Saturday, June 30, 2012

5 down, 5 to go.

I have been remiss in saying interesting things here. Pictures of storm wreckage are interesting, I suppose, but I do actually have some better things to talk about. It just never happens, because I hardly turn on my computer anymore, and I spend so little time in the house that I prefer to spend my free time doing stupid things like watching Netflix or HBO. I'm slightly worried that I've forgotten how to write in the last month or so, which could be a problem, considering I'll be teaching writing in the fall. It's more likely that—like so many other academic things—I need the summer completely *off* to recharge. I've had these two articles sitting in my pocket for weeks, both of which involve me writing something in a low-stakes setting, and I've been putting them both off. The first seems really cool, and would be something new for me. The Huffington Post has a section that allows folks like me to summarize our undergrad theses and make them publicly searchable on the site. Mine's already up on my academia.edu page, but it would be cool to make it even more available. On the other hand, it's not amazing. I'm proud of the work I did, and—given my life circumstances in the last year and a half—is the best I could have done, but it still could be a lot better. It's a jumping off point, and future long-term projects will be better. Right? That's the whole point of the thing, in my opinion. The second page in my pocket is a CFP from IASPM-US for blog posts on the subject "The First Time I Ever Heard... ." I have a topic in mind, and a month to sit down and actually formulate something. No big deal for a 1,000 word blog post. I've also written there before, so I feel good about my story/audience. I won't spoil it here until it's more formulated and written, though.

Anyway, I championed a few things this week, and I'm proud enough to post about them on my blog. Ready? Here they are:

  • Wearing my spinster sweater at work. If you know me, you unfortunately know this sweater. It's bulky, sort of a wrap-around, blue & gray, and horribly unattractive. Still, it's incredibly warm and comfortable, and I sit under an AC vent that seems determined to turn me into a human popsicle. I also work in a library, so I occasionally think it's fun to dress like a stereotypical old librarian. Nobody I work with dresses that way, but I wish someone would.
  • MS Publisher. I'm making a poster/banner/timeline *thing* of opera and American history since my birth. It's a bit gimmicky, but that's partially the point. I have absolutely no graphic design experience, so the poster isn't fancy, but it's almost done.
  • Finding ice cream near the library. This sounds trivial, but it was a big deal. The trick was to not look for ice cream itself, but to go to Good Stuff and order milkshakes. Why there's no standalone ice cream or froyo shop on Pennsylvania between 1st & 3rd SE is beyond me.
  • The office Keurig. I bought a box of k-cups, and I keep tea bags in my bag. Consistent hot drinks helps offset the tundra climate mentioned above.
I'm also working on championing this new part of my job, which is reporting manuscripts and transcriptions to RISM. RISM's OPAC is auf Deutsch, as is MGG, which is typically more comprehensive than Grove. My scores so far are old Italian operas (the cut-off date for this section of RISM is Beethoven; any composers born before B's birthday in 1770 count), so the manuscripts themselves are in Italiano, and I also reference sources en Français. I also spend time writing musical incipits with a special code that turns letters, numbers, and punctuation into something that looks like printed music (I hope). This is the perfect mix of being an intern and a musicologist; I do the tedious, never-been-done, detail-oriented work that needs to be done for research, but it has absolutely nothing to do with my own research (what research?). It's surprisingly rewarding, though. When I put in all the work for an opera that isn't listed in a catalog of the composer's works, it's tedious because I'm actually making note of the score, where it has been previously ignored. These works have been available in the library's catalog, an international database gets more attention (and is much more standardized, to be honest). So, my time at work is split between operas since my birth and operas by composers before the birth of Beethoven. It's cool, and not something I thought I'd be doing, but something that's pretty amazing. I can't believe this thing is already halfway over!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The micro-surge

On Friday night, I caught the 6:30 showing of Disney/Pixar's Brave. I could write about how it bothered me as a Pixar fan, a feminist, and a musicologist, but instead I'll tell you about what happened after the movie.

I caught the metro toward Glenmont at Gallery Place, and was one of maybe 5 people in the car. Odd for any human hour on the red line, but scarily lonely on a Friday evening. It moved slowly, especially north of New York avenue, but the metro is occasionally strange like that. I get off at Brookland and there are a lot of leaves on the ground. I walk down the road toward 10th street, and I see this tree down on the side of the road:


So I continue walking home, and I get to 12th street, and it's roped off as seen here:

Between 12th and 13th, some nice people outside tell me not to walk on the live electric wires that are down on the street. This happened after I saw this scene, a tree down across Otis:

The house didn't have power from 7pm Friday night through 7am this (Sunday) morning. The rest of the city was barely aware of a storm. We didn't make the news, and nobody I spoke to all weekend outside of my house had any experience with a storm except for a bit of rain and wind. I love it.

So...because of the weather mishap, I couldn't take down this prescriptive article about what a woman should want out of life and why she can't have it while I had the steam to write. Thankfully, others have.

I've also gotten back into reading fiction, which I haven't really done since high school. But that's for another post...

For now, I have the password to my parents' HBO Go account, and I am incredibly invested in these spoiled Brooklyn girls. And I need to find out what happens to Winston Smith with the Thought Police.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Week 3 from a bus

I'm currently on a bus from DC to NY, and I have a great wifi signal that just happens to block Netflix, which I excitedly reactivated a few days ago after almost a year without it. I already caught up on all my reading for the week, and I'm not ready to read an actual book yet (really, I'm just listening to great music and can't seriously read with music playing), so I'm blogging from my iPad on 95 somewhere in Maryland. Really...why not? I'm on the way home for a family party. It's nice, because I get to go home and see some family who I haven't seen in years, but it's a whole lot of time commuting for less than 24 hours in Mount Kisco.

The thing about working in the real world with regular hours is that I never know what day it is; when I have the same hours Monday through Friday, all weekdays basically seem the same. This week did have a few highlights worth remembering and sharing (besides frozen margaritas and sunflowers, which are a few of my favorite things but not really worth elaborating upon).

A fantastic result of knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time, I got an unofficial tour of the instrument vault at the library. I got up close and personal with lots of ridiculous old Italian instruments. I have no pictures, because I got pulled into the vault while I was in the middle of inventorying scores (best surprise in the middle of working, right?), but it was definitely an experience to remember!

DC has famously humid summers, but it's been so far tolerable. The one day this week that was particularly intolerable, however, was the one day I simply had to run. I'm a new and inexperienced runner, and this was the first time I ran over 2 miles straight without stopping to walk. It's a milestone for me, though it might be laughable for others. Still, I'm proud of myself.

Perhaps most relevant to the title of this blog, I went to Jazz in the Park yesterday at the National Sculpture Garden to hear a Dixieland band. It started at 5, but I didn't get there until closer to 5:30. The place was crowded when I got there, but just got crazier and crazier! It was amazing how many people were interested in Dixieland, or really just interested in sangria and cheese. Most of those people were in their 20s and 30s, white, wealthy, and trendy. By about 6:30, the sculpture garden was so packed that there wasn't actually room to walk around. It was a pretty interesting dynamic. The music was good, but the band took super long breaks. Still, it was a fun (and free) experience.

Well, I'm not enjoying typing so much on this thing, so I'll finish this up. More interesting things to come soon, perhaps!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Week 2 and Betty Friedan

I got my first mean blog comment on the last post. Does that mean I'm popular? Probably not...well, definitely not. I embarrassingly do want to become internet-famous, but it'll happen when/if it happens.

If it wasn't clear from last week's ramble, I really love DC. There isn't much time to stop and smell the roses, but that almost makes it seem like I'm always smelling them. There is always stuff to do, and it's almost always free. I will say that a "normal" 9–5 job is difficult and taxing in ways I didn't understand until I've started living it myself. My hours are 8:30–5, which puts me on the metro right in the middle of peak rush hour, both ways. Sometimes, I miss a relatively empty train by seconds only to wait for a completely packed one a few minutes later. Other times, I get lucky and end up on the quiet one. Getting to work for 8:30 means waking up at 6:15, which is something I certainly did not miss from high school days. Given the choice, my body would sleep from 11:30–8 every night, but it doesn't get the choice. Tough. It's also just difficult having the same schedule every day. I thought the regularity would be refreshing, but it makes the week feel a lot longer. It turns out I'm not as into routines as I thought I was. There's also the issue of the arctic office, but that seems pretty pervasive in this town.

Aside from the aforementioned grumblings, things are pretty great. My job is cool; it's one of those situations where things take a while to make sense, but they have clicked and I'm looking forward to doing this stuff for the next 8 weeks. Spoiler alert: it's a good thing I have a basic understanding of both the German and French languages. More on that as it gets more interesting than looking through a card catalog. The program is also really cool. I didn't realize until I saw this press release, but it's actually really selective and I'm very lucky to have been chosen to participate! On Tuesday, we had an optional day trip to Culpeper, Virginia, where recorded media gets archived. It was pretty amazing. There was absolutely nothing in the area except mountains and fields, but they were beautiful.

The work they do down in Culpeper is fascinating and the view is clearly beautiful. I should have taken some pictures of the building itself, which is very m(M?)odern and makes excellent use of natural light. I wouldn't trade my DC location for it, though...this place is tops. I've been hanging out a bit more in the DuPont circle area, and wishing I lived closer to it all. I'm on the red line, but way on the other side, on the east side of the loop. Being a straight shot from DuPont is convenient for things like the Capital Pride parade, when Planned Parenthood heads across P street with a giant condom held up by pink hula hoops on sticks.
unfortunate timing with the person in front of me, but you get the picture...
Some other cool stuff I've done since the last update? I explored used bookstores, saw a free dance show at the Kennedy Center, went to the spy museum, did a loop of the tidal basin to see the monuments, spent some time in Foggy Bottom by GWU (which I won't do again unless there's a very good reason to do so), and read books in parks and coffee shops.

Even with all the cool stuff I've been doing—patriotic, resistent, or neutral—I've been reading books just because I feel like reading them. Not having assignments, projects, or work to take home is pretty liberating. If I decide to read Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, I can request it (4 times...the first 3 failed) from the Library, and check it out to read at my leisure! (If you're keeping score, I already finished Jonah Lehrer's Imagine, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I'm also working on Mary Wollstonecraft's Frankenstein and George Orwell's 1984.) I can also sit there reading it, questioning how women could possibly grow up believing the things they did, and I can baffle at how much has changed in the fifty-year interim. I don't think I was ever once told—directly or indirectly—that my purpose in life was to find a husband and become a mother. I might do those things, or I might not, and the situational outcome doesn't validate or invalidate my femininity. Even better—if I don't do those things, my life won't suck because of it. Thanks, recent generations of feminists, for demanding and achieving personhood. Thanks to those who fought, in the streets or in their writings, I cannot process what it would feel like to not consider myself a full and capable person because of my sex or gender. I'm reading The Feminine Mystique to try to understand the phenomenon, and I'm really glad that it's something I'm learning from a book rather than from my environment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

DC week 1 wrap-up

I'm finally resting up for week 2, and realizing that I should get this on paper—well...um—before it all falls out of my brain. Let me first say that this summer experience is exactly what I need after breaking my back for the last 3 years (freshman year was mostly coasting, if I remember correctly). I'm the type of person who feels like being productive is the only way to be, and who fights that constantly. In the last 6 or 7 months, I've taken more time to not be productive, and my overall life quality has improved dramatically. Each time I have a moment of "hey, I'm having so much fun right now—wait, I should be doing x," I tell myself that I deserve the break. Plus, I'm doing good things, like walking the entire city and going to museums and concerts. Seriously, today I walked over 8 miles just in traveling distance—that doesn't include walking through the zoo or museums. My Birkenstocks are well-traveled... I'm also reading a lot, and I have no academic projects planned now (I also don't plan on developing any until they're assigned for courses in the fall, and I don't plan on developing longer-term projects until at least winter break. I NEED A MENTAL BREAK. I deserve a mental break. I feel like I have the academic equivalent of somnorexia, and I need to get better at spacing out work. For now, I'm a bit burnt out...)

So, what have I been doing in the last week? Living the life. I don't have any friends in this town, but people are nice. My roommates are nice. They don't start unintentional fires, which is something every previous roommate of mine has done. But even though I don't have actual friends here, I don't feel lonely. There's so much to do that I don't seem to mind, at least not yet. I'm here for my internship, which comes first. I'm working in the music division at the LoC, cataloging mostly undocumented opera scores from various periods and in various stages of disintegration. When I open a particularly old and browning one, I sneeze twice. I work in a cubicle, and fight with a Windows computer. I somewhat frequently use a trilingual card catalog; it seems my limited knowledge of French and German is sufficient for what I need to do! In case you're wondering, I also now know the difference between quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment, and I know to lock my computer when I walk away from my desk. On Friday, I spent lunch+ watching a video of a Burt Bacharach celebration concert. The music division likes music, curiously enough! On Thursday, I took a tour of the Jefferson building (the pretty one), and I learned that there will always be 20-year-old boys who laugh at the word "lesbian." I also learned that the people who designed the LoC were badass, and there is tons of awesome stuff I need to check out in that building.

I am also elegantly balancing being a tourist with doing native-DC things. I have gone to more museums than I can count, and I look at maps when I need to, but I always know where I'm going. I walk on the left side of the escalator, and I don't stand up on the metro until the car stops. I also bring a book. I have a few things worth sharing about my extracurricular activities, I suppose.

  • The East building at the National Gallery of Art is where it's at if you're into modern art (personally, I'm not into visual art pre-Impressionism). There's some great stuff in the West building, but I drooled over far more in the East building.
  • The zoo is fine, but nowhere near as dense or comprehensive as the Bronx Zoo, which I will always love and cherish unconditionally. 
  • Just because you can see the Washington monument doesn't mean it's close to where you are.
  • Wear sunscreen. I have a peeling burn on my shoulders for the first time in probably close to a decade.
  • I had expected Logan Circle and DuPont Circle to be fun and happening, but they were pretty dull. Hopefully that won't be the case next weekend for the pride parade! Adams Morgan is awesome, and I wish I was living on that side of town. Today, I walked from the zoo down to the art gallery, which was just under 8 miles. Factor in walking to & from the metro, and walking through the places I visited, and I probably walked 10 miles. Walking is great.
  • I'm just not that into sound mass. I saw a concert that would have been great if the pieces were more diverse. I guess that's the trouble with having a program featuring a composer and his students. I walked out at the same time as another fed-up audience member who told me to check out the free concerts at the Kennedy Center. Sometimes, music people can be great and super helpful!
  • I cannot get over how much one can do for free in this town. It almost makes up for the unreasonably high rent. If I go to a museum and I get tired or hungry, I don't have to feel like I need to get my money's worth. I can always go back!
I could easily go on about most of the things I'm doing, but I'm going to leave it here. If you have visited/lived in DC and have suggestions for things I should do, leave a message in the comments box!