la

Mar. 29th, 2017 12:20 pm
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Been feeling fried lately. Partly that's due to having a lot going on, little of which bears public airing. It's getting sorted, is about all I can say for that. Looking forward to the Gathering in a couple of weeks, even though I'll only be there for a few days this year.

At my viola lesson last night I managed to work out much of why I've been having so much trouble with my left hand. On cello the left hand ought to be in a perfect C shape, fingers more or less perpendicular to the fingerboard and only touching the neck at the fingertips, thumb resting on the neck behind the second finger. I've mostly-unconsciously carried this over to viola, where it's almost entirely wrong. I end up supporting the viola with my thumb, leaving my hand extremely tense and having trouble reaching the lower strings. It worked well enough as long as I stayed mostly in first position, but now it's making it exceedingly difficult to shift.

So I talked to Tegen about how I couldn't figure out how to relax my hand, or to keep my thumb off to the side of the neck like she's been telling me, or to generally have any kind of flexibility and suppleness to my left arm. And between us we got my left hand into proper position: base of the first finger resting on/below the neck, so that that's where I'm supporting it; fingers bent at sort of a 30-degree angle instead of straight on to the strings. This is going to take some amount of practice to get in the habit of, but will almost certainly make my life much, much easier.

Now if I can just find more than a couple of nights a week to practice.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Advice on how to play a gig, by Thelonious Monk: two pages of handwritten notes from Monk. "Don't play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music's just imagined."

I Stopped Trying To Be Quiet During Sex & Here's What Happened: "I often forget to take care of myself, and to give myself the kindness I'd give to someone else."

When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship: "Maybe I looked like some nerdy gigolo or this elegant woman's attentive secretary. If we made no sense from the outside, it didn't matter. We were mostly looking at each other."

Snakisms: variations on the old game Snake, each inspired by various philosophical 'ism's (stoicism, asceticism, existentialism, etc). Hilarious.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
On Wednesday I finally got the home office area set up. Now I can work from home with an actual monitor and keyboard and trackball and standing-desk, rather than laptop on couch/bed.

It's all in acceptable shape, but only just. I'll need to drag in another mat or two to stand on, to get the desk to the right height. My Mac keyboard has lost the use of the S key and spacebar, but I've got a Windows keyboard which works well enough for now. The real problem is that Microsoft hasn't updated the Mac software for my trackball in several years, and it won't talk to the latest version of macOS. So the trackball works, but the buttons are ALL WRONG. I've found a couple of potential workarounds but they looked more involved than I wanted to get on Wednesday afternoon. Sometime next week, I expect.

The office is actually the back of the second bedroom. It's got yellow walls that desperately need some art hung, the (two? three?) TUCKER'S OFFICE boxen need to be unpacked onto desk / bookcase, and there's some other miscellaneous /stuff/ that needs sorted or scooted or something. But the window's nice (though glare is problematic in the afternoon) and it's good to start to feel like there's a space that's mine again. The 'office' in the New West place was that, more or less, but it was dim and stuffy and caught a lot of dust from the dryer vent. This room is substantially nicer, if more cramped.

There are things about this apartment that frustrate and irritate me: the laundromat-style laundry, the dining room being a little narrower than we'd thought, the kitchen in general. Overall, though, it's not so bad. It'll do for now.



I am also now the proud owner of a bass guitar (Freeway 4) and an amp. My friend Chani's partner had been talking about selling his bass and amp for, o, months now, and it's sort of been at the back of my mind since then.

I think I have this idea that it'll be faster to pick up bass than it has been for viola, or that I'll be more readily able to find places/people to play bass with than viola, or something. This of course all depends on me finding my way to the alternate universe where I have enough time to learn not one but two instruments.

I'm also looking into an ear-training app for the phone, for commutes and such. And perhaps some actual formalised music theory learning, instead of the ad-hoc bits Tegen's been teaching me.

I'm not sure why music's becoming more of a focus than fiction-writing. Maybe it's that I understand how to get better at music, or that I'm more comfortable with not being very good. There's something in there about smashing awful pots, too. With music I'm learning a skill; writing feels more like creating a work. And yes, I do know that there's a hell of a lot of skill inherent in writing, skill that improves with practice, but I've not figured out how to feel comfortable practicing my skills in fiction.

Or maybe it's as simple as music being what's pulling me right now. Being more interested in accessing a space without words.

It's not like I can make rent (well, "mortgage payment," which sounds even worse despite being a smaller number) on either of those activities in any case. So in that sense it doesn't really matter which it is, as long as I'm having fun with it.

As always, we shall see.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Sitting in a cafeteria outside Granville Station, watching people walk by, reading. Or too tired to read. How does that even happen? I know how it happens when it's past bedtime, but at five in the evening?

Watching people. Today I have: gotten a music stand and mute so I'll feel less awkward practicing the viola; done some repetitive work correcting a thing I did a month or two ago that I thought would be useful, and was but had unexpected side effects (unrelatedly, work does not appear to be doing the stupid thing from last week, so yay); written to my parents again and perhaps it will get through this time; taken a profile-silhouette photo of myself a la Hitchcock; listened to David Francey's "Nobody Lives Here No More" "Torn Screen Door" a dozen or so times; gone running. I think that's it for useful.

They worked their fingers to the bone / Nothing left they can call their own / Packed it in under leaden skies / Just the wheat waving them goodbye

And tonight I'll write with Steph and Kat and Theresa, at least in theory, and then I'll go home and intend to practice and we'll see how far intention gets me.

I am tired, wrung out, stretched thin. I don't know that this is actually the case in any larger sense but that's what it feels like. Possibly too many people at housewarming yesterday? Possibly too little actual downtime? Possibly too much rattling around in my brain to settle down?

Had a life that they tried to save / But the banks took it all away / Hung a sign on a torn screen door / 'Nobody lives here no more'

I should enjoy the people-watching from here, I think, if I didn't have someplace to be. Coming up from and going into the Granville skytrain at rush hour, all manner of interesting and no sense that I have to be a part of it.

Onward.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
It's a bits-and-bobs kind of week.

Spent the last weekend sick with some sort of short-term head cold. This is perhaps the least offensive illness I've ever had: my throat and lymph nodes ached and my head felt vaguely muzzy for a couple of days, but I remained more or less entirely functional. Which is nice. Maybe my immune system's coming back up to snuff.

On Sunday [personal profile] uilos and I had a slowish morning, which was nice. Afterwards we went out for a somewhat errand-y afternoon, full of shipping packages and attempting to sell books and just generally wandering around town a bit on a gorgeous day.

Then come Monday (a BC holiday) Erin took me out for a wander through the Strathcona community garden ("someone put in a garden plot with a sign that had a permit number listed on it, and then more plots appeared, and eventually the city showed up and said 'uh this permit isn't valid,' and then after some discussion they said 'whatever, y'all keep on keeping on'"), which is a pretty great space even in the grip of winter. It's partly hidden by blackberry brambles (used to be much more so, I gather), and has an eclectic mix of herb gardens, garden gardens, orchards, a small lake with water-plants on the edges... Would ramble again.

She also took me to an ice cream place with 238 flavours, which is exactly as overwhelming as you think it is. Chestnut and apple-wasabi and fruits I'd never heard of, chocolate sorbetto and mint cookie dough and a decent cinnamon. And just under a mile from the apartment, which seems potentially dangerous. (I still think of the apartment as "the new place." I suppose that'll change eventually.)

The apartment is slowly starting to look inhabited. Art's going up, the bed in the second bedroom is together, we're down to a very few boxen. We're having folks over this coming Sunday so that's a deadline of sorts for figuring out large-art, I guess.

Work is threatening to be intensely stupid in the near-term, but so far it's only threatening. A terrible customer keeps requesting detailed documentation of a kind that we don't provide, for free. Last month someone finally said "okay, we're gonna write up how much work that will take and how much it'll cost them, and they can either pay up or shut up." We put that together (verdict: roughly nine person-months) and handed it to the appropriate people. Today we've been asked to revisit this estimate, and provide how long it'll take if we all pitch in rather than having just one person. This ... seems ominous. Big customer meeting tomorrow, after which I guess we'll hear whether they pay up or shut up. Hoping desperately for the latter. Harbouring secret thoughts of a career shift, though god only knows to what.

Viola continues. I'm beginning to learn how to shift, which means revisiting how I hold my left hand, which has me feeling again like I have little idea what I'm doing. I am also beginning to develop, mm, not just a sense of musicality (though that too) but the ability to translate that into the sound of the piece I'm playing. I suspect that given time I might actually get to a point where I'm happy with how I sound. Though not for a good long while at this rate... Next October makes three years; I'll re-evaluate then.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
One of the main goals I had when I started learning the viola was to be able to, oh, let's be honest, play in a music circle with PNH and Steve Brust and eBear. Or, more reasonably, Klagor and other Rainforest folks. (I have, in my head, most of an instrumental setting for Lorde's "Royals". Haven't tried it out yet; not even sure it's possible, the viola may not be deep enough.)

Tegen's remarkably accommodating of this desire. Starting last spring she's been trying to teach me some basic music theory, chords and intervals and all.

This is really hard for me. I can hear different intervals but I can't necessarily identify them, a fourth from a fifth (why is this hard? fifths are what my strings are tuned in, i've been listening to fifths for three decades) or a sixth from a third. And it's worse with chords, everything just muddles together and I can't hear what I'm even supposed to be listening for.

A couple of weeks ago she finally said "look, don't worry about hearing it, just /feel/ it. I is the root, V pulls back to I, IV ... doesn't, and vi is the only one of these that's a minor. We'll work with those." That helps. The minute I try to name the chord I lose it, it takes me several seconds to put a name to it and I'm wrong half the time, but I can feel where it is.

We've been doing some improv as well, "here are some chords, work out what notes are in them, then noodle around while i play the chord sequence on the piano." Results are variable, but it's fun.

On Tuesday night the improv /clicked/. I could know my own notes and feel the piano chords. By the end I could consciously try to make the one line up with the other while not, I don't know, degenerating into rote mechanics.

We got to the end and Tegen said "That was great! Do you have any questions?"

I needed three tries before I could say "Music makes me unable to word." It took another minute or so before I could explain more coherently that whatever I had been doing right then had turned off my access to words. Not just speech but words as a whole: I normally process the notes I'm playing in words, and in retrospect that ... wasn't what I was doing this time.

This is interesting. It's not "I have something important to say and I can't quite bear to get it out," it is literally I have no words. It's like the Ansel Adams exhibit years ago, only instead of passively experiencing I'm an active participant in the overwhelm.

I have no idea what it means but I suspect it's important.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
A thing I forgot to mention: when my grandmother died, my dad wound up with a beat-up violin that ... o, I don't recall all the history, I believe it's been in the family for at least a century. They got it refurbished and now it sits waiting for a budding Taylor-family violinist.

That's not me, but I did take it down and try it out while I was there. It's surprisingly playable with a couple years of viola under my belt. Mostly my fingers just feel even more gigantic and squished looking for the right notes. I can't imagine trying to play higher than about third position. I did a few scales, played through a few phrases of 'Canon in D' (NOT the cello part)

... although holy cow this "Antidote for the Pachelbel rant". James Ernest says there are two kinds of juggling tricks: those that look harder than they are, and those that are harder than they look. This is a cello trick that is harder than it looks. THE GUY IS HIS OWN CELLO TRIO.

... anyway, 'Canon in D' and a couple of easy Suzuki pieces. Nice to have a skillset. I don't know that I believe Tegen when she says violin is inherently easier than viola, but I don't know that I don't believe her either. Regardless, I certainly prefer the richer viola sound.

Also, tuning a violin with normal wooden pegs and fine-tuners ... difficult at best. The pegs are stiff and far too blunt an instrument, and the fine-tuners are in an awkward place. I have been seriously spoiled by the mechanical pegs on my viola.



On Friday afternoon at the VP reunion, I read, out loud, something I've written, to a bunch of writers.

I was pretty confident that it was decent. It's a good read-aloud bit: conversational, two people sniping at each other like you do while still getting the job done, amusing, not a lot of necessary context, and short. I'd read a fragment of it, unrevised, at Rainforest last year, and people enjoyed it. And reading aloud ... is something I can do well. It's just voice, and voice is just words in performance, and that's what I do.

I mean, I was pretty confident right up until the person before me stepped up to the podium, at which point my brain went into a minor panic. I am sure whoever was reading and did a fine job with whatever it was they read. I think I even applauded.

And then I was up. "Um. Hi. I'm Tucker, from VP 15." Brain locks up. "... My cats think I'm hilarious." Scattered laughter. "And ... this is from Blood on Her Hands And a Stone at Her Throat." And I was off.

And ... people chuckled in the right places, and 'A light-fingered dame in a red red coat...' got at least one gratifying "Hmm!" of recognition. And then it was over, and under the applause I heard Steve Brust say "That was /excellent/!"

So, you know. That went well.



Of particular note among the many noteworthy things read: Suzanne Palmer's "The Cover Letter", which was almost as much fun to watch TNH's increasingly horrified reaction to as it was to hear.

After the reading (after both Steve and student Karen A-- specifically snagged me down to say "that was pretty great") I went back to my room for a bit and collapsed, and then back out to dinner. And ... what I remember from the actual Viable Paradise experience, other than being totally overwhelmed, is usually the sense of having found my people. Thing is, most of that didn't come until afterwards. When I was actually at the workshop I was tired and battered and usually lonely. The first day or two of the reunion felt like that as well, both familiar and depressing.

But somewhere between the reading and dinner something sort of clicked over and I felt like I belonged. Dinner was wonderful, and musicking afterwards a delight. As an added bonus, someone played a couple of Dar Williams songs, "Iowa" and "You're Aging Well," and I got to make some progress towards reclaiming Dar from the emotional wreckage of the 2000s.

The next morning I said what goodbyes I could, rode the ferry out with a few other folks, and thence home. And it was good.



As an added bonus, I read over the scattered fragments of Blood on Her Hands, and surprised myself with how much I like it. Hard to say definitively that there's a good story in it in this state (though I think there is) but the individual scenes are just fun to read.

And I had what may be the insight I needed to break open the recalcitrant soggy ending, that being: if you're going to model your protagonist after John Constantine, model your protagonist after John Constantine. Laine Hollister is a bastard and she had damn well better start acting like it.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
When, twenty minutes before you were going to knock off anyway, you get a work email consisting of "There's a persistent odour of rotten eggs, so we're evacuating the building and calling the fire department, come back in an hour," it is clearly a Sign that I should stand up at my desk. I'm meeting [personal profile] uilos at 5:30 for dinner and movies anyway so this is just more time to amble slowly towards downtown.

I walked to the further transit station from work. Normally I would have continued on foot across the False Creek bridge but it's sunny and somewhere north of 25 ("80") degrees out, which is about the temp at which I start to melt. So I took the air-conditioned Skytrain across, intending to walk to the little park near the restaurant and theatre.

Aside: Emery Barnes Park is, I think, the thing that most exemplifies the Vancouver I fell in love with. It's a smallish (1x2 block) green space in the heart of downtown, surrounded by traffic on three sides. And it's got windy paths through grass, and trees making shade for benches, and playground equipment, and a water-feature / concrete creek running all down one of the long sides. It's designed well enough that there's very little road-noise, particularly if you're near the water, which I usually am. It is Good Urban Design. A year or so ago there was a movement to tear it up and build more generic condos, and if that had passed it might well have been enough to push me away from Vancouver altogether, because a Vancouver that will tear up its urban parks is not a Vancouver that I want anything to do with. (Insert generic rant here re Vision Vancouver, the local party currently in government, and their coziness with developers.)

I'm glad I took the Skytrain instead of walking, because there was a violinist playing "Air on the G String" as I came up from the station. I sat and listened to her for awhile, and dropped some cash in her case when I left, because I will pretty much always tip buskers that aren't using amplification and aren't terrible.

(I've been having this urge lately to reinvent myself as a musician. I think this is what they call a mid-life crisis.)

And now I am sitting across from the park enjoying a butterscotch-and-Butterfinger shake and writing this, because I miss writing (and reading) random-slice-of-life entries. Shortly I shall go out and sit next to the waterfall and read Le Guin until [personal profile] uilos gets here, and then we shall have dinner at Basil Pasta Bar and see a couple of movies at the Cinematheque, because these are also wonderful things about Vancouver.

Like the man sang, I can't complain but sometimes I still do.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Ugh, time is getting away from me again.

Last Sunday I went to my viola teacher's end-of-year recital for her young students. There were maybe eight or ten kids performing, from ages three to eleven. I've not been to a Suzuki-type recital since before I graduated from high school. It was rather pleasant to hear a bunch of pieces I'm fairly well familiar with (and one or two new ones), in a relaxed setting. Felt like home. At the end Tegen and one student played the Bach Double. That's one of the two pieces (along with the Vivaldi A Minor) that I was always genuinely envious that the violinists of my acquaintance got to play, and which I've not heard in years.

(I did not play, mostly due to being a bit outside the target age range. I suppose I could have polished the Bouree from Bach's third cello suite, but, eh.)



The day before that, [personal profile] uilos came back from taking Kai to the vet (annual old-cat checkup, no problems) and announced "I have a tickle in the back of my throat!" Dammit.

I managed to dodge any symptoms until Friday, when I woke up with a sore throat that I attributed to the weather having decided to get cool again. I then did a bunch of socialising over the weekend and got very spacey whenever I wasn't directly doing anything, and stayed home from work yesterday. I was kind of on the fence about going in today, woke up at my usual time, decided not to, and proceeded to fall back asleep for three hours. Which pretty much never happens.

At this point I'm a little spacey and short of breath, and coughing a bit, but I ought to be okay to go back in to work. The interesting thing is that while I tend to get sick on the tail end of [personal profile] uilos being sick, it's not always the same thing, or at least doesn't manifest the same way. Hers is bacterial, multicoloured snot and all that, where mine seems to be viral and settling in the vicinity of my chest.

Bleh.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Playing a stringed instrument is hard. It's not all that physically demanding, but it requires precision and dexterity, which have never been traits I associate with myself.

Too, I've only been at it for a year and a half. I have no recollection of what I sounded like after a year and a half of cello (and the timeline there is fuzzy anyway; do I count from when I started in grade school orchestra? or when I started with private lessons under Dr Boyce, from the beginning of Suzuki book 1?) but I doubt I was all that musical. Certainly it was years before I willingly played outside of first position.

Playing a stringed instrument is hard, and I would do well to remember this.

That doesn't make my viola sound any better, though. I am reasonably certain that I'm better than I was a year ago. I am less certain that I'm any better than I was six months ago.

I'm at the point where habits from cello are actively working against me. To take one example, when I play a fourth above an open string I place my third finger and instinctively think "four," because on cello that would be the fourth finger. This causes confusion when using my actual fourth finger. I'm trying to train myself out of that; it's not yet stuck.

There is also my general inability to relax into things, which seems to be at the root of my difficulty getting the sound I want. It's hard to sense the contact point (bow on string) when you're too tense to feel the bow gripping the string, and it's hard to keep the bow moving in a straight line when you're not engaging your whole arm in the process.

Some part of the problem is that my practice schedule has fallen off in the last six months, for obvious reasons. (In related news, the forty-hour work-week is some bullshit, both in general and in the specific case of how I'm spending it.) There's also my ongoing inability to hear the difference between a minor and major chord, which ought to be easy, and my tendency to not notice when my pitch starts drifting off until I play an open string and it sounds jarring.

Point being, my playing is not where I want it to be.

Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
And so I stick with it. Because maybe it'll get better, and because every single time I walk out of a lesson with that feeling of this is awesome, i can do this.

Maybe it's a lie, but it's a useful one for now.
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
I realised this morning that it's not that Bowie changed my life, although I'm sure he did. It's that he's been a part of my life for twenty years: not just the music, but the anticipation of music to come. Which is why I filed Steven Brust in the same kind of category: I think Brust is the only author I've been reading constantly from before high school who's still writing. (Le Guin, I guess, but the only Le Guin I read before the university class I took was Earthsea. And she's no longer writing novels anyhow.)

To probably misquote someone or other on Twitter: "It's like if someone told me Mount Everest had died. I keep wanting to say 'No, silly, that's not how mountains work.'"

Recommended viewing/listening: Under Pressure from 1997, with Gail Ann Dorsey; The Hearts Filthy Lesson (a rather disconcerting video).

(I haven't yet picked up Blackstar, on the grounds that I don't have a spare hour to spend in tears. We watched the video for Lazarus last night and that was about enough.)



In other musical news, playing the viola is hard. It's hard in what I assume is the way that new things are always hard, and what I assume is the way that complicated and finicky things are always hard. I haven't really tried either in a long time.

It is *depressingly* hard. I picked up the cello tonight for the first time in a year, and after five minutes of reacclimatization I was sawing away at the opening of the Squire tarantella and a couple of the easier bits of the Bach cello suites. My fingers *know what they're doing* on the cello, and I understand how to shift, and how to hold the instrument and the bow, and how to sound halfway decent. I nearly cried when I went back to fat-fingering and screeching on the viola.

The other problem is that, as I'd more or less expected, my ear is not actually all that good. We're spending part of each lesson drilling on intervals, and while I can semi-reliably distinguish between a major and minor third, and somewhat more reliably between a major and minor second, for some reason I hear fourths as fifths and am running only slightly better than fifty percent there. At least I can tell a tritone when I hear one.

I'm not giving up. As I've said, after a year I suck on a whole new plane. I figure I'll keep at it for at least another couple of years, and if I still can't stand my sound at that point then it's probably time to throw in the towel.

Currently working on a bit from the Bach cello suites. I *think* they're mostly a little easier on the viola but I'm not certain.

On the bright side, I can stumble through alto clef well enough to pick out the "Baby Elephant Walk" from my book of Henry Mancini viola arrangements. Indeed, I can stumble well enough that I can tell I don't much care for this particular arrangement, and may soon be looking for either a better one, or the original score so I can bloody well do it myself.

I still harbour fantasies of arranging Peter Gunn for two violas ("With apologies to H. Mancini and A.O. Noise") and playing a duet with myself. We shall see.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I could write about work (garden-variety corporate stupidity coupled with software-industry-specific stupidity) but that would just make me irritated, so I won't.

Besides, I've been meaning to write about some music stuff for a couple of weeks now. That was the first time I've ever done any sort of formal play-by-ear. That is, my teacher picks a key and plays a few notes, and I play them back to her, and repeat.

The first time or two it was fun but exhausting. It works my brain in a way I'm not at all used to. A couple of times I could stop trying to think note-names and just *play* and it worked, which was amazing and inexplicable. And then today... today it was just fun.

And I am apparently pretty good at it, which is a great shock to me as I've always thought my ear wasn't all that hot. I can mostly tell if a note's out of tune, but not always whether it's high or low.

Then it occurred to me that this isn't the first time I've done this. In high school, on cello, I picked out the melody to "Chariots of Fire" and the bass line to "Stand By Me." So, I dunno.

Side note: I seem to have a much harder time hearing notes in voices. I don't know why that would be but it might explain some of my inability to carry a tune in a bucket.



On being a beginning music student, by [livejournal.com profile] siderea. (Who, incidentally, is brilliant, and you should all be reading her stuff, and probably throwing money at her as well.) I was mostly Xena, with a lot of Quentin mixed in.

I started playing cello in third grade. I stuck with it because, I don't know. Because it was Something I Did and I didn't know how to stop doing things, and because I had some friends who I only knew/saw because of cello. I don't think I really aspired to anything musically.

Except that my uncle Jimmy Dale (not to be confused with my uncle Jim) knew that I played cello, and one Christmas he gave me a cassette of Skylife, by the Turtle Island String Quartet. I was... as blown away as it was possible for me to be at the time, which was "kind of." I had no idea you could do that with a string quartet. I wanted to be able to do that. To play like that, popping and sliding and all.

I never said anything about it. Certainly not to my parents, but not to my teacher either. I'd moved on from the early-music violist who taught me at first, to Liz West, a bassist who ... was probably only a year or two older than my current viola teacher, now that I think of it. I suspect Ms West would have been thrilled if I'd ever said that I wanted to play like Turtle Island. But I didn't, because I was in eighth grade and miserable, and I'd been stuck in Fayettehell for five years, and I still stung from the lack of support I'd gotten when I'd said I wanted to be a writer. I'd learned better than to want anything.

And then we moved, and I went from being the second-best cellist in the district to second-worst in the school, and eventually something had to give and it was music.

When I started taking viola lessons last year I thought I was David. To some extent I still am. (With that same mix of Quentin to go with it, of course.) But I put on Skylife for my commute in to work one day last week... and I'm starting to suspect I might be an Emily as well.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
The trick is to channel my perfectionism and sense of accomplishment/reward out of video games and into viola instead.

What are you reading?

Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, by Anthony Cronin. I am four hundred pages into this six-hundred page biography and Beckett has just started writing Waiting for Godot (1948 or so). It's been interesting but not 400pp of interesting. Mostly it establishes that Beckett was a giant misogynistic asshole. Given the attitudes inherent in what of his plays I've read/seen this is no great surprise, but it's still kind of shocking to have it all laid out like this.

What did you just finish reading?

Star Door, by Stephanie Charette. It's good. It needs a copyedit and the, mm, second quarter drags a bit (I would structure the middle half differently and cut some stuff, but I'm not Steph). But the characters are good, the voices are distinct, the conceit is not one I'd seen before or at least not taken to this logical conclusion, and the last half barrels towards an exciting and unexpected climax. With a little luck everyone else will get to read it in a couple of years.

Also I reread Scott Lynch's A Year and a Day In Old Theradane, because it's online and I couldn't stop once I started. I heard Scott read from this awhile ago and am pleased to report it's as good as I had hoped/expected. "And then I went back and stole all the death spiders!"

What do you think you'll read next?

I don't really know. Probably something off the To-Be-Read Shelf because I'm running out of time. That or something on the Unread tag so I can decide whether to keep it.
jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
I'm not writing much here these days. This... is probably not a good sign.



Weekend before last my parents were in town. We had quite a good visit: hit the Maritime Museum and Granville Island, wandered arond Queen Elizabeth Park (a large hill in the middle of the city that used to be a quarry, so it's got some very neat planned-gardens and waterfalls and such, and also a domed conservatory with lots of birds), and ate much tasty food. Dad and I got our "portraits" done in magic marker on cardboard, by an itinerant artiste while we were loitering in Gastown.

They left very early on Tuesday morning, and I was thinking "it would have been nice if they'd stayed another day or so." I think this means that the visit was exactly as long as it should have been.



My viola finally arrived yesterday. Stupid Long & McQuade. It is in fact black and not green, as I'd requested, and the electric pickup seems to work, and in general it looks quite nice. And maybe sounds as well, at least when someone who knows what they're doing is playing it.

That is clearly not me. I feel like between the Gathering and my parents' visit I have lost most of whatever skill I'd developed and have been fumbling worse than usual trying to get it back.

It'll come. I keep telling myself that. I think I'm now past the point where any jumpstart I had from cello is doing me any good, and am having to learn the hard way like anyone else. Frustrating. Practice, practice, practice.



That may be part of my problem, honestly. I'm not really doing much of anything that I'm *good* at. Rather, the things I'm good at are either not things that I want to be doing (tech writing) or of very little use (boardgames). I'm a beginning violist with all that that implies, and a fiction writer with limited experience. And doing those things is how one gets better at them, but it's really annoying to spend my days feeling like I'm terrible at everything I try.

Which may be part of why I've been hiding. I don't know.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
This A Softer World comic hits uncomfortably close to home, and would have reduced me to tears and speechlessness about five years ago.

Let's see.

Foot: still sore, still a little swollen. Going back to icing it today.

Viola: Went to pick it up on Monday. I am much less of a fan of the colour than I'd hoped: it's a lot flatter than anticipated, and it makes it look... cheap. More importantly, there was an inch-long crack next to the tailpiece. Looked like someone had dropped the package on its end and hit the tailpiece just right. So it's going back to the factory. I'll call the store today and see if I can talk to a human being and cancel the dye job, just get a glossy-black hybrid.

On the bright side, they loaned me the standard carbon-fibre viola they had in stock, and it sounds roughly a zillion times better than the $200 rental I had before. So there's that.

Writing: Been plinking away at this %&$ story. It looks like I'm going to have to do something I've never done before: write a scene or three from a different character's perspective so I can figure out what happens, even though I know for a fact I'm not going to use those scenes. Oh well. Going out to sit in a coffeeshop & write with Steph this evening, which will be pleasant.

Role-playing: reached a stopping point in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow game last week. I made a rookie-GM mistake in the Big Fight Scene and had an NPC doing a lot of the actual fighting but apart from that it went reasonably well. We're now taking a break to play 13th Age, which appears to be "D&D with fewer rules and more cool storytelling tools."

There's also been some friction with the perennially difficult player, which might warrant its own post later. Or maybe not.

Boardgames: Forgot to mention that I spent much of last weekend at another boardgame convention thing. This one's run by a local wargame club, but they have a small contingent of 18xx players. It was decent: got in three games, and enjoyed the company alright. They have regular meetings one Friday a month, to which I may go.

I leave for the Gathering (ten-day gaming convention in Niagara) in eight and a half days. Based on the cost breakdown and the general state of finances this is probably a mild error in judgement, but it'll be fun.

Speaking of money, I'm also sorting through taxes, which are slightly complicated this year. That's why we pay Chris-the-accountant the small-to-medium bucks. On the "bright" side we're likely to get a small-to-medium refund depending on how some things get classified.

Cats: Are adorable. Chaos is a lot more mobile, and also a lot less steady on his feet than he wants to be, especially when jumping. But he *is* jumping, so that's a good sign. Mostly they both do a lot of sleeping, as is appropriate for elder kittens.

Overall things are good, I think.
jazzfish: an evil-looking man in a purple hood (Lord Fomax)
In early February I dropped a large sum of money on a viola. I ordered it through Long & McQuade, a Canadian music megastore, on the theory that they could a) get me a slightly better price than ordering direct from the manufacturer, and b) deal with any issues that I might happen to have. I was told it would likely arrive in late February.

In early March, when the viola hadn't yet arrived, I called L&M and left a message. I called them back a few days later, somewhat more irate, and got told that it would be here "hopefully by the end of next week." This sounded suspiciously like they hadn't bothered to even put the order in, but I let it go.

Today it's closer to the end of the week after that, and I've called them again.

It turns out that in fact they hadn't bothered to put the order in. There have been a large number of payment screwups in their head office, and mine was one of those affected. Not that anyone bothered to check this until I called to bug them.

So, I am told that the payment will definitely go through tonight, and the viola will ship directly to the Vancouver store instead of being routed through Toronto as was originally planned, and it'll be here in two weeks. Which probably means available for pickup the day after Easter Monday. And they'll give me a substantial discount on a bow as well.

Moral: do not purchase anything from Long & McQuade unless it is right there in front of you.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Because it's been a not-wholly-unproductive week.

Writing
Proceeds, or rather doesn't, as I seem to have hit a brick wall in plotting. I suspect that when the answer finally comes to me it will be utterly obvious and have been right all along, I just wasn't seeing it.

I can't tell if nothing I've come up with feels right because it's not right, or because it's going to take a decent amount of effort to make work. This is seriously frustrating. If I haven't cracked it by early next week I will put it aside and go back to the other piece that I have a decent start on.

Viola
Also proceeds, reasonably well I think. I'm working through the first Suzuki viola book, and am nearly to the Bach minuets. So, about two-thirds through, though it gets harder now.

Technically: I'm mostly pleased with my left-hand ability, and mostly frustrated by bowing techniques. I sound more or less in tune but not *good*, not by a long shot. I'll get there.

I strongly suspect that the music store didn't bother to actually order the viola I paid them for a month ago until I called earlier this week to bug them about it. Grr. It ought to be here sometime next week.

Sociable
For once I am doing some of this! I'm emailing people on a semiconsistent basis. I am not the greatest correspondent but I'm trying to keep up. It helps that the best way to get mail from neat people is to write to them myself, so there's sort of built-in motivation.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Last week I finally put in my order for a custom carbon-fiber viola from Germany. Paid extra for a "hybrid" model, which comes with an electric pickup built in, and to have it dyed a dark dark green color. I went with 'carbon-fiber' and 'hybrid' on the grounds that I don't know exactly what I intend to do with it, but I'm more likely to do goofy things than to play in an orchestra. The hybrid model makes it easier for me to turn out to be the next Zoƫ Keating or John Cale, and carbon-fiber travels better and holds up better in varying weather & humidity than wood.

So, excitement! Also nerves. This is literally more money than I've spent on any single thing other than my second car, and that includes my first car.

[The "costs more than my car" metric is one I started using when [personal profile] uilos and I were browsing in a furniture store in Rockville that was supposedly having a huge Going Out Of Business Sale. Their prices were ... not commensurate with what I think of as Going Out Of Business, much less Sale. At one point we passed under a giant crystal chandelier with a low-five-figure price tag, and I realised that the people who buy this sort of thing are, to quote Fitzgerald, very different from you and me. ("Yes. They have more money." --E. Hemingway)]

I've also ordered a decent case. It is bright blue, and looks like a tiny cello hard case, complete with wheels. It's being shipped to my parents because the seller wouldn't ship it internationally, and from there to here. Hopefully it will get here not too much later than the instrument itself. Also, hopefully the viola will fit into the case. The thing about violas is that there is no standard size viola, unlike for the violin or cello. It's just sort of "for best sound, make it as big as you can handle."

My actual playing continues to improve, I suppose. Fixing my posture fixes a bit of the bow bounce, and relaxing my hand fixes some more of it. I am now at the point where I have to take the various techniques I've been learning and apply them to music, which is of course harder than just doing them individually. I have some faith that I'll get there. Eventually. In the meantime I run through a lot of left-hand exercises, because I'm relatively good at those.



Other news, noted mostly so I'll have a record of it: E has been mildly ill for the past week, and I have a sneaking suspicion it's getting to me as well. I've had a stuffy nose since about Thursday. As of today I have the sore throat of sinus drain. Bleh.

Also, a week ago last Friday I started having pain in my right foot when I stand on it. I'm blaming this on having done something weird to my hip and having that affect the nerve running down to the foot. Stretching seems to help, as does staying off it. The trouble with staying off it is that it means I can't use my office, since my desk requires standing.

If the foot isn't better by later this week I'll look into seeing a doctor, I guess. I ought to find one of those anyway.
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
ME: *goes into spare room*

CHAOS: *wanders in*

ME: You probably don't want to be in here, cat.

CHAOS: *sniffs curiously*

ME: *opens viola case*

CHAOS: *bolts*
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Ack. Sat down at 12:30 to read my book for half an hour, ended up buried under cats until nearly two. My entire schedule for the day has been thrown off.

Anyway.

The thing about learning the viola is that at this point it's all about getting to Carnegie Hall: that is, doing the same damn thing over and over and over again in the hope that eventually the muscle memory will stick. It uses effort and brain but not creative-brain, which is what seems to be more burnt out. So it's easy to put in an hour and a half of viola practice every day, but inordinately difficult to get through even an hour of (fiction) writing or revision.

The other thing about learning the viola is that I don't have to smash any of my awful pots. They come pre-smashed. This is sort of the nature of performative arts: you have to keep doing the same damn thing over and over again, but on the other hand there's (for me anyway) not the pressure to make it Absolutely Perfect In Every Particular.

I am, as it happens, horribly precious about my pots stories. I'm pretty sure that before I can really get anywhere as a writer I need to let go of that. I have little to no idea how to go about it.

("Just do it!" AHAHAHAHA yes. It really is just that easy. And it's just that impossible, too.)

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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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