I am passing out candy...preferential treatment option for the people I know (well, their kiddies).
Seems like every little kid I know is a pumpkin. Why is that?
The obligatory Halloween link...
I write a monthly article for a magazine, Classical Singer. It's fluff, mostly, but it's been a great way of chronicling my adventures of the last year. In addition to impressing the hell out of my mom, I've become a better writer in the process. I even got to do a bit of (bad) reporting during the course of the year, a chance I might not have otherwise had.
But, alas, I just turned in my last article tonight. Despite the annoyance of deadlines during rehearsal periods, I'm a bit sad that that chapter in my life is over.
The real reason I became an opera singer.
Obviously, I'm not the only one who fell under her spell.
I am a Star Wars geek. Until an embarassingly late age, my wardrobe consisted mostly of Star Wars T-shirts. I owned an AT-AT (first generation). I saved up box tops to buy two SW documentaries. I pre-ordered the THX as well as the Special Edition (Wide Screen) three-pack videos. I firmly believe that George Lucas will eventually get around to making The Golden Jedi. The fact that I'm a woman in her twenties makes it all a little more embarassing, but not so much that I'm going to stop.
I was chatting with pmk the other day about the pizzeria he's going to open. It's going to be called Pizzeria 々. I asked him what the kanji meant, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As this was hours after the Berlin U-bahn debacle, the word stupid (baka - 馬鹿) came up. I, naturally, then thought of Chewbacca, and what the kanji for chew would be. After a bit of im-confusion, pmk came up with chu (middle - 中). And it turns out the kanji for Chewbacca is chubaka - 中馬鹿. Its meaning? Middle fool.
Thank you, pmk. Thank you, patrick.com. Thank you, cosmos.
Here, for fun, is a Starship Dimensions page. Chewie is dabei.
After the misery of today controlling fiasco, I decided to spend the evening in, not spending any more money. I turned, naturally, to my good friend YouTube.
What I watched:
Public transportation in Berlin is based on the honor system. One is welcome to take his chances Schwarzfahring - riding without a valid ticket - but if you're caught, it's expensive: at least 40 Euros. I will admit that I've done it, but since I found out that my BahnCard gets me a discount on the subways, trams and streetcars in Berlin, I've come clean, and buy a ticket every time.
Today, as I was riding down to Kreuzberg to help a friend move (my whole reason for coming up this time), I was controlled. Confident and cool, I pulled out my discount ticket and my valid-for-five-more-days BahnCard to show the BVG employee.
Turns out it doesn't get me the discount. Ouch.
I am sitting in a lovely apartment in Berlin, drinking coffee and chatting. My friend Joel is up visiting, too, and he just took my picture. Or, as he puts it, I showed him my dreams. The problem, and you must believe me on this one, is that I am the least photogenic creature ever to be born, on this planet or any other. So he'll develop the picture, and put it on his website, and then you'll see it, too, and it will be nightmarish, not dreamy.
Whenever I make my positive thoughts about myself public, things have a way of going south very quickly.
After broadcasting to the thousands who check out patrick.com that I am a god (or goddess) of singing, I was roundly beaten to a pulp today. I sucked, sucked, sucked. At some point I'd like to be able to say that I can sing and do it well and that I'm capable. Sometimes it seems I have something new to learn every day, which would be okay were it complex, artist-like, and not basic technique.
It is embarrassing to admit I have a crush on Michael Dirda, who used to work for the Washington Post as a book critic (he now writes for them as an independent contractor). He has launched me on dozens of journeys with obscure authors and distant times. His weekly chat has been a staple of wasting time at work for me since at least 1999, and perhaps before? Check him out if you are looking for some inspiration, reading and otherwise.
Like the Empress Jen, Dirda won a Fulbright.
Tonight Karin and Daniel, my temporary roommates, are making soup out of the Jerusalem artichokes they harvested from their garden. Neither Jewish nor really artichokey, they're rather tasty when eaten raw. They really want me to enjoy the soup with them, so they're off looking for lactose-free milk. I feel a bit guilty. Not so much because they're off getting the milk, but because I just snuck some leftover pasta. The sauce was really good and I'd been thinking about it all day.
I have a classic case of the Mondays. Yes, I am Milton.
The Chicago Marathon (which Kane has ducked, I think) was yesterday. Here is some video before the slip.
I had a lesson today. And it was good. It was really good. It was one of those lessons that completely makes the day. I would swear, if pmk had given me permission, because I just felt that good about it. I even danced around a bit, it was so much fun. I was exploring the extreme upper regions of my voice, for the first time, and it was working, and it was good, and for the first time ever I thought, I can do this.
I've had two really good singing days recently, and that makes me happy, and a bit worried, because I don't want that goodness to go away.
Ac and I went bike riding yesterday, to Cospuden der See, a lake about eight kilometers south of Leipzig. We'd made it almost half-way round, riding through gravel and mud, when his bike got a flat. I rode ahead into town (if it could be called that), looking for a bike shop where we could get a patch kit, new tube, or pump. But as this was small-town Germany on a Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, nothing was open. We ended up walking six or seven kilometers to the nearest train station, where we waited an hour for a train to show up. Despite it all, I had a great time.
For those of you looking for a good online music source, check out pandora.com. It's a good time. Thanks to Matt for the tip. I've been listening to Kings of Leon radio, Bloc Party radio and Ministry radio. Only two of them are meant earnestly.
Four hours til Schumann. My last concert was a few weeks ago, in Weiden, a dinky town in Bavaria. I didn't really care how I looked or sang, to be honest. Imagine my surprise when I got back to Leipzig and this was hung everywhere. And the printed edition has a picture! It's a great review, to be sure, but my shirt was half see-through. Not on purpose.
Today was one of those lovely days, where the weather was still end of summer-like, and my voice worked well and was sometimes even beautiful and musical, and I rode my bike in the woods and along a river, and got along with my pianist, and ate cereal twice. I think I live for these days.
I'm thrilled to announce that Ted Warin has joined Jennifer Porto as a guest blogger! I leave you in their capable hands.
Miss Wendy J works for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She is also the long lost twin of my little sister, who many say is my twin, which makes the whole thing kind of odd. At any rate, she's a librarian for the Orchestra, which is a very cool job.
Every week or month, an article in the [Insert Newspaper Name] comes out, decrying the state of classical music in [Insert Your City Name]. The latest one I've read, out of the 'Nati, is pretty ridiculous. Check out Michael Manning's entry. Here's his blogger page.
Jen wrote about the love that would not die; in the modern US Schumann would be prosecuted for seducing the 15 year old Clara Wieck as a man in his mid-twenties. I am sure today's child predators will leave art so compelling that it is performed however suck-i-ly one hudred and fifty years later. Here is an old school webpage circa 1995 about the "premier female musician of the 19th century."
On December 2 1995 Patrick Kane was likely skipping this man's Russian History class. Actually it was a Saturday so Patrick Kane was probably working. Goldfrank was one of only a few professors I had at Georgetown offering even a glimpse of Robert Schumann's classic German education (in his erudition not his instruction), as "19th century Germany" was the zenith of classical education, what ancient Greece could have done had it not been a poor peninsular country of boats and goats. How quickly that dream turned into a nightmare. Anthony Grafton writes a little about this in this week's New Yorker.
George Gurley is a writer for the New York Observer, the salmon colored weekly that contains the lunacy of Ron Rosenbaum, the most idiosyncratic cultural columnist I have encountered. Every Wednesday the Observer offers little portraits of the world's greatest city, the city that exists in the mind of elite New Yorkers. Unburdened by crime, pollution, traffic, expenses, this world is there for us hoi polloi to witness little glimmers of when someone like Gurley profiles a citizen of the republic of privilege. Today was his most compelling portrait.
I'm singing in a concert on Friday night, works by Clara and Robert Schumann. They were married in 1840, and the following year published this set of 12 songs and duets (Op. 37) together, which are basically love notes to each other: 'I love you dear, you're a super composer,' or 'Oh, Robbie, I just don't know if I'm good enough!' Only instead of those words they talk about the Sun and Tears and Hearts and Storms and Pearls.
Anyway, I completely suck. I don't get this music at all. The text is unabashed, love-me-forever-and-I'll-do-the-same type stuff, which I find not in the least offensive. It's okay to be a little optimistic, right? What I don't get is how the music can be as simple as it is, and still be dramatic. I hate sucking at music.
I have a bike, and it is blue and very heavy. People make fun of me because I take it everywhere, ride it in the rain and snow, and regard it as one of my best friends. Even when I bought a Berlin bike, I found myself more often than not taking the slow train, Leipzig bike in tow.
And a bike really is the best way to get around. I can weave in and out of traffic (yes, Mom, I always wear my helmet), go off-road, and travel the wrong way down one-way roads. I would rather take my bike than go by tram or car or foot. Except for days like today, when my bag of groceries ripped apart and spilled all over the street: oranges, grapes, chocolate milk powder, lactose-free milk, pesto, tri-color rotini.
Omaha, where I live, has some of the oldest coffee shops in the world. Some of them have been around since 1981. Here is my favorite "coffee place"; coffee tends to only be $2, none of this crazy fake currency crap that some people talk about.
Of course, nothing beats the Bagel Bin, the finest bagels in the world (they import New York City tap water to make them just right). Bagel Bin
Marginal Revolution is one of my favorite blogs and had a solid post about how primitive medicine is. I am reminded of one of the Star Trek movies (Star Trek IV I think) where Bones cures a woman near death and talks about so-called modern medicine as butchers. Marginal Revolution
Leipzig, where I live, is home to some of the oldest coffee shops in the world. Bach wrote a cantata about coffee, and how it polluted the mind of a young girl - she preferred a cup of joe to getting married. Although I'm not that much of an addict, I do enjoy a cup every now and then (with lactose free milk - yum!).
So why is it that it is practically impossible to get a good cup on Monday at 4 o'clock in the afternoon? It doesn't matter if you pay 1 Euro or 3 Euros. It's all bad. Why? Because they don't actually brew it. They just press a button, and out it comes. Coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino, macchiato, whatever, all from the same spigot. Unfortunate.
I miss Arabica, where the coffee was also bad, but very cheap or free. And there were non-dairy whipped topping fights!
I am Ted. When Jen is asleep I am awake. If she is the firefly I am the wildebeest.
Patrick.com's graphic always reminds me of this website...
First, let me thank pmk, soon to be proud owner of the Storm Launcher, for letting me assume the reins at patrick.com for a bit. He's made me promise not to let it devolve into some My Little Pony forum, which is kind of disappointing, but I'll do my best.
Although I'm a huge fan of sci-fi shows and was in America at the time, I completely missed out on the Joss Whedon-created series Firefly. It's an outer-space Western (if that makes any sense), with intelligent writing, interesting story lines and a talented cast. It ran in 2002, and was cancelled after eleven episodes. Too bad it had a bad name and an even worse soundtrack. It's a pity, as it was a clever show with some real potential. Serenity, a film continuing where the series left off, was released last year, and I'm going to get it on DVD.
What boggles my mind, though, is that this sort of thing is right up my alley, and I only learned of it a few months ago. How does that happen? And then I remember what I was doing in the fall of 2002: graduate school and opera rehearsals. One of the worst things about being an opera singer? Completely falling off the face of the earth for weeks at a time. pmk, it's a good thing you'll be back starting November 7, because come November 20, I'll be back in Hamburg, up to my knees (literally) in sand and Monteverdi, desperately trying to get pirated wireless on the balcony, and falling behind on what's going on in the world.
I'm swamped and patrick.com has suffered. That's not fair to you, gentle reader. Sadly, it's a situation that is unlikely to improve until after the election in November.
To address this dire situation, I'm happy to announce that Jennifer Porto, international renowned opera performer and woman-about-town, has agreed to help keep patrick.com up-to-date. Please give her a warm, tragically obfuscated welcome.