Monday, January 28, 2008

RIP Wesly Ngetich

via Down the Backstretch:

Race Results Weekly reports that two-time Grandma's Marathon champion Wesly Ngetich was killed today in the on-going violence that has followed Kenya's recent elections.

Ngetich won Grandma's last year and in 2005.

The violence in Ngetich's native Kenya had caused him to withdraw from the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon earlier this year.

The BBC offers THIS overview of the violent political situation in Kenya.

Ngetich is not the first runner to die in the Kenyan turmoil; former Olympic runner Lucas Sang was attacked and killed while walking home earlier this month.

Other runners fear for their lives after receiving death threats:

Some of Kenya’s most celebrated runners say they are receiving death threats because of rumors they are involved in the ethnic violence that has swept the nation following a disputed election.

Many were so worried they gathered from across the country this week in the western town of Eldoret, a running hub that has seen some of the worst violence,
to discuss how to respond. The meeting ended with a statement intended to dispel
the rumors.

During the meeting, William Mutwol, a bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1992 Olympics, received another threat in a text message on his cell phone.

“We want your head,” the message said.

“I am scared. We are scared,” Moses Kiptanui, chairman of Athletics Kenya’s Marakwet branch, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. “I have never engaged in politics. I am an ordinary guy. But I think Kenyans have now created a lot of enmity among themselves.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quickies! or... New Ways to Spend My Money

Temptation just got closer...

Magnolia Bakery, the famed NYC cupcake heaven just opened a second location! Instead of making the long trek down to the village, I can simply get off the 1 train at 72, and walk the few blocks to 69th and Columbus for sweet indulgence!

This area is getting very dangerous- Levain Bakery (home to the world's BEST cookies) and Buttercup Bake Shop have long since been forcing me to add extra miles to the workouts, and Alice's Tea Cup is a favorite for using up my hard earned cash. But with Jacque Torres opening at 73rd and Amsterdam a few months ago and now Magnolia, too? I'm gonna have to skip the mass transit and actually run there to make up for the amount of calories I foresee ingesting in the future!

A Buck for Starbucks?

Can it be true? A dollar menu coming to Starbucks? Not quite. More like a $1 "short" yet bottomless cup of coffee is now on the menu in select Seattle Starbucks. Apparently this purchase has been available for some time, just not publicized. My question is, do you have to remain in the shop in order to get the refill? Or can you come and go all day as you want? The former, I'm sure.

Interesting news, but I'll still be sticking with my beloved Hungarian Pastry Shop bottomless cups.

Speaking of coffee...

Came across this wonderful chart via Will Work For Food:

And finally,

They're a wonder:

I've always had quite a thing for bags, especially big ones! These "bustier handbags" take the cake! But alas, they are no longer for sale. Time to hit up Ebay!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Boys all think she's living kindness

Early artwork from the Tori Amos anthology, Comic Book Tattoo, courtesy of Undented:

I'm super excited! Now, back to the muck...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Writer's Muck

every time. EVERY TIME.

I canNOT seem to be able to start a project without first spending a day or two suffocating from a thick mud of frustration!

I sit. I stare. I turn the keyboard on, then off (cats keep walking on it, messing up my Sibelius score), then on again. I play a note. Then another. I'm staring out the window.

Is it snowing? It's snowing in NC. And in VA. Why not here? It never snows there, it should snow here. I want it to snow. Why isn't it snowing?

Back to the score. I listen again.

This sucks. No it doesn't. Yes it does. What's missing? Let's write about it.

I open my journal.

Should I brainstorm with a blue pen? Too normal. Purple? No, the last page is in purple. Green and black? Perfect, I see Blaine as a very green and black character.

I'm drawing green and black stars in the corners.

Soon I'm listening to every tune I've written, critiquing them of course. Then in attempts to get my self esteem back up, I check every online outlet I have. Hotmail email. Yahoo email. Website email. MySpace. Facebook. Website stats. Blog stats (which have been extremely high today thanks to WFA linking to two of my comic related posts!).

Ugh! How narcissistic can I be?!?!

Back to Blaine.

What's missing? Why do I have so many 2 measure solos? Maybe if I watch another episode of X-Files my mind will clear and I'll know what to write.


The thing is, it's not writer's block, exactly. More like writer's muck. I know the solution is in my head somewhere. And I know it's gonna come, and then I'll write like mad for the next 48 hours, forgetting to eat, ignoring phone calls, ignoring the Internet, getting up only to pee. But every time, EVERY TIME I take a break from writing, even a small one, I have to pass through this day or two of sitting and staring, waiting for that special something to click into place, and waiting for the hours to pass so I can justify going to bed.

It's like a trial I have to endure before the muses will grant me inspiration to renew my writing.

No, it's an Amazonian contest I have to win so that the Gods and Goddess will bestow me with the gifts I need to make peace in man's world (no wait, that's someone else.)

I'm like an old boom box, drifting in the muck of the Thames, CD tray open to ideas, idly passing the time until I eventually bump up against the shore, and can move on.

Lesson to be learned? Never stop writing.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Brief Hiatus (again)

With 2008, I strive for balance (om shanti shanti)...

... It's gonna have to wait.

I've got another way overdue deadline that must take up every spare moment of my time until it is finished.

This is actually a pretty cool piece written for sax quartet + tenor + rhythm ( - piano). It's the second of its kind (Lament for Sasha Bordeaux being first). Like Lament, this is being composed for one of my closest friends, John Thomas and his sax quartet at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.

It's inspired, not by a comic for once, but by a train. The insane monorail named "Blaine" from Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. As a joke to myself, I based the initial chord progression off of Trane's Impressions. Get it? Trane- train!

... Anyway, as much as I envision my long days and pleasant nights well balanced between writing, keeping up with the blogosphere, searching for grants, dreaming about far away lands, I've got to get this finished first.

'Till then, I leave you with this:


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Joys of Teaching

Me: Okay, break over- we need to go back to practicing your major scales.
5th grade clarinet student: Ick! I hate scales!
Me: I thought you liked scales?
5th grade clarinet student: Scales are only fun if you are sure of them.
Me: How do you think you get sure of them- it doesn't happen magically!
5th grade clarinet student: WHAT?! It doesn't?! This is a rip off!
Me: *long, exasperated sigh*

Saturday, January 12, 2008

No Pants Subway Ride

Today is No Pants Subway Ride day!!!

Organized by Improv Everywhere, this NYC based group frequently "causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places" - over 70 missions to date!

The No Pants Subway Ride is exactly as it sounds. Volunteers meet, board assigned trains, then on cue take off their pants and continue to ride the next couple of trains sans pants. When asked about the bizarre before, they respond with "I was getting a bit uncomfortable" or "Yes, I am a bit cold," or my favorite "I guess I forgot my pants this morning."

Only in New York? Not at all! You can be pantless in Boston, DC, Portland, San Fran, Chicago, Adelaide (Australia), and Toronto!

If you are NYC local, they start at 3:00 today and will be pantless on the 6 train running from the Brooklyn Bridge up to 125th, back down to Union Station.

What to volunteer? Check out their website and the rules first!

Guess the Manor House Girls aren't the only ones who enjoy hanging out sans pants.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lp art

via Occasional Superheroine:

Don't know what to do with your old vinyl collection? This collection
of photos called "Sleevefaces" might give you some ideas.
Or you could just
line them up against a wall for sale near my subway station and become part of
the local color.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Enter Sandman?

Dear Jazzers,

I know it seems this blog has spun in place, lights flashing, 70's disco music cued, and with a not so subtle cut screen, emerged into a skimpy, yet patriotically costumed comics blog.

Guess my mind has needed a break from all that jazz.

However, after today's second rehearsal of Maspeth Blues (the 5 note wonder chart!) by the PS 58 Elementary Jazz Band, lead by yrs trly, I'd like to pose a thought to all you jazzer intellectuals (and any other readers out there).

How wrong would it be to arrange an incredibly simplified version of Metallica's Enter Sandman for... elementary jazz band? Would I be reinforcing the current social musical hierarchy which places jazz somewhere above Kenny G, but way below Justin Timberlake (yes, I love him), Toby Keith, and Metallica? Or would I be stealthily bringing these young minds into the jazz fold through pop accessibility?

In the year and half that I've been working with this once a week rehearsing band of 5th and 6th graders, we've done nothing but jazz tunes: a simple unison blues (the aforementioned Maspeth Blues), an arrangement of When the Saints Go Marching In (a beginner jazz band staple) and most recently, a swinging arrangement of Jingle Bells entitled Jingle Jangle Jingle (yes, a reference to Brookmeyer's Ding Dong Ding).

I must say, these kids can swing! Or at least they try really hard. We talk about Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich and they are familiar with the popular players for their instrument. But as much as I'd like to think they are all about jazz, their free play at the beginning of class betrays them. At the beginning of 3rd period today, instead of hearing the repetitive strains of Maspeth Blues, I heard the electric guitarist belting out the introductory riff of Enter Sandman to the delight of the rest of the band.

I locked shocked eyes with Fran, the full time music teacher at my school, and my body was seized with th3 anxiety that accompanied my 8th grade year when that song was so popular.

"How do these kids even know this song?!?"

After Fran and I traded a few rounds of "That's awesome!" (these are elementary kids, we give lots of positive reinforcement), the instantly cool 6th grade guitarist turned a hopeful face to me and asked excitedly, "Can we play it for our spring concert???"

Um, do I look like Jack Black?

But then... my over-achiever overly-caffeinated mind started racing through all the cool ways I could interpret heavy metal through big band. And oh the challenges of doing it with a severely limited range (my lead trumpet rose to the occasion and managed a D in the staff for our holiday concert), 4/4 time signature, and with as few notes as possible for my heavy fingered saxophonists!


"Holy Hot Flash, Batman!" ...whaaaat?

You can't win for trying, as my mother would say. Still, why is it that so often when one cries "Yay, women!", there is a slight aftertaste of belittlement?

Jennie Yabroff of Newsweek has expressed just that with her well intentioned (I assume) article on Gail Simone's recent assignment to Wonder Woman.

Yabroff reports:

When the novelist Jodi Picoult was approached in 2006 to write a few installments of the "Wonder Woman" comic-book series, her impulse was to dress the character in something besides that clearly unsupportive red and gold bustier. "As any woman writer would know," she opines in the introduction to a collection of the comics, "it's impossible to fight crime without straps." The editors at DC Comics vetoed her request, but Picoult sneaked in her point anyway. In a scene set in a bar frequented by comic-book fans, a tipsy customer muses about how Wonder Woman manages to "fight crime in a freaking bikini." Such is the irony of the planet's premier female superhero. Though she was featured on the first issue of Ms. Magazine under the headline WONDER WOMAN FOR PRESIDENT, she's been written, for most of her 66 years, by a man.

But now women are finally breaking into the boys' comics club. With the release of this month's "Wonder Woman" No. 14, the superhero gets her first permanent, ongoing female scribe, Gail Simone...

Traditionally, comics have been by, for and about men. DC Comics won't release reader demographics, but industry insiders agree the readership remains overwhelmingly male. (The Web site claims that DC's leadership was 92 percent male in 1995.) Dan DiDio, DC's executive editor, describes its audience as "college-aged men who are looking for high adventure, a level of risk, fantasy." "Wonder Woman" fits that mold, with its fantasy-based storyline and action-heavy, cleavage-filled plots. But it remains to be seen whether the increasing number of female voices such as Simone's will win superhero comics more female readers.

You really should read the whole thing for yourself before making a judgement, but after you do, check out some response on Occasional Superheroine:

If the point of this recent article in Newsweek on "Wonder Woman" & women in comics was to reassure me about the current place of females both in terms of readership & within the mainstream comics industry, it didn't do a particularly great job. Consider me underwhelmed.

If most of DC's readers are indeed "college-aged men who are looking for high adventure," part of that is a lack of out-of-the-box thinking & laziness. Women and girls enjoy tales of adventure as well. You can't make a comic book that appeals to a girl who likes "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Harry Potter," "Firefly," and your own "Smallville?" Then you've failed. There are hundreds of thousands of females out there that are rabid fans of this adventure/fantasy stuff in other media or in manga. I refuse to believe that the superhero genre by itself only attracts male fans. It's the presentation, the characters, and the story.

And the title of the article: "Holy Hot Flash, Batman!" Wow. Just wow.

Be sure to check out the comments.

While I have to question the 1995 statistic implying that only 8% of it's readers were female, especially with ladies like these out there, my initial reaction was "Yay, Gail!" I truly hope there is no belittlement in that exclamation as I loved Gail on Birds of Prey (and miss her dearly there- what is UP with the bitchy superman?), loved her Villains United (and have dedicated an entire jazz suite to the Secret Six) and agree with masses that Wonder Woman will finally be given the respect that has been absent for the past few years.

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Strong, female characters"

This weekend I had a massive copy job to finish- over 50 pages of music to input into Sibelius by Sunday. Since the Hungarian Pastry Shop was still closed for renovation, I decided to just stay at home to do the work- I’m faster on my desktop anyway. Plus it would give me to a chance to watch (listen) to my newly acquired Wonder Woman Season 2 DVDs.

I was a bit apprehensive about Season 2; I didn’t want my childhood favorite to be tainted by watching through grown up eyes. That is what happened when I eagerly bought Season 1 a couple years ago when it was first released to DVD. I remember popping in that first disc, and 5 minutes into the pilot thinking, Who are these boring WWII military dudes, and when are they going to show Paradise Island?!? I’m sorry, but that first season is BORING. How did I love this show as a kid? I don’t even have the attention span for it as an adult! And what’s more, Diana is annoying! Will she ever stop swooning over Steve Trevor and doesn’t she find his swooning over Wonder Woman a bit demeaning? To be honest, I found that season to be a bit sexist! (and that is a word I use sparingly; as a female jazz musician, I have experienced too much testosterone to cry “sexist” at every small offense).

Nonetheless, I hoped that with the revamping of the show out of the 40’s and into the 70’s, there would be improvement. And after watching (listening to) almost the entire season on Saturday, I was not only pleasantly surprised, but greatly relieved. THERE was the Diana Prince and Wonder Woman that inspired me as a child. Sure, WW’s costume was a bit skimpier, but Diana Prince was just as bad ass as WW! For starters, she was no longer Steve’s assistant, but his associate (love that Themyscirian hypnosis!). She no longer bat puppy dog eyes at Steve, and while he still held an infatuation for WW it is balanced by his respect for Diana. I appreciate how Diana/WW was the same character from the first season and this story just literally toke place 30 years later. And while I feel like the comic’s version of Wonder Woman is more serious, down to business, and even a tiny bit jaded, I love that the TV series portrays Diana and Wonder Woman as very optimistic and eager to find the good in every person or villain (which were constantly getting no more than hand slaps!). It’s just refreshing.

Watching this season brought a wave of nostalgia and realization of how strongly this show influenced me and is at least partially responsible for my current career path. Like many whose childhood was spent in the 80s, I grew up on those WW reruns. I idolized Diana Prince and thought Wonder Woman was the most beautiful woman in the world. I wasn’t really into TV, but I have distinct memories of running next door to my neighbor’s house to get my friend Jay because “Wonder Woman was coming on.” I remember forcing Jay to play “Wonder Woman” with me. I would make him be Steve Trevor (I was a very bossy little girl) and I would be Wonder Woman and would save him from whatever bad thing our 5 year old minds could think of (as we lived on a military base, I’m sure we were able to think of many “bad” things). At the time, Wonder Woman was just a fun game, but looking back as an adult, I see how strongly the show and more over, the character of Wonder Woman influenced me.

To begin with, she was someone I felt I could relate too. I remember fretting that because I had brown hair, I could never be as pretty as those with blond hair (lets blame Barbie for that!). But here was this woman with brown hair and blue eyes, just like me, and she was beautiful! And not only beautiful, but strong, kind, and a hero. The daughter of a Marine, and living on a Marine Base at the time, I was very aware of “heroes” and the concept of saving lives. But, the majority of the Marines I knew were men. To see a female hero, and at a such a young age where I didn’t completely recognize the difference between fiction and reality, taught me a sense of equality between men and women that I never bothered to question thereafter. Of course, I would be remised if I didn’t point out that my mother was also a very strong, independent woman and growing up, it never occurred to me that women could be viewed as lesser beings than men.

That crucial exposure as a child set a precedence: I still today find myself being influenced by strong, female characters. Any given day, I may gain motivation from characters such as Buffy, Sydney Bristow, Veronica Mars, and Lara Croft as well as Black Canary, Oracle, and Donna Troy (whose history of having to restart her life repeatedly I could relate to the most, as I was constantly restarting my life every 2 years as a military brat, and whose story inspired the partially autobiographical song “Serenade for Donna Troy”).

It’s not that I feel oppressed or heavily discriminated against, in fact, most men I know and associate with are very comfortable with women and our role in society. But as someone who loves finding reality in art, I can’t help but be inspired when I read about Oracle out-smarting the Calculator, complete the Bolivia level of Tomb Raider, or watch River Tam beat down the Reavers and Diana Prince spin into Wonder Woman.

It used to be that I only had those fictional characters to look up to, but now my world has been opened to the genius of Maria Schneider, Asne Seierstad, Gail Simone, Joan Stiles, Ingrid Jensen, Paula Radcliff, Deena Kastor, Twyla Tharp, and Pam Pietro, to name a few.

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a benefit for Equality Now. The organization was honoring men who made an impact on women’s equality. Joss Whedon, among others, was being recognized. Joss’s speech on “strong female characters” brought chills to my arms and tears to my eyes (as did the incredible stories of the ordinary men who were also being honored). Afterwards, I sheepishly introduced myself to Joss, got a photo with him (below), an autograph on Astonishing X-Men #1, and slipped him a CD of my Infinite Crisis inspired Master’s Recital (hear it here). He was a super nice guy whose sincerity in his beliefs were clear by his willingness to meet and greet all of his female fans.

If you have a few minutes, watch this video of his speech:

Living life, male or female, and pursuing art, can be extremely challenging. I feel lucky that I have such a large bag of inspiration to pull from when it is needed. I will always feel grateful that I was exposed to a strong, female character at such a young, impressionable age, whose influence continues to assist me down this sometimes cold, NY, coffee driven path.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Time to finally get that star tattoo...

Which Power Ring would come to you?

You have the ability to instill great love in others.Welcome to the Star Sapphire Corps. Your mission will be explained in detail following your teleportation to sector 1416 and training by the head of our corps, the Zamarons.
Take this quiz!

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