Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May wrap-up.

Well SADLY I am winding up the month of May by lying sick on the couch with a super sore throat and an achy head, which means my last two days of project Move Yer Ass have been spent in almost total inactivity. I did garden yesterday, while allowing Momo her first taste of controlled outdoor freedom on a harness. She did pretty well but I turned into a sweaty mess rather quickly.

Overall, Move Yer Ass was a success. I had many, many days that went way beyond my minimum requirements, two days where I was so scheduled I couldn't exercise, and then these last two days of straight up illin'. I completed 4 weeks of Couch to 5K--not that I have a 5K scheduled--and have really enjoyed it. Now that I remember how much I like to run on dirt trails in the woods--seriously, why is that so different, so much more acceptable to my brain as fun?--I will seek some more out. And my feet and legs feel well-accustomed to my barefoot shoes, and I've adjusted my pace so that I'm not going faster overall (I don't think) but I'm taking many more steps per minute and I feel like a fleet elf gliding through Rivendell. Sometimes. For about 30 seconds.

Also, obviously, I started biking again.

So even with those 4 days I missed, I completed roughly 12000% more exercise than I did in the month of April, and shall continue in this vein as best I can throughout the summer. I suspect November, and probably next February, will need to be Move Yer Ass months as well. Just based on past experience.

Tomorrow is a new month and I'm not totally sold on the project I'm about to propose, esp since I think I could do another month of Move Yer Ass before I can safely say yes, moving my ass is habitual and necessary. However, there is some sort of 30 Days of Creativity thing ricocheting around the blogosphere, which got me thinking about allll of my Works in Progress (WIPs) and how they languish. So for the month of June, except for when I am on my wee awesome vacation for 5 days, I will be dealing with my WIPs for at least 20 minutes each day. This is probably a useless amount of time to propose because it takes at least that long for most people just to get into a mode of concentration, but I have to start somewhere.

Here are some WIPs I can/may tackle. There are also many shoulds on this list:
  • redrafting that skirt I drafted, because while the muslin fit perfectly and made me feel like a genius, the darts are so long that they look like weirdly specific butt-pointers
  • my doctoral thesis (everyone just shut up)
  • my professional website
  • many, many clothing alteration projects that are stalled in the pinned stage
  • scanning and recycling my old (possible still relevant) papers and writings
  • planning a recital, which means hoodwinking my pianist into rehearsing regularly, which also means practicing regularly, and if my voice ain't a WIP I don't know what is
  • making my IKEA-hacked cat climber more enticing to the cats by finishing it
  • etc.
Please join me if you are so inclined! I am so used to having WIPs that I don't even know how much psychological energy they are using up. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Whether you're high or low.

On Wednesday night I went to see Janelle Monae, who is on tour with Bruno Mars and this other supporting band called, improbably, Mayer Hawthorne and the County. Since she wasn't the headliner and I was determined not to miss a second of her set, we got there right at the 7:30 start time and caught all of the Mayer Hawthorne set as well. He was great. The band was tight, and the whole thing had a Hall and Oates vibe that was completely confirmed when they broke into a rendition of "You Make My Dreams Come True."

Here's how they do:

So that's always cool, when the supporting band that you've never heard of makes you want to hit the computron and buy some mp3s.

Bruno Mars, who I'd literally never heard before, was the headliner. He's quite a talented dude who is not pushing the envelope at all, despite having some vocal and guitar chops, and shit, why should he push the envelope? He's ADORED and probably making a bunch of money. He was adorable and charming and while I don't want to say that he was calculated, it was clear that everything he did was designed to elicit a response from the audience. I have never been to concert like that before--one where every dramatic pause results in a wave of screams and the sound of thousands of panties dropping. It was pretty cute to see all the teens and tweens singing every word of every song to each other, but really the set was just moderately entertaining.

But Monae, let's talk about Monae. I may have mentioned previously that The ArchAndroid was one of my top albums last year, if not the tippy-top. "Tightrope" should have been the "Hey Ya!" of 2010, but considering I don't pay that much attention to mainstream music (I don't even know what qualifies as mainstream anymore), I don't know all the reasons why "Tightrope" didn't blow right the hell up. It has some of the same genre-straddling qualities as "Hey Ya!" and the same undercurrent of darkness ("If what they say is 'nothing lasts forever' then what makes love the exception? So why oh why are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here?" Etc.) despite being a dance anthem. In fact, everything on The ArchAndroid has this quality. It reminds me of Gnarls Barkley in that way: The Odd Couple, especially, was dark and existential. Someone get Dangermouse in a studio with Janelle Monae. I would love to hear that.

I'd like to be able to paint the stage picture for you in a way that isn't boring, but it was her trademark minimal white and black. She had the whole stage and backdrop covered in white, and the band was playing white instruments, and there was an electrified string quartet, and backup singers wearing black and white. She and the band were rocking the white shirt and tie and black pants. There were also cloaks, capes, hats, bird masks, and dancers in black unitards. At one point she painted an entire picture--like literally, with paint--while singing (and wearing a cloak). It was cool.

The only time anyone specifically addressed the audience was right at the beginning, when one of her crew came out and theatrically introduced her over the strains of the overture from the album. I mention this only because in contrast to the other two acts on this tour, Janelle Monae was not trying to work the crowd. She was putting on a show. I don't mean to say that she was cold, or disengaged, or not connecting with the audience--I was completely gripped. I just mean that she's got an overarching concept for the show that is well-defined, that involves everyone onstage, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for extemporizing, just the way you wouldn't expect to see an actor go off-script during a performance of a play. That's how it felt. It was theatrical, and she never broke character. Like she has more in common with Lady Gaga than with anyone else around these days, except that she's an exponentially better singer. Such fantastic, wide-ranging vocals, and incredible energy and booty shaking.

I also think, incidentally, that she's a beautiful woman but she does not engage the male gaze, and that is likely one of the reasons she is not dominating the entertainment world right now. I don't think it's just the pompadour and tie, either.

In conclusion, get thee to a Janelle Monae show. I was so bummed to have missed her at First Ave last September, and I vow to see all her local shows from now on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tramps like us.

You can add me to the list of people who finished Born to Run and got all inspired like "I AM born to run" and immediately went outside for a jog. It was the first workout of C25K week 4 and it felt great. It helps that the weather is lovely and the sunset was beautiful and the lake was still and the frogs and red-winged blackbirds were singing.

I know I'm late to the party on the book and had already gotten on board with the barefoot/minimal shoe thing (running or not, mostly not), but it is worth reading. It feels like a good magazine journalist wrote a book, which is what happened. But the voice is pretty dang entertaining (if occasionally folksy) and the detours from the main story are mighty interesting.


On Sunday, my nephews and niece all sang in a choral evensong thing, which was really cute, and we gathered afterward for dinner. For some reason the kids are super into charades right now, which is hilarious. As Em's boyfriend noted, you just have to pay attention to what the boys are talking about 2 hours before a charades session, and you'll be able to guess every one of their charades. At one point, Molly mockingly asked "is there a reason we're all sitting here doing this? is the television broken? This is very Amish of us." But with electricity. Willa also got in on the action for the first time, first with help from her dad and later by herself. The by herself versions were basically just her gesticulating and us free-associating in the manner of Baby Fishmouth until someone said something she liked, and then she'd say "Yes!!!"

Also there is video of Willa extemporizing a teenpop-style song for several minutes, sometimes with her parents in the style of Garth and Kat, but I haven't seen it yet and don't know if it will appear on the internet. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I made an etsy treasury.

Just FYI.

Translucent with a dose of opaque. Jade, robin's egg blue, wood, metal, crystal, paper, time and the natural world, places and memories. Click to go to the full-size version.

















Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Welcome to the greaseball.

I think I forgot to to tell you that the 80s concert I went to opened with an orchestral version of "Welcome to the Jungle" as its overture, no singers. Toward the end the conductor picked up a wireless mike and hollered "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby! You're gonna die!" I thought I would never stop laughing.

Annnnnyway, welcome to the greaseball, i.e. me in high biking season. But let me back up: I finally bought a new bike! and rode it home this evening. And my god, y'all, I am NOT used to riding on anything other than a giant, cushy seat. My ass is killing me today, mostly because of all the test rides I did yesterday, but partly from riding home just now. I think I need to tweak where the saddle is for one thing, but for another I just need to get used to riding a bike that doesn't have a bunch of big, jiggly, squeaky shocks.

I think I spent an hour and a half riding Giants and Jamisssessss and Masis yesterday, from the heavier upright commuters to the lift-with-one-finger aggressive speedsters (which were super fun). I rode the Civia Loring, which I actually didn't dig riding at all, though aesthetically it is mighty fine. At the end of my bike shop sojourn I spotted one Civia Hyland which was marked down, I think because it was from 2009 or so, took it out, and decided to drop my money on it. It looks like this:

I'd been eyeing up the Civia bikes online for awhile. I love that it's a local company that names its bikes after local neighborhoods/parks, dig the overall aesthetic, and because I am not at this point a gearhead (and don't anticipate becoming one) I love all the high end components and style elements that are just standard on the bikes (yes including the pretty pretty matching fenders and chainguard). The frame has channels in it that route and conceal all the cables; there's a generator powered headlight; there's an internal 8 speed hub. I took the long way home and went around the lake, where the redwing blackbirds and frogs were singing up a storm, and put the bike through its paces, and I love the way this thing shifts. It is smoove.

There was only one frame size available (52 cm) and I did switch out the stem for a longer one to get a more comfortable ride position. Apart from that, I'm going to ride it for awhile until I figure out what else might need to be changed. I'm just glad to be back in the saddle again, even if it kind of hurts right now.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A week later.

It's true, I have the zeal of the newly converted, but here's a report on week 1 of Move Yer Ass.

This was a good week to start such a project not only because the weather has finally been reasonable, but also because I was generally busy, for me, and I didn't let myself make any excuses. Having said that, I did reneg on my "walking 1+ miles to and from my car every day doesn't count" stipulation. Maybe someday I'll do a project about Move Yer Ass First Thing in the Morning, but right now I am not a morning exercise person, so if I have plans after work it's tough to fit in anything besides the brisk walk to and from the car. But that's like 35 minutes of activity, so.

ANYWAY. Couch to 5K has actually been the highlight so far. It's very easy at this point, of course, but this is good for many reasons, not least of which is my shoes. I bought some Vibram Fivefingers last summer and wore them a lot, but really didn't do much running in them, though I always intended to use them for running. What's good about going so slowly with this run-walk training program is that my feet and legs will have time to get accustomed to running this way. I was already used to how the shoes affect my gait and footstrike and length of stride and all that and I like that, but I don't want to jack myself up biting off too much too soon. So yay for taking it somewhat easy.

The non-running days have been for yoga, mostly Jason Crandell vids on the Yoga Journal site. On today's Move Yer Ass log, for example, I wrote "deep hip openers DAMN." That was a hardcore half hour for me, probably because of the joggings of earlier in the week.

Other highlights this week:
  • sang in a premiere today, the last gig I have on the books, so someone please hire me to do something, quick.
  • ate Cheetos for the first time in like 5 years, which was a miscalculation.
  • went to see a pops concert at Orchestra Hall, which I hadn't ever done before. It was BANANAS: the theme was the 80s, the conductor was in neon leggings and legwarmers for the first half and acid washed jeans for the second half, there was an excellent medley of TV theme songs that started with The A Team and progressed through Dallas and Hill Street Blues and Knight Rider and ended with a Cheers singalong, and one of the featured singers was a livewire Finnish freakazoid who worked the entire stage harder than anyone else has ever worked it, on a huge range of songs. The arrangement of Total Eclipse of the Heart was a highlight. But I have to admit that most of the orchestra looked miserable, though a few of them did dress up. The trumpets all dressed like Don Johnson. I had an awesome time. This is worth remembering when I find myself involved in cheeseball musical endeavors: however much I may hate doing it, the audience is eating it up.
  • played a Richard Marx song on the piano in a voice lesson this week.
  • saw an old friend I haven't seen since like 2004 or early 2005, when I went to NY and there was a blizzard. We met singing in an opera summer festival together in 2003, where we hung out ALL THE TIME and drank, a lot. It was so gratifying to get together and feel the same love after so many years (but with less beer).
  • got a Furminator, and oh my god. Why is this little, not particularly fluffy cat so fucking sheddy? I can rake her undercoat like every hour get a cat's worth of fur off her. Fortunately she loves it. Furminator: I recommend it.
  • My cat skirt arrived in the mail. Pictures to follow.

Monday, May 02, 2011

So, do you like...stuff?

Because I do. I like stuff. I like this stuff.

All her folkloric skirts are great, but this one from madewithlovebyhannah is my favorite right now. And I'm not even a pink person.

And speaking of folkloric, here is a bunny gocco by dee beale.

Meow. Actually, why I haven't bought this Egyptian cat shirt by ENGRAM clothing already is a mystery. There is also a Darth Vader biking shirt that is quite fine.

I found these disco earrings by diverso studio when I was looking for mola shoes. Do check out the mola shoes.

Obviously this tea dress from sohomode is already sold out. It's such a good design; I'm not surprised she's booked up doing custom bridal party dresses.

Speaking of meow. From moderncat.

It's hard to say which of the giclee prints from Dr. Kennedy Jones is the raddest, but this is a contender.

Getting this beautiful blue wig from Tiffany DeMichele seems way easier than trying to achieve this hairstyle naturally. Did you know that going platinum is on my life list? Maybe I should just get a wig instead.

Chevron-ron-ron skirt from Silly Rabbit Vintage.

The one big-ticket item is this Danish rocking chair by en route studio. They deliver via Amtrak, which is pretty cool.

Now if I could get this as a wig, I totally would. Print of a drawing, by Yellena.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Very important announcement.

The project for the month of May is called Move Yer Ass. It's not really about working out per se, though I expect there will be some strenuous exercise in and among the more leisurely walks. It's more about incorporating activity into my daily life in a more intentional way. Once I buy a bike this will be a piece of cake, but so far every day that I have had picked out as a good day to go do some test rides has been cold and rainy and/or snowing. This really has been a shit sandwich of a springtime.

ANYWAY. So "a month of daily biking" this project cannot be. But I'm going to do a little something every day for at least 20 minutes. Today is ultra crappy outside, AGAIN, so I'm starting nice and slow with a yoga video. I've been walking a mile to and from my parking spot every day that I go to work (doing that classic move where you park far away on purpose) but I have already decided that this shall not count toward moving my ass.

As an adjunct to Move Yer Ass I will also be doing the Couch to 5K program again. I expect I'll start on the next nice day we have, which allegedly will be Tuesday.

I think I do well with these low-level projects. I'm looking forward to this one, as soon as I get off the couch.