Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lightning and Fireflies

Tonight it's hot and the air is heavy. After it got dark I sat on the front steps for an hour watching the most incredible lightning storm I've ever seen. The lightning flashed almost constantly above me, mostly staying high in the clouds, but occasionally appearing below to strike something on the ground. The thunder came in a continuous low rumble, punctuated by loud cracks when the lightning struck close. There was no rain, just eerily still, oppressive air.

As I watched the lightning fireflies came out and began flashing in the street and yard in front of me. I saw my first firefly up close the day I arrived in DC, but this is the first time that I've seen them all around me. They flashed on the periphery of my vision, sometimes fooling me into thinking that they were a trick of my eyes and not really there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Today the Folklife Festival opened on the Mall. I went over to the opening ceremony this morning, which was kind of boring, and checked out the Bhutanese temple. It's very beautiful, especially up close. I didn't walk through it though so I'll have to make sure to do that next time. The festival looks like it will be really great and I'm looking forward to spending more time there.

After lunch the office was so lonely with everyone down on the mall. I nodded off a little 2, but some tea and cookies fixed me up. The, like the nerd that I am, I had a major victory over my javascript. I learned how to reduce our popup window javascript from about 8 lines of code plus an extra file to a single line of code. Yay me! Also, yesterday I created our header template using only CSS instead of having to create each one in Photoshop, which will save a lot of work down the road. It's okay if you don't understand this geek-talk, but both were things that I wanted to do during my previous internship and didn't get the chance for several reasons. And both got surprisingly good reviews from my supervisor.

After work I went to the National Museum of the American Indian to see the "Space Philharmonic" (actually the NSO) play Holst's "The Planets" with a slideshow of NASA images as an add-on event to the Festival. The acoustics in the atrium weren't the greatest, but I just love that museum and the music was great. The only thing I didn't like was that in between each movement they stopped so that someone could read a blurb about the plant. It sort of killed the flow for me, but it was free and I still enjoyed it a lot.

Tomorrow evening I head back out to Baltimore for singing, which is always one of the highlights of my week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Afternoon

I'm sitting on the front porch of my new home with Ophelia the cat, eating squash soup that I made in the spring. The porch is filled with flowers and herbs cultivated by my roommate, and is perfect in every way. I just watched a small sparrow fly into the crevices of the awning where it must have a nest, and a moment later I could hear the urgent twittering sounds baby birds waiting to be fed.

The air is hot, but the breeze is cool and it's a lovely slow Saturday afternoon. After such a busy, exhausting week there is nothing better than to sit on the porch eating soup, listening to baby birds, and soaking in the summer air.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Many changes

Well, I'm back in DC again for more internship fun (but this time with a paycheque). I've been too exhausted to update in a while, but hopefully this weekend will offer the opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. I just got home from my first Baltimore weekly singing in over a month, and it was sooo good to see and sing with my b'more friends again.

I've discovered that along with all the life changes (permanent relocation from my hometown, for example) I've had a strong desire and finally the guts to make body modifications too. I got my nose pierced a couple of weeks ago and yesterday I started stretching my ears. They hurt really bad, but I think it'll feel better in a couple of days. My face feels so full of stuff after wearing almost no jewellery for many years... it's disconcerting a little but also a lot of fun. Pictures will come soon when I have the energy to think about it again.

I sold or gave away most of my stuff in Edmonton, which has been a scary and exciting adventure. Also stressful at times. I think I like the idea of not being tied down to stuff, but since I'm still living in this crazy limbo with no bed or pillows or boxes I'm not sure yet. Tomorrow I will get a proper bed and some small bedroom furniture items, and make it more comfortable.

Off to bed now for what will hopefully be a better night's sleep than last night. I'll write more soon!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coming Through Slaughter

Aaron bought me a copy of this book by Michael Ondaatje years ago, and I'm only just reading it now. It's incredible! It's a wonderful and compelling mixture of prose and poetry, and so far the characters are riveting. It's about a jazz trumpeter named Benny Bolden in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century:

He was the best and loudest and most loved jazzman of his time, but never professional in the brain. Unconcerned with the crack of the lip he threw out and held immense notes, could reach a force on the first note that attacked the ear. He was obsessed with the magic of air, those smells that turned neuter as they revolved in his lung then spat out in the chosen key. The way the side of his mouth would drag a net of air in and dress it in notes and make it last and last, yearning to leave it up there in the sky like air transformed into cloud. He could see the air, could tell where it was freshest in a room by the colour.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


In 2003 I won an undergraduate research award from my university. I remember Q kicking my butt to help me write and awesome proposal, and I remember how excited I was when I found out I had won. But now 5 years later the research I did seems insignificant and flawed.

However, Q recently got in touch with me to invite me to contribute some thoughts on that research for a website project she's working on. I went through a video of the concert I put on to wrap up the project and through my old notes, and today I gave an interview on the project. It was nice to be reminded that the work I did was actually important and meaningful to many people, including me.

I can't believe that I had the audacity to organise that concert. There were over 80 performers in 6 ensembles, and the concert ended up running close to 4 hours. It was a huge success though; the hall was very full and everyone seemed to really enjoy the concert. It was so much work to arrange it all in a way that was respectful to all the performers and sensitive to the fact that the devotional music they were performing is often not performed on a concert stage. I'm still so grateful to all the performers, but especially the ladies (my ladies) from the Hindu society temple who dressed me up in the lovely sari and bangles and performed so well.

Here's an excerpt from a capping report that I wrote up at the end of the summer:

I formed several friendships with the people that I have worked with this summer and my personal experiences have offered great insight into the relationships that this music can foster. I truly enjoy making music with these people and conversing with them. In spite of these warm relationships, many people are still apprehensive about giving interviews, although they will talk enthusiastically on the subject informally.

I learned a great deal about the ethnographic process. All of the books world can’t prepare you for the first time you go into a strange place to meet informants and start the research process. It takes an assertive attitude that does not come naturally to me; I really had to work up the courage to go up to those first people and introduce myself. And it doesn’t end there. Once they agree to do an interview I am always filled with anxiety, “Will I ask the right questions?” “Will they feel comfortable talking to me?” and the list goes on. While the interview process has gotten more comfortable as I learn more on the topic and feel comfortable discussing the musical and social elements, I still get nervous.