Thursday, July 24, 2008

Breaking New Musical Ground

I had a couple of new musical experiences the past two weeks while I was away. The first was at our friends Peter and Chloe's house. One of the many awesome renovations to their place was an entertainment room in the basement, complete with huge projection screen, comfy couches, and...Rock Band on Xbox. That's right, I was a Rock Band virgin, and I am no longer. I tried guitar, drums, and vocals. (Bass is Rob's territory. :)) Not that any of the instruments truly resemble their real-life counterparts, but it was fun. In the past, I've discovered that I'm pretty good at fighting games because I have a talent for button-mashing; now, it turns out I'm pretty decent at Rock Band because I can button-mash in rhythm. Woo! Actually, the drums are cool because it's sort of like a tiny set of electronic drums--and you even sit on a stool and use your foot to work the bass drum pedal. It's quite a workout.

The other new musical experience I had was at the Welsh course: I was drafted to be the piano accompanist on one of the pieces sung by the choir (Myfanwy). They had to be really hard up to do that, since I hadn't practiced in six months or so. How did this come about? Well, the person who is often our accompanist wasn't able to make it this year. Someone came forward to try, but wasn't comfortable playing with the group or in front of a crowd (oddly enough, that exact thing happened to me on one of my first Welsh courses).

So, I ended up playing the easier song, and another of our Board members (who happens to be a professional musician, just not on the piano) played the harder song, thereby dividing the labor. It was a VERY EASY song or I would never have agreed. I slipped in as many extra practices as I could, and decided that I'd be happy if I were able to play it through at the noson lawen (talent night) with three or fewer mistakes and no stopping due to freak-outs.

I managed to succeed, with only a couple of mistakes. However, it was one of the most terrifying experiences (anxiety-wise) I've ever had. TERRIFYING. It turns out it's very difficult to play the piano when your hands are shaking from fear. I'm far less frightened of speaking in front of a crowd than I am of playing music. But then, I spend a lot more time talking than I do playing the piano. I'm in much better practice. Plus, I had to play WITH a group of people who were singing, and it was therefore imperative that I mess up as little as possible.

The difficult part was following the choir director--looking up from the music often enough to make sure I was in time with his direction, without totally screwing up in the process. I was also thrown off by the fact that there was a little bit of sound delay--it took a teensy bit of time for the choir's voices up on the stage to reach me where I was sitting at the piano. So I constantly felt like I was ahead of the singers, even though I was relatively in time with the choir director. That alone almost caused a freak-out.

But I learned a lot. I learned that Sarah should avoid being an accompanist.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yeah, I Still Exist.

Interior of Roseman BridgeI've never had a particular need or desire to see the actual bridges of Madison County (in Iowa)--not having any interest in either movie or book--but that's where I found myself last week. The Welsh course often finds itself in odd locations (like, in this case, Indianola, Iowa) due to the need for affordable facilities and willing organizers. Iowa's not so bad--in fact, my grandfather was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, though it doesn't speak well for the place that he ran away to join the Navy when he was 17.

Anyway, as the plane descended towards the Des Moines Airport, I could see the remnants of floodwaters marring the landscape; but Indianola, 15 or so miles south, didn't seem to be part of the affected area. The Welsh course itself went well. My class was excellent, and the mid-week field trip to the bridges, though not particularly exciting, afforded a few nice photo ops. Also, I'm STILL NOT PRESIDENT. Yay!

Rob and I both had a great time in Seattle attending Beth and Mark's wedding, and visiting with Peter and Chloe, friends of ours with whom we shared a house after college. Peter officiated the wedding, and I have to admit...it was VERY DIFFICULT to not giggle. (Sorry, Peter.) After knowing him for so long, it was just too hard. Having said that, he did a beautiful job. But still...let's just say when you've seen someone say and do the things that Peter has, it can be hard to picture him presiding over the solemn ceremony of matrimony. When you're talking about someone who once caused another housemate (upon extreme videogame-related frustration) to yell "Die, Peter, die!"...Anyway.

It's always weird to come home after a long way away, and it's always a bit strange to come back after the Welsh course because I feel like I'm living in a different world for that one short week. I'd actually really like to try a one-week intensive course in Wales sometime, though I'm not sure I can either a) afford it or b) figure out the practicalities vis-a-vis Rob. (When the Welsh course was in Wales in 2000, Rob spent the day while I was in class hiking around and seeing a bunch of scenery which I subsequently did not get to see. That was kinda bunk.)

I'm glad to be back, though. Besides the obvious stuff, one thing I really missed was GOOD FOOD. Dorm food in Central Iowa is not good. I was also disappointed by the ironic lack of tasty corn. We only got corn a few times, and of those times, twice it was canned corn, and the other two times, the corn was horribly overcooked and mushy. I guess I'll stick with my California corn. And California leeks...and tomatoes...and cling peaches...and callaloo...and Yukon gold potatoes...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Tiny Rant

Okay, I know this isn't a real blog entry...I'll get to that later.

I just needed to have a teeny-tiny rant about EMBEDDING FILES INTO WORD DOCUMENTS. That rant is: FOR GOD'S SAKE, DON'T DO IT. If you're sending me graphics, send me the original graphics files, pleeeeaaaaazzzzeeee. Same goes for sound files. ESPECIALLY sound files, which I can't cut and paste out of the .doc and into an empty Photoshop file.

That is all. For now.

Oh yeah...I'm almost done with this site. Don't laugh. I does what the customers wants.