Tag Archives: off to mordor

let sleeping dragons lie Pt I

If we’ve met, you know it takes quite a bit to anger me. I am very understanding and pretty tolerant. Mistakes happen; rectify it and we’re good. However, every once in a while, someone or something crosses the line and rouses the dragon.

This is one of those times.

Relevant backstory: Landlord* bought our old house last year. I had hopes she would be a better landlord than Pete, but I soon discovered my hopes were ill-founded. Suddenly in late May, she decided to evict my neighbor and me so she and her husband could move in. We had until June 30. Profoundly annoying, but legal. (This saga deserves a entire series of its own posts. However, in the interest of brevity, this is the story in a nutshell.) Over the course of that month she declined to grant me a moving extension, then angrily called me while I was waiting for a flight at the airport berating me for leaving my car in the driveway while I was gone, because she needed access to the driveway but didn’t tell me because apparently I was supposed to read her mind. (This will be its very own post one day, oh yes it will.) When I returned from my trip she took a tour of the place to see what condition it was in and what repairs she’d have to make since she never walked through before she bought it, offered me an undefined extension four days before the movers came, informed me she eventually wanted to rent out my apartment to someone else, and bought my spare furniture from me so she could rent out the apartment furnished. But she didn’t think of this beforehand – she kept half my furniture but not me. And every time I spoke with her she was entirely condescending.

I moved out of my old place June 27. Handed Landlord my keys, gave her my forwarding address, didn’t swear at her, and drove off. I haven’t heard anything from her since.

I texted her this afternoon (the most reliable way of getting a response) asking if she sent out the security deposit yet. Three hours later, she replied: “I had to hire professional cleaners for 15 hours at $20 per hour. There were also some damages”

Furious. I am furious. It was clean, there was no damage, and WHO THE FUCK THINKS IT’S OKAY OR LEGAL TO EAT A TENANT’S SECURITY DEPOSIT WITHOUT TELLING THEM?

Fuming, I texted her back asking what exactly were the damages. Then I called her and (surprise!) left a voicemail. Then I looked up Ohio state code. AND GUESS WHAT! According to code, she had 30 days to give me written notification and an itemized list if she was keeping any part of it. So I sent her an email both linking and quoting the code:

“(B) … Any deduction from the security deposit shall be itemized and identified by the landlord in a written notice delivered to the tenant together with the amount due, within thirty days after termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession. The tenant shall provide the landlord in writing with a forwarding address or new address to which the written notice and amount due from the landlord may be sent…

(C) If the landlord fails to comply with division (B) of this section, the tenant may recover the property and money due him, together with damages in an amount equal to the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorneys fees.”

and followed it up with:

“Since tomorrow is the 30th day since I turned in my key, and I have not received written notification of any kind since I moved out, including itemization with proof of damages in any form, as of tomorrow you are in violation of state law. If this is not rectified and I have not received my security deposit back by this Friday (July 29, 2016) I will contact the appropriate authorities.”

I then texted her, telling her to check that email account. I got no response. I don’t expect one.

Though she legally owes me my deposit by tomorrow, I will give her until Friday so to avoid legal issues, since clearly the law is on my side. Even if she were asked, she cannot prove any of the “damages” were caused by me (which they were not), and I am sure the old Property Management Company still has records on file from when I moved in four years ago. And even if I had all that against me, she has already abdicated her legal claim to my security deposit since she has provided me with absolutely no written communication whatsoever since I moved out 30 days ago.

I have been warned it will be an uphill battle to get my money back. To which I say: this is a battle I will not lose. This is illegal. She has been nothing but miserable, condescending, and uncommunicative to me. I have put up with her shit for that long, but this is a step too far. This is illegal.

You woke the dragon; I will raze your village.

Stay tuned for further developments. I am not optimistic but I am prepared for war.

*I am assigning her the moniker of “Landlord” for the time being in the interests of not being a jerk (even though I’d be completely justified). If this does not reach a peaceful resolution, I will give you her full name.

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the definition of frustration

I had strep during Thanksgiving. Like couldn’t swallow anything beyond mushy soup noodles starting Wednesday, couldn’t even swallow tea Thursday and Friday. Ended up in Urgent Care Friday afternoon. Got some antibiotics and steroids, started feeling a bit better. I managed to eat solid food (a bagel!) on Sunday. I finished up my antibiotics this past Friday, and I suspected it wasn’t completely gone because the back of my throat was still a bit swollen. But I finally felt well enough to eat real food again, so yesterday I made 2 pans of lasagna and a pumpkin pie. Not having a proper Thanksgiving dinner didn’t really bother me, but I really wanted pie. Well wouldn’t you know, yesterday evening as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, the strep decided to rear its ugly head again. I could barely finish eating. And now swallowing tea is difficult, yet again.

I’m back to trying to eat mushy soup noodles. I’m on more/better antibiotics and more steroids. I have a reference for an ENT and the word “tonsillectomy” was mentioned. And honestly, I’m not sure whether I’m more pissed that it came back and I have to deal with this crap, or that I CAN’T EAT MY PIE. I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT FOR TWO WEEKS. And now it’s sitting in my fridge, taunting me.

(And to any opportunists, no, you can’t have any.)

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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/

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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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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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academic integrity

I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but at least I’m honest. Observe:

Thursday night I was finishing up a (minimum) 25-page paper. It was an expansion of an earlier 12-pager, so the groundwork was already laid. I had all my new information and an outline for easy integration. I was set. So wouldn’t you know, I ran out of material at 19 pages. I was stuck. And getting pissed.

So, I walked away. I did the dishes. And while I was scrubbing, I came up with a few ways to incorporate some less relevant information. (Side note: I hate having to make irrelevant things relevant. They’re not.) I was padding out my history/context sections, my cultural relevance section, my continuing legacy section. Not exactly the focus of the paper, but I could make it work.

Got back from washing the dishes, thinking, if I can get another 3 pages out of this, I’ll be okay. That’ll only bring me up to 22, and that’s with footnotes, but whatever, I’m pretty over this.

Resigned to take a B on the paper, I did one last quick search for any sources I might be able to use, and wouldn’t you know, I found an entire dissertation on my topic that somehow I had missed before. Which, hallelujah, focused on marketing strategy, the section of my paper which was most sparse. I WAS SAVED.

So I mined that dissertation for all it was worth… and got to the bottom of the 24th page. So close. It was about 3:30am, and I started coming up with ways to add just one more page, when I said, screw it. I’m going to bed. I’ve got all of tomorrow, I’ll come up with another page before I edit.

I woke up in the morning with a pretty good plan for adding just one more page, but decided to just do some layout cleanup before I tackled that. You know, making sure fonts/font sizes were all the same, margins consistent, that. So, as I’m reconciling the fonts in a copy/paste block of text, I see the fonts changing as I mouse over them to get to Garamond. And a little light goes off in my head: they’re all 12pt, but they’re changing sizes. Some of them must take up more space. So just for the hell of it, I switched the paper to Cambria… and gained five pages. Solid 29-pager. The end.

Here’s the thing, though. I grew up with the advent of the word processor. My generation was the one who figured out all the tricks to making text seem like more than it is – font sizes, margins, +1 font size for punctuation. Changing the font should have been my first move. It never occurred to me that Garamond was holding me back.

I’m unsure whether this makes me uprightly honest or just kind of dumb.

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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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slow start so far (spoiler alert)

Well, this semester is getting off to a mercifully low-drama start. I still have one kid who owes me payment for the entirety of last semester, but that’s really it. So, since there are no good stories yet, I’m going to rant about this book I’m reading.

It’s actually a series. You may have heard of it. It’s called A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s by a guy who calls himself George R. R. Martin. HBO made/is making a series out of it, with lots of legitimate actors. I haven’t seen it, but I know Sean Bean is in it, so that’s okay.

So many people are raving about this series. It’s sooo good, it’s thrilling, it’s the best story ever, it’s the biggest thing, I can’t put it down, when is the next one coming out, etc. I was curious to read it, but I got more and more cautious the more recommendations and reviews I read. When the phrase “the next Tolkien” started popping up, I took a serious step back. Let’s not get premature on ourselves here. It might be good, but the man was a linguist.

So, I asked a friend whose opinion I trust. I told him I was interested in reading it, but wasn’t sure I was going to like it enough to keep on my bookshelf forever, so should I go the cheapest route and go paperback, or pay a bit more and go e-format? He assured me that it’s a great story, gripping, suspenseful, surprising, and it’s exactly good enough to get it the cheapest way possible.

HERE LIE SPOILERS – PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK

I started reading it warily, as I have the tendency to hate books everyone else loves, particularly in the fantasy genre (His Dark Materials comes to mind). The first book, A Game of Thrones, was, as I call it, summer reading for smart people. The story was top notch, very fast paced, always kept you guessing, and didn’t make you think too hard. The writing was mediocre but forgivable.

Then I got to the second one. The story stopped dead, and the major writing flaws came to the surface. It was like reading The Two Towers (aka Everyone Goes South) without all the character development and battles to keep it going. None of the characters were more than two-dimensional, and some less than that. I never cared about any of them (after the closest thing I had to a favorite was killed off in the first book). Nothing in the story made me want to care about them. Even my curiosity was starting to wane. And the name-borrowing from LotR was getting irritating.

But beyond that, I was starting to consciously notice the writing. So many flaws, redundancies, and stylistic errors that could have been fixed by a decent editor. I can’t tell you how many times I read “[character] at least had the decency to blush,” but I shouldn’t have noticed it at all. I can’t tell you how many paragraphs I skimmed, descriptions of descriptions, not picking up any detail, then realizing it wouldn’t matter anyway. Every knight was depicted down to the last dent in his armor – including his horse. I don’t need to know all that. The screenwriters might, but it just pulls me out of the story – it’s advancing neither plot, character, nor point. In fact, the whole book probably could have been shorter by half.

But the thing that really started to grate on me was the lack of action. This is a story about the wars between and among kingdoms – except all the battles happened in between chapters. A chapter consisted of a character reflecting on the battle or intrigue that had occurred without our reading it, figuring out how to advance from there, and coming up with a scheme we may or may not fully understand. Then the next chapter started, with a new character, reflecting on some major plot point that happened while we were gone, etc. I only recall a single battle being described in the entire book, and it took ten pages of the leader’s thought process until someone finally did something. And then, the description was so cumbersome it hardly felt like a battle.

I just began the third book. I almost didn’t. But I figured, one – I bought the stupid things, I might as well read them, and two – if I don’t finish them now, I probably never will. Please, someone, tell me it gets better, that there will be a decently written chapter, that there will be a battle, that there will be a character I actually care about, drawn as something other than a penciled stick figure. Tell me it’s worth finishing, and I won’t regret having wasted my time on it.

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