The latest in strange illnesses to hit my house

I woke up last Wednesday with a stiff neck. I went to work, and it just kept getting stiffer and more uncomfortable. I did some ibuprofen loading and that took the edge off - when I got home, I took a Vicodin, and that really helped.

But it was back on Thursday. And Friday, when I called in sick. Now, not only was my neck stiff, but it hurt to swallow, my glands in my throat were swollen, I could feel a sinus infection starting on the right side of my face and my right ear was itchy.

I've had it every day since last Wednesday. It has eased up a bit today, and I went to my sister's house to exchange Xmas gifts and told her about it. And she said she had the exact same thing about 2 weeks ago. If it doesn't clear up by this Wednesday, I'll have to see if I can get in to see my ENT.


Fans of Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber:

Loki is writing something based on the Amber books. Please visit his blog for excerpts, like this one.

Feeling Blue

My mood today is switching between crankiness and melancholy.

I knew this Christmas was not going to be perfect, but it ended up being much farther away from perfect than I expected. Two friends died in the week before Xmas. Loki has some health issues that are going to take some time to resolve, and in the meantime, he's driving me a little crazy over both his health issues and some other things. I was overscheduled due to my three jobs and school. And our budget is so tight that there is little margin for wastefulness, but we, of course, had an unexpected and unwanted $400 expense.

In addition, I am sort of in a bind with taking time off from work. I'm feeling really overwhelmed, and I think I need to take some time off, but because I'm just a lowly admin asst (title-wise and pay-wise only: responsiblity-wise, I am way beyond admin asst), I can't take time off without coordinating with my fellow admin assts - and they are both out for the rest of the week. So I'm stuck here.

And I have a sort of overarching unpleasant feeling lurking inside me. I have a lot of things that I have to figure out, and way too many demands on my time that I should take to do so.

I kind of feel like checking into a hotel room for a day, just to be by myself, just me and my thoughts.


I'm devolving

I'm a
Insignificant Microbe
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Jeez, and earlier today I was a Slithering Reptile!

ETA: And now I'm a Marauding Marsupial. I went from being ranked 21,000+ to being ranked 6040.

I'm not sure I trust these rankings!

Cat or meerkat?

This was the second time I caught Madouc sitting like this. Something caught her eye outside, and she couldn't quite see high enough, so up she popped. She sat like this for about 5 minutes, occasionally stretching up even higher. She's a funny cat.

Our Christmas Tree

Completely decorated by my children. I almost posted another picture that allows you to see the disco ball star on top a little bit better, but this one won out for clarity.


Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Although I had read that the movie was a fairly straightforward adaptation of the original musical, Tim Burton made the choice that the actors would sing without reaction from anyone they interacted with (unless the other character was also singing). I think that is probably a good choice to make for a film of this material, but I was disappointed to lose the chorus numbers, like The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, God That's Good, and the haunting quintet on The Letter.

I also was slightly disappointed that they truncated some of the numbers, like By The Sea, although again, I can justify the decision to do so because the reason some of those songs are included at the length they are in the stage show in the first place is to accommodate set and costume changes, which were unnecessary for a film. I can't say that I missed the lover's frantic duet or the extended version of Pirelli's Miracle Elixir.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter both delivered very good performances, acting-wise. One complaint that I've had at various productions of Sweeney Todd is when Mrs. Lovett is turned into some kind of sex maniac. Yes, Mrs. Lovett desires Sweeney, but it's all delusional: she desires a man who doesn't exist - she imagines some sort of normal life for them, but Sweeney is broken, possibly irreparably, before he ever walks into her meat shop. They avoided going down that road in the film.

I thought Alan Rickman was quite good in his role as Judge Turpin. He's a sick man, a predator and capable of great cruelty, and yet sees himself as a trully moral man - he has that kind of self-delusion that a lot of powerful people seem to have.

Sascha Baron Cohen provided both comic relief and some menace as Pirelli. Ed Saunders was Toby, and I'm not sure they could have cast the part more perfectly. He had a baby face and that sweet unchanged voice, but also deftly portrayed that Toby had experienced a hard life and didn't have high expectations for the future.

The story of the lovers got short shrift in the film, which I think was a good choice. Jayne Wisener as Joanna looked like a doll, but as in the stage show, she is less naive than her would-be lover, Anthony Hope. I thought Jamie Bower's voice was a little thin and reedy for the part, but when he sang in the Joanna reprise, I could understand a little better why they cast him, since his thin and reedy voice made Depp's sound positively beefy.

No one else I was with noticed, but there was a cameo by Anthony Stewart Head (causing me to squee: GILES! Although only silently, because I am respectful of others at the movies). Which makes me disappointed that they didn't have him sing anything.

On to the singing! My main complaint about Depp's singing is that too often, he closed the vowel, e.g. "I will have vennnngeance" instead of "I will have veeeengeance", which is sort of a general no-no when singing in a non-rock/non-pop style. That wasn't enough to detract from what was overall a terrific perfomance. He captured the emotional resonance of the character so well.

Bonham-Carter had fairly poor breath support - there was a lot of swooping to the right pitch, and breathiness, and she didn't really hold anything out, but her voice had a sweet clear tone. She did handle the patter of Mrs. Lovett's songs well, and I could understand every word.

I was underwhelmed by the presentation of A Little Priest. Although the choices Burton made can be defended, I didn't feel exhilarated at the end, as I usually do. I did like the nod to the blocking of the original production, though, with Todd and Lovett holding up their "weapons": a butcher's knife and a rolling pin. I would have preferred a more vigorous presentation, but I didn't direct the movie, so all I can do is tell you that in my head, it's a lot more exciting of a number.

The orchestrations were great - they are reason enough to buy the soundtrack. The songs and chorus parts that were cut are in the orchestration, so if you are anything like me, you'll sing along where the movie does not.

All in all, it was a worthwhile adaptation of what is possibly my favorite musical. Not perfect, but very good.


Need a laugh?

I recommend McSweeney's Reviews of New Food

A taste:

Gatorade A.M.

Submitted by Chris Olwell

The bottle says Gatorade A.M. helps put back the fluids and energy you lose during a full night's sleep, to which I reply: "It's about time." Finally, someone has engineered an athletic drink for people like me, Athletes of Sleep—people for whom it is less physically taxing to be awake than asleep.

I had to try it. So recently, after a thoroughly exhausting night of sleeping, I woke up with orange-strawberry. I quickly regained all the energy I lost by sleeping so hard.

Sleeping like I do drains fluids from the human body at an astonishing rate. But after drinking 20 ounces of Gatorade A.M., I had fluids to spare. I peed three times in three hours! Four times in four hours! I, and the scientists of the world, remain confounded by the fact that any one of those pees would've filled two 20-ounce Gatorade bottles. Easily.

Plus, Gatorade A.M. also works in the afternoon and early evening if that's when you wake up. A-fucking-mazing.


The Late Al Rawlins

My friend Al Rawlins died yesterday morning.

I met him in 2000, when I started singing in the church choir in Hartford. He was a bass in the choir. He also taught music in the Hartford school system and at the church, where he was Monkey's first music teacher.

Al reminded me of my husband in so many ways. They are both tall and thin, they both are great conversationalists, and neither one of them are ever on time.

At Thursday night rehearsals, he would routinely show up 20-25 minutes after rehearsal started. Sunday mornings, we often wouldn't see him until just before the service started. At our concerts, we would always have to wait for Al before we could "melt" into place (it was our way: we are a choir that hates processing, so we would just go to our seats in the minutes leading up to the concert start time, in no particular order.)

We had a Pops concert every spring, and the year we were singing songs from Disney movies, no one could find Al. We were all in our seats, and there was no Al. All of a sudden, he came running into the room, dressed as the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, singing "I'm Late". The audience loved it, but I think the choir loved it even more.

R.I.P. Al


How Can I Keep From Singing?

Well, this has been a big fat week of singing for me, and it's not over yet.

MONDAY: first rehearsal with Harmonious Soul. I was late, which makes me angry, but I do have an excuse. My dog got out of the house while I was at work and he got picked up by the pound, so I had to go bail him out of jail. Poor guy was hoarse from barking, and he lost his collar somewhere, but he's home and warm and safe and well-fed. I am only sad that I couldn't bring home the other dogs, but Loki is not a dog person, so I couldn't bring another canine home *and* stay married.

Okay, so I was a little late, but I apparently missed some socializing. They are a lovely bunch of women, they were so welcoming and I felt appreciated. When I say lovely, I am just scratching the surface. I can't tell you the last time I sat with a group of women I just met and thought "I fit here". So it was great. We worked on 3 songs (On Children; First Date; Ave Maria), got a CD of songs that are currently in the HS repertoire, made a decision about business cards, and then I had to head home.

TUESDAY: Dress rehearsal for Madrigals and Chorale. I cannot say enough wonderful things about my Madrigals teacher, he is just a fantastic teacher, and I wish we had enough skill in our class to sing the songs with the love and passion and ability they deserve. We are singing a gorgeous Vaughan Williams piece "The Lover's Ghost" and an arrangement of "Weep O Mine Eyes" by one of my classmates (who used to be one of Sio's classmates). Dress did not go well. Flat, lifeless....it was sad.

Then came Chorale dress rehearsal. We are singing (and I use that word loosely in this context) "For Unto Us" from The Messiah (or as this group sings it: foruntouSSS a chald is bohorn), Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella, Sanctus from Leonard Bernstein's Mass, and a horrible "gospelite" song that starts with a spoken word introduction that goes, roughly: "This is for that little boy who doesn't have a father, and all the people with AIDS...." Seriously. One of my fellow altos and I have been adding additional lines, like "and for that dog that got run over"

I got a little frustrated and totally took over directing the chorale during the Handel. I did hear some improvement from the men when it came to the rhythm of the "and the goverment..." section. I appreciate that our director allowed me to take the reins, she was frustrated herself, but I figure that when you have said the same thing 50 times, sometimes it helps to find another way to say it.

WEDNESDAY: Been listening to my HS CD....I love almost all the songs we're doing, but some of the bass lines will need to be spiced up, I think. My wonderful Mads teacher called for another rehearsal, so I picked Monkey up from school and she came with me. We made a lot of progress. We have two people in the group who don't have good tuning, that can't be helped at this point (it's supposed to be an audition only class, but they leave it open for people to apply...I hope they change that, because too much time is spent learning notes), but I think we won't embarrass our leader, either.

I'm giddy tonight because I don't have to work tomorrow or Friday! I'm kind of bummed, though, because we're supposed to get 6" of snow tomorrow.

Later in this singing week:

THURSDAY: Depending on the weather, I have rehearsal for my church gig, which is always slightly depressing.

FRIDAY: Sio comes home from school! And I have my school concert. Loki will come, because there is free food, put out by the culinary students. I don't know if he'll ever make it into the auditorium, but he'll be there.

P.S. The title of this post is a link to a piece of sheet music arranged by Sio's high school choral director. It's a beautiful a cappella piece, you can hear a sample performance at the link (the basses are a little too loud in the sample, but it gives you the general idea)

The lyrics are:

My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?



I'm with the band

I got it! I'm now a bass with Harmonious Soul.

what I'm listening to tonight

Wish the sound was better on this one. I can *almost* taste the deliciousness.

I love singing this arrangement


Although I'm not religious, I kind of love the imagery of Jesus Christ as an apple tree. It's so humble.

Hey, it's my friend Sarah! She probably weighs about 80 lbs. soaking wet, amazing voice, and as charming and delightful as she is as Despina on stage, that is but a pale imitation of Sarah as herself. Love her!


My giant head

A couple of posts down, I commented on the general largeness of my head.

Yesterday, I went to buy a new hat. My old earflap hat met an untimely end, so I needed a new one. I tried on several hats in the women's section, and none of them fit me. So I went to the men's section (where there is a greater selection of ear flap hats, since women should always be stylish, even if they have to suffer and freeze their ears off, while men can be warm and goofy looking), and tried on hats there.

My friends, the only size hat that fit me in the store was an EXTRA LARGE men's hat. It's very nice, wool tweed on the outside with a faux wool lining, but....EXTRA LARGE MEN'S.