Sunday, October 28

On music

In fifth grade, my school system finally introduced us to a music program. You could choose a stringed instrument in fifth grade, or a band instrument in sixth. I wanted to be in the band because my older brother played trumpet, but I started violin anyway. In the middle of fifth grade, my family moved to Belgium.

I went to a private international school while I was there, since I couldn't speak the language and would likely be held back at least two years in the Belgian school system. Also, the government was paying for the school. Nice.

On my first day, I had no idea what was going on. People dragged me around everywhere, and at one point it was "music period."

"What do you play?" They asked.

"Violin," I told them. Before I could qualify that with my desire to be a flutist, they took me to the orchestra room.

For the next three years, I was a violinist. At first, I was like many a player: I didn't practice at home, and didn't really care much about class. One day, though, something seemed to lock into place. I started practicing at home, I played to get my emotions out, and I joined the after school ensemble.

Our orchestra group went to The Netherlands to play in a student competition with a bunch of other schools. At the end of the day, the judges' top choices for each instrument played. I remember watching the violinist play her amazing solo. My friends were whispering to each other about where to eat lunch, but I was transfixed. The violin she was holding was almost immaterial; it seemed as though it was just being used as a tool to express what she was trying to say. I was stunned.

One day back at school, the orchestra teacher brought in a jazz piece. I had never encountered jazz music before, and I was new to the concept of solos. The teacher had me go first, and I got a little lost in the experiment. I started really getting into it, and eventually the teacher had to stop everyone to remind me that the solo only goes on for a certain number of measures. I was jolted, as if out of a trance, and immediately embarrassed. But we didn't get right back to playing.

"TAB," said the teacher, with a look of bewilderment. "What did you just do?"

Everyone was looking at me.

"What? Did I do it wrong?" I asked, my cheeks getting hot.

"No. That was amazing."

That year, I became first violinist and won the prize for Most Valuable Player.

When we moved back to the US, I was put in the back of the second violinist section, in an orchestra group four times bigger than I had previously played. After long enough, I became convinced that the conductor didn't know my name. I remember being shocked when she mentioned my name in class in reference to a composition assignment. My mom stopped paying for a private tutor. Two years later, I quit orchestra to take theatre. I have barely touched my violin in the five years since then.

I think I am going to start playing again.

Saturday, October 27

Covered walkways: Some guidelines

Where I'm from (the suburbs), people get pretty excited when there is construction. "What's going on here?" They ask. Or, "Is it going to be a GAP?" In New York City, construction is not a novelty. I discovered this when I started going to my new internship in The Village. When I left the building for lunch or a bitch errand, I noticed that every block or two there was scaffolding and makeshift sidewalks, made out of plank wood and about two people wide. "I guess this area is doing a lot of renovations," I thought.

My bitch errands soon took me to various other Manhattan locations, where I noticed there was also plenty of scaffolding and ogling construction men. These walkways were everywhere, and I really liked them. Every time I walked into one, I imagined it was leading me somewhere other than the next block. You can't see where each tunnel is going to take you, with its walls and sharp turns. And the best part was the temptation to slip into the often open doors, the construction site. I could hide out and eavesdrop on the contractors arguing over salary and deadlines.

So it really bothers me when other pedestrians ruin my walkway experience. In response, and in keeping with my rabidly passive aggressive tradition, I have come up with some rules of etiquette that I think ought to be posted at each of these walkways.

  • New York is a busy city. When coming around a corner, it is often the case that someone else will be travelling in the opposite direction (!). Do not glare at them just because they happened to be in what you thought was your way. Remember: your presence is just as unwelcome to them as theirs is to you.

  • If you are walking next to somebody (and thus taking up the entirety of the walkway) on your merry stroll, remember that other people actually do exist and might also need room. Again, try not to glare at them: their walking in the opposite direction is not meant as a personal attack.*

  • When it is raining, I understand that there is a dilemma: do you close your umbrella for a single block or do you keep it open? This, I cannot help you with. But if you decide to close it, remember that most people generally do not enjoy being showered with your umbrella water while you are doing so. If you opt to leave it open, do not be so surprised when you see that someone walking the opposite direction has also left their umbrella open. Do not be so entitled as to think that you needn't make an effort to avoid hitting them in the face.**

Remember, people don't like you as much as you think they do. Also, your mom lied: you can't really be anything you want when you grow up. I, for example, wanted to be Native American.*** Now do you see why I'm so bitter?

*Except when it's me. I knew you were coming, and I hate you.
** I did a poll. People don't like this.
*** This is actually true. Pre colonialism, of course. Eventually I moved on to some thing more realistic. Japanese.

Friday, October 19

Like freelancing, only you probably won't get paid

My school's art program administrative assistant sent an email to all the visual arts students. In it, a student film competition is described.

As with most student film competitions that are widely marketed, there is not only a winner but a cash prize. This particular competition, though it is sponsored by Microsoft (headquartered in Redmond, WA), will hold its awards ceremony in Los Angeles (headquarters of Hollywood and a majority of the American film industry).

Beyond this fact, there is absolutely nothing "cinematic" about this competition. The task is essentially to create a short film (under 4 minutes) depicting the potential of new Microsoft programs to improve our environmental crisis. Instead of hiring a quality production company and assigning some of the program's creative directors to consult with the company on the project (no doubt resulting in a higher-quality film), Microsoft would like to use the resources of struggling artists or technologically savvy individuals who have never slapped a film together before. In return, all they have to do is host an awards ceremony and pay small sums to only the most favored participants - a fraction of the amount they most likely would have spent on an actual advertising concept bought from a marketing company.

The modern version of slave labor, or a magnanimous act drawing attention to environmentalism, future filmmakers of the country, and... the TV show Heroes?

I'm going to do it if I have time. After all, the grand prize is $25 grand.

Tuesday, October 9


So, I feel like this could mean a few different things. And if this is how we're going to continue to portray patriotism, then I am probably going to be upset about it.

Or, if the photographer/people who selected this photograph were making a joke, I doubt many people who saw this got it.