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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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you live, you learn

Things I have learned from tonight’s baking experiment:

1. Loquats: possibly not worth the effort to peel and seed, even if they are free from your friends’ trees.
2. Mini tarts bake the same amount of time as a full-size tart.
3. Using a nonstick cookie tray to hold six nonstick mini tart pans: bad idea.
4. Placing a dish towel on the cookie sheet so the tarts don’t slide around, then putting the whole thing in a 450° oven: terrible idea.
5. Dry dish towels start to smoke after about four minutes in a 450° oven. They will probably eventually catch on fire.
6. Even if you’ve transferred tarts from pan to plate a hundred times, still wear your glasses when you do it. One of them will end up on the floor. Fruit-side down.

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road rage

This post is a long time in coming. A long time. I am going to try to keep this as concise as possible, because 1. I could go on forever, and 2. my blood pressure will skyrocket.

That being said, Tallahassee drivers are the worst drivers on the face of the planet. And today I encountered every. single. fucking. way. these people annoy me.

-The guy stopped at the red light in front of me didn’t notice it turned green until I reminded him with my horn. (This happens daily.) (I have also had to do this to cops.)
-At a different red light, the guy in front of me neglected to notice traffic was moving until I reminded him with my horn.
-Making a protected left, the person at the head of the line was so slow to react (and the person behind him and the person behind him) that by the time I, three cars later, got to the light, it was red.
-Someone cut me off without signaling then immediately slammed on the brakes.
-Someone was too impatient to wait an extra three seconds for the clear road behind me and merged in front of me, forcing me to slam the brakes. Then he never got up to speed.
-A guy pulled out in front of me to make a left but sat in my lane until he had a window to complete the turn.
-Someone tailgated me up my street; I was doing 40 in a 35. I signaled and braked to turn into my complex, but by the time they realized I was braking, they were too close to stop and had to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid rear-ending me.
-I don’t remember how many times this happened today, but I remember at least five instances of people apparently slowing down for no reason, then turning without signaling.
-The person in front of me doing less than 30 in a 55. On a two-lane road. Never turning, never speeding up.
-And the crowning jewel: In rush hour traffic, I am in the left lane, stopped at a light, about six cars back. The right lane is open as far as I can see. I signal right, check my mirrors, look over my shoulder, merge. As I pull up, the fucking assclown in front of me decides she wants the right lane too, and without looking or signaling pulls to the right, nearly sideswiping me. I have no time to lay on the horn, I slam the brakes so I don’t hit her and swerve into the turning lane. She doesn’t even wave as an “I’m sorry” gesture. I gave her the best double New York Greeting I could muster. Several times.

These people seriously drive like toddlers. “My space on the road. Mine. La la la I can’t see you. Ooh I want that space now. It’s mine too. *Swerve* Well you didn’t have your name on it so I don’t see why I should have to ask permission or tell you what I’m gonna do.” Honestly, they occupy their little spot, don’t feel the need to pay attention to their surroundings, and if they feel like cutting across three lanes, they will. Without looking or signaling. I could absolutely kill these people, but they’d probably do a better job of it themselves.

And the sad thing is, I’m not really asking a lot of them. I just want two things:

PAY ATTENTION. When you’re at a light, watch the light. When you want to turn or merge, judge the traffic window. If someone will have to slam the brakes, for God’s sake wait. If you want to change lanes, for the love of all that is good and holy look where you’re going. Make sure nobody is already in the lane. Check your mirrors. Look behind you. Make sure nobody is coming up fast enough that you’ll cause an accident.

USE YOUR SIGNALS, GODDAMMIT. This is a matter of safety. If I see you signaling to turn, I’m going to back off and give you more room to slow down. If I see you randomly slowing down, I won’t have idea what’s going on. If you’re stopped at an intersection, everyone in all directions will benefit from knowing where you’re going. It’s hard to determine right-of-way when we assume you’re going straight but you turn instead. And if you’re going to merge, signal. I will understand your intentions and back off to give you room to pull in. I’ll give you leeway to get up to speed. When we’re driving bumper-to-bumper, three lanes across, at 60mph, the last thing we need is some cretin swerving without warning.

It’s like that bike campaign: “Share the road.” Except these self-absorbed bastards need to realize they’re sharing the road with anyone. At all.

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publix. where shopping is not a pleasure.

Over the last week or so, I’ve heard the same commercial on the radio a few times. It goes something like this.

“All supermarket grand openings are the same. The aisles are clean and bright, the associates are cheerful. They bring in the best meat-cutter and cake-decorator in the chain. But then two or three days later it all returns to mediocre. That’s where Publix is different. It’s always mediocre!”

Actually, she said that Publix always stays cheerful and spotless after the grand opening, that the cake-decorators are top notch and the meat-cutter will cut a steak exactly how you like it. I was just pretty sure she was going to say it’s always mediocre, because it always is.

Notice she said “meat-cutter” and not “butcher.” There isn’t even a meat counter. There’s a whole lot of plastic-wrapped meat in styrofoam trays, and a window, but tonight is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone attending that window. Presumably someone had a turkey question.

The labels on the plastic meat packages invariably say “always fresh, never frozen” and I invariably pull out the chicken with ice crystals on it. Tonight? An entire two-pound block of chicken necks frozen together, “never frozen.” Now, I don’t mind them frozen – I’d rather that than warm, certainly! – but don’t lie to me.

How about that seafood counter – it smells like seafood! Bad sign. That means old seafood, past its prime. Not fresh. You shouldn’t be able to smell seafood, and certainly not before you’ve rounded the corner.

And I’ve never taken a good look at those beautifully decorated cakes at the bakery, but I do know that their in-house bread contains enough preservatives to keep it lost in my fridge for three weeks without sprouting mold. Why bother? I could get Wonderbread for half the price.

The only way I can tell what produce is in season is by the quantity, not quality, of what’s sitting on the shelves. Only the apples seasonally improve. The oranges are always boring and bruised. This is Florida! That’s a crying shame! The berries range from mediocre to pathetic. Georgia peaches are rock-hard and mold before they ripen. The tomatoes are always pathetic. I can get fourteen kinds of peppers (most of them old and wrinkled), but I’ve never seen any loose leafy greens other than the lettuces and broccoli rabe, and the occasional collard green. No loose spinach, no escarole, no chard, nothing. The spinach and the collards come pre-packaged.

Almost everything is in plastic. Onions should not be stored in plastic bags, nor potatoes – it traps moisture and causes rotting. There is no reason to shrink-wrap a single potato, nor a single head of broccoli. I’m surprised they don’t shrink-wrap the cabbages.

Only in summer can I buy loose zucchini or asparagus. The rest of the year I can get them shrink-wrapped in a little black tray. Green beans only come shrink-wrapped. Turnips – six in a black tray. I can’t get loose carrots, loose mushrooms, loose celery. Why can’t I get loose celery? I want a single heart of celery – not a two-pound bag of it, not a snack bag pre-washed and pre-cut into 4″ pieces. I don’t like it raw so I’m not going to eat the rest of the two pounds. I don’t use enough to go through it while it’s fresh. I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for pre-packaged snack pieces. Why can’t they just sell it loose? I’ll give them credit, I can now buy loose onions and red potatoes, but I have a feeling that’s only because we’re in the cold months.

If this is their definition of wonderful, I feel bad for them.

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airports

I’m currently in the Charlotte Airport. Normally I’d be sitting in a rocking chair, eating a caramel apple and reading a book, but my lappy has to finish updating before I turn it off. So, airports.

I’ve been in a few. The first airport I was ever in was the Oneida County Airport. It closed a long time ago. Long before current security measures. I love(d) everything about it. It was tiny. And by tiny I mean it had two gates – the left and right sides of a double door. I distinctly remember the plastic bucket seats in the “gate” area being attached together in back-to-back rows, and being the exact same seats as in a bowling alley. It was awesome. Time for your flight: walk out onto the tarmac, up the steps to the plane, say hi to the pilot, take your seat. Everyone got a window and an aisle. There were only 13 seats. It was absolutely deafening. And fantastic. That was my first flying experience.

I’ve flown to a few places – Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, Tallahassee, New York City, Syracuse, Geneva. I’ve been laid over in probably twice as many airports. They never cease to interest me – it’s like being in someone’s home.

Atlanta and Detroit strike me as being very similar – okay, but boring. They’re pretty well laid out, but there’s not much to do. It’s not aesthetically pleasing. There’s the obligatory place-you-can-buy-things every few gates, but no place to hang around except at your gate. And Atlanta is loud. Gates are on top of each other, no space to move around, constant commotion.

I’ve been in the JetBlue and the International terminals of JFK. The international terminal is pretty small once you get past security, and there’s very little to do, considering the amount of time one has to spend in it. There’s a few food stands, a Peet’s coffee (best vanilla latte ever), a newsstand and a souvenir stand. Outside security, there’s shopping galore and several eateries, including a pretty posh sushi/caviar bar and an excellent bookstore. But not a lot of place to sit. The JetBlue terminal is actually pretty great – large centrally located “food court” area, things to do, spacious, fairly quiet. My main beef with JFK is the hike between terminals. Sure, there’s the tram, but it’s still a hike on top of that.

I hated the Syracuse airport until I found the Tallahassee airport. Syracuse has 30 gates. Tally has 16. Syracuse has eateries and newsstands. Tally has a “food court” once you get past security. Tallahassee turns up their Airport CNN network loud enough to preclude any reading, and it’s inescapable. Tallahassee’s airport doesn’t have hot coffee. ‘Nuff said. (Imagine a 9 hour delay there! It sucks.)

The Geneva airport is almost exactly what I would have pictured (if I had tried.) Clean, efficient, comfortably spaced. All the ads on the walls are for Swiss banks or Swiss watches. Pretty awesome. Check-in counters are a bit of a zoo, but online check-in eliminates the need to stand in the two-hour line. Security is incredibly swift and efficient – and fair. Everyone gets a swift pat-down, regardless. Bonus: train stop attached to it.

My favorite airport? Charlotte. Where I am now. Really good layout. You can run from one end to the other in 5 minutes. Central area is full of things. Sushi bar, NASCAR bar (currently showing the FSU football game), and a killer BBQ place. Not too far away are the best caramel apples ever. Starbucks are strategically placed throughout the airport. There are windows everywhere – the place is almost entirely naturally lit during the day, something I don’t think can be said of any other airport I’ve been in. There’s a giant airplane mobile, and during Christmas giant trees appear, built out of poinsettias and pine. But the best part? The rocking chairs. In the central area and the corridors leading between and to the terminals, are white rocking chairs and potted trees, in true Southern hospitality. So you can just sit back, enjoy the free wi-fi, take in some sun, watch the planes land, whatever. When I got stuck here overnight last Christmas, I was quite happy it was here and not somewhere else. It’s really a relaxing atmosphere.

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my first-date philosophy

First dates are unnecessarily difficult. You’ve got to look nice. You’ve got to be on your best behavior. You have to observe proper etiquette. You have to make a good impression. You’re always thinking, how am I doing? You’re almost on edge. You’re sizing up, and you’re being sized up. If you go out to eat, what do you order? It’s the old debate: salad or steak? Basically you’re preoccupied with making a good impression.

This is why I propose every first date occur at a BBQ joint. There is zero room for pretension, for preoccupation, for anything but lip-smacking deliciousness, getting down and dirty with your food, and having a good time. You get to see if the person is someone you want to hang out with on a regular basis – wait see if they clean up nice at a later date. It’s great that a person is a total lady/gentleman in public, but if they’re a total snooze otherwise, what’s the point? So I say, meet the person where you absolutely have to get messy – where the tables are stocked with rolls of paper towels and baskets of wet-naps, where there’s no room for looking pretty and playing nice, where you don’t have to worry about what you order, where you get to be loud, and where you get to lick your fingers.

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tallahassee, there’s a log in your eye

I have my radio on as I’m driving today. I’m digging some Third Eye Blind. I’m heading north on Blair Stone, approaching Park. I see fog ahead. Fog? at 3pm? It’s 95 degrees outside. Maybe it’s smoke. I get closer to the intersection and I see it’s mist. Tallahassee is watering their medians. The sprinklers are on the medians, shooting vaguely toward the medians, but are also sending about half their spray out into the street. In addition, they’re spraying at about a 60 degree angle into the air. The water is evaporating before it gets back down to the median, causing the mist. I drive through some of the spray. By the time I went to hit my windshield wipers, it had already evaporated completely. And any good gardener can tell you that water that hits your plants in the middle of the day will burn them, much the way a sunburn burns you.

I head up the bridge toward Tennessee. A commercial comes on from the City of Tallahassee Utilities – a commercial explaining how to conserve water, energy, and money in the summer. First point: water your plants in the early morning or late evening so it doesn’t all evaporate. Second: make sure your sprinklers are pointed at your plants, not your driveway, so you’re not wasting water.

I remember I have to pay my utility bill when I get home. I open the envelope. And as usual, in their envelope I have the statement itself, a return envelope, and three other printed pieces of literature explaining to me the importance of recycling. The same three I get every week. I pay my bill online.

Tallahassee, I uh, I think there’s something in your eye. It looks like a log. Just sayin’.

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