Saturday, December 24, 2005

So This is Christmas

I just found out today that a friend of mine from college has cancer. How can this happen? How can a young person have a malignant tumor in her colon? It seems so unreal, like a horrible dream. Christmas seems so superficial now, with all the shoppers buying last-minute thoughtless gifts. They're like zombies, expressionless and wandering through my store grabbing whatever off the shelves as a last resort. To quote Holden Caufield, "it depresses the hell out of me." That Charlie Brown "Christmas Time is Here" song keeps going through my head. It's the perfect soundtrack to this depressing holiday season. It sounds so blue--and it makes me think of people shuffling silently through the snow, going from store to store, not talking to anyone, not enjoying themselves. To top it all off, I just read the newest Banana Yoshimoto book, which is all about death, like a lot of her stories. The stories are so simple, beautiful, and mystical but a little depressing. Oh, and all the snow just melted, and it's raining.

Christmas morning, K and I will wake up, have some Christmas crepes filled with Nutella and bananas, open our presents, go to a buffet at a fancy hotel with a chocolate fountain, and maybe go bowling or watch a movie. K has to work for a few hours on Christmas, so we opted not to go home again this year, even though that would have been nice. But it's easy for us--unlike my friend, who is too young to be going through this (no one at any age is supposed to go through this). It makes me think, wow, this could happen to anyone. It seems so heartless and random.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Insomnia on St. Lucia Day

I've been trying to fall asleep for about an hour and decided to get up and get something productive done, like writing this. I'm planning on waking up at 5:30am to bake a St. Lucia Day coffee cake. The dough is all ready to go--I just have to braid it, let it rise for twenty more minutes, then bake it for thirty minutes. Hopefully it will be done before K has to go to work. I get in these moods during the Christmas season--wanting to be Martha with baking, making my own cards, decorating the apartment in lights and fake evergreen garlands from Michael's. It's a combination of boredom and my growing domestic urges, which I think, are brought on by age. I dream of being a retro housewife, with a totally 50's decorated house, with a pink-tiled bathroom, a bright yellow kitchen with pastel appliances and sheer white ruffled/yellow polka-dotted curtains on the windows, Ikea-like atomic-age/Palm Springs furniture in the living room, and a peach bedroom with a fluffy white rug below the peach satin bed and peach satin ballooned wall hanging, with a writing desk to write letters on my monogrammed perfumed peach stationery, and a white vanity with a big square mirror-- and not a speck of dust anywhere, with gleaming kitchen floors and glittery formica kitchen counters. What's gotten into me? A few years ago I wanted to be a hippie living in a VW Van, travelling the US and staying in random state parks, living off of my crocheted hats, scarves, and doilies. Now I dream of domesticity and read vintage homekeeping books and "Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House," by Cheryl Mendelsson--a huge book about seven-hundren pages in length devoted to housekeeping. But does my apartment reflect this dust-free/shining floors peach daydream? No. It's a mess, and there's dust bunnies on the hardwood floor, I'm ashamed to admit. Yesterday K came down with a little bug and wanted to take a warm bath and I had to scrub it out before he used it. I'm sure the nastiness is making us both sick, as I am trying to fight an oncoming cold. As in everything I want to undertake, whether it be writing music, writing stories, painting a picture or cleaning my house, I seem to come up with a billion reasons why I don't have time, yet spend endless hours in the library, at the computer (surfing), watching the same Simpsons episodes over and over, and trying to read about ten books at the same time. I really think I could do with some Ritalin. It seems I have a hard time with focusing and self-discipline. I'm out of shape, have bags under my eyes, and yet still do things to my body that make me feel like shit. Will I ever learn? Kelly and I have a theory that the people who make it in the art/writing/music world, are those that aren't necessarily super talented, but have the ability to cut through the mental bullshit and create/practice no matter what. I tend to stop myself before I ever get started. If I keep this up, how will I ever have my clean and lovely aparment? Or a career in the arts? Or a body that doesn't feel tired and tense all the time?

In four and a half hours I will attempt to wake up and bake my coffee cake. St. Lucia is the patroness of light, and it's an old tradition in Sweden for the oldest girl to don a white robe and a wreath of candles upon her golden head and bring this braided bread to her parents in bed. Sounds pretty dangerous if you ask me. But lovely, nonetheless.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crossing the Fission Boundary

Ug--I'm in the process of writing yet another paper I don't give a hoot about. Countless times since high school, I have been in this predicament--procrastinating until the last minute, sitting down at the kitchen table trying to straighten my thoughts out, drinking loads of coffee (half-caff, lots of soy creamer), sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, more procrastination (anything to avoid the uncomfortableness of slinging words onto a page that you know come from half-assed thoughts and b.s.-ing)....
This time my paper is about the psycho-acoustics of voice-leading--based on a 65-page article the graduate students had to read in our graduate counterpoint seminar, written by a man named David Huron from Ohio State. Here is one sentence from the article I'm using for a partial thesis statement:

"The principles of tonal fusion, the pitch proximity principle, and the pitch co-modulation principle all contribute to the achievement of the same goal--namely, the optimization of stream segregation."

It took me all quarter just to figure out what that means. Tonal fusion? Stream segregation? It's basically saying that the rules of voice-leading, i.e., avoiding parallel fifths and octaves, avoiding large melodic leaps, etc, can be backed by science--that the biological way our ears hear sounds apply directly to these rules. Therefore, this is why the rules exist. Okay, it's somewhat interesting, but to study this for a whole quarter? I enjoy and appreciate science, but sometimes I just don't understand it and all the scientific lingo that goes along with it. Which is okay, because I don't expect everyone to understand Neapolitan sixths and dominant sevenths and all that other music-talk. But just because our professor finds this article endlessly fascinating, does this give him the right to foist this upon us for the entire quarter, and then just two weeks ago, announcing that we must write a 10-15 page paper on it? What is it about our education system that gives professors/teachers and higher education in general the right to bore us with topics that only interest them? Is this what grad school is all about--pretending to care rather than actually learning something and enjoying it? Is this what my diploma will attest to? That I was able to withstand extreme boredom, sleepless nights and anxiety attacks due to the writing of research papers on topics of no interest to me?

What I don't understand is, why don't college professors go through the same training as elementary and high school teachers? For all practical purposes, the average college student is still a teen-ager, and therefore not too different from a high-schooler. Most teachers have to take classes in educational and developmental psychology, which, if college professors had to take these same classes, would learn how to facilitate discussion, how to teach so students care about what they're learning, how to motivate students, and how to teach toward different learning styles. I guess if you can get through a P.h.D. without killing yourself you can teach whatever the hell you want. Screw learning theories! You will learn about pitch proximity principle and you'll like it!

So what is the point of all this long-winded rambling? I just get so sick of college professors and their complete ineffeciency and teaching incompetence. Having studied education as an undergraduate, I am aware of learning theories, and get so frustrated when profs have these great classes to teach (Music history! Ear-training! Counterpoint! Theory! Piano!) yet they teach them in such a boring and inefficient way that I want to scream. How many hours have I spent in a music history classroom with a monotone-voiced professor on the cusp of retirement, reading from his lecture notes from 1965? How many hours did I waste trying to decipher Huron's article, and when I did, how many hours did I complain to friends about "crossing the fission boundary"? How many years of boring piano lessons and "Hot Cross Buns" playings did I have to endure before I could play Fur Elise (which is easily taught by ear/rote to a ten-year-old in her first year of lessons)? Here is a poem by Richard Brautigan that perfectly sums up my feelings on the whole deal:

I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
for all the time they stole from me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Goodbye, land of diaries

I've decided to ditch diaryland because I just noticed they've deleted most of my old postings. Jerks!

This morning, walking to the bus stop, I came across a pile of cooked spaghetti and a pair of tennis shoes lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Feel free to come up with a story for that one. Oh, and then, not 2 seconds later, a truck drives by with a small, bare tree standing up in the middle of the bed of the truck, ala Harold and Maude. It was a very odd start to my day, which was full of foggy/clammy weather, my flute teacher helping me get through a tricky run in the Chaminade Concertino by having me imagine giving birth to a traffic cone, and procrastinating on homework, again.