Writer, Christian, bibliophile, musician, generalist.


MXCV- Annie, Forward Motion, and an Analytical Mind

1. My girlfriend is incredible. Seriously.

First of all, we made dinner (and by that, I mean she prepared everything and I just introduced heat and pressure to the chicken until it looked like we could eat it). It was awesome. That is two meals in two weeks that she has made that have knocked my socks from my feet. [I need to cook more for her, I think.] But working alongside her rocks.

Then there’s the kind of conversation we have. I have never been able to talk to anyone like I can talk to her. Etymology, politics, the state of the nation, no topic is out of our wheelhouse.

I am just in love and I’m tired of not talking about it. So I’m just going to keep doing it.

2. I’m turning away from Don’t Break the Chain. It’s served me to the extent of what it can do, but I think it’s run its course. After a while I start pulling more and more chains, and then I suddenly find I can’t pull any more and so I just drop them all.

What I’d like to start focusing on is forward motion. I intend to start my days with “How am I going to move forward today?” and the hopefully end with “How did I move forward today?” Maybe I’ll even tie it into writing here. Or Wordpress if that ever happens. [That needs to happen this summer at the latest.]

I think the emphasis on forward motion will help me to identify what’s important to be working on and what I can let slide.

I also removed Reddit from my favorites bar. It’s an awesome website, but it’s been absolute crap for my productivity. Awful.

3. I never really realized what an analytical mind I have when it comes down to it. But when I sit down with the intent to think about something, my mind usually spins circles around itself. I need to learn to hone that in a bit better.

MXCIV- Music, East of Eden, Restlessness, Lifting Weights, and Sumer Is Icumin In

1. I’ve been getting this urge to write and arrange music lately. It’s tedious work, but I’ve got some ideas I really need to get onto paper.

First up? John Musto’s beautiful song Litany, arranged for men’s chamber ensemble.

Constellation Men’s Ensemble is finally coming together in some great ways.

2. East of Eden continues to be incredibly good. There was an entire section today that I just kept underlining. I keep really wanting to write about what I’m reading, but I’m facing a combination of not feeling like it every time I sit down to write and wanting to wait until the very end.

3. So many things in my life are going so well right now, but I keep feeling restless. I always remember something that I’m not doing. I can’t do everything, and that’s hard for me. I want so much to do everything, but I’m only one person.

So really what I need to work on is better discerning the things I need to be doing. And not getting side-tracked by other less mindful things.

4. Finally started lifting again after having taken some time off from it due to iron levels. Felt good. I’ve lost a little endurance, a little strength, but I should be able to build that back up soon.

I really want warm weather to come back to stay so I can start running outside again and get to using the awesome strongman mace my brother got me for Christmas.

5. I hope this summer goes okay. I don’t really have much planned, which is different from the past few summers. I hope I don’t drive myself nuts.

MXCIII- Voice Lesson, Pie, and Sleep

1. Today was a very encouraging day. Had a voice lesson after 5 months away from the studio (enough to the point where some of my friends got confused that I was taking a voice lesson as opposed to giving one) and it went really well. There are few things as great as a good voice lesson to make a singer feel good about his life. I felt very affirmed in the work I’ve been putting in; it’s just nice to know that the work I’ve been doing is good work. It would be awful to find that the work I put in is doing more harm than good. Thankfully, that is not the case.

We worked a bit with breath today, which was interesting for me. One of the ideas my teacher brought up was the idea that the support shouldn’t be an initial thing. It’s there, but as soon as that engages prematurely, the throat also tenses up. The support and the throat are tied together. Along with that, we also worked on not taking too big a breath. I tend to inflate to a good amount of lung capacity every time I breathe in, but in beginning the phonation before I feel like I have a full breath, I’m able to produce a much freer tone. It feels great. Also still working on keeping the voice bright and forward.

It’s encouraging to know that I can still progress outside of a degree program. Hard work pays off!

I’m itching to get some auditioning done. I need to be singing more places.

2. It was also awesome for people to notice my weight loss. I’ve worked hard at that as well, and it’s nice to be noticed.

On that note, I’ve eaten a lot of pie lately. I’ve been developing some kind of weakness for pie.

3. I really want to sleep. All of the time. I think it’s a combination of how much I’ve been working, how much I’ve been exercising, and a change of the seasons.

At least I know it’s not iron deficiency!

Still, I hope I catch up on it at some point.

MXCII- Singing, Messiness, and Happiness

1. And that’s one more Holy Week under wraps. I did a lot of singing this weekend, and my voice and body are kind of done for now. I need a recovery day.

I also need to sing more, I think. This has shown me I’m a little out of shape. Not really any worse for wear since I can rely on technique now (especially since I teach it so much), but I still need to rest my voice.

Voice lesson tomorrow, though!

2. I really need to de-clutter the ol’ apartment. I’ve been horrible lately at picking up after myself, and that needs to change.

3. My girlfriend is wonderful to be around. I’m really lucky to have found someone who will laugh as hard as she does at my jokes. She thinks I’m funny, and that makes me happy.

MXCI- Easter, EoE, and First Impressions

1. He is risen!

(this is where you say “He is risen indeed, alleluia!”)

It’s always nice to go back to saying alleluia. Lent feels long. I suppose that’s the point, but still.

Meat is in my future, and how.

2. I’ve been loving East of Eden. I really want to do a write-up of my thoughts on it so far, but I think that’s going to have to wait until I don’t have to be downtown at 8:15am tomorrow morning.

3. I wish I was able to see myself through the eyes of people who don’t really know me. I wonder what my first impressions are like.

MXC- Holy Week Fatigue, Life, and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

1. Holy Week is taking it out of me.

I’m so tired right now, and it’s not even midnight. Also, I had a nap today, so this should doubly not be happening.

And yet I will probably go to bed in a few minutes.

No regrets.

2. I’ve generally been feeling much better about life over the last couple of weeks, especially once I started having iron in my diet again.

But the anxieties don’t seem as pressing, and the lows are not even near rock bottom.

It’s been nice.

3. “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” is probably one of the greatest hymns ever written.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,

Now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown;

How pale Thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!

How does that visage languish,
which once was bright as morn!


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.


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.