Look Out, It’s The Genre Police!

This irritant appeared in my facebook feed first thing in the morning… (click to embiggen)

fiddlebunfight

This is the default station in my car, for when I forget to grab my iPod, so to top off that needlessly snarky post I got to enjoy an excerpt from Garrett’s album- but only after much scoffing and audible eye-rolling. It was nice. It didn’t sound like it was recorded in a swimming pool, there was no weird vibrato thing happening (I’m looking at you, Ofra Harnoy), in short if they hadn’t made a big deal out of the preposterousness of its existence, I would have enjoyed hearing more. I wonder why the idea of “Popular Classical Music” in general and this particular violinist in particular roused such ire with the station?

Sexism

Is it his Fabio-lite styling? His Sonny Crockett-esque stubble? His inability to work buttons? Because if they’re going to get upset about unrealistic beauty standards in the IMPORTANT, SERIOUS business of classical music, guys – that ship has sailed. But only for women. Which is why every woman you’ve seen on the concert stage or CD cover these days is wearing something skin-tight with thigh slits up to the ribcage. We may make up 51% of the population, but if the other 49 (give or take 10%) can’t listen to a pianist absolutely shred on Prokofiev without reorganizing their spank-banks, what’s the point of lady musicians anyway?

True story: I went to see the finale concert of the LA Phil’s Festival of Cellists or whatever it was a couple of years ago. There were many soloists, as well as a 100-piece cello choir augmented by the terrifyingly talented adorable students at the Colburn school. The last piece had every notable cellist from the previous week’s concerto presentations playing together. It was glorious. Until I realized all the Special Guests were middle-aged men. I have been taught by many super-talented female cellists. There are plenty in orchestras around the world. The cello choir with the kids was chock full of them. And yet. I mean, something must happen to female cellists once they hit 35-ish, right? Perhaps they, having glorified the world by playing the best, most prettiest instrument, are finally carried up into heaven upon a cloud of sheer gossamer, propelled by the farts of a thousand cherubim. Because that’s the only explanation for the lack of paunchy, grey-haired FEMALE cellist superstars since we know that Classical Music is a meritocracy and there’s no sexism. Would I rather my favorite musical form be as meritocratic as promised, and having nothing to do with looks? HELLS YEAH (says the homely spinster). But as we seem to be incapable of treating women as humans, I’m all for men getting this bullshit dumped on them too. Bring on the shirtless Chris Hemsworth of Flautists, I say.

Elitism

This is a tricky one. What sets the Classical Music world apart from other forms of music is not just the complexity of the composition, but the technical mastery of the musician. One of the reasons some types of Pop Music are very much Not My Thing is that I think not knowing more than three chords, how to tune your instrument or how to sing on pitch kind of negates your claim to be a musician. So there’s my snobbery laid bare for everyone to see. And hell, a little Elitism isn’t a bad thing. I am a shite cellist. If I practiced diligently for many years, I might advance all the way to “adequate”. The “elitism” of classical music world keeps cello-loving mediocrities like myself well away from the grand stages of the world and happily buying tickets in the audience so that the super-awesome musicians on stage can get paid! It all works out! But then you look at this young gentleman with the jewelry and the flowing locks and the exposed sternum and everything and the first reaction of the Classical Music Community is to clutch their pearls, collapse onto their fainting couches and call for their smelling salts because THERE ARE TOO MANY FANS OF THIS THING WE LOVE AND THEY ARE ENJOYING IT ALL WRONG. It’s like the world’s most geriatric hipsters trying to prove how awesome they are by ensuring no one else gets to hear the music. I liked Liszt before he was cool, you say, and I’m all DUDE LISZT WAS ALWAYS FUCKING COOL LOOK UP LISZTOMANIA YOU PILLOCKS. And Schubert wrote a whole quintet to pay for a fish (I hope it was delicious). Art and commerce have always gone together and the more fans a type of music has, the more composers and musicians get to make their living – or buy a little seafood – at the end of the day. Is classical music really in the position to be excluding new fans due to some bullshit adherence to genre purity?

SRSLY

And really, Classical Station, are you upset that the variations Mr. Garrett is performing are the WRONG variations on Paganini? Like, the only “Variations” you will countenance are the ones devised by Rachmaninov? HOW CAN YOU EVEN CADENZA IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT VARIATION MEANS?!! Also, the sheer number of times I have had to sit through Dvorak’s New World (thanks for ruining that for me), Borodin’s Prince Igor Suite, that One Recording Of Brandenburg With The Coke-Addict Tempo, and Ravel’s “Worse Than Pachelbel” Bolero, which people only like because they’re imagining Bo Derek’s slow-motion bewbs, really wrecks the misapprehension you have that Classical Music is not Popular Music. I bet if I moved the dial on my stereo a bit, I’d hear Taylor Swift with the same frequency that I have to hear Copland’s Ironically Complicated Simple Gifts, and at least she doesn’t make me think about the Amish.

In Conclusion

It’s not the ridiculously over-the-top image styling of musicians, or crowd-pleasing arrangements of familiar music, or even boors who have the temerity to wear jeans or clap between movements who are a danger to Classical Music. It is the gatekeepers that are strangling it to death just to make sure the wrong sort of person never loves it. That, and Ravel’s Bolero.

Nom Time with Suzy Homemaker

If you opted out of going to your Mormon or Midwestern home for The Holidays, you may be craving some beige comfort food right about now. I am here to help.

How To Make The Casserole of Delicious Shame

Ingredients:

1 can of Cream of Sodium, Preservatives and Petroleum By-Products soup. Brand immaterial. Although you know your mom went with Campbells. Make sure it’s Campbells.

1 package of non-elongated pasta, such as shells, macaroni or rotini. I did the tri-color rotini, because the green and red ones count as vegetables.

Cheese. More than one kind, good and melty. This is what Velveeta was born for, but now that you’re a grown-up with more adult tastes, go for the smoked gouda, the sophisticate’s process cheese-food product. Also, anything else you have in the fridge that will melt. I went with gouda, shredded “mexican blend” and grated pecorino-romano.

*Optional – Leftover meat. Lunch meat. A can of potted meat. Basically, some protein. I had a bunch of chicken breast I made for quesadillas left over. It was pretty much coated in taco seasoning. Zesty!

* Also Optional – chives, green onions, chopped up bell peppers, sliced olives. Do not get fancy. would your mom use kalamatas? I don’t think so.

Method:

Make the noodles. Probably the whole package. Follow the directions, then drain and rinse them.

Look, you’re probably not going to use the whole thing of noodles. This recipe originally involved a ratio of 1 box of noodles to 1 can of soup. Unfortunately, packaging sizes have not shrunk consistently over the decades, so now you’re going to have to throw a few noodles out. Why didn’t I tell you to boil fewer noodles in the first place? BECAUSE WHAT IF YOU NEED MORE NOODLES. YOU DON’T KNOW. You are probably at a point in your life where you can afford to throw out like 2 oz of noodles, but if you’re not, by all means put them in a tupperware and save them for some other noodle-related application.

Noodles. Yes. Start with about half of the drained noodles. Toss them in a mixing bowl and dump the contents of your Cream Of Atherosclerosis Soup in there. Mix it up good and throw in any optional add-ins. Add more noodles until it’s not too goopy to serve on a plate.

Mix in your cheeses. Don’t be shy. Who doesn’t like cheese? Only my co-worker David and the lactose intolerant, and they don’t need to partake in your bounty.

*NOTE: if you are a college student, you can save yourself a dirty mixing bowl and combine the ingredients back in the now-empty pasta pot on top of a low burner, melting it all together pretty quickly. If you are not, do yourself a favor and dirty up two extra dishes – the aforementioned mixing bowl and now a casserole dish of about 2.5 qt size – sprinkle some more cheese on top and stick it in a 350 degree oven for at least a half hour. Or until the cheese is melty. You may want to put a lid/some foil on top to keep everything from congealing.

Serve hot, on a plate with actual silverware and napkins that are not also paper towels. Think about the roasted artichokes, braised short-ribs, spinach salad, homemade hummus, salmon en papillote, chicken piccata and dilled green beans on this month’s menu, while giving thanks for the women who worked outside the home to afford to keep their families full of comforting, satisfying, cheese-laden beige foods.

Questions, answered

Want to get to know me better, but frustrated by my taciturn nature? Fine. Here is everything you need to know about me in convenient list form.


the ideal person to you, what three things would they smell of?

Cloves. New Picture Book. Bounce dryer sheets.

what type of fairy creature would you think lived in your house?

The kind who didn’t understand the “fairy” part of fairy dust, and just flitted around dumping regular dust all over everything.

what is your most otherworldly feature?

It’s a toss-up between my uncanny philtrum and my ineffable pancreas.

if you were a monarch, what would your crown be crafted of?

Mixed-media assemblage of decoupage, outdated chinese take-out menus, tiny bells and glitter.

 if you had to carry a gemstone under your tongue at all times, what would it be?

Opal. It looks delicious.

what book would you hide a knife inside?

Vol. 2 of Pepys’ Diary. Vol. 1 is too obvious.
what class of angel would you be a part of?

Probably Ophanim. Because who doesn’t want to be a wheel-within-a-wheel, the rims covered in hundreds of eyes? Only idiots, that’s who. VROOM VROOM I’M AN OPHANIM!
what three items will you need when your family waves goodbye to you and sends you into the sea?

Scissors. Horn of Gondor. Garlic press.

what is a fairy-tale which runs parallel to your life?

I hadn’t realized there was a precedent for living in a mobile domicile on chicken legs fenced in by posts made of human bones, but apparently Baba Yaga did it first.

if your body is a swarm or a plague, of what?

I am a plague of wisdom you never wanted to have. A swarm of secrets you wish would remain unspoken. An epidemic of knowledge better left undiscovered. And right now I’d like some hot chocolate.

The Tragedy of the Salad Spinner

This afternoon I was reading some Amazon reviews on mini-salad spinners, as you do. OK, it was because I wanted something I could… You know what? I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. There’s no law against reading Amazon reviews, or mini-salad spinners, or reading. YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. I DO WHAT I WANT. So. Salad Spinner – reviews of. I ran across this opening line in a review of a mini-salad spinner:

 “My late wife kept asking me for a salad spinner for a long time, but I always demurred because the ones that I had seen were designed so poorly as to foretell breaking soon.”

Your wife, rest her soul, wanted nothing more than a simple implement to help her rinse and crisp leafy produce. Something to save hours of pounding the lettuce on the rocks by the river and hanging them on the line to dry each and every salad day [n.b. – I am not 100% certain this is how one processed salads before salad-spinner technology was developed, but it seems likely.] and you, parsimonious to the point of qualifying as a Grade-A Cheap-skate, determined that this was not necessary. Based on what knowledge, exactly, was that judgment made? Did you make salads, or indeed any foodstuff for the home? No. You did not. You wouldn’t know the difference between iceberg and romaine lettuces if your salvation depended upon it. You wouldn’t recognize arugula if it marched onto your plate carrying a sign “I AM ARUGULA – SPICIEST OF THE SALAD LEAVES!” You neither know – nor care about – the secret of emulsifying a vinaigrette, or how the right crouton can transform a dull side-salad into a zesty main dish. And it is to you, a salad ignoramus of the highest order, that your late wife (may she rest in peace) had to apply to get just one little gadget for the kitchen.

I must ask, sir, was this not a grown-ass woman? What could possibly be the reason she was not permitted to select her own small mechanical helpmeets? Perhaps she once absconded with your charge card and spent $18,320 at Williams-Sonoma on assorted ergonomic citrus reamers, onion goggles and a sous-vide machine and could no longer be entrusted around kitchen implements. Was it that her quest to find the perfect garlic press left you with over 136 of them moldering away in the garden shed, when everyone knows you can just use the flat of a chef’s knife, for fucks sake, added strain to your marriage. Maybe her careless use of a dehydrator led to the political de-stabilization of a small central american country. I don’t know. But it seems like, just this once, you could have humored your late wife and “allowed” her to get a salad spinner.

“Go ahead, Ethel,” you could have said in a fit of magnanimity, “Pick out your favorite salad spinner. And why don’t you choose which jello to use in the jello mold tonight. After all, it is Christmas!”

But no, Melvin, you didn’t say that. Because some latent oracular talent presented itself and “foretold” that such an item might eventually break. As if none of your household goods may submit to the law of entropy .  And now you sit, alone with only memories of your sainted wife daubing gently at damp baby spinach leaves as you permit yourself the luxury of spinning your own salad in the one appliance she ever desired, but could never have.

You disgust me.

Yes, all women.

Anyone who has read my various blog posts and facebook updates can tell you that my verbosity makes me ill-suited to the medium of the Twitters, but I’ve read so much incredible commentary over the last few days that I wanted to bear witness in my own wordy way, and maybe add to the pile of testimony the data-point that there is no woman so outwardly non-descript, or quiet, or fat, or modest or intelligent that she hasn’t dealt with a metric fuckton of harassment and assault by the time she is forty. Here are a couple of shit things that have happened to me.

1. I’m 19 and I work at a warehouse job. We get a half hour lunch which I have to clock out for, and two 15-minute breaks a day, which I spend at my desk because getting to and from the breakroom would take a couple of precious moments of my reading time away from me. Every spare moment is spent with my face buried in a book. And every day the same guy ignores my body language and hits on me. Within the first week I break with my “be nice” passive-aggressive mormon training and give him a steely “no”. He also ignores every firm “no” I give him until I start wearing my poison-ring on my left-hand ring finger, and hang up a picture of me draped over a literal knight in shining armor I took at the ren faire the previous summer. When he interrupts that break, I talk fondly of my “fiance’s” jealousy and skill with edged weapons. The harassment stops and now some of the guys mutter behind my back.

2. I’m 20 and 21 and working at the ren faire. All the male cast members have our back and security is great, but pretty much every day a stranger attempts to grab my ass (thank god for bum rolls, am I right wenches?) or my boobs. Sometimes they succeed. I chalk it up angrily to the idea that “cast members” aren’t perceived as real people anymore because of television.

3. I’m 24 and living in NYC. I stop between classes to pick up a play at the bookstore I work at and when I come out, a man follows me, sticking something pointy into the small of my back. “I have a gun,” he leans over and whispers in my ear, “and if you don’t follow me and do what I say, I will. shoot. you.” I panic. The skeptical, “don’t be a drama queen” part of my brain tells me it might not be a gun, just a crazy person. The rational part of my brain says to err on the side of caution. My lizard brain doesn’t know what to do and responds by making me sweat a lot and then shutting down. I stop in every store between 86th and 73rd, figuring that he would be unlikely to shoot me in the middle of a Duane Reade. The “gun” leaves my back in the middle of the Fairway and spin around, but cannot identify my stalker. I miss my next class and spend the rest of the month not going anywhere alone.

4. I’m still 24 and working at Shakespeare & Co as an assistant manager. As a supervisor I notice that one employee never manages to get his work done. Every time I check on him he’s sitting on the floor reading the books he was supposed to be shelving. Every time I put on my “supervisory” tone he grins. I consider writing him up for general Bartleby-ness if not outright insubordination when a conversation with several other supervisors and managers reveals they never have a problem with him. A friend suggests that Bartleby the Bookseller is trying to get me to yell at him for purposes of sexual gratification. I scoff at this. The next close I work with him, he asks me out. After the first “no”, he only tries two more times.

5. I am 25 and working at a mall bookstore in the midwest. Two less qualified males are given promotions instead of me and another female keyholder, including one freelance evangelical preacher who is made the manager of the calendar kiosk despite outright refusing to open boxes that contain PG13 “cheesecake” calendars and will not shelve or scan them. They lose sales because he is often the only employee in that store.

6. I am 26 and back in NYC. Walking from my apartment to the subway subjects me to daily catcalls from total strangers hanging out on balconies, stoops and fire escapes. I “learn to ignore it” which manifests itself in a fearsome (but not fearsome enough to stop the catcalls) Resting Bitch-Face which I still cherish to this day. The RBF encourages other, street-level strangers to demand that I “smile”.

7. I am still 26 in NYC, coming home at around 1 am from my closing shift at the bookstore. The empty seat next to the subway door is my reward for a full week of working two jobs. My typical friday night ritual of magazine and 20 minute subway ride home is interrupted by a homeless guy (this is just a guess) leaning further into the pole with every minor bump the train makes. He starts “accidentally” brushing me, and I instinctively become smaller and smaller until he is blatantly grasping my breasts. I marvel at my seeming invisibility to an entire subway car full of riders as I yell, swear at and push my assailant. One final kick from me makes it less than worth his while to continue his assault, and he miraculously becomes visible once he approaches two hot blondes. While they successfully fight him off by hitting him with a guitar case (girl power!) several previously oblivious men on the train chivalrously confront him and remove him from the train. At my stop.

8. I am in my 30’s and using public transit in LA. I bring a book because I like to read and also I don’t want to be bothered. I am interrupted nearly every day. I learn that chuckling while reading a non-fiction book about dead bodies with a picture of a toe tag on a foot on the cover kept people away from me for about a week and consider repurposing this cover for other books.

9. I am 35 and my friend and I are taking advantage of the lovely LA weather to walk the half-mile home from Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles after lunch. A man follows us for two blocks. He is out of breath because he must have run out of the restaurant. He is about 1 foot behind us when he starts making comments about my friend’s ass and demanding she give him her number. She tells him she is not interested. He follows us closer and demands to know if she’s racist because otherwise she would give him her number. I slip my arm around her waist and tell him pointedly we are lesbians. “I wasn’t talking to you, ugly bitch, I was talking to the hot one.” She pulls out her cell phone and threatens to call the police and he leaves. We take our keys out of our respective purses and do that thing we all learn to do as soon as we have keys, looking behind and around us roughly every 38 seconds to make sure the man hasn’t come back and that we aren’t leading him to our home.

Those are the top 9. I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting and thousands of tiny micro-aggressions I’m omitting because they’re so constant you kind of forget it’s not normal. Comparing to other people’s lists, this isn’t all that long or traumatic – I am thankfully not one of the one-in-six women who has been raped. But the fact that this is a “boring, uneventful” list should be appalling to people.

Portland – the first day.

A brief travelogue:

Yesterday we got up at fuck-this-shit-o’clock (4am, ftr) got on airplane, napped a bit, got off airplane and on another airplane, and landed at PDX.

For an “international” airport, PDX is pretty tiny. When we got off that second plane, the first shop in the terminal was not a news stand or starbucks – it was a small-batch artisanal gin distiller. We had to get our light jackets out of the luggage because it was only about 59 degrees and overcast outside, which I have to tell you makes me inordinately happy. The driver of our “shared” ride (which was shared with exactly no one) was chatty and knowledgeable, especially when we all bagged on the entitled dingbat who kept marching over to the van to demand the shared city bus NOW. Where was it? Why did she have to wait? Say what you will about the friendliness of Portlanders – and by god, they are disconcertingly friendly – they also have the finer points of eye-rolling and snark going for them. Noting my indigo bangs and De’s variegated pastel blue and green highlights, the driver mentioned we should enjoy the city – we already had “Portland Hair”.

The condo we rented – actually one of four flats in a converted Victorian/Craftsman – exceeded all expectations. A nice big fully stocked kitchen (only missing a stand mixer and food processor) dining room, office, living room and two lovely bedrooms. Unlike home, this has nice high ceilings, lots of wood and a fireplace we’re probably not going to use. Unlike home, we are sharing a bathroom and have individual room air-conditioners we’re not going to use. While we waited for the place to be ready, we walked about a mile to my spiritual home, Powells City of Books, stopping at Supa for awesome soup/sandwich combo lunch. There was a fast moving mob at Powells, like salmon jostling their way upstream, but once we found the sci-fi floor, it was a little more bustling bookstore and a little less TEH GUIDEBOOK TELLS ME TO GO TO POWELLS AND I AM GOING THERE. About an hour in, we realized we were still exhausted from the flights, the not sleeping and they paying attention to shit and couldn’t remember half of our wishlists, so we decided to come back on Monday or Tuesday when I think it will be more Bustling Bookstore, and less Tourist Scavenger Hunt (“OK I HAVE MY BOX OF VOODOO DONUTS NOW I’LL WANDER AIMLESSLY THROUGH THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE BOOKSTORE SO I CAN CHECK IN ON FACEBOOK AND EVERYONE WILL KNOW I AM AWARE OF BOOKS.”~ that lady with the donut box who kept getting turned around in the how-to aisle, probably).

Exhausted, we took the delightful $1 street car home, stopping at the Safeway to pick up snacky food and all the crap we forgot to pack. Then we came home, passed out for a couple of hours before heading to Kells, which sadly had to delay the live music until after the Trailblazers game, and the only cider they had on tap was a cherry. Happily, the band Cul An Ti was worth the wait, and the cider – 2 Towns Cherried Away – was deliciously tart, unlike the new trendy ciders for the American market which taste like apple-juice flavored wine coolers to me. By the time the band started, I was ready to enjoy. Not only was the music great, but I looked around and noted all age groups and all ethnicities enjoying the music and the put itself. I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot of reasonable looking men actually dancing with women, and the women themselves didn’t wear ridiculously crippling shoes. This differs from LA in that the hot guys are almost always gay, and the reasonable looking straight men seem to have ossified into Black-belt level jagoffs who wear cheap-ass looking porkpie hats and slovenly outfits while dating tiny young chicks in hooker heels and clubwear. Or I could be generalizing. Maybe the reasonable looking men in the bar were all looking for beards. Who knows.

We took a taxi home and then passed out, eschewing the alarm clock for the natural waking power of the sun through the windows. (fuck you, sun). Today we’re going to buy day passes for the public transit and go to the portland Saturday Market – also available on Sunday – and Fat Fancy, a vintage shop for fatties. I will also most likely stop at Voodoo Donuts because I am not made of stone.

In which my bitchiness becomes an asset to the company

The grown-ups in my department have been sequestered to do data cleansing for one of our third party distribution deals so the peons have been left (mostly) to our own devices for the last week.

In the absence of a more responsible member of the staff (i.e. one whose job isn’t classed as “unskilled) one of the things I get tasked with is minor IT testing and break-fix reporting. To that end, the big boss requested yesterday that I open a ticket on behalf of the entire department, as the main module we use seemed to be experiencing technical difficulties. The ticket was something like “No one can use $MODULE, please fix ASAP.” A few follow-ups were made showing the exact error message we were receiving, some members of IT worked on it and by the time I got in this morning, the module was working just fine. I then received an email from one of the offshore IT guys (remember like three months ago when our Company claimed they were getting rid of all offshore IT?) telling me that I could no longer request access to $MODULE via ticket, and instead, I must go through some arcane process involving drop-down menus, radio buttons and burnt offerings. I responded to him that I have had access to all roles in $MODULE since 2006, and then explained that the original ticket was to fix the broken module for everyone, thank you for your time and hit send. He just now emailed stating:

We checked and found that currently you don’t have $MODULE access. The process to obtain access has been changed and we no more do the manual provisioning.

Kindly apply for the access as per the instructions provided below and revert back in case you find any difficulty.

Huh? Is this a threat? Are they going to remove my access just so that I have to jump through the hoops all new hires have to? (it takes them a minimum of 2 weeks to get it right – somehow IT can’t figure out what “mirror $JOHNNY LONGTERM EMPLOYEE access” means). Here was my terse response to that veiled threat.

The ticket opened below was to fix a problem for all $MODULE users. The issue was fixed and $MODULE users are no longer receiving error messages. I am using $MODULE right now and have been using it all morning. My access has not been removed. Please update your records.

My former manager surfaced from the terrarium they’ve been locked in to let me know he had put my snotty response up on the big screen in the conference room. “Did you see how she’s responding to IT?,” he whined in mock outrage. The Big Boss, who noted at my last non-binding review that one thing that may keep me from getting promoted is the perception that I am “mean”, looked it over and said, “Good. Let her say whatever she wants to these people.”