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life imitating art imitating life

So I’m sitting at my desk eating a cheeseburger. Lindsay Lohan, one of the resident cats, is sitting on the windowsill next to me. She likes to look out the window at passing cars and critters. After a few minutes I turn my head to look at her, for no particular reason. She’s looking right at me with that look. The one all pet owners know. Pitiful begging.

“Oh, hi. I see you have a food there. It smells good. I also like food. Maybe… maybe I can have some? Maybe…

“I can haz cheezburger?”

That’s right, kids. I was just memed by a cat named Lindsay Lohan.

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all the possible expletives

First, let me introduce you to the major players in this story. There’s my landlord – we’ll call him Pete because that’s his first name. (Heads up: You know it’s about to hit the fan when I’m not using monikers like “Landlord” and I’m actually using real names.) There’s the property management company, Real Property Management Midwest (RPM), who are sometimes nice and efficient and sometimes just bloody awful. And there’s me (you know me, we’ve met).

I’ve lived in this apartment for two years. I’ve never met Pete – I think he lives in Boston. He uses RPM to handle things. Sometimes this works fine (getting the exterminator to take care of carpenter ants). Sometimes it takes two months to get someone to fix my leaking roof. RPM tells me they often have trouble getting in touch with Pete to authorize maintenance and repairs. Pete has been wanting to sell this place for a while, but won’t bother to do some major fixes on the place that would warrant his asking price, then wonders why nobody will even put an offer on it. I got his email address from the realtor (who also has issues contacting him).

Several times the City of Cincinnati has taped a note to our building stating that the water bill was due last month, and if it’s not paid the water will be shut off. The very first time this happened, I contacted RPM immediately – they informed me that it was not their responsibility to pay the water bill, but Pete’s, and they would contact him. I did this each of the 3 or 4 times (!) it’s happened. The water’s never been shut off – until July 1 this year.

AND SO…

July 1, I wake up to find the water’s off. No hot, cold, muddy, nothing. Just air. So I contact RPM and they put me on hold. Something nagging in the back of my mind tells me I should contact the Greater Cincinnati Water Works instead, given all those past notifications. I call them. I ask the woman why the water’s off – is there maintenance in the area, or did the landlord not pay the bill? She informed me that there was an outstanding bill from April to the tune of $383, so they shut off service. APRIL! I am afraid the poor woman on the other end heard me say some choice words about Pete. I then asked what my options were. She gave me one: the outstanding balance had to be paid before 3pm to get the water turned back on that day. And it would not be turned back on until it did. So I paid the bill on my credit card, because what choice did I have, and got a copy of the bill emailed to me. I then let my neighbor know what was up, told her the water would be back on that afternoon, and emailed Pete:

“Pete,

This morning our water was turned off for an outstanding bill from APRIL. I just paid the outstanding amount of $383.35 plus $4.69 processing to get it turned back on this afternoon. As soon as I get the email receipt, I will forward it to you. I will expect a refund or a credit to my rent.

There is an upcoming bill for $370.47 due July 16, Thought I’d mention it.

I’m sure I don’t need to say how irresponsible this is of you, and how livid I am. Not to mention paying money that I don’t have for something that’s your responsibility.

Please see to it this doesn’t happen again.”

JULY 7 (July 7! Six days later!!) he finally responded:

“Hi Liz,

I called them as soon as I saw this & paid July.  This won’t happen again.  It may be easier for me to send you a check for April, rather than you reducing your rent payment (I think RPM may struggle with that scenario).  Please confirm you have not already sent a reduced rent check & I will send a check tonight.

Thanks,
Pete”

I responded with a single line: “Thank you. I paid rent in full for this month, so a check would be fine.” I didn’t see how he was in any position to question RPM’s bookkeeping and processing abilities given the current situation. I waited for a check for two weeks. I emailed him again on July 23:

“Pete,

As of today I have not received any check. Should I be expecting one before 8/1, or should I arrange reduced rent payment with RPM for August?”

Six days later (today), no reply. Seeing as rent is due in three days, I called RPM this morning. Here’s how that went:

RPM rep: Hi, how can I help you?
Me: Yeah, hi, I live at [address]. I paid our water bill last month, and the landlord was supposed to cut me a check for that amount, but he hasn’t yet. I’m calling to get my rent reduced by that amount, as per Ohio law.
RPM: Okay, let me get your name and address. … Okay, that would be Pete as your landlord?
Me: Yes.
RPM: Okay, we’ll contact him, (me thinking: good luck with that) and get it authorized, because it has to come out of his account.
Me: I already paid the bill.
RPM: Sure, but it takes 30 days to close the account, then cut you the check…
Me: What closing the account?
RPM: Closing the account and squaring everything away so we can cut you the check from the balance.
Me: WHAT CLOSING THE ACCOUNT? NOBODY’S MOVING. I JUST NEED MY RENT CREDITED.
RPM: Wait, what is your address again? … OH I was looking at a different file! I’m so sorry!
Me: … [fuming]…
RPM: So okay I have your account open now. Yeah, we’ll contact him and cut you a check…
Me: Wait wait wait hold up. I don’t need you to cut me a check. This was an outstanding bill from April that I ALREADY PAID to get the water turned back on. I need this month’s rent to be reduced by that amount. (is this really that difficult to understand?)
RPM: OH! Okay… um…
(literally 20 seconds of silence)
Me: Would it be easier if I just came in to your office with the water bill this afternoon?
RPM: Yes, that would work fine I think…
Me: Okay. Thank you. [end call]

Deep breaths. Deeep breaths.

So I went in this afternoon. I presented the lady at the desk with the water bill. I explained to her that I paid the overdue portion of the bill and he paid the rest for July. And could I please have what I paid credited to my rent for this month, because that’s Ohio law. So she went back to talk to her supervisor. After ten minutes she came back and said, yes, we’ll contact Pete and see if he’s okay with that arrangement.

At this point I was about to lose it. Apparently it IS that difficult to understand.

“No, see, I paid this water bill from APRIL. Our water got turned off because he. never. paid. it. I paid the overdue amount in full, on July 1, to get the water turned back on. He said he would cut me a check for the amount I paid. He never did. I’m coming to YOU now because BY OHIO LAW, my rent now gets reduced by that amount.”

“Ah! I’m sorry. I get it. Okay. One second.”

Goes to talk to the supervisor again.

“Okay, sorry about that. My supervisor will take care of this. She’s going to contact GCWW to confirm that you did pay the bill, and you will hear from her no later than tomorrow evening letting you know what’s going on. And in the meantime, here’s the email for our support staff, for when stuff like this comes up again, just contact them.”

Good. Glad after two years I finally know how to contact the people who get paid to deal with this shit. I also know that I need to use words of one syllable, because otherwise nobody gets it. Then I had her print off a copy of my original lease agreement for me. In the event I need to reference it again. Which I will. No doubt.

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Filed under home sweet home, story time, this actually happened, Uncategorized

cool opera

What comes to mind when you think of “opera”? These are mine:
-Way too long
-In some language I don’t speak
-Centuries old music with centuries old plots
-I probably won’t get any of the jokes
-I’ll have to get dressed up
-The music can get monotonous if I’m not in the mood
-It’s kind of expensive

I freely admit – being a classically trained musician earning a DMA – that I have completely skipped out on operas that by all rights I should have seen, because I didn’t want to go sit through 3 hours of singing in German. Or Italian or French or Russian. Or English, for that matter. I just didn’t want to do it. Too long, too monotonous, and I get airplane butt (you know what I’m talking about) after about 2 hours. AND I have to wear nice clothes while I’m sitting there, not being seen by anyone, AND I don’t even have the movie theater luxury of snacking.  If I have to spend $30 for the cheapest seats available, there’s a good chance I’ll consider staying home, ordering a pizza and streaming the opera on Netflix or something. At least I can be comfy and have a pause button. AND I ACTUALLY LIKE OPERA.

But – what if I told you there was an alternative? That opera doesn’t have to be serious time/money/cultural commitment? What if I told you opera could be:
-Short – no longer than a sitcom episode
-In English
-Recently written, on modern issues/characters
-You don’t have to have a Ph.D in musicology to get the jokes
-Casual, relaxed performances
-Casual, relaxed venues
-About the same price as dinner out

If you’re still skeptical, let me present this:
-How about a ten-minute opera about Paula Deen’s attempt to get into heaven?

Got your attention? We’re NANOWorks – North American New Opera Workshop. We do short operas: none longer than 30 minutes. They’re all written recently, most within the last five years. They don’t require any special education to enjoy. They are about the things that interest us: some of them are thoughtful, some of them are ridiculously funny. We’ve performed in coffeehouses and bars. You can wear whatever you’ve been wearing all day and drink while you listen. I’m not kidding, it’s the greatest thing. And you get the joy of a live performance – the musicians playing off the audience for comedic timing and delivery. There’s nothing like it.

Think of it this way: We’re like when you decide to watch an episode or two of something instead of committing to an evening of the extended Return of the King. Which is undeniably worth it, but definitely not feasible every night. We are.

Now before you go accusing me of shameless self-promotion, let me state this: I am with NANOWorks because I believe in it. Mozart’s operas were popular because they were contemporary, the music was interesting, it was in their language, it was relatable to everyone (educated and uneducated alike), and 3 hours was a reasonable amount of time to spend on live entertainment (there was no other kind!). Opera was for everyone.

This is exactly what we, NANOWorks, are doing today: the music is interesting to our modern ears, it is in our language, it involves people and situations we can relate to, and it is a reasonable amount of time to spend on entertainment. I firmly believe that our operas are being presented and received in the same context as Mozart’s back in his day. Nobody needs a history degree or second language to enjoy them, nobody needs to drag out the pearls, and nobody needs to forego Starbucks for three weeks to afford the tickets (we, as musicians and coffee addicts, would never stand for such a thing). We are simply bringing you quality, live entertainment in a fun, comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. This is opera that your dad can get behind.

If this sounds way better than traditional opera to you, please check us out. We’re pretty sure you’ll have a good time.

http://www.nanoworksopera.com/

—————————————-

And, good news! We’ve got upcoming shows! May 3rd and 4th!

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5971321383#
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5972775733#

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kick-awesome project

Frederic Rzewski actually once said to me, “You should play the Hammerklavier. You’d be good at it.” So, that’s what I’m going to do.

He said this to me at the Music09 festival in Switzerland, and I have been pondering it ever since, weighing whether it was feasible and whether it would be worth it. It’s one of those notorious pieces where everyone claims it’s ridiculously difficult on multiple fronts – and part of me believes them (because why would they lie?) and part of me doesn’t (because how many have played it over the last 200 years?).

So, I have “permission” from my professor – that as long as I understand what I’m getting into and how big a project this will be, then do it. He also said he would be learning it with me – he’s never actually made a real study of it, but has taught it and read it many times. So that will also be very cool.

Okay then, next question: what to program with it? My first reaction is something French, like one book of Debussy’s Images. So that’s out – I’m definitely looking for something less obvious and more intriguing. This stumped me for a good year – what the heck do you program with it?! So then switched trains of thought: What do people think of when they hear “Hammerklavier”? First, that it’s enormous; second, that it’s real difficult; and third, partially because of the fugue. Fugue – what to pair with a fugue? A PRELUDE.

This was definitely more what I had in mind. Pull together a smattering of preludes by pretty much everyone – Debussy, Chopin, Shostakovich, Scriabin, maybe some late Baroque ones, etc., and end the set with Rachmaninoff’s Bb prelude – both a good set end and a good setup for the Beethoven. Solid.

So I approached my prof about it. He also thought it was a cool idea, but suggested possibly doing a complete set of preludes by one composer. I have to admit, I had considered it, but for some reason dismissed it as being too much (as if the Hammerklavier weren’t already). So he started suggesting complete sets. And I think we both lit up when he got to Shostakovich. I have always wanted to perform them as a set, and I think they’re a great counterbalance to this program.

So, as it stands, that’s my next solo recital program:
Shostakovich: Preludes, Op. 34
Beethoven: Sonata in Bb, Op. 106
It will take me at very minimum a year to learn. And it’s probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done. No, not probably – it is. This may work, or it may prove too much. But what better opportunity will I ever have than now?

Seriously though, I’m so excited.

————————-
Also, if you’re wondering where “kick-awesome” comes from, it’s (of course) in a sbemail:
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail138.html

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ash wednesday

Ash Wednesday. My favorite holy day from a time before I can remember (and that’s saying something), due in no small part to this passage, which I later learned is from the Sermon on the Mount. It made a huge impression on me from the very first, and continues to be my favorite passage to this day. I will leave it here; you can do what you like with it. (Do not attempt to engage me in a religious discussion. I will not respond. You must meet me in person and buy me coffee before I will take the bait.)

Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18. NIV

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

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the hobbit

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a review since I saw it 3 weeks ago. I haven’t because it probably wouldn’t say anything that you haven’t read elsewhere. On the other hand, I still have mixed feelings about it. So, in the end, here is my review. (And there is going to be a lot of LotR minutia that you can go ahead and judge me for knowing.)

Rating as faithful representation of the book The Hobbit: F
Rating as a standalone movie, being the first part of a trilogy: B-

Probability that I will see the next installment: around 50%
Probability if I have to pay over $8: 15%

Reaction to Peter Jackson turning a 250-pg children’s story into a ~9hr trilogy: resentful at best

Reaction to Jackson adding LotR references for geeks like me (i.e. The White Council): Mixed. Appreciate the attention to detail/historical accuracy, dislike the irrelevance. Curious to see how he’s going to fit it in as a subplot; not necessarily curious enough to pay to see it.

Pros:
-The Riddle scene. Spot on, A+. Worth the price of admission.
-Beautiful to look at.
-Easy to follow – not nearly as difficult as LotR. Retained “children’s story” structure, mostly.

Cons:
-Characterization. Most characters are two-dimensional. Gandalf seems to be caricature of himself, which is a damn shame. Bilbo is okay. Elrond (and Gollum) are the only ones I believed 100%.
-Radagast, who I believe only gets a grand total of two mentions over the whole Hobbit-LotR-Silmarillion complex, is turned into comic relief to introduce a plot point only obliquely referenced in FotR and only once concretely in the Appendices. For an incidental character, they sure did a number on him.
-Inability to reconcile style. Silly children’s story with borderline Jim Carrey style choreography? Epic Battle Of Good And Evil? Very confusing alternation of styles.
-TOO LONG, too overblown (see previous). I was 100% aware I was watching a movie up until the Riddle scene, which finally drew me in.
-TOO LONG. There is absolutely no need to make this movie a trilogy. None.

OVERALL: I can’t say I hated it, but I really can’t say I liked it. Mostly, I am confused as to how I’m supposed to approach this movie – as someone who absolutely knows what’s going on and appreciates the inside references, or someone who knows nothing and just wants to see a good story. For instance:

As a standalone movie, the beginning of a story, with no prior knowledge needed, it was Okay. A little long, but easy to follow. Entertaining. On the other hand, as a standalone there were a LOT of unnecessary tie-ins to LotR proper that had nothing to do with The Hobbit the book, making me think it’s meant to be truly appreciated by people like me – people who really know their Middle Earth history/mythology. Because people who haven’t read LotR and the Appendices thoroughly (thoroughly) wouldn’t get the inside jokes (i.e. the opening of the movie, almost verbatim from FotR, and the White Council). In that regard, as a prelude to LotR and as a tie-in to the history of Middle Earth, I’m not pleased. Again, because of style. I don’t care if it is the prelude to LotR and the end of the Third Age, Bilbo had zero knowledge of what he was getting himself into, and as far as anyone is concerned (until Gandalf suspects the ring), it’s just an adventure. A dangerous one, but not the fuse that lit Middle Earth.

FINAL REMARKS: This got me through the movie. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this: THORIN OAKENSHIELD: HOTTER THAN EXPECTED.

Now that, my friends, is a suggestive dwarf.

Now that, my friends, is a suggestive dwarf. (screenshot from IMDB)

 

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pure torture

My friend just returned from POW training*. During part of the simulation, loud, obnoxious music was piped in to prevent sleep. My friend found part of it recognizable, and eventually realized they were hearing Berio’s Sequenza for piano. And then the next track, which sounded like a woman making random ridiculous sounds, turned out to be the Sequenza for voice.

Let that sink in: Berio’s Sequenzas used as an instrument in torture simulation. Luciano Berio, one of the most notable, important, and most famous composers of the last century. Invoked in one of the most stressful, dangerous, taxing trials a person can undergo.

(Personally, I think this is hilarious but would have been better if it were Stockhausen, not Berio.)

Now, I could make about a thousand points about this:

About how far classical music seems to have deviated from commonly-accepted aesthetic norms;
About the dichotomy between contemporary classical music and common-practice classical music;
About the dichotomy between contemporary classical music and popular music, or pop culture;
About the value of aesthetics versus structure/process;
About how structure/process needn’t be sacrificed to maintain aesthetics;
About how we define and value “aesthetics”;
About how contemporary classical music can be perceived as “torture” and how this came to be;
About the implications of contemporary classical music being perceived in such a light;
About whether or not we want to be perceived this way;
And about whether anybody actually does care if we listen.

I could go on. I could write a volume on each point. But I’m not, because I choose to make it Not My Problem. I will let other people make it their problem if they wish. Instead, the only point I will make is:

Now they know how I feel when I have to listen to Katy Perry.

*Everything but the most salient information redacted for the security of everyone involved.

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