movie before then, or don't expect anything at all (at least until the rights are optioned again).
  • "If you're at all concerned about Neuromancer being made into a film -- you probably should be."

I could have had my copy of Spook Country signed, but he mentioned that he had just signed 700 copies for his agent, the line was awfully long, and I thought it a little unfair to ask him to sign one more for me. I already got my fangirl fix.

Incidentally, Gibson fans are really godawful, and I now live in constant fear that I am of their type. Eavesdropping while waiting in the auditorium for the lecture to begin, I was treated to obnoxiously loud conversations, intended less for the other conversationalists than the strangers sitting nearby, about sophomoric philosophies, tragic comparisons of sub-par sci-fi, and (attempted) uber-geek/h4x0r dick-waving. But perhaps my irritation is only a function of having the same impulses. I hope not.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dream Baby

Last night I had a dream that I had a baby. The baby wasn't intentional; I kept forgetting to do something about it, and before I knew it, it was too late. Unfortunately, I was completely unprepared to be a mother, and kept doing terrible things like leaving the baby in the corner and forgetting about it. I even forgot to breastfeed, and only remembered when I looked down to see swollen breasts leaking milk everywhere in a most embarrassing fashion. I felt frantic and guilty.

I don't need any interpretation help on this one. The baby is this semester, which started last week.

More about the summer soon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Philip Glass Music on Sesame Street

In a composition class last semester, my professor asked me when was the first time I ever heard Philip Glass. I searched my memory, and was just about to say something about Einstein on the Beach, when I had a very sudden revelation.

"My God ... I think it was on Sesame Street. Do you remember those kaleidoscope segments on Sesame Street? Was that Philip Glass music? Jesus, it must have been!"

Dr. Nelson didn't know what I was talking about, despite having a kid about my age, but since I had my laptop in front of me, I ignored the class for a few minutes to search for a clip on YouTube (God bless YouTube), then interrupted his lecture to insist that everyone listen:

Of course, Dr. Nelson confirmed that it was unmistakably Philip Glass, and I was left to marvel at what a deep impression Glass' music must have made on me as a child of two or three. Who knows? Maybe being exposed to Philip Glass at such a young age was the reason I was so receptive when I heard Einstein on the Beach as a teenager.

I bring this up now because there were originally three Philip Glass scored segments on Sesame Street, and the other two were recently discovered by Matt, who knew I'd been looking for them at the beginning of the year.

This last one is the one I remember the most clearly.

Asian Egg Donors Wanted

I am seriously considering becoming an egg donor. According to a post on Craigslist Asian egg donors are particularly prized -- I sent them an application, and was sent in return a very comprehensive screening packet, with the promise of $5000 if I actually went through with everything.

I find the whole thing very interesting. As I said, I'm considering it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs

Lovely jobs! Wonderful jobs!
Lovely jobs! Wonderful jobs!

A few weeks ago, I started to freak out about finances a little. Despite scholarships galore, we're still overspending because we're trying to renovate a house. Additionally, for the first time in my life, I am seeking worthwhile professional help for my neck and shoulder muscles, which have been rather royally fucked by two decades of stringed instruments. We have health insurance through Matt's job at the Free Apple Gadget Dispenser, but there's still a $20 copay for physiotherapy (Americans refer to it as 'physical therapy,' I suppose because six syllables in a single word is daunting), which means I'm paying $60 per week to work out and receive dope massages. Good news - the mobility in my neck has increased from 60% to about 75%.

I started applying for employment through Craigslist, and now I am TOTALLY OVERWHELMED with part time jobs, many of which I will be able to continue through the school year.

First up, tomorrow I start work as a brand ambassador for the Microsoft Zune at the Tweeter Center. Basically, I demonstrate the Zune to concertgoers while in the comfort of a tent, or 'Zune Zone' (I don't know if I get a free Zune - here's hoping). The neat part about this is that I get to hang out at concerts which I would never go to otherwise because I am po'. Some of the concerts are actually quite interesting, others are just funny. In the next month, you will see me at:
  • Marilyn Manson and Slayer with Bleeding Through
  • Vans Warped Tour 2007 (A Static Lullaby, All Time Low, Amber Pacific, As I Lay Dying, Bad Religion, Bayside, Biffy Clyro, Big D and the Kids Table, Bleed The Dream, Bless The Fall, Boys Like Girls, Chiodos, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Cute Is What We Aim For, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Envy On The Coast, Escape The Fate, Evaline, Flogging Molly, Gallows, Hawthorne Heights, Hot Rod Circuit, IainTerry band, It Dies Today, Jonzetta, K-OS, kaddisfly, Killswitch Engage, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, MC Chris, Meg and Dia, Monty Are I, My American Heart CA, New Found Glory, Paramore, Parkway Drive, Pepper, Poison The Well, POS, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Revolution Mother, So They Say, Still Remains, Street Drum Corps, The Almost, The Confession, The Fabulous Rudies, The Fold, The Matches, The Rocket Summer, the spill canvas, The Starting Line, The Unseen, The Vincent Black Shadow, Throwdown, Tiger Army, Underoath)
  • Brad Paisley with Taylor Swift, Jack Ingram and Kellie Pickler
  • Family Values Tour ft. Evanescence and Korn with Atreyu, Flyleaf, Hellyeah, Trivium and Droid
  • Dave Matthews Band with Xavier Rudd
  • Dave Matthews Band with Toots and The Maytals
  • The Allman Brothers Band and RatDog with special guest Keller Williams
  • O.A.R. with Augustana, and Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers
  • Velvet Revolver and Alice in Chains with Kill Hannah
  • Ozzfest - Ozzy Osbourne, Lamb of God, Static X, Lordi, Hatebreed, Behemoth, Nick Oliveri and the Mondo Generator, Nile, Ankla, Circus Diablo, The Showdown, 3 Inches of Blood, Chthonic, Daath, In This Moment
  • Projekt Revolution Tour ft Linkin Park with My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, HIM, Placebo, Julien-K, Mindless Self Indulgence, Saosin, The Bled, Styles of Beyond and Madina Lake
  • Opie & Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour with Bob Saget, Louis C.K., Stephen Lynch, Frank Caliendo, Jim Norton, Rich Vos, Bob Kelly, Otto & George and Patrice O'Neal
  • MMRBQ2, Last Call featuring Live with Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Collective Soul and Seether

You know what excites me the most? Bob Saget. Seriously, I hope I get to see or hear Bob Saget. Also, Lordi.

I have a job interview tomorrow to teach theatre at the local YMCA. The best thing about it, other than the fact I'm genuinely 'uniquely qualified,' is that I would get free YMCA membership, so I could take all the yoga classes I want for free. Wish me luck. I hope I didn't just jinx myself by telling you.

I'm also interviewing for another promotional job on Monday, and I have a phone interview for a music lesson school. Oh, and I got a job with an office temp agency as well, and next week I'm working five days from 9-3pm.

Lovely jobs! (Lovely jobs!)
Lovely jobs! (Lovely jobs!)
Lovely jobs!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This sentence makes me feel numb:

Today my husband took a photo of the Google Street View car with his iPhone.


Edit: He even sent the picture in to Gizmodo.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Two weeks ago, Matt's awesome employer gave him an iPhone.

A freaking iPhone. An 8GB one, too. His work is paying for the plan.

It's pretty awesome, but I am avoiding touching it. First off, it's Matt's, not mine, and I don't want us ever to tussle over it. Secondly, I don't want to get any ideas. I mean, it costs more than the brand new laptop I just bought. That's pretty astounding.

Thirdly, I've found myself less and less attached to cell-type gadgets lately. I realized the other day that I have owned a cellphone for ten years. That probably explains why I rarely answer calls; half the time, I don't even take my cell with me when I leave the house, and I probably check it less often than I check my e-mail. The first month I owned a mobile, in early 1998, I think I racked up a $150 bill. Now I don't even use all the minutes on my bottom-of-the-barrel cheapskate plan.

Even my cheap, ancient secondhand iPaq doesn't get much mileage during school holidays -- and it doesn't have any mobile capabilities beyond a CF wireless card.

Maybe I'm a little prejudiced against the iPhone. It's an Apple product, which would make us a couple of suckers if we'd actually paid for it. Also, on the day Matt brought it home, I had taken it upon myself to surprise him by reorganizing and repainting the bedroom we use as an office. "Look what I did!" I declared, beaming with the expectation of admiration, as he walked through the door. "Look what I got!" he replied. Oh, shit! He totally trumped me.

It is cool that we have an iPhone in our household, though. When we're out at the diner shooting the shit together, we don't have to file away for later all the queries that arise -- we can Google them right away. The maps feature is pretty cool (except when the network is out of range, which is why I still prefer paper maps in the car).

The aforementioned employer gave Matt a 30GB iPod for Christmas last year. Back then, I felt extremely guilty about using the iPod myself. We even had a pseudo-argument about it:

"You take the iPod."
"No, you take the iPod."
"No, YOU take the iPod!"

After this new development, I am perfectly happy to take the iPod.

P.S. This is totally Matt this past fortnight. It even kinda looks like him.

  • Avenging Narwhal Play Set

  • Cyriak. I may have linked him before - I don't remember. This man is brilliant and wonderful, and when I watch his stuff, I feel like I'm watching the beginning of a phenomenon.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Incidentally, if any readers of this blog (I like to refer to you as "my people," or "bored folks with too much time on their hands") find themselves brimming with anger about my month of blog apathy followed by a sudden burst of daily updates, you should save yourselves the suspense and anguish of a useless click by subscribing via e-mail.

Alternatively, there are a plethora of different ways this blog is distributed via RSS:

Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in NewsGator Online Subscribe in Rojo Add Mormolyke's blog to Newsburst from CNET Add to My AOL Subscribe in FeedLounge Add to netvibes Subscribe in Bloglines Add to The Free Dictionary Add to Plusmo Subscribe in NewsAlloy Add to Excite MIX Add to netomat Hub Add to flurry Add to Webwag Add to Attensa Receive IM, Email or Mobile alerts when new content is published on this site. Add Mormolyke's blog to ODEO

Jeez. Look at all those hip websites I haven't even heard of, much less visited.


Sometimes I forget just how much I love Kraftwerk.

This summer, I'm teaching at a Shakespeare camp in Lancaster, and part of my job is ferrying groups of campers across town to the theatre's costume shop. With four teenage girls in my car, I threw on a Kraftwerk CD, and it was magic. They even asked me to drive around the block a few times so they could hear more of "Pocket Calculator." Obviously, the girls have wonderful taste; my hope in the teenage population of America is restored.

I don't understand how Kraftwerk makes music so awesome. It's remarkably difficult to do, as evidenced by the fact there are ten thousand electronic acts in the world, and none as good as them, then or now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My neighbor's ear

My neighbor told me a story yesterday.

Once, for a period of months, he felt like there was something wrong with his ear. His hearing would occasionally cut out. Sometimes when he shook his head, he could feel something rattling around in there. A trip to the doctor yielded nothing.

Months later, with the problem still apparent, he managed to get to a doctor right when the hearing in his ear had failed. The doctor peered into the canal, and saw something. He pulled it out with a pair of tweezers.

It was the fossilized remains of the tip of a Q-tip, and it was "hard as a rock." Suddenly, my neighbor remembered cleaning his ears once when drunk. After swiping around in there for a while, he pulled the Q-tip out, sensing something was wrong.

"Huh, that's weird. This Q-tip doesn't have a tip."

He pulled out another Q-tip and continued cleaning his ear, probably pushing the tip of the first Q-tip deeper into his canal.

Now he realized why his hearing would often be worst after a shower. The cotton would get wet and swell.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hunter the cat is weird

I'm busy! In the next couple of days, I will try to blog about all the things I've been meaning to blog about. Meantime, here is a video of Hunter being a total spazz.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Groundhog Days of Summer

As you can see, Hunter has taken to hanging around outside now that the weather is decent, so I took her to the vet to have her shots. Apparently, she is eight or nine years old! I had no idea. This explains why she seems to prefer climbing to jumping - her hip joints are middle aged. She sure has a lot of pep for an old lady, though, as demonstrated by her willingness to stalk a groundhog about twice her size (she didn't have the nerve to pounce, which is probably one reason she has lived so long).

Summer school ended today, and thank Christ. In the course of six weeks, my public speaking course took me from being quite comfortable giving a speech to being neurotically full of dread and anguish when giving a speech. From now on, whenever I hear someone give a formulaic speech as advocated by the course material, I will immediately discount everything they have to say. Also, PowerPoint is evil and should be obliterated, along with everyone who relies upon it.

Poor Lexx. I took him apart, desoldered the broken power jack and soldered on a new one. The jack itself seems to be working fine now - it is able to recharge a battery. Unfortunately, the system won't boot. In fact, nothing at all appears on the screen when I turn it on. Sigh. I'll troubleshoot some more this weekend. It's become something of a challenge.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vale Lexx

First up, my Dell Inspiron 5150, Lexx, which I bought a week after my wedding with the money we saved by not being typical Americans, who apparently spend an average of $20,000 on one tacky day of their lives, has sort of carked it. The power jack stopped working, which according to the internet, is not an uncommon problem in these machines. Dell wanted to charge $400 to replace the motherboard - a little ludicrous since new laptops start at $500 - so we decided I'd be better off ordered a new notebook and parting out Lexx on eBay.

I've ordered a Dell Inspiron 640m from their outlet store. It's the same size as my old laptop but pounds lighter, with a dual core processor (1.83GHz, which is less than my previous 2.33GHz, but I suppose Lexx was a little overpowered given than I don't play games anymore), a gig of RAM (which I'm upgrading to 1.5Gb with my old RAM), 120Gb hard drive (up from the 100Gb I just bought a few weeks ago), DVD-RW (finally I can burn DVDs), Truelife LCD display, and Windows Vista. Cost: $589 scratch-and-dent. A pretty awesome deal, especially given that I expect to make a couple hundred back at least with Lexx.

In the meantime, since I have nothing to lose, I am going to try replacing the power jack on Lexx. I worked on it for about an hour last night, but it seems my 15W Old Faithful soldering iron isn't powerful enough to desolder effectively, so I'll pick up a 30W sometime this week and try again.

Since I don't have a laptop to play with, I've been sewing a fair bit to keep myself busy. I made this Johnny Cash corset to list on eBay, and there's a mint-green NIN TDS corset to come. I also bought a new pattern and made the corset at the left there, and I'm thrilled with it. It fits me better than the original pattern, although it's a bit trickier and uses more materials, so if I sell them, I'll have to jack the price up a little.
Tripoli likes to sleep in chests of drawers. In cat news, Tripoli and Moonlight are now getting along very well, though Hunter still causes a fair few problems. In case you hadn't figured, that ginger-and-white cat who belonged to our negligent bastard neighbors grew on us (we found out her name is Hunter), so now we have three cats -- one for every year we've been married, which is a worrying trend.
Matt took these pictures of the inside of the Harrisburg Capitol building last weekend during a tour which we serendipitously showed up just in time to take. The building is widely regarded as the most beautiful state capitol in the country, funded as it was by vast profits from steel and oil. We went back up to the Burg to see Shakespeare in the Park, which was quite wonderful (last show tonight), though it was more than a little surreal to be in the audience for the first time.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Exciting things

I alluded mysteriously a few weeks ago to "exciting things." I feel I can finally blog about them.

On the day after my last final, I was e-mailed by and auditioned for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival for their 2008 season. "But Melissa," I hear you say (I don't really, but in a perfect world where everyone asked the right questions to further a story, this is what you would say), "didn't you quit acting to become a music student?"

Why yes, I did. And as I have reported on this blog, the degree has been going splendidly. However, the roles in question were Juliet, and Marina in Pericles.

Aaaaaand I got them. Both of them.

So now I have to defer the spring semester of 2008 in favor of a four-month fulltime theatre gig. That's not ideal, but I'll be playing Juliet and Marina in a big city in a single season with a fantastic rep company (Matt and I saw The Taming of the Shrew there after my first callback audition, and it was top-notch). I couldn't turn that opportunity down unless I were in some kind of horrible accident that severed all four of my limbs and mangled my face.

I'm so happy. I need to find an Ashtanga yoga class or something to binge on for the next seven months. I'm going to need every ounce of strength and fitness and stamina I can muster.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Grades are in ...

4.0 again, bitchazzzzzz!


Yeah, that's right, I'm not ashamed to brag.

However, to counter my happy effusion, my bank account is $121 in the hole, in part because I went to NYC to see a musical theatre workshop on Tuesday. Goddamnit.

There are many exciting things happening, but I don't want to talk about them on here yet, for fear that I'll jinx myself. Suffice to say that I am in a state of heightened angst and excitement, which is serving in place of food to fuel a destruction binge. No, not drugs - I'm pulling down some plaster around my house. It's therapeutic.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Obligatory YAY FINALS ARE OVER post

Finals are done! I am a free woman. I feel completely lost and unable to fathom what I should do with my freedom. I need structure! Lists of minute tasks! Obligations! Instead, all I have is a long, lazy summer stretched in front of me, interrupted by one pissweak general ed class and a broad idea of some of the things I want to achieve:

  1. Reorganize the Center for Music Technology. It is a mess, and I have been given access by the department and license to fix it up. That's going to be a fun task that Matt is helping with too. The only not-fun thing about it is that the lab is full of Macs. Ugh.

    On a side note, here is a chat conversation I had the other day while hanging out in the lab:
    me: Wow
    There are these big desk rackmount things in here
    At least, I thought they were just racks
    but then I looked closer
    and they are freaking SOUNDPROOF.
    Leviathant: Wha? Soundproof racks?
    me: They are these big boxes for the servers that lock everything up in this soundproof container
    Leviathant: Ooooh.
    me: We have to set those up in the summer
    Leviathant: ok
    me: clear glass front, covered on the inside in foam, compressing foam in the door
    Leviathant: That makes sense, because servers are loud. But they are also hot.
    me: motherfucker it has a fucking temperature sensor
    digital readout in the front
    fuck, here it is
    Leviathant: Phwoah.
    me: I just downloaded the price list.
    it's $2350
    for a desk
    Leviathant: For a soundproof temperature regulating desk.

  2. Fix the house. This stage of renovation involves tiling the basement, finishing the tiling in the bathroom, installing good shelves in the basement, and destroying the living and dining rooms and re-drywalling them. When I've done that, I can buy a piano!

  3. Make a garden. My big task for the summer is to build a retaining wall and erect a fence. When I've done that, I can buy a chicken! Theoretically.

In terrific post-finals news (actually, I was tipped off in the middle of finals, on hell day, which was almost more than I could bear emotionally), I am being awarded the Harry Wilkinson Music Theory Scholarship. It's a lot less than the alumni association scholarship, but it means more, since the people who gave it to me are my professors.

Hell day was Tuesday, when L'homme Arme was performed. I played the theremin like an oaf (though I forgive myself - can you believe I only built it five weeks ago? It seems like six months already). Ioana's click track failed. Because I was playing and not in the audience, I had no idea what the mix was like, and I'm told there were some balance issues. But it went surprisingly well. The faculty seemed to like it - they'd like it performed again at some new music concert next semester. I should add "practice the theremin A LOT" to my list of things to do over the summer.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I am doing a happy dance! The Alumni Association gave me a lovely, lovely scholarship!

This is an especially happy dance because I am ineligible for financial aid. See, Matt and I like having an investment portfolio. It is not only lucrative, but informative, and it keeps us interested in the stock market and economic news. When we bought our house last year, we decided not to throw all our investment money into the house, but to keep it and get a home loan. The interest we earn on our investments is greater than the interest we're paying on our loan anyway.

Unfortunately, the existence of our investment portfolio means I can't get a lick of financial aid other than unsubsidized loans. The fact that my liabilities are worth far more than my assets is immaterial to Federal Student Aid. In fact, several FAFSA sites advised me to spend my investment portfolio in order to qualify for aid. This seems to me a really stupid thing to do.

So, my only alternative was scholarships. I couldn't apply last semester because I was a transfer student and therefore ineligible for most scholarships. I put my mind to kicking arse so I could maybe land one this semester.

And they gave me one!! They gave me four thousand dollars!!! Callooh! Callay!

In composition news, I am working on two things.


This semester, I took Music History I and Theory IV, so I was studying early music and twentieth century music at the same time. This was, in my view, helpful. The periods before and after the "tyranny" of the common practice have a sort of Wild West similarity to each other. It was particularly interesting to see that most of the techniques used to develop twelve-tone themes were firmly established in the fifteenth century (The main difference, as I see it, is that the composers of the fifteenth century actually gave a shit what their music sounded like to regular people).

I fell vastly in love with Ockeghem, a Bach-like genius who is virtually ignored today. I also found myself fascinated by a technique in which he excelled - the mensuration canon, which was developed before modern time signatures came about and died afterwards. When my history professor explained the concept of a mensuration canon in class, I was intrigued by the mind-blowing mathematics involved. My first instinct was to assume they didn't sound all that interesting. Then he played the Kyrie from the Missa Prolationum to us, and I had a hard time not bursting into tears - partly because it was so beautiful, and partly because Ockeghem must have had a brain of god-like proportions.

When faced with a god, the first instinct is to worship; the second is to emulate (to be "Closer to God AHAHAHAA"). "I will write a mensuration canon!" I decided. "It will be a lot easier now than it was then, anyway, since I can make horrible dissonances and everyone will just think it's modern!" I started to write a piece with the working title Ockeghem's Razor. It was supposed to be sort of jokey.

Then the Virginia Tech massacre happened, which made me think about a lot of things that are wrong with the world. I was probably listening to too much NPR again. At any rate, the music that I was writing sounded awfully depressed. I couldn't call it "Ockeghem's Razor" anymore.

Around the same time in Music History, we studied the cantus firmus mass. Back in the day, the day being the fourteenth and fifteenth century, everyone and his dog wrote a cantus firmus mass to the tune of "L'Homme Armé," a little French folk song.

The armed man should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.
The armed man should be feared.

The tune is as relevant today as it was five hundred years ago, not only because of the gun violence in the USA, but because the original song was a call to arms for the crusades. Here we are in the 21st century, still having at the Muslims. I'm fairly angry and upset about that too.

So, I threw the "L'Homme Armé" in as a cantus firmus in the cello line, put it in retrograde in the clarinet line, wrote a mensuration canon between a theremin and a tenor (seriously), and threw a French horn in with some free counterpoint for good measure. Currently I'm spiking the whole thing with vaguely Reich-flavored news grabs and audio samples on a tape (figuratively speaking; actually Cubase).

It's either going to be fairly moving, or the sort of thing you get sick of after about thirty seconds, because I'm really ramming my anti-second-amendment anti-violence message down your throat.


In 1951, Pierre Boulez wrote an angry essay titled "Schoenberg is Dead," in which he blasts Schoenberg for not going far enough in his pursuit of serialism. Yeah, I know, can you believe this guy? According to him, we should serialize not only pitches, but note duration, attack, dynamics, you name it. He invented insane compositional processes that were absolutely impossible for any listener to discern, and the results are only listenable if the performer makes them so by hard-selling them.

Boulez really pisses me off. But it would be pointless to protest his philosophy by writing a tonal piece, so instead I am taking the ironic stance that Boulez didn't go far enough. Serializing pitch, rhythm, and dynamics is all well and good, but did he serialize the actual sound? Nooooo. What a pussy.

With some help from Matt, I put together a program in C# that generates randomly a 90-second piece for theremin, cello, and General MIDI. All three parts have pitch, rhythm, and dynamics serialized. However, the third part also serializes the 128 voices of general MIDI, which - for those of you who have never played with a crappy Casio keyboard in your youth - includes not only MIDI approximations of the usual orchestral instruments, but "bird tweet," "seashore," "goblins," "telephone ring," and "helicopter."

It sounds like balls. That's the point. The best part is that we put a picture of Hannibal Lecter in the background of the program's GUI. He is swinging a telescoping baton and looks like he's conducting. It's a serial piece, get it? Also, the "Go" button says "Kill Boulez," and when the piece has been generated, a message is displayed: "BOULEZ IS DEAD."

The full title of the piece will be "Boulez is Dead: A serialist piece in C#." Ahahaha, I kill me.

One more quick composition story before I get back to finishing writing these two pieces: the other day while I was driving, an interview on NPR reminded me of the short story "The Nose" by Gogol. I read this story years ago and loved it. Suddenly, I thought to myself, "By god, that would make a terrific modern one-act opera!" I turned off the radio and began composing themes for the opera out loud. I had pictures in my head of a guy in a nose costume singing my tunes. When I got home, I raced to Google to seek out the story and read it again.

Can you fucking believe it? Shostakovich already did it. In 1930, he wrote an opera based on "The Nose." I swear, I didn't know. I thought of it entirely independently. That fucking bastard Shostakovich.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring fever

I haven't written in a while, mainly because I am horrible sick. Some throat thing. I don't think it's strep, but I've had an excruciatingly sore throat for going on four days now, plus general utter wretchedness. Most of the school has it, or has recently had it, and Matt came down with it right before me. I went to sleep on Thursday at 3pm and when I woke up, twenty-four hours later, Rostropovich was dead. Also, I missed classes, which is never a good thing this close to the end of semester. Damnit.

Today is so beautiful, though. We're in that three-week window right now when the weather in Pennsylvania has the potential to be perfect. Thinking of blowing off schoolwork and going to Longwood Gardens.

I'm trying to write a mensuration canon with a L'homme Armé cantus firmus as a reaction to Virginia Tech and assorted other events, like the Iraq War. So far, it sounds very depressing.

Writing a blog is useful because I point people to Wikipedia links which end up informing me. I didn't know that Karl Jenkins wrote an Armed Man mass for peace. That's sort of why I'm borrowing L'homme Armé too. Darn. Guess I'll have to check out his work before I go any further.

  • I have a terrible desire to see this awful-looking movie from a few years ago called Equilibrium. It's all very Year Zero (humans forced by despotic regime to take drugs that suppress emotions, etc), but Christian Bale playing at kung fu with guns is fun-looking.

  • Dog Police. I watched this again and again and again.

  • The Revealer: Teenage Holy War. Another good impetus for the L'homme Armé piece.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Purchasing power

Last night, Matt and I went to our local PA Wine and Spirits store to grab some grog. I saw a sign at the cash register announcing that some merlot was half-price at $9.99, "the lowest price in the US!" because of Pennsylvania's bulk "purchasing power." Pennsylvania has some pretty odd alcohol laws in comparison with other states. The state itself purchases all the alcohol that is distributed in Pennsylvania and then sells it at state-owned bottle shops. This enables the state to not only reap some pretty amazing profits, but apparently keep prices low.

Gosh, I thought, as I stared at the sign. That precisely how the Australian prescription drug system works. Wouldn't it be marvelous if we could apply the method of price reduction that Pennsylvania uses in relation to alcohol distribution to bring down the crippling cost of health care?

But, you know, socialized medicine is an impossible concept for America.

Friday, April 20, 2007

School shootings

I was thinking about school shootings today. Has anyone else noticed how there seem to be a disproportionate number of mass shootings in March/April?

My mother is bipolar, and during the 15 years she was on Lithium, she most often had psychotic/manic episodes in September. When we realized there was a definite pattern, we discovered seasonal affective disorder. The changing of the seasons from winter to spring can trigger mania (and accompanying psychosis) in people prone to it.

Of course, spring comes in March and April in the Northern Hemisphere. Here's a list of school shootings. I looked at the last ten years of data, from 1998 to 2007. I removed one incident which was not in the Northern Hemisphere (Argentina). I removed an couple of incidents which were accidental. The list also includes foiled plots that didn't materialize into actual shootings.

63 incidents. 27 were in March and April. Maybe there's not enough data, but that seems to be 42% of the incidents in only 16.6% of the time.

Incidentally, the Argentinian incident was in September.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How Embarrassment, Or How Matt Met the Swopes

I'm having a stupid, stupid week.

Wait, it's not the week that's stupid, it's me. Lately I can't seem to do anything without screwing it up.

Take last night, for instance. The new music school building was given a gala opening. I thought I got Matt a ticket to attend. What I had actually procured was a ticket for today's repeat performance for the masses. Last night's performance was exclusively for people who had donated at least $10,000 towards the building development fund.

The ticket booth was kind enough to let him in anyway. They gave him a free seat in the second row.

The result of my gaffe was that Matt was the only person not wearing a tuxedo and probably the only person worth less than a million dollars attending a concert graced by the likes of Dick Hyman and Frederica von Stade.

The result of the ticket booth's kindness was that Matt was given a seat amongst the Swope family. I guess the seat was for a Swope who couldn't make it.

Just to clarify, for those who don't go to West Chester University: both the old and new music buildings are called the Swope School of Music.

I'm lucky Matt's such a charming guy. He chatted gaily with the guy in the seat next to him: Charles Swope, son of Charles Swope, and grandson of Charles Swope. All three are mentioned so often on West Chester businesses, buildings, scholarships, and awards, you feel like you know them, although you have no idea who they are. Hell, I didn't even know that there were three of them, all ridiculously successful.

Of course, Matt now knows who they are. And they know how Matt and I met, and that I am studying composition, and have bright orange hair. And I'm really glad that Matt had a smashing time literally rubbing elbows with the Swope family, but Jesus, can I get anything right this week?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Joshua Bell the busker

Pearls Before Breakfast: Joshua Bell tries his hand as a street musician - with a fucking Strad - and earns about $30 in 45 minutes.

I used to do a lot of busking in Brisbane and Sydney, back when I was eighteen and not really earning enough in regular employment to live by myself in inner-city Sydney. I usually made $35 an hour. If I wasn't making $20 an hour, I'd go home. On good days, I made $50 to $60 an hour. Every now and then I'd have an awesome day and earn even more.

Having busked frequently, I worked out a few rules and guidelines which Joshua Bell might have figured out on his own if he hadn't done it only once, and only for three-quarters of an hour.

  1. Always start with money in your case. Always. Sadly, sympathy is nowhere near as effective as the sheep mentality, which I guess is why more money gets thrown at Paris Hilton than at cancer victims. An interesting trend I noticed while busking is that if I started with larger denomination coins (in Australia, we have gold one-dollar and two-dollar coins) and small bills in my case, I would receive generally the same kind of denominations from passersby - like attracts like, if you like. That's not to say that I would earn overall more money, but at the end of the day, I would have a conveniently small bag full of gold coins and notes, as opposed to a large heavy bag full of five-cent pieces that the bank doesn't want to count.

  2. Location, location, location. If you play somewhere where buskers set up every day, people will take you for granted. Set up somewhere slightly unexpected, and more people will notice you and appreciate you.

  3. The audience doesn't want to hear art, it wants to hear crap. It is a rare beast who will give money to someone playing a gorgeous concerto or sonata. Stick to classical music that everyone knows, like Pachelbel's canon and Eine Kleine, or popular songs from musicals and the like. People want to hear the kind of stuff they will recognize and wander off humming. This is the cruelest truth of being a classically trained street musician. Your audience is made up of Philistines. This is also the number one reason why I can't busk too many days in a row - I become the worst kind of contemptuous misanthropist.

  4. How you dress really matters, especially if you're a girl. Some of this obviously doesn't apply to Mr. Bell, but I'll say it anyway. Wearing a skirt will get you more money than wearing pants. Wearing contacts will get you more money than wearing glasses. Wearing lipstick will, oddly enough, get you less money than going without - you look somehow less approachable, I figure. Wear a short skirt, and you'll see the results in your case. Especially if you wear a green microskirt on St Patrick's Day and play nothing but jigs and reels. Smile. A lot. People will give you money if you can make them smile too.

  5. Make friends with people around you. If you busk near shops, go in and buy something in the shop, and chat to the proprietors. If they become your friend, they'll probably pop out every now and then to give you money.

  6. Make friends with other buskers. This is how I hooked up with a South American folk band and played the Newtown Festival in front of tens of thousands of people.

  7. Play outside pubs or gambling establishments. Once, a guy stepped out of a pub while I was playing some crap and dumped a fifty-dollar note in my case. It was about ten in the morning. I assume he won some money on the poker machines.

Anyway, I haven't busked in years, and I've never done it in the USA, but I assume busking is the same pretty much anywhere. Joshua should have asked me for tips beforehand.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


This weekend, I finally finished grouting and caulking the kitchen tiles, and Matt and I installed our cute-as-a-button 18" dishwasher. It is perfectly functional! It doesn't leak! Clean dishes ahoy!

As a reward for our hard work, we saw Grindhouse today. Beware of spoilers in the coming paragraphs.

I daresay Grindhouse is the best thing I've seen in a long time. You know, I never used to like Tarentino all that much. Pulp Fiction was a good movie, but the way everyone in my generation seemed to go apeshit over it was too much for me. Maybe I heard the soundtrack a little too often. Also, I fell asleep in the cinema during Jackie Brown. However, the Kill Bill movies and now this have given me a very deep-seated fondness for Tarentino.

I probably wouldn't have seen Grindhouse at the cinema if I hadn't seen the trailer featuring Rose McGowan in Planet Terror with an amputated limb and a giant fuck-off machine gun screwed into the stump. All the same, I sort of wish I hadn't seen the trailer, so the machine-gun-leg would have been a surprise. Oh, it was wonderful nevertheless. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. I suspended my disbelief with glee (she walks on a "prosthetic" a mere hours after having her leg bitten off; the gun in her leg appears to be triggered by telepathy; later, a Gatling installed in her leg fails to knock her off a horse). And there were enough surprises to keep me entertained, including Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas, who loses her brain, snigger. And there were lots of zombies. I loved it. "If anyone comes to the door, I want you to shoot them. Just like in your video games."

A lot of people online are complaining about all the dialogue in Deathproof. They're dumb. The dialogue was (a) good, and (b) riddled with in-jokes, which makes it even better. For instance, in one scene, four girls in the movie business are gossiping about who fucked whom on a set. They mention a stand-in for Darryl Hannah who fucked a director on his girlfriend's birthday. One of the actors in the first half of the film was Darryl Hannah's stand-in in the Kill Bill movies. I can't help but wonder if she fucked a director on his girlfriend's birthday, and how much more of the dialogue was an allusion.

There was something kind of heartwarming about seeing Zoe Bell kick arse. Something about the way she went after Kurt Russell with an iron pipe, hollering, "Where the fuck do you think you're going?" was so ... Australasian. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but there's something in Australian/New Zealand culture that causes people to react in just this way to certain situations. I was reminded of the time Jason and I were nearly mugged on New Year's Eve years ago. When a group of guys surrounded us and one of them snatched my bag, my first instinct wasn't, "Oh, shit, help!" but "Give me back my fucking bag," which I hollered at the would-be mugger while rushing at him, ready and willing to physically harm him, though he probably would have beat the shit out of me in a fight. He was surprised enough to throw the purse to another guy, who dropped it, and I snatched it back.

Also spotted: a XXXX beer neon sign. There was a thank-you to XXXX beer and VB in the credits. Weird.

CONCLUSION: This movie does not deserve to bomb. Go see it. It's awesome. I will probably even buy it on DVD.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Alarm Will Sound

Here I am playing the theremin. This was taken the night I finished it, so I don't really have a technique yet. In the days since, I've started playing it in a manner vaguely similar to the way Lydia Kavina plays it. Here also is a picture of Matt demonstrating the controversial "angling" technique, which he figured out on his own in about five minutes.

Yes, making a theremin turns your house into a mess.

Over the weekend, I went to an Alarm Will Sound concert. They are amazing. Amazing. I want to shun all worldly concerns and devote my life to writing a piece of music good enough for them to play. They play arrangements of Aphex Twin and Autechre tracks. They make chaos sound tight. They perform - and you can't help but love every sound they make when you watch them.

Joining the ensemble for this and another concert on the 24th was a friend from high school, extraordinary clarinettist Eileen Mack. It has been twelve years since we were in high school together. Now we're in the same part of the United States, and she's playing with Alarm Will Sound, with whom I'm newly obsessed. Wacky. We got drunk together at an AWS house party afterwards. Well, I got drunk. Eileen held her liquor. I am a Cadbury.

I also smoked too many cigarettes, causing the high Bb I tried to hit for my choir audition (solo for upcoming concert) to sound ... interesting. Also, I lost the ability to trill. Nevermind; I didn't really expect or want to be given a solo - there is a soprano at West Chester who also auditioned with a voice so perfect it makes me want to believe in God again.