Sunday, December 25, 2016


I took a walk. It was hot. Had to pass by the Rude Boyz (gangbangers one street over with lowered Civics they are always doing something to) twice, coming and going. Someone visiting someone for xmas, visitor had nasty little chihuahua on an untretracted leash, dog runs at me snarling and owner smirks "he don't bite". I could not contain myself and muttered "you need to keep that dog on a leash" which made no sense because he was on a leash, just one that was long enough for him to get really close to me and snarl and snap. Anyway, there went my xmas spirit, such as it wasn't. 

It was hot. There were all these people out walking or playing soccer or visiting each other because it's xmas. I wallowed in self-pity: I have no family; I am uncomfortable around my few friends because I feel them judging me for having retired. Not that they ever asked about my work in all those years, or that I ever forced them to listen to tales about it. But now that I don't work, it's just "so, how's retirement?" and "what do you do all day" like there is no right answer. And maybe there isn't one. What do I do? I pay for music lessons so I guess I help put groceries on someone's table. But aside from that, I contribute nothing. I am just a waste of space, which is not a nice thing to contemplate on xmas, or any other day.

seasonal, uneffective

Memory of holidays past: xmas 1997. I worked the early shift at the call center. Got home in the early afternoon. The only communication I received that day was a wrong-number collect call from someone in prison. 

So things could be worse, yes? Thank god they're not. But this hopelessness snuck up behind me and grabbed me by the throat. I can't stand to be around people, which is ok because there are no people to be around anyway. It's like I resigned from the human race instead of retiring. I contribute nothing, just take up space.

I have a viola lesson tomorrow that I really want to cancel. I don't want to practice, barely managed a warmup with the heavy mute on. Horrified. How can this be? How can I be so repulsed by the thought of playing viola? Has this happened before? Why yes, yes it has. Remember when someone made that innocuous suggestion that maybe viola wasn't "the instrument for me" because I'd been at it 4 years and, well, you know...Yeah, I remember. I was mortified. I could barely bring myself to play a note, and kept the mute on so my awfulness wouldn't be so audible. 

So yes, this has happened before, and for better or worse, it passed. And this today will pass sometime. I just have to wait.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

everyone who is learning to play a musical instrument should see this.

Maybe some commentary later, maybe not. But for now, I'll just throw this on here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

the world has become a supermarket checkout tabloid

I have started to succumb to a sort of paranoia: I don't know who can be trusted, what can be trusted, what the "real" story or subtext is, and everything has one. Everything, from speculation over the president's potential conflicts of interest to the "real reason" for the hoohaw between the VP and the Broadway star. Nothing is as it seems. 

This is incredibly anxiety-inducing. I depend mostly on facebook for my communication with other people, but so much of what I see is political, or quasi-political, or propaganda. Photos taken from god-knows-where and photoshopped with some "the more you know" aphorism, like this is going to change anyone's mind about anything. I don't know what to do or not do, think or not think. Social justice is important. No, global everything is important. We should "do something" about the presidency; no, that would leave something even worse in its place. No, it's cool; he's just a shill. It's all good; accept and move on. Focus on the downballot. Think global, act local. Practice those random acts of kindness. No, out evil whenever you see it, visibly, violently. March, arm in arm. Be kind to people for no reason. Kill the motherfuckers. Scroomall and go to Disney, buy a lot of crap on black friday, support your local Toyota dealer's sales event.

The possibilities are endless. Should I do anything? Or is it all so hopeless that I should just hide my face in my hands and hope it all goes away soon? This has leached into my nonpolitical socializing and again I find myself wondering who is what, which can be trusted, and why does anyone do anything, what's the real reason. I said above that I have started to succumb to paranoia, but maybe it's always been there.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

worst music lesson ever.

I "retired" from my job a bit over a month ago, and I have thrown a lot of the extra time into music practice. More practice, more organized practice, more regimented and regulated practice. In fact, I have turned it into a job, which is probably not a good thing.

At yesterday's lesson, I did not have the chance to show off all the smooth-shifting I worked on last week; that never came up and instead the teacher focused on spiccato, something I had not worked on so much. I can't get it. He stops me the second my upper arm moves, and my upper arm always moves, pretty much the second I start trying to play spiccato, so it never goes anywhere. He then wanted to hear the Mazas 5 etude (another thing he'd not said much about the previous week, so I didn't do lots of work on it) and he seemed discouraged over my inability to play fast and cleanly. Keep your fingers down, he said. I played it one time with my fingers down. Rattled, I read some notes wrong and fumbled others. OK, keeping your fingers down isn't working, he said. Try keeping your fingers close instead, and especially on descents. I tried that, but no magic happened there either. OK, this isn't working, he said, let's just try another etude. And so we went backward in Mazas, to #4, which is not so bad to be going backward, but that etude doesn't have many of the descents I need to work on. Anyway, on to Bach, which I did work on during the week, a lot. I knew I'd improved and had looked forward to bringing that to the lesson. Rattled, I blew it. Totally out the window. About one particular measure he said, You have no idea where the notes are, do you, you have no idea where your fingers are supposed to go. I felt that in general that wasn't true, but at that particular time and place it was true, so I just agreed with him stared at the floor. I have never wished for a lesson to end so much as I did yesterday.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

you can't always get what you want.

I found out today that 9th/10th grade all-state audition requirements include a chunk of Mazas 18, at 118. About 70% of it is doable by me right this minute, but if I had all summer I could learn it. How can 9th and 10th graders do it, all of it, in tune, at tempo, nicely? The trills and downshifts in that one slurred run, argh.  

Anyway, I could conceivably audition for all-state and reasonably hope for a spot, except for the little matter of my age. You might say, "so what, Joe Positive, you don't have to actually earn a place in a kid's orchestra to prove to yourself that you're learning. Just keep on learning, enjoy the journey..." But it's not that I want to get into all-state. I want the experience of auditioning, I want the audition hanging over my head to make me learn and polish a piece. I want to finish something I start. The process of preparing for all-state auditions gives kids something important and intangible. I get that once a year at most, at recital time. It would be nice to have more of that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

dog days

These are the worst days of the year.

Physically unwell, whether due to age or general unwellness I just don't know. This morning I had heartburn from the start of my run; I made it about 4 miles and then decided fuck it, I'll walk. Could not eat anything at all until after noon. Felt better after that, but skipped the walk this evening. Feet have been cramping all night, not good if I practice viola while standing, which I do. Will I be able to run tomorrow? I don't know.

At work I am busy with something I don't know anything about. I worry that I will break something. Despite this ignorance and sense of incompetence, I am also bored. The technology is nothing new; it will always be nothing new (i.e., TSQL). We are not using this old technology to do anything new or interesting either. This is a dead end, not where I wanted to be at this stage. I am counting the days until retirement.

My lack of motivation has almost extended to music. Almost, but not quite. I am teacherless at the moment, so tonight I put aside the things I had been working on for lessons and camp, and just played...scales. Light fingers, heavy bow scales, accelerations up to 8 notes/bow and even some goofy tries at 12/bow. And some exercises from Sevcik 8 and 9, which I haven't had time for in a long while. I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier these were now that I can read better; knowing what key I was in plus being able to read ahead helped me find the right interval so much more easily. 

Something about this kind of woodshedding is very soothing. I don't have to try to be musical, just get these foundation skills more solid. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

the tipping point

This latest discussion over on has pushed my buttons. There are a few participants who are very open about their contempt for adult beginner string players. It reminds me of when my teacher told me that "everyone" (he and his colleagues) hates listening to adults play, hates working with them, only does it for the money. That anyone can say that and not care who hears it - indeed, to say it to the audience who would least appreciate it - really blows my mind.

I am especially sensitive to ageism lately, to the point where *I* cringe to see adults playing string instruments or trying to describe their experiences learning. The little asshole voice in my head says "not for you, not for you, that world is not for you, you will always be out of place, you will always look silly and ridiculous." Maybe learning to play this instrument should just be for my own enjoyment, to be heard only by myself and the dogs, and whatever teacher will put up with me.

ten years after

Ten years ago my dearest friend committed suicide. He would have been 51 this year.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

positive's regress

It's been a lousy several weeks, on several fronts, and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

positive's progress

mediocre week, mediocre lesson Saturday, lots of time wasted. Finally made some progress on the placement recordings I need for camp, though.

I pulled my damn soleus, again. So no running, again.

Yesterday's lesson was very much a waste, with not much playing but Mr Critical Teacher doing a lot of talking, sometimes re-telling much-told anecdotes (Michael R and the Vibrato, again! how many times have I heard that one?) and sometimes just winging it, going nowhere. He seemed surprised to learn that I practice scales and arpeggios for 30 minutes a day, and suggested that may be too much. Too much? Scales? How can this be? Last year sometime, he told me not to practice scales with vibrato until I could vibrate every note, not just some of them. So, for the past year or so I've been playing scales senza vibrato. Yesterday he said something like "you never play scales with vibrato" and when I reminded him of what he'd said previously, told me I must have misinterpreted what he meant. I wonder if, a year from now, he'll tell me I need to practice scales more.

Sometimes when we're talking about a Thing I can't do (vibrato, speed, tone), he'll seem at a loss on how to help me with it. I'll gently try to steer: "you've been doing X for fifty years; you've been teaching it for 30; how do you help your *other* students with this Thing?" Sometimes he'll reply with something I can use. Other times he'll just start reminiscing about all his kids, and it's clear that what he thinks he's doing with me is no more "teaching viola" than what I do with a viola can be called "playing music on the viola".  

Sigh. Why do I do this? Because he makes me work; because his hyper-criticalness matches or even surpasses my own; because he thinks I'm not capable of of ever learning this thing. He has unwittingly tapped into my secret fear - that I'm too stupid or clumsy or old or unmusical to learn - which makes me want to try harder. It's not exactly true that he makes me work; I just work. Sometimes he will notice that I've improved a tiny bit, and the work is validated. But, sigh.