Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday night, or, the last gasp of freedom

TA meetings tomorrow. Actually, there were some yesterday, but today was a bit of a respite, since from here on out, there's school stuff. Every day. Until December. (Sigh.)

But I like school! And anyway, that's not the reason for this post. The reason for this post is so that I can rip off someone else's idea while simultaneously avoiding going to bed. Which is this: type "your name + needs" into Google and see what happens. You probably discovered this a hundred years ago, but I discovered it tonight.  

I get (I just start where my name is; sometimes it's the middle of a sentence):

Ann needs men's clothes
Ann needs a forever home
Ann Needs Your Help!
Ann needs donations
Ann needs a ride to Baltimore airport
Ann needs a Blackberry
Ann needs 3 Loves now
Ann needs to "practice what she preaches"*
Ann needs you?
Ann needs to recognize and name that she is lonely
Ann needs a "dark skies" policy
Ann NEEDS to be retrained*
Ann needs to plan for that happy day when she is debt free
Ann needs to stop talking so much*
Ann needs a helping hand
Ann needs a milkshake

and my personal favorite
Ann needs a spanking.

*I think they're referring to Ann Coulter. Now she needs a spanking.

Currently playing on iTunes: Glass Vase Cello Case by Tattle Tale.

It's the end of the world as we know it

Man, I went to the Canary Islands a few months ago, we flew there from the Madrid airport. This could have been me. Scary!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

War and Peace.

No, the title of this post isn't anything as lofty as great Russian literature.  

It's just links to interesting things:

1.  Ok, it's not war exactly. For one, there's a piano involved. But let's just say I prefer my Steinways without Hummers or AK-47s. (I'd found this picture a few months back and remembered it now ... so here it is for your amusement!)

2. Here's a recent interview with Noe Venable. She writes lovely music, I like it very much. Plus she's in grad school for literature and comparative religions at Harvard Divinity School, so she's super duper smart.  

That's all for today, folks! But to give you a tantalizing preview, I've been summoned for jury duty, one week from today. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Caffeine-induced insomnia

It's my own dang fault, I should not have had that second cup of super-strong Earl Grey Tea at 4 p.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's not that late in the day, but since the semester hasn't started, I'm not yet sleep-deprived enough to have it not affect me.  

So I went to the library again today and got more DVDs from the list:

Across the Universe
Thank You for Smoking

Watched Across the Universe with my friend R. after we had this splendid afternoon*: the aforementioned tea complemented by delicious chocolate muffins, the aforementioned trip to the library, then a long walk through Iowa City that included stopping by the new music digs and the large and wonderful Hickory Hill Park.  

*Even before getting together with R. the day was rather splendid -- finished memorizing the first movement of the Prokofiev; it took only 10 days!

So -- Across the Universe. This is a movie that I should like, in theory. In execution, I'm not so sure. The concept is brilliant: take a bunch of Beatles' songs, string 'em together to form some semblance of a plot. In reality, the 'plot' was a bit thin, I thought. Also, some of the effects that might have looked cool on the big screen seemed real cheesy when watched on a laptop. And using some of those songs to further drive the plot along was a reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal strrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeettch. But, what this movie did do for me was rekindle my latent interest in the Beatles' music. I've always liked them (maybe not the early stuff as much, but definitely their mid-late period) but don't have a lot of their music in my personal collection. I have Abbey Road; when the movie was over I came home and listened to it twice. And I think I might get some of their other albums -- for instance, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper's -- from (where else?) the library.  

The other thing I've been listening to tonight is this amazing song, Hallelujah. So far I've listened to Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang. I know it's a Leonard Cohen song, but my favorite, so far, is the first Jeff Buckley link posted. I think. Or maybe the second one. And this one, which has been added late, is nice. The Rufus Wainwright one is good too. This is one of those songs that I've been listening to over and over and over tonight. Do you have songs like that? It's like when I get a new CD, and I listen to my favorite song on repeat, like, a thousand times. Hallelujah is currently that song. I think that when I buy a guitar, which might not happen soon but will probably happen sooner than you think, this will be one of the first songs I'll learn on it. 'Course, I can always learn it on the piano. Then I'll sing it and break your heart -- 'cause it's a cold and broken hallelujah. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Raisin Brahms?

I agree wholeheartedly that Brahms is good for you, but this might be taking it a bit too far. Raisin Brahms? SERIOUSLY. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Strange, More Lovely


Yesterday I went to Palisades-Kepler State Park. It didn't make it into last night's post because my photos were still on the memory card in my camera with the malfunctioning lens.* This park was recommended to me by a guy named Randy who sold me some blackberries at the Iowa City Farmer's Market last Saturday. It is a very lovely park indeed, even though I did manage to get some sort of plant-induced rash on my left leg (perhaps I shouldn't have been wandering around out in the woods wearing shorts). Certainly I will have to go back in a few weeks when the leaves are changing -- it must be splendid in autumn. 

*I'm sure I'll get around to fixing this camera someday, maybe even before 2012. 


The other day I went to the public library. Hooray for the public library! Especially nice when you are a (very poor) graduate student. I didn't get any books, since I'm reading about 6 different books right now, but I did get a bunch of DVDs to watch. Perhaps my time would be better spent finishing these six books, but when I'm in memorization mode, I've found that downtime needs to be more on the passive side. Even when I am practicing, all of my practice time can't be spent memorizing. After about an hour, an hour and a half, my brain just stops. Partly this is because for the most part I memorize as I'm learning a piece. So this Prokofiev concerto, I'm memorizing as I go. And that requires a lot more brain power than rote memorization, which I've always been good at -- you know, you play a piece long enough, it's there. Anyway, as usual, I'm getting off my main topic. On my computer I have a list of about 50, maybe more, movies that I'd like to see. And this list just gets longer and longer, especially since I never have time to go to the theater anymore. I went to the ICPL to get some movies, and came away with seven DVDs; two from the list and a bunch of others that just caught my eye. Here's what I got:

Spellbound -- this was on the list. It's been on the list for, like, 5 years. It was good, I really liked those kids. Some of their parents were a bit too overeager for my taste. It's just spelling, for goodness sake! Speaking of spelling bees, I won the spelling bee in sixth grade. I didn't study for it or anything. In fact, I don't even remember being aware that it was even going to take place, it was more like I showed up at school and then there was a spelling bee that day. Surely that can't be an accurate recollection. Whatever. I won with the word "fugitive." When watching the movie, I was really cheering them on, not like it mattered. "Go Ashley! You can do it! C'mon, lycanthrope -- l-y-c-a-n-t-h-r-o-p-e." Oh God, I'm going to turn into one of those parents, aren't I. 

Melvin Goes to Dinner -- this was not on the list. It happened to catch my eye, since the front cover advertised SEX RELIGION INFIDELITY FETISHES GHOSTS. How could I resist? It was okay -- entertaining enough. Mostly satisfying ending, although I could totally see the big "surprise" coming from a hundred miles away. 

Three Women -- the Robert Altman film, which was also not on my list. File this under MORE STRANGE. A LOT MORE STRANGE. Desperate, pathetic characters. No really, that's the point of them. Then this sort of psychotic role reversal, and a totally perplexing ending. Lots of water too. All very symbolic. The soundtrack made me cringe. I wanted to shoot that flute player, no offense to my dear friend Martha who is an amazing flutist. 

Pompeii, The Last Day -- a production from the Discovery Channel -- again, not on my list. But I've been fascinated with Pompeii since visiting it two years ago. You should go there too, if you haven't been yet. So very interesting. Here are some webcams of Mount Vesuvius. Did you know that it's predicted to erupt in the next 100 years?

The Decalogue, by Krzystof Kieslowski -- this has been on my list for about a decade. (Ha! Get it? Decalogue/Decade? And I'm not even kidding, I really have wanted to see these short films for about 10 years.) Actually, I watched IV - X in June, but the first DVD with I - III was checked out of the library then. So I have I - III to watch now.  If you don't know what they are, I recommend them. They are 10 short films, each about an hour, and each one depicting one of the ten commandments. But a much different view of them than you might expect. 

And the other two DVDs I picked up because they interested me:

Sacco and Vanzetti -- I've been curious about these guys for a while. And not just because the idea of Italian anarchists is sort of sexy. Last year in my Intro to Grad Studies class**, I read a bit about them. My main topic of research for the semester was Ruth Crawford Seeger, who I find very fascinating on a whole bunch of different levels, and I wrote that specific paper on the song "Sacco, Vanzetti" from the Two Proletarian Ricercari. The title of the paper was: "Music as a Weapon in the Class Struggle" -- Ruth Crawford Seeger's "Sacco, Vanzetti" as Socio-Political Musical Narrative. Sounds appropriately academic, doesn't it? 

**Yes, the irony is not lost on me that in my SIXTH semester of graduate school, I was required to take the INTRODUCTION TO GRADUATE STUDIES class. Academia. Or, perhaps, Academentia. 

Finally, to file again under Lovely -- I got -- Rumi, Poet of the Heart. Here's the poem from the back of the cover:

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small, 
but they see enormous things.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Strange and Lovely

Right now I'm sitting on my (very clean) balcony* hoping to catch a glimpse of the Perseids. The odds do not look good. (Maybe I should turn off my string of white Christmas lights that hang on the railing.) Even though the moon has set, it still appears to be sort of cloudy. Ok, I'm turning off these white lights. Well .... maybe if I wait long enough some splendid meteor showers will appear.  

*I cleaned it yesterday, and it now looks totally awesome!  No more spiderwebs, and minimal dirt.  Plus all the geraniums are flowering.  


This is a strange thing that happens to me. Actually, I haven't had any sleep paralysis for a while, but I was reminded of it this weekend when I caught some of This American Life on Iowa Public Radio. Luckily for me, it only happens to me very occasionally, and doesn't disrupt my life in any major way. Good thing too, 'cause I sure love to sleep.  

This is another weird thing that happens to me. It happens a lot more than sleep paralysis. Although it kind of goes in streaks. For instance, it's only happened once in the last month, and that was in Bulgaria. For quite a few months before that, though, I'd say that street lights went on/off while I drove past/walked under them with almost alarming frequency. Definitely it was happening every week. For a while it was happening every day. One day I noticed five lights that went off in the span of my drive home from the university -- so 5 lights in about 15 minutes. Why am I posting this here? I dunno. So you can either affirm or deny my craziness. 

LOVELY (and dissonant)

Lovely may not be a word that you associate with Prokofiev's music. Dissonant, perhaps. I've even heard people use the term "cacophonous." Blasphemers! Ok, he does like a bunch of tritones and major sevenths and minor seconds, I'll give you that. But I tell you what: the development of the first movement of his third piano concerto -- GORGEOUS!! Check out 4:27. So I'm undertaking a new project: learning this concerto. It's pretty freakin' amazing.* Also pretty freakin' hard. Of course I've listened to this piece many times (as I am doing right now, wishing the clouds would go away so I could see the shooting stars), but only as I was memorizing this particular section the other day did I actual realize how inherently beautiful it is. It (currently) vies for one of my favorite parts of the piece...

The other current favorite part is the very end of the third movement. IT'S SO AMAZING!!! I like it a lot, as you have probably gleaned from the previous sentence. That link is only an excerpt, so you don't have to watch the whole thing. (Or you know, if you want to, then do another search and watch someone else play it.) Yeah, those glissandi, or whatever you want to call them (I mean, they are, but they're not played like traditional glissandi) are so cool. Yeah, today I was playing them at, uh, quarter = 72, and my left hand is not clean. It goes about three times that fast. I like how the poster for this video here inserts his own balloon comment the first time they appear (1:27; if you don't know the piece, the glissandi happen 4 times).    

*There are many good reasons to work on a doctorate, one of which is you get to learn a bunch of your favorite pieces.   

Well, sadly, there are no lovely meteor showers for my viewing this evening. Strange. Go away clouds! Maybe I'll go eat an oatmeal and dark chocolate cookie and then head off to bed.