Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Just dropping in to wish everyone a happy new year. I hope you dream the dreams only you can dream and write the stories only you can write. I hope your life is full of love. I hope your hopes become reality. I hope you fall in love or stay in love if you're already there. And if this year has been unkind to you in any way, I hope the new year turns the tide. Best!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Sick yesterday, recovering today. Had a fever and couldn't seem to keep anything down yesterday morning (TMI?). Still a little feverish, but not as much.

However, I have Just After Sunset (new book of Stephen King short stories) and The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) to keep me company. Now if I could only get rid of this damn headache. . . .

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Two A's, one A-, and a B. The B was in Composition, but I think it's a fair grade, as my first two projects for the class were awful. (I was pretty rusty, and learning Logic Pro was . . . well, let's not go there.) So my GPA is 3.57--not too shabby, if I may toot my own horn. The real surprise was the software class, in which I thought, at best, I would get a B (proabably I should be putting these grades in quotation marks, but I'm too lazy today), but I ended up with an A-. When I told my friends, they wanted to know if I'd gotten my professor drunk. (No - but we were drunk along with the rest of my class and the class ahead of us . . . ooh, was that a fun party.) My dad wanted to know if I'd held a gun to his head. (No - not even a squirt gun.)

What I really dig about this program is how supportive everyone is of each other. It's a MUCH more positive environment than my last school (which I shall not name). Everyone is eager to trade ideas and talk about music. And while everyone knows how to loosen up after work, we don't forget the reason we're here. I know I won't have that support after I graduate, but it's nice to have it while I'm getting my bearings. This whole semester has been one long, expensive exercise in a) learning not to panic, and b) trusting my instincts. Hopefully by the time I graduate I'll be ready to fly.

Anyway. I feel even less coherent than yesterday. Maybe I just need a few more days to recuperate. Pics of the ice storm coming soon . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's All Over . . .

. . . finally!!!!!!

So now I'm off to read Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norell or whatever the hell that book was. And a couple of books written by one of my professors, Enoch's Portal and The Last Days of Madame Rey. I'm going to try to pick up The Higher Power of Lucky, but I can't guarantee anything. I still have to pick up some sheet music for a weddding I'm playing and there's only so much money in the pot, you know. *eyes pot and laments the Dickensian amount* (Amount described in Dickens novels, not the oodles of money he had, that is.)

In other news, I learned to use my imac as a disk to which I transferred all my files from my laptop. Good thing. I just realized I transferred all my writing and deleted everything from my laptop to make room for a bunch of stuff I had on a computer at school. I don't yet have Word on my imac. Potentially bad thing? At any rate, now that I don't have those files on my laptop, anything I write over break will have to be new. I really, really don't want to start a new story that I won't finish. So I guess I'll just have to buckle down and finish something.

Am I even being coherent? My brain feels a lot heavier than it should, like an anchor ready to be thrown overboard a ship.

But all pressing work is done. Yay!!!!

You know, with all the bailouts going on, I'm wondering why I and my colleagues can't get a bailout, too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bright Spot

It's been one of those weeks. But a small bright spot is that I have a few continuations up on the Best New Beginning of 2008 Ballot on Evil Editor's blog. Surely voting in this is just as important and urgent as voting in this year's presidential election. Right?

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

Well, term is over, but things have not slowed down. I still have a paper due, since one of my instructors kindly gave us until this Friday to complete it. Then he'll turn in grades. I also have a sample due Friday to a director/producer guy in Oregon for a potential theater project. I have to go out of town this week as well, so it's unlikely I'll post any video or audio before January. What I'll probably do in the meantime is ramble on about my life. AND I may get some actual writing done. But what I'm really looking forward to is READING.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

We had our concert last night. As soon as I get a recording of my piece I'll put it up here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The only thing that's preventing me from putting up the Followers widget is the potential embarrassment that no one is actually following this blog.

Oh great

Governor Blagodevich—or G-Rod, as he's known around these parts—was arrested this morning for trying to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

I'm ready for break.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tired Post

Spent thirteen hours in the lab yesterday working on getting my score ready for the concert Tuesday. Went in this morning, thinking I would be done by noon. Instead I found myself rushing to get my score and parts finished before the music building closed at six. I was ready to leave at 3, but one of my profs "discovered" three measures at the beginning that needed cut. Which meant I needed to re-align the dialogue and re-do all the separate parts. And I printed a lot of paper. I felt like I wasted the life of a tree today.

But I got through it. And now I'm off to a party soon when all I really want to do is stay home and sleep. And tomorrow I have three lessons and the dress rehearsal for the concert. And I have to remember to call a potential student.

So this is what it feels like to have a life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

7 Book Facts . . . okay, 8

1. I read a lot of fiction and feel guilty about it now that I'm in school.

2. I have fantasies of trying to balance a best-selling writing career with a busy, fulfilling career in film composing. Which, given the lack of time I have to write fiction, is problematic. Yeah, not off to a good start with that.

3. I start a lot of books that I eventually finish, but I often take long breaks in the middle of a book. But I do finish them.

4. I never peek. Ever. I get upset if it happens by accident when I'm picking up or moving a book. I once ruined the climax of a book for D, and while I'm pretty sure he's forgiven me, I still feel guilty about it.

5. I have a knee-high stack of books that I've started and yet to finish.

6. I crave stories that are creepy but not gross. I often leave Borders or Barnes and Noble disappointed that I didn't find something to strike my mood (or that what I wanted was something I just couldn't afford). I started writing, really. to satisfy this craving, because truthfully, like lovers, there are very few writers who know how to meet my needs.

7. I love browsing for books. For me, any bookstore that has a coffeeshop attached rocks, because I love having a cup of chai tea or a mocha in my hand while I'm browsing.

8. I've discovered I'm not as into fantasy or horror as I once thought. When I think about it, there are only a few horror writers I really like, and not many more fantasy writers. Good writing is good writing, and I don't care whether it's genre or lit fic, though. I usually find something of merit in almost everything I read, but as I get older, I'm becoming more snobbish. I think that has to do with lack of time, both long and short. I look over my life, and think, "Holy crap. I only have a good fifty or sixty years left of reading. And that's if I keep my memory intact."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend . . . harumph

At my folks for Thanksgiving, though they haven't seen much of me, as I tend to scurry off upstairs to work on my final project - a five-minute scene of a play by . . . I think it's Eugene O'Neill's play based on a Euripedes play. I don't know the titles of either, but they both have incest, matricide, betrayal, and general murder. I missed the incest part at first, and couldn't figure out why the actress was rubbing all over her "brother's" chest. Eventually I figured it out. Sometimes I'm slow, but I get there all the same.

I oscillate between hating the piece and liking it. I get frustrated because I know what I want to do, but what's in my head is grand and creepy and what comes out is tiny, quivering, shaky - and, believe it or not, too pretty. Or at least that's the way it seems in the thick of it. I suppose that's just the creative process.

It's been a peaceful Thanksgiving, otherwise. I didn't get to spend much time with my niece, but the school stuff just couldn't be ignored. During Christmas I hope to remedy that.

Other than that, I'm eating too much and drinking too much caffeine. But I FINALLY bought a pair of running shoes - Kohl's had a great sale - and some running clothes. Warm ones. So I hope to get back to that, however slowly and stilted, once we return to Chicago.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cat Pic and Missing Keys

He may be a beautiful cat, he may be affectionate and a bit of a show pony . . . but he is diabolical.

This morning I woke to find THREE keys missing off of my laptop. I found one, (S), but the other two (E and F) are still missing. No doubt Gatsby (you might as well know his full name) batted them under the refrigerator or oven or somewhere equally unreachable by human hands, the little bugger.

I didn't notice any of this last night, when I came home from class after a long day. This morning I wondered why my computer was at an odd angle on the kitchen table, where I study, but I didn't think too much of it. I don't have Word on the iMac yet, so the laptop is where I'll write my paper. I've got an extra keyboard, but still . . . that's more I have to carry home to my folks' for Thanksgiving break. Grrrrr. No doubt he exacted his revenge after being subjected to my caterwauling (pun intended) on the double bass on Monday night.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Not only is there a 76% chance my cat is plotting to kill me,

What are your chances of surviving a bear attack?

Cribbed from fairyhedgehog's blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I think G. has decided he likes me. It's official. When a cat comes into your room early in the morning and sleeps on your stomach, he likes you. Never can I walk by him without him begging for attention. I try to do this on the sly, but of course, every time I turn around, there's Orson . . . glaring malevolently at me.

I've changed the topic of my film history paper three times now. And this time the instructor doesn't even know it yet. Researching like crazy. I'm off to take a bath while I read my latest article on the Hollywood blacklist during the Red Scare. May include Elia Kazan, may not. I mean, how much effect did he have by naming names, anyway? HUAC already had its claws deep in Hollywood by that point, anyway. But still, I suppose they needed the formality. And the fact that he was willing . . . I don't know. I'm on the fence.

As you may have guessed, I've all but completely given up on NaNoWriMo. I may try to churn out something over Thanksgiving, but . . . I'll probably need a break. Next year for this doesn't look good, either. Sigh. I miss the days when I could read what I wanted, when I wanted. On the other hand, life isn't so bad right now . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh Yeah . . . 20 inches, baby

Hah. You probably thought that was going to lead to some porn thing. Bow chicka bow bounw.

I took the plunge and bought equipment for home use, so I'm hoping that the extra time I'll now be able to put in will help me out in lab class, which is by far the hardest class I have. (Lab is the class in which we learn the software composers in the film industry use. I am NOT mechanically inclined, I'm finding.)

But I'm excited about the computer, actually, as it is a brand, spanking-new iMac that came with a free printer that (so far) actually works. 20-inch, crystal-clear display. Runs beautifully. I'm waiting on the audio interface and the MIDI controller (the keyboard, for all you non-geeks) to arrive. Next semester I'll probably pick up the mixing monitors (speakers) and a new set of headphones.

What does all of this mean? This means, instead of walking six blocks to the station and waiting on a dark, wind-swept platform for the train every day of the week this winter, then walking another three blocks when I exit the train (also every day of the week this winter), only to sit in a rather cold studio at night when I'm already tired from a full day, I'll be able to stay at home and work in my slippers during the day, sipping me tea from me very spill-safe, lidded mug. Ahoy.

I can't find my MS Word disc that I had to load MS Word 2004, though. I've become quite certain this apartment hides things when I need them, only to toss them back out from the Portal of Beyond when I don't need them anymore.

Time to go finish up my term paper rough draft on my trusty 12-inch G3 (iBook).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Purchasing Poll

Over the last six months, there are books I've been tempted to purchase, but have held off until better days.

Well, my friends, better days have come, if only temporarily. To the right is a poll in which YOU get to pick Freddie's next book(s).

Any other suggestions are welcome in the comments.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Hah. You probably thought this was going to be a post about Prop 8. (The fight is not over on that, by the way.)

But this post is about something far more bizarre: A man in Japan wants to marry a comic book character.

This leads me to wonder. What literary character would you marry? Let's keep it to literary characters, which includes comic book/graphic novel characters. Any character in a book. How about that? Maybe next post we'll talk about movie characters.

I'll tell when you tell.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It Was a Night to Remember . . .

So it turned out D had tickets to President-elect Obama's speech in Grant Park last night. I couldn't see Obama or even the screen, but I heard most of his speech clearly (and for me that's saying a lot!).

What amazed me the most was how polite everyone was. Cities are known to swallow up a person's humanity, and Chicago is no exception. You walk by the homeless guy without digging in your pocket for change, telling yourself you're going to donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. And of course five minutes later you forget that promise. Preoccupied, you get on the train without first waiting for other passengers to exit. Indeed, most gatherings in Grant Park result in at least a few "F&%$ youse!"

Last night was different. A feeling of goodwill infused the crowd, and not once did someone move or bump into me without saying "Excuse me" or "I'm so sorry!" (I did the same.) No one fought. No one argued (that I could see) with police officers. Everyone was polite and respectful, smiling and happy. I saw two women embrace a tree in a playful acknowledgment of being "tree huggers."

This is the way it should be.

It's difficult to convey all the things I felt. Optimism for the first time in months. Awe at the number of people who attended the speech, and the way everyone treated each other. Mostly I just felt lucky to be this close to such an historic moment. It was beyond cool.

Yeah, I'm an Obama supporter. You can think I drank the Kool Aid if you want.

But it's not Barack Obama's words ringing in my ears this morning, but those of Kyle Cassidy, words which convey—I hope—the sentiment of our time, and words I don't think you can argue with no matter which side of the fence you reside on:

Be a force for good.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tomorrow, tomorrow . . .

Okay, so tomorrow I expected to be in class all day, but Obama will be in Grant Park. Right next to my school. So Columbia did the natural thing and canceled all classes after 3 p.m. Which means I get to loiter outside the park (I hope). Couldn't get tickets, and couldn't donate any money to win any. Ah well. I feel lucky to be so close to what is sure to be an historic event. Really exciting! Especially since nothing like this ever happens to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Word Count

The NaNoWriMo site is taking forever to let me log in, so I'll probably do a periodic word count here.

So far I'm at a paltry 857 words.

I've already abandoned the Dirk Beefhead novel. Too much of a one-trick pony. Writing hard-boiled crime fiction might be fun, but it takes time for me to come up with similes and metaphors that fit the style and actually sound humorous.

I've started a different one that I think will be a children's book. Not youngish kids, but around twelve. That's not YA, is it?

Friday, October 31, 2008

6 Random Things - My First Meme!

I've been tagged by fairyhedgehog.

Here goes:

1. I almost always wear jeans. As a student, obviously this fits my lifestyle. But even when I was working full-time, I was pretty much in jeans. I pretty much hate dressing up anymore. This is probably due to the fact that instead of having a nice figure like I used to, I am now a little pear-shaped.

2. I once worked as a dancer in a nightclub. No, not that kind of dancer. We were like the Fly Girls on that show In Living Color—minus the talent and coordination.

3. I only learned to make chili this year. Not that I ever thought it was hard or complicated; I just never got around to learning it.

4. If I could marry a cup of coffee, I would. Coffee and its warmth has given me more comfort and companionship than I can relay here. I'm sort of in love with it, although I'm developing an infatuation with tea. Please . . . don't tell Coffee.

5. I play double bass. A lot of people don't know this about me because I'm rather small. I'm not sayin' it's a mean double bass, but I get around all right for a white girl.

6. I'm becoming nocturnal. It's rather scary for me, a lifelong morning person. Nowadays I'm never up before 8 a.m., and I used to get up at 6. Some mornings I'm not even up before 9 a.m., and with all I have to do now, that's just way too late.

It seems like everyone I know online has been tagged.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I am now signed up for NaNoWriMo under "freddie." Anyone who wants to buddy me is welcome to do so.

I can't guarantee I'll finish this, but I will try.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are the Machines Taking Over?

On Friday, I received two requests to "friend" a couple of (real) friends on Facebook. I clicked the link and filled out the info page to sign up, only to be told "Sorry. You are ineligible to sign up for Facebook." I tried again from the website and got the same message.

Did I somehow offend Facebook? If so, was it the people behind Facebook or the machines? Did they decide I'm not cool enough? Is Facebook . . . two-faced? I thought it was merely odd until I remembered this post and this post.

It's like the machines are deciding to take over.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Page 56

Meant to do this yesterday. From A Heart at Fire's Center . . .

("When they see my name on it they'll throw bricks at you," [Ives] told Herrmann). The dedication remained.

Herrmann began three other concert works between 1936 and 1940, only the nonprogrammatic Nocturne and Scherzo (dedicated to Howard Barlow), written in the summer of 1936, was completed. The other, larger-scale pieces (another cantata, based on the story of Johnny Appleseed, and a "fiddle concerto") apparently never satisfied their creator. For Herrmann, the concert idiom was less rewarding, creatively and financially, than the more immediate challenge of dramatic scoring at CBS. Herrmann would spend most of the 1930s writing short, ingenious cues for radio dramas and conducting the network's expanding (and improving) concert orchestra.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who Needs the Writer's Market . . .

. . . when we have Writtenwyrdd?

A plethora of info and links for genre writers. Go check it out.

A Ship Receding in the Distance

In my mind, or some alternate life, I am a disciplined person who wakes at 5 a.m. and promptly starts my hour-and-a-half yoga routine, which is followed by a half hour of meditation. Then I have my herbal tea and an ultra-healthy breakfast followed by ten hours of joyous composing in which I focus with razor-sharp clarity on my work. I follow this routine with a military-like precision, and nothing—nothing—can pull me away from it.

Real life is much, much messier. I don't follow any real routine these days. I'm totally at the mercy of whatever is due. I feel lucky to get in twenty minutes of exercise. I constantly feel a sense of nervousness (left over from the Year of Hell) that has yet to drain completely away. I feel skittish much of the time (the cough that never went away after I got sick doesn't help). Some days I'm left with only the vague conviction to finish, because I started this venture only to make the second half of my life better than the first. But yesterday was just One Of Those Days that left me feeling like the dream is receding. I felt like a person stranded on a desert island, watching the only rescue ship she's likely to see completely miss her and disappear over the horizon.

But today is a new day. I get to compose to my heart's content. It always amazes me how much a good night's sleep helps my perspective.

With tea in hand, I salute those who are silently or not so silently cheering me on.

Ever onward . . .

Monday, October 20, 2008

Burying the Cherry

It was my fault. It didn't matter that I'd had the shittiest week on record. It didn't matter that I was bone tired from working extra hours on top of studying and practicing. All that mattered was that I screwed up.

It started off innocently enough. I had just started my shift. A woman came in and asked for a glass of wine to go with her cigarette. I complied and even lit her cigarette for her—the polite gesture of any good bartender. She drank her wine faster than I expected, but she didn't ask for another. She paid and left. Her cigarette still burned in the ashtray. Apparently.

I let the stuff sit for a while. Hell, we were slow, and the people at the table around the corner were so drunk they were liable not to care. After fifteen minutes or so the bartender in me dumped the ashtray and cleaned up the slight mess. That's what bartenders do.

Something's burning, I noticed a few minutes later. I went back to check the popcorn machine, which was frequently left on by all the bartenders on staff. I came out of the office (where the popcorn machine was kept) to find flames shooting up out of the trash can. I mean, almost to the ceiling. I grabbed a pitcher and filled it with water and threw it on the fire. Just then, Jen, from the Heurot (a Vikingesque bar with more than thirty kinds of beers on tap), walked in. "Get the water gun!" she yelled, because this type of thing happened at the Heurot all the time. Together, we got the fire out, although you could probably smell it through the whole hotel by that point.

In my defense, there was no smoke coming from the ashtray. The sneaky cigarette buried the cherry. But that doesn't change a thing. I screwed up. I admit it.

What is the point of this story? You can get lucky even when you screw up.

I'm Still Around . . .

Although my entries are getting few and far between.

Anybody reading any good books lately? I'm reading a biography on Bernard Herrmann, a towering figure in the film composing world (A Heart at Fire's Center). And I'm reading my textbooks and finishing up Schindler's List. Next on my plate for reading for pleasure is . . . well, I was going to try to squeeze in EE's book chat book, but I don't think that's going to happen now. Think I'll try for the one in November.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I'm confused about just how guilty I should feel about participating in NaNo, what with school and all. See the poll on the left. Right, I mean.

EDIT: I don't feel guilty, actually. This school year has been slow, and we don't really have a lot to do yet. This semester is supposed to be easy. But next year is supposed to be hard. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying time to just listen to music. But I'm keeping up the poll because I think it's amusing. I'll be doing more in the future.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reading you a story . . .

If anyone has trouble understanding my dehydrated voice and mumbling mouth, please let me know. I'd be happy to send along some text to go with the reading.

Yes, Mom, I'm drinking lots of water to combat the drunken debaucheries of last night.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Got a little drunk with some of my classmates tonight, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for my reading. Sorry. Drunk.


I FINALLY got my voting card yesterday, after three attempts at sending the Chicago Board of Elections an address change form. I was getting worried I wouldn't get to vote in this election.

Don't even know if anyone is still reading this blog, but if you are, look for my reading post later today. You can bet your ass it will be a Neil Gaiman novel.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I've barely been online lately because of mouse problems. The old one died a slow, painful, lonely death and is now in mouse heaven, undoubtedly waiting to meet its maker, Bill Gates. Got a new one that is working splendidly.

In minutiae news, I think we're keeping the new kitty. He terrorizes Orson on occasion, but on the whole, everyone seems happy.

I don't know how school is going, so don't ask. I've barely got any grades back yet. This is the most esoteric program I've ever been involved with. However, my lab skillz suck. Fo shizzle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Hate to Complain, But . . .

This effing job search has me tearing my hair out. I answered an ad on a site for music instructors. The ad said this shop needed a violin instructor for five students, as its old instructor moved to a different part of the city.

Sounds perfect, right?

Wrong. After I answered the ad, the woman e-mails me back saying that instead of inquiring about my credentials, she just thought she was requesting a free ad from Google.

I am ready to scream.

Cat Update Part III

G. (I'm not calling him by his full name for fear he may not be able to stay) ate this morning! With gusto, I might add.

Bad news is, he's still hissing at Orson. I may just start squirting him with the water bottle when he does this. D did it, and said it stopped G. in mid-hiss, but it didn't upset him. I just don't want a household where the cats barely tolerate each other's presence.

Only time will tell, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Could be worse

The cats didn't kill each other during their first day alone, and I aced my first film history quiz.

Still entirely too much hissing going on with G., though. He was a semi-outdoor cat, so it's a little surprising. Perhaps it's being cooped up indoors now.

Perhaps things will improve tomorrow.

Cat Update the Sequel

G. (the Siamese) broke out of D's bedroom this morning. Good thing I was awake. I was on my way to the bathroom when I saw G. poke his head around the corner. O's avoided G. so far this morning. But now G. is just too curious and keeps following O. around—at a safe distance, of course. He sits behind things and peeks out at O.. He still hisses, but he doesn't bunch up all Halloweeny, like he did at first. O. just walks in the other direction when he does that.

So, progress.

EDIT: Or not. D had a really bad allergic reaction last night. And G. kept him up with his caterwauling. Sigh . . . I hope we can hang in there. I don't think D wants to keep him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cat Update

G. is resting comfortably on my bed with the door open, a good sign. He spent this morning cowering under D's bed and part of the afternoon in D's bathroom. But he seemed much too curious and wanted to be let out, so I let him out. Then he came into my room, explored a bit, leaped onto the bed in that graceful Siamese way, put his head down on his paws, and dozed.

O. came in just a few minutes ago to check out G.'s food and water dish (I've had to squirt him with the water bottle three times to keep him away), and G. didn't hunch up like he did before. He was calm.

Granted, the cats are still on opposite sides of the apartment. But I'm seeing some good signs. The only worrying part so far is that G. hasn't eaten since he's been here. That, and I've been sneezing like crazy today. I hope it's just a one-day thing. (Please?)

He's really very friendly and affectionate. I hope he can stay.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Cat

We just brought home a new cat. Well, new to us. One of my profs needed a new home for his Siamese kitty, as his wife had a severe allergy.

We don't know yet how he's going to get along with O., our other cat. O. is big and fat, but gentle and sweet with other cats, generally. At least, he was with Ella. But so far he's hissed at the new cat, so I don't know how it's going to go. On the other hand, neither have raised their hackles yet. We're just introducing them gradually, keeping G. (the newbie) in the small bathroom, where he seems comfortable, and bringing him out every couple of hours to "roam" while in D's arms.

G. is a beaut, a Siamese with jewel-like blue eyes. He's very affectionate and sweet. At first he was frightened and hid in a small section between the wall and the sofa in the media room. But now he seems curious. A little later I'm going to take a bath in "his" bathroom. We'll see how he reacts to that.

I really do hope they get along. O. has been lonely since Ella died, even though they weren't the best of friends. I think he misses having a buddy. And G., according to my prof, "plays well with others" from the neighborhood. I'm hoping they'll play together and give O. some much-needed exercise.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I just finished watching A Streetcar Named Desire. All I can say is . . . that Marlon Brando was some serious eye candy. Yes, I know everyone raves about the acting, the writing, the score. But to tell the truth, Brando's back muscles impressed me more than anything else. Holy sweet cheeseballs on a platter. Hard to believe he, uh . . . expanded the way he did in his later years.

I totally missed the sexual tension between Blanche and Stanley, except for in the first scene where they meet, but then I'm really bad about picking up on things like that.

Could be why I haven't dated in a while . . .

Also . . .

I was just reading Paul Bowles on Music. Turns out not only was Paul Bowles a composer and music critic, but a successful fiction writer as well. Shall have to pick up something of his soon.


You know, it's sad how much I depend on coffee these days. I've switched to tea for most mornings, and I enjoy drinking it. On the whole, I don't feel as strung out, and I know I'm doing my health a favor by drinking it. I could drink Earl Grey (loose—no bagged tea for me, thanks) all day and be one happy camper.


Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee. It's one of the reasons I look forward to winter. That, and potato soup. (Not together.) I just think it's sad how my concentration is zero before my shot of caffeine, that's all. It's like my IQ goes from 0 to 100 in the span of five minutes.

Okay. Off to go for a short run and find a job, or something.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Goodbye Cruel Student Health Center . . .

Doctor tomorrow. Please keep your fingers crossed that I get some antibiotics. Please also keep your fingers crossed that it will be covered by my insurance.

Going to bed.

Nighty night.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Yesterday a friend came over and we played through some duets. I played double bass and she played cello. I thought we sounded pretty good, but I need to find some material written for double bass and cello, instead of music written for two celli like we had. Or I may rent a cello, because the music we were playing wasn't half bad.

We both joked about 'making the cat cry,' both being so out of practice, but I was pleased that we got further along than we anticipated. We're going to work on the pieces we picked out and then find some other pieces, too. I may even write some stuff, if I'm feeling really ambitious. Can't remember the last time I've played just for fun, so I'm looking forward to the next session, whenever that is.

The only downer was this stupid cough I have, along with the fact that whatever it is I've got is moving up into my head. Sigh. Well, I've got a doctor's appointment this week, so hopefully he'll give me something that will make this go away. It's been a little more than two weeks now.

Still really early in the semester, so I'm not sure how classes are going. I'm learning software in one class, and that is the class in which I am a bit of a problem child. I hope that will change once I'm well.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good News and Bad News

Good news is that school is going fine so far. There have been minor problems with the book buying business, but once I get everything in from Amazon I should be all set. The bad news is I am coming down with something . I suspect it's another sinus infection; I have the same symptoms as last time. Sooooo . . . I will make my first trip to the health center on Monday to see about getting drugs. Er, medicine, I mean.

One interesting thing I'm learning about is the magic lantern, a device people used to make mini-light shows long before the first camera was invented. The article evokes images in my head of what people must have seen back medieval times. Anyone who wants to pontificate on this marvelous device is invited to do so in the comments. I'm feeling the stirrings of a new short story centered around this. We shall see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Okay - I didn't realize this blog was privatized already. It should be public now and will be for awhile. Sorry!

Paca's Story

Hope I did this justice. . . .

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day of School

I felt like a first-grader, the new kid, walking into school yesterday. I suppose we all did, except I was the OLDEST first-grader in my class. (Well, there is one guy who looks to me my age, and when I was talking to one of my classmates later, she said, "Wow. I thought you were my age." "How old are you?" I asked. "Twenty-five." Awwwwww.) I arrived at the building almost twenty minutes early, and decided to try to find a nearby store where I could buy a notebook. Notebooks are up to $9.49 at Walgreens in downtown Chicago. So I nixed that plan, as that would have taken a quarter of what I have left in my checking account. (Still haven't received my refund. *taps foot impatiently*) Wrote on a notebook I carry around with me for writing stories.

It was a loooong day. Nearly all my classes ran way over, leaving about a ten-minute break between each class, instead of the 40-minute and hour-long breaks that were scheduled. I'm not complaining; took me back to the undergraduate days when dinner was a granola bar and an apple juice. And it's only one day a week. One of my professors rescheduled one of our classes, so now I have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. Which is nice, as my commute is an hour.

The classes are very interesting, and I like my professors.

It used to be, I'm ashamed to say, I would find myself inwardly rolling my eyes at D whenever he would start pontificating on film history. Boy, did that change yesterday. Yesterday I found myself very glad D is a history buff/historian with a huge collection of DVDs. I'm looking forward to sharing what I've learned with him. Naturally, I'm also looking forward to using his DVD collection. It's possible I won't have to check out much from the library, depending on what our assignments will be. We'll see. Next week we'll start German Expressionism, and D has a whole box of DVDs about that. Not to mention, he has plenty of films by Alfred Hitchcock and Akiro Kurosawa, two of our choices of directors we'll be assigned to write about. I don't know whether he has anything by Luis Bunuel, Fritz Lang, or Francois Truffaut, though.

Not to be overly-confident, but it struck me yesterday that I'm walking into this with a lot of real-world experience, which I expect to apply to my studies. Even my experience in educational publishing should come in handy, with all the writing and editing I've done.

I finally feel as if I'm in my niche. Let's hope I'm not wrong.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I accidentally invited people to author on my blog. (Thanks for pointing that out, Kiersten!) If you wanna do that, you're more than welcome, but I've deleted all those invitations and sent out new invitations for readership. Sorry about the snafu. It's been one of those days.

I'm leaving the blog public until some time next week to get us through the podcasts this week.

Slumber Parties and Lost Friendships and How Sometimes That's Okay

I was always the first asleep. Always. Yet I don't remember anyone putting my bras in any freezers. Probably my hand was put in warm water a few times. (I forget what effect this was supposed to have). There was one morning when Sarah* decided it would be really cool to put toothpaste in Heather's* eyes, and Heather woke up crying and yelling because she was in so much pain. It happened at my house. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself for that one. My only defense is that when Sarah decided to do something, she would do it, no matter how stupid it was. There was never any stopping her. She was that friend who always manages to get you into trouble, even though the only reason she convinced you to go along was because she would NOT SHUT UP until you did. Often our infractions involved her feeling guilty later, and she would tell her parents what we did. Guess who always got punished?

Mercifully, Sarah went away just before eighth grade to live with her father for good. I would make the excuse for her that she was from a broken home, but I met her in second grade, and her family life was well-intact then. Yet even then she was up to no good. Our escapades started with tying our shoelaces together in third-grade recess and eventually graduated to smoking cigarettes sometime in middle school. Things quickly grew more dangerous and disturbing from there. I think if Sarah hadn't moved away, I might have ended up in juvie with her, futilely trying to talk her out of yet another lame-brained scheme. It pains me that, while I was smarter in a lot of ways than Sarah, she was much more popular than me, which is how I think she was able to bully me so much. Popularity is power in middle school, especially when it's a relatively small middle school. She was street-smart, too, a natural schemer. I wasn't. At all. Part of that was that I was rather bookish, but I think it was mostly due to having parents who weren't street smart, either. Whatever street smarts my father had developed as a kid who was basically on his own from the time he was eleven, he lost in his transformation into a man who rose at five a.m. every morning to read the paper before he went into his twelve-hour workday.

Sarah eventually grew up to be a stripper and a drug addict—things Heather's parents predicted for Sarah as early as the third grade. (Heather, having street-smart parents and more than a little smarts herself, figured out Sarah much more quickly than I did.) If memory serves, Sarah's done some time, too. I don't think I was glad she moved away then. Sarah may have been a bad friend, but she was still a friend, and back then I had very few friends. But still, I felt a certain relief after she was gone.

Now? I'm glad she moved. Otherwise I might be writing this from prison. I'm not saying I turned out so great. But still. When I think about Sarah, I know it could have been worse.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


"You are stunningly beautiful."

I look up from the newspaper I'm reading. "What?"

"I said, You're stunningly beautiful," and the man with the cane turns away and walks toward his bus stop.

"Thank you," I say. A minute later I feel like a jerk because I realize I've said "thank you" in a tone that implies I hear that sort of thing all the time. So I give him a reassuring smile as I walk by him.

I hope he didn't think I was rude.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I've taken up running. Well, "jogging" is a more appropriate term. For the last couple of weeks I've been just jogging around the neighborhood, but today for the first time I am going to this track on Clark Street that's just beyond Lawrence. I'm going to try to make it around the track one time. I think it's half a mile.

I used to hate running. I'm one of those people who get shin splints even walking at a brisk pace. But while I initially lost weight with the yoga, I've hit a plateau (translation: I'm still chubby) and I feel like I need something a little more strenuous. And so far, I kind of like it. Instead of planting myself like a barnacle in front of my computer (or worse, the TV) I find myself now wandering around the house wondering what to do with my excess energy. Then I lace up my shoes for a run. My plan is to alternate the running and yoga so that I do each every other day. We shall see if I keep this up. Tomorrow will be my first day of exercise at six in the morning. Probably will be the yoga.

This is why I want the blog private. If I fail at these things, only a few people will know. ; )

Then I'm coming home and reading or something.

ETA: Walked out of the house and was met by two bulldogs who thought I was dinner. Then I walked under a tree and something wet fell on my head. I hope it was water. I jogged a mile (twice around the track) and then realized I had to walk another mile home.

Maybe I'll just keep running around the neighborhood.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Things falling into place

It's been a long, scary year so far, but in the last week or so, some major things have rather unexpectedly fallen into place. Not everything, but enough that I can start school with a clear head and a lighter-than-usual heart. More than enough, in fact. I feel a whole new affection for this thing we call Life.

Had orientation at school today. Even with one hearing aid missing (it's being repaired), it didn't go too badly. Need one more measles shot before I can register for classes. Hope to take care of that Monday. I'm not terribly excited yet; still decompressing. I'm sure once I get registered—and even more important, get my money—that will change.

I'm moving my blog to 'private' one week from tomorrow (Sunday). Blog authors on my blog roll should already have access. Those of you who would like to be linked, please drop me a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lazy Bloggers' Post Generator

This is fun.

OMFG! I just had a cup of tea and realised I have not updated this since Hammertime was in the charts... You would not believe that my hands were chopped off and I was waiting for bionic ones. But I'm sorry you'll just have to take my word for it..

I am distracted with finding Jesus (after someone told me he was lost), selling my soul to Google, just generally being a terrible burden to anyone unfortunate to cross my path, my day drifts aimlessly from 8am to midnight. I am not complaining though. but this damned rock is heavy.

I make a solemn vow I will make more of an effort to blog more often until the nice men in the white coats come back. Well, I'll try. Until my paycheck dawneth..

Favorite Movie

What's your favorite movie? Any genre, any length . . . anything you like.

Mine used to be Tombstone for Val Kilmer's performance as Doc Holiday. (Or it could have been that at the time, that was the only movie I owned. But I loved it still.)

These days it's hard to choose. I suppose I'll have to go with Lord of the Rings. To narrow it down even further, I'm gonna have to go with the Fellowship. There's something about a new beginning that brings hope.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Harry Potter Quiz

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with
You scored as Sirius Black

You are a gifted wizard and very loyal to your allegiance. Whilst you have a big heart and care very much about those around you, you can be a little arrogant and reckless at times.

Sirius Black


Ron Weasley


Hermione Granger


Ginny Weasley


Remus Lupin


Draco Malfoy


Albus Dumbledore


Harry Potter


Severus Snape


Lord Voldemort


Thursday, August 7, 2008


Seem to be coming down with something. All headachy and nauseous. I hope it's not the flu or a cold.


This was Ella. D and I had to have her put to sleep in January, after we learned she was suffering from renal kidney failure and was too far into it for us to reverse it. I'm glad she went quickly, in a matter of days. Been thinking about her today.

Ella was a stray when I got her. Her leg had been mysteriously broken when she was found, and she had drunk something that poisoned her, and when she got to the vet, it was touch and go. But she pulled through. My then-boyfriend introduced me to her through the person that found her. As soon as I saw her, I knew I was in love. You can't see her face in this photo, but she had big green eyes. When she looked at me, she climbed down from the person who was holding her and came right to me. It was love ever since. Her leg had been amputated (the right rear one), but she still zipped around like a little motorcart.

Ella was the friendliest cat I've ever had, although she didn't like other animals much. (As a matter of fact, she made it clear she was Queen whenever another one was around, either by 1) chasing the other animal 2) bopping it on the nose 3) yowling at the other animal to get lost. Fast.) But she loved people. Did I say she loved people? She LOVED people. She was convinced strangers came to the apartment for the sole purpose of petting her. If you were a stranger on the sofa who Ignored Ella, she would pat your leg until you Stopped Ignoring Ella. It was some sort of mandate or rite of passage every stranger had to go through. I guess you could say she was a little nympho. She didn't care who you were or what you did, as long as you touched her. She loved to have the insides of her ears rubbed, especially. The only place she didn't like to be touched was where her leg used to be. Bad memories, I guess.

I had her for ten years, all that time thinking she was a domestic shorthair and wondering why in certain lighting her fur looked blue. D and I now think she may have been a Russian Blue.

She wasn't really into human food, but she did like the occasional piece of ham. It pains me a bit wondering that perhaps her last years were not her happiest, as she had to share the apartment with another cat. But at least the last few months were spent in relative peace in a bigger apartment. And there was a screened-in porch she could wander around in.

I was on Kyle Cassidy's livejournal blog and his posts about his cat Roswell got me to thinking about Ella. (Note this was 2006 in that pic. Roswell now looks like this.)

Although Ella was most definitely catlike, people often commented on her being humanlike because she had such a big personality. Big personality. Small cat. Queen of any room she entered.

Me? Just glad I found her.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Award Letter

Got my award letter today from school. All I can say is . . . damn. School is expensive.


Okay. So eating creamy chicken flavor Ramen noodles for breakfast does not fit in with this health thing I'm trying. But it was storming out this morning and any kind of bad or cold weather always put me in the mood for soup.

That's one thing I will miss about Chicago when I finally do move: soup. Not that soup isn't available in California. But snow? I'm guessing it's rare. And I'm thinking earthquakes aren't going to put me in the mood for soup like a winter day (or night) in Chicago, with the snow falling and the wind blowing outside, and I'm all cozy in the TV room with a good book or an old movie. And soup. It can be any kind, really, but the best is potato soup, or a creamy chicken and rice soup with celery, carrots, and onions. Gotta be homemade, though, something I've slaved over in the kitchen for an hour or two, chopping veggies and boneless chicken, using up every pot and pan we have and generally making a mess. Then the soup simmers in the pot. An hour later I've had four bowls of increasingly hotter and spicier soup, because of course I can't wait for the spices to settle. I gotta have it NOW. Because I gotta read my book or watch one of those old Italian films (preferably with Marcello Mastroianni), and with the wind whistling outside against the windows, I gotta have soup.

So you can see how throwing the contents of a can of Progresso in the microwave just isn't the same. (Yet creamy chicken Ramen noodles do nicely in a pinch - like this morning. Except I heat those on the stove, so it's like cooking. Sort of.)

I guess I'm jonesing for winter. I shouldn't be. Winter in Chicago lasts a minimum of nine months. That's why summers in Chicago are so fun. People are ready to shed the winter clothes and brave the heat in their shorts and pasty, blinding white skin. They want to listen to the street musicians downtown and go to all the street fairs. They want to hang out at the beach by Lake Michigan (yes, we have beaches). They want to go on boat rides. Soup is just not the thing in summer. Beer is the thing, preferably at a restaurant or bar that has a big patio, where you can sit and ruminate on . . . whatever. (I've yet to experience this. Seems my luck always brings me to the dark, inner caves of Irish bars in Chicago, even during summer. Oh wait - there was that one night on a rooftop garden, a going-away party for a friend who actually joined up D and me with the landlord for this apartment. But that is rare rare rare. And don't get me wrong: I love Irish bars in Chicago, especially during the winter. They are cozy, baby.)

D thinks I'm crazy for feeling this way about soup, as he attaches no importance or comfort to food. He doesn't even get cravings, the bastard.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ho hum

Nothing much new with me. How are y'all doing?

Monday, July 28, 2008


Okay, so all I've been able to think about this week is El Sistema. I was so moved by the program mentioned in my previous post it's all I've talked and thought about for a week.

I've contacted some people who have started programs in New York City and Birmingham, AL, which are based on the one in Venezuela. If there are budding efforts here in Chicago, I will offer to help in whatever capacity I can. If not . . . well, I suppose we could try starting something from scratch. And by "we," I mean me.

The woman I contacted in Birmingham donated her life savings to start her program. So they had more than 30K to start. I have nothing, financially speaking. But I do have contacts. Hopefully I'll have more once school starts.

I don't know how I intend to start a program based on El Sistema while I'm in graduate school. Not to mention, I have to move to L.A. for three months to complete my degree in 2010. Probably I will stay in L.A., as that is where the work will be in my field, mostly. I'm sort of hoping there are budding efforts already underway where I can simply donate my time. The thought of being in school, teaching to make ends meet, trying to compose for film, practicing, and starting an El Sistema program on top of all that makes me a little nauseous. It will be a lot more time-consuming if there's nothing underway already. Well, we shall see, I suppose.

Okay, yes, this is turning into Freddie's music blog. Sorry - probably some of you have lost interest. Ah well. I've not given up on writing completely. But the music thing is sort of taking off, in its own way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Unintentional Hiatus

Don't have much to blog about. Starting a new piece today (composition, not story). Really getting antsy for school to start.

Don't ever let any artist tell you that if they could stay home for months on end, they would produce a novel or a symphony or a series of paintings. I've learned two things about myself this summer: 1) I often avoid writing to avoid research. 2) I really produce a lot more when I'm busy.

Often my days fly by. Before I know it, it's 5 p.m. and I've gotten very little accomplished. Other days I accomplish a lot before noon. Going to have to set a schedule now. I may post it so you guys can help me stick with it.

On the other hand, I saw something wonderful last Sunday. Don't know if any of you caught last week's 60 Minutes (I've been a huge fan of that show since I was a kid, but that's another blog entry), but they had another airing about el Sistema, the orchestra program in Venezuela. Check it out if you haven't.

Now, if that violinist's smile isn't enough to make a composer want to compose a symphony for one of the orchestras of this program, I don't know what is. And I'm officially now a HUGE fan of Gustavo Dudamel, the highly celebrated conductor who came out of el Sistema, and who is taking over as Music Director for the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009. Now I can't effing wait to move to L.A.!

I hope someone with enough flair and stick-to-it-iveness starts something like this in the United States. We need it.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I've learned something important today. I often avoid writing not to avoid writing, but to avoid research. Grrrrrrr.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Into the Wild

Yesterday I popped one of D's many DVDs into the DVD player: Into the Wild, written and directed by Sean Penn.

The story is based John Krakauer's book of the same name. The book tells the story of Chris McCandless's journey through the United States to Alaska, where he planned to live in the wild for a few months before returning to civilization. Because it's a true story, I have no qualms about talking about the story here (or revealing 'spoilers') or my reaction to the film. (I haven't read the book yet.)

McCandless, after graduating from Emory University, finds the eternal American quest for more material things and career success repulsive. He gives the vast majority of his college fund to charity ($24,000), cuts up all his identification (except his Social Security card, which he burns), buys a few necessities, and sets off on foot across the U.S.

Along his travels he meets various people, all of whom he manages to touch deeply. Yet he has cut off his family by not letting them know his plans. They hear nothing from him directly, though the police in Arizona find his car. To his family he becomes a missing person, and their lives become shadows of what they once were. Yet at first it seems they have no real reason to worry. Chris does fine in his travels and meets wonderful, if quirky, people.

The film juxtaposes his travels and his time in Alaska, and we see an obviously generous young man who cannot forgive his parents for their mistakes. The people he meets along the way encourage him to contact his family, but he ignores this advice. They also try to convey a deeper truth: He won't find what he's looking for in Alaska, in the wild. In order to be truly happy, he has to be willing to share it.

Chris finally makes it to Alaska, where he crosses a stream and finds an abandoned bus with some necessities and niceties. (There's a wood-burning oven and a mattress, some silverware, and even a can opener.) He dubs it the Magic Bus and fills his days hunting for small game, talking to himself, writing, and reading the few classics he has brought with him.

Fall gives way to Winter, which in turn gives way to Spring. Now Chris decides he is ready to go home. But at the stream he finds the winter snow has melted, turning the stream into a rushing river. He is trapped.

His days become an increasingly futile attempt at survival. He fails to skin big game in time to prevent flies and maggots. He accidentally eats poisonous plants (that look similar to their non-poisonous brethen), which he initially survives, but the experience weakens him a great deal and hastens his starvation because, even if he could find game, the plants inhibit digestion. As you watch, you realize he hasn't considered the utter indifference of Nature to us humans. He romanticized the wild. Yet you feel for the boy because he now realizes what people were telling him was right: alone in the wilderness, he is no good to anyone. You watch in horror as an already small man becomes tinier. Soon, even if there were game, he is too weak to hunt it. When he realizes he is going to die, he makes a sign that identifies him and says goodbye.

I'm not sure how I feel about this film, other than it stayed with me. I didn't expect Chris to die. I thought, like a typical American, that he would find a way out. But he didn't. The film did touch off a minor essay in my head regarding technology vs. nature. I think many people who claim to 'love' nature don't—they admire nature. We all claim to love being out in it, and we do for very short periods of time, but eventually we want our technological comforts. People like Chris really do love nature, and had he been a bit older he might have been more aware of nature's indifference humans, and therefore a little more prepared. It took an older man whom he befriended for him to have a machete, a knife, and a fishing rod. I think Chris's mistake—and you see it throughout the film—is that a larger part of him than he would like to admit accepts both technology and humans. It takes total isolation for him to see that. Yet, if he had never gone, he may never have been able to work out his demons.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Podcast Number One

This was fun. I feel like I need to listen to more audiobooks, though, to get the hang of this. You might want to keep your volume down, as I clip on a couple of the p's.

The Beginnings of An Old Story

"You must be freezing," the old woman said—who, incidentally, smelled as if she bathed daily in urine and feces. "Come warm yourself by the fire." She pointed to the group of people huddled around the trashcan. The cars overhead rumbled by steadily, their occupants oblivious to the people below.

Sammy gathered her pillowcase more tightly in her hand. The pillowcase held the only possessions she had left. After a moment of consideration (and only a moment—it didn't take much persuading in this weather, no matter how the person making the offer smelled) she said, "Okay."

"There's food, too. Soup. We got it from you-know-where." Sammy knew the woman just couldn't remember the name of the shelter from which the food came, but in the dark, the woman's statement sounded secretive. Sammy swallowed a lot of things in that moment: her pride, her sense of dignity, and the growing sense of dread she felt throbbing in the middle of her throat—the sense that she'd run out of chances, that she was becoming invisible, like the group standing under the bridge. But she was hungry and cold. She'd take the offer. 

They walked toward the overpass, making their way slowly because of the woman's bad back and knees. Sammy held her elbow, trying not to breathe too deeply. She imagined the stench would be worse when they got to the fire, and she told herself to get over it. It was, and she did. 

When they got to the overpass, a man who was sitting on an up-ended crate offered her his seat. Sammy thought back to all the times she'd been on the train, surrounded by bankers, lawyers, salesmen, and students—supposedly respectable people—and only one time had anyone offered her a seat, a small, Spanish-speaking woman who undoubtedly made no more than ten thousand a year, judging by her clothes. 

At first, she tried to wave the man off, but he took her by the elbow and sat her down. Then he went about getting her some soup and some bread. The old woman took a seat on the ground beside her. 

"Oh, you should take the crate," Sammy said, starting to get up.

"No, dear, I'm fine," the old woman said cheerfully. "Doctor tells me sitting on the ground is better for my health." She cackled heartily as she said this, as if she was a comedienne trying out a new joke on the house before she took the stage. "Once I get some soup in me, I'll be as good as new."

"I don't think I ever got your name," Sammy said.

"I never told you," the woman said. She shrugged at Sammy's expression of surprise. "Anyway," she said, as if she'd gotten off-subject. "I have a lot of names. You will, too, if you stay one of us."

"One of you?" Sammy said. She tried to keep her expression neutral. It wouldn't do to insult the only people who'd offered her warmth, food, and a place to sit in the past two weeks.

"Yes, Samantha Charmaigne, one of us," the woman said, rolling her eyes. Sammy couldn't be sure, but it looked to her as if the woman's irises rolled all the way back to the opposite side of her eyeballs. For a split second the woman looked as though she was blind, or an alien. Sammy couldn't help but think of Reagan from The Exorcist. She decided to put it out of her mind. Then she realized she'd never told the woman her last name. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Nerdy Happiness

The best part about going back to school is having access to a university library. *inner nerd grins widely*

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Okay, so how the hell is it my blog is rated "R?" Hello? Besides, the correct word is "curse."

My Blog Readability Level

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

I don't mind being rated "R," but I really must start using bigger words.

My Blog Rating

This Page is Rated


Lets101 Quizzes - Fun Quizzes

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book List for Writers Part 2

This was originally a response to Fairyhedgehog, who asked whether I would recommend any books from the book list in my last post. My response was so long, I decided just to make another post out of it.

I've only read a few books on that list. I suppose they would work for any writer, fantasy or not. They're just meant to show some of the weird things people have believed over the years. I think they would work well for science fiction writers, too. Definitely. Here's what I've read so far:

Mad Travelers: sounds interesting at first glance, and the subject matter is fascinating. It's a book of true cases of people who go into trances and travel, mostly by walking. Some people wind up traveling thousands of miles. When they "wake" they have no idea where they are or how they got there. The debate seems to be whether the patients had multiple personalities or some other mental illness. Overall, while the subject matter was intriguing, it was a somewhat dull read. But I may go back and give it another shot. I have trouble reading certain texts on the train, and that's where I read it.

The Serpent and the Rainbow was a pretty good and engaging read. It's about Haiti and voodoo and its practices and the zombie cult. This one was turned into a horror movie, which I've yet to watch. I'd recommend this one. It's less sensational than the film (I would think), as it goes into historical and anthropological reasons for the belief in zombies. Kind of spooky, but nothing over the top.

The Song Lines is about Bruce Chatwin's travels across Australia. It's also a loose history regarding the Aboriginal belief that the world began with a song. I liked reading this one a lot, because I've come across this idea in literature (most notably in The Chronicles of Narnia). It's a little disjointed, as some of it reads like a journal, but still enjoyable.

I'm going back to reread 1491, a book about Native Americans and their relationship with nature, as I abandoned the book in the middle of it. This says nothing about its quality; it's quite a good read, and I'd recommend it based on what I've read so far. The writer gives a fair and balanced account (so far) of Native Americans and how the universal belief that they never tried to control or change nature or their environment is not accurate about them at all. Eventually I'll get around to reading The Night Battles, an alternative account of witchcraft and its practices in medieval Europe. But that one will have to wait, I think.

In other news, I went down to the Taste of Chicago for its last day. D had some tickets left over from when he went yesterday, and he didn't want to go again, so he gave them to me so they wouldn't go to waste. I tried a BBQ buffalo burger for the first time, sweet potato hash browns, taro french fries (asian french fries: dense mashed potatoes with a sweet breading and sweet and sour sauce), and cheesecake. Managed to spend all the tickets without having to buy more. But i felt a little nauseous on the way home. Still, it was nice to get out of the house for something other than lessons. On the other hand, I was bummed to have missed Bonnie Raitt's free concert.

EDIT: Be sure to scroll down into the comments after clicking the above link for more book suggestions.

Book List for Writers

A while ago I came across a reading list for fantasy writers on John Crowley's blog. I've since read a few of these books: Mad Travelers, The Song Lines, and The Serpent and the Rainbow. I've started 1491 and The Night Battles, but my roommate's cat peed on TNB, so I am waiting a while to pick that one up again. At some point it will not smell, and I can just pretend I spilled tea all over it or something. I don't really want to have to order another copy of it if I don't have to, but I may anyway. His target being the bathroom rug, he only caught the corner of it. Sigh. I've gotten much better about picking up my things after a bath, I can tell you that. Now I rest the rug on the edge of the tub. I still have yet to train my roommate (hereafter referred to as "D") to leave the lid (not just the seat) of his toilet down, as his cat likes to drink the toilet water—something that drives D crazy.

1491 was a little too dense for my overtaxed brain while I was reading it, so I will read it again. Hopefully I'll be able to absorb more from it, as it is an engaging and well-written book. I'm looking forward to ordering more of these books from the list once school starts. (It seems whenever I have money, I have no time to enjoy it, but whenever I have time, I never have money to spend on leisurely pursuits. Sigh.)

Just finished The Road last night. It's still with me.

My newest read is The Art of War. I've always been a terrible strategist as far as life is concerned, and I think it might get me thinking outside my "take things as they come" box. I'd like to temper my decisions with a little more intelligence and foresight. Of course, there's always the "take things as they come" element, because there's always stuff you can't control. Yet I figure it can't be the worst book I ever read if I want to learn to strategize. I'm such a terrible strategist it's amazing that I win at poker as much as I do.

In other news, my little teaching studio is growing. 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Brief Thoughts on Fantasy Writers

I set a schedule for myself to start at 6:30 a.m., but of course I've been online all morning checking out the blogs. Really gotta stop this habit. I'm two hours behind.

I've been thinking a bit, in brief interludes between practicing and composing and teaching (I have some time on my hands right now), about fantasy writers who really know their history. You can feel it as you read. Gene Wolfe is a good example of this in his Book of the New Sun (at least the first half; I haven't gotten around to reading the second half yet). But the MC, Severian, is an apprentice in the Torturers' Guild. The detail with which he infuses this guild and the world surrounding it is rather astounding. Many fantasy writers tend to gloss over the small details in the hopes the reader won't notice. The result being of course that you can't imagine the world the writer tried to build. Somehow the supernatural elements become the only thing holding the story together. But with Wolfe, the supernatural takes a backseat to Severian's story. You accept the supernatural along with everything else. He's one of those writers who can make you believe in the supernatural. (He's also one of those writers who makes me want to impale myself on my pen.)

But in reading the first half of this series, I almost felt as if I was reading a slice of history—one that was so real that so-called accurate history, with its absence of witchcraft and the supernatural, is some bastardized account of what really happened back in the good ol' days. And you can tell Wolfe has read a lot. It's just something that wafts off the pages.

Neil Gaiman and Rowling are another two I can tell really know their history, mythic and otherwise. I'm looking forward to reading John Crowley's Aegypt series, too.

But now that I'm going back to school, I'm fighting guilt when I read. It feels too luxurious to read fiction. I have some blogs I use for my teaching, and I don't post to those nearly enough, so I'm trying to refresh myself on music history and so forth (interesting reads in themselves). Just trying to use this time to prepare as much as I can.

One thing I notice when I read music history now is that I absorb a lot more regarding time and place and the political/historical situations surrounding the development of music. I think this is because of my interlude into reading so much in the last four years.

So what about you? Do you notice that your favorite writers are sort of unpaid historians as well? (Not that a few of these writers don't make up for that in their royalty checks . . . )

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How We Treat the Powerless

This video reminds me of a couple of incidents I've had working in the restaurant industry, although it might not seem that way at first glance. (I cribbed this from Janet Reid's blog; my original comment was so long I decided to turn it into a post.)

What I mean is: Even if this is an isolated incident (which I don't think it is), it makes me ashamed to look at it.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked in a restaurant that was next to a state-run mental hospital. Every day a few patients would come in for pie and coffee. I'm afraid the staff had a lot of fun at the expense of these people (myself included, on occasion, I'm ashamed to say). That changed the day I sat down after a shift and talked with a patient who was having a cup of coffee.

I don't remember the gentleman's name. He was a jazz musician in the sixties; a good player who had plenty of work. Until he got sick with schizophrenia. Then he had many electroshock treatments (that was the preferred method at the time), and after wasn't "too good with numbers." His hands shook like he had Parkinson's. He seemed like a gentle soul. After that conversation, I never made fun of a mentally ill person again. When another patient came in alone and ordered a beer for himself and his "friend." I gave him a beer and two mugs, and he split the beer by pouring half of it into the other mug and setting the mug on the opposite side of the table. As the evening wore on, the "friend" turned into his wife. I found out later her death was the trigger for his illness; he was so overcome with grief he just started pretending she was there, and after a while that became real to him.

Although I'm afraid I still didn't handle things well. When he asked for a fourth (or fifth?) beer, the manager told me not to give him any more. Not wanting to upset him by telling him we were cutting him off, I simply told him we were out of beer. All of it. He peacefully left, but I'm afraid he looked rather confused.

Not to bring a national debate into this, but I'm all for national health care if people like this get better care or are prevented from falling through the cracks all together.

The other day I was waiting for a bus, and when it came, a guy in a wheelchair actually had to demand that people let him board first so he could find a space for his wheelchair. I saw a lot of people rolling their eyes, like the guy was demanding so much. But I thought the fact that he had to not just ask—but demand—said a lot. And what it said wasn't good.*

*Don't get me wrong. I'm no saint. I've shoved my way in on days when I'm in a hurry and not paying attention, even when people were trying to get off the train. But I do make an effort, especially these days, to have some manners.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

Okay, just saw this film. Decided Ben Affleck has a very good future as a director, should he continue to direct.

I love it when a celebrity surprises people by being smart. I didn't know much about Ben Affleck before this film, other than he was engaged to J-Lo and suffered overexposure as a result, and won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting. And it's not like I know much about him now, other than: he's a good director. I mean, really good. I suspect he's a hell of a lot smarter than he's given credit for in the media.

But I digress.

Two Boston PIs, a couple, investigate the abduction of an adorable four-year-old girl. The girl's aunt and uncle ask for their help three days into her being missing, as the police are getting nowhere. What the PIs bring to the table—especially Casey Affleck's character—is first-hand knowledge of the criminals and drug dealers who operate in Boston. These are people he grew up with. So he's able to find information the police miss, although he's misled in a number of ways.

The film explores the theme of nature vs. nurture, along with underlying subtexts of the problems that make this even a debate. Even if this kid is found alive, would she really be better off if she came back to her mother? After all, her mother exists in a heroin-snorting-induced haze, where she floats from one high to the next, fulfilling only the most basic of her child's needs. Her saving grace is that she doesn't beat the kid. Yet she isn't wholly unsympathetic, as she clearly loves her daughter. But how much of that is for the cameras? You wonder after seeing the ending.

Everyone in this film is good. Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Monaghan (who was in the excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Amy Ryan puts in a stellar performance as the girl's mother.

See. This. Film.*

*You should know that this film is based on the novel by Dennis Lahane.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Book Meme

Cribbed from fairyhedgehog's blog:

bold = A book I've read
bold + underlined = A book I've read and love
green = Started but haven't finished yet
blue = Saw the movie
italicized = Intend to read

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (Left this one in a doctor's office. Will finish when I find a cheap copy.)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis 
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt 
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (I'm surprised this one is one here. I found it sappy.)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (I'm not sure this should be on a great books list, but I did find it hilarious.)
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (I try to make it a point to reread this every Christmas.)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (Some of these books, such as this one, I've never heard of. But I intend to read them just because I like their titles.)
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Looks like I've read 30 titles from this list.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The American Dream

When I say the American Dream, I don't mean the one about owning a house in the suburb, with 2.5 children and a minivan.

What I mean is that distinctly American belief that things work themselves out.

Perhaps this unabashed optimism isn't unique to the United States. I couldn't say, as I have never been outside the U.S. But I do notice that even the most cynical Americans I know, when faced with an impossible problem, shrug on occasion and say, "It'll all work out."

I found myself believing the exact same thing in spite of there being no evidence I would be able to pay the rent. In spite of rejection, in spite of everything that's gone wrong this month, I still believed things would work out. Why? I'm not a Believer. In the last few years, I've generally become an atheist.

I once saw, on the Sopranos a scene where the MC and a Russian woman had sex. (The scene was the afterglow.) The Russian woman had one leg. The MC (Tony Soprano) was impressed with this woman's ability to figure out how to build her own website. "You lose a leg, you start makin' websites," he said, in typical American fashion, as if making websites somehow served as an inspiration to him. Her reply was interesting. "Is that what you think? You think people like me exist to inspire people like you? You Americans always expect something good to happen. The rest of the world expects something bad to happen, and they're not wrong."

That struck me as a timeless truth.

And yet, it did work out, as it always seems to. I've got rent, bills, and a good start on next month's rent.

What do you think? Do you think Americans could do with some healthy cynicism?

EDIT: Whenever things go really wrong, I start to hum that awful tune from American Splendor. "Where is my American Splendor, in a world that's cloudy and grey . . . " People hardly ever get the joke, but I guess you have to see the movie to get it. Then again, I must admit I have a very strange sense of humor. Not as strange as Arlyle's, but strange.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'd like to link the people I know from EE's blog. Please comment if you'd like me to link you!

The Book Cellar

Saturday, before a lesson, I got to spend a little time at The Book Cellar, one of the coolest bookshops I've been to in a while. I knew it was cool before I visited (hence the link), but just not how cool. It's not huge, and the science fiction/fantasy section is tiny, but they had a rack of Penguin Classic books to itself, and for some reason that impressed me. I'd like to go back and see that place again. Their music section was crap, but I've noticed that most mainstream bookstores now have tiny music sections or no music sections at all. I can remember when I used to be able to buy music scores at Borders. I don't think I can do that now.

In other news, I filled out my Free Application for Federal Student Aid last night, so I'm all set for school. Now on to finding as many grants and scholarships as I can.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yoga Books

I've been been an off-and-on yoga practitioner since my twenties. I started off with simple routines that were not all that strenuous. I suppose you could say they were designed more for stretching and relaxation rather than building muscle strength. Certainly I'm no expert, but here are some yoga books I like, for those of you who may have an interest in trying it:

Yoga Self-Taught — Andre Van Lysbeth

Richard Hittleman's 28 Day Exercise Plan — Richard Hittleman

Journey Into Power — Baron Baptiste

40 Days to Personal Revolution — Baron Baptiste

Probably the most accessible one of this bunch is Richard Hittleman's book. There's not a lot of text compared to the others. Generally he just has one page explaining the basis of that day's routine, and the rest of the pages for that day show photos of the poses and detailed explanations on how to perform them. Good for anyone looking for a relaxing, not-terribly-time-consuming routine.

The other accessible one is the Yoga Self-Taught. This one does take quite a bit more reading, and espouses a couple of odd diet things, but the poses in here are classic poses—the very basics you need to practice yoga.

Baptiste is somewhat controversial in yoga, from what I understand, but I really like his routines. His books could stand another once-over in the proofreading department, but if you don't like learning from a book, you can always pick up one of his DVDs. (I'm not sure yet what I think about the "personal revolution" part of the 40 Days book, or if I believe you can "Journey into Power" But the routines in both are good.) Although you should be warned that the style of yoga he teaches, vinyasa yoga (aka "power" yoga) is intense and the routines are long. Still, his routines get results. I've been using 40 Days for the last two months (taking twice as long to move on with the routines than recommended in the book), and so far, so good. My arms are more toned, my stomach is smaller, and in general I'm stronger than I was.

There are tons of other books, DVDs, and so forth from which to choose, of course, but I thought I'd throw these up there.