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Tytania Strange
The Insane Ramblings of a Diseased Imagination
And you can find it here... http://www.tytaniastrange.com/?p=10


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Over an hour into Tomorrowland, there was a mass exodus of people either heading out for more treats or needing the restroom. At the time, I was debating whether to stay in my seat or join the crowd, but since we were over an hour in and we still had not reached Tomorrowland nor did we really know what the plot was supposed to be, I joined the crowd. When I got back, literally nothing had happened and my brother-in-law had fallen asleep. Still not in Tomorrowland and no plot development.

And it's sad because Tomorrowland does have some good moments and positive aspects... but they get bured under this uneven mess of a screenplay. It's like the Disney people had a list of stuff that they wanted to include (atomic age Disney nostalgia, It's a Small World, Coca Cola, the queue outside Space Mountain which prompted my sister to lean over and whisper "OMG there's no line! Get on Space Mountain now!!!", think positive, Star Wars toys, more Star Wars stuff, oh right we should put in some Tomorrowland I guess... and I think the heroine's phone was product placement as well...) and a bunch of scenes they wanted to gank from better movies (Terminator 2 was an obvious one) and then they shoved it in a blender without ever figuring out what story they wanted to tell or what the tone should be or whether or not they were making any sense at all. The end result is more depressing than uplifting with a message so garbled that it felt less like "Optimism will help give us the drive to fix the world!" to "Acknowledging that problems exist is a bummer so just pretend they don't exist and it will all work out somehow... oh wait, we're taking all the people who could fix the world to Tomorrowland so I guess we're screwed."

Here there be spoilers...Collapse )

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Seriously, can 2013 be over now? I am so done. So. Very. Done.

But since the year actually will be over pretty soon, I'm just going to write all the things I hated this year and over the past years onto little pieces of paper and then I will either shred or burn them depending on whether or not its a spare the air day. Want me to add anything to the ceremonial fire (or shred)? Feel free to comment and so it shall be.

Meanwhile, I am looking into different blog formats because I want to post more audio, add more photos and make this thing more fun. Right now, Tumblr looks like the best bet, but we'll see what happens. I love LJ but it feels like the bells and whistles they've added aren't the ones I need. The world spins forward, after all.

Besides, wouldn't you all love a blog format where I can post recordings of me singing every single song in the 24 Italian Songs and Arias book because that's how I kill time in the studio when I don't have a student? Sure ya would.
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"Desperate Souls" might actually be the first episode of Once Upon A Time I ever saw. I was looking for something else entirely, and stumbled on this thing. My sister had been watching the show for quite a while, and I somehow managed to block out every last thing she had ever told me, mostly because my brain tended to go numb whenever she talked about this show, "What were you saying? Snow White is also Cthulhu and R2D2? The Blue Fairy runs the Volturi and the Men in Black? Sure, whatever, have fun watching that." Then I saw this episode online and the magical acting skills of Robert Carlysle combined with Brad Dourif's terrifying dental work drew me in.

In an ideal world, I'd be caught up with reviewing this show and I could talk to you about the (most likely to be retconned) outcome of Rumplestilskin's character arc, which is not so much an arc as running out of things that you can do with a whole bunch of super-powerful people running around. Basically, there have been way too many plot issues that were too easily solved by either Rumplestilskin or the Blue Fairy, so getting those two out of the picture could theoretically force the writers to actually follow through with the plot. Last episode, Graham died in order to prove that there are stakes in this world. Unless you're a main character. Or the writers change their minds. Or whatever. So, let's find out the origin of the best acting in this show outside of Lana Parilla as the evil queen. There is a town in Maine that is cut off from the rest of the world but somehow they can get clothes from Anthropologie...
My soul is desperate for some plot continuity...Collapse )

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Normally, I think of my year as beginning on November 1st and ending on October 31st. This year, however, I don't want to do that... because 2013 sucks right now. So 2013 can just finish sucking on December 31st and then I am done with it.

That being said, I can't say that 2013 was all bad. Singing-wise, it was pretty cool and laid groundwork for more good gigs to come. I can't complain about that. On the other side, though, people were jerks all the damn year long and I am grieving for a friend and member of my close theater family who passed away on Tuesday night. My holiday parties are now going to be wakes. The best that I can say is that I have been able to cry which means that I am having actual feelings as opposed to being in the depressive shutdown that I've been experiencing all year long. That being said, it's so strange that I wasn't really into the whole Holiday feels thing until I was crying out my eyeballs over a friend that I won't see again.

Jim was one of the people that I used to ask to come and sing with me and my friends whenever we had a fun project going on. He was a great singer and actor and fun to work with. However, I learned not to bother asking him for anything in December because he was the backbone of the Dickens Fair carolers. According to him, they could not manage without him and, interestingly enough, if you talked to any of the other carolers they would say the exact same thing. They needed his booming bass voice. So, I didn't ask him to join us for the wind symphony gig this year, knowing that he'd say no. Also, he'd been having some other issues that had kept him off the singing radar for a while.

I went to the Dickens Fair last Sunday, but most of my friends had said they wouldn't be there that weekend (yes, my circle is so damn geeky that everyone showing up at the Dickens Fair is a thing that actually happens) so I didn't bother waiting around to see the carolers. My sister had a friend in the one of the kiddie shows, so we stayed in the kids area for about an hour to see her, and then I was pretty much ready to leave. I had a crappy sinus cold (which I am still getting over), I felt too tired to even dress up and I really didn't want to see anyone I knew (note- I still saw people that I knew because we are all that geeky) so I just went home. It turns out that Jim was there along with some others and I wish I had stopped to see them. As one friend who is a Dickens regular said, yes it's a lot of work and kind of exhausting, but you go back every year because you never know if this is the last year that you'll be able to do this event and or the last time that you'll see this group of people. It is something that we lose as professionals because gigs become about the career and the paycheck and not about the fun because you might not have a chance to sing this role or work with these people ever again.

If you ask me, 2013 was selfish but it ended up not making anyone happy. Even the top 25 pop hits sounds like people really trying to have fun and failing. Selfishness sucks the joy out of everything. It takes our best qualities and twists them, so that an act of generosity leaves you feeling used and abused. It makes us all into assholes. It forces us to be mean when we want to be kind.

2014 is not going to be perfect. I'm pretty sure that the NATS Festival will be a fucked up disaster, but since all the usual suspects won last year and got moved up in their divisions, the ambitious ones have low expectations and the rest are in it for the fun. We're just going to chill out and we'll try to enjoy the experience without trying too hard.

I've walked away for NFCS. The passwords were all stored on my old computer, so I no longer have them. I'm done. I'll just bitch about singing here, when I feel the need.

And, assuming I can get some semblance of my life back after a year of total upheaval, I will be talking about auditions in the near future, and writing more fiction and bitching about Once Upon A Time because OMG is there a lot to talk about with that mess.
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I guess I need to review this episode before 50 Shades of Grey comes out and ruins Sheriff Graham forever, along with all the other things it has ruined because 50 Sades is the ruiner of all good things.

There are many things about Once Upon A Time that bug me, and most of those issues have become steadily worse over the seasons. However, there always seems to be someone in the room who tells me that I'm reading too much into it and I should not assume things and I have to go by what is shown on screen and only what is shown on screen. If it isn't on film it didn't happen. So, if that's how it has to be, no worries, because those rules of evidence only work in my favor. So, from now on, I will assume that the only things to happen are the ones we see on screen. If we don't see it, or it wasn't explicitly told to us, then it does not exist. Cool. So, onward we go to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (and damn the writers for borrowing a title from a book that is far better than this show will ever be). There is a town in Maine...

And there are no wolves there...Collapse )

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Henry Green and the Golden Chalice

Author’s note: I started this project with an end game in mind. Yesterday, I pretty much spoilered the heck out of my sister (don’t worry, we spoiler ourselves for pretty much everything around here) and then asked her whether she thought that she would enjoy the story more or less if she knew what the end game was going to be. Her answer was that it would be better to know, because if you don’t, it won’t be as fun. So, here’s the end game- I am heading towards the biggest, stupidest, lamest happy ending that I can come up with, should I opt to see this thing through the finish. The fun really isn’t in the final chapter, but in the way I plan to get there. It will probably be pretty easy to work it all out, since I am not that brilliant or subtle.

But, for all I know, I’ll get bored with this and give up on it. So, just know that it all turns out really well.


Chapter OneCollapse )

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Well, at this point my Harry Potter fanfic has moved so far away from its source material that I have to reclassify it as an homage or possibly a deconstruction with some satire and parody in there for good measure. The idea was to re-experience Harry Potter by writing a story that would follow a similar structure, but would take some unexpected turns. And then it sort of veered off into a whole bunch of different ideas and references because this is apparently what I do. I take a bunch of stuff that I hate to love and love to hate and mix it all up and something insane results.

Eleven-year-old Henry Green lives a frustratingly ordinary life with an aunt and uncle who cruelly and mercilessly use the cupboard under the stairs  as storage space, so that Henry has to sleep in a bedroom like a normal person. He wishes that his life could be different and dreams of one day discovering that his dead parents were heroes and that he is the heir to special powers and a unique destiny. The trouble with wishes is that they sometimes come true.

Holy crap, I just gave this thing a tag line.


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Today we're going to talk about the Mark of the Kray.

The performing arts are full of crazy people. You can't turn around without running into a crazy person. The thing is, there's crazy and then there's the Mark of the Kray. You know that person. You've seen that person. At one time, you might have even been that person, much to your eternal shame. You recognize that person when they walk in the door. They're that person who can't stop comparing themselves to Sills or Caruso or whatever other famous name they've latched onto. They go on and on about their vocal type, and they're never a soubrette or a character tenor, but some super-sexy sounding voice category that, naturally, is meant to only sing the lead. They audition with obscure songs that go on for eight minutes. They complain about how little experience they have, then refuse to accept chorus. They aren't merely boring but aggressively so. Some of them are every bit as creepy insane as they appear. Some of them are well-meaning folks who are really trying, but some great fool has doused them with Batshit Insane by Calvin Klein (note- if this were a real fragrance, I would but it) and now the smell just won't seem to come off no matter what they do. The end result is the same, sad to say. No one wants to work with them. They are branded with the Mark of the Kray.

When people have reason to assume that you're a relatively normal and well-adjusted person, you are allowed a certain latitude for insanity. People will write off your insane tirades as being passionate. They figure that if they cast you, they can just tell you to take out that awkward high note or switch to a less tacky cadenza. As a sane person, you're going to accept criticism and behave professionally.  Your Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf is not a terrifying sign of many boring conversations to come, but a sign that you are creative and likely to be open-minded to direction.

When you have the Mark of the Kray, all of your "get away with crazy" points are cashed in. Your biggest hurdle isn't establishing that you can sing. The singing has to be a given. Your problem is that everyone thinks you're a wack job and now you have to prove that you aren't. You need to show them that whatever the case might have been before, you have grown out of it, learned your lesson and moved on.

If I was going to list a baseline for a sensible audition, it would be as follows:

1. Only list songs/arias from roles you could be hired to perform right now. Drop all the stuff that is meant to show your "potential" ten years down the road.

2. Stick to one and only one vocal category. No stretch pieces. No cribbing from another category.

3. Stick with standard rep and only standard rep. If the work isn't on the list of top twenty most performed works, it is off your menu.

4. Every single piece on your list should be under 4 minutes long. Yes. Really. No excuses.

5. Wear solid colors and keep it classic. Imagine that you're going to an open house at a law office in Manhattan. This is not the time to break out the pin-up wear or the hipster shirt or the LOTR Official Licensed Galadriel Jewelry Set or sneakers or sequins or a prom outfit.

6. Be clean, pressed, shaved and well put together. Your hair should be dry and out of your face. Your clothes should free from stains and tears and marks.

7. Don't use fancy fonts on your resume. Stick with Times New Roman on white paper. Arrange everything in tables with experience in reverse chronological order.

8. Your cover letter should be short and to the point. "Dear blank, I am interested in auditioning for (fill in the blank.) Please find my resume and headshot enclosed. Thank you for your time and kind consideration. Sincerely, Me."

9. Do not under any circumstances compare yourself to a famous singer. Do not do a recital dedicated to a famous singer. Do not include quotes on your website from your teacher/friends/mom about how you are the next coming of a famous singer. Do not get into a big drama about a famous singer anywhere outside of your own house when no one else is home and all the curtains are closed and the neighbors are all dead from a zombie plague.

10. Get feedback from outside your circle. Chances are, you've fallen in with some crazy people and that crazy is rubbing off and getting all over you. One way to counteract that is by getting honest feedback from someone outside that sphere. Don't tell them anything about yourself or what you want to hear. Ideally, you should sing something for them that doesn't give away whatever rep you think you should sing, so you can get the most honest and unbiased opinion possible. You don't have to agree or act on it, but you need to hear it.

If you haven't noticed, the idea here is to create a presentation that is simple and sleek and shows that you have nothing to hide. It's cutting out all of the distractions so that people can listen to your singing instead of wondering who on earth advised you to make such strange choices. Bear in mind that if you're a late bloomer, or you have some odd rep on your resume or you've only sung within a very limited sphere, you're very likely in what we'll call an "at risk" category for the mark of crazy. The same goes for singers who fit into the more sexy and desirable vocal categories. The vast majority of singers who call themselves "spinto tenor" or "dramatic coloratura" are delusional crazy people. Even though you're the real deal, you still have to get past that immediate assumption of "Oh crap, another one of those freaks" on the part of the audition panel. It might not be fair, but it is the reality that we live in.

We also need to understand that in today's world, silence means that you sucked. There are just too many people out there who respond to criticism with scary. They make it clear that if you don't tell them what they want to hear, they will make you life hell in one way or another up to and including violence. No one has time to deal with that, nor should they. When people stop telling you what you're doing wrong, it is time to get very very very concerned. It means that you've crossed that line and now you're on psycho watch. You're actually fine, but they can't see inside your head to understand that.

Numbers 1-9 are all about camouflaging your insanity just enough to be taken seriously. Number 10 is the first step on the long road to recovery. Ideally, you should find someone who is in a position of respect but far enough outside your usual orbit that you would feel comfortable disregarding their advice if that's your choice. Just because they say you're a dramatic mezzo doesn't mean you can't continue singing coloratura soprano, but it is information that you need to have. If you're presenting yourself as something far removed from what you really are, you're looking at a much more challenging journey towards success. That doesn't mean you can't keep walking down that road. It just means that when you run into boulders that block the way, you'll have a better idea of what they are, why they are there and if/how you will get around them. Are we clear?

Once you have a little bit more experience and people know you better, you can start adding some of the fun stuff back onto your list. There's a world of difference between a dude with no experience walking into an audition with the entire last act of Siegfried prepared and a singer who has a resume full of experience singing Wagner roles doing the same thing. Or a guy who just won MONCA singing Wagner. Or a guy who has done a bunch of small dramatic tenor parts with reputable companies and is looking to start covering the big leads. There is a time and place when you can do what you want to do but you might not be there right now.

And never forget, darling cookies, that the great rule over all is to do what you want to do, provided you understand what you are doing and why. There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, only the amazing journey along the bow, so pick the path you want and make every step count.

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Watching Season One of Once Upon A Time reminds me of why I liked this show so much back when I first discovered it. At its best, it's really well-crafted and a joy to watch... but after watching Season Two, I have to wonder if that's purely an accident. The writers just sort of stumbled into creating something good.
Wow, that episode turned out good somehowCollapse )

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 Well, I'm back from a lovely long weekend in Disneyland except for the part where I got food poisoning and puked in California Adventure. Yes. Really. That actually happened. And then I felt fine and we headed over to Disneyland to ride Space Mountain. Yes. Really.

So, in honor of all things Disney that make me throw up, we're going to look at some more Once Upon a Time.That still small urge to pukeCollapse )


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- In the name of science and research, I watched the first Harry Potter film. My exciting tale that is totally not Harry Potter except it sort of is has already been put into the works. Writing has happened. Writing that I will post here. Yup.

My mom decided to watch the movie with me because for some reason she cannot remember a TV episode that she watched yesterday but she can yell at the movie screen because she somehow remembers every last scene from the Harry Potter books and WHY DIDN'T DRACO MEET HARRY IN DIAGON ALLEY BECAUSE THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR HIS CHARACTER!!!!! Yeah, I don't think we'll ever have another bunch of books that carry quite that much of an impact.

Now that the book series is complete, we know a few things now that we didn't know back when we all read the first book in the series and saw the film. On that note:

- Why do we have Slytherin at all? The only halfway decent person in the whole place is Snape. Is it a good idea to put all the people who might turn to the dark side together in one place? They even say that all the bad people came from Slytherin. THEY SAY THIS IN THE MOVIE. Why is this house even here????? Why teach magic to people who are likely to want to kill you? We know that by the last book, they'll all turn out to be useless at best or flat out evil. This is the worst idea for a school system ever.

- The magic banquet is because of enslaved house elves. We find this out in the next book. You are killing my soul, Harry Potter canon.

- In the film, I have yet to hear anyone called a "squib" and while we know Draco's a pill, I don't think we see him snarking on muggles this time around. The implication is a really icky racism that I wasn't aware of when I started reading the books, but now I keep wanting to tell Filch to stick it to the man.

There is stuff I love:

-While the Quidditch sections often have little bearing on the story, the structure of the game is awesome. This is just so clever and cool and I will never think of a unique game that is anywhere close to this awesome.

- Know what else is awesome? Bertie's Bott's every flavor beans. They're so great that they even started making them complete with grass and earwax flavors. Know what's best of all? Watching your mom's face as she bites into a vomit-flavor bean and she realizes that they totally went there, yes they did.

And then there's the WTF of it all:

- I can think of one way to make hiding the Sorcerer's Stone at Hogwarts into a not-entirely-stupid plan. This is not the plan that they went with, unfortunately.

-Telling a bunch of 6th-12th graders not to go to the 3rd floor is like issuing an invitation. Every single kid in that school is going to be up there writing "Seamus was here!" on the walls. Also, if you want the stone to not be stolen, telling people where to start looking for it would be a pretty dumb thing to do.

-Hermione is in the girl's bathroom, crying out her eyes when the kids are told that a troll is loose in the school. Shouldn't someone notice that she's missing? Harry and Ron are told by a classmate that Hermione is in the restroom so the kids know that she's gone. Are Ron and Harry the only people who care about this kid? Did no one take roll call? My school had meeting places where you were supposed to check in if there was an emergency. Does Hogwarts just not care?

- I actually can forgive Ron and Harry running off by themselves to find Hermione. This is such a kid thing to do. As far as they know, the troll is in the dungeon and nowhere near where Hermione is, so there should be no danger in going to get her. They want to be sure she is okay and that she won't be in trouble, hence they don't want to go to an authority just in case, even though Hermione has done nothing wrong. Kids actually do reason this way. "We're supposed to be in our dorm. Hermione is not. She'll be in trouble."

-Why did no one keep an eye on the troll? It seems like it might have been a good idea to have someone keep a lookout. Or you could have closed the doors to the dungeon to keep it contained.

-Why does Hermione lie about why she was in the restroom? How is this better than telling the truth? I was in the restroom. Harry and Ron realized that I didn't know about the troll. They saved me from it. Instead, Hermione has to throw herself under the bus to prove that she's a good friend because that's how friendship works. Real friends sabotage themselves to make you look better.

- Any normal kid would be suspicious of Snape. That's how the world works when you're a kid.

- Yanno how Quidditch is unique and awesome? Know what is neither unique nor awesome? Wizard chess. It's just chess. Only the pieces smash each other. Know where we saw that before? Star Wars. Remember that game Chewbacca and R2D2 played? It actually inspired a computer game where you play a strategy board game, but part of the strategy is choosing which monster to fight for spaces based on the attributes of your piece and your enemy's piece. Wizard Chess is less magical than a game I played on my dad's old Commodore64.

- Seriously, Dumbledore knows Hagrid, right? Shouldn't he know better than have a trap where Hagrid knows the solution? In what universe would this not end with everyone in the whole world knowing how to circumvent your trap?

-Hi, Cerberus.

- The bad guy totally solved all the traps before the kids could. Nice of him to wait to do this until the kids could follow right behind.

- If I were choosing an evil plant for a trap, it would not be something from the First Year Herbology textbook. You have an entire class of first years and most of them can read. Not good planning. Look, I know most people aren't smarter than a fifth grader but you have a whole school of them. Seriously. All the traps should be tagged with "Seamus was here!"

- It's nice to see Harry's friends pull together to help out. However, the broom chasing thing was not needed. We're going to see Harry to his thing.

- Wait, why does Harry need to go on? The only thing Harry can do is ride a broom. Send Hermione. Hermione is the only one of you knuckleheads who is remotely competent. SEND THE COMPETENT ONE.

- Why didn't Dumbledore just put the stone in the mirror and leave it at Gringotts? Those creepy guys seemed like they could get the job done, plus the mirror was a fail-safe set up so that no one on the wrong side could possibly ever get the stone out. If Harry hadn't shown up, Quirrel would have had to stand around like a dumbass until someone noticed he was gone and came looking.

-And wasn't Snape suspicious of Quirrell? Why hasn't he been tailing this guy? Why hasn't Snape come looking for him since he know what Quirrell was up to? Better yet, why didn't Dumbledore arrest the guy? Why did no one check the turban?

- Harry killed Quirrell by existing. Why doesn't he kill more people this way? Everyone in Slytherin should be dead from Harry cooties by now.

(note- I expect some of these issues to be explained as I re-read the first book. I remember there being some reason for Harry being able to spontaneously combust people and so forth.)

I remember that people complained about this movie when it first came out. If you love the world of Harry Potter, then the movie is a lot of fun. It's really all about seeing all the things that were described in the story. Granted, the consequence of including ghosts and other things that don't advance the story is a poorly paced film. In the book, I felt like the story was moving forward at a good clip and keeping me entertained and interested. The movie feels like a whole lot of filler followed by 20 minutes of story when the kids finally start solving the puzzles. I think that if the films were remade, we might get a very different interpretation with emphasis on different things. Still, it's still a fun movie that is only occasionally marred by CGI effects that don't hold up well.

Hopefully, I'll be done with the first chapter of the Harry Potter re-experience that totally isn't Harry Potter, except it kind of is.


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Talking about Harry Potter a few posts back made me think about how much fun it was back when everyone was reading those books. At least for a time, I really loved being able to go on that journey and to spend time in that world. So, I bought the first book on Kindle. Interestingly enough, the reason I got that first Kindle was so I could have the Harry Potter series in a format that wasn't going to eat all of my shelf space. I started reading and well...

I want to go on the Harry Potter journey, but within the one chapter we're into fat-shaming and some of the things that irked me about the series from the very first. Anyone who doesn't adore Harry is a horrible person who is painted as physically unattractive as well, and people who like Harry are awesome... but not as awesome as Harry. I just don't even... grrrr...

Still, there was something magical that I'd like to experience again, just without all the awkward stuff. So, I'm kind of rewriting the story... only with different characters so everyone can have a little more depth, and some raised stakes in the wizarding world and remember all the serious stuff that just never really panned out? Well, either it's not going to be included at all... or we are GOING THERE. Look, we need at least one house elf character or the story doesn't move along and if we have one, then we probably have to deal with all of them. If the big bad is going to create a fascist state where people are dragged off and never seen again, then we have to go there. We can't have happy party time when all our friends are dead and all of our lives are in constant danger.

I've also never been happy with the idea that the big bad is bad just for the evillulz. I mean, seriously? Who does that. Who sets himself up as the ruler of all and then gets his ass handed to him by a baby? Why even try to kill a baby? Wouldn't he have minions for that?

And since this is me, there will probably be snark. It's been known to occur.

So, that's how I am filling my spare time. A bunch of kids, none of whom are named Harry Potter, go to wizard school, tangle with the most evil wizard ever, learn how to be competent and self-reliant, and save the world, possibly by changing things for the good for everyone. I might even be able to weasel the happy, hopeful smiling ending out of it as well, only it won't be everyone trotting off with the OTP as if nothing ever happened, because traumatic war where friends and family members die horrible? Pffft there's not PTSD in wizard land. God, I hate that epilogue at the end. HATEHATEHATEHATE

So, admit it, you know you want to spend the summer reading a near unrecognizable Harry Potter Fanfic...
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Every time I try to respond to the "What it takes to become an opera singer", I end up with this massive long diatribe that goes on forever. Even when I am going out of my way to be kind and talk sense, there's still a crapload to say because everything is wrong. EVERYTHING.

Teal DeerCollapse )


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Saturday was so freakishly hot that I ended up filling up my dog's pool so that I could sit in the water. It doesn't get much more pathetic than sitting in a frickin' kiddie pool full of dog hair with a German Shepherd who is kind of annoyed that you're taking up all the room. The air was so hot that I didn't even need a towel to dry off. In the time it took to walk from the lawn to the porch where the towel was, I dried off enough that I didn't need it anymore.

Sunday was slightly better. Also, there were crickets outside and I love the sound of crickets. Today is supposed to be somewhat worse and tomorrow is supposed to be even worse than that, so that should be fun. I just have the pray that the air conditioning is functional, because if it isn't, we will have some problems.

I should be watching Game of Thrones. In fact, I would be watching Game of Thrones if not for a couple of important points. Firstly, they killed Sean Bean. I would watch the hell out of a fantasy epic that starred Sean Bean as a character who remained alive. As for fantasy epics where Sean Bean dies, well, I already saw that movie and it was called Lord of the Rings (well, the good one was) and I don't think we're getting any dead Sean Bean epics that are better than that one. Secondly, I have had a wolf throwback dog and if you have characters with wolves, I will spend the entire storyline caring about the wolves and not about the humans because I know from experience that wolves are way cooler than people. Also wolves are prettier than people. And less stinky. And okay, wolves want to lick your teeth which seems kind of gross but you get over it. And, finally, when I am in a depressive swing there are things I cannot handle. This time around, The Hobbit was too intense for my fragile psyche so you can figure that Game of Thrones was going to be way past the limits of my crazy.

Back when Game of Thrones first came out, people asked me what it was and if I was going to watch it. Apparently, I am some sort of geekery idiot savant. My response was that it's a fantasy soap opera mostly aimed at dudes that may or may not suffer from the Harry Potter problem. So, let's talk about the difference between an epic story and a soap opera.

Epic stories have a beginning and a middle and an ending. Lord of the Rings is a pretty good example of how that works. Star Wars is another. You often have a lot of characters that split into different groups with different plotlines, but in the end everything will converge into one overarching story that brings everything together and ties off the loose ends. Epics are finite stories. Even if we go through three different casts of characters because time is passing or people get killed off, the final destination is the same. When you finish the story, you should be able to go back to the first installments with a better understanding of how each of the characters is connected to the greater whole.

Soap operas, by contrast, don't have a beginning, middle and end. They are meant to keep on going. Plotlines don't have to be connected and often stuff simply happens for the sake of having something to do. In an epic, the plight of house elves should be connected to the greater whole and plays a role in the resolution of the final conflict. The characters who help them gain their allegiance in the final battle. Or it turns out that the people we thought of as the good guys were really the bad guys all along and there's a great big switch up of alliances before we get to the big denouement. In a soap opera, there's a story about the house elves that goes on for a while and introduces some new characters who may or may not be important once that plot is resolved and we move on to the time-traveling underground city of long lost twins. The soap opera doesn't have an official ending so the plot lines don't have a preset place to go. They just go along until they end and we move on to the next bunch of stuff that happens.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a soap opera. Soap operas are lots of fun. Soap operas can also do some things that an epic cannot because the writer doesn't have to connect all those dots. It allows for much more interesting diversions. If Game of Thrones is an epic, then Daenarys and her dragons should be heading towards a final fight for the throne. If she isn't, then her story is a waste of our time within the context of an epic. In a soap opera, we can follow Daenarys as she teleports to another planet with her dragons and invents Disneyland because we're following the character and although the audience wants to see her story concluded, they don't need it to be connected to whatever is going on with the main storyline. If this is an epic, then that alternate universe Disneyland story should have some bearing on that fight for the throne, like maybe Mickey Mouse uses the portal to show up and take over the throne for himself (and he'd totally win and I would watch the hell out of that show.)

Harry Potter began as an epic, then turned into a soap opera when the writer ran out of material. Characters started doing stuff to fill in page count and somehow get to the next book so we could finish this thing. The story could have concluded in Book Four if not for the promise of three more books of nothing. It could have ended again in Book Six, which was just an drawn out extension of Book Five so that we could get around to killing Dumbledore. Events were spaced out too far and the space was filled in with stuff that didn't matter. I keep harping on the House Elf thing because that should have been huge. The good guys are enslaving a bunch of people who are so downtrodden that they can't even accept that one of their own might want to be free, driving a freed elf to drink because of the pain and suffering of being ostracized. That is so huge and dark and it should be a major plot turning point but it just isn't. It's one more thing that happens. We never have to question whether the good guys are good. Who cares. And you can do that... in a soap opera. But not in an epic.

Game of Thrones is based on (yet another) seven books series of which only five (I think) have been written. Maybe all the characters are moving towards a grand climax to the story... but it could also be a bunch of meandering crap that happens so that dudes can get all excited over death and sex and torture just like soap operas need excuses to show us fancy clothes and half-dressed lawn guys who don't get any lines because dude, you are not here for your personality. I want to know which I am watching because I don't need another re-run of Harry Potter and me being pissed as hell over a tight story degenerating into four books of wasting my damn time. If I had known that this was going to be a soap opera where we look at magic and get characters hooked up with each other, I'd have approached it differently and been a lot let annoyed with it.

So, that's my quandary. Are the red weddings and incestuous siblings and strange magic all leading us to one spectacular finish where the ring gets dropped into the volcano and the rightful king rules Gondor, or are we going to spend four books wondering about a bunch of characters who will ultimately have no bearing on the final resolution, assuming a resolution even happens. I'd just like to know before I devote a zillion hours to recapping this thing while dreaming up a self-insert fanfic where I secretly elope with Ned Stark's previously unknown twin brother.
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If asked, I would tell anyone with an internet that content is better than no content. It doesn't matter if you have nothing cool going on right now. It doesn't matter if you're tired or busy or in a bad mood. No one cares that you're in a period of transition because we're all in transition all the damn time. Just do something, dammit. Something is better than nothing. Record some clips in a lesson and post them. Netflix a movie to review. Dig through your old DVDs to find something that can be uploaded. Just do something. Post cute cat pictures. Share links. Just do something. Just do anything. No matter how much you suck, chances are that it's better than nothing.

And do I take my own advice? Of course not. Who ever listens to their own advice, even when it's good advice?

As of now, the contents of my bathroom are in my bedroom. As if I didn't have enough clutter in there to begin with. Nevertheless, it can't be helped because the bathroom will be torn out tomorrow so there can't be any stuff left in there. The upshot is that I have no choice but to clear out the old clutter in order to make space for the new clutter. And what is in the old clutter? Notebooks upon notebooks full of writing.

When I'm writing on the computer, I try to have some kind of organization and purpose. The opposite is true when I'm writing in a notebook. I just write whatever the hell is in my mind at the time, with no connections or explanations. My brain understands what I'm going for at the time and that's all I need. Well, I don't want to throw all of my genius away, but I don't have space to keep it in its present form... and it kind of makes me look like the crazy guy from Seven who had a whole room full of notebooks chock full of his crazy. I'm not there yet, but there is reason for concern, people. So, I'm taking all the random stuff and I'm putting it into a word document.

Golgotham is an epic story, because I've been writing it since college or so. Really. It's this gigantic supernatural horror soap opera where characters show up and leave and show up and die and come back again. From time to time, memories get wiped or memories return. The only chronology is in my brain, and even I can't always remember what comes where. There are first person passages that could be any character talking at any point. There are conversations where I decided not to include any dialogue tags and I have to guess at who's talking based on tone and context.

And there are pages where I have written a series of one sentence quips that don't belong anywhere. They're just ideas for things that I want to include somewhere but I don't know where yet.

In other cases, I have to guess at placement based on character development. Some characters have mellowed with time. Others get nastier and crazier. If so and so is still murdering people, then this must be happening before this other storyline where they realized that randomly killing people was wrong. If that person remembers all about that incident, then this has to be after they figured out their real identity.

Like I said, it's a soap opera with supernatural powers and a body count.

When it's needed, I'm shifting the perspective from first to third person. It's just easier to keep it all consistent and I really do hate it when authors shift between ten different first person perspectives. This way, I can put in a name of the person we're following (when I can figure out who it is and assuming that my writing is legible which it often isn't) and everything is going into a vague order, separated by break marks so that I can begin connecting the pieces.

And then I'll post it because posting something is better than nothing.

Even if it is the worst story ever told.
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I really like Wreck-It Ralph. The first time I saw it, I enjoyed the movie but I came away feeling like the second half went off in a direction that didn't work. I had been expecting a very different movie and the way things played out didn't match with my expectations from the trailer. Then I had some time to let the movie settle in and I watched it again. It's a great movie. Everything that happens is set up throughout the movie so that nothing feels yanked out of the writers' butts. There are also tons of clever details that you miss the first time around like the way the game worlds are fleshed out. Even the annoying character is annoying because she bugs Ralph. As Ralph starts to like her more, she gets toned down and is much less irritating. The overall story is a hero's journey for Ralph and although it seems at first to step away from that, on further viewing you realize that the plot actually never wavers. The only reason I didn't like this movie all that much at first were my own mistaken expectations.

And that, kidlets, brings us to the latest post that has opera singers up in arms. I am at a total loss as to why so many people are so invested in discrediting this woman. They all insist that she is bitter and wrong. Firstly, this is one person's experience and it is pretty clear that she had to deal with some unexpected problems along the way. I'm somewhat amazed that people are so eager to attack the writer but no one is questioning the bad advice she apparently got. Why is no one questioning the weird stuff she was told or wondering where it was coming from? Are the writer's problems really all her own fault for not magically knowing how opera works before she even started? Bear in mind, this is coming from me and I will be the first person to say that a person graduating in 2009 has ample access to online resources and help that could put them on the right track... but are those right?

The writer of the article is upset and angry because opera was not what she expected it to be. Does she have some valid reasons to be angry? Absolutely. This is someone from a small town who looked to classical music as a way out to something grander and more exciting. She was told not to work a mundane job and to take cabs and that was what she wanted to hear and wanted to believe. She wanted opera to be something where you get a scholarship to go to Europe in the summer. Her advisers and mentors encouraged her to believe these things. When you want to believe, believing is very very easy. Meanwhile, her parents helped her believe that all of this was real by taking on load debt without clearly explaining that they expected the writer to pay back these loans. She got an ugly wake-up call when she graduated and discovered that the glamorous world of opera isn't so glamorous after all.

Meanwhile, the people who are so angry with this woman apparently have some similar illusions. They insist that a career in the arts is all about being better than everyone else who wants the same thing. You just have to do the "right" things. The writer is just mad because she did things wrong or she just isn't good enough. Yeah, keep telling yourselves that, kids. You're making promises to yourself that the world will not keep. Is it really so important to believe that you're better than other people?

Look, careers in the arts are really hard. Opera is harder than most because we don't have the support of a union and we work for companies that are losing money on every production no matter how good we are or how much audience support we can bring in. The sad reality is that a singer who can bring in a huge donation through family or the person they're sleeping with or whoever is worth more to an opera company than the very best singer who auditions. That's just the way the numbers play out for us. That doesn't mean we can't keep on doing what we're doing. That doesn't mean that it's all bad. It just means that the business of opera is not what you expected it to be. That's all. If you think of opera within the greater context of a life in music, you can argue that there might even be some good in there somewhere. Being forced to think of yourself as an artist rather than just as singer is not a bad thing and it might bring more to the performance when opera is part of your musical life.

And it gives you the power to pursue opera and music in your own way. You don't have to worry about being better than everyone else. You just have to be the best possible you. You have to find your passion and create art because you want that art to exist not because you really wanted to never take the subway or to tell yourself that you were better or that you did everything right.

Whenever I have an emotional response to something, I have to ask myself is this about the media I'm consuming or is this about me? Am I really all that invested in how much an opera audition costs or is there something else going on? Am I trying to discredit information in order to protect something that I believe in? Truth be told, I have no idea how the writer of that post is getting her numbers and they don't match with my experience. I've seen auditions cost a lot less and a lot more but that's not a big deal. If you're trying to explain things to someone who has no experience in the weird world of opera, maybe those numbers represent an average that outsiders can understand. Or maybe they're wrong. Who knows. The only thing I can say for certain is that it sucks to find out that there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I'm okay with that because how many people get to walk along a rainbow?
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PersonaOne of my Facebook friends posted a speech by Neil Gaiman that I will post below, assuming I am not so brain-addled that I forget to do so. Yesterday, the temperature was in the 90's and the air conditioning in the studio didn't work. This did not make for a pleasant day.

Mr. Gaiman makes a number of points that could prove helpful to someone pursuing a career in the arts. He advises us to imagine our goal as a mountain and to always be moving towards the mountain. He tells us that putting our art out there is like sending out messages in bottles and hoping that one of those bottles will reach someone who will send something back. He says that we should create good art- good art gives back to you, while art you only make for the money is never really worth it. Then he lets us know that the Gatekeepers are gone and we can reach an audience and create without waiting for anyone else to give us permission. That's a lot to take in, and it all applies to singing and it all doesn't, in a way.

Personally, I think that the Gatekeepers of music are still sitting at their posts. I would imagine it as a path that leads to a gate in a wall, and the gatekeeper is right there, with a line of singers waiting patiently to be allowed to go through. But, if you look to either side of the gate, you can see that the walls have fallen down. There's just a bunch of rubble that you can go through, if you want to... but if you go that way, you're not going to be walking on the path, and you might not find it. You can still see the mountain that you're trying to reach in the distance, but you're going to be walking through uncharted territory and you have no idea what might happen. It could be a lot more risky than walking on the path, and it takes a bigger leap of faith to go that way. If you wait in line to go through the gate, at least you can hope that the gatekeeper will give you some directions and maybe even put in a good word for you with the next gatekeeper. Do you really want to leap off the path now, when you can see other people going through the gate and it seems like your turn will come up soon? Then again, sometimes you have to take a winding way to get through the gate that leads you away from the mountain, when you could have saved time and effort by walking straight ahead... but the path does lead to the mountain, right?

As young singers, we are told to seek out Guides. These people have walked towards the mountain and they know where it is. In fact, it sometimes feels like people go out of their way to convince us that we have no sense of direction at all and should not take a single step without someone else to hold our hand. Some are well meaning and some are ignorant and some will direct us to the wrong mountain because they're assholes. The biggest problem, though, is that many of the guides don't know the way. The landscape has changed so much that they no longer recognize it. Sometimes, they tell us to take paths that no longer exist and haven't existed in years. We are taught that we should trust the evidence of our own eyes and common sense, and, yes, there are times when we miss things along the way or wander off on the wrong path. We end up walking through dense forests where the road is not clear, so it is no wonder that we want someone to help us along the way.

Personally, I find myself endless explaining to a long series of helpful would be guides that the mountain they are pointing at eroded away long ago. There's just a flat space where it used to be. Don't worry though, there is a mountain and that's where I'm headed and I'll find my own way thanks.

And everyone's mountain is different, so I'll tell you what mine is like. I want to sing what I want to sing. If the music isn't a good fit or the role isn't right or I don't feel like I can express myself artistically, then that's not my mountain. At my mountain, I have control over my creative work and I have an income that doesn't rely entirely on my ability to show up. I've learned over the past year that people expect me to build a time machine but that's not what I'm here for. I want to create something that I think should exist, that makes me happy every time I look at it, that gives back to me whether or not I ever earn one single cent from it. But I like money, and on my mountain, I can afford that pair of Louboutins and I can buy a Kate Spade dress without waiting for it to go on sale and then cringing because it's still too expensive. I want to go on vacation knowing that there's still cash coming in and I don't have to angst about whether I've earned the right to personal time.

I want teaching to continue to be a part of my musical life. I want church jobs to be a thing of the past, or if I do them, I want to be the person who gets hired to sing the solos in Messiah, rather than the person who has to be there every single Sunday.

And also, here's Neil Gaiman

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The church gig that has been making me nuts since December is officially done. I threw away the music, deleted the e-mails, and I'll likely clean out some more files in my computer. I still have a one Sunday per month church gig, but that's been less stress thus far and hopefully will stay that way. I guess we'll see.

The last two Sundays have been surreal to say the least. Last Sunday, no one knew that we had been let go which was kind of weird. The communication had broken down, so I ended up giving solo information to three different people- none of whom passed it along to the ones who needed it. The music committee apparently told everyone that they were not making changes and then didn't get around to telling anyone that this was no longer the case. Seriously, I do not know what is wrong with these people. I really don't. Truth be told, I think they decided that their desire to play little power games trumped their duty to the church and congregation. They had to make us all play along with this process in order to make their lies look more like truth until the point when the changes were a fait accompli.

This Sunday, everyone had been told that the organist and I were leaving and it was, once again, surreal. There were people who looked like they were going to cry. There were people who could not look me in the face at all and avoided the hell out of me. There was the music committee pretending like everything was great, like we had just decided to leave on our own and this was sentimental goodbye time. I have no idea who was responsible for what or who wanted what or who was told what. Some people looked scared of me, which they probably were because they had no idea whether I would break down and cry or tell them off loudly or I don't even know.

In retrospect, I still wish that I had gone with my gut. I wanted to leave back in December. I should have told them that I was willing to stay to help them through the transition but I would be leaving after that. It would have been enough. I just didn't want to an asshole about the whole thing or to make it seem like I was throwing a diva fit.

I think that I'm done with regular church gigs. We'll see what happens at the end of the year, because for all I know, the gig I'm at now will opt to make changes as well. If they do, I'm at least prepared to handle it better than this last one.
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I have purchased a new mattress. The old one will be disposed of. That's what it gets for trying to kill me... and coming so close to succeeding. Damn you, cheap ass pillowtop!

I found out that my batshit OCD may be the reason that I didn't have major allergy problems until the past few years. I had been making a conscious effort to be more like a sane person, part of which was acclimating myself to washing my hair once a day instead of two... or three... or nine times a day. Well, it turns out that I may have been avoiding exposure to allergens during the night by washing all the dust and pollen out of my hair. In an attempt to maintain some connection, however tenuous, to sanity, I am rinsing my hair at night and it seems to be helping pretty significantly. I sneeze and wheeze during the day, but I am not experiencing swelling in my throat overnight. Chalk up a point for my crazy.

As for all the other madness, it's still ongoing, but every day is one more little baby mutant step towards sanity.
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