Posts Tagged ‘music’

The Voice of God

June 9, 2015

What do you think of when I say the word trombonist?

This, I’ll bet:

No, really, take the time to watch it. I’ll wait.

There. Was I right?

Now listen to this:

So, is that what you were expecting?

Now try this. You don’t have to listen to the whole thing, a few moments will suffice:

Do you think you may want to do some stereotype rethinking?

I do understand that we are talking about musicians who make raspberry noises for a living, whose instruments resemble large kazoos and who seem to always be the ones who provide the musical underscore for any comedic scene in which a pratfall occurs.

Still. Think of a world without William Tell, Beethoven’s Fifth or The Ride of the Valkyrie.

And then consider what a young trombonist has to endure to get to the point where he can play those works.

Picture to yourself a student recital.  Here comes a little violinist. Her teacher takes her miniature violin and tunes it quickly, and the precocious infant scrapes out Song of the Wind.  It’s out of tune, and missing a note or two, but owing to the tininess of the instrument you can barely hear it anyway. And she’s just soooo cute, with that tiny violin and all.

Cheers and whistles and waves and waves and waves of applause.

Here comes a young pianist.

He starts strongly on Spinning Song. He gets hung up on the repeat. He starts it again. He forgets what’s going on in his left hand. He starts it again.

The audience, hushed and sympathetic, concentrates on sending him encouraging vibes.

He eventually bashes his way through to the end.

And is rewarded with cheers and congratulatory cries and loud applause as he half ducks, half bows and throws himself blushing into his seat.

Now a little cellist only eight years old. The audience prepares itself for another nursery song and is completely bowled over by a flashy Popper showpiece, immaculately executed.

The crowd erupts and this time it’s genuine. They leap to their feet as one.

And now comes the brand-new trombone student.

Here I must insert a word of explanation for those of you to whom one instrument is much like another: Before you can start to play a brass instrument you have to have shed and completely regrown all eight of your front teeth. This could put you as late as ten or eleven years old before you can even go to the music store to rent your first trombone. If your parents were wise you’ve at least been given piano lessons in the meantime to keep you interested and help you learn to read music, but no amount of piano study is going to help you with the hideous sounds you are going to be making for the first several months of trombone lessons. Contrast this with the fact that there are violins and cellos made to fit two year olds.

So there you are, a giant, large-footed eleven-year-old in the middle of a growth spurt, too old to be cute, too young to command respectful attention, taking the stage directly following a little kid half your size who just earned a standing ovation…

And the first thing your teacher does is to play a B-flat on the piano and ask you to tune.

So you play a B-flat.  Only it doesn’t come out as a B-flat.  It comes out as a tiny, repressed raspberry. The audience titters. The teacher strikes the note again and waits.  You try again.  This time you produce only a loud whoosh of air, and now the audience is really fascinated. Desperately you blow again and a great honk surges out of your bell and someone in the front row gasps audibly and jumps and then everyone laughs.  Some clown starts clapping and then the whole audience applauds, because that’s funny. You feel like you have to bow but you really don’t want to.

Then your teacher plays the introduction.  It is eight measures long.

You play your very first recital piece, Hot Cross Buns.  It too is eight measures long.

When you stop, the audience just sits there.  Surely this mid-to-large-sized child is going to play something more impressive than that?

Silence continues for a second longer than is comfortable, then all at once an understanding murmur whispers around the room and there is a sudden burst of hearty, warm, genuine, supportive applause – the kind adults do with the corners of their mouths turned down in wry sympathy – peppered with admiring chuckles. Better get used to the chuckles, kid. You’re a trombonist now.

To be unfazed by all this requires a comedian’s temperament.  A child with the temperament of, say, an oboist would never survive as a trombonist.

Someone musically important with the first name of Richard is said to have said, “Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them.” (I get my information from memes and in my short survey of them just now I found that opinion is divided. Some memes say Richard Wagner; some memes say Richard Strauss. I’m too lazy to look into it further but will welcome evidence either way in the comment section.)

The trombone is the only orchestral instrument (as opposed to the banjo and the bagpipes which also take their turns here) to be featured in the old “Hey, I got one!” chestnut, “A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the trombone but refrains from doing so,” a quote upon which the world of memes is again divided – it’s either Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde.

If remarks like these are going to hurt your feelings it’s best to find out right away, while you’re young, while there is still time to switch to the viola.

The word ‘brass’ can be a noun (“The trombone is made of brass”) or it can be an adjective (“The trombone is a brass instrument.”)  More unusually it can be a verb, however, and then it means to endure an embarrassing or difficult situation by behaving with apparent confidence and lack of shame.

Coincidence?  I think not.

I would only argue with the word ‘apparent.’ Trombonists are confident. They have to be. They have no shame. There isn’t room for any. In the natural selection of the musical instrument world, the survival of a young trombonist depends more on his personality than on his physical characteristics.  This is why – in contrast to your typical orchestral section of three medium-sized trumpet players sitting bolt upright in space enough for four (to allow room for the egos), or a mild-mannered, spectacled row of four studious but unpretentious horn players (or eight for Wagner)  – a trombone section will generally be a ragged and unpredictable assortment of regular guys, because trombonists come in all shapes and sizes. They can look like bears or mountain men or plumbers or physicists or surfers or serial killers or writers. The only thing that they have in common is that they have a good sense of fun and can take a ribbing.

They will need these assets throughout their orchestral careers for the jokes from non-musicians are only the beginning. Trombonists are not safe even from their own conductors.

Here is an example of this treachery which you may have seen.

At an Educational Children’s Symphony Concert (which you shouldn’t go to anyway; see previous post “How to Make Your Children Love Classical Music”) the conductor will often attempt to woo the young audience by baby talking down at them about the instruments. One by one he will invite each section principal to stand up and play something. (By the way, if you go, you should know that these are not the actual section principals, even though they are sitting in the first seats. The real principals’ contracts allow them to opt out of the children’s concerts. These poor substitute suckers are just here for the danger money.)

The (substitute) concertmaster will play something fast and flashy like a bit of the Tchaikovsky concerto or The Devil’s Trill or the first few bars of the Prelude of the Bach E Major Partita.

The principal cellist will also play from unaccompanied Bach and the bass principal will play The Elephant from Carnival of the Animals.

The children will stare impassively but at least they won’t boo and that’s the main thing.

Then will come the winds.

The flute will play something that sounds like birds twittering and the clarinet will do something entirely forgettable and then the oboe will be called forth.

Here is where things should become amusing, but no.

The conductor will say, “Now children, everyone thinks that the oboe sounds like a duck.”*

There will be a small ripple of sycophantic laughter from the eight parents and two kids who are still paying attention and the conductor will continue, “But the oboe is actually a very beautiful instrument.”

And then the oboist will be invited to play “Gabriel’s Oboe.”

Young moms will sigh and swoon and older moms will wipe away tears.

After that, to cheer everyone up, the trumpet will play a fanfare, probably something by John Williams (interesting) or Aaron Copland (boring), and the horn will play the opening theme from a Mozart Concerto, the tuba will surprise anyone who’s still listening with the melodious Tubby the Tuba tune, and then the conductor will offer a great treat.

Now, children, let’s meet the clowns of the orchestra!”

And the trombonists, the whole section, will be made to stand up and play Lassus Trombone while all the school children take a break from picking their noses and harassing their teachers to point and hoot at three grown men pandering to them with honking glissandos.  There ought to be a law.

So to drive the point home, the guy who plays the actual comic instrument (the oboe, for those of you who lost track) gets to pretend that he plays the Official Instrument of Heaven, while the guy who plays the instrument which has in fact been described as the Voice of God plays for chuckles.**

What, you think I’m kidding about that Voice of God thing?

“In Luther’s translation of the Old Testament, the trombone is an instrument with which the people of God are called together, important news is announced, and the call to battle is made; the sound of trombones accompanies the righteous fight for God. The trombone is the instrument of the priests when they announce a new king and when they march ahead of the Ark of the Covenant. It is the sound that accompanies the sound of the voice of God and symbolizes the power of God and his judgment. Furthermore, the trombone is played to please and praise God, together with a wide variety of other instruments. In Luther’s translation of the New Testament, the trombone is the instrument that God’s companions, the angels, use to gather his elect to announce the Resurrection, the end of times, Judgment Day, and the Second Coming of Christ. When God speaks, his voice sounds like a trombone.”*** ****

There you go.

For my Adventist friends who are careful about your Sabbath listening, I’ve just opened up a whole new world of possibilities for you.

You’re welcome!

See you in a week or so,


* It does sound like a duck; however, the oboe, despite its sounding exactly like a duck, is always played by someone too sensitive to be the butt of even the mildest of jokes. In the one oboe/duck piece of music I can think of, the one from Peter and the Wolf, the duck is portrayed as suspiciously melodious, indeed not duck-like at all.  Have you ever heard a duck sing like that?  I haven’t.  It’s very beautiful, very dignified, a warm and gentle tune with only a couple of grace notes gently hinting at a quack sound.  Then there’s a faster section to show the duck running, you can hear a sort of waddling quality to it but still it’s fluid and chromatic and probably rewarding to play.  I never heard a duck sound like that, and I don’t think Prokofiev ever did either. In fact, I suspect that what we hear today was his second version.  I’ll bet that the first version sounded all kinds of quacky, but that after the first rehearsal there were tears and cries (“I’m not going to play that!  I won’t! You can’t make me! I’ll quit!  I really will!”) and Prokofiev had to go home quickly and whip up something completely unfunny and not at all duck-like to replace it with.

To be fair, there aren’t many comic songs for violin either, as we violinists tend to be mean and humourless and to take ourselves way too seriously.  Not long ago I attended a comedy violin concert by a violinist who was simply hilarious on stage. I met her afterwards and found that she was as mean and cold hearted as the rest of us. When she deliberately hurt my feelings I actually felt better, because the idea of a happy, jolly violinist with a great sense of humour had been making me feel a little bit uneasy and the calculated snubbing put my universe back on track.  I’ve never met a mean trombonist, though.

** Again, this is because if the oboist was made to suffer the laughter of children for making duck noises he would simply dissolve, but not only can the trombone players take it, it actually doesn’t bother them.

*** Knouse, Nola Reed. The Music of the Moravian Church in America. Rochester: U of Rochester, 2008. 172. Print.

**** Full disclosure:  I should probably have mentioned in the beginning that I’m married to a trombonist. That is, a trombonist trapped in the body of a lawyer.  No possibility of a God complex there.


How to Make Your Children Love Classical Music

January 8, 2015

You have heard about the Mozart Effect and want to add this accessory to your Perfect Parenting Portfolio, but unfortunately you do not know anything about Classical Music.  Do Not Panic.  Here is handbook containing everything you need to know.  I have arranged it in a handy Do and Don’t format.


DO Take the Family to the Symphony

Taking kids to a regular symphony concert can be perilous, as we have recently been reminded by Michael Tilson Thomas* and if you take children under the age of eight or so to a long, indoor major symphony concert you should probably sit way in the back the first time to see how it goes.  However, an outdoor symphony concert on a perfect summer’s evening can shine in a child’s memory forever. The smell of freshly cut grass and the wafting smoke from citronella candles, the flicker of fireflies and shooting stars, the bright ozone taste of a nearby thunderstorm, the clink of plates and glasses and the soft creak of lawn chairs, the tuning of the orchestra in the big tent and the sudden settling and hushing of the crowd around you, the applause, the bow, the downbeat, the swell of cellos and tympani in the gathering dark…a child who falls asleep lying on the blanket at his parents’ feet while gazing at the stars even before the overture has finished is a child who has experienced a very pleasant emotional association with classical music.


DON’T Take the Family to Musical Events Aimed at Children

At all costs stay away from anything calling itself a Classical Cartoon Fest, unless you like paying a lot of money to spend the day in the company of frantically perfect parents who can’t seem to stop desperately insisting in high pitched voices that their screaming, ice-cream smeared toddlers are totally enthralled by the music, and on that same note under no circumstances should you ever agree to go to a Children’s Concert either because if you do you will spend two hours sealed in a concert hall stuffed with hundreds of field-tripping children, the music overlaid by the hum and whine of starving, bus-crazed third graders and punctuated by thumps and crashes as they bounce frenetically and not quite rhythmically in the wooden folding chairs. They will wad up their programs and throw them, they will yell to their friends rows away, a few of them will vomit from excitement.  You can watch the teachers and chaperons swiveling constantly from back to front and side to side, hissing and swatting, trying to quell the most immediately egregious concert etiquette violations in a hideous game of whack a mole, which is kind of funny, but other than that it’s a horrible experience and you will leave with a migraine like none you have ever experienced.  Don’t do it.  I know it’s supposed to be educational, but all you’ll remember later is discovering you have spent the morning sitting in half a peanut butter sandwich that the kid behind you put down the back of your chair when you weren’t paying attention, and possibly you’ll have a vague memory of some completely incomprehensible piece of music about a hut that gets up and walks around.** Don’t.  Just…don’t.

DO Take the Family to the Opera

I tell you the truth when I say that opera is great for children.  Big, loud, outlandishly dressed people running around on stage caterwauling and shouting at each other, brandishing swords, knocking each other over, fighting endlessly over silly misunderstandings and falling for deceptions that even a child would see through, many of the characters ultimately collapsing upon the floor to die but continuing to sing for several minutes in what children find to be a very comical voice, seriously, this is terrific entertainment! Nearly all operas are sung in another language (Italian or German, mostly) but if you actually care about the plot there are English supertitles provided. You should always read the synopsis before you go just to be sure there isn’t too much murder or mayhem or outrageously immoral behavior, but of all the operas we have been to only Rigoletto and Lucia di Lammermoor would have been seriously inappropriate for young children.  Many of the Mozart operas are hilarious, though, and that is where you should start. The Abduction from the Seraglio and Cosi Fan Tutte are totally violence-free and  pretty much pure slapstick all the way through and Magic Flute has enough bells and whistles and fireworks and smoke and things that explode in both the vocal score and the staging to keep a whole family of kids happy all evening.  Rossini is also extremely entertaining.


DON’T Forget to Research First

Don’t pick your first opera based solely on which titles are familiar to you.  You might end up at Madame Butterfly and unless you’ve had trouble sleeping lately and don’t mind paying $75 for a solid four-hour nap, you’re going to feel as if you’ve been had.  You should probably save anything by Wagner for much later in your opera-going experience as well.

Further, look into the particular production you are thinking of seeing. Read the description carefully to be sure that the staging is not described as ‘trendy’ or ‘edgy’ or ‘modern’ or even ‘new.’  Don’t go see anything that is set in a dump, on a spaceship, in a disco or in an abandoned building until you have seen some traditionally staged operas.  Sumptuous and glittering period staging is half the fun.  Once you’ve booked the tickets, remember that this is a fun and entertaining family outing (like going to the movies) rather than an improving experience (like going to the Museum of Work and Industry).  Don’t gather a lot of boring educational materials and force them upon the children.  They’ll hate it and it will put them right off the idea of opera, even (especially) if you read the educational materials aloud to them in a voice of breathless wonder and delight.  By all means study the synopsis yourself and then share the information, but only because you yourself find it interesting.

DO Listen to Classical Music As You Go About Your Life

Here is a list of totally accessible and instantly enjoyable music.  You can buy CDs or you can buy them in other formats and put them on any of your electronic devices (which I will not show my ignorance by listing) and then listen to them around the house and in the car. These selections are totally non-threatening, non-taxing, and extremely appealing to all ages:

  • Mendelssohn – Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, Symphony No. 4 (Italian), Symphony No. 5 (Reformation), Violin Concerto in e minor.


  • Beethoven – any symphonies but especially numbers 5, 7 and 9, the Choral Fantasy, also Consecration of the House overture.


  • Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen


  • Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, the Mandolin, Lute and Guitar Concertos


  • Praetorius –  Dances from Terpsichore (lots of fun, plus some of the instruments sound like kazoos***)


  • Bach – Brandenburg Concertos, Double Violin Concerto, the Suites for Unaccompanied Cello


  • Scarlatti – Keyboard sonatas


  • Prokofiev – Lieutenant Kije Suite


  • Smetana – Bartered Bride Overture, The Moldau


  • Glinka – Russlan and Ludmilla Overture (You might have heard this during the opening credits of the sitcom ‘Mom’)


  • also any brass music by Gabrieli and by Scheidt, as well as


  • anything by Shostakovich


  • And Telemann.  Only this morning on my way home from dropping off the Pokerface Joker at school I heard a Telemann Divertimento that was so charming, so elegant, so full of courtly cheer that although it ended just as I was pulling into the driveway I turned off the engine and sat in the garage with my eyes closed for several minutes, reliving it until it faded from my memory.

DON’T Patronize!

Do not patronize the children.  They can tell, and they don’t like it. Don’t throw on a bargain bin Best of Mozart CD, make them stop whatever they’re doing so they can listen to it, and then instantly start cooing, “This is Mozart, children!  Isn’t it pretty?”  Just pick something nice but not too taxing and play it at a moderate volume while you’re all quietly doing something else nearby. Don’t make much of it.  Don’t draw attention to the fact that you’re listening to anything different than the usual. Do not say, “This is Wonderful!  You will love it! Stop talking and having fun and LISTEN!”

That won’t work.

Also, don’t compare it to whatever music you usually listen to. Don’t say that it’s better, or more exciting, or even AS exciting.  Just play it from time to time. Sing along in nonsense syllables once you get the drift but for goodness’ sake don’t invite them to sing along too and if they should happen to do so, pretend not to notice!  And most importantly, when talking about the new music DO NOT use any voice that requires you to put on an engaging smile and go all shiny-eyed and magical, and you can apply this rule to all parts of your life if you like, not just when talking to your children about music.

Regarding your Local Community Orchestra: A Warning

Taking your impressionable young children to concerts of your Local Community Orchestra (hereinafter known as LCO) was not included in the list above.  This was not an accidental omission.   Subscribing to your LCO in a wholesale way is not necessarily a good idea.  You have to be careful.  Let me tell you a story about our LCO.

Our LCO, a semi-professional group of which I try to be supportive, has a music library which is not huge and therefore has some favourites which it performs often.  Inexplicably one of these staples is the Prokofiev Classical Symphony, a deceptively difficult work which, depending on how it’s played, can either sound sublime or sound like a middle school band playing a bad arrangement.  In the second movement of this Classical Symphony the first violins have a theme which begins way on up double high H in 37th position on the e string, a thin spiral of notes twirling down like the few first snowflakes in the holy light of a Christmas Eve midnight — except when the first violins are all fearful and tentative and not quite in unison, in which case it sounds like a metal garden rake being dragged down a chalk board. For years I shivered in my seat as I endured this passage, and closed my eyes and massaged my forehead and curled my toes and tried not to think about it. Having never heard it played elsewhere, I thought the Prokofiev Classical Symphony was really the most horrid thing in the whole world.  

So imagine my frustration when we were on a quick trip to London and the only London Symphony Orchestra concert we could get to featured the Prokofiev Classical Symphony.  We had to go, of course – it was the London Symphony! – but the outrage of paying $85 to have broken glass shoved down my ears was almost more than I could bear.  As the passage approached I activated the special sound shields that we violin teachers develop in our ears…and then the violinists gently moved their bows and the most lovely melody spun softly upward from the strings and floated gracefully into the ceiling and drifted back down upon us like a fall of angels’ feathers. It was exactly like being gently cosseted in a soft fluffy comforter still warm from the dryer when I was expecting to get whacked over the head with a shovel.

The problem is, how many people in our LCO audience finally couldn’t stand it anymore and just stopped trying? I’m just saying, if you want your LCO to be an enhancement to your classical music experience rather than a detriment, you’ll have to pick your concerts wisely.  And it might take a little experience for you to be able to do that.

And of course…

Finally, and probably most importantly, give your children instrument lessons and as soon as possible enroll them in a youth orchestra. Yes, you will have to go to all the concerts, and I’m afraid that it may hurt your ears for quite some time, and for that I am sorry. All I can say is that in the end it will be worth it.

This is true, I promise.

Alrighty then, see you next week.



* I don’t know how to paste a link, or the legally correct way to do so, so if you’re interested you’ll need to google ‘Michael Tilson Thomas New World Symphony asks mother and child to move’ and there will be plenty for you to read about that.  In the interest of full disclosure, I totally support his action.

** Mussorgsky, The Hut of Baba-Yaga from Pictures at an Exhibition.  It’s on EVERY Children’s Concert program. No one gets it.

*** the krumhorns

The Great Debut – or – In Which I Explain Why I Have Withdrawn from Facebook.

December 30, 2014

Warning: if great gushes of self-pity (although cleverly presented) make you feel uncomfortable you might want to skip reading this one. I’ll be funnier next time!

After five years of faithful oversharing, I have withdrawn myself from facebook. Here is why.

I want to avoid the following unpleasant things:

  • Seeing photos of myself taken from above and behind (as from the balcony) while I am conducting, in which I appear tiny and squat, actually wider than I am tall, with comically short legs, pitifully thick ankles and the stance of a prison guard. These photos are second in horribleness only to photos taken from below and behind (as from the front row when I am on a stage) which feature a shape absolutely beyond description that does not at all reflect the mental image I have of myself, not even the mental image that I thought had been generously adjusted for grossly optimistic errors in self-perception.
  • Reading posts about other people’s children happily enjoying educational and enriching activities that I never provided for my own children. These show undeniable proof of my neglect and bad parenting and I can spend entire afternoons lost in despair over the resulting certain, permanent emotional scarring. Thank goodness facebook wasn’t around when my children were young or I’d doubtless have neglected them even more.
  • Happening unexpectedly upon photos of parties to which my family was not invited, proudly presented in albums titled something like ‘Every Single Person We Love Helping Us Celebrate!’ with all of our friends so thoroughly tagged that I spend the next three days hunkered down wincing in a stinging hail storm of like and comment notifications.
  • On a related note, NOT seeing photos of parties to which my family was not invited but which I know about because of the artful, deliberate leaking of a single party photo which is the only one available for me to view even though it belongs to an album titled something like ‘Absolutely Every Friend We Have Spending a Delightful Summer Evening at Our Beautiful Home – 54 photos.’ This is actually worse than the openly posted party albums because the fact that I am blocked from seeing the rest of the album removes any lingering hope that maybe we were accidentally overlooked.
  • Waking up in the morning feeling happy, fit, accomplished, contented and loved, then spending eight minutes at the computer and collapsing into a puddle of self-pity because I am fat, shapeless, ordinary, lazy, old, talentless and friendless. (Even though I know perfectly well that I am fat, shapeless, extraordinary, extremely motivated when I feel like it, simply awash with talent and well-supplied with friends.) Then spending two more hours deliberately seeking out things that I know will make me feel even worse – for instance, having another look at the party photos.

I’m not exactly a helpless victim though. Honesty compels me to admit that I’ve perversely turned right around and committed facebook rudenesses of my own that I should have been smacked for, actions so mean I feel them killing a little part of my soul every time I do them. Here are some examples:

  • Writing a happy, breezy status and then sitting with my hand on the mouse ready to click Post as soon as the green light comes on by the name of a person who I know will be most seriously annoyed by the status I am posting, so that they will be certain to see it right away.*
  • Following a private argument between two people in the comments on a post which is no business of mine and eventually becoming so enraged at one of them who has taken a stance which I know to be completely stupid, wrong, misguided and (I tell myself) truly evil that I can’t stop myself from jumping in screaming with a defense on behalf of the other that is neither wanted nor needed, and not just a polite and simple defense, but a sharp and spiky one that bludgeons the poor (wrong thinking) commenter about the head and shoulders with words that they probably don’t even know what mean and finally fells them with a blast of irony that they probably don’t understand and most certainly do not deserve. In the interest of full disclosure I should note that these poor people are often only friends-of-friends, that is, I don’t even know them.
  • Pretending to be above humblebragging but then spending whole quarter hours composing a puke-makingly self-deprecating Wodehousian tangle of prepositions, modifiers and snobby British spellings to serve as the elaborately casual setting for a yelp of triumph that a kinder and more honest person would simply phrase something like ‘We are so proud of our son who has been accepted to Yale! #soblessed.’
  • And then spending whole additional quarter hours hypocritically bashing people who say #soblessed.

Removing myself from facebook is for more than my own protection, you see.  It’s for everyone’s.

So that’s why I’m here instead. If you think you might enjoy what I have to say you are more than welcome to return every week, and if you think you won’t then it’s up to you to stay away. And invite your friends (if you like it, that is).  And do comment, please. It is most unrewarding making jokes to an audience who just will not laugh, as I know from my other life. Feed the ego, and I’ll write some more.

What can you expect to find here? These topics among others may be touched on:

  • Books I like and why you should like them too.
  • Music I like and music I love to hate, with extensive and entertaining explanations as to why. Under this heading look for my open letters to WCRB, which are most unsporting because I don’t actually send WCRB the letters.
  • Essays on my experience of slithering helplessly down the far side of Mt. Fifty while trying to keep an expression on my face that says, more or less convincingly, “I meant to do that!”
  • Snippets of memories couched in phrases of possibly the thickest, most sentimental emotional manipulation you’ve ever experienced; you’ll feel as if you’re reading through an amber filter and if I do my job right you might actually cry.
  • Accounts of family outings in which plans go awry. That would be every family outing.
  • Weaknesses in my character revealed not to be faults but in fact to be endearing and even desirable quirks.
  • Lists that seem random but are in fact carefully contrived to give structure to unconnected things I would like to show off my esoteric knowledge about, such as for instance a list of things I like that begin with the letter P, or maybe a variation on that staple of the ‘everyone’s a poet!’ school of poetry, the acrostic poem.
  • Opinions. (Really?) But not political opinions. Not because I don’t have them, but because I’m a coward.
  • Rants, but not nasty ones. I can be very snarky but I never swear in print.

In conclusion, I understand that the extent to which I have self-analyzed and the amount of time I have spent writing up the results of the self-analysis reveals a level of self-absorption which is utterly disgusting in a woman of my age. This is what Hello Kitty diaries are for, and Hello Kitty diaries are marketed to teenage girls. I had a diary when I was fifteen, not Hello Kitty but one with a picture on the cover of a slender, dreamy girl  posed on a grassy riverbank, sitting easily upright with her long legs stretched out before her but not leaning back on her arms, in that effortless way that only slim and limber girls can manage. She is surrounded by weeping willows and cattails and daffodils and attended by a family of ducklings; a butterfly drawn by her girlish sweetness hovers near her head. Her perfect oval face is half hidden by a swing of long blonde hair and a little smile plays on her lips as she reads over the cherished hopes and dreams she has just recorded in her own diary. About ten years ago I busted open the cheap brass lock of this journal of my youth (having lost the key) and I was so appalled at the relentless stream of whininess I found within that I ripped the thing up and burned it. And now haven’t I just gone and recreated it right here.

(And if anyone thinks that last bit was a send-up of Anne of Green Gables, well, maybe it was a little bit, but I actually truly love Anne. Even though if facebook offered a “Which Anne of Green Gables Character Are You?” Quiz I would almost certainly end up as Josie Pye.)

Alrighty then, see you next week, I hope.


*Don’t even pretend. You know you’ve done this too.