Tag Archives: rants

on leonard cohen’s “hallelujah”

I didn’t want to write this post. I thought I wouldn’t need to. I thought our collective listening comprehension was better. I should have known.

Let me be clear: I really like this song. All of its many verses. I like it a bit less when it’s belted by some aspiring diva who doesn’t understand subtlety, but it’s still a great song. It’s a song of profound heartbreak and honesty. It is beautiful in its strophic simplicity. It is not, however — as so many people apparently believe — a religious song. I know, I know. Hear me out on this.

It started last year when I heard several (mediocre) renditions on holiday radio. Even when any song even vaguely referencing holidays or winter qualifies as a “Christmas song” or “holiday song,” this references neither. I rhetorically wondered to a coworker why this song was so heavily featured in the radio station’s rotation, and he replied, “Well, isn’t ‘hallelujah’ something they say in church?”

I… wow. Sure, yes, but… really? First off, “hallelujah” is traditionally more associated with Easter than Christmas (please, please don’t get me started on the “Hallelujah Chorus”). But more importantly, that line of reasoning qualifies Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” for liturgical inclusion. And last I checked, Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Jesus) was still verboten in church. (Please do not correct me if I’m wrong.)

I figured this coming holiday season I’d have to write something on it. As you know, I have a special place in my heart for holiday songs of all kinds, from liturgical to super-secular. This is simply not one of them. So I had it on my brain’s back burner. Until this morning, when someone sang it in church.

I couldn’t believe it. Whoever decided it was okay for inclusion in a church service apparently fell for the same reasoning as my coworker and paid zero attention to the actual lyrics. Let’s review, shall we?

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord,
but you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall, the major lift;
the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof;
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.
She tied you to a kitchen chair,
she broke your throne and she cut your hair,
and from your lips she drew a Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above
but all I ever learned from love
was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
It’s not a cry that you hear at night,
it’s not somebody who’s seen the light,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

These were the three verses performed in church this morning, probably the most popular. And thank heaven for that, because the other two popular verses are much more suggestive. Here, we’ve got several historical biblical references — including to Samson, brought down by his love for a woman — but nothing that even remotely qualifies it for inclusion in any church service. Which made me seriously wonder how the performers didn’t realize this is completely inappropriate. Worse, the congregation didn’t notice either. They loved it.

I am not bashing this song. On the contrary, it’s one of the better pop tunes out there. But without getting into a screed regarding the theological soundness of modern worship music, I pray we can all agree that this does not belong in a church service. Ever. Sing it at home, sing it in the car, sing it at the talent show. Don’t sing it during church.


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Filed under guerrilla pop musicology, this actually happened

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”


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.


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


I hate celery. I mean I really hate celery. Raw celery. Cooked to mush and absorbed into other things, like soup, I can overlook. But raw? I will be a petulant small child about it. I will pick it out of my food piece by piece. And if that’s not possible, I just won’t eat it. And I won’t do that with any other food I dislike – I’ll suffer through coconut, I’ll force myself through the texture of eggs, and I’ll even deal with mint which gives me actual migraines. But I will. not. eat. raw. celery.

People who like celery cannot comprehend this – and I’m thinking of one of my relatives in particular. “How can you hate RAW CELERY? It tastes like CRUNCHY NOTHING.” (This went on for no fewer than 20 minutes.) Well obviously it doesn’t if it tastes like the blue-ribbon winner from Satan’s personally cultivated vegetable patch. So why the disparity? What’s with this? How can most of the population think it tastes like crunchy nothing (or maybe slightly salty nothing, according to some), and a bunch of us think it’s the taste to destroy all other tastes?

I think it’s genetic. Like cilantro – does it taste like lemon or soap? Or like lemons – is it bitter or just tart? I’m convinced there’s a gene somewhere that when turned on makes celery taste like a Vegetable of the Apocalypse. And I’m volunteering to be one of those subjects for the genetic study that figures this out, so I can tell all those diabolical celery-lovers that they’re wrong and Nature has gifted me with the ability to see celery for what it really is – evil.

If you’re interested in conducting this study, you know where to find me. …as long as I don’t have to eat the damn stuff.

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don’t shoot the messenger, she’s a quicker draw than you

This week is spring break where I teach, so I am using the opportunity to do makeup lessons for all my students who are still in town. Of them, most are getting a full hour lesson this week, which both kills two makeups in one shot and gives me an opportunity to focus more on proper form and technique and catch up on theory. Also most of them are under 12 years old, so attention span can be a challenge.

My first lesson of the day is with Fidget – a bright 11 year old girl who cannot sit still ever. She is learning the easy piano version of “Let It Go” – I’m trying to impress upon her that she has to count instead of playing what she thinks she knows. I am consequently making her count out loud as she plays and teaching her how to use a metronome, painful as it may be. We are getting down to business when the business phone rings. I do not answer; I am teaching. We are technically not open. I even purposely left the main lights off. At some point I hear the little electronic doorbell. The mailman has already delivered; it must be a student. Not mine. After a few minutes I hear it again. Probably that student figured out there was nobody here and left.

Fidget’s attention is waning; metronome work is harrrddddd. I sympathize. You can only do that crap for so long. I switch it up with flashcards. I hear the electronic doorbell again. Still can’t be my student. Why all this traffic? I’m the only one teaching today. Then I hear:

Woman: Hello? Helloooo!!!!!

I leave my room. A tall-ish blonde-ish middle-aged woman is approaching the desk. In all likelihood the mother of Doorbell Student. She is clearly looking to pick a fight. I am inclined to let her try. Her tone and demeanor are giving me no reason to be anything more than honest and professional. And it could be fun.

Me: Hello?
Woman: (serious sass) What’s going on? Where is everybody? Are you guys not open today?
Me: (keeping it stone cold and professional) We’re on spring break. I’m only here doing makeups.
Woman: (getting seriously pissed) Well why didn’t [teacher] tell my son you were on spring break?
Me: (That’s it. You want your fight? You got it. First off, how the hell should I know. Shut up. Second, don’t give me attitude, I don’t know you or your kid. Third, you’re interrupting my lesson. Fourth, you should have figured it out when nobody else is here. Fifth, he didn’t have to tell you because, most importantly,) It was on the newsletter you received when you signed up for lessons.
Woman: (hand to the holster, ready to draw) What newsletter?
Me: (too late, sweetheart) The one with all the important dates and makeup policies on it. It’s also posted right behind you on the wall (indicating literally right next to her elbow, next to the door)
Woman: (narrows her eyes at me, then the schedule) (mutters something and leaves)

Sixth, don’t blame me for a mistake that was entirely preventable by you.

Seriously don’t start with me. I’m always locked and loaded.

Or, if you prefer a moral to the story, be polite. It will get you far; it will make me want to help you and be nice and maybe even apologize for the inconvenience. Being confrontational will get you no mercy and expose you as an idiot. Choose wisely next time.

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Filed under adventures in teaching, this actually happened

drone strike parenting

Drone-Strike Parenting: the step beyond Helicopter Parenting. Hover, hover, hover, quietly, out of sight, then swoop in and cause massive collateral damage and mayhem. Retreat. Hover, hover, hover. Repeat as desired.


A young teenage girl, maybe 12 or 13 years old, started lessons with me earlier this fall. I put her in the beginner level of a series I hadn’t used before, wanting to try something different. It quickly became clear that this method was pedagogically questionable – illogical ordering of concepts, requiring technique way beyond the capabilities of a beginner, learning note names indirectly. It also became clear this method was geared toward very young students and my teenager was probably bored, maybe explaining why she obviously wasn’t practicing. I planned to switch her into a different method’s adult book, figuring to address all problems simultaneously.

Meantime, her father was two weeks late in paying tuition, and was giving my employer grief about charging him a late fee. This was not the first time he paid tuition late. The girl at the desk had already warned me about him, having spoken to him on the phone. (She looked terrified.) So when he came in, brandishing a check and proclaiming “and what’s this about new music for my daughter? How much will that cost? And let’s discuss my daughter’s progress, and possibly longer lessons,” everyone except my employer pretended to not exist.

While he was giving her yet more grief about the late payment, I sized him up pretty quickly. Self-important, self-proclaimed Big Deal. He was the Boss. Ready to take action, negotiate, bargain, whatever he needed to Get His Way. I put on my “Don’t you even TRY to BS me” armor, cloaked myself with a Disarming Smile, introduced myself as his daughter’s teacher and invited them both into my studio so I could clear up any questions he had regarding her progress.

He found this satisfactory. I led them back to my room; he very obviously sized up the room to see if it was professional enough for his standards. Upon seeing my Beethoven Sonatas score laying on the piano, he smirked at me. “Ah, Beethoven.” Like he knew something. Like now he knew the lay of the land. Like now we were speaking the same language. Part of the same club. Dude, it’s Beethoven. Please.

Father: (back to business) So, about my daughter’s progress. Where should she be by now? Is she going as quickly as she should? (ugh)
Me: Well, each student moves at their own pace. There are no benchmarks; I work to develop skill and build concepts. When they are ready to move on, we move on. Some are faster than others, some need more time. It’s very much dependent on each individual student’s capabilities and how much they practice.
Father: Right. I’m just thinking, you know, I know a bit about music (oh do you now?), I played guitar when I was younger (I’m sure), maybe I just forgot about the boring learning part before you get to the fun stuff, right? Heh heh. (smirk again)
Me: (wow, way to disparage your daughter!) Sure. Also, I am switching her into Adult books. I originally began her in a series more aimed for children, which I also discovered is not up to my personal standards pedagogically. This is entirely my fault – hopefully this new book will be more interesting and she will be able to progress a little faster.
(Meanwhile Daughter is standing next to him staring at her feet. I feel so bad for her.)
Father: (finding this acceptable) Fine. And how long should she be practicing? Right now she’s barely practicing at all, are you sweetie? Maybe 20 minutes twice a week.
Me: Yeah, I know. Again, hopefully this new book will be more interesting. However, I do ask that all my beginning students practice 20-30 minutes a day, six days a week.
Father: (with another smirk and a side look at Daughter) Ah, is this the old “if you want a puppy ask for a pony” trick?
Me: (for the love of…) No, sir, I don’t negotiate with my students. I don’t ask for an hour expecting 30 minutes; I ask for 30 minutes and expect them to do it.
Father: Fine, fine, good. So, I was wondering if it would be helpful to increase her to 45-minute lessons? Would that help her out?
Me: I only recommend students go to a longer lesson when they master what I’ve assigned them within a few days, long before the next lesson. Because a longer lesson gives me the chance to introduce more stuff and give them more to work on. Lessons are not supervised practicing. You’ve already confirmed with  me that your daughter doesn’t practice as it is; let’s see how this new book works out. If she starts progressing quicker than I assign pieces, we can certainly consider it then.
Father: (doubting me) So you don’t think it would help?
Me: No, I don’t. Not until she outpaces my lessons. Again, let’s see how this new book works out first before we go changing anything else.
Father: Fine, thank you, that’s what I wanted to know.

I shake his hand, give him my business card, walk him to the door and let his daughter get composed and situated at the piano. I come back in, apologize to her that that was so awkward. She just shrugged. I started her on the new book and she found it much more to her liking.

Maybe two months pass and it’s clear she’s still not practicing. Enjoying the books more, sure, but not actually practicing. She only remembers concepts that stick the first time and she’s clearly not doing much of anything outside lessons. I start playing reinforcement games with her, like flashcards and finger number games. She’s a bright kid, maybe she just needs a little more engagement. I teach her practicing games to play at home. No improvement. Eventually I flat out ask her if she likes piano. “Yeah, I like it” with a smile – that smile you give someone when you want to say yes to please them, that smile that’s eager but not earnest, the smile that says “I like it for you, but on my own I probably wouldn’t.” I tell her, “It’s okay to say no! I won’t be offended!” She reassures me she does in fact like piano.

Time comes for semester re-enrollment. I ask her if she’s coming back next semester, because we have to get the paperwork in and square our schedules. “I don’t know, my dad is taking care of it.” That’s all I could get out of her for three weeks; it was pretty obvious she had no say in it.

One day my employer pulls me aside between lessons. She apparently contacted the father as the re-enrollment deadline (to secure your current teacher and time) was a week away. He informed her that he would let us know in one week; in the meantime he was auditioning a different teacher.

Auditioning a different teacher.

Part of me really wanted to be offended. But the better part of me thought that was the funniest thing I’d heard in a long time. Your daughter isn’t practicing! She has told me as much! There’s nothing I can do about that; I don’t live with her. But you do! You can do something about that! I even told you, to your face, what I expected from her! You’re going to pay money for lessons but not make sure she’s getting the most out of it, when I laid out exactly what to do? Please. And now you’re hoping that a different teacher will magically make her better? I openly acknowledge that not every teacher and student make a great pair, and sometimes a different teacher helps. But that’s not the case here! Your daughter just doesn’t care enough about piano. This is the equivalent of replacing your weekly personal trainer because you’re not losing weight but you still eat McDonald’s every day. You’re a fool. Please. Get out.

No, they didn’t re-enroll.

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Filed under adventures in teaching, story time, this actually happened

a public service announcement

When referring to the person playing piano with you, call them your “pianist.” (Emphasis on the “a” so as to not be accidentally confused with a member of the male anatomy.)

Please do not call your pianist an “accompanist.” We do more than “accompany.” On average, we have to work as hard on your pieces as you do. More importantly, we have to know your part as well as you do – even if you don’t know ours. We are following your every move and calculating what you will do next. We follow your breaths. If we sense you will not make the phrase, we will push the tempo ever so slightly to help you out. If you make a mistake, we cover it. If you miss an entrance, we cover it. If you jump ahead or back, we cover it. If you do something you’ve never done in rehearsal, we accommodate. We balance our sound to the hall we’re in so as to showcase you. We voice our parts to your advantage. “Accompanist” is, honestly, disrespectful and dismissive. We are pianists. Collaborative pianists, when we play with you. But we are always pianists.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will you ever call your (or anyone else’s) pianist “accompanyist” or “accompanimist.” They are not real words. They are childish. We will embarass you for it, and we reserve the right to walk out on the spot.

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Filed under adventures in accompanying, adventures in teaching

hormones suck

Back in the day I was hanging out with a male friend of mine. I warned him flat out that I was PMSing and might be a little irritated or short with him, so I apologize in advance. This ensued:

“Can’t you control it?”
“No, because it’s a flood of chemicals that completely throws me off my game, changes my personality.”
“Well I’m sure other women have learned to control it, why can’t you?”

(Ladies, you will please admire my restraint at not castrating him. Thank you.)

However, now several years removed from the event, I realize that while some men are just insensitive jerks (as are some women, let’s be fair), some legitimately don’t understand why hormones can be a problem. So for the sake of education and understanding, I offer this comparison.

I wake you up at 4am, insult you personally (you’re fat, ugly, and stupid), push you around a bit, then force-feed you a pot and a half of coffee, all before 5am. Then I tell you to go about your day normally. You’re just entering the caffeine crash around noon when I force-feed you another pot while reminding you you’re a failure. This is a rough equivalent of PMS.

Granted, some would be able to handle it better than others, but none would be able to really go through the day like nothing happened. The caffeine would make you crazy, unstable, unable to concentrate, but still lucid enough to recognize that you aren’t yourself and cruelly unable to do anything about it. You’d be sleep-deprived, irritated, and probably have a really short fuse. It’s a very bad day.

Could you get used to it and learn to cope? Sure, but you only get the chance once a month. Hardly enough time to acclimatize. And besides, once you finally get used to being grouchy you discover you’re suddenly mopey instead. You’re always behind the curve. It’s a losing battle.

So gents, I understand that it’s annoying to deal with a lady friend* doped up on her own chemicals. But believe us, we hate it even more than you do. We don’t like to be like this. We are not really in control of ourselves. So when we warn you ahead of time, it’s because we care. We want you to understand that it’s nothing against you. Just try to bear with us, it doesn’t last long. If it’s really a problem and starts to damage your relationship, bring it up when hormones are not in play. (i.e. If she’s PMSing and you tell her to “stop being a f*cking bitch,” it’s not going to end well for either of you.) Figure out what’s best for both of you in that situation, etc. Be reasonable adults about it. You know the drill.

*Of course, this applies to women who you find reasonable (and pleasant) on a regular basis. If the woman in question drives you nuts to begin with, godspeed. I don’t know what to tell you.

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Filed under story time, this actually happened