A Glass of Chianti

Sunday, July 31, 2005

I hate to do this

As it is a "paper of record" and all...
Western boots worn out of season represent "a really strong trend, one that still is gaining momentum," said Michael Atmore, the editorial director of Footwear News, a trade weekly. And to judge by the number of boot makers who have added Western models to their lineups, Mr. Atmore said, "a lot of companies are banking on the look for spring, summer and fall."

but it is impossible to wear "Western" boots out of season. Seriously.
a) Seasons don't exist where "Western" boots are worn and
b) There is never an inappropriate time or place for boots.

The suggestion at the end of the article that one should buy cowboy boots at Saks or Steve Madden is really cute. I love Steve Madden. My two pairs of tennis shoes from that company rank as some of my best purchases ever. Listen, boots are Justin boots or they are nothing. (Don't let the Luccese Lobby try to convince you otherwise. They're from San Antonio. San Antonio is not Texas. San Antonio defected from the Great State long before they elected Henry Cisneros as mayor.)

"Your lyrics lack subtlety!"

I almost morphed into a very scary character while at Mass today. It was a Haugen two-fer! *sigh*

Hopefully nobody noticed. I think I kept it mostly under control.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's going to be a long school year

I just got off the phone with one of my new students who asked if I could give him a reed at our first lesson, because he didn't know where to get any. Apparently, his old teacher gave him one whenever his got too "black."


This quiz is weird

Drama nerd














Ghetto gangsta


What's Your High School Stereotype?
created with QuizFarm.com

a) A three-way tie for most accurate means that I really should have more friends than I do now. I fit in so many groups!
b) Ummmm.... I never did drama. Ever. I'd suck at it.
c) No "language whore" option? I'm outraged.
d) I live with "ghetto gangstas" which apparently counts for nothing.
e) I imagine that though many drama nerds would sit around organizing an insanely large library (music, in my case) on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon, not many would sit around doing it with Poulenc going on in the background. Poulenc is for (conflicted) Catholic-nerds and (conflicted) music-nerds only.

(Via Some Punk)

Friday, July 29, 2005

It's hot again

I've spent the majority of the day trying to feel cool, as the temperature is rising to more conventional summer levels. On the one hand, it's great for my reeds, but on the other, my mind starts wandering to places wetter and cooler.

I'm on my final Bond movie of the week, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, picked solely because there was snow on the DVD cover. I'm following this up with Hitchcock's Spellbound right now.

Looking at pictures of childhood has made me a bit nostalgic, and I have a very strong craving for creamed tuna on toast, which is something that I haven't had in many, many years. This will probably undo all of the good work I've done with the "think cool thoughts" preparation, but I dunno, it seems worth it somehow. :)

My mother's been cleaning out the attic at the house

Thus, I have in my possession my most favorite pair of boots, previously thought lost and/or sold to the highest bidder when I graduated from high school.

With this discovery also comes a bunch of childhood pictures and reminders that my parents are horrible poeple. When one's oldest daughter is left unsupervised in her grandparents' backyard and thinks it would be a great idea to make mudpies in the compost pile, good parents don't take a picture to save and show the world. My parents not only took a picture but they have it in the place of honor in my album.

I don't know how I ever got all of that poop and other assorted decomposed material out of my hair. Just looking at the picture made me have to go take a shower.

Please tell me that I'm not the only one under 30 to laugh at this (in The Corner):

I'm glad MoveOn finally came up with a slogan for Alger Hiss. And Jane Fonda. And the Rosenbergs. And Harry Dexter White. Am I forgetting anyone?

Seriously, Harry Dexter White! My heart skipped a beat.

(The first post of this blog touched on Witness. If you haven't read it... you really, really must.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Is it considered drinking alone if you have a Red Velvet cake as a companion?

Movies from those other countries

There's a fairly fascinating conversation going on over at girish's place (a new discovery for me, and on the blogroll it goes!) about foreign-language movies and what would be a good introduction for a new viewer. My own suggestions from this morning are there in the comments.

Fascinating though that is, I'm hoping to get girish to do a post on Bollywood movies a neophyte should see. ;)


The little guy cheats, but it's fun nonetheless. (Click on the first line of to get started.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Clearly, I am in classroom withdrawal

What word contains ten other words found without rearranging any of its letters?

My day is off to a beautiful start

And it's not just because it's 73 degrees outside and rainy. (But that is awesome.)

In any case, one of the reasons I continue to be a patron of the local video store (aside from plain loyalty to the businesses headquartered in my state) is that I have a pretty good relationship with the people who work there. Many of them (especially in the summer) are students of one or another of the schools where I teach lessons and it's always kind of fun to see who I see while I'm there. This morning I was returning two movies that I watched earlier in the week and stepped in just to see if I found anything that caught my eye.

Conversation while in the foreign movie section:
Clerk (non-band kid at my school): "Hey. You're that teacher."
Me: "Ummmm. Pardon?"
Clerk: "You play with your Game Boy in the band hall. I walk by after school on my way to the bus. That's cool"
Me: "Thanks. I'm kinda sad that that is the identifying characteristic, though"
Clerk: "Yeah, [name of band kid who works there] thinks you're a cool teacher, but you watch weird movies."
Me: "Oh. I don't think they're that weird."

I think I'll be taking a break from the neighborhood store until the end of the summer - their staff turnover should shield me from further embarrassment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

West Virginians are weird

The atmosphere remained contentious until the last day, day eight, when the question of poultry excrement became an issue.

Miller: "Judge, I'd like to put on the record this morning that after I gave that (motion for contempt) to (Goldberg) that he came in the hall, threatened me, pointed his finger in my face and called me a sh-t head, and I would also like on the record what he said to my client."

Goldberg: "Judge, she's being dishonest, flat out, undeniably dishonest. I didn't threaten her. I didn't call her what she says I called her. I called her a chicken sh-t."

The rest here. Please don't tell me that they act this way because there's something in the water. I'd be heartbroken.


I was getting my schedules all consolidated on my master calendar when I realized that I hadn't yet marked my dates with the Houston Opera (nor purchased my subscription. I'm obviously running late this year). Looking for the schedule, I saw something that really puzzled me. There's a "casual dress" subscription series? In Houston? Listen, I'm a big lover of the Houston Grand Opera. I sing its praises to everyone I know. I drag people along with me four hours south just to see the wonder that is Houston but I'm always overdressed... and I don't even get dressed up. (Yes, I know how flattering old pictures taken in my parents' bathroom are. They're the ones I have. Deal. If you want to be my date and take proper pictures of me in my opera attire, my e-mail address is on the sidebar. We'll talk. ;)) Knee-length knit dresses aren't formal.

Seriously, if there is one opera company who doesn't need a casual dress series, it's Houston.

I also note the lack of an contemporary opera this season. My season ticket commitment is getting shakier and shakier for this year.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Water Gardens

I'm going to be taking advantage of the glory that is my city tomorrow morning before it gets too hot to be outside. Here's where I'll be spending a couple of hours. (Nice, huh?) I doubt that I will see any science-fiction movie filming, though.

I may not have a red and blue tattoo, but, Fort Worth, I do love you. (And yes, I know that nobody gets that).

Have I mentioned that it's hot outside lately?

There's a Carnival of Music? And I didn't know about it?! Now that I've read some real writers' thoughts about music and been introduced to a few new blogs there, I'm a happy girl.

Plus, this is so much better than the first "carnival" where a post from here was cited. Especially since most of the other posts seemed to concern schizophrenia and antidepressants. They seemed to want to tell me something.... ;)

In any case, you'll note that the post points to the first of a (stated) series of three. I haven't gotten around to doing the third, and final, post as it's been hot. I get kinda grouchy when I'm hot and I've been trying to distract myself from the discontent with word puzzles and pictures of waterfalls. Poke around. Enjoy the silly summer stuff. Have fun! If you have any suggestions as to why there are so few churches in the U.S. with St. Ambrose as their patron, let me know. It's been bothering me for a bit. St. Ambrose was awesome!

No rebus in this post

Mr. Fox:
Are you really surprised? This is coming from someone who goes around writing blank checks. Though, I guess it's not like Jesus really needs a retirement plan. Remember, his Dad is kinda partial to investing in real estate.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


I used to really like busy work day in sixth grade. Mrs. Vonderheid used to give us sheets of little brain teasers when it was too hot to go outside for recess. Since it's hot now, here are a few that either stumped or really amused me on my rebus hunting adventure this afternoon:

Any guesses as to the solutions? Source page and answers to follow. :)

Completely unrelated and also very vain: My cousin is a hard person to track down online. (She's from the branch of the family that got the Californian good looks ;))

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Saturday in Fort Worth

I just spent the better part of this afternoon playing with these books. Two points:
1. This is a case where the sequel is better than the original
2. Having Baroque music playing in the background while working on the lists in the back, while it does sound like a clever idea, is actually very distracting.

The Apostle is movie that I really wish more people I know had seen. By no means obscure, I'm still the only one I know who's seen it. (This obviously a function more of the people I hang around with than the movie itself.) Plot holes by the bunches, but it really is a pleasure to watch on a summer afternoon.

My mother listened to entirely too much John Denver when I was little. My father was a Johnny Cash man. I've spent this afternoon listening to my randomized music selection where Laurindo Almeida and Mitch & Mickey have figured prominently. Music is great.

OK. And now the real reason for this entry:
I've never seen a James Bond movie*. I'm wanting to rectify this spread out over this coming week, though I have no idea where to start. Any suggestions for an introduction? What are the ones that I shouldn't miss? I'm sure there are skippable ones.

*I know this is a terrible thing to admit in public. What's worse is that I've not seen a Star Wars movie, either. I've sat at parties where one or another was playing in the background, but I was generally preparing food while it was going on. Eventually, I'll correct this oversight, as well.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Counting my blessings

I have the best students in the world! I just needed to say that yet again.

I just had a very odd day today. This post will be of no interest to, well, anyone but me. I'm OK with the weirdness level, though, because.... uh... this is my home. :)

1. I'm not going into it here (but will supply details for any who care to know) but this (sent to me by a friend) made me very happy. Warning: addictive music!
2. Tomorrow, I am going to the Amon Carter Museum for a very brief morning visit just to see this and this and this. To think that it is possible just to randomly pop in and visit a favorite piece or two.... I live in a wonderful place!
3. I have been able to avoid the incredibly seductive call of both the Objectivists and the Communists because I realize that man is fallen.
4. Pecan season is only a few months away!
5. I have a great cat.
6. Inspired by a recent conversation, I found a copy of an essay from college and it is much better than I had remembered. This is probably due to the fact that I not only don't recall much about the writing of it bur I can remember nothing but the library interior from that semester. It did show me that at one time I was a pretty good writer. It was probably the subject of the paper, though. Inspirational! ;)
7. I'm a healthy girl.

Now that I know how to spell it, the mystery is solved

I never knew what the line "declining a Charlotte Russe, accepting a fig" in this song meant. Reading the description for the dessert I don't know why anyone would have a diet worth sticking that fast to (even if one doesn't care for coffee or Cognac). Still, though, isn't it just a trifle? It doesn't mention layering, but I've had non-layered trifles. I guess since it doesn't have fruit it's not a trifle, but soaked lady fingers and a pudding sound awfully triflish to me.

How would I have ever addressed this without the Internet? I would have puzzled over the song for another 10 years, at least.

I have weird dreams

Last night I was finishing up reading the "Cupid and Psyche" section of The Golden Ass. I had some Peggy Lee playing in the background (because I'm just that kinda girl and I was in an odd mood). When I finally got to sleep, I dreamed that I was in a big, deserted library. While exploring, I found that in a corner, there was a series of four huge windows which depicted the Cupid and Psyche story. The windows of my dream were very clearly in a Chagall style (brilliant blues being what they are and all) and I spent a good portion of my dream watching myself staring at them.

That was an odd portion of an odd dream. I don't even much care for Marc Chagall. I do, however, care much for Lucius Apuleius.

I'm a cheerful person by nature

But I have been experiencing some fleeting un-cheerful moments the past couple of days. It's nothing serious or all-encompassing, of course, but it is enough to keep me just slightly off-center. So, if you wish not to read a post mostly about problems entirely too small to matter, I don't blame you. I'll be posting more interesting things later today anyway. I'm hoping that by just writing it down it will help to work its way out of my system and I'll be back to reacting normally when little things happen instead of reading too much into the situation.

Really, it's just two unrelated threads that are keeping me off balance. The first, and most "serious" is that I really feel unprepared for this teaching thing. I'm scared, and I'm concerned that I took this new position without thinking things through entirely. I listened to my heart instead of using my head, I fear. I have the most wonderful students in the entire world. They're eager and they work hard and they (as a group) are excited about playing the clarinet. I don't have to fight to make them practice (mostly). They're wonderful, and I am so not ready for this. I can't even keep a supply of good reeds for myself to use during the summer. How am I going to be able to keep up with these additional students' progress? I have my notebook system.... but ugh. I don't want to come into a student's lesson unprepared. How am I going to keep them all straight? When dealing with people on the phone yesterday and this morning it was hard enough to remember back to our last lessons and who was going on what vacation in order to make small talk - and these were my old students that I've had for several years!

The other thread fueling this discontent is quite a bit more benign. In fact, it has never bothered me before and I imagine it wouldn't now if I felt better about the professional stuff. I've spent the last several nights talking on the phone and messaging a couple of friends from my old schools. They've all gone away to wonderful jobs in fields very unrelated to music but we've been keeping each other updated with little chats from time to time. As happens with busy lives, sometimes we fall off the communication wagon and the updates become less frequent and substantial. When we do talk, it tends to be when they've hit a rough spot with the girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or whatever and they need someone to listen. Actually, if it were just listening there wouldn't be a problem. I like listening! I'm a great listener. I know much more about all of these friends than they know about me because I listen. No, they don't really want me to just listen, they want me to offer advice. Frankly, I'm not good at being an advisor. I'm quite incompetent in that role. It's just frustrating. I am a better servant than a leader, yet I'm always in the leadership slot. I'm a much better listener than advisor, yet my friends always come to me for counsel.

I think the summary is that I've not really felt inadequate before now and I'm not sure why that feeling is seeping into everything that I do lately.

And then I feel incredibly guilty for letting these little, tiny, insignificant, stupid things bother me when there are much bigger problems around.


OK. Much better. I'm going to go cook something now. :)

Audition Music

The soprano clarinets' selections are wonderful. My younger students are not going to love the sections in the altissimo but they really aren't too demanding.

The low clarinets' selections, however, SUCK. And what is more depressing is that I will hear the three pieces at every bass clarinet lesson from now until at least December and ( as I hope that some of these students go on to the second tier of auditions) perhaps into mid-January.

I won't mind hearing the Bb and Eb soprano selections for months, but I actively hate the alto and bass etudes. I won't bore anyone with the why here... but if you really want to know why it is a bad idea to use overly repetitive and finger technique-heavy selections for the purposes of high school bass clarinetists' seat auditions, I can let you have an ear full.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Q. What kind of stories does a ship captain's daughter like to hear?
A. Ferry tales.

My students are awesome

The great news: The selections for Texas All-State audition material are released tomorrow. I've already talked to three eager students this morning who had the date mixed up and wanted to know what etudes they were to be working on. My students are awesome!

The not great news: Well, it's great and I'm happy for him and his girlfriend, really. My last friend who remained in the Metroplex is moving out of this great state in September. Jobs are great (and promotions are better) and I'm really, really excited for them. That being said, my friends need to stop getting jobs in places like Utah and D.C. and Seattle and Atlanta and Michigan and San Diego. Seriously.

So, since everyone else has moved (or is moving) away, I'm going to move, too. I'm going to live in Chile. My Spanish is fairly good already and by immersing myself in it I should be back to fluent within a couple of weeks. Chile has lots of mountains and lots of beaches and lots of rain and lots of snow. There are also penguins. Soon, Chile will have a Sarah, too. I don't know exactly what I'd do in Chile right now, but every South American country needs a resident (though not professional) Austrian economist, right?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A new addition to my list of things to accomplish

Step 1: Find a cool surname (defined as anything but what it is presently)
Step 2: Head a big band

Sarah (Really Cool Last Name) & The Bon Vivants

UPDATE: Elmer Bernstein sucks.

I'm very disappointed

I have a friend who fell down on the job. Though I was very happy to wake up and find an official, educated opinion on the new nominee for the Supreme Court waiting for me ("a stud, both jurisprudentially and in the looks department"), I was disappointed that my source neglected to point me toward the pictures of his cute little children . There's a beautiful daughter in her wonderful summer dress and a darling son in saddle shoes. Can anything possibly be more adorable? I think not.

I'll keep this short

I didn't hate the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was fine, I guess. It's incredibly appealing visually and, in fact, just on that basis alone it should have been a movie I loved. Stylized sets + saturated colors = Sarah's catnip. I also always like me a good cautionary tale. Neither of those (large) features, however, could win me over on this one. With this viewing, it's clear that I just don't get the whole Willy Wonka "thing." Here, he's a recluse who wants the spotlight. On top of that, we are expected to sit through these flashbacks to his childhood to see the "motivation" for.... I'm not sure what. None of them really clarify anything and it's just not that interesting. It just seemed a mess. Enjoyable to look gawk at, but it's still a mess. Kind of like my dashed-off thoughts. The squirrels are cool. Meh.

Summer movie day

I'm going to the movies this afternoon to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Frankly, I never really "got" the appeal of the original, but I've been promised trained squirrels. Well behaved or not, I'm skeptical they'll be as amazing as the albino squirrel of my college.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


I made some strawberry jelly this afternoon and learned a few things:

1. Those little seeds aren't the easiest things to remove from the countertop.
2. Coco likes the theory of eating strawberries a whole lot more than the practice of eating them. She'd ask until I gave her a piece and then would sniff at it for a good three or four minutes before abandoning the project. A little bit later she was asking for another piece. Cats are weird.
3. It's hard to scale a jelly recipe down to a reasonable size. I have so much, I think I will be eating it for three years.
4. Cooking while drinking some good Texan Orange Moscato wine is a pretty good idea for a lazy summer's day.
5. Kiwis (with the hairy skin) and strawberries not used for jelly make a pretty great lunch.

Wellington's Victories

I was very lazy in preparing this yesterday. In any case, here are most of the suggestions.

Sarah McLachlan - "Dear God"
Steve Miller Band - "Abracadabra"
Shakespeare - Measure for Measure
Wes Anderson - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou*
Alfred Hitchcock - Topaz
Nicole Kidman - The Stepford Wives
Michael Dukakis - Democratic Presidential Candidates
New Coke

*Which really strikes me as unfair as I kinda dig the whole father-figure role examination thing. *sigh*

Monday, July 18, 2005

Another Leisure Activity

Make your own license plate (via Jamie)

This is my favorite Texas license plate but the horny toad one is a quite close second.

West Virginia is nice and simple. I really, really like it.

New York is easily the most improved

I'm probably the only person who likes the New Mexico plates. That's OK with me.

If one is into Lincoln, it's nice.

This totally makes me want to move to Virginia. The promise of mountains and the ocean... I'd quite quickly trade in this 100 degree weather.

Well, I have nothing substantive to say about this

Because I am, after all, just a clarinet teacher, but this post by a very smart man made me think about something only semi-tangentially related. At the football games in high school, each organization would make a few butcher paper posters cheering the team on in order to inspire victory. (A few examples: "Beat the Bears!" "Katch the Kangaroos!" "Eat the Elks!") My very favorite, however, was when we played Richland High School. Some... uh.... mystery person made this one:

"Reconstruct the Rebels"

You would think with inspiration like that we would have had a victory every once in a while.

Harry Potter

No, I haven't read the new one. I don't intend to. I did notice, however, that the most popular book on the airplanes I took on Thursday was The Da Vinci Code (nine people on two planes). By Sunday, Harry Potter had displaced it. I saw no Dan Brown and I counted 12 Half-Blood Princes on my first flight. None of these 12 readers, however, were children. The first child I saw reading Harry Potter was today when I went to the post office. She was in the car while (I presume) her parent(s) were inside taking care of urgent post office business. She looked enthralled and about nine years old. I'm resisting the urge to comment any further.


I'm back from a most wonderful vacation. Within 10 minutes of stepping off the plane at DFW, my allergies began playing with my sinus system. I suppose this is because I needed to be reminded that I was home. Even with some eye redness and a runny nose, it's nice to be back in the land of Dr Pepper and salsa again. I have new students to start thinking about and a cat that I'm excited to cuddle with again.

My final destination was more exciting and just as wonderful as I had imagined. I had a couple of soul-moving experiences that came out of nowhere and I'm still trying to understand why I responded the way I did. I was incredibly lucky to have a patient guide that was able to show me places that I would never have known to look for had I come on my own. He neglected to remind me on Friday that it was Friday, so I didn't realize until last night on the plane that I really shouldn't have found the sausage in my pasta that evening as tasty as I did. Other than that, which wasn't the tour guide's fault, I'd say I'm the happiest girl in Texas. I know that I'm the most fortunate in the whole world.

On the plane rides there and back I met an assortment of great people, reminding me that this is a really great country. In the Chicago airport, I spent my layover talking to a guy from Taiwan going to Rochester, NY to study violin. We talked about our favorite composers and how much he missed his wife back home for about an hour even though his English was limited and my Chinese non-existent. On the plane, I met a girl who was going to start boarding school in the fall and study musical theater. Her grandfather, sitting between us, gushed non-stop about his granddaughter and how proud he was of her. That's always a wonderful conversation. :)
On my way home, I was stuck in Chicago for a little longer than I had planned due to the weather. I talked to a girl named Ami from Uganda who is some type of certified nurse's assistant. She was visiting friends in the Dallas area and on her way home to Boston. Apparently, she is not a fan of the Boston winter or cost-of-living as compared to Dallas and wants to move south as quickly as possible. I had no clue how cold it really got up in Massachusetts. She filled me in on some of her wardrobe selections for a typical Boston January, and it really consisted of a lot more layers than I had imagined. On my final leg, I talked to a man and his wife who met while in the Army and were going home to his parents' house to pick up their vacationing children. He was in band in high school and went on and on about how important his high school band director was to him. There are just so many interesting and fun people who you can meet on airplanes and in airports if you hang around long enough!

I regret that I took a camera but took no pictures. I should have had my camera ready for some of the really cool architectural details of the buildings. Most of all, though, I was silly for not taking pictures of my friend. I was thinking of other things, I suppose. If that is my biggest regret, though, I'd say that I had a pretty successful trip!

Aaaaaaaand, I got to see March of the Penguins. In a really neat little theater. With people in it! (Unlike in Fort Worth... or even Dallas). It was very cool.

As wonderful as the experience was, I'm happy to be home. I get to cook and practice my clarinet and talk to my students. Those are all things that I really missed while gone this weekend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gone until Monday

I'm so excited about my trip I can hardly sit still.

On deck for next week:
Art evaluation questions for Objectivists
A return of the corny joke post!
Is Night Court the cause of all of my neuroses?
A report on how much Texas is not cool as compared to my weekend destination (OR)
A report on how much Texas is awesome as compared to my weekend destination
Is "reality television" eating Sarah's life? (Yes.)
Is it a bad thing? (Probably not.)

See, it's just the usual, basic dinner party discussion. The past couple of weeks have been a little frantic. I'm looking forward to a return to normalcy, but only after my trip is over.

Leave me some contemporary (or not) "Wellington's Victories" (the biggest misstep by a particular artist) in the comments while I'm gone. I have some nominations in my e-mail box and I'll post them when I get back.

Have a great weekend! :)

Is it really Wednesday already?

The great: Thankfully, the job-related disaster stemming from the first returned call has been addressed and is no longer causing me any worry. I have an appointment with my confessor this afternoon. There is a ton of great food in my kitchen. I have clean clothing and the most amazing students in the world. Life is wonderful.

The not great: Last night there was a second (not job-related) issue that arose and has caused great worry and distress. It will all be rectified this evening, but it must wait until either my non-hippie sister comes home from work or my parents do. I'm usually pretty good with patience, but this test is not cool.

The verdict: On balance (6 to 1), I think I'm doing incredibly well.

The future: I'm leaving tomorrow for the weekend on a mystery vacation. My final destination's state bird may be prettier than my dear mockingbird, but their state song sucks*. I'm going someplace new and I have the best tour guide in the business showing me around. All I need to do is pack and resolve this one last-minute detail.
I'd say things are pretty darn great down here in Texas, even if it is 100 degrees outside.

*The traditional tie-breaker of who has a nicer state flower is a draw, sadly enough.

Of the three people who needed to return my calls

Two have (finally) done so:
One with disastrous results (which I will attempt to scramble and fix tomorrow) and
One with wonderful results (which is the only thing saving my sanity at this point)

I need sleep to sort it all out and another 24 hours would be great. I guess that it is, on balance, fine. I don't know how pessimists get through their days sometimes. This is hard for me, and I'm decidedly not one!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Passions and art, part 2 (of 3)

I think the source of much misunderstanding (and misevalutaion) is when we confuse the message, the messenger and the medium. In the case of the piece that I've been harping upon (and I know we're all sick of it by now. I think it's the last time it will come up...) a great message and messenger just didn't translate through the medium very well for me. I think that my resistance to the Bechtle exhibit (addressed briefly here and in the comments) was a case of the message getting caught up in my relative youth and inexperience.

The important thing to remember that great artists produce things that aren't great from time to time. (Classic example: Beethoven's Wellington's Victory*.) In the same vein, just because an artist produces great things doesn't mean that he is great, or (relatedly) that his opinions are relevant on any subject outside his art at all.

When does any of this really matter? Well, in practice for most people - not ever**. Enjoying art sans information about the artists' lives isn't going to prevent you from recognizing the pieces that are great. Go to the museum. Have fun! Listen to new things. If they interest you, learn about them, but don't think that that process is going to automatically enhance your appreciation of the work. Many times you'll come away disappointed that the creator thinks he is a great philosopher but can't compose a coherent thought. He might be a drunkard. You may find out that he advocates blowing up your country. Does this change your evaluation of the work he produced? Should it? Does finding this out change your opinion of him as an artist? As a human being? Would you commission him to do a piece for you, knowing what you know?

Listening to Copland doesn't make you a Communist sympathizer. Appreciating The Birth of a Nation doesn't mean that you're bigot.

All that being said, I know that I enjoy reading about artists. I like to find out which ones are technicians and are functionally illiterate outside their own work and which ones dabble in other fields. I like to know which artists are great thinkers and which ones think they are. Who would I most likely get along with at a party? If I met this guy on the street, what subject or interests would we have in common? What could we talk about? All of those questions, though, are really unrelated to a judgment about what makes their art compelling or not. It (art) is bigger than either of us.

*I always wanted to make this into a parlor game***, but I have neither the invitations to parties nor the mental library of popular music references to do so. What are contemporary "Wellington's Victories?" What is the greatest misstep of a universally acknowledged great singer or band? Who's star shines brightly but has one glaring blemish? Did they recover and it is politely overlooked or was it their demise?
**I think it only matters when you are commissioning work. As with most things that warm my non-professional economist heart, it all comes down to transactions and getting what you want out of them.****
***This is probably why I'm not invited to parties.
****See immediately previous note

Passions and art, part 1 (of 3)

So, I've been working through this particular piece of music for a while now. I've been trying to square how I can understand it, be enthusiastic with regard to the intended message and still not be able to engage the piece. Quartet for the End of Time goes into a fairly large group of works that I recognize are great, but I just can't seem to embrace. (Also in this class for me: a good deal of Italian Mannerist paintings, bitonal music and fanatical devotion to Texas A&M, in general.)
When it was first suggested that I study the piece, I was given a list of recordings, a couple of photocopied pages from the score and a ringing endorsement from my teacher who said that it was the perfect piece for me. I quickly skipped on over to the music library to check out the recordings, anxious to hear (and see) what this whole thing was about. I checked out the first recording and went (complete score now in hand) to the carrel to listen. I became very puzzled. Surely this wasn't what I radiated as my taste. After the composition was done, I sat back for a while and just looked at the score. At first, It thought it might be a bad recording. But no, the score was pretty clear and the performers were more than sensitive to the markings I saw. It seemed as they really "got" the piece, even if I didn't. Undeterred, I went back to check out the next CD. I listened to it while reading the score. Afterward, I just couldn't shake the thought that it seemed to be lacking something. I was still pretty underwhelmed and really wondering what my professor was thinking about me. I put my stuff away and went home, leaving the other three or four performances in the library to be listened to on another day.
The next week, I went into my lesson and asked my professor what he thought would appeal to me about this piece. He told me, basically, that he thought story of the composition of the piece would inspire me and that I would identify with the super Catholic composer. With the new (to me) information surrounding the composition and this knowledge of the piety of the composer, I set out to the library again to tackle the work. I wasn't any more successful that time, or the times in the five years since that I've listened to the piece, struggling with my ears. I do think that Oliver Messiaen is a great composer. I've heard other compositions of his that I really, actively respect and I do think that the Quartet quite worthy of all of the performances it gets. The story is inspiring, even if the music doesn't affect me.
This problem of the Quartet has really bothered me ever since. Related, of course, is the fact that some music (and other art, of course) that really moves me was produced by people who I disagree with their aims on a fundamental level. So, how does knowing about the lives and aims of the artists affect my evaluation of their art? It doesn't. It is important to know about the creator of a work but for reasons that I'll detail in a post later tonight.
Here's the thing: Art transcends the artist - it makes things that are real but invisible, understandable. Art is great when it tells a truth that causes a movement of the soul. The art that is created is bigger than the person who creates it and, as such, reveals something even bigger still. ("What?" my militant friends are saying, "Something bigger and more majestic than man himself?! Impossible." See, there's something my "socialist" friends and my Objectivist friends* can agree that I'm wrong about. I'm a builder of bridges!)
Basically, I'm just not into the whole, you're a conservative so you have to love X's work, since he's a conservative, too. Or, you are a fan of Robert Motherwell so you must love Mr. Crazy Abstractionist XXVII.
I don't love all Catholic authors. The work may be pious and very sincere but if it's not good, I can't make myself love it just because it's created by a Catholic. I don't hate everything created by a Chomsky devotee. The work may be incredibly shrill but if it's good, I can't make myself hate it just because it's created by a follower of a linguist.

*You go study music and economics and try to come home with normal friends.


The best way to irritate me and force me to take a break out of my day to cry for a tiny bit is to not return my phone calls in a timely fashion. It wouldn't be so bad, but I am particularly nice on the phone.

Self-medication through blogging and representational yelling. This isn't a bad development. My laundry day can continue without incident now. I feel so much better. :)

I've referenced it a few times

I wrote a post for this place that quickly turned into an essay. It concerns a certain composition for a chamber group (Oliver Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time) to which I was introduced sometime in my first year in college. My clarinet professor thought that I'd probably appreciate the story (short version here) that was behind the composition of the piece and the fact that Messiaen was an unapologetic Catholic artist. He was right. I did, indeed find the story surrounding the composition of this piece to be incredibly inspirational and I think about it often when I'm trying to explain what it is that music does with the soul. I also have grown very fond of stories about the composer and greatly admire his faith and his life. I'm not able to, however, admire the piece. I can't grasp it. I get what it's trying to say. I completely want it to say it, but I feel like I'm having to fill in the gaps to get it to say what it's supposed to be saying. It just doesn't work for me, even though I'm sympathetic.

In any case, the essay is moderately long, uses some technical descriptions and assumes a familiarity (though not a close familiarity, by any means) which makes it a bad fit for this medium. I don't have a ton of readers, and the readers I do (with a notable couple of exceptions) aren't musicians. It's been a struggle for me to balance what I'm wanting to say with the vocabulary I have and what I can explain without derailing the piece. So, the essay is a success, but not a public one. It has, however, raised a couple of issues that I will use as fodder for posting until Wednesday. The first is the easiest one to address in a short manner: Does knowing the story (or, in some cases, politics) of an artist change my evaluation of a work?

The answer for me: Incredibly rarely and under specific circumstances.

A post on that issue comes Tuesday afternoon-ish.
A post concerning the greatness of an artist vs.(?) his body of work will come on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday there will be a final entry in this series.

Music posts with the intended audience of non-musicians is the order of the week, but it's really not limited to music, and the audience isn't limited to non-musicians. I think it will be fun. Really.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Looking with well-rested eyes

I guess my ever-developing teaching method doesn't completely suck.

Today is a super working day. I've been up since 5:30 and working solidly since. It's been great. My desire is to finish these last 26 student notebooks by Wednesday evening. I have about six charts in various stages of completion that I'd like to get off my table, as well. One of the only things really keeping me motivated is that I get to go to a (the?) most wonderful museum on Friday.

I may have finally finished a Messiaen post that was one of the whole inspirations for this blog project but which has been the bane of my musical writing. It's been eating at me for several weeks and I'm going to let it sit for another couple of hours before I decide if I really want to publish it or not.

One of my new students lives on Hemlock Street, so I'm really trying to not think about the developer of that subdivision. I've so far resisted the urge to look at my Mapsco and find out what the surrounding streets are named.

Aaaaaaand that's it for now. When I need a distraction that's not fulfilled by the Mapsco, I'll know where I'll be coming.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I need a break

I've been battling a mild case of anxiety for the past few days, mostly over my new students. I've been doing the first round of preliminary scheduling (which is easier than I had thought it was going to be) and compiling a starter lesson notebook for each of my new students (which is much more work than I had anticipated). All through this, I've been doing some revisions on my master method book and I've found that I pretty much hate everything that I've done in my lessons for the past six years. It's been rough, but productive.

The good part of this mood is that I'm quite a bit more entertaining in social situations. Apparently internal discord is good for the wit and I was, by all accounts, quite the hit last night in my chaperone role. (I did have fun, but I would have had more if I wasn't working off so much tension, I think.)

Today is (I hope) going to be a little slower than the pace I've worked up over the past few weeks. I went to Mass, sang some "I Love to Tell the Story" and "No Tears in Heaven" with the Baptists walking to their church across the street and came home to leftover pork chops and a playful kitty. After my early lunch, I sat down to play some video games with Aida playing over the computer speakers*. There are very few things that I'd rather be doing, and I think that today is going to be a large step in the right direction. :)

*Just so you know, Verdi is a great soundtrack for various Castlevania games, a surprisingly good one for Super Smash Bros. Melee, but is a disaster and a half for Super Monkey Ball. I just thought I'd share.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Saturday list

1) My neighbors were setting off fireworks* last night, as they have every night this week. I'm getting tired of this and I'd like to politely request that they knock it off. Rather than ask in a face-to-face manner (complete with cookies) I'm just going to post and hope it causes them to consider the fact that they're really making sleeping difficult for my cat.

2) The peach is, surely, one of God's greatest gifts.

3) I'm homebound playing semi-chaperone tonight so entertainment ideas would be greatly appreciated.... otherwise, I'm watching Patton.

4) I may not have any informed ideas about the Supreme Court nomination(s...), but I have very firm opinions about the new TMEA region realignment. (Short version: Wonderous!)

5) The Girl Scout cookies formerly known as Samoas are pretty great, even when living in the back of a pantry for six-ish months.

6) No matter what they teach you in music school, Aaron Copland is good for your ears.

7) I shouldn't worry so much. I have an awesome life.

*I know they're fireworks and not gunshots because Coco no longer flinches at the latter.

Friday, July 08, 2005

How long are jeans supposed to last, anyway?

I put on a pair of my jeans this morning, only to notice that the tiny hole near the right pocket gotten larger and more noticeable while in the wash and that I had another pencil eraser-sized hole on the left side of my pant leg. These jeans are from a slightly larger Sarah era. I haven't worn this size since late high school, so it's been at least seven years of faithful service, and probably a few more knowing my shopping habits. I know it is probably time, but I'm just not ready to let go. Besides, with all my girlfriends getting pregnant and now my favorite jeans ready to leave me, how am I supposed to pick up guys at the bar now?

I'm kidding about that last part, but I am going to go cry in my closet. ;)

This post is, in fact, better than the one that I had written (but thought better of before publishing) wherein I stressed about really unimportant things. If I were you, I'd count my blessings.


I remember last summer when this was making its way through the blogs I frequent. As I didn't have a blog of my own then, I couldn't play along until now. I am surprised at how little I agonized over most of the choices (except for Shostakovich vs. Prokofiev - that's just cruel). My index is higher than I had guessed, as well - 50/72 or 69%. I hypothesized it would be in the mid 50s. I have no idea what that means, other than (I guess) Mr. Teachout has better taste than I thought. ;)

The interesting thing, for me, came when going through the list of scores and looking at the ones who provided not just their raw score, but a bolded list of their preferences. I was going to attempt to see where the biggest overlap of tastes and differences were, but I quickly lost interest when almost everyone else put down they preferred hamburgers to hot dogs. *sigh* What are these people thinking?!

One day until I have me some peach ice cream

I love local festivals - especially those that celebrate harvests. Maybe it has something to do with spending more than a few years in a town that proudly celebrates a livestock show with a huge ferris wheel and cotton candy. When my family lived in Abilene, we went to the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater. I never did eat any rattlesnake, but I did get to see the ones they caught.

One of the neat things about these local festivals is that, besides sampling the harvest, you get to see the beauty... uh.... scholarship pageants. The winners get to do things like ride on the floats at the holiday parades of neighboring towns (and, I suppose, attend college). You have Miss Snakecharmer in Sweetwater, the Strawberry Queen in Poteet, the Apple Queen in Medina*... you get the idea. It's great!

I know it's cheesy and more than a little silly, but I really like going to these small towns to sample the food and see the people. Most of the time there's a little carnival. I'm sure that for kids that grow up in these places the fair seems kind of lame after the first few years. For me, though, it's pretty neat and I'm not ashamed that I kind of look forward to the Peach Festival and its accoutrements every year. I'm possibly the only girl in Texas with tickets to the Houston Opera and the Parker County Peach Festival circled on my calendar, but I'm also possibly the happiest girl around. ;)

*As far as I know Luling doesn't crown royalty for its Watermelon Thump, but it does sponsor several seed-spitting contests. I've yet to make it down, though - I'm allergic to watermelon.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The snow-cone was nice

Though the Robert Bechtle exhibition left me cold. Not colder than the snow-cone I had after the museum trip, but it wasn't the most awesome experience ever, either. Perhaps it's that I've never made it out to the Golden State, let alone to San Francisco. I just didn't seem to want to connect with many of the pieces. So, I spent the majority of the time, not sadly, connecting with the awesome first floor (sampled in this previous post). There I had fun.

As an aside, if you think that Texas is a solid red state, you've never been to an art museum in Texas (or my school, come to think of it). Though information was readily available before I left for my day out, I had not read about the London news. I first heard about it on the radio in my car. Later, while in the permanent collection , I heard two men talking in very un-museum levels of voice. Paraphrased, the conversation went something like this:
50-ish man 1: "I feel so bad for them. It's really Bush that is to blame for this."
50-ish man 2: "Yeah. We just skipped over the talking part and went right for the guns."

Now, they could have been talking about something else. I, obviously, started eavesdropping after the antecedents were dropped, but even if they were... it just goes to show.... *sigh*

This place is not ever going to be a political blog. I have plenty of places to talk about politics and, if I may say so, I can be quite good at it. I'm not good, however, at writing about art and music, and I've been using this project as practice. Also, I always kind of pictured this blog as a little ongoing dinner party. Like all good Texan girls know, you don't discuss politics, religion or irrigation philosophy at dinner parties. Stupid jokes, art, music... those are all fair game, and I kind of like that.

Sometimes, though, the guidelines don't fit the situation. Right now, brave men and women my age are fighting the Islamofascists. In 20 or 30 years, people my age now will be running for Congress and setting the agenda and the direction for the entire country. We will either remember the lessons we're being taught now, or we won't. It is increasingly clear that people my age are going to finish this war on fascism, or we are going to leave it to our children to finish. I pray we make the right decision. It's been too long already. I hope that this doesn't seem like an "isolated," and thus unimportant, attack. I also hope that upon hearing that the death toll is "only" about 30, we don't think that we're winning and that things will only get better, and death tolls smaller.

Snow cones are delightful

I spent all day yesterday in bed snuggling with a cold, my big comforter and assorted books. Summer colds are horrible, especially when the weather is nice and not too hot because every time you look up, the sun is taunting you. So, if you're like me, you take another dose of cold medicine and bitterly tell the sun to go away. I'm never quite sure that the sun takes my advice (because I'm sleeping), but I'm pretty forceful and I imagine that the sun is a reasonable character.

All in all, it could have been worse.

I'm still under the weather and a teeny bit medicated, but I'm going to brave the elements and visit the modern art museum here in town. I'll be spending a good deal of time at the upstairs special exhibit and afterwards I'll stop for a snow-cone. Sure, it may only be 76 today and rainy, but it's summer!

In any case, this is my plan for the day:
Finding a red nail polish that isn't too orangey but also does not skew too far in the other direction toward burgundy
Lunch with my very lucky brother (lucky because his sister takes him out to lunch occasionally)

I'm excited, and it's not the medicine talking!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My sister is a sometimes blonde

Q. Why did the blonde stare at the orange juice container?
A. Because it said "concentrate."

Texas means parties

Last night, I was sitting in a parking lot of an old factory waiting for the city's display of fireworks to start. While I was setting up my awesome American flag folding lawn chair and table, three big vans pulled up and started unloading their vastly-superior party gear. Lots of kids, a couple of mopey teenagers and assorted relatives began to talk in rapid Spanish about who had forgotten to pick up more ice and why someone named Marisol didn't show up at lunch. (Apparently the fight she had with Robert was quite the event.) In any case, once the kids started in on the popsicles, both the ice and Marisol were forgotten.
Other cars began to flow in and in no time it was a quite crowded. All of a sudden, I heard a man with a twang start singing in Spanish. He was joined by a couple of guys from one of the vans playing guitars, two teenaged boys on trumpet and a most awesome woman playing accordion. It was a mariachi band! I was so in heaven. If the only thing Texas had produced in its almost 160 years of statehood was Tejano music*, that would be quite enough to justify its existence.

Imagine the Texas frontier around 1832:
Some German immigrants on a Saturday afternoon are celebrating... uh.... probably being German. Lots of polka. Sausage. Kids. Beer.
Around the corner, some Mexican immigrants are celebrating..... being Mexican with lots of music, food, kids and beer.

The Mexican patriarch says to the German patriarch, "Hey, you like to party just like us!"
The German, "Indeed we do! Hey, you like beer as much as we do. Let's party together!"

And, thus, beautiful music was made. The first night was probably rough, but they worked it out through lots of rehearsal time. I'm quite grateful. It made my Independence Day awesome.

*Plus, it sets the stage for the greatest band ever: Brave Combo.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Previous to this link on About Last Night the most popular entry post page was this one. I did a cute (if I may say so) happy dance upon seeing the pointer to my blog. To the new potential readers I say, "Howdy! Stay a while." The good news is that you've found someplace you'll be quite welcome. The bad news is that there are some really corny jokes around here.

You need to know that I talk about Night Court like Terry Teachout talks about Erin McKeown. It's just best that you know now, before you're surprised by it later.

Anyway, have fun! I've not been doing this long, so take a stroll through the archives. You'll be all caught up in no time. :)

This is the day everyone is a Sousa fan

Even the poor French horn players stuck playing chords on beats 2 and 4. Plus, who doesn't love music that requires 30 clarinetists?

Some favorites:
The Fairest of the Fair*
The Washington Post
The Picadore
Solid Men to the Front!
Pathfinder of Panama

If I had a band, I'd play nothing but Sousa and Paso Doble marches. And the kids would love it!

*Puns make everything wonderful.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Walking out to my car after church

A boy comments that I'm wearing the same outfit as I did last week. On the one hand, I'm happy my fashion choices are so wonderful that they leave an impression. On the other hand, I'm kind of miffed that I now have to really pay attention and rotate my selections. It's just one more thing to worry about.

On an unrelated note: Only six days until the peach festival!

Reading progress

Beginning with my sophomore year of college, I have always used the couple of days before Independence Day to graze The Federalist Papers. This year, I've waltzed my way through Nos. 8, 9, 46 and 48. (No need for No. 10. I seem to have significantly large portions memorized thanks to a wonderful, if crazed, history teacher in high school.)

Every casual student of American History has a favorite Paper, right? Right?!

Am I the only one? *sigh*

UPDATE: No. 84 - Hamilton: We don't need no bill of rights

Saturday, July 02, 2005

It's a zero, kids

Q: What did the 0 say to the 8?
A: "Nice belt."

Underplayed clarinet lit for $300, Alex

Thomas Dunhill's Phantasy Suite for clarinet a piano is not just unfamiliar to the music world in general, it's really obscure in the clarinet world as well. It's not on the Texas PML (which dictates what students can play at the state contest) and it frustrates me to no end that is the case. Each time I have introduced it to a student for summer work, they fall in love with it. I'd really like the state committee to adopt it, but my petitions have gone unacknowledged.

This is understated, short, conservative salon music. I like giving it to late high school students because it plays with some dissonances and modern harmony, but in manageable bites. The first movement is incredibly expressive with long phrases and long notes. It's slightly sad, and ends on a wistful note. What's cool about it for kids is that it explores all three registers of the clarinet and does so musically. The highest notes aren't just circus tricks pulled out to impress and without musical meaning. (Mr. Carl Maria vonWeber, I'm looking directly at you). They're organic here and it's nice to see good writing that takes advantage of the entire range.

I really like the fourth and fifth movements. They are short - only about a minute and a half a piece - but really explore the different moods you can create with the instrument. The fourth movement is probably the most harmonically dense of the six, and really has the best writing for both the clarinet and piano working together. It's incredibly slow and incredibly sad - so self-consciously sad that you really are glad it only lasts for a minute and a half. The fifth movement is different in every way. It's a fast, jaunty dance. It's a little too precious, but it really is fun. It gets a pass despite being too cute because it only lasts for 90 seconds.

Maybe the reason it works so well with moody, high school kids is because it's a moody, passionate piece. This doesn't really help explain why I like it, though, because I don't particularly think of myself as moody. ;)


It hurts when you understand why your older bandmates drink the way they do, and how it really is mostly due to the job.

It sucks when your sandal breaks. Where do you find a replacement rubber stopper for the tip of your favorite heel?

It's frustrating to come home with a broken shoe after something was thrown at you.

Doubly so when you don't move quick enough to dodge it.

It's not funny when, after that happens, you just smile and continue with the next chart.

*sigh* I know it will pass, and I know that my problems are incredibly miniscule in the grand scheme. I have a million and six things to be thankful for and to look forward to, but all I can think about right now is my favorite sandal. Shallow? Quite.

I'm going to throw myself into a book instead of a glass. Ovid, you can save me... right?

Friday, July 01, 2005

You know,

I could organize my sheet music library, but then I could never find anything when I needed it.

It's not Family Guy

but I think it is pretty fun.
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