Media Consumption And Stuff Update

TV: Mad Men Season 6; Superstore Season 6

Music: Birds of Chicago

Books: Radium Girls

Podcasts: Cold, Season 2

Clarinet: About an hour of practice that included reed adjusting.

Exercise: Digging around and chopping at some stumps in the yard with an axe for about 30 minutes

I wonder if I can keep this up. I mean, I even squeezed in a nap.

Schedule for Media and Stuff

There’s so much to watch. And listen to. And read. I need to find a way to get to it all. Let me try to break this down.

SunMonTuesWedThursFriSat
Books1 hour1 hour1 hour1 hour1 hour1 hour1 hour
Music1 hour2 hours1 hour2 hours1 hour2 hours1 hour
TV/Mov1 hour2 hours2 hours2 hours2 hours2 hours2 hours
Podc1 hour1 hour1 hour
Exer30 min30 min30 min30 min30 min

There are definitely more hours in the day than I have scheduled here, but these are minimum amounts.

A Letter I Sent

Subject: General Praise for Your Content

Hi Michael,

I am one of many, many, many people who found a ton of spare time during the pandemic and dusted off their clarinets. Getting reacquainted with my clarinet over the past year has been super fun, and since I peaked in 9th grade (I’m old enough to be in 39th grade now), I’ve often reflected on how I reached high notes or tackled a difficult passage so many years ago. I don’t know: maybe I was a better instrumentalist then, but maybe I’m a better musician now? Just cuz life and stuff has reformed my perspective and how I approach goals. And practice. You know?

I hate to say I stumbled upon your YouTube channel, because I try to be deliberate in most of my choices, but you were a significant part of a journey down a clarinet rabbit hole. I found Michelle Anderson, and she mentioned you, and I’ve enjoyed your performances as well as your tutorials.

It’s not much of a leap to say I’m a better player-musician now than I was a year ago. And that’s due to listening to excellent musicians like you. And learning how to REALLY take care of my instrument (I’ve since upgraded from my student model to an intermediate). And adjusting my own reeds. Your content is an invaluable resource, and I hope you keep all of it up.

Anyway, you’ve been incredibly generous sharing as much as you do. Just want to say thanks.

If you’ve wondered while filling orders who you’re shipping to in [City], Utah, that’s me. I’ve loved supporting your business in my little way.

Thanks again, and happy summer!

May

This is Michael Lowenstern’s YouTube channel.

Here is his shop.

This is Michelle Anderson’s YouTube channel.

Here is her website.

These have been my main resources for clarinet advice in the past year. They’re fun and informative and incredibly encouraging. If you relate to the clarinet at all, check out these amazing folks. I’m still contemplating lessons and masterclasses from Michelle. I do know that I need lessons if I want to get better.

That is all.

Damn, This Album: Outside Child, by Allison Russell

A lot of critical acclaim erupted for this album, which does one of two things for me: makes me wait until the hype dies down, or makes me super excited and listen to it immediately.

I ended up waiting a couple of weeks and listened to it yesterday, back to back. I wanted to listen to it sooner, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to give it my full attention. And since it’s so fresh on my mind, I didn’t do what I usually like to do when actively listening to an album, which is take notes and jot thoughts that cross my mind as I experience the music.

I will do this, I promise. But for now I’ll post the album here for you listen for yourselves. It seriously blew my mind. I hope you appreciate it as much, or more.

Damn, This Album: Blue Heron Suite, by Sarah Jarosz

A friend recommended this album a couple weeks ago and added her own warning of its emotional impact. This morning I finally played it. The songs carved out my flesh and left my soul bare.

This album is a song cycle Jarosz created to contemplate her mom’s cancer diagnosis coinciding with the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (See story here.) Jarosz explores place and nostalgia in a Gulf Coast town her family frequented during her childhood. She employs symbol in a blue heron fleeting the coast.

These songs are well-produced, yet its rawness rekindles (revisits? revives?) some of my own grief. It’s not the same initial process of mourning, though: every opportunity to remember death of loved ones lets me see how my grief has evolved over time.

I may try providing commentary of individual songs later. Sarah Jarosz is indisputably talented, both as an instrumentalist and songwriter. She can tap into the heart of our most cherished experiences, our precious memories, our suppressed and neglected heartbreaking moments.

This one’s going into the rotation.

A Comment I Made on YouTube, then Deleted

Last Wednesday I watched this panel, previously recorded:

They discussed Black activism and broader inclusion in the arts. These 90 minutes are well worth your time.

As soon as the discussion finished, I left these remarks in the comment section:

This discussion was so insightful, and so necessary. This is the day after riding on the cautious optimism of the Chauvin verdicts, then going to bed with the news of Ma’Kiah Bryant and waking up this morning angry. I’ve been trying to learn how to support Black people, to empathize deeply, to unlearn the ingrained racism that I grew up with while – as an Asian American, in this past year particularly – feeling unsafe as I read headlines of Asian hate. Navigating all these human paths, all the nuance, is so important. Listening to the wisdom of all the artists on this panel was encouraging. I loved how you all supported each other and acknowledged the process of becoming better, being intentional and uncomfortable, chipping away slowly at racism in the arts, making small, deliberate yet significant efforts to be more inclusive, to create belonging in lesser represented groups. I wish I knew about this series sooner, but I will go back and watch the previous episodes. Thanks so much for this.

I let the comment sit there, not knowing what to expect. There weren’t a ton of views at the time. Mine was the first and only comment. After a whole day with no other engagement with the video, I began to feel self-conscious about my comment. Did I say something wrong? Did I offend anyone? Was this video not for me? Should I have pointed out how vulnerable and willing to learn Hilary Hahn was by expressing to this all-black panel how much she didn’t know yet? Perhaps, to all these questions.

By Friday morning I decided to delete the comment. I felt that it wasn’t my place to say anything. And I’m perfectly fine working behind the scenes. (Obviously in my own blog space I feel more comfortable.)

Anyway, that’s all I have. I do want to see more diversity and representation in the arts. More access to opportunities. Better funding for access. An eventual unwinding of privilege to allow for truly equal opportunity for all.

I don’t know if this makes any sense. Just sorting through thoughts, I guess.

But I do want to donate to organizations, like Project 440, whose mission centers around opportunities in the arts for youth in minority groups.

If you have the resources, you should donate, too.

80s Basement Lecture Series

In November 2016 we bought a house. We moved in the next month. The idea of having the space to host events or parties crossed my mind. Our basement looked like hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and this is where we set up the TV for movies and games. In February 2017 we started a quarterly lecture series, and we would hold each lecture in our 80s basement living room. We’d invite people over, we’d eat treats, and speakers would be our friends.

2017

18 February – Satire, by Reilly Ryan

Reilly started of our series with a fun discussion about satire. He provided a few written and video examples; he talked about his thesis, which discussed whether a show like Family Guy (compared to the Simpsons) was satire. (I actually blogged about this lecture here.)

20 May – Poison Control Center, by Amber Johnson

Amber is Reilly’s older sister. She talked about the Utah Poison Control Center, where she works. She provided pointers on keeping our homes safe and what to do in the event of a poisoning. Since this lecture she has been promoted to Director of the UPCC, which now also doubles at the Utah Coronavirus Hotline.

19 August – Horror, by Jonathan Smith

Jon knows a lot about horror movies. He spoke to us about horror films and the commentary they provide about family. We watched a few excerpts from classic scary movies and analyzed them.

11 November – Introduction to Fan Studies, by Melissa Beattie (Skype)

Melissa, a professor, talked to us about the ins and outs of being a fan. We talked about fanfic. She mentioned a lot of pop references and talked about fan events and culture such as Comic Con, as well as the history and basics of fan theory.

2018

17 February – Bali and Gamelan, by Gavin Ryan

Gavin is one of Reilly’s brothers. He presented a lecture about Bali music and culture, and he brought some Gamelan instruments for a performance.

26 May – Immunohistochemistry and Libraries, by May Ryan

I talked about the app that I maintain for work. I also talked about the importance of libraries.

25 August – Semiotics and Tarot, by Bridgette Tuckfield (Skype)

We learned about tarot cards! The history and meanings behind signs. A very cool discussion.

10 November – Nigerian Literature, by Kylie McQuarrie

Kylie presented the work of several African authors, and how important they are in context of war and oppression.

2019

23 February – COLD Podcast, by Dave Cawley

Our biggest crowd. Dave had released his true crime podcast just a couple of months before. We were lucky to have booked him before all the other speaking engagements came along. For us, he told the Susan Powell story and gave background on all the footage and other artifacts that enrich this story.

4 May – Fur Foxen concert and Q&A

My hairstylist happens to play cello and sing in a band. We invited them to give a really nice, chill concert and answer some questions about their process.

24 August – Highway Typefaces, by Marjorie Smith

Very fun lecture about the history of highway typefaces, which includes some surprising drama. Everyone probably now notices the details of freeway signs now.

23 November – Visual Effects, by Ryan Sonderegger

Ryan talked about some of the technical aspects of his work. We discussed some of his more well-known projects. Very fascinating.

2020

22 February – Cheese, by Joseph Peterson

We sampled so many cheeses! Some were awesome; some required an acquired taste. We paired cheeses with crackers and breads and fruits. It’s always fun to discuss food.

We didn’t miss a quarter for three years. All of these lectures were amazing. We learned about so many really interesting things. We gained a deeper understanding of social issues and other cultures. This was also a chance/excuse to get like-minded friends to gather in a safe space, a tiny blue dot in the middle of our obnoxiously red county. We aired our grievances and frustrations with the political climate. (We closed on our house just before the 2016 election.) We loved being able to hang out with such wonderful people.

Lectures went right up to the cusp of pre-pandemic and pandemic times. We haven’t even held a lecture since then. Not even online, though I’ve toyed with the idea. But we’ve all been dealing with isolation and anxiety and everything else that came with the pandemic. We’ve been depressed and cabin-fevered; wanting to break out into society and wanting to keep the blankets over our heads at the same time. These have been difficult times. But with vaccines becoming more accessible and as more people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to gather safely soon. Hopefully.

I miss those guys.

Karim Dabbèche Animation to Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19, II. Scherzo: Vivacissimo, Performed by Hilary Hahn

I have included watching this video into my daughter’s morning routine:

We listen to the whole thing. Z may wander during this piece, but she makes sure she watches the part where the main character falls out of the subway train. It seems she also likes to watch them stand up after falling down. Which is pretty dang cool.

The other day I scrolled through comments to this video and came across this opinion.

To be honest, I knee-jerked when I first read this. Like, I was sort of offended? But I didn’t need to be. I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to understand this person’s perspective. I get it: Hilary Hahn is mesmerizing to watch. But without really knowing this commenter, maybe I’ll try unpacking what they said here.

Disclaimer: This is not a defense of Hilary Hahn, as she does not need defending. This is a rebuttal of an opinion of a YouTube commenter. That is all.

I’m a fan of Hilary Hahn. Oh, me too! She’s so talented. She has great energy as a performer. A beautiful personality, and very gracious to her fans. I mean, here Commenter is setting up for the but of their comment. I can feel it.

I appreciate her sincerety [sic] and commitment to her music. I agree! She’s very sincere! She’s very committed to her music. Both are not always simultaneously present in famous musicians or public figures in general. The way she presents her 100 Days of Practice demonstrates both of these qualities in spades: she offers valuable music and life wisdom, and in the 100 days themselves she shows her dedication to her craft. Plus she provides videos of her practicing, so we get to see her every day during this time. This would be an easy thing to feel entitled to. Even as her adoring fans we are not entitled to see Hilary Hahn every day.

That said… “but…”

I would rather… Commenter is stating a preference, which they are absolutely entitled to. People like what they like. Just like I’m stating my preferences right here. Which happen to mostly disagree with Commenter.

I would rather watch her play the music than watch animations. Commenter seems to be dismissing the work of the animator here (as a preference, but still). Hilary Hahn has made an effort to work with Karim Dabbèche in his interpretation of this Prokofiev work. This is a collaboration of interpretations. A different expression of Hilary’s “sincerity and commitment to her music.” And why not promote other artists? Dabbèche is clearly talented, and this video is legitimately cool, and Hilary testifies that it captures the spirit and weirdness and charm of Paris. This work also overflows with real representation of diverse backgrounds and cultures, which is really what we need. It’s refreshing, frankly. That she has played an active part in bringing this video to reality says a lot about her generosity and breadth of creativity as a human being. And she wanted to share it with us. I’m so grateful she did.

I mean, right?

Done ranting now.

Supergroups I’m Currently Into

I’m With Her – bluegrass, Americana: Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Aoife O’Donovan. Because I’m a long time Nickel Creek fan, I happened to come across their individual projects. I’ve seen both Punch Brothers and I’m With Her live, and they are fantastic. The solo pursuits of these ladies here are remarkable, too.

The Highwomen – country, bluegrass, Americana: Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires

I saw Brandi Carlile in concert a month before the pandemic shut everything down. It was a transcendent experience. My mother-in-law was listening to a lot of her music in her last months, and listening to all of Brandi’s stories and songs during her concert sort of took me out of my body and reunited me with Carla. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds.

Our Native Daughters – Black Folk, Americana, bluegrass, sort of unclassifiable? these ladies kick ass at writing about the Black experience: Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell

I’ve been a fan of Rhiannon Giddens for a while, as well as Allison Russell in her other band, Birds of Chicago.

I need more of this.

If you haven’t already, check all these groups out.

Making the Metal Clarinet Playable Again

Bought an old metal clarinet a few weeks ago. 1930s-’40s. When I received it, it was semi-playable. Notes above a certain point would only squeak. After the trial/error process of pressing on certain pads and blowing into the mouthpiece, I discovered that air leaks in the left-hand region of the instrument kept those higher notes from playing. The pads are in decent shape, but I removed what I thought were the problem keys and inspected the springs. Increased their tension. Better, but could be better still. Applied key oil to the joints so the springs wouldn’t have to work so hard. Even better! Then I ordered a cork replacement kit. Replaced my first ever cork today in my burgeoning hobbyist’s career. Now with the clarinet having proper seals, its performance: *chef’s kiss*

A few lessons emerge from this experience. Find the leaks. Address them. Make the seals tight. Take your time, get it right. The overall playability improves significantly. I mean, it’s still a second/third tier metal clarinet from the World War II era, but it’s been fun working on. And it’s fun to play.

I said a few lessons can come from this. I’m sure the analogies will become clearer at a time that isn’t now. I’m tired today.

I’ll still take my wood clarinets to the shop for tune-ups and repairs.