mrissa: (thinking)

Well, here we are. I said I’d make a post about worthy charities every week until the US election, and–this is it. I’ve enjoyed doing it, actually, and may at some point do another series of charity posts just because I feel like it. Because I am nowhere near out of good charities. Not by a long shot.

Today I wanted to talk about arts organizations. I think pretty much anyone who reads this blog is interested in some form of the arts and is familiar with Patreons and Kickstarters for supporting individual artists directly. And hey, more power to them! Please feel free to link to your own or someone else’s project in the comments. (Really. Please.) But larger arts organizations are important too, for wider community outreach than a single person can do, for structural support, for projects that take infrastructure and are bigger than one artist. So that’s what I’m focusing on with this post.

Many of my examples will be Minnesota-local, but

Let’s start with Juxtaposition Arts. Youth-oriented visual arts center in Minneapolis. They have a lot of great programming across cultural and arts genre lines. Here in the south suburbs in Eagan, we’re trying to get an arts center of our own, and Art Works Eagan is the group doing that. Nor are they resting on their laurels in the meantime; AWE has been hosting events in other local spaces until they get a permanent home.

Within the last week, I’ve been to hear music at the Cedar Cultural Center and at Orchestra Hall, home of the Minnesota Orchestra. Venues like these don’t stay alive on ticket prices alone, or tickets would be too expensive for the community. They also rely heavily on volunteers for various duties around the venue–a great opportunity if what you have to give is time and enthusiasm rather than cash.

I’ve also just made my first visit to The Museum of Russian Art, and I’ve been a member of the American Swedish Institute and Minneapolis Institute of Art for awhile now. These museums have a variety of great programming–again, spanning cultures and media–and serve as community focal points.

If you don’t know what the equivalents are in your community, why not find out? You don’t have to be a big city to have theater groups, art groups, music groups that need support. If you look at a program, they’ll start listing names of donors sometimes at the $50 level or below–which just shows you how much these donations matter. And when a $50 donation matters and you don’t have $50, an evening of volunteer work for which they don’t have to pay $50 also matters. Putting the word out that these groups are out there and talking about their various exhibits and productions and projects also matters. We all need the solace of art on our hardest days as well as the joy of art on our brightest ones.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

Friends, today I am here to talk about a serious issue affecting all of us. Or at least all of us who go to concerts, or possibly listen to concert videos on YouTube.

Will you stop shouting song titles at singers while they are performing.


Just stop.

They know what songs they’ve done, or if they’ve forgotten, you shouting one isn’t going to make them suddenly spontaneously remember enough to perform the song credibly. If they only have one or two big hits, they especially know those. They know they are the big hits. They are aware. They may make a joke about it. This is almost certainly not because they think they only wrote one worthwhile song. No. It is because they know that yahoos like you only know the one.

On the other hand, if you are a hardcore superfan, shouting the titles of really obscure songs will impress no one. (Said the person with an obsessive memory who also knows those songs, who likes many of them, and who is still not impressed.) Sometimes an artist will solicit requests. That is when you get to shout titles. Otherwise there are many urges you must stifle when you venture into public with the rest of us, and this is one.

And in particular stop shouting song titles two or three songs into the set.

Seriously. Stop. Give them a chance to get their feet under them. Give them a chance to get to it, for the love of Pete. Possibly the song you want to hear fits in perfectly four songs into the set they had in their head. Five songs in. Possibly the song you want to hear is a great set closer–that happens a lot with crowd favorites. If all you want to hear is “Major Hit: the Only Chart Topper,” they run the very real risk that if they walk out and play it first, you will be restless or possibly just leave.

But if you sit/stand there and shout it every time they stop singing? This is at least as disruptive. Cease.  Desist.

We have this lovely technology that allows you to make a playlist. It’s called–follow me here–a playlist. What it is not called is a live concert. Those work differently. You do not get to fast forward through the bits you do not like; you do not get to pause when you have to pee, and above all you do not get to demand all your favorites in order of what you remembered liking just now.

I love the Cedar, I truly do. You can get varied hippie snacks (often falafel) and chai and locally brewed beer, and no one grabs your butt at a concert unless you brought them along and asked them to. All hail the Cedar. But sometimes the intimacy of the Cedar venue makes Cedar audiences into–and I say this with all love–entitled buttheads. Do not be an entitled butthead at the Cedar. Do not be an entitled butthead at any venue. If you are excited to see an artist, you may shout, “Woo!” “Yeah!” is also acceptable. I suppose if it is a rock-ish sort of show, “We love you, [artist’s given name]!” might be within bounds, but this is likely to disconcert folk artists, especially if they have moved to this area and gotten used to it here, so possibly stick to, “Woo!” You can’t go wrong with, “Woo!” Practice with me: “Wooo!” This is how you channel your excitement about possibly maybe hearing That One Song or maybe not.

John Gorka may be from New Jersey and not expect too much, but I’m from Minnesota and we have standards.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (thinking)

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I went to the symphony, and we heard Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Opus 34. It’s available here, with just a still image on the Youtube link, not any kind of montage as far as I’m aware (I didn’t watch all the way through). It’s like the soundtrack to the nonexistent fourth Indiana Jones movie. (No, they didn’t make a fourth Indiana Jones movie lalalala I can’t hear you no magical anti-radiation fridges lalalala what.) It’s just a lovely little piece, just over 15 minutes, adventure and excitement, one thing after another.

It also sounds deeply conventional in some ways, and there’s a reason for that. Ever wonder why modern movie soundtracks sound like they do? One of the reasons is because Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the book. Literally. The book is called Principles of Orchestration. He wrote it. He said, “here’s how it’s all supposed to sound and what you use things for,” and it’s a very useful book indeed, setting down how this particular Romantic style of orchestral composition goes. So now when you listen to a movie and the violins swell at the right emotional moment, thanks Nikolai, that’s what you told them to do.

This is bad? This is good? Well, no. This is a tool. If Rimsky-Korsakov hadn’t written the book, people would still have fumbled around figuring out what the heck the Romantics, particularly the Russians, were doing with their orchestras, and we’d probably still be able to listen to a piece like Capriccio Espagnol and point out what the story’s doing, because it’s culturally embedded. It’s just kind of fun to play spot-the-theorist sometimes, and what he’s doing when he applies his theories, or what he’s doing before his theories congeal.

mrissa: (I'm listening....)
Last night [ profile] markgritter and I went to the celebration concert for the Minnesota Orchestra's Grammy nomination. Walking in was a bit like going to a large convention where you don't know very many people (but still recognize the people around you and know that you're all anticipating the same thing) and a bit like coming back to Gustavus after the tornado, where everything is a bit more fraught than usual, every small detail a bit sweeter.

And, like coming back to Gustavus after the tornado, things aren't over yet. (For those of you not following this story, this was a special concert--the lockout is still ongoing.) The storm was only part of what went wrong there. The life lesson I learned fifteen years ago in March was that there isn't anything so bad that humans can't make it worse on each other. There were heartwarming life lessons, too, but that one was...a little less obvious.

Mayor R. T. Rybak got up before the concert and talked about the institution we all love, and...look, I'm glad there are people like Rybak who can care for institutions, because institutions are not all bad, and like everything else they need care if they're to continue. But I wasn't there because of the institution. I don't love the institution. Or at least, I don't love it unconditionally. I want to go to a large classical music ensemble at which talented musicians play awesome music. If they completely disbanded the Minnesota Orchestra and re-formed as the Minneapolis Symphony, I would not mourn the old institution if the new one treated its musicians better. For some people the institution is more important than the members who make it up. I'm not one of those people. I will roll with the changes that have to come along as different musicians move along to different parts of their careers and lives...but for me it'll be the musicians and the music over the institution every single time. We judge institutions not by their antiquity but by their works, and one of the most important facets of that is how they treat the actual people in them, now, today.

Anyway. The Sibelius symphonies were just grand. I was in a mood to be appreciative, but they more than earned that mood and its appreciation. And tears came to my eyes when I heard the notes of Finlandia for the encore. It was exactly the concert it needed to be.

Let's hope that some key people were as moved as I was.
mrissa: (Oh *hell* no!)
Yesterday I got the e-mail (and phone call! and phone call to the other line!) I had been expecting for the last few weeks: management was canceling more of the Minnesota Orchestra's concerts, including the Dvorak and Bartok I was looking forward to in late January. The management is trying to claim credit for being the flexible ones for inviting the musicians back to the table to talk, but we all remember who did the locking out. The fact that they have paired this request for conversation with more cancellations makes it clear that they were just hoping the musicians would say, "Okay, never mind, we'll do everything you want." Sigh. And of course there's an attempt to distract from the inquiries about misuse of funds.

But the line that really got me is the title of this post: "You do not need to take any immediate action." I read that and I started laughing. I beg to differ, Orchestra Management! Orchestra patrons do need to take immediate action. We need to keep contacting the people in charge of this and making it clear what we think of their behavior. The patron comment line is listed on the Minnesota Orchestra website. But that's pretty far away from where you are now and would require looking, so I will just give it to you! It's (612) 373-9204. That's (612) 373-9204! If you call that number, you can leave your comments with an answering machine--you don't have to worry about what you will say and what they will say and what you will say back. You just get to have your say.

There are other things you can do listed on the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians' page. They have addresses for ease in contacting the appropriate politicians and public figures. Go forth! Take immediate action!

I don't know if it's clear why I'm doing this, why I'm talking about this particular thing so much when there are so many things that are problematic. And one, I love music in many varieties, and really great classical music is under serious threat in my city, and I think in my country. But one of the reasons why I feel like this is my fight inasmuch as I can find fight in me to apply beyond the immediate realms is that I kind of feel like we're all in this together. I mean people in the arts, but also more generally people trying to do something amazing. Something awesome. Something creative not in its woobly wishy-washy modern application, but in very concrete terms: this thing did not exist in this form before, and I created it. This loaf of bread, this poem, this theory, this performance. That's important.

In some ways my geek angst in junior high and high school--even in grade school--does not align with the cultural narrative, and one of the clearest ways in which that misalignment is true is the "geeks vs. jocks" meme. I never felt like I was at war with the jocks or was being persecuted by them or anything like that. The jocks were a bunch of people who cared about stuff. What we are fighting against--consciously, constantly--is the forces of apathy and neglect. We can all be in that together. And we can all use what we've got in that fight, and what I've got--other than a boatload of cookies this time of year--is words. If the Orchestra needed someone to be on their side who could do kickass graphic design, they would have to keep looking. But words, we can do words. We have those here.

In the church in which I grew up, people learned not to go to the senior pastor and say, "SOMEbody should blah blah blah," because he would make sure--sometimes subtly, sometimes not--that they would throw back their shoulders, lift up their chins, and say in a proud and happy voice, "I--am--somebody!" Well, folks, you are somebody. If you care about classical music, if you care about unions, if you care about the Minnesota Legislature having a handle on where their funds are going, this is for you. It doesn't have to be your fight 24/7. But it can be little pieces of your fight, if you want it to.

Sometimes it's good for us to want it to.
mrissa: (mrischief)
So I have a letter in the paper today. I wish I'd been able to get in more stuff about the sleazy verbal side-stepping the management has been doing, but letters to the editor are a brief form, so I did what I could.

I got a letter from the orchestra management on Wednesday--a long time after when the musicians responded, but timing is not everything--and the number of rhetorical tricks it included to try to imply that there's been full financial disclosure, when in fact there has not, without actually coming out and saying so...well, it was an impressive piece of work. I managed to remain polite when I wrote back and not say, "Don't bullshit a bullshitter," because there are more delicate ways to put that, but seriously: professional writers know these tricks. They are transparent. They have been about as bad as having a movie quote reading, "...fascinating..." when the full quote is actually, "It's a fascinating insight into the studio's process that such a terrible movie even got made in today's climate."

I find the "publicity stunt" remarks particularly damning, because--as I mentioned in my letter--most of what the musicians have been doing is playing concerts. Another thing that the management might regard as a publicity stunt is the vote of no confidence in the Orchestra CEO. It's appalling that the management does not even seem to be considering that that might be absolutely sincere--heaven knows my confidence has plummeted there, and I don't even work for the guy--and that their own behavior might impede musicians' ability to work well under this management. The management appears only to be thinking in propaganda terms at this point, not negotiating with their own musicians in good faith. What may be even more insulting is that they're just not very good propagandists.

The musicians' site is here. It goes into what, exactly, they're looking for from management. When it quotes current and past conductors, it quotes their pieces in full rather than pulling a phrase or two. It's also got some ideas for people who want to do something helpful; I've written to Gov. Dayton and Mayor Rybak this week (on Tim Cooper Photography Minneapolis cards!), as well as the letter to the Strib. Not all of you will feel moved to help out in the ways suggested on the site, but I figured in case you were wondering, that's where it is.

There's also an ongoing analysis on this blog, which is about the business of running orchestras. Possibly of more interest to people who want geeky nuts and bolts, but...geeky nuts and bolts, I know you guys, that's at least some of you on every topic I can think of.

I'm going off to hum Woody Guthrie songs and have my workout now.
mrissa: (think so do ya?)
Dear Minnesota Orchestra Management:

Please stop sending me letters badmouthing your musicians. Stop sending them to my e-mail. Stop sending them (in duplicate copy, no less!) to my postal address. Stop calling me to ask for money while you are making this mess with your musicians, but particularly stop badmouthing your musicians. I have asked you this in private several times, and now I will ask you in public.

Do you know what you sell me, Minnesota Orchestra Management? You sell me tickets to concerts played by your musicians. If you succeed in making me think poorly of your musicians, I will not say, "You're right, darn those musicians! I should go to concerts with those crappy horrible musicians, but at whatever pay scale and benefits management wants to give them!" I will instead say, "I live in the Twin Cities area. Why would I go listen to crappy musicians? There are opportunities to hear good ones instead." But in fact I don't believe your propaganda. I've been to Minnesota Orchestra concerts. One of the musicians who is acting as a union spokesman is Doug Wright. Guess who has moved my stoic Nordic self to leap to her feet in spontaneous applause? Doug Wright. Guess what you've done in that direction? NOTHING. I don't even particularly like the trombone. It's not in my top five favorite instruments. And that man can play the trombone to make me jump up and shout, "Bravo!" I am not a shouter of "Bravo." But I shouted it anyway. Do you understand that at all? Have you had that experience of the orchestra you run? Do you remember that that's what you're supposed to be facilitating, at all? What do you think your letters are going to do to override that?

Orchestra patrons are not stupid. We know that an independent financial valuation is a reasonable thing for musicians to ask, and is the road to them knowing what kind of specific counterproposal they can make. Without one, you can just keep repeating, "That's impossible, do it our way," no matter what they say, no matter the facts. We also know that you are a great deal more replaceable than the musicians. So hop to it with the independent assessments. And stop harassing me about how it's all the musicians' fault. It's not true, and it would be counterproductive even if it worked.

In frustration,
[ profile] mrissa
mrissa: (out with friends)
Tonight we start with stuff for 4th St., which will be awesome, but it would be somewhat less crunched if we hadn't just returned from New York. No, I know, I didn't say we were going to New York; I didn't because we were more going through New York City than to it, and we had made arrangements to see [ profile] markgritter's brothers in Poughkeepsie, but really that was all we had time for after the first bit. Because we were there for Clearwater Folk Festival.

So between Saturday and Sunday I saw: Dar Williams, Janis Ian, Josh Ritter, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, a great huge conglomeration of Guthries and Seegers and Reagons and Ungars and who knows what-all else, Tao Seeger Band, Suzanne Vega, Indigo Girls, and Red Horse (Lucy Kaplansky, John Gorka, and Eliza Gilkyson).

As [ profile] markgritter mentioned on his lj at the time, the logistics were really very poorly done, especially the traffic direction (or lack of same). We have since received an e-mail apology from the festival runners, saying that they in no way expected to have nearly that many people. No kidding. They had one exit from the main freeway that ended in a stop sign, making a T with a street that had no stop sign. There was no temporary stop, no one there directing traffic, so...yah. No kidding they had not planned for the numbers they were dealing with. (There were also sound issues pertaining to that underestimate; sigh.) And to my mind one of the secrets of a trip like this--especially one featuring two people who have been having health problems--is not to let one's expectations get too specific. Still, in the hour and a half we were sitting in that half-mile of traffic on 9A, I kept trying not to think that we might well be missing Dar Williams's set, that she might at that very moment be singing "The Hudson." So then when we got there and she was only halfway through her set and we were in time to hear "The Hudson" with the eponymous river sparkling not a hundred feet from the stage--probably not fifty feet--I was happy. I was extremely happy.

Ditto Pete Seeger: he is 92 years old, and we wanted to see Pete. And now we have. If I'd gotten fixated on what exactly he was singing, or how many songs, it would have been easy to get disappointed. Instead--hey, look, Pete Seeger. He can only really sing one song at a go these days, but his style of shouting out the line for everybody before we're all supposed to sing it served him well in this context, made it less obvious that he had been fairly weak and winded at the end of the song he did sing. It moved the focus from what he couldn't do to what he could, and that was really lovely. Also I am greatly fond of Tao Rodriguez Seeger, not least because I am a sucker for people who adore their grandpas. For some reason. He did a version of "Well May the World Go" that made me extremely happy and also made me want to hire a steel drum player to follow Tao around for when he needs one.

Other things I think should exist: Josh Ritter should always have an ASL interpreter at his concerts, and that ASL interpreter should never have been briefed in advance. Because this poor woman's face. It was better than [ profile] tnh's face when we did "Folk Bloodbath" last year in music circle at 4th St. It was awesome. She kept up like a champ, but she shot him a number of Looks: what? You want me to sign what?

I wish the Indigo Girls had been more political--it was Clearwater, for the love of, um, Pete, not a random folk festival--they clearly trust their own fans more than random folk festival fans with their political stuff, and I get that, but Lord knows everyone else was going political there, and I like the Indigo Girls' political stuff much better than most other people's. And I wish the sound balance had been better for Red Horse--we left partway through the set because the sound from another stage was so overwhelming that we couldn't parse what Red Horse was doing very well. Finally, I wish Sarah Lee and Johnny had not decided to do a stint as a fake band on a sitcom--okay, they didn't literally, but that's what they sounded like. Dad said, when I was telling him this on the phone, "Sounded like parodies of themselves, huh?", and I said yes, but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with that until a few days later, and it was that they didn't even sound like parodies of themselves, they sounded like parodies of someone else. Someone with far less musical background than I know they have.

But on the whole we had a good time, and it had the most Mrissable festival food I've ever had. Such tasty plantains. So many veggie options for when I have been out in the hot sun and do not want to even smell meat. So very good. Wish I had some of those plantains for lunch today, even without the hot sun. Ah well. They don't really travel.
mrissa: (thinking)
I have a problem with The Pirates of Penzance, and it's the same problem I have with Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall novels.

I should back up and say that I love The Pirates of Penzance with a fierce and irrational love. I can sing the vast majority of it (if it's shifted by the appropriate octaves etc.), but I have had a preferred role since I was 11 years old, and that role is the Pirate King. (It is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King. Trust me on this one.) I had backup singers, when I was eleven and singing that song, friends who would chime in to do, "Hurrah, hurrah for the Pirate King!" for me. We are all nearing three times as old now, and I still love those girls, and more rarely and preciously, I still love the women they've become. But that is a long, long digression, and full of Arthur Ransome and Rosemary Sutcliff and heaven knows what else.

But Pirates. Right.

So the thing about Pirates is that I see it whenever I have the chance, and yet it hardly ever gets the Ruth/Mabel thing to match the libretto. For those you who are unaware, Ruth is written to be a plain, frumpy 47-year-old, and Mabel is to be a beautiful 17-year-old.

Also Menolly of Dragonsong and its sequels is the most brilliant songwriter in generations.

Both of these are no problem whatever when I put it down like that, and quite a bit of a problem when you can check for yourself. And I get, and I totally support, that a) very few of us are the most brilliant songwriter in generations and also want to write a novel*, and b) when you are casting an operetta, voice is the most important quality. I do understand all that. But I feel that in the case of the novels, perhaps having everybody on the planet's surface react to your character with "OMG BEST EVAR" is not the thing, and if you're insisting that it is the thing, perhaps the songs themselves ought to remain shrouded in mystery so that the reader does not say, "I can do better than that, and I'm 11 and don't write songs."** And in the case of the operetta, there is such a thing as...dare I suggest it...costuming and makeup?

The worst Pirates I ever saw had a Ruth and a Mabel who both looked like they had reached their mid-fifties or early sixties through a great deal of hard living, and Frederick looked 14. This is almost impossible to do anything about, so if those are the voices you have in a small town production, you will just have to live with it. But today's Pirates! Today's Pirates with GSVLOC had cast a perfectly reasonable-looking young woman as Mabel...and another perfectly reasonable-looking young woman as Ruth. And I kept thinking, "Slap a grey wig on that girl! Put makeup lines on her face!" The singer, Therese Walth, was clearly the correct voice for Ruth--I don't mean she shouldn't have had the chance to play the role. (Which is a better role than Mabel anyway--but I am not a soprano, and I have made every effort in my life to never, ever be an ingenue.) I just felt that especially in her closing costume, Frederick was being shown to have rather specific tastes more than anything else. It is a risk of live theater. It is a risk of librettos that describe too particularly. Sigh.

We've now been going to GSVLOC since 2005, missing only when Grandpa died, and this is apparently long enough to acquire a favorite regular in their company, or at least long enough for me to do so. I am greatly fond of Christopher Michela, who played the Sergeant of Police today, who was particularly memorable as the Mikado a few years ago, and who generally has a notably expressive face and voice. But it's also long enough that I could spot when one of the Major General's wards had a cold today. I hope she feels better soon--she did a credible job anyway, poor dear--but I'm a bit pleased that I get to go to this thing every year, that the company shifts and changes and yet has continuity also, and that I get to see enough of it to know that sort of detail. It makes me happy.

Or maybe I'm just in a good mood because of the Pirate King song. Who knows.

*Although I have great hopes of the forthcoming Josh Ritter novel, "most brilliant songwriter in generations" rather overstates. I am not given to overstatement of this kind. It is enough--quite more than enough, given some of the places they've held in my life in the last few years--that I love Josh's songs. They need not prevent me from loving other songs to earn that.

**Eleven was not chosen randomly here. It was a big year for me.
mrissa: (Default)
So hi. I haven't been posting much lately because I have either a) been doing other things or b) been collapsing after the doing of other things. And sometimes we get too much into "Let me esplain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up," mode around here. So here I am, summing up. state of the Mris, including concerts and vertigo report and who knows what else I'll get to )
mrissa: (winter)
The library has found my book lists and reattached them to my account. Sound horns, bang drums. The Dakota County Library: the best library in Dakota County. (Seriously, they're a really good library.)

Tonight [ profile] markgritter and I are going to see the Minnesota Orchestra and Heart of the Beast and presumably some singy people doing "The Magic Flute." I am wearing jeans to the Orchestra for the first time in my life, because it is distinctly non-warm here, and because I have a real Norwegian ski sweater, which says very clearly, "I am happy to be here and recognize the occasion, but damn, people, not at all warm out there." Seriously, this thing could stop bullets.

And now I shall have a Fazermint, which is not local goodness exactly, as Finland is not really local, but you can get them very readily locally, so that is a goodness. Undermine the tsar with chocolate minty loveliness!


Dec. 3rd, 2009 12:45 pm
mrissa: (winter)
+ Tiny dusting of snow!!! I will take it. It's better than no snow.

+ Concert last night: good good good. Antje Duvekot opened, and WPA was the main act. Definitely worth my time and energy and money to see. Also it was a grown-up concert at the Cedar, which means chairs to sit in and a concert that starts on time. Hurrah. Duvekot said it was her worst set ever. If this is the case, she is a candidate for best worst set ever.

+ Pepparkakor dough in a minute. Cookie Day tomorrow. Yay! First Cookie Day with Grandma in town to share it! Yay!

- People. Nobody is tone death. Some people are tone deaf. Tone death would be some kind of superpower; I'm pretty sure you only wish that the person in your office who cannot sing but does so anyway would die a tone death. One problem with teaching children to spell phonetically is that some of them do not enunciate for sour owl crap, and spend their time around other people who do not enunciate for sour owl crap.

- Online clothing retailers, seriously: size first, color second. When does anybody ever say, "Well, I totally want the purple one, but I don't care which of the six sizes is available?" This is an instance where size very much matters. You do not buy your 2XL aunt or your XS aunt an M sweater because M is what the retailer has and you like that sweater. If you do, you are being stupid and should stop.

- DVD manufacturers: stop putting an infinite repeat sound loop on the menu screen. It makes perfect sense to put the DVD in and go somewhere else to do laundry, put something in the oven, etc. while the warnings and disclaimers are playing. Nobody who is up to their elbows in clean, dry towels finds the experience enhanced by the same thirty seconds of your theme song over and over again. Just stop.
mrissa: (don't mess with me today)
Dear Mr. John Darnielle:

Thank you for a lovely concert. Are you sure you weren't one of my lab students 10-12 years ago? You don't look like any particular one of them, just a representative of the type. In any case, well done. Thanks also to your band.

[ profile] mrissa

Dear audience at the concert of Mr. John Darnielle:

Okay, look. I know some of you are apparently new. I know that in the cave in which you were raised, all entertainment came with mute, pause, and fast-forward buttons. But here in adultland, we have this thing called live shows where both the performers and the fellow audience members are fellow human beings. This time even the opening act qualified as a fellow human being! It's astonishing! What does this mean? It means:

If the venue has a very small number of seats off to one side, approaching those seats to ask, "Are these reserved/taken?" is quite reasonable (and thanks to the vast majority of people who handled that as polite members of society). Sneering, "Are these for special people?" at the people already seated in them is not quite the same thing. It is already such a special experience to require assistance to get into the concert at all, to worry whether one's needed accommodations will be handled gracefully despite one's calling in advance (they were), and to have one's particular special condition exacerbated by the decadent overindulgence of sitting in dark halls two nights in a row. What I really need to make the experience complete is your open resentment that I have been permitted something so flagrantly self-indulgent as a chair. Then when we indicate that it's because of disability, what I need even more is for you to recoil as though I have whipped out graphic pictures of some surgery or internal organ. Thanks ever so.

Do not answer your damn cell phone. If it rings during a quiet moment in the music, your course of action is to look extremely sheepish and mute it or turn it off, as you should have done at the start of the show. If they call for which you are waiting is truly life and death important, please stand close to the doors so you can duck out into the lobby to answer it.

If you are taking pictures, do not turn your flash up to "everybody take your iodine, there's been a nuclear event" level. I live with one photographer and see quite a bit of some others socially, and so I am pretty sure that this is not necessary. And if it was necessary, it might be a sign that you should just not try to get that picture.

This is a rock show. One of the things that means is dynamic variation. You can pretty well guarantee that there will be a loud bit at some point, and then there is a loud bit, you can say things to your companion in a loudish conversational voice. You can rummage around in the purse you have apparently filled entirely with cellophane. You can make impatient little noises with your water bottle. What you should not do is to perform these irritating little acts compulsively when the music is having quiet, contemplative/emotional moments. If something in your purse is that important and takes two full songs to find, perhaps you should go out to the lobby, where there is better lighting. Or perhaps you should stand closer to the individuals in one of the paragraphs adjacent to you, as they were augmenting the lighting on a fairly regular basis.

If you must light up and stay lit up for the entire concert (which, frankly, I doubt is quite as imperative as you seemed to find it), do us all a favor and spring for the good pot. "But Mris," you may be saying, "you do not smoke pot. How do you know which is the good pot?" I have said this before, but since some people are, as I said, apparently new, I will repeat it. In fact, this is general advice from Auntie [ profile] mrissa, applicable to sweaters and roommates and cupcakes and quarter-scale reproductions of the SF-MoMA porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and his chimp as well as to weed: things that smell like burning unwashed ass are bad. You do not want them.

If you wish to be in full control of which songs you hear at which times, I have some wonderful news for you! It is now possible to purchase a number of devices that facilitate this behavior. You can, for example, use a CD player. You can use a music player on your computer or on a portable device. You can even, should you be inclined, make cassette tapes and fast-forward or rewind them as you desire. If that is not retro enough for you, some bars feature machines into which you may feed money for this purpose. However, this is not the jukebox option. That being the case, will you please permit the performers to perform more than one song before you begin shouting the names of their one or two most popular pieces? (Or any others. But especially those.) They arrived for this event aware that their engagement in this venue was for the purposes of providing music. They have therefore given some thought to music they know or might remember some of, and if they don't say, "So what d'you want to hear?" or otherwise seem to be flailing, let them play. If the show appears to be winding down, you may then express your enthusiasm for the performers' one or two most popular songs if those have not been played, and if you feel that they may be unaware of which pieces catch your particular individual fancy and the particular individual fancy of every other person who has ever heard of this band. But give the poor musicians at least a few minutes to get settled in onstage before you shatter their illusion that you might be here for more than just the one three-minute song.

I'm so glad we've cleared all that up.

[ profile] mrissa

whee, book

Nov. 6th, 2009 05:26 pm
mrissa: (reading)
So: Reginald Hill! Why didn't any of you tell me? Did you think I already knew, or does he get weird (I mean bad-weird) early or late in the series? I'm halfway through Arms and the Women, which I selected more or less at random from the library's collection in this series, and it has a major character who is writing a novel, and it has bits of the novel in the book, and you know what? I don't even care. I hate novelist major characters, and even more than that I hate the books they write, hate them with the hatey hatefulness, and I am so loving the characters, and so wanting to pop up to my e-mail to send a quote to [ profile] gaaldine or [ profile] swan_tower or [ profile] pameladean or [ profile] anne_mommy every five minutes (but I am resisting because there is more book to read) that I don't even care about a) the novelist major character or b) the structure of this sentence.

And there are two dozen of them just in this series (which I will read first, and then try the others, as I did with Ruth Rendell, or am doing, rather, as I still have lots of not-Wexford to go), and the library has bunches and also doesn't have bunches, so I've gone and added a bunch of cheap mystery paperbacks to my Amazon list. I feel very virtuous about putting cheap paperbacks on my list before Christmas. "There," I think, "then if my dear little old auntie wants to buy me something from the list, she can have options. Mom can sort by cheapest on up to show her, and if she doesn't want to buy me Saffy's Angel--which she should because it's good--then she can buy me something with nice cheerful deathfulness in it." And the glow of virtue surrounds me like, lo, a nimbus, because of my virtuous potential receipt of presents. And then I putter off to stir spaghetti sauce while reading more of this book. The end. Good story, huh? I did not, at this juncture, find five bucks. But one never knows at an Aho premiere, really.

I was not in a good mood. But now I am. Moral of the story: Reginald Hill, you folks who are not [ profile] wshaffer are falling down on your telling-me-good-books job, but I have the joy of having found him now , much rejoicing, and soon there will be brand new freakazoid Finnish symphonic music as written by a Finn who has apparently been listening to much North Indian drumming. Here is what about Kalevi Aho: not boring. Weird. But not boring.

So like the rest of my life then. So that's all right.

That was rather an incoherent moral, but a positive one. So again: like the rest of my life then.
mrissa: (amused)
The Smothers Brothers didn't do this bit yesterday, and [ profile] timprov had never seen it, so I had to dig it up on YouTube. Here you go:

It's the one with cravasses and the Folk Singer's Manual.

They look just like that now, too. Only maybe a little different.

It was a good birthday in several directions. And now I am trying to figure out how I could fill meringue castles with fudge or whether there's something else nice that can go in a meringue castle.
mrissa: (amused)
At the Josh Ritter concert last night:

Josh: I want to try to play a new song for you.
Enthusiastic Minnesotan man in the crowd: I'll bet it's pretty good!

Oh, Minnesotans. Never, ever change.

(It was pretty good, too. It had icy death potential, which improves most things.)
mrissa: (andshe'soff)
I said this over on Facebook, but I will repeat myself here:

[ profile] markgritter and I are going to the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company's performance of H.M.S. Pinafore on Saturday at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. We'll be bringing picnic for ourselves, which will probably include enough bars and/or cookies to share with a few people if people turn up. The performance starts at 7:30. We will be picnicking somewhat in advance of that. If you're around and going to be there, look for us. We're likely to be on lawn chairs on the little rise behind the benches.

GSVLOC generally puts priority on music first, costume second, and dance third. That's for their stage productions. At the bandshell it's not a fully enacted performance, it's mostly just the music, possibly some funny hats. (For those of you who like dance a great deal, this may actually be a good thing: no need to worry that anyone will butcher the choreography.) They really want to get you out of there by dark, too, so the intermission is short and the pacing moves along at a really good clip.
mrissa: (intense)
1. It is May Day! And yet again I have not done May baskets. I should probably just decide that I'm not going to, but it keeps popping up in my head each year, so I'm not sure that would actually work. I really have a hard time justifying driving all over pillar and post to my friends' houses and then not seeing my friends. Possibly I should map my friends and pick a region and only do May baskets in that region. Hmmmm.

2. I would like to once again call your attention to the existence of Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, which is (now that it is May) next month! Many fine people are already attending! One of them is me! Most of them are not! Still plenty of room for one of them to be you! Twenty-three days for the pre-reg deadline. Give it some thought.

3. I did an unannounced radio silence yesterday: no sending personal e-mail except in emergencies, no reading anything online--lj, Facebook, comics, news, nothing. I needed the mental quiet, and it was good to have it. I also react badly to the implicit notion that one should be assumed to be in reach of internet discussion and ready to focus all energy upon it at the drop of a hat.

On the other hand, when my friends talk about how they need to do less "wasting time online," I feel something of a pang: in many cases, online is my only mode of keeping up with them much of the time, and I don't really feel like maintaining a friendship is a waste of time. But on the other other hand, there is a spectrum, with a long letter to a dear friend on one end and reading back strips of a not-very-clever comic on the other.

So what I think I'm going to try to do for May is to concentrate my time reading stuff on the internet to first thing in the morning and some time in the evening, so that I'm still keeping up with friends but not faffing about looking up the origins of Edward III's mother just because I can. I don't intend to read less of lj total, but I do hope to reduce the time spent tabbing over, hitting refresh, reading two entries, and tabbing back to what I intended to be doing in the first place. Deliberate and intentional will be our watchwords. (Note: I count e-mail as separate from "reading stuff on the internet," so I'll still have my e-mail open pretty much all the time. This is by no means a guarantee that I will be at the computer anything like all the time.)

This is why I removed the games from my hard drive: sometimes I'm stuck on a bit of writing. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I need to persevere, and sometimes when I'm stuck, I need to get up, move away from the computer, make myself a cup of tea or fold some towels or something else. In neither of these cases was playing Free Cell actually useful. And I removed the games rather than fencing them off the way I'm going to try doing with reading stuff online because I didn't actually enjoy them, they just occupied my hands, whereas I actually do enjoy reading stuff online, so it's worthwhile to keep, in its own section maybe. We'll see how that goes.

4. Yesterday the words came back. After Grandpa died, there was a short period when I couldn't write at all--about two weeks--and since then it's been about a month of dragging each word out kicking and screaming. Which I do, because, y'know, this is what I do. But yesterday they were fluid again. Yesterday I could compose a paragraph or a scene rather than a letter or a word. Glory be. Oh, the relief that is work.

5. I really hope they do the Beethoven first and the Sibelius second tonight, because I'm pretty exhausted, and I would prefer not to sleep through the Beethoven, but I am a great deal less analytical about Beethoven than I am about Sibelius. I don't enjoy it less. I'm just less thinky. And tired.
mrissa: (writing everywhere)
I have only one thing in honor of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day this year: Things We Sell To Tourists. It originally appeared in the late and much-lamented Aeon. Five short-shorts around a theme. Enjoy.

Something I hoped to do for IPSTD was a recording of "Singing Them Back," which I have been supposed to do since November. One of the major problems with it is that we live near the airport, so if I want to record something on Timprov's system and not have it sound like airplanes at unpredictable intervals--particularly now that it's nice enough that he has the windows open--I need to do it after the planes are done for the day, which is mostly after I've gone to bed. This is on my list of things I can do to keep living my life even with the vertigo. I won't forget it. I just didn't do it this week, and probably won't soon.

But! I haven't written about that list in awhile, and there's a lot of stuff I have done from it. cookie experiments, restaurants, and more )

*English peas. Garden peas. Whatever you call 'em, the ones with the pods too stiff to eat and the large peas inside, where you have to shell the peas before eating them? That's what I want. Anybody know where I can find those? It's prime pea season, and the stores are selling me sugar snap or snow. And those are fine for their purposes, but what I want is peas, not peas-inna-pod. Byerly's, Cub, Rainbow, and Kowalski's have all consistently let me down. If you know where one can get fresh peas in season in the Twin Cities, please do tell, and we will hasten there.

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