Friday, February 27, 2004

This is my last post of the day. I swear.

"Two parts of my life came together when I found out that acting could be a form of prayer. Now I offer my performances as prayers for someone I have worked with or someone who has died. I walk to the stage, and I offer that performance up for that person."
- Liam Neeson, Actor

I love him.

Substitute "Singing" for "Acting" and this could have been a quote from my own journals. I didn't know anyone else felt that way. Well, maybe I did, but I never heard anyone actually say it like that, except some heavily evangelical gospel singers and christian musicians whose mission in their art is to convert the heathen public into believers.

I've never felt really comfortable saying this sort of thing to anyone except my church Music Director, my friend who led a year-long spirituality program that I participated in, and my accompianist, who was also the Music Director at church for awhile. I figured people would roll their eyes.

I guess I was wrong.

But then, I haven't been Oscar-nominated. Yet.

Ok. Last post. Night, all.
chocolate heart
Heart of Chocolate

What is Your Heart REALLY Made of?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is getting out of hand.

It's all Nicole's fault. :) Who has a wonderfully inspiring blog.

I'm tired though... right now fun quizzes are all the self-analysis I can handle. Don't we all get that way sometimes though?

You are Woodstock!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
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Now this was really fun! And I couldn't agree more.

This was too good to surf past.

I feel like I should clean out my internet cache. Can't I be interrogated just for looking at this subversive material?

The Evil Empire > The BAGnews Store | CafePress

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I am a Girl Scout Cookie addict. However, I hate the Girl Scouts.

My mother was the Brownie troop leader. However, even after I'd graduated to Girl Scouts, she kept driving me to those damn meetings for years. I made Cadette. Those stupid fucking Jumpers. Oh God.

She thought it was this great feminist thing to be a girl version of the boy scouts. She had that whole idealized proto-girl-power thing going on. She thought that these elementary school kids from white trash families wanted to be involved in community-building, make friends, learn new skills, etc. I swear to God she actually believed that. I also think she was looking for some sort of social arena to counteract the horrific playground and lunchroom experiences I had at school.

What she didn't realize was that since I was the dorky child of two 60's liberal parents in a midwestern Christian republican town, I wasn't safe anywhere. Scouts was simply another arena for Female Dominance games to be played, with even more ruthlessness, because the stringent behavior rules that school employed weren't enforced in the Gym at the scout meetings. "Sisterhood" made me glad I was an only child. The minute that bell rang and we trooped into the Gym in those stupid uniforms - which my Mom made me wear, but the cool girls didn't - those bitches-in-training used me as their punching bag. I specifically remember when I was about nine, I went home in tears because those nasty little shits made fun of me for the entire hour-long troop meeting while the supposed Leader was on the phone in an office across the hall. I don't think Mom believed me. "GIRL SCOUTS are NICE to each other. Be nice to them and they'll be nice to you." Oh Yeah. Right.

I will never forget the disillusionment in her eyes when she told me that, one evening, she had angrily confronted a small group of my 11-year-old tormetors. "Don't you girls care about being good Girl Scouts? Don't you want to make friends? Be good people?" "No," they said. "Then why did you sign up for this!?" She shrieked. "To make things. And hang out. And do stuff. I hear we might go camping." She was stunned. I wish my self-esteem had been high enough for me to feel vindicated. I do remember thinking to myself "I TOLD you they were mean. I TOLD YOU." I was actually happier and felt safer at school. At School. Just think about that.

Thank God for the demanding schedule of musical theatre that I managed to drown myself in, which managed to shift my parents' focus from community service (or whatever the hell scouts is supposed to be) to arts. Thank God also for the additional parental alienation of heavy metal which finally stopped my Mom from forcing me to socialize with pretty much anyone.

And selling cookies? Oh God, the Annual Cookie Humiliation. I dreaded the pressure of having to try and sell unhealthy expensive cookies to people who were too busy trying not to laugh at that godforsaken uniform. The humiliation came when I had to sit there silently, ignored, while every other girl in the damn troop bragged about how she'd sold 100 or 500 or 1000 boxes. I usually sold 10 or 12. Mostly to my own parents. When the girls started screeching "Ouiser didn't sell ANY THIS WEEK!!!" The leaders would shake their heads and frown at me and say something like "Don't you have any friends?" Or Why don't you give it to your parents to take to the office?" Oh, and my Idealist parents refused to sell them for me. Flat out REFUSED. Some kind of capitalist protest I suppose. I don't know what they thought they were doing for me. They were just completely out of touch with my world.

There was one time the leader said "Ouiser doesn't HAVE to sell cookies if she doesn't want to." In a very frosty voice. Everyone was quiet as she said it. I don't remember anything else about that entire year of scouts. Maybe that was the year I quit. I think it just drove in the final "She's not one of us" wedge. Everyone knew I was different. I didn't go to church with any of them. I didn't like sports, watch the Dukes of Hazzard, listen to FM radio, (my parents wouldn't let me), or wear fashionable clothes. I got straight A's and didn't know any Sean Cassidy songs. Now I didn't want to sell cookies.

I was outta there.

I wonder if she said that because my mother had yelled at her for letting the kids make fun of me.

In later years, my folks would buy the cookies from the neighbor kids. I loved eating those damn cookies. Oh man did I love them. I would go through an entire sleeve of thin mints while watching an hour TV program. I could eat a whole box of Samoas in one sitting. By the time I was 14, I was dancing with the local Ballet company, was very thin, very alienated, and ate TONS of junk food. I think I saw those cookies as something I wasn't supposed to have. I was shoved into Girl Scouts for 6 years and told the whole time that nobody wanted me there. Fine, fuck you guys. I'm eating every cookie ever made. Thank God for Ballet and a super-high metabolism. If I hadn't been so stressed out at school that I threw up my breakfast almost every morning for 4 years and hardly ever ate any lunch there, I probably would have gotten very fat. For about a year I lived on cookies and whatever Mom cooked for dinner.

Once I moved away to college, my cookie supply was cut off, but I miraculously began to make friends, and suddenly had an appetite for normal food on a regular basis again.

Once, when I was about 21, I saw a 9 or 10 year old strawberry blonde sitting behind a card table in her green uniform, complete with beanie and sash full of patches, selling boxes of cookies for cash. This wasn't how you did it when I was a kid. She didn't have to sweat while people chewed on their pencils, wondering how many boxes they'd actually eat, and then have to face these people again a month or two later to deliver the orders and collect checks. She was doing it the smart way. Park yourself with the goodies in front of the Student Bookstore looking adorable, and watch the money roll in! Starving students! Use the cuteness factor! I was impressed.

I didn't buy a box. I was too intimidated to talk to her. I was afraid she'd call me snotty-face.

I hate the Girl Scouts. I hate them.

I hope I don't get sued for this post. But then that would be just like them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

From Cigarettes to Opera

I will be singing Zerlina in a concert production of Don Giovanni this summer. Last weekend, I purchased the score. The director has mandated that we obtain copies of the Barenreiter Publishing Company's version. Which is, in truth, the best there is.

Many people don't know this, but opera text - and even sometimes notes - differ according to the publishing company. I myself was appalled when I realized this. For example, Publisher X and Publisher Barenreiter both produce copies of Mozart's Die Zauberflote. I bought from Publisher A because they were cheaper. Also because the opera is written entirely in German, and Publisher A's version has an English translation under the lyrics, which I think is fun. So, as I was singing along at rehearsal one night, one of my lyrics goes (I warn you, mein German ist krappen, this WILL be misspelled) "Der elten segen verden sein," which roughly translated means, "We will be so happy." Well. In Publisher A's score, they have "Der elten sorgen verden sein." Apparently segen means happy, and sorgen means sad. WHAT!? "We will be so sad?" That's a huge textual difference! So the moral is, if you want to do opera right, it's not worth skimping on the cost. (The English translation wasn't very accurate anyway).

So. Mein direktor insisten zat ve get zee Barenreiter score. However, it is $70. It has to be imported from Germany, and usually takes weeks to obtain. Now, I happen to be close friends with a guy who knows a guy who owns a Music store. So not only did I get my copy in about 15 days, I got a small discount. AND! I was also informed by the smugly grinning store owner that I am now in possession of one of only three copies of the Hardcover edition of the Barenreiter Giovanni existent in the United States. THREE!? Yep. Three. In the Whole Country of USA. And one is all mine.

I feel like a real professional here. You know you're a real working artist when you spend more money on your craft than you will ever make.

When I bought the Barenreiter score of Zauberflote, I decided to hang onto my old cheap inaccurate one. Most of it is correct, and since I'd like to sing some other roles in that opera someday, it may behoove me to have two different copies of the score, one with Papagena's part highlighted and the other with Pamina's.

I feel now would be a good time to mention that this is just a hobby of mine. I do not get paid for this. I just love doing it. And I happen to be in with a fantastic group of singers, many of whom are professionals, some experienced, some budding. Our Musical Director is unbelieveably talented and a blast to work with. Singing with these people is an absolute joy. Zerlina is by far the largest role I've ever sung. I've sung Puccini, Bizet, Strauss (Johann and Ricard), and Mozart, all tiny roles, mostly in churches and a few nursing homes. I grew up singing musical theatre, majored in acting, and completed a performing arts academy program here in New York. Most of my life everyone assumed I would be an actress or performer of some sort. I guess I did too, until I realized I actually had other skills that I could feed myself with. Singing is the greatest soul-feeding activity of my life... but the industry? Bleeccchh. Forget it. I ain't willing to pay those dues. So, I have a "normal job," and je chante pour moi meme, as Carmen says. And, like Carmen, It's probably not just for my pleasure, but pleasure is really all I get out of it, and there are plenty times when it's the only thing that gives me pleasure... so it's more than worth the money. $70 for the score. $40 CD. And, because I'm singing a principal role, this time it's $350 to the Director! Often I need a new dress to sing in - hopefully not this time!

I am so strapped for cash these days - like everyone is - that at times my stress levels rise to unhealthy heights. I do two or three workshops a year though - last year I only did one, and this year, just one. But what a great one it will be. This expensive hobby is the one thing I refuse to give up. I have basic cable. I cancelled my home telephone and just use my cell. I might get a manicure once every two months, to buck up my courage before a special occasion when I have to be around my judgemental family. The last time I bought clothing was last August - and that was a dress for Zauberflote. I hardly ever eat at restaurants, unless of course I'm on a date and someone else is buying. ;) I remember a time when I smoked - cigarettes are now over $7 a pack!! Thank God I gave that up. I used to go to hip-hop clubs and drink a lot of martinis - easily $200 a weekend. That was all over a year ago, before I moved out of my husband's apartment and started life all over again for myself. Now there are weeks when I have $10 to eat on. I think I bought Starbucks once or twice this past year. I used to get them every day. As yuppies go, I rough it. I like it. It's worth it when I get to sing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I realized today that I never posted this. I did it weeks ago!

I think maybe the reason I didn't post it is that after I answered the questions, I went back and read them, and said to myself "Where the hell did I get THAT shit? That's not true at all!!" I went through three revisions. Then I think the phone rang (I was at work) and I forgot all about the thing.

It's said that often, the first thing that comes to mind is the truth, and revisions are you trying to make something you like better be the truth. That may be so. I think, though, that truth is extremely difficult to define. As far as the below questions go, truth in these answers changes over time. Ask yourself how you would have answered these questions now, at age 12, at age 6. I'll bet (I hope!) that my answers will be very different 6 years from now. Which leads to the whole point:


1. What is one thing about your life now that surprises you?

How easily I make friends! I was the nerdy kid who sat in the back of the room, got A's, and never talked. My attempts at friendship were usually very short-lived. I didn't make lasting friends until far into High-School - and they sought me out, for reasons I've never been able to fathom. College was a little better, but not much. Moving to New York was the turning point. I never imagined I would be so socially successful. I came out of my shell in New York and I AIN'T GOIN BACK!

2. If you were an animal, which one would you be...and why?

Easy. A cat. I think I may have been one in a previous life. Think about it. They scratch by for their existence, seem to have a good time in spite of this, and are always meticulously groomed.

Wait a minute. I am a cat.

3. When are you happiest?

I answer this question differently depending on when it is asked. For the last 2 years, happiness equals being able to relax. In order for that to happen, I need to physically relax, which is very hard for me. Then, I can actually allow my mind to empty. This is usually more likely to happen on a beach than a massage table. And it takes hours. Sometimes days.

I think a more realistic overall answer is when I'm in the company of people who I trust deeply, who I know love me, who I love in return, and can find a few moments to truly believe that things really will be OK.

4. If you could go back to "you" 15 years ago and tell her something, what would you tell her?

Fuck the shit-heads you go to school and do theatre with. In fact, non-physically, Fuck everyone. Study your ass off, get better grades, and run - don't walk - from every guy that comes near you except the short blonde one. Major in Music. Then I would show her the photos on my bookshelves of how fabulous her New York Life is going to be and the amazing friends she will make.

5. If your 15-years-older-than-you-now self could come back and talk to you from the future, what would you ask her? What would you hope to hear?

I would ask her what is the most important thing I should bear in mind for the next few years. In addition to that, I hope she will tell me how I eventually made it out of debt without declaring bankruptcy.

The Five Questions Game:

1. Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You’ll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4. You’ll include this explanation.
5. You’ll ask other people five questions if they want to be interviewed.

Thanks, B, for helping me plumb the depths, so to speak. Today, it felt more like being dragged into the pool and having my head shoved underwater, but isn't that what friends are for?

Friday, February 20, 2004

My friend K sent me this short motivational essay today in an email. She says:

"This is a perfect example of why we must work (and sometimes fight) daily to keep control of our minds. If we do not, the enemy will.
As a man thinketh, so shall he be..."

Don't Act Like An Elephant!
by Fran Briggs

In India, elephants are used for manual labor. When an elephant is small and weighs approximately 200 pounds, it is securely tied with a heavy-duty rope. In between "jobs," the elephant tries to break through its limitation. The calf whines, tugs-even tries to chew through the rope-but it is unable to break free. Finally, the elephant gives up its will. He accepts his circumstances. His spirit is broken.

The elephant believes there is absolutely no chance to free himself and overcome his "limitation." This is recognized as a "defining moment." A defining moment is the exact moment one adopts/accepts a new belief that drastically alters their life. They accept this "new belief" as a "truth," regardless if it is true or not. Because the brain accepts repetition of thought and deduction as "the truth," the rope reigns sovereign not only in the calf's immediate environment, but in his mind as well.

With this "belief" deeply embedded in the elephant's mind, his handler came up with an ingenious idea to permanently disempower him. He realized all that was needed was to tie the four-ton animal up with extremely small ropes and he would remain tied. You see in the elephant's mind, any size rope would keep him "securely confined."

Don't act like an elephant. Size up and break through the confining ropes in your mind. When you're faced with change, change your perspective. When you're overwhelmed with something new; change your view. Use affirmations, to eradicate limitations and nothing will be impossible for you!

Celebrating Fashion Essentials: Style, Beauty and Smoking


Scroll down to "Smoking is actually just like yoga,"

I kid you not. Lord fashion people are stupid. Man. Oh Man.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Odds Against Bush | Illinois Students For Dean

I never thought of it this way. Interesting collection of facts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

By the way - can you all see my sidebar? On my 'puter, it has vanished...
| City Bakery |

Who will come have hot cocoa with me this Wednesday? I'm going at about 6:30 or 7PM. I'm the redhead with the uncomfortable, unattractive yuppie office clothes.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I discovered this never-posted blog entry when I was cleaning out my C drive at work. I can write at work, but I can't log into blogger, becaue it's just too obvious. My monitor faces God and everybody and no matter what I'm doing, people look into my cubicle to see what I'm doing.

That, for those of you who want to know, is why I don't blog very often.

This is my ramblings after seeing Return of the King. It amused me. The post I mean. The movie too.

Really creative fight choreography bores me. So does Cirque du Soleil. I used to be a ballet dancer, but I have never chosen to attend a ballet unless someone I know was dancing in it. I think that happened once about 10 years ago. Something about movement without words fails to speak to me... at least, I haven't seen any that does in a very long time.

Which means Virtually the entire 2-3 hours of The Two Towers was a snoozer for me. I expected more of that in Return of the King, but I was instead thrilled by a noted shift toward more overhead visuals and mass-movement of fighting armies than an up-close analysis of two guys in armor's well-thought-out and executed thrusts and parries.

Yeah, it's not real. But it's some of the best damn computer animation I've ever seen. An eagle's eye view of a few thousand men being surrounded by tens of thousands of darkly-clad swarming goons is thrilling. You know they're gonna get their asses kicked. (Of course, they don't, this is fiction.) Good acting. Grim, heroic determination. A slight smile on Gimli's and Legolas's faces - they love the thrill of battle. (Excellent German/Celt archetypes!) So I get to see the heroism, the great costumes and props, see the seemingly insurmountable odds, and don't have to sit through this dance routine that lasts oh, twenty minutes and has me wondering if I can make it to and from the bathroom and still find out who wins.

That's really all I care about. Who won? I'm sort of like that about most sports. "You should have seen that play!" ok... but who won?

You'd think I'd dig fight choreography. The best fight sequences I've ever enjoyed were in The Princess Bride ("I'm not left-handed either!") and The Court Jester ("Remember Griselda... if he dies, you die.") But they were, you see, funny. Maybe that's got something to do with it.

Maybe I just don't find people trying to kill each other entertaining. That might be it.

So - Two Towers, snore. Return of the King, impressive!

Also the immensely groovy smackdown of the elephant creatures was, I am almost ashamed to admit this, action cinema at it's finest. The theatre audience of +/- 1000 practically jumped out of their seats cheering when Legolas took down the evil elephant and it's riders, counting off how many bad guys he'd skewered in the process (31, 32, 33...). Of course, most of us jumped out of our seats cheering in a previous scene when his tunic ripped. But I digress.

Now, I'm an animal-rights person, on a small scale. I eat meat and wear wool and leather. I just think animals should be allowed to live happy, free-ranging lives until we slaughter them. And the thought of eating downed animals is enough to make anyone sick, I should think. Careless cruelty in the name of profits is something I cannot abide. I know that certain types of animal research in the medical field (cancer research, for example) may always be necessary, but nobody needs to die so I can have shiny hair.

The regulations followed in Hollywood since 1940 are one of the most important pieces of legislation to impact the entertainment industry. "No elephants were harmed in the making of this film!" I kept repeating to myself. Then I realized no elephants were probably even used to a large extent. Computers. It's all computers. Once I got that through my head, it was a blast. But man. Evil elephants!? That's a hard concept. Especially for the Dumbo generation.

Ok, so we got big mass-scale warring, peaceful animals portrayed as evil monsters being brutally killed. Add to that the fact that I've been in a grouchy, misanthropic mood for the last month and a half.

I was oddly riveted by this film, and undeniably entertained. I had no idea almost 4 hours had passed by the time we all staggered out of the theatre. I didn’t even step in any spilled soda on the way out. So I was glad I went. Which, actually, is the highest compliment I can give any entertainment event. I’m glad I went.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Tomorrow I will be taking a ballet class from this place. It is located behind Carneige Hall, ground zero for all things classical. Nice and intimidating. Why else do we live in New York.

I will be taking this guy's beginner's ballet class. I guess he means beginner who already has been studying for a few years.

Last year, when I was in the throes of severe anemia, I took two or three of these classes. You see, I had no idea I was sick. I thought I was just depressed, and just needed to get off my ass and exercise.

What the hell had I been thinking. After 1/2 hour of barre exercise - that's holding onto a bar the whole time - I was drenched in my own sweat, gasping for breath and barely able to keep standing. When the class took a 5-minute water fountain break, I staggered out into the waiting area and called it a night.

The cool thing, though, was that Mr. Smith seemed to get that I wasn't just a fat old lady who was trying to dance. He simply walked out to the room, looked down at me sitting there on the couch, and said "How long has it been?" "Six years!" I said. "The barre killed you?" He said. "Yeah," I said, "but I'm coming back." "Good," he said, and proceeded to head back into class. I beamed. He knew. He could tell.

The second class, I was able to stick through the whole hour and a half, but I don't know how I did it. I do remember my ankles and legs shaking beneath me like a Parkinson's patient. The third class - I think I took a third class - I don't remember. Anyway, I was just too worn out to go any farther with it.

Besides, it was right at that time that my best friend moved to Korea, I moved out of my husband's apartment, and my fitness drive went completely out the door. A month later I was having trouble walking down the block to the ATM. When my job stress went into overdrive, I realized I didn't even have the energy to walk across the room for another box of tissues. I went to the Doctor. "I can barely make it out of my bed. I want Paxil," I said. "Ok... but let's do a blood test just to be sure there's nothing simpler going on," my doctor said.

Needless to say I (and my doc) was incredibly relieved to discover my exhaustion was physical, not psychological. It was CURABLE! I took iron supplements and eventually had a very simple surgical procedure. I was feeling vigorous and back to my old self by October of last year.

Two weeks ago, my best friend came back to NYC for an extended vacation. Guess where she wanted to go.

Ok. Here's the thing. I used to be what some people might think of as a semi-professional ballet dancer. I was in the Nutcracker 5 years in a row. I wore romantic tutus and pointe shoes and false eyelashes. I slaved away in classes with nasty, bitchy girls for something like 15 years. I hated the dance world. But... (violins) I always loved dancing.

Of course. Come on, who doesn't. You know you love to dance. Everybody does. The only people who don't just think they don't because they don't feel right doing it. But when they're alone in their car, with the sound cranked up, they're bopping in their seat. That's the dance urge. We all have it. It's irresistable.


My 15-20 years of "serious dancer life" culminated in my choreographing a production of Fiddler on The Roof at my old high school, doing the dream ballet roles in a few theatrical productions, and a brief foray into Modern and Tap in college and at the academy. That was it. Oh man. Those gestapoesque, ego-driven, inhuman choreographers. Those petty, bitchy, evil girls. All the people I worked with made me never want to dance again, ever, unless I'm pissed drunk in a bar. So, after my final class ended at the academy, I quit.

I mean I quit cold turkey. In 1996, I put all my shoes, leotards, legwarmers, etc into a big bag, stuffed the bag into the bottom of my closet and didn't touch it again.

Funny how I didn't give the stuff away to friends. Or donate it. Or simply trash it. Did I suspect that someday my feet would begin to proverbially itch again?

Anyway, 6 years went by until 2002 when Changock dragged me to Ballet Arts, to Lowell's class. This took an incredible amount of humility for me. I had gained 30 pounds. I wasn't fat, but I was far from nubile. And, hey, let's face it, in a room full of 16-year olds, I'm 32. This was very, very hard to do.

But I did it. Twice. (Maybe three times; I can't remember.) And the instructor paid a lot of attention to me, which was embarrassing and thrilling at the same time. Maybe he just wanted to ensure I'd pay for more $12 classes. Or... maybe he thought it was cool that a former dancer was making this kind of effort. All I know is, he made me feel like I had a right to be there.

I never thought I'd look at it that way, but that's how it felt. I felt like I had no right to take up space in a class full of promising young ABT dancers and rail-thin 40-something year old instructors who probably worked with Baryshnikov and have stories to tell. I'm a has-been, never-made-pro, fat old yuppie trying to get back in shape by returning to the only form of exercise I know.

Yeah... but I didn't feel that way those nights. And I hope to God I don't feel that way tomorrow.

I don't think I will.

But I still reserve the right to retire to the couch if the barre kills me again.