Writer, Christian, bibliophile, musician, generalist.

 

MLXXXIX- Maundy Thursday, Prayer, Piano, and Meat

1. I’m really thankful this week to belong to a high liturgical tradition, but also one that’s charismatic. I didn’t grow up in a charismatic tradition, but I’ve come to really enjoy the Holy Spirit being invited into active worship, and not just in a token way.

I went to Church of the Resurrection (aka Rez) where the bishop (Stewart Ruck III) of our diocese is the head priest. Such a wonderful service tonight. Maundy Thursday has come to be one of my favorite events of the liturgical year, interestingly enough. I feel like it can often be overlooked. I mean, Good Friday is a big one, as well as Easter of course, so no surprise: most people don’t even pronounce it correctly (hint: it’s not Monday Thursday). But the emphasis on foot washing and serving one another as well as becoming one body through the eucharist, it’s a really beautiful way to spend the evening in prayer. I was twice choked up and moved to tears; I don’t just go to church often enough. I need to allow myself a Sabbath once in a while.

Canon Stephen Gauthier is a great preacher, as well. He’s a soft-spoken guy, but I think that’s just because every single word that comes out of his mouth has weight to it. One of the ideas from his sermon really stuck with me. He started talking about spiritual gifts and serving one another and remarked (echoing Paul) that your spiritual gifts are not for you. Maybe they’re not to serve yourself and make you stronger, but rather to build others up. That really affects how I feel about my singing. There have been many times when I feel as though I’m imposing my talent on others and will be seen as showing off (and many times I feel like I need to); but what if I approached that with the theory that I should be singing my absolute best because there’s no telling who I could be blessing. What if I offered God not a tithe of my voice, but all of it?

I think that’s a good way to live life.

2. Silent prayer is how I should end (and really, begin) all of my days. I felt so at peace and collected.

I prayed for some big things tonight and I’m filled with joy and hope for how God will develop them

3. My piano skills have improved so much over the course of this year. I’m really glad I’ve played as much as I have for my students’ lessons.

4. Only three more days until meat is fully back in my life. I cannot wait. So many new recipes to try. Bacon jam, here I come!

MLXXXVIII- Assholes, East of Eden, and Low Range

1. Man, there are some assholes out there. The behavior I saw on the train on the way home tonight was deplorable. There was one guy I noticed who had a woman blocked into the wall of the train and was just staring at her. It was creepy. Same guy grabbed a girl’s arm as she was getting off. He was obviously high and had some friends with him, so I didn’t say anything; however, I regret that. So much in this city is about minding your own business. He didn’t actually do anything realistically harmful to them other than being an asshole, so I didn’t feel like action was yet appropriate. I was fully ready to follow him if he followed her, though.

I also saw some guy knocking his girlfriend around “playfully”. I could tell he had good intentions, and yet I saw something in his girlfriend’s eyes that made me think she really didn’t want that. Man.

And then as I was walking from my stop to my apartment, I ended up following some girl down the sidewalk. Knowing how nerve-wracking it is to hear footsteps behind you on a deserted street at night (especially when they’re faster than your own), as I neared her I said something to the effect of, “Hey, I’m non-threatening back here.” Which— I realize now— could have suggested the opposite. There is unfortunately sometimes no way as a guy to not feel like a creep. Rape culture is so prevalent that we who love and respect the women in our lives are subject to the same prejudice has the entire male population— and many times, rightly so.

Rape culture doesn’t just hurt women.

2. I started East of Eden again today, after not having read it for 4 years. Holy crap, is it good. Steinbeck has a way with words and characters.

3. My low range is my worst enemy as of late. When I absolutely need it to be there, it’s not there. And then when I don’t need it, it suddenly is. I used to have low E’s and D’s. What happened? Too bad there’s no real way to expand your range realistically. Sure, you can lessen tension, and you can build endurance, but there’s no way to physically lengthen the chords, which is what would need to happen.

So much frustration over that.

MLXXXVII- Ketchup, Food Deserts, Days, 4 Marathons, and Late Registrations

1. I was watching an episode of Mad Men tonight where Peggy is trying to create a new ad campaign for Heinz Ketchup, when I realized I has no idea where the word “ketchup” came from. My assumption was that the competing word “catsup” was somehow culturally different, thus providing the conflict.

What I actually found was that what we know as ketchup was originally derived from a Chinese fish sauce called “kôe-chap” (in the Amoy dialect). No idea how it got from fish to tomatoes, but I’m glad for it. The ketchup/catsup debate are actually only two instances in an etymological parallel history that also includes:

- kecap
- catchup
- ketjap
- etc.

They are all attempts to anglicize a Chinese phrase. Ketchup has had the most staying power though, at least in my mind.

Ketchup has a rather sordid history, as I found out. It was actually a catalyst in getting Americans to eat tomatoes in the early 19th century (they had long been considered poisonous when raw). The Reagan administration also famously tried to make it count as a vegetable in public school lunches. This was thankfully unsuccessful. Seriously, the government will do anything to cut costs.

That could have been really bad if it had gone though, obviously. For many of America’s kids, school lunch is the only reliable meal they have access to all day.

2. I’ve been learning more about Chicago’s food desert problem. There are parts of this city where grocery stores are more than twice as far away as the nearest fast food restaurant. And so what do people do? Eat fast food. This is both financially burdensome as well as nutritionally suspect. Sure, most fast food places now advertise “smart choices”, but that’s really many times deciding on the lesser of all evils.

I’d love to find a volunteer organization that helps with situations like these. I’m not sure what I can do about it being neither a gardener nor a grocery store owner, but there’s got to be something? Maybe I could bring a box of apples off the highway?

The South Side sounds like an awful place to be.

3. I’ve let another day pass me by. I mean, I’ve been getting organized and stuff for both out at NCC and for Holy Week, but still. I don’t know what I’d rather be getting out of days like this, but I do know I’m not getting it.

4. I have now run over 100 miles this Lenten season. Current total is 103.47mi. That’s doing pretty well. Almost 4 marathons.

5. As of 2 1/2 weeks into the term, my students are finally all registered. Ridiculous.

MLXXXVI- Snow, Laziness, Ice Cream, and Self-Employment

1. There is apparently a lunar eclipse tonight. I would have loved to have watched it, but unfortunately there is a large amount of snow currently accumulating on the ground.

2. I barely did anything today, and I don’t feel awesome about that. I just felt very unmotivated. I mean, this is going to be a busy week from about Wednesday on, but still. I need to be better at being productive.

I feel as though my attention span especially is suffering because of this type of continued behavior.

3. Making my own ice cream at home is a great privilege. Cheaper and better than buying it.

4. This whole being primarily self-employed thing is difficult. I wonder if anyone else has realized this.

Eh, probably not.

MLXXXV- Weather, Passover, and Sleeping In

1. It was really beautiful all weekend— no coats, no thick socks— just nice weather.

I went for another outside run today (5mi.) and literally felt it get cold. I was running up past Howard and suddenly the nice, warm, 75° air was cut with a frigid air from across the lake. I assumed it was just a fluke, a stray wisp of air cooled by the cold lake. But then it stayed cold. And now it’s 45°.

I guess I should be happy it’s not going to be 80° starting now and ending in September. But still. I wish it could stay in the 60s year-round.

2. I love Passover. I wish I could celebrate it every day.

Hillel sandwich— divine.

3. Tomorrow I will not be sleeping in. I slept in both days this weekend, but now it’s time to work.

MLXXXIV- Running, Late, Calling, Active/Passive

1. My winter treadmill training regimen worked, and how.

I ran 6 miles today, outside, and with minimal trouble.

I stopped once to tie my shoe and once to take a drink of water (which tasted disturbingly like natural gas smells), but kept pace and actually ran 6 miles about 5 minutes faster than I normally do on a treadmill.

That is officially farther than I have ever run off of a treadmill. I think in the next month, 7 or 8 miles is within my grasp. I’ve taken a step back from increasing my distance since about February, focusing mainly on pace, but I think I’m doing well enough at this distance that I can push myself a little further.

I did run the first couple of miles pretty fast, though. That’s something I need to watch. Pacing isn’t as much of a problem on the back half of a run, but on the front half, I tend to exert more energy than I probably should.

In any case, I’m thankful it was cool enough to actually run outside today. It got up to 79°F!

That is nearly a 100° change in the last three months. Crazy.

2. I have been staying up too late lately. I think tomorrow night will hold an early bedtime in its grasp.

3. Even though How I Met Your Mother ended almost two weeks ago, I am continually called Marshall Eriksen. Not that I mind. Jason Segel is a cool guy.

4. I’ve been thinking more and more on this whole active/passive thing and how it relates to singing and to life in general. i feel like I’m onto something.

MLXXXIII- Small stuff, Pedagogy, and Emails

1. Sometimes I let really small stuff build and build until it becomes big stuff.

I shouldn’t do that.

2. I don’t know why I ever doubted my abilities as a teacher. I think I’ve been doing pretty well these last couple of weeks. I’ve been talking a lot about some surprising things. One is posture, another is breath/support. These are two things I haven’t really thought about before, but critiquing what other pedagogues have had to say on those subjects has helped me more clearly articulate my own opinions.

I’ve also been talking a lot about active breath and passive breath. I think it’s more helpful to students than trying to talk about fast/slow air, or placing things more forward. I had been talking about it for a long time as “forward motion”, but I think the word “active” is more accurate to what I’m looking for.

3. I have too many emails in my inbox. This needs to change.

MLXXXII- Vocal Ethnomusicology, Spark, Songs, Which Wich, Bourbon, and Neil Gaiman

1. I went downtown this evening to hear most of my students sing in a concert at 4th Pres.

Good music. I love Paulus.

But on the way to the train (this was after Chick-fil-a, of course) I heard a guy making some interesting sounds come out of his throat. I know what he was doing was imitating the way an over-clocked bass rattles and vibrates the non-immobilized parts of a car’s interior, creating a sort of white/blue/pink noise feedback against the fundamental. Interestingly enough, it is essentially the same thing that Tuvan singers do when singing in the khoomei style. Fascinating how styles of singing begin to meld into one another.

I asked him if he had any idea what he was doing, citing my being a voice teacher, but I don’t know if he did. The guy’s friend threw down some pretty good freestyle though. Referenced Machiavelli, although I think that was a Tupac nod. Not bad either way, though.

But listening to that first guy create those overtones struck a chord in me: ordinary people do extraordinary things every day. Folk singing—and beatboxing certainly is folk singing— really interests me in a way that I think I could sink into and study for a while. I love opera and art song and traditional classical pedagogy, but sometimes I feel the need to step out of that box. I think in studying other styles of music, I can work towards developing an even more unified theory of singing.

It makes me wonder when throat singers claim they never get tired or do damage to their voices. And in fact I can hear even as they slip in and out of western traditional phonation, there is still health and purity in the natural voice. How does that happen?

My current position on extended technique is that it should be a choice. Your voice should never make you by necessity to tighten your jaw, or sing “ugly” vowels, or not make ends of phrases. But when those things are added for dramatic or artistic effect, they can be very effective. The key in pedagogy for me, is to strip the voice of everything distracting in order to create room for a more essential and authentic sound. I am very interested in how that extends to other music cultures. Is is possible (or even appropriate) to use a unified voice technique?

I know I’ve modified (or maybe focused is a better word) what I do with classical voice to better suit musical theatre voice, and I’m wondering how far that goes. I know I read an abstract of a thesis comparing western opera to carnatic singing, the thesis being that they are by necessity different approaches. But I’d love the opportunity to challenge that.

2. I am thankful to finally have my spark of creativity back. Hoping this spark lights a fire.

3. I keep getting ideas for songs I’d like to compose, and yet I don’t have any notation software. I think I may need to fix that soon.

4. I discovered a Which Wich near Naperville. Dangerous.

5. Discovery, bourbon might help me write. I should test this further.

6. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is rocking right now. I’m almost 200 pages in, and I love the premise. More to come on that!

MLXXXI- Captain America, “Sea Canes”, Books, and Process

1. Anne and I saw the new Captain America tonight. I actually thought it was pretty good. I think this one more than most of Marvel’s movies from the last few years was aimed more toward comic book lovers.

There were many things that looked like they came right out of a panel, many situations and interactions that were written like a comic book would be. There was a ridiculous scene where a guy’s entire personality was put onto “200,000 feet of memory tape” and run through hundreds of computer terminals. That kind of stuff only happens in comic books.

I also thought they did a terrific job with Black Widow in not making her just a romantic foil for the Cap. She held her own, and it was very clear from the get-go that she wasn’t someone to be messed with. Agent Hill as well.

2. Flavorwire has been killing this National Poetry Month daily post thing. Here’s “Sea Canes” by Derek Walcott:

Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf’s drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion

of owls leaving earth’s load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The sea-canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing canes

brings those we love before us, as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.

Mmm.

3. I finished Calvino’s Difficult Loves today, meaning that for the first time ever, I’ve finished a shipment of Amazon books before ordering another one. I’d like to take this time to pat myself on the back.

Current count for the year:

33 books/10,769 pages read.

Doing pretty well.

4. I am currently not feeling as bad for having as many interests as I do. It’s part of the process and I am still refining it. It’s not always as efficient as I’d like it to be, but that will come with time.

MLXXX- List 1, List 2, Work, Losing Weight, Ice Cream, and Reading

1. Here is a list of things I think I should be doing more of:

- Singing (and getting paid to do so)
- learning/speaking foreign languages
- meditating
- transferring this blog to Wordpress like I started doing once upon a time
- reading more pedagogy and scripture
- figuring out my next step in life
- writing
- applying to jobs
- expanding my mind in productive ways

2. Here is what I am doing instead:

- teaching as much as I can
- reading a lot of books that act as a productive form of procrastination
- exercising and actually losing weight/getting in shape
- Reddit/killing time on the Internet
- writing lists that make me feel vaguely bad about myself
- working one church job and trying to line up others
- worrying

3. Looking at those lists, I do feel a little bad about what I’m doing. I’ve got so much free time the first three days of the week that I absolutely do not use it efficiently. I get sucked into time-wasting endeavors on the Internet that give me a cheap thrill but then melt my brain a little bit. Sometimes (to be honest) when I get home, I sit in my car for a few minutes and just zone out because I don’t know what to do next.

I know I could be doing other things, but for some reason I don’t. I burn myself out on those things and then wonder why I can’t force myself to go back to them.

I have a job that I like and that is affording me at least marginal financial comfort, but it doesn’t feel like a career yet. I wish I could just get comfortable for a bit, but I feel like I need to be constantly searching for other work on the side. Too bad no one really wants to hire someone with only three days free a week.

Pyramid scheme, anyone?

I need to cut the Internet time for sure. I think that’s a start. It’s just so easy.

4. Today, I fit into a pair of 34x30 pants. That hasn’t happened since…well I really don’t remember fitting into pants that small in my adult life.

I don’t really have a goal weight or goal size. I figure I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and see where that takes me. I feel as though I’m going to plateau around 200 for a while. I’d love to be under 200 lbs., but I’m going to do it safely and healthfully, rather than just starving myself or working myself to death.

I’m a little worried what it’s doing/going to do to my singing voice without regular lessons. I already notice some difference with tension building in areas it didn’t before, so I need to figure out what to do with that. That may also explain my problems with my low range over the last couple of months as well.

5. In related news, I made really awesome oatmeal raisin cookie ice cream tonight.

6. I need to take better notes on the books I read. There are times when people ask me what I like about a given book and my mind goes blank.

I am also reading several books at once, which maybe shouldn’t happen. I started reading Difficult Loves last week and since then I’ve read 4 graphic novels, a novel my friend wrote, and RHE’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood; plus just this morning, I started American Gods. And on top of all of that I’m reading pedagogy all along.

I have a problem. Not a bad problem, but still a problem.

I just love reading so much.

MLXXIX- Poetry, Sports, Reading, and Nutrition

1. I really feel as though I should have been posting poetry every night for the past week seeing as how this is national poetry month and poetry is one of the things I love most in the world.

So here is Langston Hughes’ “Prayer[2]”

Gather up
In the arms of your pity
The sick, the depraved,
The desperate, the tired,
All the scum
Of our weary city.

Gather up
In the arms of your pity.
Gather up
In the arms of your love—
Those who expect
No love from above.

2. It has been really nice watching these last two basketball games with church people. I have some great friends.

3. As of today, I have read 32/100 books for the year. I think it’s safe to say at this point that I will finish. I think the question will be: how much will I go over?

I should probably slow down though. But it’s not like I’m not reading thick books; I’m over 10,000 pages so far.

Books I’m looking forward to:

East of Eden (haven’t read it since 2010. I’m overdue for a repeat)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Master and Margarita
Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

4. Still trying to nail down this nutrition thing. I’ll get it eventually, it’s just taking some time.

MLXXVIII- Work, Church, and Performance Anxiety

1. I would love to stop looking for work sometime. I would love to be content with where I am for now and not have to worry so much about money coming in.

I hope that time comes soon.

I’m just tired of feeling restless all the time and the endless drudge of lining up gigs. Teaching is squared away, but unfortunately my ends are far from meeting. Well, not that far. But still.

The problem is that other than church jobs and teaching, no one seems to want someone who can only realistically work three weekdays and two Saturdays a month.

I starting to hate drawing boards. But there’s so much to do!

2. I had a lot of church today. Between this morning’s long rehearsal and church service and this afternoon/evening’s bilingual service at Redeemer with our visiting Bishop, Canon, and a couple of priests, I think I spent about 8 or 9 hours in church.

Had a great service at Redeemer, though. It was my first time experiencing the charismatic aspects of my Anglican faith, and it was in stark contrast to the high church from this morning. Serious contrast.

It was awesome having that many church leaders at one service though. It reminded me of when 6 or 7 of us black belts would show up at the same class and have a great workout/session. Except I didn’t get any bruises today.

Darn.

3. Performance anxiety dreams are the worst. There’s nothing like dreaming for an entire night that there was an opera premiering tonight that I was in for which I hadn’t even opened my score.

One of those dreams where you can’t quite tell fact from fiction even a couple of hours after you wake up. Luckily I was well prepared for everything today.

MLXXVII- Spring, Happiness, Superpowers, NCAA, and Mistaken Identities

1. I am very tempted right now to say that I really want spring to come quickly. But really that’s not true.

I want warm weather to come quickly. What I don’t what to come quickly are the allergens associated with spring-type weather such as mold, pollen, etc. that make my life that much harder to live effectively.

I feel like I should start Zyrtec now proactively.

2. I feels good to be happy again.

3. I read Mom’s Cancer tonight. It’s a graphic novel about the author’s (Brian Fies’) mother’s battle with lung cancer. It’s impeccably written and really profound. It’s an Eisner award-winner, and I can see why.

There’s a great line in there about the fact that when we face an emergency, the things we are already good at become superpowers. Examples in that scene are the writer’s propensity for writing and research as a coping mechanism, his nurse sis’s robotic indestructibility, and his kid sis’s powers of invisibility.

But it hit me that when faced with an emergency, my power of worrying would likely make me an Omega-class mutant. My entire world becomes transmutable. I’d like to work on changing that. I wonder if there’s a way to get another of my powers to magnify in times of struggle. Ideally, it would be a power of inner peace, or better still— love.

I think it’s a noble goal, at least.

4. Some upsets on the basketball court today. But it should make for an interesting NCAA championship between the University of Kentucky and UConn.

5. Even though the finale of How I Met Your Mother aired last Monday, I am still getting mistaken for Jason Segel as Marshall Eriksen.

I am okay with that.

MLXXVI- Irony, Creativity, and More Hours

1. I am absolutely floored at the difference an iron-rich diet makes in regards to my mental health. I can’t express it clearly enough; it really is like night and day. I don’t feel sad or anxious or anything (at least not outside of the realm of a normal human being).

I’ve been taking iron supplements and I had a big burger for dinner tonight (sorry, Lent) and I didn’t expect to be able to tell the difference this soon, but I completely can. And I really don’t think it’s a mindset thing, either. I feel physically better as well. I think mental elasticity was what I was lacking before. I was getting down, and I just didn’t have the energy to get back up again.

I will never take my nutrition for granted again. This was a horrible experience.

I feel like myself again, though. It feels amazing.

2. I’m getting ideas again, as well. Part of the fatigue has been not feeling motivated to do anything of worth. But not I’m swarming with ideas on good/cool things to do.

Yes!

I used to think that being sad fueled my creativity, but I think it’s the spikes after feeling sad that do. And this is a big spike.

3. I wish there were more hours in a day. That would be a cool thing.

MLXXV- Nap, Iron Deficiency, and Baseball

1. I think I just took a nap. Only for about 10 minutes, but I think I was out.

I guess that’s what happens when you teach a full day and then decide on going to run 6 miles at the gym.

This has been a long week, but it’s picking up.

2. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I was talking to my mom on the phone tonight and she pointed out that my having given up meat has probably caused an iron deficiency.

Some of the symptoms of an iron deficiency are fatigue, anxiety/depression, weakness, poor work performance, etc. Well guess what I’ve been experiencing for the last month.

I feel very glad to have a solution to this problem. No wonder this has been worse than I’ve ever remembered it.

In related news, I think I’m going to be eating meat tomorrow. I feel bad breaking my Lenten discipline, but mental health might be a little bit more of a pressing matter. I’m really surprised that it’s had this profound an effect.

I don’t think vegetarianism is for me.

3. Baseball season is back in full swing!

The Cards are up 2-1 in a weird series with the Reds. First game was 1-0 Cards, second was 0-1 Reds, and now the game that just finished was 7-6 Cards.

Taking a bit to rev up then?

I freaking love baseball.