November 2003 Archives

November 26, 2003

Guess Who's Going to Dinner

Welllllll, how do I put this...

I guess it is already explained pretty well here but my two cents are probably relevant as well (understatement of the week).

So I am going over to my girlfriend (of a relatively short time)'s parents' for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow, and already Stacie at work is telling me to please shut up about "I'm freaking out" and "Argh!" and "Jesus Christ!" I have not even met the parents yet, and yet there I will be, encroaching on their holiday space.

A part of me is looking forward to hanging out with the family, I have heard much about Mom and Dad and Brother and feel like I know them and like them already. The other part of me is "freaking out" and saying "Argh!" and "Jesus Christ!"

Important Considerations;

A) What to wear to dinner? My original idea, consisting of a bathtowel and fedora, did not fly so well with test audiences. A balance of tasteful vs. casual, I think. It will have to be jeans, but nice dark ones and then this cool black collared shirt she has not seen yet- it has a "pre-wrinkled" look to save me the work of actually ironing it (just kidding, Mom, it is nice).

B) What to bring? Flowers. If there is one thing pretty much universal about Thanksgiving, it's that there is too much food lying about. I think flowers will be neat.

C) What to say? This is a tough one for me. I have often been reduced at social gatherings in the past to "Er," and "Yep, Nope," and I am always uncomfortable with myself when this happens. I have opinions and interesting facts and stories and jokes and things whizzing around in my head, I may as well share them (to a reasonable extent) with people I am sitting down to dinner with. But I can't control this or plan it in advance; as a friend told me recently, I need to just go with the flow, and that means relaxing, doing my own thing, being myself. As long as I am happy with my behavior, then all is good... Until the fight later with the girl about my ridiculously long-winded dinner-table diatribe on the mating habits of fruit-flies.

D) How ultimately to convince the parents I am a man worthy of their amazing Daughter, and not just some random dork?

Er...

"Argh!"

"Jesus Christ!"

I am freaking out.


In the event this does go just horribly awry, it's okay, I have George Clooney on retainer.

November 20, 2003

Rent Averages 11/03


Inspired somehow by this.

There are so many problems with my little study, it is not even funny, but still fun. For example I am limiting my data to searches on Craigslist for 1+ bedroom apartments in the $1,100 - $1,800 range, which no doubt is way too restrictive a price range to get a true idea of prices in those areas, but oh well.

Most of the ones listing for the "average" of about $1,600 are studio or "junior 1 bedroom" apartments. New York for ya.

Explanation for my selection of areas; currently I live in Park Slope, I would enjoy moving to the East Village, with SOHO a close second.

November 19, 2003

Quick Dash

Pack Rat

Today I discovered I have every single (non-mass)-email from my work account, since it's inception in March of 2000, still sitting in my Outlook Inbox.

"2,760 Items" in the old Inbox, every one of them a little gem of data with which I cannot bear to part.

"From: K. Alexander
Date: 4/1/2001
Re: what?
Begin Message: Sure!"

...

Yessiree, this information is going to come in quite handy any minute here, you just wait and see...

Just wait...

Yep, just wait and see...

Hang in there...

Aaaaany minute now...

Yep, waitin' and seein'...

Handy, handy, handy...

Yep...

L&O Episode Not 2Nite

Dang, it looks like tonight's Law&Order episode is going to be "Embedded" instead of the one filmed at my job, "Compassion."

Something about an "embedded journalist" letting out military secrets- I can see they probably shuffled episodes to keep current while the real-life events are still hot.

Oh well.

November 18, 2003

Can't Sleep

3am

November 16, 2003

Invaluable Master Class


I, as well as other attendees of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music's "Piano Extravaganza" last night, was treated to almost two hours of the aforementioned Seymour Bernstein's brilliant, elegant, sensitive critique and instruction on classical piano performances by Jason Thomas and Qi Melody Hee, students with other teachers but who had agreed to participate in the master class.


Here is Jason on the left, looking nervous before playing his first piece, the Kreisleriana No. 1 by Schumann.


And here is Melody, taking a bow after her exquisite performance of Chopin's Scherzo in B-flat Minor.

Since we are so rarely rewarded in life in accordance with our actions, said Mr. Bernstein after the two students had finished their first run-through of their material, "I'm going to reward you..."


"Here, have a candy!"

It was with just such grace and humor Bernstein went on to inform the two students, as well as myself and the rest of the audience, on some very beautiful points of playing piano music well. Including;

-How to begin a piece: for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore you should begin playing with an "upswing" of the arms and in fact the whole body (without letting fingers leave the keys), an upswing which matches the mood of the piece. A slow piece should begin with a graceful rise and fall, a more intense piece or section with a concerted pounce. This, according to Bernstein, will help to set the beauty of the music in motion properly.

-How to play softly: aim not for the bed of the piano keys, but instead for the exact point at which the hammer touches the piano strings.

-How to play legato: roll the wrist, but do not sacrifice finger movement either.

Most controversially, Bernstein also suggested the "hairpins," or creschendo and diminuendo marks, in classical music were never actually intended to indicate "louder or softer," but instead were meant to emphasize passages of importance with "rubato"; the musician should slow down at these points which are the peaks of emotion within a passage. According to Bernstein, his new book entirely on this subject will really shake up music world when it is published. This remains to be seen, however it was certainly interesting to hear him speak about it.


Using a laser pointer to highlight those controversial hairpins, on an overhead projector off-camera...

I especially liked how Mr. Bernstein issued a caveat after each of his points; "Now, that is just my opinion... And you may have your own opinion which is different!"

Tommasini Speaks and Rebuts

A minor fracas broke out between Anthony Tommasini, Chief Classical Music Critic of the New York Times, and Seymour Bernstein, venerated performer and teacher of a piano Master Class at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music last night.


Here is Tommasini giving a very entertaining, if in my opinon snarky and somewhat snide, lecture on the nature of being a music critic. Some of my favorite quotes included "Music essentially resists being written about," due to the fact most readers are musically illiterate. "The only language we have [to describe a performance] is this language we can't use," because 95% of readers of the Times would fail to understand it.

Also, "Amplification ruined Broadway [...] When everything is blasted at you, that subtlety [of songwriting] is pointless," he went on to blast the words of Les Mis for being trite tripe.

Tommasini also spoke of the difficulty of writing reviews of performances of Beethoven; "We all know it, we all love it... it happened again!" is about all he feels he can say about the New York Philharmonic's recent concert of three Beethoven suites (at least I think they were suites, I may have that wrong). "If you play a new work, then you're giving me smoething to write about-"

At which point began the fracas!

From the back of the room came the question from Mr. Bernstein, whose evidently considerable lifetime experience in the fields of performing, teaching and writing about classical music were practically tangible as he spoke;

"To hear you speak [...] is not sending a positive message to these people who are devoted to studying these masterpieces!" He was referring to students in the room who may or may not have been studying Beethoven.

To his credit, Tommasini backpedalled gracefully and managed to state his great affection for the classical canon, but "There has to be a reason for someone to play a Beethoven symphony." He said students should absolutely study the classics, but a concert by a major orchestra should mix up the setlist a little to allow the Beethoven to stand out in its proper brilliance.

November 14, 2003

Aruba Photos

Oh, and for those of you clamoring clamoring for some vacation photos, I didn't take very many since the point was to relax and not sightsee, but here are a few of the better phone pix to give you a rough idea;


Breakfast every morning looked like this...


Boat trip out to the private island, with gargantuan cruise ship in background...


These little monsters are the first things to greet you on the island. One of them even ventured out to my beach chair later and tried to have my toe for an after-dinner mint, but I stared him down and he decided he better not.


Snack, i.e. "overpriced beverage," bar in the background here on the island.


Some kids playing sandcastle.


Lounging on the deck during the one cloudy day. This photo really does not do the pool nor the scenery any sort of justice, it was all quite serene and beautiful from here, even while cloudy. But you get the idea.


And finally the requisite "accidental picture of my bag."

There, now is everyone satisfied?

Gym Day

First day (really) back at the gym today, went with a personal trainer, Jason, very nice guy, personable and all.

New York Sports Club is almost worth the monthly rate- $75 is steep but their equipment is quite nice, and there is a whole "circuit" weight training setup which makes things very easy. Plus the view of the Manhattan skyline over the rooftops of Brooklyn is worth the price of admission.

"So, obviously you are here to build some muscle," - yeah, thanks Jason, I am built like a girly man. But otherwise he was quite informative. I really cannot stress how much more motivating it is to visit with a personal trainer, rather than go it alone at the gym. Getting over the initial fear of close scrutiny is a hurdle worth jumping.

November 11, 2003

Back from Vacation

Okay, I don't have time to put in a really in-depth post about Aruba, but suffice it to say I am back, relaxed and refreshed.

Terse, huh?

November 9, 2003

Poo...

This cruddy internet station kicked me out before I finished an epic post about my vacation in Aruba, and it did not save.

Aaack!

Suffice it to say, things are great, I am feeling highly refreshed and relaxed, however the forecast calls for THUNDERSTORMS TODAY AND TOMORROW! Not what I had bargained for.

Oh well, more opportunity to play Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, what has become a minor obsession in the non-sunfilled moments of my vacation. What can I say, I am a geek.

The hotel bar makes great White Russians- condensed milk, I think it is, instead of the cream. Off for one of those, or maybe I will try a Mojito(sp?), however they are supposedly green and I am unsure if I will like it.

November 8, 2003

Hmmm....

Is somebody randomly advertising roofing services on my blog?

The third comment here under "What is a Graintable," ostensibly by "henry" leads to such roofing services.

Maybe it is just someone playing around, but I wouldn't be surprised if exploitation of the MovableType interface is going to lead to all sorts of advertising in this manner.

P.S.; I live in a brownstone, we do not need any roofing tiles! Thank you!

November 6, 2003

7 Minutes

Quick, only 7 minutes left on my Internet pass to post and update from vacation-land!

Aruba is very... Sunny. Fortunately I came here to sit on the beach and do absolutely nothing else, because that is approximately the only activity available out here. Unless of course you are into gambling, there are about a billion casinos. But after cashing out my $1.80 in winnings at the cashier and feeling very sheepish about handing over 36 nickels, I don't think video poker is really my style.

Found a great restaurant right away the first night, the resort I am staying at is the nicest in sight, tomorrow I hit the "private" island since today I went and found sandals finally- they were actually cheap and are very nice.

Only 3 minutes left!

2 minutes!

Aaaaaig-

November 3, 2003

Vacation Dinner

I was never a fan of the comic strip Blondie, but this is a Dagwood burger if I ever did see one.

Triple-decker, fresh tomato and goat-cheese in between, lots of ketchup.

Tomorrow I am off to Aruba.