The Wussifying Midwest

I don’t mean to imply that the Midwest is wussy — far from it, in fact. The winters here are ass-cold and windy (and filled with ice-storms on occasion) and then we’ve got that rollicking tornado season in the Spring. These are only a few from a long list of possible bad or horrifying weather conditions that come our way. But dang, there’s something about moving from a place with shit-tons of snow and hills and completely horrifying drivers to…Normal, IL.

Today was the first snow of the season. We’re talking miniscule, inconsequential Illinois snow. Sure, it was wet and rainy earlier in the day so that by the time the temperature hit below freezing the roads weren’t great and our sloped driveway was slightly terrifying, but all this was mainly cause for some driving caution and not for the total loss of reason and sanity.

Not that I lost any of those things! But come on, I lived in Rochester freaking New York for two years, where ridiculous amounts of snow and shitty weather are fair game between the months of November and March. I was used to craptastic road conditions and horrifying drivers. And here I am in Central Illinois, getting antsy and flustered and kind of stupid over a little bit of scattered snow that barely even sticks to the ground. I was the most cautious and unnecessarily defensive driver on the road in that 2 mile span of driving to a friend’s house this evening. Clearly I moved back to Illinois and reverted to being kind of a wuss. Next thing I know I’m going to drive my car someplace with moderate hills in my manual transmission-having car and my brain will leak out of my ears. I’ll start up a hill and shriek “EEEEEE!” in a high-pitched tone, so that other drivers will see my manual-transmission face of terror while only dogs and animals with keen ears will hear the scream.

So. That.

I Enjoy Watching Other People Apply For More School.

My sister is applying for some D.M.A. programs, the crazy human being that she is.

I still have no idea whether or not I want to pursue any further schooling, but the prospect of more school isn’t looking too promising right now. I’m discovering that longer I’m out of school, the more I have time to do things I’ve only DREAAAMED of doing in the past however-many years, and these happen to be things that make me extremely happy (for instance, a: photography and b: bass-playing). There’s also the fact that the more I observe other people finagling their way through applications and C.V.s and personal statements, the harder I work to suppress my gag reflex when I think of myself doing the same. School is just…no thank you!

I do know that whether or not I go for a D.M.A. I’m probably going to have to write more of those cover letter and statement of purpose thingies that will never be anything but the bane of my existence. The next time I find myself experiencing any woe due to personal statement hell, I’m going to re-read the “Rough Draft” portion of my sister’s personal statement to Cincinnati Conservatory of Music because AAAAAH. Maybe you had to be right next to her as this was being written, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve laughed to the point of tears. Behold, some excerpts:

My musical journey By Erica:

Its been sweeet. Sweet. I love the violin. It is the best instrument. All other instruments are stupid. I want to teach armies of undergraduates and mold them into violin zombies. They will eat the brains of the marching band. The world will be free of marching bands. You will rejoice and have more funding for disciplines of consequence.

And then there’s this:

I don’t know what to say. I have nothing to say for myself. How the fuck did I get into this mess! It seemed like such a good idea! My parents seemed to be having a good time. This isn’t fair.
I despair.
In my lair.
I have bad hair.
I need some Nair.
This is called writers block. Perhaps its time for a cookie.

And then my personal favorite…

Dear CCM. Little did you know the ideal candidate for your doctoral program has been driving past you for years, thinking how horrible it must be to live in Cincinnati.

It’s easy to be pretty hard on oneself with these personal statement, cover letter-y things, but maybe they shouldn’t be such a big deal or so dang seeeerious, not only because they clearly drive people mad but because who cares?! My family and I eat Thanksgiving Dinner each year with the head archivist at a big university nearby, and this year I over-heard him say that personal statements aren’t really important, and that they’re mainly checked over once to make sure a prospective student knows how to use WORDS (then again, thinking back on the recently-posted Reasoning With Vampires and the fact that Stephanie Meyer is a published author, maybe personal statements are kind of a big deal…). Certainly the importance and function of a personal statement is different depending on the specific school and program, but if a personal statement’s main purpose is to make sure a person knows how to write sensically and with proper grammar usage (as I use made-up words…) couldn’t there at least be encouragement to write RIDICULOUS THINGS with sense and proper grammar usage?! Things that might make a reader smile or laugh or even go “what the hell?” After all, it can’t be fun reading statement after statement. I imagine it’s a little like what it must be like for professors and T.A.s having to read student paper after student paper (sidenote: poor, poor soul who had to read my 20th century history paper. POOR, POOR SOUL).

Anyway. Happy day. I’m not currently enrolled in or applying to school! Hooray for me!

My Freakin’ Ears!

Maybe today we can all be super-paranoid about losing our hearing. I certainly am.

I recall two particular concerts that give me very specific reason to be all paranoid. First was the one where we played 1812 Overture. There were bells. Lots of fucking bells. Two sets of them at opposite ends of the stage. I was able to put an earplug in the ear nearest to the bells, but that didn’t stop the other one from having some fun. The other was this damn William Schuman program a couple weeks ago, in which the cellos were seated directly in front of the trumpets. I managed to forget/lose earplugs for every session, but manually stopped up the ear that was receiving the most direct trumpet noises, yet again leaving the other ear to take a beating.

I’m paranoid because I’m pretty sure I’m hearing slightly SLIGHTLY different pitches in each other, which is supposedly a bad sign. It’s such a slight thing that I might be having a fantastic hypochondriac moment. In fact, I’m sure that’s what’s going on, and in a week I’m going to be worrying incessantly about something else completely ridiculous and dismissing any hearing/ear anomalies.

HELLO HOW DO YOU LIKE MY OCD BLOG.

Another Photo Post. Exciting.

More photo adventures have been had. My sister is releasing an album some time during the Spring of ’11, and I was pretty delighted when she asked me to take some photos for said album. I’m kiiind of excited with the way some of these turned out. Also, in case you needed a reminder that I look nothing like my older sibling, here you go:

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The above was mainly just silly…

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Yep.

I realize I’m behind with blogging. If I am to make my NaBloPoMo goal, I need to get moving. Two entries in the next two days. I think I can do it. Probably. Maybe.

Hear Them Freaky Sounds

Just what everyone’s been waiting for! I’ve found a new band to lose my shit over. I give you the Chicago-based Tortoise:

I realize that music is such a highly individual thing and that I have a tendency to go “I’M TALIA AND THIS IS THE GREATEST SONG IN EXISTENCE.” Accordingly, I like to try and verbalize the why and how of my musical favorites. I need to better keep in mind that I’m probably the only person who hears the things I do in the way that I do, and so not to be too disappointed when people give me looks because I’m a little too enthusiastic and am explaining in perhaps too much detail why I like what I hear.

That said HOLY CRAP WHERE HAS THIS BAND BEEN ALL MY LIFE (or for the last maybe four years because I don’t think I could have handled this band before I’d had a chance to build up my tolerance weird sounds). What is it? What is it?! Well, amidst the two albums I’ve been obsessing over in the past couple days I hear a) krautrock b) jazz c) dub (they had me at krautrock, really). This band is essentially a jazz rhythm section that up and lost their minds, then proceeded to write non-songs (and by non-songs I mean no words or vocals and a fairly distinct lack of recognizable pop song form) with occasional crazy-ass electronics. I guess they could be called progressive rock or post-rock, though I find them a lot more exciting than other bands that come to mind at the mention of post-rock. ANYWAY.

That is all.

Turkey Trotting

I just ran a 5k and WHOOOOOOOOOOO. CRAZY ENDORPHINSSS!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and I’m definitely in better shape now than I was in either of the previous 5k instances. I guess it shows, because I improved my score by 4.5 minutes from the last 5k, which I find perfectly delightful. This does not change the fact that I’m slow. I can’t help that. I can do the distance but I’ve never been one for speed. Maybe it’s something I can improve, or maybe it’s just genetics and I’m stuck being slow but will kick ass when I am able to sign up for longer runs.

I tell you what, though, my sister also ran, and she kicked ASS. Seriously. Just. So much ass kicked.

I’m happy to have run this race because it gives me goals to work towards instead of just going out and running as much as I feel I can do without timing myself or striving to run faster/further. My time today was under 30 minutes, and that was my exact goal, to be some time under 30 minutes. My next goal might be to be closer to 25 minutes than I am to 30.

So yes. I ran a 5k. It was fun. I’m SUUUUUPER HYPER. I can’t wait to go eat more than I have ever eaten before.

Blah Blah Teaching Blah

I’ve gotta be honest, I barely remember writing that last entry.

Okay, so I mentioned youth symphony concerts. And…oh, boy. On the one hand…I don’t think any musician under the age of, say…16 or 17 should be allowed to play Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino. On the other hand, it’s fun seeing a number of my students all playing in the same section, and to see they’re doing things that I’ve TAUGHT THEM OH MY GOD.

I’m relatively new to teaching. In fact, beyond a String Pedagogy class project I was involved in during my undergrad in which we gave a few regular lessons to some public school kids (in which the student I taught was so much more interested in karate and my phone than he was the cello, it was all I could do to convince him to sit up at the cello), I’ve never had a regular student. And in fact, I didn’t ever really want to teach. After a while I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably end up having to do some teaching if I ever wanted to earn some dang money.

Surprisingly, I’m finding more and more that I truly enjoy teaching and I’m beginning to feel after a good 5 months of teaching that, heck, I might even be good at it! Aside from figuring out what material is appropriate for each student, the thing I find most challenging about teaching is the psychology and being able to understand what is going on in the brains of my students as they approach notes on the page and what is an occasionally very awkward instrument. Every student I work with has a different learning style and different strengths and weaknesses. At first this was daunting and exhausting to work through, especially when I’d had such limited experience. One student seemed to understand one explanation while another student looks at me like I was a crazy person when I give them the same explanation. Fortunately I’m learning how to work with this as I go. My strengths of sensitivity and flexibility as I worked with different teachers throughout my time as a student is proving to be useful with teaching as well…I have to understand how each student learns and in turn find a way to approach a subject with said student in a way that they will understand and be able to apply.

And so I tell you what, it is quite rewarding to see how my students are improving over time, and that what I’m showing them is working for them and that they at least appear for the most part to be enjoying themselves in what they’re doing, because that’s the main thing, is to have some dang FUN with this music-stuff.

Yadda yadda.

Happy Early Turkey Day, folks.

An Entry A Day Keeps The Doctor Away…Or…Whatever

Hi blog, I feel kind of shitty. I blame my hypersensitive, overly-impressionable self. Sometimes, when I’m tired and sleep-deprived, and when the planets are aligned perfectly and the air temperature and humidity is just so and I do something like watch a movie that maybe gives a certain vibe that is less than agreeable (…maybe we’ll go for “vile” and “offensive” in this instance), I freak out a little bit, quietly, inside my head. And if someone so much as looks at me funny while I’m internally freaking out, I burst into tears. Something like that just happened.

What I don’t understand is the fact that I should be getting more sleep and having more fun during this supposed “break” and yet here I am all CRAAAAZY. I do think having a full household is weirdly stressful even though it’s nice to have everyone home.

Also, I now have to go to youth symphony concerts, and…oh boy.

On the bright side, there are apple cider donuts in our house and I can finally go to bed. Hooray for things.

Squirrel-er……?

Dear Certainly-Very Nice Man Who Feeds The Squirrels On The Constitution Trail,

STOP THAT.

Look guy, I know you mean well. I’ve seen you out there every day that I run, looking very cheerful and waving hello with a smile to any and all passer-bys with your bag of squirrel food in-hand (I will admit that the first few times I saw you I had no idea you were feeding squirrels and figured you were just a crazy person carrying around a bag of cereal). I’m also plenty aware of the fact that dumb shit annoys me, sometimes to an irrational degree. I blame the OCD for that. I truly hate when my irrational and easily-annoyed self gets in the way of others people’s happiness, but maybe you don’t realize that what you’re doing is pretty much encouraging your furry, dumb and OBESE little friends to get so killed.

Seriously, though, these squirrels are already huge. In fact, they’re mutants. They’ve gotta be. They’re the size of small cats. I’ve never seen squirrels as big as around the Bloomington-Normal area…not in Rochester, not even 50 miles away in Champaign. Freakishly enough, when I visited B-N’s sister city, Asahikawa, Japan as a 13-year-old, we went to their zoo and B-N had given them some of our MUTANT SQUIRRELS. AAAAH. I think it’s some kind of government plot to take over the world starting with the introduction of mutant squirrels into Japan so that they may wreak havoc upon indigenous flora and fauna in that region of the world. End of tangent. The point I’m trying to make is that these squirrels are robust and healthy and obviously doing just fine on their own if you don’t count death-by-vehicle. Deciding to hand feed them every single day is not only selfishly interfering in the I guess “natural” order of things and fattening them to a degree I have never seen in squirrels, but it’s also making these creatures bold to the point that they approach any human being! Not good when you’ve got bicycles and runners and all kinds of foot traffic. Seriously. The trail is heavily trod-upon. Nobody needs rodents darting in front of tires and beneath feet. What keeps happening to me is I come to a certain point in my run and all of a sudden there are usually 3 or 4 squirrels in the middle of the trail and off to the side, and as I run past them they don’t dart away, they kind of take a few steps towards me and then when they see I’m just going to keep running, they usually dart away a foot or so, or if they’re particularly dumb they run right in front of me and I have to jump OVER them. The result being that every run ends up being this dangerous squirrel-adventure in which I wonder if I’m going to accidentally tread upon one or more. It’s like if Frogger had been made with squirrels and runners/bikers instead of frogs/cars. And this isn’t safe! For anybody, let alone the squirrels! I’ve also over-heard a dog-owning friend complain.

Seriously. Your little friends are going to get themselves killed, and you will have been partially responsible (er…wait. Maybe that’s the plan…to harm humans while eradicating squirrels? Or plumping up squirrels so that they’ll take over Earth?). So STOP FEEDING THE DANG SQUIRRELS.

Love, Cranky Runner-Person.

Aaaah, Yesss, Good Days

I might not have blogged yesterday. I’ll catch up.

What constitutes a good day? A) Running 5 miles in preparation for a Thanksgiving Day run B) Eating anything from Golden Harbor (aforementioned ridiculous Chinese restaurant with CRISPY TOFU) C) Acquiring cuts of meat from a pig purchased whole locally and then slaughtered at a real butcher store (thaaaank yoooou Timmmm).

Alright, then. A good day has been had. Woo! Huzzah!

I Need To Work On My Jumping Form

Harry Potter was pretty great, all things considered. Although there wasn’t quite enough Alan Rickman for my taste, but…I guess I could always just watch other movies with Alan Rickman in them for now.

I went on a photo-taking adventure today with Megan. We spent a little time in downtown Bloomington, but what I really wanted to do was head up to the Kerrick grain elevators in time for some sunset photos, and also to get some fast shutter-speed jumping photos in a place with fewer people to be startled.

Check and check:

Sunset Heel Click

That’s Megan in the above photo, by the way.

I learned two very important things on this photo quest…the first being that I am terrible at jumping in general, let alone in photos that require extreme precision and the second being that holy crap there is sensor dust in my photos. Gotta take care of that.

Bla Blee Bla

Gotta knock one out before I go off and EAT OKONOMIYAKI and SEE FRIGGIN’ HARRY POTTER. And have FUN (haven’t had true non-music-y fun for a while).

Here’s what I did today:
– Walked around Ewing Manor and took photos with a tripod.
– Used a tripod for the first time ever.
– Was so distracted by using a tripod for the first time that I DID NOT CHECK my ISO setting before starting shooting (ISO is in charge of how sensitive the image sensor is to light — the higher the ISO, the ISO, the more light-sensitive the sensor becomes and subsequently the more noise a photo contains. You want the lowest possible ISO when you shoot, typically 100 or 200. Mine was set to 1600 when I started shooting today).
– Failed to notice my ISO 1600 setting until I uploaded my photos
– Spent a good hour wanting to jab my own eyes out.

It didn’t help that the tripod was really ancient.

So, stuff.

Okay, I’m going to stop before low blood sugar causes me to turn into the Hulk.

Stop It.

Well I guess I should BLAHG.

I previously thanked the guy who read and summarized Twilight for allowing me never to have to read the books, but somewhere in the back of my head I was still thinking that hey, I can read them! No big deal! Just a little bit of literary horror here, some truly unlikeable characters there. It would be something to laugh at! Hee hee, miserable writing, ha ha!

But you know what? No. Absolutely not. I will never read Twilight. Ever. All you people out there who keep trying to convince me that the story or the romance or the sheer ridiculousness is worth it can stop it. STOP IT.

My resolve comes from reading this Tmblr, Reasoning With Vampires, which is brilliant and hilarious and in some ways a learning tool, golly gee! Just read this. And this. And maybe this! I’m more glad than anything that somebody out there is holding Stephanie Meyer accountable for her…WORDS.

The fact is that I don’t read enough books as it is. I should make the ones I do read count for something. I can learn all I want to of Twilight‘s story AND atrocious writing through both the above-mentioned Tmblr and the blog I linked a few days ago.

So freakin’ there.

On a related note, thank you wonderful Rifftrax people:

Number 3,000

I’ll have you know that this is blog post number THREE THOUSAND, holy shiiiiite. In 8.5 years of blogging. That’s an average of 352.9 blog entries per year. Which is completely ridiculous. Woo! Celebrate! Or recoil in horror! Or both!! It’s the newest dance party trend! Do The Celebratory Recoiling In Horror, YEAH!

Most of what I’m really thinking is “God, WHY?” Seriously. On the rare occasion that I read my own blog archives, and specifically those spanning between 2002 and 2005, all I can usually think of after the fact is how much I’d love to build a time-machine, go back to various moments between 2002 and 2005 and hit myself in the face (I think I get a little less stupid and inane after 2006. I think).

Hey now, I guess that’s not always true. Sometimes I read the things that former-me wrote and I laugh maniacally and wonder if I’m losing brain-cells as I age because there’s no way I’m still capable of writing with such wit or, heh, pizzazz. And other times I think that, man, I really do occasionally capture my own feelings so succinctly — another thing I wonder if I’ve lost the ability to do because of aforementioned loss of brain-cells (just typed “losted” and “cellos” instead of “lost” and “cells”– it’s not looking good for my brain!).

The fact that I’ve kept the writing coming and published entry after entry for nearly a decade is maybe worth celebrating. There are so few long-term artistic projects I have the attention-span or work-ethic to see through. While I certainly don’t blog as often or in as much detail as I once did, the fact that I’ve published 3,000 and have no plans to call it quits…is nifty.

NIFTY.

The end.

Normalcy. Equilibrium. Something.

Hey, I’m feeling better. Thanks, supportive people. Thanks, internet (particularly this internet guy, for reading the Twilight series and indignantly summarizing as well as being outraged by the sheer literary horror, so that I don’t have to).

In extremely exciting news, today is my Camera Raw-thday! I edited my very first Camera Raw images today and…what’s wrong with me??! Why wasn’t I doing that earlier?! Earlier as in “a year ago” when people were requesting that I do hilarious things like photograph their recitals for them?! What are Camera Raw images, you ask? They’re the images that the camera records in their basic format, straight from the camera’s sensor without any rendering like what happens with JPEGs (and makes JPEGs ready for instant use). They can kind of be thought of as the negatives of the digital photo world in the way that they’re “original” source of the image. It’s not that it makes such a ridiculously huge difference in immediate quality, but what it does allow one to do is edit the images more easily and without surrendering image quality. Also, the edits aren’t permanent while you’re still working with the raw files, so you can go back and re-edit things as much as you want/need. I was a little shocked at how easily and nonchalantly the few photos I took in camera raw were edited, exposure and white-balance wise. Like. Holy hell’s bells.

The only real drawback to Camera Raw is that the files are huge-ass. Oh well. Looks like I’ll have to buy a few bigger memory cards.

So anyway. There’s that. And there’s music. It’s time for the two greatest two-note guitar solos!

1. Brian Eno – The True Wheel

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Okay, I guess at some point there are technically more like FOUR notes going on, once a second guitar comes in, plus maybe a little note-bending but still. Starts around 2:15, if you aren’t interested in listening to one of the best songs ever in its entirety.

2. The Dismemberment Plan – Superpowers

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Yeah. There’s note-bending going on again. So I guess maybe there are quarter-tones going on between the two notes, but…DETAILS. Starts around 3:19.

I know I said I was going to talk about music more. But apparently I decided that instead I’d go CRAAAAZY. So I’m going to try to get back on that. Just you watch.

Crappity Crap

You guys. I feel…crappy.

For various reasons. Crappyness is to be expected. After all, the world is just full of crap, am I right?

I added this link to the last entry earlier today, but here’s a more detailed news story about the plane crash that killed my cousin Peggy. The insane thing about this is that both her parents were also killed in a plane crash, on a Polish airliner, as you can read in the article.

I mean. Jesus. She was engaged to the guy who was piloting the plane. They were coming back from his daughter’s wedding. They stopped in Chicago and went to the Polish Heritage Museum, because you know, huge Polish family. And just…God. She gave the most sincere and wonderful reading at my Grandfather’s funeral just a little over a year ago, something I’m not going to forget easily during my life-time. And the more we all learn about what happened, the more clear it’s becoming that the circumstances of her death were a tragedy.

So yeah. I’m pretty super freaking sad. But what makes it that much more awful is thinking of how my mom and everyone on her side of the family must be feeling about now.

Not to be super-transparent about my being in Sad Town or anything. I know feelings can make people uncomfortable. But it’s really all I could think about today, and talking about something else would be a little false of me.

Keepin’ It Real

Peculiar day.

While it’s a sad thing to lose someone dear to the family, it’s doubly sad and tragic when it happens before their time. I’m going to miss my mom’s cousin Peggy. I had been looking forward to getting to know her better still, as she was particularly close to my mom and her siblings. Not to mention one of the most wonderful human beings. What a sad, sad thing.

After hearing that, I went to play a concert in Springfield in I guess what I would call a daze. And then I was jerked violently back into the realm of ridiculosity when I went to grab my paycheck from the manager. He went “umm” and then explained that they’d printed out a paycheck under my FATHER’S name (he plays with this orchestra sometimes). I laughed. A lot. Maybe a little psychotically. I thought, hey, I could get him to cash this for me! And then I realized it would be better for them to print me a new one. For tax legitimacy and stuff. What I should have done is taken that check to my Dad and convinced them to print a new one for me. I reiterated this story to my Dad who then asked “where’s my check?’

Thank you, Illinois Symphony Orchestra for forcing me to keep it real.

More: Friends Remember Pilot, Fiancé Killed In Plane Crash

Stuff.

Blog Bleag Blahg.

One day in the near future, I will have the opportunity to blog while I’m not reasonably exhausted.

I will just say. That rhythm is fun. I guess.

I’ll do more tomorrow.

Heaaadddddeeeeessssk

No. Don’t wanna blog. Brain empty. Back kind achy. Had to double-check spelling of word “achy”. NUUUUU.

In a moment of slightly less severe tired brain-sludginess, I’m pretty sure I spent the last two years quietly convincing myself that I SUCK at the cello and music in general. But I need to give myself credit. I don’t suck. And I am going to start giving credit where credit is due, quite openly, right here in my blahg, for being one rhythmic HELLRAISER.

Yeah.

References R Us

You mean I have to blog? Now? Seriously? Well, okay. But you’re not gonna like it! I’ll make a bad noise!

There are particular gigs I do in these parts that just leave me feeling DIRTY. DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY.

I never imagined, when I was a small and yet rhythmically astute kid cellist, that one day I’d be taking gigs specifically because I need money and not so much because they made me a happy or fulfilled musician. 12 year old me would make a big dramatic deal over how not cool it is for me to be making music without being happy. 25 year old me is like “eh. At least I’ll be able to buy a Nikon D7000 and make student loan payments.” I have a feeling that this conversation between the young-self and the present-moment-self is more common than I think it is.

In other news, I AM TIRED.

General Adventures In Stuff

Hey, maybe I’ll stop whining now.

Last week was a fairly fantastic one. I played a gig which, while it did contain more ridiculous and impossible-to-play notes than I’ve dealt with recently, did not make my soul bleed. And I got to do it with people I really enjoy playing with and being around and also maybe haven’t seen in a while. I also got to spend ridiculous amounts of free-time wandering around Champaign-Urbana, which was one of my favorite past-times while I lived there and apparently remains so today. I want to take a moment to point out one of the things I really really really appreciate about my current not-in-school but teaching-and-gigging-a-lot situation in life. This thing I appreciate is that I am able to earn some money, and due to the sheer number of gigs available to me, it’s a fair sum of money. More money than I anticipated making at this point and probably more than I would be if I was working that crappy part-time job I wanted to find after I finished school. But at the same time that I’m busy with gigs and teaching, I have a lot of free-time, free-time of the sort I’ve never really had before. And in that free-time, I’m able to satisfy my other creative itches, whether it be getting that stubborn, elusive music out of my head, or photography.

Especially photography.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve learned more about photography in the past three months than I have in the past three years. I want to make the statement here that a local photographer friend-of-the-family shared with me, and that is that no amount of photography technical know-how or camera-understanding will result automatically in better photos. It’s all about the eye of the person behind the camera and what they see and how they capture what they do. But by jove, knowing more about my camera and the things I can do with it certainly does help me to capture things a little more fearlessly and with a fresh eye. Plus, I know how to get more of the types of shots I have in mind. I really like the photos I’m taking, and I wish I could have understood better what I was doing, especially in exposure, lighting and focus six months ago when all of a sudden people asked me to take photos of them doing things like playing their instruments in unnatural lighting.

I think my personal learning curve in camera-workage started off extremely steep and took years to climb, and then picked up once I had done my tedious homework and learned some terminology and techniques beyond the basics of point-and-shoot photography. Truly, this vast leap in the camera learning curve of recent history came out of re-reading the entire manual for my D40 and BAM. Exposure readings. Focus modes. ISO. White Balance. Focus and Exposure Locks. Technical know-how: Gained.

Back to my week in Champaign, I took a lot of photos. I made a point to wander around my favorite out-door areas, in particular Meadowbrook Park in the Southerly part of Urbana which is essentially 130 acres of mostly Prairie, and the mysterious agricultural research areas of the University, located a stone’s throw from Meadowbrook Park. Here are some photos of Meadowbrook:

Meadowbrook Park

Fluffy Closeup

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That last one is my favorite.

Of course it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I firmly believe that Central Illinois is a beautiful place all seasons of the year for one reason or another, despite it being flat as a door-nail and occasionally grid-like. That said, maybe these photos are a snooze, especially if you’re kind of eh about landscape and especially eh about the Midwest. But the thing I find eye-catching about these parts is probably all the LINES, there are just so many lines, and the shapes that emerge from those lines. Not to mention the expansive-ness that is a direct result of the flat. The skies here are occasionally outta this world. So that’s a bit of what I wanted to capture.

I guess all of what I just said could be true of these next photos, taken two days later in the research areas at the University of Illinois. A little about the location: if you go far South on Lincoln Ave, you’ll come across the U of I Arboretum and the Japan House just a little south of that, and if you walk beyond these areas, you’ll find some expansive prairie grass testing areas, as well as a bee-keeping house and some sparse (but kind of freaky) woods. I really enjoyed the Prairie grass research areas, which also contain shrubs and and other flora that are original pre-corn-and-soy Illinois inhabitants. What I like about this area is that instead of a crazy and disorderly mix of prairie grasses in each plot in these testing areas, the plots were highly organized and clearly divided into particular grass varieties. Since each variety was a completely different height or texture than the next, there were neat visual effects resulting. BEHOLD, PRAIRIE GRASSES AND SHRUBS:

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Again: last one is a favorite. Here are some more.

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Big, crazy tree.

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Striking sky and aforementioned kinda freaky woods

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I’m covered in BEEEEEES

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Yes

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Freaky pond, near Japan House

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This was taken approximately 5 minutes before crazy weather occurred

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Mums!

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More mums!

And with that, I SLEEEEEP.

A Blog About Blogging (Or: Ranting)

Yeah. Last entry I might have idiotically forgotten to link to the NPR First Listen page that contains Stereolab’s Latest Album which you should Go Listen To.

What happened to my blogging? Writing? Creative use of words? I feel l like it’s fizzled out or it’s dried up or I’m experiencing a side-effect of getting older, the one where the brain stops functioning at age 25. I just don’t seem to be having much of a time with words lately, and it bothers me.

I know this is probably just an eye-of-the-beholder thing, and that the reasons I’m dissatisfied with my word-usage have more to do with the expectations I have for my writing or the frustration with being expected to make good use of those words when I maybe don’t always really want to. I’m also just out of practice, plainly put. I’m also tired and crotchety in this particular moment, which never helps anything. This blogging month of November seems to be highlighting the fact that I don’t do this often enough or open enough to enjoy it or play with it or simply be motivated to do it more. I’d like to think that over the course of the next few weeks, I could rediscover the open-ness and the playfulness and the motivation.

But in case I don’t, enjoy all of the various internet LINKS, my friends.

Bookcase.

There are things happening EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK. I am going to share them here in my second entry of the day! See? Everything is fine. Nothing is broken, especially not blogging.

1. Damn You Auto Correct! Oh, god. I don’t own an iPhone. And I hate internet Memes. And so I wondered with the hell ass balls was wrong with me for losing my SHIT over this blog. That is all.

2. Stereolab. New album. Fully streamable via NPR. Everybody freak out!!! Or rather…Talia freak out! Seriously, though. Stereolab announced last year that they were going on haitus, and I was simultaneously really sad and really ambivalent because Stereolab’s been around and things just haven’t felt the same since one of their key members, Mary Hansen, was killed in a bicycling accident. But apparently during the recording of their 2008 album, they ended up recording this album as well. I will not complain. In fact, I will do the opposite of complain and also flail around a lot.

3. Are you ready for more flailing? Are you? Because my other favorite vintage-keyboard-obsessive band whose leader was a former member of Stereolab, the High Llamas, are ALSO releasing an album. By the start of 2011. I have no fancy links or streaming, as there is very little hype or excitement or anywhere near as vast a following as Stereolab and there isn’t even a specific date in mind yet, but still. Do you need a High Llamas refresher? Here’s one:

Yes yes.

*edit* Hey. I actually posted a link for Stereolab’s new album. So…go check that out!

Herf Derf

So, about that one day in November where I forgot to blog…nothing to worry about.

The reason I didn’t blog yesterday might have had to do with the fact that while I wasn’t sitting in an orchestral recording session, I was shoving my face with ridiculous food.

Seriously. If you live in Central Illinois, go to Golden Harbor on Neil St. in Champaign. My Taiwanese friend Tzu-shan would take me to the restaurant formerly owned by these same people in Mahomet, and order all sorts of things on the mysterious Chinese wall menu that were always a little unexpected and always amazingly delicious. They always gave us this complimentary noodle dish with crispy chicken and a sesame sauce. I guess in the middle of this past year, they decided to open up shop right in Champaign and create an English menu from the majority of that mysterious wall menu. The results are absurd, and abundant (I mean..hundreds of dishes. HUNDREDS). Our party of four ordered steamed pork buns with pork belly, some green beans which were mostly a hit, a hot bean fish which was…so good, and last but not least, the famous crispy tofu, which I liken to a battered and fried cloud. The restaurant was packed by 6pm, and I noticed a plate of crispy tofu being delivered to every table in the vicinity.

I wish I had taken some photos, but I didn’t because I’m a dodo (as my Dad would say).

Here is a fantastic review of the place. You should read it. Then you should go order some crispy tofu, or at least wish you could.

Less And Less Crazy

Again. Here I am. Blogging. Let’s go.

I hope I didn’t offend any Lunchables fans in the last post. I admit, it was inconsiderate for me to make assumptions about people’s lunch choices. Eat what you will.

What else is there to talk about? Maybe the fact that it’s now ass-cold outside. Or…other things?

There have been two small occurrences in the past few days worth mentioning. 1) I re-read a bunch from an old journal I used to keep between about 2003 and now (I still write in it…sometimes…twice a year…) and realized that, my God, even though I suspect I have mild to moderate O.C.D. issues going on and am about as much of a misanthrope as ever, I’m way less crazy than I used to be and 2) one of my good friends here who is my current stand-partner and long-time school-mate told me that I’m way less crazy than I used to be.

The conversation about it occurred as such:

Friend: Yeah, just a warning [such and such person] is just a little crazy.
Me: Aw, that’s okay. I mean, I’m a little crazy, too.
Friend: You’re actually way less crazy than you used to be, you know!
Me: HUH. I WAS JUST THINKING THE SAME THING JUST THE OTHER DAY.
Friend: Good job, Talia!

Given, I don’t think I was terribly crazy to begin with. Maybe just…a little bit crazy. In ways. I’ve always had a fair amount of social ineptitude and anxiety going on, for reasons? Genetics (I am not the only sometimes-crazy person in my family)? Alignment of the stars? I mean, obviously I still do have some of those things going on. But it’s much, much better than it used to be, maybe because I’ve had some practice at being social, maybe because I’ve gotten a little older and my brain has calmed down a bit. I also suspect that before I realized I might have that aforementioned mild to moderate O.C.D. going on, I hadn’t the vaguest idea of why I would get upset or feel crappy about things. I think it’s really easy to feel crappy and to react poorly in upsetting situations when you don’t know WHY you find those situations upsetting. And now I have a better idea of why I’m bothered by things, I’m able to ignore that which frustrates me, or at least figure out why the crap feels crappy and move on faster.

And that’s not to say I haven’t had my moments in the last couple years. Particularly some early in the summer and here and there while I was at Eastman. About this summer, though, lemme just state for the record that it’s not easy to deal with panic attacks, especially in strange, foreign and uncomfortable settings. I mean, talk about freaking out without being able to figure out why. I felt as though the entirety of Madison was hostile and ready to harm me, and there was no logical way for me to understand that it was all in my head. That was my entire two-week stint in Madison, pretty much. God. Poor people who had to deal with me.

But that was really the last time I’ve felt even remotely unbalanced. Or unsettled. Or incapable of coping. It feels like those moments of crazy are becoming fewer and further in-between. I do think being out of a very intense musical and academic setting is only doing good things for me. Sometimes I do wish I could have presented a much more put-together, pleasant and at-ease self for the people I went to school in the past two years, but. Oh well. SORRY GUYS, YOU MISSED OUT. COME HANG OUT WITH ME IN ILLINOIS AND I WILL BE MULTITUDES MORE FUN AND LESS WEIRD.

And something else is that…I have nowhere to go but less crazy from here! Right? Sort of? Maybe. Who knows. In any case, I have high hopes for my nerves and sanity.