Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Karma

Send some good karma my way, people. I've had no luck finding a summer job. Once again I'm eking by on my teaching, which is to say . . . I'm not even eking.

Ommmmmmmmmmm . . . . 

Quantum of Solace

It seems I can never see these things in the theater, but I'm glad to have watched Quantum of Solace at all. This one wasn't long enough. It could have gone on another hour and I would have been perfectly happy, though there were a few moments that felt ham fisted.

There are two bond women in this film. The main one, Camille, forms a bond with er, Bond, through their mutual vendettas. Her family was killed, and she's spent her life planning to make the man who killed them pay. Bond is still haunted by Vesper, though he affects not to care. Yet he avenges her death, in a way, by the end. Or at least makes some sort of peace with it. The second Bond woman, Strawberry Fields, exists chiefly to relieve Bond's sexual tension. This leads to one of the few amusing scenes in the film (the others are with Mathis). Through the rest of it, Bond is one efficient killing machine. There's an action scene about every five minutes in this. (Yesssss!)

The film also makes some reasoned, cynical social commentary. We're running out of oil, and instead of addressing that with real efforts at making sustainable fuel, we do the usual and fake it. The man personifying this is Dominic Greene. He's, in his way, worse than LeChiffre. 

I'm not sure I liked the score, but I will need to watch this a second time to pay more attention to it. I think action scenes, generally, need a lot of syncopation (chords and notes that are accented between beats) in order to be exciting. It sounded to me like many of the action scenes were played right on the beat, which made them less exciting to listen to (and predictable) and detracted from what was on screen. 

All in all, good, rousing fun. But smart. Very smart.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dreams With Sharp Teeth

I saw Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary about Harlan Ellison, two days ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I must warn you, if you haven't seen it, that Harlan Ellison is one foul-mouthed, cranky old man. If that's not your thing, don't watch. For me, I think I'm in love. 

First of all, I've heard of Harlan Ellison, but haven't yet read any of his work. He recited some of it in the film, and now I have to go out and spend my rent money on all of his writings. Plus—and I know Robin is going to identify with this straight off—I had NO IDEA how handsome this guy was in his youth. (Yeah, he brags about bedding more than 700 women . . . and unlike Charles Mingus's bragging, I sorta believe it, given how good-looking he was). He's aged pretty well, too. (This is not a new crush, however. If I were twenty years older, or he were twenty years younger, then yeah. But . . . out of my age bracket. But as a young man? Oh yeah.)

I can see how his personality might grate on people's nerves or even scare people. But the truth is, I'm attracted to people like him, like the proverbial moth to a flame. People larger than life. People who can't lie, no matter how much the truth hurts. Something Neil Gaiman said in the film fit, now that Mr. Ellison is older: One one hand, you're dealing with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. (I'll make that judgement for myself once I've read some of his stuff, but given what I've heard so far, I believe it.) And yet, you're dealing with an impish, furious 11-year old boy. I could see some of that in Ellison's personality, but the truth is, I rather like it. I like people who say what they want, when they want. Because with people like that, you always know where you stand. Someone like that can be taken at face value; what you see is what you get. Although you have to know who you are when you're dealing with someone like that. You really do.

After watching the documentary, I became obsessed and had to watch every Harlan Ellison interview I could find online. The obsession is waning now, as it always does, but I can't wait to read his work. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a writer I've never read. Except for maybe Stuart Neville and his The Ghosts of Belfast. I'm still pretty excited about reading that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Rather Sad Cat Story

Chris Eldin's raccoon story reminds me of a story of a cat I once found. I had been on the rare double date, and we had all gone to see Pet Semetary. Now, I don't know if you've ever seen that movie, but there's a scene where the dad pulls a cat up off the pavement after it's been run over.

So after the movie I dropped everyone off at my friend's house and started to drive home. On the way out of my friend's neighborhood, I saw what looked like a white sheet blowing in the wind. Only it wasn't windy. And a few seconds later I realized it was a cat. 

I got out of the car. The poor thing had already been run over and it was trying to scramble out of my way, but it was stuck to the pavement. 

In retrospect, the most humane thing I could have done was get back in my car and run over it and put it out of its misery. But I panicked. I pulled the thing off the pavement as gently as I could, and although it didn't cry much, I know now that I really hurt it. I drove back to my friend's house in hysterics, crying and yelling on about how "it was just like in the movie." Finally my date figured out what had happened, and he graciously carried the cat on his lap (wrapped in my scarf) while I drove to my parents' house (I didn't have a number for an emergency vet or anything). The cat died on the way there. 

When we got to my folks, I woke up my dad. Mr. Omaha Nebraska, I-want-a-protected-wildlife-scene-in-my-backyard-when-we-finally-move-to-the-country. "You brought home a dead cat?" he asked incredulously, managing to make out only half of what I was saying. I was still pretty hysterical. My mom got home a few minutes later. Mom was raised on a farm and has never liked animals, cats especially. But she did the sweetest thing. She put her fingers on the cat's neck and said, "Yeah, I think she's gone." Then she got up early with me the next morning (I stayed up all night, crying) and helped me bury the cat in our backyard. She even said a little prayer for it.

This was a rather sad cat story. But you can't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I was going to post two of my orchestrations here, but I forgot the sampling rate at which they were recorded doesn't transfer well over the Internet. Wellll, I'll figure something out. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Book Book

I've been meaning to post about this, but I sort of forgot with all the flurry of school.

A month or two ago the esteemed Moonrat invited me to review books on the blog The Book Book. So far I've done two reviews, one for Lush Life, and the other for Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Peruse the site, check out books you think you might like, and feel free to take part by commenting. Lovely site, it is.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eerie Text Messages From Beyond!

A few weeks ago, I took one of those silly IQ tests on Facebook. First, I had to give my cell phone number, which you may think is stupid. 

But consider this: Since then, I've been getting these seemingly random, eerie text messages that say things like, "Your word of the day is nocuuous. It means harmful, noxious. 4 help 1800 blah-blah-blah." I've received a total of three of these now, and they all are either definitions of awful words, or random info about how children are no longer learning the Latin language, thereby implying Armageddon is soon at hand.

There's a short story in here somewhere, I just know it. I shall save these and post as they come in. 

Nonfiction List

Somehow my 200th post (and 100th, for that matter) came and went without a celebration. Raise your glass to my 208th post, will ya? : )

When I wrote my Project Fill In the Gaps list, I said that I would make a nonfiction list. Many of these will be rather obscure music books, but there may be a few here of interest to the reader. At any rate, here it is:

1. A Distant Mirror - Barbara W. Tuchman
2. Ancient Egyptian Medicine - Cyril P. Byran
3. A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
4. 1491 - Charles C. Mann
5. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman - Dr. Richard Feynman
6. What Do You Care What Other People Think? - Dr. Richard Feynman
7. History of Western Music - Palisca and Grout
8. Film Music: A Neglected Art - Roy M. Prendergrast 
9. A Heart At Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann - Stephen C. Smith 
10. Film Music (Screencraft Series) - Mark Russell and James Young
11. Life in a Medieval City - Joseph and Frances Gies 
12. Music Notation - Gardner Read
13. Balkan Ghosts - Robert D. Kaplan
14. The Acoustical Foundations of Music - John Backus 
15. Beethoven's Letters - Ludwig Van Beethoven
16. Art of War - Sun Tzu
17. The Grammar of Conducting - Max Rudolph
18. Music Notation - Gardner Read
19. Elizabeth the Great - Elizabeth Jenkins
20. Buying the Wind - Richard M. Dorson
21. Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
22. Black Elk Speaks - John G. Neihardt
23. The Night Battles - Carlo Ginzburg
24. Sons of Sinbad - Allan Villiers
25. Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder - Daniel Pick
26. Castle - David Macaulay
27. Cathedral - David Macaulay
28. Negara - Clifford Geertz
30. Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan - Junichi Saga
31. The Autumn of the Middle Ages - Johan Huizinga 
32. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things - George Lakoff
33. The End of Faith - Sam Harris
34. Paul Bowles on Music - Paul Bowles
35. The Federalist Papers - Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
36. The Declaration of Independence - Various
37. The Constitution of the United States - Various
38. Death Valley in '49 - William L. Manly
39. Verdi: His Music, Life, and Times - George Martin
40. Johann Sebastian Bach - Russell H. Miles
41. The Brother - Sam Roberts
42. The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species - L. David Mech
43. Logic 8 and Logic Express 8 - David Nahmani
44. A History of Western Music - Palisca & Grout

More to come, I'm sure. Recommendations welcome!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Everything's turned in. Passed Global Folk Traditions. Came home today and wandered between the porch, the kitchen, and the TV room. Still wandering and not thinking. Will report back. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things I've Learned This Year

I'm a . . . l . . . m . . . o . . . s . . . t . . .


Two mixes to turn in tomorrow to my lab instructor and two vids to turn into my orchestration prof, and I'm done with school. But but BUT. I have a wedding to prepare for, and boy do I need to practice. Plus, I get to figure out how to pay my rent for the summer (including June. Ech - two weeks!)

If you know anyone in the Chicago area who needs a pianist for a wedding, hit me up. I'm available. (This is going on Craigslist, yes, yessssss.)

This has been an amazing year so far. I know - "amazing" is so overused. But it's true. 

Things I've learned:

1. You're not going to make friends with everyone. Naturally, you don't want to go around making enemies, either. But just know that it's pretty rare to make friends in film composing, even though you're meeting a lot of people. Which leads me to . . . 

2. No one else has time for your personal shit. Deal with issues in your personal life and deal with them in your art, if it's appropriate. But not in your professional life. Leave all that at home. This means no sniping, no getting angry, no defensiveness. Even if someone is condescending to you. Try not to take it personally and always try to be better. 

3. Fake confidence even if you don't feel it. I used to believe that if you were honest about not feeling confident, it would dissipate. This was a fine belief for the tortured artist venue, where that feeling is cherished and protected and even worn as a badge, but there's no place for it in film composing. Besides, being honest doesn't help. It makes the lack of confidence only feed on itself, and if a manipulative person picks up on it, you're toast. Naturally, you want to try to cultivate some actual confidence somewhere along the way!

4. Have a personal life. This is imperative, I think. If you want to get married and have kids, do it. If you want to have a lot of friends, have them. Create a rich personal life for yourself, because if you give it up to be a slave to the art and the work, no one in Hollywood is going to care that you sacrificed that. Recipe for bitterness. 

5. Know the technology. Know everything you can about the equipment and software you use, especially if you're a female working in this profession. You can't give people a reason to question you. Not to mention, you're going to be working at a scary-fast pace. A director will ask for changes at 8 p.m. and you'll compose until 1 a.m. and the orchestrator will pick up the cues then and orchestrate them and send the scores off to the copyist at 6 a.m., and the copyist will have them on the sound stage by 8:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. recording. You can't afford to . . . ah, miss a beat. 

6. Know you'll sacrifice sleep. A lot of it. All-nighters are routine. 

7. Demand perfection from yourself. Do the compositions you want, not what you think someone else wants. Better yet, learn how to put what someone else wants into what you want. 

8. Be a loving, open person. "How can I help you?" It's not just a line for retailers. The directors you work with are your clients. Make them happy and keep them happy. Your job is the only job in the process of making a movie that they have about 0% control over. You're like a Klingon to them: scary smart with a language they do not understand. Besides, the more loving and open you are, the better people you will attract. This doesn't mean you have to be a doormat. But don't ever be above helping the person beside you, in front of you, behind you, wherever.

I learned a bunch of other stuff, too, but I gotta get back to work. Hope you enjoy the post. 

EDIT: I love how didactic I was in this. You should see my beard and robe and the staff I carry around now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost There!

Just a few things left on my plate.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reality Hits Me. Hard.

Okay, NOW I'm nervous. Staring at my computer screen in a caffeine-induced stupor, hoping all this responsibility will just go away.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Final Push

So this week is going to be BUSY. Have the final composition project due, which smashes together music and music theory from about seven wildly different cultures, two orchestrations, which need a lot of work, a final paper, music for a student film (started, but A LOT OF WORK TO DO), and music for a wedding. And I have to clean this sty of an apartment for the woman who's coming in to hear the wedding music. Which isn't really ready. Sigh.

Oh, yeah, and preparation for a possible job. 

All the deadlines are this week and next. 

Strangely, I'm not nervous. So I'm nervous about not being nervous.