Friday, March 31, 2006

Spring Music

The last two days have been deliciously warm, and all I have wanted to do was skip, frolic, wear dresses, and when people ask me how-are-you, I would answer with an enthusiastic "swimmingly".

Well, I did get around to doing two out of those four things, but unfortunately, school work, choir practises, and work shifts seem to eat up the rest of the sunny hours. The beginning of spring is a very busy time at University, and the way I get involved, I seem to make it all the busier.

Not only is the weather getting warmer and nicer, but many music shows and music students' honours exams are happening now. The past few weeks, I have managed to see at least one, if no two shows, per weekend. They all have been exceptionally well done. This Sunday night, I am seeing curly red-haired Emily perform, and then I will have seen all the House of Love's music talent. And let us not forget the receptions that follow the shows, which usually contain a plentiful spread of fancy and old cheeses; it is always a nice way to finish the evening. I must say, this is one of my favourite choices of evening entertainment. A night at the theater or a night at a music show? What lovely things to choose from! Of course, there are other things that are on par with such cultured entertainment, such as camping, canoeing, cycling, soccer, hiking, walking, but those activities always depend on the weather.

I don't think I can stress enough how much I enjoy the changing of seasons; I enjoy winter to spring, summer to fall, and fall to winter, in order of season-changing preference. For some reason, I don't count spring to summer as a change in seasons, even though I suppose it is. I just think of it as something that just comes so slowly and unobtrusively, so it never really enters my mind.

Under the clear, bright skies, countless students were seen outside today, throwing around a frisbee, playing guitar, lying on the grass, and chucking a ball around, giving me the sudden urge to play catch. It made me wonder if my brother still has the two old mitts lying around...

I hope Bab will be pleased to hear that I am anxious to get my bike out and running again. I am sure, however, that he is way ahead of me on this one.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A force to be reckoned with

Ever since joining the choir, I have learned that there is a lot more to it than just singing and listening. Our choir, like many other groups and organizations, suffer from "The Politics". I always thought it was a bad use of the word "politics" when it came to describing the little and unsaid stuff, but specifically the underlying feuds or grudges in groups. Even in our theatre group back at home, there are tons of politics. In fact, it looks like the group has somewhat split into two, which has resulted in the "Bad, unorganized, and messy group", and the "talented, hard-working, and money-making group". Of course, I am part of the latter, but, of course, who knows what the other side thinks. Unfortunately, I am biased.

Anyway, I digress.

I am mostly familiar with the politics within the Soprano group, as I am one of them. I am not one to stir up politics, especially because I joined late and am not a music major and thus not comfortable taking the lead and forming catty groups; I am not on my turf. It makes a difference.
Either way, I am not inclined to stir up anything anyway.
There is an unwritten rule within the Soprano group that many of the prima donna fourth years have reserved front seats. This rule carries over to the choir show placement, as they are mostly all in the front. That doesn't bother me, though. I'm not endeavouring to be the star of the show here. In fact, I think most of them who are in front should be in front because of their exceptional voice and stage presence. Naturally, this cannot be said about everyone who has won their front seat, but I think the majority deserve to shine.

Now, enough positiveness. What I hate, what makes me shake with rage, what makes my blood boil as hot as the lava in the Aladdin movie is a petite, 50 something year old who is in the Sopranos. Besides her frame, there is nothing else petite about her; she is irritating, annoying, and has an extremely terrible voice. Her voice is enough to make you think a fire alarm got set off; if you compared her voice to Oskar Mazareth's shriek in Die Blechtrommel, you would swear that Oskar has the voice of an angel.

She tries to be chummy-chummy with the rest of us, whilst at the same time trying to show us how much better she is. She enjoys interrupting the choir, pointing something out to the choir director that we did wrong; we then sing it again, for her sake, and she messes it up. What kind of woman tries immaturely to show up a bunch of 20 somethings? She's one of a kind, I tell you.

So, now you must ask yourself the question: how on earth did this woman get into the choir? Simple, her husband is a professor at the University. It is for this sole reason that she feels that she is da bomb. She doesn't seem to do her own thing or have her own life because she is always here, hanging out with her husband. She's doesn't even work here.

And that brings me back to the politics. Her and her husband have a fued between another couple who work at the University. He is also a music professor, and she helps out with the choir. Of course, both wives started the feud for who knows what reason, and then the poor husbands got schlepped along and now must be on their wives side. Apparently, it causes some animosity in the music department, and a few students have said that it causes problems.

Because wife number two helps out in our choir, she was in charge of the seating placement for the choir show. Even though shrieky wife is shorter than I am, she was put in the very last row. This puts a smile on my face.
It is true, though, that I do not care much for either couple. But if the two couples were ever to fight and draw in the students with them, I would easily jump on the non-shrieky couple bandwagon and enjoy the pleasant and probably a more peaceful ride.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

An Ode to German

Taking advantage of the free music shows that Bandeen Hall at Bishop's offers, Andrea and I have been lately spending our Friday and sometimes Saturday nights at the Hall, soaking in the classical music.

Tonight, we attended the honours voice performance of a voice major, Rachael. I know her from drama (as she used to be a double major) and through other friends. She has an outstanding voice, and her range is incredible. She picked Mozart, Schubert, Puccini and some more modern guy (as in, he's not dead yet). She has exceptionally good stage presence, and you can tell that she's into the music and that she feels it. Even though we may not understand the words, we can sense what she is singing about just in the way she sings and moves. I especially enjoyed her Schubert pieces; they were the most exciting and the most inspiring to me, actually inducing goosebumps a few times!

I've also noticed that I've been enjoying the German language more and more these days. I mean, I've heard it all of of my life, but I realize that German in music and musical theatre is simply breathtaking. German is perceive as a harsh language whereas Italian is traditionally the beautiful one, made for operas and music. But, I find there is something with German that makes it all the more poignant and awe-strucking when sung. It seems like a more "real" language, something more touching and more humanity driven, whilst Italian seems to be more floaty and angelic to me. I feel German has real soul to it.

It could possibly be owning to the fact that I understand some German and that I can identify more with it; however, I think most has to do with the sound. As beautiful as Italian may sound, it seems like it has less personality, if you will, to it. I feel that German, really just the sound of it, can express moods and emotions wonderfully, whether it be utmost happiness or feelings of suicide. It is versatile, it can grasp life's trials and tribulations, and it inspires and strikes me when sung.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A blend of Germany and Poland

I had a dream last night that I went to Germany with a few other people. The people that I remember the most in my dream were Adam and Lina, a couple who are in my German class. Anyway, we were all staying in this house that was actually called a "cabin" that my Polish host father had. I kept getting confused whether we were in Germany or in Poland because our German "cabin" looked a lot like my host father's house. The rooms were tiny (even smaller than the real house), and I remember all crowding around this tiny kitchen table to eat whilst Adam was in bed. He was sick for the entirety of our stay, so he had to stay in bed.

It seemed like this dream was entirely focussed on confusion. My host father would speak bad German and then fast Polish, and I would get super confused. I was told that this "cabin" was near a big German city, but then I was sure that we were only near the small town, Stoszowice, in Poland. Lina and I, as well as perhaps Olya, all wanted to go and explore this big city, but I got the impression that we were in Poland and that the big city was a bus ride away. After being told again that we were indeed in Germany and not in Poland (despite the landscape looking very familiar to me), I asked how close we were to the German border. My host father either said 45 or 54 kilometres but because German says the second number first when saying a two-digit number and because I never knew if he was speaking German or Polish, I really had no idea how far we were. I figured it must be 45 kilometres because it is a more rounded number, and people are less likely to say 54. Ultimately, it didn't matter because I was confused enough as it was. It was also frustrating, in a way, because I understand most German spoken, and I could barely understand a word he was saying. I wasn't sure if he was saying every second word in Polish or something, but that could have very well been the case.

Adam continued being sick. I have a distinct image of him in this bed right beside the kitchen table, him talking in a raspy voice and having a red nose. I remember seeing and eating the same kind of food that I ate at home in Poland. We kept talking about going to "a German store", but we never did. Maybe it was because we were in Poland? Or in limbo? Or in this weird place that fused Germany and Poland together?

I was debating whether or not telling Adam and Lina about this dream this morning. I don't know them that well -- I would categorize them as acquaintances -- so it was probably a good idea that I didn't.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Rolling Stones' Castigation

It's strange that the United States has no trouble participating in wars, seeing countless scenes of violence on television, but yet some of the country can't stomach certain "bad" words in a rock song. The Rolling Stones played at half-time at this year's Superbowl, and they were told by the National Football League officals that they had to censure the songs "Start Me Up" and "Rough Justice" because apparently some of the lyrics were "too sexually explicit" (what is exactly too explicit?) to be broadcasted. The Stones first did agree to censure those songs but then decided later that it was "completely unnecessary" to cut the lyrics to those songs. So, what were the officials forced to do? Well, cut the sound during those "unappriopriate" lyrics. Maybe that's why the sound was so crappy for the duration of their short concert.
The cut lyrics to "Start Me Up" were You'd make a dead man cum while the cut lyrics from "Rough Justice" were: Once upon a time I was your little red rooster/now I'm just one of your cocks. You can read about it here.

So, the words are a little racy; so what? First of all, if the League couldn't handle this kind of language that they knew in advance existed in some of the Rolling Stones' songs, then why hire them in the first place? Why hire them and then ask them to cut out some of their lyrics? Yes, the Stones did initially agree to censure the words and then went back on their word, but come on, why the big kerfuffle? I don't understand why people would think it was unappropriate, especially since they knew in advance that it would be the rock 'n' roll band, the Stones, playing, not Sharon, Lois, and Bram. So, yes, if the children's singing trio had used words like cum and cock, then maybe that would shock people. But these are the Stones we're talking about, and if you simply cannot handle them, don't hire them. Besides, it's not like the Stones have extremely good diction when they sing and we can hear every word so clearly... no, sometimes their lyrics are hard to understand, and I bet most people didn't know those lyrics even existed (even after hearing the song many times before).

Some people!
I think I need a hot chocolate.

Friday, March 17, 2006



This word does not sit well with many young people. It's strange because when you think about it, we censore things all the time.

I, for instance, am not taking the liberty to write everything that I think of on this blog: I am being selective. Sure, there are things that I just wouldn't write because it isn't of interest (which is a kind of censorship in itself), but there are also those things that I don't write because I know that it isn't "appropriate" for some of my readers (read: that I don't want some people to see). Also, I do not write anything that is very personal to either my friends or I. I know that all sorts of people read this, or so I like to believe, so I will just not write some things.

Also, when we speak, perhaps we won't always say what we have on our minds, depending on whom we are talking to. There are some things that I will only say to a specific friend and not to an acquaintance, for instance. It's a kind of self-centorship. Perhaps you'd be more inclined to call it "tact" or "common sense", but I've realized that common sense can't just be thrown out there as a blanket term. Common sense, unfortunately, cannot be used to really designate anything. Sometimes I wish I could say, "Just use your common sense", and then that person would act accordingly, and you would know what to expect. Ah, but as fate and the differences in humanity would have it, the meaning of common sense varies from person to person. Some people's common sense tells them one thing, other people's common sense tells them something else, and some people seem to have left common sense in the womb. It's too bad really.

Of course, there is also the "other" kind of censorship, the "real" kind that bans books, controls media, and prevents certain actions. We may not have the same kind of censorship that other countries are subjected to, but certainly there is much in Canada that is censured. It is quite ridiculous when you hear of books and movies deemed either "unappropriate" or "obscene" because what the heck does that mean? Who is to judge what is either of those terms? I think I know the answer: a small group of people. Custom officers have the liberty to censore things coming into the country and deem them "unappropriate" for Canada, and these small groups of people have equally the same amount of power.

I guess I am to assume that our country is filled with a bunch of brainless idiots because why on earth do we need special people (who knows what kind of people they are) deciding whether or not I can watch The Tin Drum, for instance? Why do other people decide for me what is morally right or too obscene for me?

I suppose it's because of the same reason that some things on the news and in newspapers are "just not said". It's a kind of censorship that allows certain higher people to control us, control us to some extent of what we think and what to do. But anyway, I don't want to get into that.

There are some things that are censured that I just don't understand. I think books can be written about virtually anything, disgusting and all, because first of all, it's a book, not real people doing it to each other (perhaps "based on a true story" would bring about other problems, though), and second of all, you can decide not to read it! Yes! You can tell yourself that you won't read this book because of its horrendous content. There. You've just censured yourself from not reading it, and you can now walk away, buy some raspberries, and pick up a Margaret Atwood read (if you are so inclined, yikes).

It was just in the 1960s that Lady Chatterley's Lover was put back on the shelves, after being highly controversial and banned for years, no longer deemed hazardous for English readers. Because it had some "naughty" language in it and was all about the physical part of sex being so wonderful between a bourgeois woman and a peasant man, no less, the book was definitely gasp worthy, and the general public could not, under any circumstances, subject themselves to such a horrible read! Yup, that's what we were told by who knows who. When Lady Chatterley's Lover was written, the clergy had a stronger hold on society, so they probably had a lot to do with it. These days, it is rarely our elected government who decides these things; it is that small group of appointed people.

I say if people want to write obscene things or if they want to make the most disgusting porn films, then be my guest. I don't need other people to ban a movie that involves sex between a person and an animal and say it is "unappropriate" and "wrong"; I can decide myself not to watch it. We should all be able to decide ourselves what we want to see or not. But what about the children? The children?! Well, keep sex stuff away from them until they hit the wonderful age of 17, and then you can give them the Joy of Sex book for their birthday.

Child pornography, however, is a touchy issue because there are so many laws in our society surrounding it. It's really hard to determine what we can say about that. Of course, we all can agree that consent should be involved, but who is to judge if a child is old enough to make that decision?
I'm not saying that we should adopt the notion about kids in Brave New World, but maybe looking at it will make us think a little more and most likely bring us back to square one...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

New Photos

Check out my latest Reading Break pictures at Zaz's positives: aisle 4, and do let me know if they tickle your fancy.

No day but today

About a month after coming back from Poland, I headed off to Nova Scotia. Although most of my time was spent in Halifax, I did get a chance to spend a weekend at my aunt and uncle's house. Sunday morning found us at their United Church; my cousin was playing flute at the service, so we all went to watch her.

I remember a lot of specifics from this visit, probably owning to the fact that I kept a very detailed diary during that time; however, what really stuck in my head from that weekend, and not only on paper, was the minister's sermon.

The minister was this large, jolly looking woman who wore colourful clothing, an inviting smile, and, of course, the unmistakable white collar. This was one of the most laid-back and liberal churches I have ever been in, and she personified the general feeling of the church.

Her sermon was about our busy North American lives. North Americans work long hours, manage a house, a family, often do extra activities, and we just never seem to have enough time. You hear people complaining all the time as to how little time they have and how they would love to have more time. Our society is very fast-paced, people want instant gratification, and the saying that "patience is a virtue" is perhaps heard but definitely not seen.

She talked about how important and how rewarding it is when we slow down and take things at a slower and perhaps a more comfortable pace. We're sometimes move so fast that we hardly have the time to smell the flowers, let alone live life. She said that our lives may seem out of our control at times, as we don't seem to have any hold on how fast things are moving. As hard as it may be, she deemed it important that we slow down, smell those flowers, eat slowly, and spend time leisurely with people we want. What is life, she asked, if it just passes you by?

This sermon was of particular interest for me considering I had just come back from Poland. Rural Poland is a world of a difference from fast-paced North American lives. Think of your life as a car going 100 km/h on the highway. When you take an exit, you slow down to fifty or sixty or so, and you really feel the slowness because you've been going so fast for so long. That's how it felt like.
Everything seemed to be moving at such a slower pace. It was very nice in many ways, people would sit around, talk, laugh a little, remember... But, after awhile, one gets tired of that. People had often little motivation or desire to do some things. I found that there was a general feeling of lethargy that just wouldn't go away. Unemployment was high; over 30 percent of the population was jobless, so there was plenty of room for restlessness and frustration.

This did not affect me as much as the rural community in which we were staying, as I was on a program which generally did its own thing. Although, because we worked within the community, we could definitely feel the slow and drawn-out atmosphere. This leisurely pace of life sauntered along and felt relaxed but it also, at the same time, felt painstakingly slow.

It was a very odd thing to adapt to. All of a sudden, very few things seemed rushed, which was such a turn from my normal life.

So, returning home after the program, I was submersed back our busy way of life. I actually had been craving being busy and on-the-move for quite a while now. I was eager to get going.
Personally, I prefer being busy. I prefer having something almost constantly on the go, and I find that I can do a lot more with my time when I actually have a lot to do.

But ultimately, I think there needs to be a balance in one's pace of life. It can't go so fast that it passes you by, but it also can't move at a snail's pace. I suppose things like this often can't be helped in societies. Ideally, people here should work less and have more time to themselves. It would give them a better and more sound grasp on their lives.
On the flip side, there is high unemployment, which is a more difficult thing to fix. However, taking into consideration Poland's joining of the European Union, rural Poland may soon be on an upswing.

Here is an excerpt from La Scouine, a novel that takes place in 1918 Québec. It was censured by the Catholic clergy because of its negative and sombre approach to religious life in the country, which the clergy incessantly preached to be the best kind of life:

"Comme à la campagne, ils s'éveillent le matin au point du jour, mais comme ils n'ont rien à faire, ils attendent encore dans leur lit jusqu'à six heures, alors que la cloche de l'hospice à la voix lente, triste et voilée, tinte mélancoliquement et les fait sortir de leur couche. Ils se lèvent en même temps que les vieux et les orphelins. Après avoir rôdé quelques temps dans l'habitation, ils se mettent à table sans faim. Ils voient les enfants jouer dans la cour sous l'oeil d'une soeur et les vieillards faire quelques pas et s'assoeir sur un banc. Monotone, interminable, s'écoule la journée" (135).

"[Charlot] s'éveillera sans but, sans occupation, en se demandant comment il pourra bien tuer le temps. C'est qu'il en sera ainsi toujours et toujours. Il a renoncé à la terre pour aller goûter le repos, la vie facile, et il n'a trouvé que l'ennui, un ennui motel, dévorant. Il ne vit pas; il attend la mort" (142).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"And" shouldn't start a sentence

And it was my grandmother who gave us the book "Sex Talk". Well, I hope it's not as weird as it sounds, considering she does not let my mother leave her apartment empty-handed. She always has to stock her up with who knows what. Besides, my grandmother volunteers at a library.

So, it is back into the grind after my blissful reading break. Granted, I did not go out of my usual Québec and Ontario radius, but I still had quite good time. I think it has been ages since I have been that relaxed. I greatly enjoyed the moments I spent sitting by the fire, reading my book, writing ideas and thoughts on loose pieces of paper, and slurping hot chocolate. Although, it was awfully shameful that one day I slept in until 1:47 pm, I did savour my numerous late mornings.

That being said, I also did some skating (on a pond, as well as on the canal), as well as a night of downhill skiing. Albeit the dire cold, the wind, and the bump on my eyeball as a result for not wearing goggles, the skiing was rather fun. Baba and I tackled the intermediate hill, and after three tries, I could ski down the hill without losing control and barrelling down the hill at ridiculous speeds.

I took a few good ski pictures, which will be up on Aisle Four soon.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Timely Decision

Perhaps it isn't a cause for a large celebration, but it certainly deserves a good pat on the back.

It has been nearly three months that I have been without a watch. Ever since my crisis in the library, I have realized as to how dependent I really was on my watch. It was very difficult at first, what with looking at my naked wrist every minute or so and being unsettled realizing every time that I indeed did not have a watch and that I did not know the exact time.

Once I got accustomed to being without a watch, I realized what a world better it is. I get the regular thumbs up from Tex and Andrea, telling me how good it is for me to be without a watch. Ah, I speak as though it were a drug! Whenever someone asks me for the time and when realizing that I do not know, they usually say, "I thought you always had a watch." Andrea usually answers for me with, "Not anymore, Miranda's free now." Yup, that's me; free!

But I must admit, not having a watch is somewhat a weight off of my shoulders. I'll confess now, for years, I have been trapped in the shackles of time. Not having a watch has released me from time's grasp because I cannot always know the time. Of course, there have been the few times that having a watch would have been useful, but even in those instances, it wasn't really a necessity. I have learned to look for pay phones, clocks in restaurants, and large town clocks. I prefer to rely on other clocks rather than my own watch because outside sources of time are harder to become obsessed about. It is actually more relaxing being without a watch.

And now, in light of a new book that our family has acquired, Sex Talk, I have decided to post a few quotes said by a few famous people:

"Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn't." -- George Bernard Shaw

"What can you say about a society that say God is dead and Elvis is alive?" -- Irv Kupcinet

"Sex is a wonderful thing shared between two people, but between five people, it's fantastic." -- Woody Allen

"It's just as Christian to get down on your knees for sex as it is for religion." -- Larry Flynt

And on virtue...

"Rare are those who prefer virtue to the pleasure of sex." -- Confucius