Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Blog Location

I'm moving my blog to my own server, mostly since I like Plone better than blogger.com/blogspot/whatever. And I like to tinker, a bit too much, perhaps. So, the new site is here.

Yes, the certificate expired. Yes, I'll renew it. All in good time, etc. Enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Prayer for Conviction

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Never apologize; your friends don't need it and your enemies don't want it. You do not owe anyone anything, no matter what anyone says. Go to university, stay as long as you can, find interesting professors, spend as much time as you can with interesting people.

Don't ever be afraid to talk to your friends, your teachers, your counselors, or anyone else. Parents aren't perfect, and they are often craptacular fuckups, and that's what everyone else you know helps with. But parents are still important. They have had much more time and opportunity to get out of the troubles they've gotten into. They perfectly demonstrate how the most useful knowledge often comes from the most malignant of people.

You're certainly one of the intelligent and talented people I know, and almost certainly not just in music. Learn to ignore the venom people hurl at you while still internalizing the useful information and you will never fail in any meaningful way.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hacking the Wetware

I've struggled with all sorts of madness pretty much my entire life. Finally, I went to see a psychologist, and then a psychiatrist and was prescribed many things, and found some that really worked.

Then the fun began. I noticed I still had all the same bad behaviors and habits, but that somehow that since I could actually observe them now, I started changing for the better. Very slowly. Very, very slowly.

I continued to really fuck up a lot of shit. And some worse than before I was on good meds. But I also was actually learning from these fuckups instead of continuing on as if nothing were wrong.

After nearly two years, I decided that I was tired of being a slave to my own lack of discipline. A month ago I decided I was going to stop doing everything except work, sleep, and music for three months. No cycling, no exercise, no parties or excessive hanging out. And then I worked backwards from the end I wanted and thought about what I would need to change.

My sleep habits have always been a bit haphazard. I never really got into much of a pattern. And much of the instability in other activities seemed to stem from that. So I clamped down on my sleep, hard. I'd be in bed by 10, only reading a book at the most. I'd brush my teeth and wash my face just before that. And I'd get to work by 7:00 am as often as I could so I could leave before traffic got really bad, and so I could go home and practice. Or make it to rehearsals on time. Or just chill at home.

So far it seems to be working. I sleep through the night now. I get up in the morning early enough to get to work around 7:30 or so, and I leave around 4:30 or so. I'm not totally slagged on the weekends, or even most week days. I'm practicing again, several times a week.

If I'm still managing this by next February, I'll actually thing about mixing things up a bit, and maybe take on a yoga class, or possibly get back to the gym. But first, wiggle your big toe.

The Diamond Age

Since I've been slogging through the Baroque Cycle for a few months, I thought I'd take a break and try out something a bit lighter. I started The Diamond Age a few weekends ago and somehow had finished it by the following weekend.

Woah. It's Stephenson Distilled. As I was reading I could pick out the various idiosyncrasies of his style. And it goes by quickly, since it's less than 1200 pages. After reading Cryptonomicon and Quicksilver in rapid succession, along with several of his other shorts, this was a facile read.

But the content is as deep as the book itself is simple. And it's one of the few times I really self-identified with one of the characters. I'm talking about actually seeing my life unfolded in the pages of a book. And since it's Stephenson, it's also my life unfolded in the pages of a book about my life unfolded in the pages of a book.
I was immobilized in bed for hours shredding through the story. It brought me back through most of my childhood and adulthood, and even to the point where my life diverged finally from the story in the book.

Stephenson writes amazing shit. The Diamond Age is not an exception. Cue jokes about me being an eight-year-old girl with a 200,000-strong army of mice at heart.

Beethoven, Brahms and other Meta

Tuesday night the Doctors Symphony read Brahms's Third Symphony. This comes up a lot on horn audition lists, and several lives ago I took several auditions. For the non-auditioned people, here is what an audition entails:

A young aspiring musician decides to find out if he/she/it can find gainful employment as a classical symphonic musician. Said musician spends 2 - 3 years assembling a team of teachers, coaches, friends, compatriots, and various others to goad, encourage, beat, torture, maim, denegrate, and generally make this poor musician miserable enough to want to lock him/her/itself in a small 5 x 3 "practice room" for the duration and practice only snippets of the vast palette of Western Orchestral Repertoire. The final year, while still spending nearly all free and used time in said dungeon, any chance to buy a ticket, hop on a plane, and show up to an audition with 400 - 800 other similar victims is jumped on without second thought. Invariably every single one is heard to give the impression of impartiality, and after several rounds one may be selected.

I spent much time playing this game when I was younger. And much time playing Brahms. It's a testament to the quality of his music that I still listen to it, and occasionally practice it. So when we read it Tuesday, I was really interested in seeing how more of it sounds than just the 16 bars of the third movement that I normally play, especially with a full orchestra.

It was awesome. There was a point at the entrance of the final solo in the third movement where the conductor, the baton, the horn, and I were all connected in some sick, erotically non-erotic cosmic love fest. He played me like the man who nearly bedded me in college before I realized that this men liking men thing isn't just rumor and supposition, and that a young boy intending to keep his honor had better be careful.

But in the context of a symphony orchestra, where unlike a bull the horns are in the back and the asshole is in the front, separated by a luscious ocean of the middle strings of celli and violas, and the silence written stark in ink and imagined flawless in our minds whether it truly was or not, this was a moment. The orchestra stopped time. The baton moved. He caught my eye, and I his. As the baton raised perfectly, the conductor, the horn, Brahms, my teachers, and I all collapsed into a singularity, no longer a virtual particle/wave, but a real existence.

After it was over, I went home and cried. It was a rare moment where I was truly at peace with existence.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


More and more, I've been waking up and thinking it's strange that I'm a computer programmer. It makes no sense to me since clearly I'm a musician. Add to that the three weekly rehearsals, and the practicing after work, and planning for auditions is loosening the last few tendrils of "normalcy" left in my life. I'm nearly completely someone I used to be, or someone I might have been, or someone I will soon be. It's a strange feeling.

I'm meditating again. Work was getting to be way too much ridiculous stress, and I was running short on spare doses. So I forced myself into the beginnings of a routine, and back to meditation. I'm up to 10 minutes twice daily, with the morning round actually in half-lotus. By the evening I'm tired enough that I just lie down. I even take several brief breaks during the day at work.

I just finished the first Doctors Symphony concert. I'm starting to sound like a horn player again. And it's so much easier now. I used to hit a plateau when I would pick it up again, but this time I'm so aware of everything, and of what to fix, and how to fix it. I've managed to consistently improve now since the beginning of August, and now with my new-found schedule discipline, it's much more consistent improvement.

I like this. Maybe it will last long enough for me to get into an orchestra.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Return of the...

Well, so today is the first rehearsal of the CSUN Chamber Orchestra that I sadly didn't coach for last season. No doubt because of a whole list of mental health issues related to going on medication, leaving behind the consulting company I ran (or that ran me), getting it back, job churn, depression, anxiety, and plenty of other incredibly stressful things.

So what's different this year? I'm on the other side of the mental health treatment transition. I'm not done with it, and probably never will be. But my tendencies now are towards handling stress better, instead of worse. I still slip into the paranoia when I'm feeling overwhelmed, but I'm also cognizant of what it is, and I can choose actions (or inactions) that may feel completely wrong but that I know are right. Most of the time. I don't jump right onto that feeling that whoever is in front of me is the cause of my stress. And when I do, I realize it. I'm not afraid of the drugs anymore. I actually welcome the clarity they bring.

And I'm finally finding that elusive peace, and comfort with myself. That's the most important change, I think. I know that even though I'm unstable still, and still a total emotional fuckwit, that it's not the defining characteristic of who I am. It's a quirk. I'm echoing the thoughts of one of the people who unknowingly helped me on the way here, and now I understand more of what he was saying. I'm no longer my condition, but I'm also not ignoring it or denying it.

I have peace in the chaos, and the chaos is peace.