Sunday, March 30, 2008

Exposed organs

I am not an organist, although Mighty Amazing Rock-climbing Trombone Organ Lawyer Lady once gave me a crash course in organomics. I can usually fake it by pretending the organ is a piano and flipping on the bass coupler (which is a cheap fix, I know, but what's a girl to do?), but the organ in my current chapel has no bass coupler.

Thus today I attempted to play one of the hymns with the use of the pedals. Of course I made mistakes, but overall it wasn't too bad, as I only used three notes. It did raise some questions for me, however:

1. Are you still supposed to play the bass in the left hand on the manual at the same time you're using the pedals?

2. Do you play every note in the bass, or do you ignore passing tones and neighboring tones and the like?

3. Has anyone invented a way to see your feet without looking down? Like a little video camera or something--that might help...

A quote about the organ stops by Mighty Amazing Rock-climbing Trombone Organ Lawyer Lady (no offense to my bassoon-playing friends): "It's called 'fagotto' for a reason."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words

Although I' m pretty sure I could write more than 1,000 words about this one that I took last week while in San Diego:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The only bad thing about visiting Utah

The only bad thing about visiting Utah is that I remember how much more I love Utah than California. And yes, I really did just admit that I love Utah more than California.

I'm not sure, however, whether I love the mountains better than the ocean or not, because each time I see one I think it is better than the other, when really I just love them both very much. The same goes for the clouds and sunsets--in California I see the sunsets and think, "Wow, that is spectacular! You don't see that in Utah." But then I get to Utah and see the sunsets and think, "Oh my goodness, that is way better than any I saw in California." I have also said the same thing about sunsets in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Europe. I suppose I should conclude that I simply enjoy nature, and leave it at that.

But I still like Utah better.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mormon Alcohol

In typical American culture, alcohol plays a pivotal role in social functions such as parties, get-togethers, and developing new relationships. "Going out for a drink" is a nice way to meet someone but not have to commit to a full meal if that person turns out to be a dud. Alcohol is also an escape method, a way for people to "unwind" and temporarily forget about their woes.

But alcohol is against the Word of Wisdom. What, then, are we Mormons to do? Substitute ice cream, of course! And we do: we go out for ice cream when we meet someone new, we bring ice cream to every ward party and social event, and we indulge when we are trying to escape. We talk about good ice cream like it is a rare vintage, and we discuss the unusual cocktails of sundaes we like to concoct when frequenting ice cream shops.


I remember a day in college when my stress level had reached its peak, so when I got home I grabbed the half-gallon of orange-chocolate-chip sherbet and a spoon and plopped myself in front of the tv. The tv was off, of course--I haven't really watched tv since junior high--but I was about a third of the way down the carton when my roommate finally got home, and entered to find me in my drunken ice cream stupor in front of the blank tv.

"Bad day?" she surmised. I think the ice cream gave it away.

So there it is, the great secret revealed: ice cream is Mormon alcohol. If you want to get drunk, go pick up some Häagen-Dazs. Same purpose, different means.

Just remember you heard it here first (and if you didn't, it was still my idea first--you just didn't hear it from the right person).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Frosty beach

No matter how many times I find myself at the beach, during each visit the last stanza of Frost's poem "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep" inevitably sneaks into my brain:

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

And now that I've spoiled the ending for you, you may read the rest of the poem here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Things you can do on a train ride to San Diego

1. Read.

2. Sleep.

3. Write.

4. Eat.

5. Call people to remind them that they are at work and you are not.

6. Stare out the window at the ocean and prepare yourself mentally to spend a lot of quality time with a 3-year-old.

7. Variations on the above.

Things you shouldn't do:

1. Put a vase of daffodils in your backpack.  Or, if you do (because they do look very pretty), don't bend over when you pick up your bag, because then the vase will spill down your back and into your backpack and make everything (including Beethoven) wet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thoughts on Dracula

Sometime in the last month, I finished reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. In short, the beginning was better than the end, and the end was better than the middle.

I really was quite intrigued at the beginning. Wow, he's in Transylvania! Dracula might be a vampire! Jonathan Harker climbed a wall!

Then Stoker introduced more characters, and it started to go downhill. Why? Because they are all the same character, though with slightly different occupations and histories. Dr. Seward, Quincey Morris, and Lord Godalming are all courageous Christian men, ready to sacrifice their own time/money/blood/life for the sake of the better good. They are all three in love with the same woman, and are also so gentlemanly as to have deep and stirring emotions.

Jonathan and Van Helsing are the same too, though Van Helsing is of the philosophical sort, so he gets some actual thoughts in between the self-sacrificing and bold declarations of truth and justice. The women also share the same high ideals and virtues.

Come to think of it, Dracula's not all that exciting either, and only menacing insofar as you realize that he can turn you into a vampire.

The method of killing the vampires was disappointing (when it didn't involve driving a stake through the heart or beheading). The vampires could be completely overcome by placing a holy communion wafer in the earth in their box. And that's it. No fighting, no creepy sneaking-up-on-you attacks, no hand-to-hand combat. I wondered what would happen if the wafer fell out or someone opened the box and ate it or something, but I don't think you're supposed to consider those options.

Here is an excerpt that I thought captured well the essence of the writing:

... 'What will each of you give? Your lives, I know,' she went on quickly; 'that is easy for brave men. Your lives are God's and you can give them back to Him; but what will you give me?' She looked again questioningly, but this time avoided her husband's face. Quincey seemed to understand; he nodded, and her face lit up. 'Then I shall tell you plainly what I want, for there must be no doubtful matter in this connection between us now. You must promise me, one and all--even you, my beloved husband
[All the lovers throughout the book address each other using these sentimental phrases, by the way.]--that, should the time come, you will kill me.'

'What is that time?' The voice was Quincey's but it was low and strained.

'When you shall be convinced that I am so changed that it is better that I die that I may live. When I am thus dead in the flesh, then you will, without a moment's delay, drive a stake through me and cut off my head; or do whatever else may be wanting to give me rest!'

Quincey was the first to rise after the pause. He knelt down before her and taking her hand in his said solemnly: 'I'm only a rough fellow, who hasn't, perhaps, lived as a man should to win such a distinction, but I swear to you by all that I hold sacred and dear that, should the time ever come, I shall not flinch from the duty that you have set us. And I promise you, too, that I shall make all certain, for if I am only doubtful I shall take it that the time has come!'

'My true friend!' was all she could say amid her fast-falling tears, as, bending over, she kissed his hand.

[I think Olive would say here that the author was manipulating our emotions. I certainly did not feel moved to tears reading the previous two paragraphs, but maybe they did back in 1897.]

'I swear the same, my dear Madam Mina!' said Van Helsing.

'And I!' said Lord Godalming, each of them in turn kneeling to her to take the oath. I followed, myself. Then her husband turned to her, wan-eyed and with a greenish pallor which subdued the snowy whiteness of his hair, and asked: 'And must I, too, make such a promise, oh, my wife?'

'You too, my dearest,' she said, with infinite yearning of pity in her voice and eyes. 'You must not shrink. You are nearest and dearest and all the world to me; our souls are knit into one, for all life and all time. Think, dear, that there have been times when brave men have killed their wives and their womenkind, to keep from falling into the hands of the enemy. Their hands did not falter any the more because those that they loved implored them to slay them. It is men's duty towards those whom they love, in such times of sore trial! And oh, my dear, if it is to be that I must meet death at any hand, let it be at the hand of him that loves me best. Dr. Van Helsing, I have not forgotten your mercy in poor Lucy's case to him who loved'--she stopped with a flying blush, and changed her phrase--'to him who had best right to give her peace. If that time shall come again, I look to you to make it a happy memory of my husband's life that it was his loving hand which set me free from the awful thrall upon me.'

'Again I swear!' came the professor's resonant voice.

Ack. Gag. 517 pages of the same was a bit too much for me. At least now I can say I read it.

We watched the 1931 movie as well, which was not any better. About halfway through I began adding my own MST3K-type dialogue and soundtrack, and that helped, but only marginally.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I have five digits!

My pinky finger is my best-kept secret.

Bring it on, Beethoven!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Volunteering at the library

Some years ago I volunteered at the Orem Public Library. I loved it: volunteers received a nifty i.d. badge, free movie rentals, and waived late fees. I got to help people with the internet, straighten shelves, sit at the welcome desk, and do other menial tasks that made me feel like maybe someday I could become a real librarian, a long-time aspiration of mine.

Now I volunteer at the local Slimey Valley library, and oh, it is different: no nifty i.d. badge, no free movie rentals, no waived late fees, and no training, because we don't do anything that requires training. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering the size of the library, but I do like to hope.

We don't even volunteer in the actual library. Volunteers spend their time in the "Friends of the Library" bookstore tidying shelves, pricing the books people have donated, and then shelving them. Shelving involves determining the general subject of the book and sticking it wherever there is room in that section, since only the fiction is alphabetized, and only loosely at that.

When I asked if I could volunteer on a different day if I knew I couldn't make it to my assigned day, I learned there are no assignments: come in whenever you want, stay as long as you want, and call it good. This disturbs my brain for some reason.

I've decided to stick with coming in two hours before opening on Fridays, which is what I've been doing so far. At least I get to walk in the door that says "employees only" and I don't have to try to squeeze around customers browsing in the excessively narrow aisles of the store.

I usually head over to the children's section of the library after volunteering in order to organize some shelves there--it helps me feel like I'm actually doing something useful. Ha! I think. You may want me to volunteer in the bookstore, but I'm going to volunteer in the library too, whether you like it or not!

Cheap thrills.

Perhaps the time has come to go back to school. Then I wouldn't have to volunteer at all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Of course the horn is a string instrument. See the strings, right there on the keys?"

2 Chronicles 29:

26. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.

27. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.

28. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

Proof that at one time brass instruments actually were encouraged in church meetings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Desecrating Beethoven

It's a good thing that Beethoven is already dead, because otherwise I'd be doing a pretty good job of slaughtering him. I felt slightly better about not being Vladimir Ashkenazy at the rehearsal last night when I realized the violinist was not Itzhak Perlman either.

The music isn't particularly hard, I'm just not a professional pianist. The violinist's teacher suggested I alter the music to make it more playable, but who am I to consider myself adequately compositionally adept to tamper with the great Beethoven? I do not often edit music, although now that I think about it, it has happened more than once--but never to Beethoven.

I will alter a few things. So far all that really troubles me is a rather large leap in the right hand. I can play everything else--at 60 bpm. It's supposed to be allegro. My good friend Hanon is assisting me to acquire "Agility, Independence, Strength, and Perfect Evenness in the Fingers, as well as Suppleness of the Wrist."

Schmath could do it easily. Schmath, would you like to come trade places with me in California for a while? I will go up to Utah and watch your goats for you if you'd like.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Life Philosophies: Chocolate

Chocolate is an essential part of life, and there is nothing in this world that cannot be greatly improved by its addition. However, chocolate comes in varying degrees of quality, and the addition of cheap chocolate to your life may not always result in a happy ending.

In this most abundant season of cheap nasty holiday chocolates, I would like to encourage everyone to buy some seriously indulgent chocolate and note the difference. If you normally buy Hersheys, buy Cadbury (yes, I know that Cadbury is made by Hersheys in the United States). If you are used to buying Cadbury, buy Ghirardelli. If you are accustomed to buying Ghirardelli, buy Lindt. And if you buy Lindt on a regular basis you are to be commended, but I still encourage you to stretch further.

If you seek yet more excitement, try sharing the happiness by mailing chocolate to your friends. While this idea may not result in your receiving any chocolate in like manner, it will result in the pleasure that comes from knowing that you have sent an unexpected and appreciated package. Such surprise packages more often than not produce from the recipient smiles and notes that say, "How did you know? You made my entire day."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Post the First

Here is what my planner normally looks like at the start of the week:

Here is what my planner normally looks like by the end of the week:

It never looked quite that sloppy before my mission. I take that to mean that I am now a more thoroughly planned and productive person.

Comparisons as to how frequently I adhere to my planned schedule or backup schedule will not be made.