Saturday, November 24, 2007

the keg has landed

we're off to a chilly start....

... but the keg has arrived.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

novemberfest preview

if you're not coming to novemberfest, don't be offended. but we're really excited. :D

here's just a preview...

competitors: last-chance training begins tomorrow morning!

fire boy

also, i'm really pleased with this photo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the proof is in the shank

this is our dog, belle.

she's probably going to kill us.


lately I've been pondering the idea of inspiration. What is it? Where does it come from? Is it different for different people?

As this year gets closer to being over, I decided it might be a good time to look back and think about what things inspired me.

Most of these are musical things, since that's what I do, and I tend to be fairly single-minded.

In August, I got to play the Rutter Requiem with none other than John Rutter conducting. For those of you who aren't familiar with the work, it has a sizable cello solo. I don't really even like the piece, but Rutter was so into his music, and had so much energy/passion/etc., that it was really hard not to get caught up in that. As a musician, I think that I often forget about the emotional aspects of most of what I play. Yes, I have been lucky enough to largely pick my own repertoire through both of my degrees, and yes I sure do love all of the pieces that I've worked on, but after spending so much time and energy working out the hows, it's easy to lose sight of what the point is. I think that music is the best thing out there, and sometimes it takes some slightly cheesy music (like the Requiem) paired with a composer/conductor who showed us all how to be demanding, yet totally enveloped by his music to show us that you can be both exacting in execution, but still allow your heart to be in it.

The other thing that comes to mind (yes, sadly I can only think of 2 really inspiring musical things from the past year!) is the week that I spent at the Suzuki Institute. My teacher there, Dr. Beth, was/is the image of what I think good teaching is all about. I've studied with a variety of different personalities over the years, some of whom I would classify in the category of "never teach like that person ever." She helped me figure out how to put myself in the position of being a good teacher, and showing my students how to have fun while learning this very awkward, difficult instrument. nice. Prior to arriving at the Institute, I only had 7-8 students, and I wasn't feeling like my success rate was doing so hot. Each student had different weaknesses/needs (they still do), and I didn't feel as though I was really understanding how to address them. Fast-forward to now. Now, I only have maybe 2 students (out of 16) who I don't feel are achieving real success/progress. I can dig that.

So, that's that. I've been needing to remind myself of what inspires me, because for me, inspiration = motivation, and I am in need of some honest-to-goodness motivation these days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

back in the day

we can take absolutely no credit for this. thank you, molly, for the ever-hilarious forwards. enjoy.

Strap in, shut up and hold on. We're going back.

A JC Penney catalog from 1977. It's not often blog fodder just falls in my lap, but holy hell this was two solid inches of it, right there for the taking. I thumbed through it quickl y and found my next dining room set, which is apparently made by simply adding upholstery to old barrels:

Also, I am totally getting this for my bathroom, because obviously nothing absorbs errant pee like a nice, thick shag:

There's plenty more home furnishings where those came from, however I'm not going to bore you with that. Instead, I'm going to bore you with something else. The clothes.

The clothes are fantastic.

Here's how to get your ass kicked in elementary school:

Just look at that belt. It's like a boob-job for your pants. He probably needed help just to lift it into place The belt loops have to be three inches long, for god's sake. And way to pull your pants up to your armpits, grandpa.

Here's how to get your ass kicked in high school:

This kid looks like he's pretending to be David Soul, who is pretending to be a cop who is pretending to be a pimp that everyone knows is really an undercover cop. Who is pretending to be 15.

Here's how to get your ass kicked on the golf course:

This "all purpose jumpsuit" is, according to the description, equally appropriate for playing golf or simply relaxing around the house. Personally, I can't see wearing this unless you happen to be relaxing around your cell in D-block. Even then, the only reason you should put this thing on is because the warden forced you to, and as a one-piece, it's a slightly better deterrent against ass-rapery.

Here's how to get your ass kicked pretty much anywhere:

I'll bet these guys do ok with the ladies. If you look at that picture quickly, it looks like Mr. Bob "No-pants" Saget has his hand in the other guy's pocket. In this case, he doesn't, although you can tell just by looking at them that it's happened - or if it hasn't happened it will. Oh yes. It will. As soon as he puts down his color-coordinated coffee cup.

Here's how to get your ass kicked at the beach:

He looks like he's reaching for a gun, but you know it's probably just a bottle of suntan lotion in a holster.

How to get your ass kicked in a meeting:

If you wear this suit and don't sell used cars for a living, I believe you can be fi ned and face serious repercussions, up to and including termination. Or imprisonment, in which case you'd be forced to wear that orange jumpsuit; which, frankly, is a step up.

How to get your ass kicked on every day up to and including St. Patrick's Day

Dear god in heaven, I don't believe that color exists in nature. There is NO excuse for wearing either of these ensembles unless you're working as a body guard for the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

In this next one, Your Search For VALUE Ends at Penneys.

As does your search for chest hair.

And this -- Seriously. No words.

Oh wait, it turns out that there are words after all. Those words are What. The. Fuck. I'm guessing the snap front gives you quick access to the chest hair. I think the little tie must be the pull tab. If you look really closely, it says, "In case of chest hair emergency, pull tab quickly and back away."

Also, judging by the sheer amount of matching his/hers outfits, in 1977 it was apparently considered pretty stylish for couples to dress alike. These couples look happy, don't they?

I am especially fond of this one, which I have entitled "Cowboy Chachi Loves You Best."

And nothing showcases your everlasting love more than the commitment of matching bathing suits. That, and an appreciative blonde with a look on her face that says "I love the way your junk fights against that fabric."

Then, after the lovin', you can relax in your one-piece matching terry cloth jumpsuits:

I could go on, but I'm tired, and my eyes hurt from this trip back in time. I think it's the colors. I will leave you with these tasteful little numbers:

Man, that's sexy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

post-teaching boozin'

Let me open this one with a fact: I love teaching cello lessons. LOVE it.

*sigh* Now that I've gotten that out of the way....

I will never understand folks who opt for private instruction, and then flat out do not practice. Tonight, I saw a student's practice chart for school. Not only was this student using our lesson time to count as 45 minutes of practicing, the other days had numbers like 6 minutes, or 5 minutes, and even a few 4 minute days sprinkled in. 4 minutes!?!@?!?!?!? I wanted to commit suicide right there. In fact, if one were to remove the 45 minute "practice" sessions that are our lessons, this particular student was never practicing more than 40 minutes TOTAL during the course of the week. This, my friends, this makes me f*cking crazy. This student is someone who takes weekly lessons, 45 minutes in length, and is assigned to practice scales, note reading, and Suzuki songs. I have made this student promise to practice 4-5 days per week, for at least 30 minutes per practice day. This is also a student who is very smart, able, full of potential, and seems to really love music.

I just pulled off of my music shelf my method book from when I was in 4th grade. Stapled to the back cover is my practice log.
Here is what the end-of-week totals look like:
130 minutes
120 minutes
150 minutes
180 minutes
185 minutes
180 minutes
etc. etc. etc.

4th grade was the year that I began playing cello. I didn't have a private teacher yet.


Friday, November 2, 2007

those Patriots

Well, I've been watching some football this year. The American kind. I've also been reading online about football. A lot of people seem to hate the Patriots - because they are awesome. People are accusing them of running up scores, and not being very sportsman-like. Here's a story:

When I was in High School, our JV soccer team ha
d a rule - we never put double digits on the scoreboard. So, If we were beating, say, Niagara Falls High School 9-0, nobody was allowed to score number 10. If that happened, you got benched. It was supposedly a fairness thing. Well, during one game, we were up 9-0. I was standing at midfield for the entire second half (I was the goalkeeper), and our best forward got the ball, and a breakaway. He dribbled the ball to about 10 yards from the other teams goal, and just stopped, left the ball there, and ran the other way. I was embarrassed for the other team. Isn't that worse than scoring lots of goals? To me, it was like, "Hey look, we are so much better than you, we are choosing not to score any more goals against you, because we can."

Here's another situation:

One of the better travel teams I played on had a similar rule. No double digits. There were exceptions on that team though. For the entire first half, we were allowed to play as usual, no matter what the score (we never scored 10 times in one half). If, at half time, we were up by 5 goals, a two-touch rule was put into effect. That meant that nobody on our team was allowed to touch the ball more than twice before passing it to someone else. That went on until we got to 9 goals. At that point, not only was the two-touch rule in effect, in order to score another goal, each of the 11 players on the field had to touch the ball, uninterrupted, in order for someone to be allowed to even take a shot on goal. If we happened to score again, nobody was in trouble. I liked that better. Sure, it was still an unabashed display of how much better we were than the other guys, but at least it was useful - it was not easy to make goal number 10 happen. It required a lot of skill, from everyone involved, and it required us to really focus on our system. Those 10-0 blow-outs actually enabled us to be a much better team when we had tough games.

So, back to the Patriots. What do people reall
y expect? Should they just not run the ball back for a touchdown when the other team's quarterback fumbles the ball repeatedly? These are professional athletes, true competitors. These are folks who are paid millions of dollars to be amazing at what they do. I say, let them score until someone figures out a way to stop them. I don't think that the Patriots should be told to play worse, everyone else just needs to play better!

today is the last day...

of my glorious, lazy Fridays. I know, how depressing, right?
Starting next week, I will be officially at the bakery every Wednesday and Friday, with a sprinkling of Thursdays and Saturdays.

I had a really fun first day on Wednesday this week - I learned all about espresso, and how I can control the tastiness level of the drinks. The coffee-guy said I was a natural.

I really love toothpastefordinner.

Anyways... I don't know why I always feel the need to small-talk people in to my blog posts.
Here is what I actually feel like writing about today:
It dawned on me through reading a post at the Internet Cello Society Forums that most people really don't have any idea what the Suzuki Method is all about. I am a relative newbie to the Suzuki Method, but now that I understand it, I can't believe that I ever taught in a different way.

Dr. Sinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist who at some point noticed that all children learn to speak their native tongue through nothing more than repetition and praise. He let that idea germinate for a while, and then he started experimenting teaching the violin to children the very same way. Naturally, he very quickly had really young kids playing at an extremely high level. There is much more to it, but the native tongue idea is one of the major building blocks of this teaching method. Like most people, I too was under the impression that "Suzuki kids don't read music." This is a huge misconception. reading IS introduced, but only when it is appropriate. When a child is learning to speak English, you don't give them a Proust novel, right? In Suzuki's method, reading can wait - this allows the student to truly focus on what they are doing. It's not easy to really concentrate on your bow, if you are busy looking at a bunch of gobbledygook (otherwise known as musical notation) on a page. Aside from the native tongue theory (repetition and praise), is the notion that children will succeed if you give them attainable goals. In "traditional" string teaching, a goal is often too large, too general, or too difficult to attain quickly. In the Suzuki method, a goal can be something as simple as sitting upright, in good playing position for 30 seconds (this is hard for a 5 year-old!).

In my recent teaching experiences, I have found the following things:
Since returning from teacher training in August, my students now demonstrate the following things:
* Beautiful bow hands
* Great tone, as a result of a free moving bow arm
* Great playing posture/seating position
* Understanding "The Facts" (what note, which finger, and on which string)

Before I went the Suzuki route, I couldn't honestly say any of those things.

I think that a big issue in the Suzuki world is that the materials are SO readily available. Any schmuck can have their students use the books, or pay their dues to the Suzuki Association and call themselves a Suzuki Teacher. Heck, once you are trained on Book 1, their aren't any guidelines set up to make someone continue their teacher training. What is the result of this? A lot of bad teaching is being done out there under the guise of being the Suzuki Method.

Regardless, I know that there is good teaching going on out there - I saw it growing up in Buffalo (where there is an incredible Suzuki School), I saw it this past weekend at a workshop in Hickory, and I saw it at the Institute where I did my training.

Happy Friday :)