I feel like I blinked and missed out on this whole week. Or perhaps I just haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I’d like to. Whatever it is, I’m making inroads in my battle with the writer’s block I’ve been writing about for the last two weeks. I’m not convinced it’s over yet, but there are ideas worth considering beginning to slide back into my head, and that thought is buoyed by Adam’s comment during a phone call this morning that the story I was telling him should actually be a book. He was right that writing about the writer’s block would let me break through and start writing again (he didn’t mean that I should write an entire essay about writer’s block… just that in order to stop stressing about the process of writing and just get back to the actual writing. I did get back to writing… but not until after traipsing through my thoughts on writer’s block.)
I also had the rather incomprehensible experience of realizing I’d probably written somewhere around 10,000 words already this month and am likely to write somewhere between another 10 and 20,000 by the end of the month. That’s not counting things like Facebook/Twitter/email, or any work on non-blogging projects. To keep me company while I write all those words, I’ve been confusing the algorithm on YouTube Music again. Back again to Brandenburg Concertos (although not the usual recording that I go to online,) along with a little Paganini, the Gossec Gavotte and Dvořák’s Humoresque. There’s also been a lot of revisiting the (non-classical) music of my own adolescence. Crash Test Dummies, Suzanne Vega, Indigo Girls, Aimee Mann, lots of REM. I found myself particularly thinking of this Edie Brickell song though, and about managing the expectations of others while still honoring myself.
I finished watching the new season of Big Mouth this week. For the first time, anyway. Now that I’ve watched the whole thing, I’ll go back and watch it again, I’m sure, and not binge it this time. I’m looking forward to the premier of the spinoff “Human Resources,” and I’m sure I’ll give the entire series yet-another-viewing just before the premier. If only they would announce the date already!
YouTube this week has entertained me with a slate of various social hygiene films. I found my love of these short films as a viewer of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and I still find them enjoyable. This one circa 1961 from Sid Davis about the dangers of homosexuality is one I’ve seen many times.
I’m still buried in WordPress documentation, but when I look up from that, there’s still plenty to read. There was a fantastic post on the Substack “A Drop of Blood Like Mustard” which discusses traditional laws surrounding niddah (Jewish ritual purity surrounding menstruation) in a contemporary context with queer/feminist voices and lived experiences. I’ve also unfortunately been reading a lot of articles relating to sexual assault. Alyssa Milano’s article about childbirth as an assault survivor reminded me of many of the things I worried about (and of yet another time I had to have the uncomfortable conversation about my own experience with rape,) when I was preparing to give birth to my own children. The poor handling of things at Liberty University and in Charlotte NC (and in other school districts across the USA) have also been on my mind. If you’re as angry as I am about those kinds of articles, you might like this one, which talks about how we need to reframe our thinking and conversations about sexual assault.
I’ve been captivated by the tale of two Dutch politicians, Rob Jetten and Jesse Klaver who look at each other the way peanut butter looks at chocolate. They’ve been a part of both watching and reading this week. This TikTok video is a good example. There’s also a ton of fanfic here and here too about them, which has just been fun to read–even the poorly written stuff. The whole thing has made me glad that I speak both English and German, which enables me to puzzle out a lot of Dutch, even though I don’t actually speak any Dutch.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I had a little back and forth chat with Ben Yehuda Press (home of the Jewish Poetry Project) this week. They mentioned in their Twitter feed that their book Monologues from the Makom: Intertwined Narratives of Sexuality, Gender, Body Image and Jewish Identity was on sale, and so I snapped up a copy, because I’m that kind of book nerd. The $4.12 I spent on the book was definitely well spent. In fact, it would be worth it to me to spend more than that on the book. While I’ve read some pieces several times, the one I keep going back to most often has been a piece called “I…I’m Sorry” by Jina Davidovich, which concludes with the lines:
But what did you expect when you made me the mother of all living things?
Living things need to moan
To take pleasure in the rise and fall of our breasts
To feel fireworks explode like orgasms in our minds.
To live under the yoke of apology
Could this be what God intended when
She made this body in Her image?
So I must go.
Leaving a life filled with I’m sorrys.
Maybe one day they will become stars
In a galaxy
Where each woman is a master over
More than a garden of apologies.
There’s someone who has been on my case to stop apologizing for certain things and to start taking up space… and this poem kind of got into that same space in my head. Good thoughts for me to meditate on over the weekend and while I work on preparing for the launch of our new project. (FYI- I bought my copy of the book and have not been compensated in any way by Ben Yehuda Press for the review.)
I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about Tchaikovsky. It’s weird how the Wikipedia article on someone is often a really good place to start (I’ve become a donor recently; it seemed the thing to do). In this case, it clarified something for me that I’ve been confused about.
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 has this amazing, dramatic opening statement. You’d probably remember the melody if you heard it. The thing is, a sonata doesn’t just present a melody. It stretches it, bends it, manipulates it, plays it again but higher or lower, or with different rhythms. So typically, the first melody you hear in a piano concerto–or any piece written in sonata form–comes back in different forms throughout the movement. But this one doesn’t. It serves as an extended introduction (we hear it maybe three times in succession, interrupted by runs and other showoff-y passages on the piano) and then we hear a few echoes of it later in the piece. It’s truly weird. No other concerto I know of works this way. Anyway, I finally found out why, and it was as simple as reading the aforementioned Wikipedia page.
You see, Tchaikovsky was among the first professional composers in Russia. Previously, Russian musicians had gone elsewhere to study and often to perform. Russian nobility would import composers and performers all the time for special appearances, and there were folksong traditions and amateurs and the church, but there were no conservatories and no full-time Russian composers. Tchaikovsky may have come to fame later than some well-known names–Aleksandr Borodin, for example, and even Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, four years Tchaikovsky’s junior–but Tchaikovsky was the first of his generation, to work full-time as a composer, and one of the first full stop. All of the others had day-jobs, and Tchaikovsky was the only one to be conservatory-educated. Anyway, there was a controversy at the time. Tchaikovsky agreed with the other Russian composers that Russian folksong should be an important influence on the new Russian classical music. But Tchaikovsky also wanted to write in European forms–Sonata form, in particular–which the others scorned. And it turns out that those long, sensuous folk-melodies (of the kind Tchaikovsky has remained famous for both borrowing and composing) are really difficult to adapt to the sonata form. So it’s possible that the first movement of the first Piano Concerto was one possible solution to this problem: write a long, sensuous melody… and then get on with the sonata form, starting with new melodies that are more conducive to the kinds of rhythmic and tonal manipulations typical to a sonata.
I’ve also been rewatching The Dragon Prince. I’m not sure how popular this position is but I really like the show. I like the different sides of the characters. Nobody’s all one thing. Viren is powerhungry and manipulative… but he seems to believe he’s doing it all for the greater good of humanity. Claudia is cute and silly and like dumb jokes… but she’s perfectly cold-blooded when it comes to killing innocent creatures and juicing them of their magic like oranges. I also like that the governments are organized into monarchical systems, but there might be 2 queens on the throne. Or a mixed race couple. The show doesn’t shy away from representation.
Anyway, still reading Dune. It’s very good. But what I’m looking at this time around is how it sucks the reader into its world. The author has this amazing gift for writing characters. Each one feels like a more-or-less real person, and each one acts as you’d expect, given the situation. And of course the world feels lived-in, perhaps even more so than Tolkien’s world, and without inundating the reader with constructed languages.
Adam and Erika are leaving at the end of the month. Make sure to follow us to 2RulesOfWriting.com as soon as it’s operational for more hot-takes on culture, old and new.