Monday, October 24, 2005

My Favorite Activity

First of all, yes, I did add a picture of myself. I went through a lot of pain in saving, editing, and uploading (I'm a little computer challenged) to get it on here, so I hope you enjoy it.

Okay, my favorite activity. Without question it is Youth Symphony. You may know that I play the violin, and I have been taking lessons for 12 years. As for YS, this is my tenth year in the program. Every Saturday morning during the months of August-March, I've been going to rehearsals, and in those 75 months of around 260 practices to date, I've missed only one full rehearsal (to play for a wedding, in case you're interested). People are impressed when they hear this statistic, but I can't imagine missing a rehearsal. YS is just such an inseperable part of my life, but come March 4, 2006, I will play my last concert with the YS, and that will be a bittersweet day.

The most striking aspect of YS for me is how 'right' it feels to be there. During the Christmas and summer breaks, I can't help but feel that something's missing, and when those empty Saturday morning come around, I feel lost. Come the end of August, though, and I'm back among the semi-circle of YS students, I breathe a sigh of relief. Everything clicks, and when we start to pull the peices together, I realize that the 6:30 am alarm clocks and the cold, stiff hands (in winter) are worth it.

For a lot of my favorite things about YS you would just have to be there to understand, but here's one that's easily explainable. First, a little background information.

In YS, as in all symphonies, there are the different sections of instruments: 1st Violins, 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, Basses, Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion. There are some common names used by some for certain sections, and they include: "The Divas" (1st violins), "The Diva Wannabees" or "Divas-in-Training (for youth symphonies)" (2nd violins), "Those That Are Often Confused for Violins and So Stick Together" (Violas), "The Constant Practicers" (woodwinds), and "The Hotshots" (brass).

In the top orchestra of my youth symphony program (a.k.a. "The Elite") the viola section started a trend a few semesters back that one member the section brings a snack to share with the rest of the section. Obviously the Divas could not be outdone, so we (yes, I'm a Diva) copied the violas, and started bringing snacks for our section. Not that we don't socialize, but this never fails to bring everyone together, especially the strings, because technically you can't keep the snacks to your section only. In short, we're all in debt to the violas for starting it, because we all get something out of it.

I could list many more things that I love about YS, but if you wait until late this year or early next year, I'll have a complete essay about my entire time in YS for you all to read.

And I know you're all dying to hear how Don Quixote is coming, but I'm saving that for the next post.

God Bless

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


So I'm only to chapter 10 in Don Quixote, but I've read two other books since my last post.

The first is The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I highly recommend it. Like most of my favorite books, I've read it multiple times (four in this case) and I never get tired of it; in fact, I get more out of it each time. I guess that's the mark of a good book. This one is similar to The Stones of Mourning Creek in that they have the same setting, but The Secret Life of Bees has a more powerful theme of mothers, including the Blessed Mother!

The second one is called Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. My first reaction upon finishing this book was, "How bizarre," but there is some subtle inner-meaning in it that I can't quite grasp. Basically, the protagonist tells the story of her childhood growing up in a secluded boarding school, and how she got to her life now. I don't want to give too much away, but it has almost a sci-fi feel when you get to page 73 and definitely by page 81 (both in the first edition; Knopf 2005). It's completely fictional, but you're left wondering "what if?" and "what next?" If anyone has read this, I'd love to hear your impressions. I love the style of writing and how the characters are drawn, but I just don't know what to get out of it.

For school I'm reading Othello, for the first time. I'll probably be writing a paper about it concerning the tragic character and such in a few weeks.

Other than that, I'll be writing about my favorite activity soon.

God Bless

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Sorry for the delay; as of late I've been consumed with school, work, violin...and more school.

So without straying too far from that oh so pleasant subject of academics, I'll update you on what I've been reading. This also means that I hope you all will fill me in likewise.

I recently finished Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. No doubt some of you have read it, and if you haven't, I do recommend it. I also just finished writing a paper titled "Did Ivanhoe Marry the Right Woman?" (I'm sure John remembers it.) Though it's often full of excessive pageantry and flamboyant descriptions of people, clothing, and battles, it's still worth reading for the love story. And the chivalry!

Some non-school books I have read recently are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Wonder Boys, both by Michael Chabon, and The Stones of Mourning Creek, by Diane Les Bequets.

As for the Michael Chabon novels, the first one was definitely better, though not spectacular, and the second was downright depressing and boring. 'Adventures' is about two cousins, Josef Kavalier and Sam "Clay" Klayman in Brooklyn during WWII who become rich and famous in the comic book business, which was quickly becoming a popular pastime for children and adults at the time. The book also employs a subplot dealing with magicians, in particular escapists, which sounds outrageous, but works. After a few meandering chapters dealing with the passage of about twelve years, the book picks up near the end with a reunion of Kavalier and Clay. It's a fairly long book, but in general it's worth getting through purely for fun. With that in mind, you may be left with the question "what was I supposed to get out of that?".

Wonder Boys, though in its purely technical aspects is a good novel, was overall an uninteresting story with characters you don't care about and events that are at times contrived and unbelievable. The only good literary aspect of the book was the character of James Leer, a young writer, who is a student of the novel's protagonist and narrator, Grady Tripp; and this is only because he is a sympathetic character, who has fallen under the mostly negative influences of Tripp and Tripp's publisher, Terry Crabtree. This alone isn't enough to redeem the book, however, and the parts of the movie that I've seen aren't much better either.

The Stones of Mourning Creek is one of my favorite books. It is about the friendship between a young white girl and a young black girl in a small Alabama town in the seventies. It's part mystery, part drama, part tragedy, but completely inspiring and poignant. The story is told in a simple yet powerful way, and though this is my eighth time through it, I am still left with an ache in my heart for these girls and their families. This book gives you a new view on the old qualities of friendship, which makes it a must-read.

Well, I'll be starting Don Quixote next, because I thought that I'd better read the book that is widely called "the first novel." I'll be sure to update you all on my progress.

God Bless