31 December 2006

Joya no kane

We pulled up to the Asian Art Museum and pulled straight into a parking space just across the street -- even closer than the space reserved for the disabled. This was sheer luck, as plenty of other folks were hunting for parking. The line to the museum stretched around the corner.

IcarusI did a quick spin through the latest special exhibits, Hidden Meanings: Symbolism in Chinese Art and Pioneers of Philippine Art: Luna, Amorsolo, Zobel, which began with Fernando Zóbel's stunning rendition of the myth of Icarus, but my forearms weren't strong enough to carry me through the museum for more than three quarters of an hour on my new aluminum forearm crutches. We lucked out again when we arrived in Samsung Hall, because there were two empty seats left for the disabled and elderly. Nobody objected when I made myself at home.

Samsung HallNick and I used to talk about "Yale moments," moments when we were confronted with the magnitude of the privilege and extraordinary luck and sheer impossibility of being at Yale University. This morning I had a San Francisco moment. I was sitting in a magnificent Beaux Arts chamber with a Rococo ceiling, once used to house books and now used to showcase the arts of Eastern cultures, with hundreds of people from black to white and many colors in between, from babies to young couples to the elderly, from tourists to Japanese (and white) monks, entranced by the haunting strains of a shakuhachi improvisation, followed by the deep, throaty singing of the monks that I had only heard before on some of my most treasured recordings, punctuated by the high floating ring of a ceremonial hand bell, and concluded with 108 strokes of the 2,100-pound 16th century Japanese bell.

I was in group 34 and set my crutches aside to ring the joya no kane with a small group of adults and children. I have heard and played 16th-century bells before -- the Waghevens dynasty was flourishing in Mechelen when this bell was cast -- but ringing the sho was an entirely different experience. It sounded ugly to my ears at first, with its harsh strike tone a ninth above the hum tone and intense beating of the fundamental. But after the first few strokes it became spiritual, meditative, reminiscent of thoughts not yet recovered. I could understand why the Japanese considered this an annual cleansing ritual. My only regret was that the room became a bit of a madhouse with everyone clamoring to participate, and the MC didn't insist on maintianing a respectful silence.

MifuneThe afternoon was uneventful besides a ridiculous amount of young carillonneur network building on Facebook that could only be accomplished by someone in whom intense bell fever and OCD were united, but in the evening we went to Mifune for my favorite comforting slurpalicious udon. While waiting for our food at table 34, I crutched over to the bookstore and marveled at its wares, resisting Hokusai and Hiroshege to the best of my abilities while scoping out potential belated holiday gifts. When I returned, the Daimyo tray was sitting on the table, laden with sashimi and steaming, thick udon. Culinary heaven.

I had really been looking forward to playing the carillon all day at Berkeley, but I suppose some things still weren't meant to be this year what with the accident and all. This afternoon I at least got to peel off my bandages and shower. There's not much to say about the incisions since they're still under surgical tape, but the main incision was definitely extended to about 3 inches or so. I can't wait to see how the scars turn out.

Conversing this evening with a drunkenly gregarious Andrew, I wondered at his talking to me from 2007 while I was still in 2006, as if we were in parallel universes. I also realized after having my father flip through a couple of channels (being too good myself to near the television) that the networks record the NYC celebrations to broadcast 3 hours later on the west coast. Seems lame, but if they didn't, they'd be broadcasting the new year around the world for 24 hours straight.

That would be kind of fun. Kind of sickening, but fun. Let's see if I make it to midnight, since my parents both went to bed while I was jabbering on the phone. For mysterious reasons Andrew has assigned me the impossible task of calling him at Pacific midnight.

29 December 2006


I woke up extremely uncomfortable and shifted around frequently hoping to find a more comfortable position. I also wanted my cell phone (my best friend in times of limited mobility), but was unable to really articulate this, or anything else for that matter.

According to Dr. Belzer, I was "kicking and thrashing everywhere" when I woke up, which reassured him that my leg was working. I admit that that sounds in line with my post-accident mindset in Belgium. I suppose the real scenario was somewhere in between.

It's fortunate that I passed out again, because when I awoke in the recovery room, I was still pretty ill. With a last ounce of effort, I smsed a resolute "Done" [sic] to Mr. Stephenson, convincing myself (erroneously) that I was really just fine. I passed out again and awoke much, much, much improved. The Filipino nurse who saw me out reminded me that Daly City is foggy because of the large Filipino population, which is always steaming fish and rice. And that's what we say about the Chinese in the Sunset district!

JR informs me that he was hiking in a Hawai'ian volcano crater when I called him from the airport. Typical. What a place to be before heading back to blizzardly Denver, though.

Udon from Mifune in J-Town is still my favorite (warm) comfort food in the world. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.

28 December 2006


Spun around San Francisco today without really meaning to. Saw Dr. Belzer, who broke the news to me that the operation would be entirely unnecessary, at 8:30 AM. Was out by 9:15 AM still determined to see it through. Claimed a free cup of lavender earl grey at Peet's Coffee in Laurel Heights, hightailed it to Caffe Puccini and realized that the service there know what my dad's going to order before he can even open his mouth, realized from that that my parents are creatures of habits and I the opposite, enjoyed a thick rich slice of blackberry pie, wandered around North Beach and intently engaged in religious tourism, snooped around the Fairmont Hotel and yoinked a pencil for Baskeyfield since I could think of no one else to justify yoinking it, wandered into Grace Cathedral and immediately had to hold back watery eyes as the sounds of symphonic Aeolian Skinner organ chords washed around us fortuitously, chose a Sennhauser for Christmas courtesy of my parents from the Guitar Center's new location, hopped around the Legion of Honor realizing that the cleverly hidden organ was by E.M. Skinner himself, helped myself to the 50% gift shop sale, took a hike around the mountainous beachfront park on an empty stomach at 2 PM, traveled along my favorite SF highway, and then finally touched down on home again impatient to get started on "real" work, which turned out to be continuing my clean-out spree, sending more cards, processing my summer photos, and receiving a FedExed teddy bear from the minioner in Houston.

Guess "real" work is going to wait until after I'm titanium free.

27 December 2006


That mysterious Filipino carillon surfaces in the media again. Which Belgian carillonneur dedicated and/or installed it? Maybe I should stop asking you and contact the campaigners themselves. It would be nice to bring Hylke some more interesting news than my rehashed account of the World Carillon Federation Congress.


For anyone awaiting such practicalities, my operation this Friday occurs at 7:30 am, and I should be home by the afternoon.

Tiff's Amazon.com Wish List

These practicalities are also interesting, although some of the most interesting books I'm dreaming of are of course not available on Amazon. Donations to the Alexander Capelluto Foundation would be even better presents. A windstorm has been raging outside, and the lights just went out. Too bad I woke up at 6 am. There isn't any sunlight. But now I get to burn my candles, and my parents can't object!

26 December 2006


Godiva cocktail truffles
Returned home to find an anonymous Christmas gift at my front door: A twelve-piece limited edition set of cocktail truffles in a handsome martini shaker. My first martini shaker ever! Now if only I still had martini glasses from the days when I found collecting them entertaining.

I have to admit that, despite its American manufacture, this chocolate is completely palatable. Possibly even exquisite. I think I'm catching on. As one gets older, one receives fewer presents, but the presents get more tasteful and more extravagant. And more anonymous.

Then again, Ingrid gave me The Best of Dr. Suess, the pair of jeans I'd left in Cambridge two years ago and had been asking after ever since, Peet's candy, and yet more yoinked airline safety cards in various languages. Utterly tasteless and utterly ... brilliant.

24 December 2006

city of light

It's a different experience to return to your home city and state when you realize how particular they are. The home of forsaken Candlestick and Robin Williams, of plummeting hills lined with skyscrapers and two bridges always aglow in the distance, all set to a soundtrack of hip hop and r&b and techno and people who definitely still employ the words "hella" and "moded." Amazing.

17 December 2006

sound, glorious sound!

It's sooo good to have my AKG K 301 headphones again. To be able to hear music for what it is! Music, glorious music. Music not being made by me (thank heavens). My life is complete.

Oh, and I'm officially 24 now. I didn't even notice until 20 minutes in. I decided earlier today that I'd been so traumatized by birthdays beginning with my 21st that I had developed an aversion to them rather than the apathy that sometimes develops because there are no landmark birthdays between 21 and 30.

People do remember although I tried to keep it under wraps. I had a birthday message from Belgium at precisely midnight CET, the loanable birthday banner moved mysteriously from Donna's bathroom door to my doorway, and the ECMC folks have even contrived to convince me to go to Matthew's with them tonight on account of it being the final ECMC staff meeting for the year. This is all very much appreciated, at least with what feeble capacity I have left.

The question is: Will I survive to see my 24 and 2/365th day? Monday isn't looking pretty, folks. Oh no it isn't. I wouldn't be unhappy if that cipher in Schmitt persisted all day. It was so loud that uniformed Jeffrey Leo (who didn't recognize me in my non-carillonista guise) came in just to inform me that the school was closing down for the dreaded 11th hour as I attempted to practice my improvisation, "Changes," by drowning out the cipher with deafening bell motifs.

11 December 2006

put on the spot

Organ and electronics and contemporary carillon music? Didn't Randy and I organize that first? What are the likes of Michael Nyman and the Minster bell ringers copying us?

But seriously, I'd love to hear and track down Nyman's piece to see if it's possible to perform it on the carillon. I remember an mp3 with "carillon" in the title attributed to him that I must have deleted, not believing its provenance. It wasn't a carillon piece. But clearly he has an interest in bells... *gears in head start turning*

Dr. Porter put me in the Colloquium spotlight for the first time tonight, coincidentally choosing the pieces I had played from memory in previous studio classes as examples in his "guest lecture" on memorizing pieces. I had, of course, put my organ shoes away, but to my surprise, I was completely calm, accurate, and even expressive playing the first few phrases of Franck's "Prelude, Fugue & Variation" in 3-inch heel boots in front of forty organists. Good confidence-building preparation for Monday, when I meet my doom conducting the anthem and, by the way, conducting anything for the first time in my life. In front of some of the best teachers and students of this matter in the country. Maybe if I wear boots, it'll get me through the trial.

BWV 545
Fugue = OK, still not in my motor memory so conceptual grasp didn't always translate into performance
Prelude = Thumbs down. Not sure if it's my motor memory or conceptual memory that failed me.

Nevertheless, I take a certain pride in at least having attempted these things from memory, something that hasn't been done too frequently in our studio class. Now if only my attempts could be as successful on stage as they are in our organ cubicles.

Dr. Porter called Sally at the beginning of improv class. She was in good spirits as always, even sharp enough to remember at the moment she was put on the phone with me by surprise to thank me for the postcard I'd sent her over the summer (which I'd actually forgotten). What a lady.

One thing I wish I could emulate about Dr. Porter, Sally, and others is by-the-seat-of-your-pants thoughtfulness. When I announced the Xmas carillon concert, Dr. Porter jumped in to encourage everyone to read the Currents carillon article, which I hadn't even thought to mention. I ought to have mentioned to Sally that I had received her email in September with appreciation, but put on the spot, especially over the phone (which I will reiterate to anyone upset at me about it that I have great difficulty talking on the phone), I was rather speechless.

10 December 2006


I wonder why I usually blushed after eating home-cooked dinner in Belgium, but haven't done so here. Tonight it happened, although the food was hardly any good. I know precious little about baking, especially when it involves Greek orzo casseroles, and it doesn't help when the instructions read, "Bake at medium heat for about an hour."

I'm finally feeling as if I've become a part of Rochester. We had another Indian summer day, and after practicing for 3.5 hours in Schmitt Hall, I took off on my bike for Starry Nites Cafe for brunch followed by grocery shopping, which I had not managed to accomplish since Thanksgiving. (Why the stores in that area insist on improper, "hip" spellings such as "Nites" and "Essentialz" is beyond me.) As I carried my vanilla frappe into the back room, I was greeted by the sight of a young man sporting a nifty hat and typing furiously at his MacBook. Ryan had three papers to finish this week on film, photography, and heaven knows what else. But for someone under pressure, he was still good-natured and reiterated that I had to visit Aquarius Records in San Francisco. I resolved to take Ingrid and Adrien along if they hadn't already been in order to check out their best-sellers, including sculpted box record sets à la Duchamp "Box in a Valise" and symphonies of musically trained elephants. I insisted on sitting at a different table to not distract him from his work and lost another pencil in the process of trying to look busy, but I trust a worthy bohemian at the cafe found it and used it to surreptitiously sketch students working at their laptops.

I guess I also felt at home stopping into Image City Photography to see the newest exhibit, which included some extraordinary travel photos of seascapes in brilliant colors framed by decaying windows and walls in brilliant colors. It's so liberating to be involved with a place unassociated with the U of R. Speaking of which, Andrew and Doug and I ended up in a slightly sketchy little ESM-student-free dive last night to celebrate the former's 21st birthday. The irony that led us there was that I'd forgotten my ID, although I was the eldest of the group. It was a good place -- they had Stella on tap, and the bartender was lip-singing with a bottle substituting for a mic. I hadn't drunk in a townie bar with fellow cyclists since... New Haven.

Tonight I finally watched the videos Gary Hilburger had sent me of the Rochester Poets' visit. The memories overwhelmed me a little, as did the renditions of "Image No. 2" and "Een Aangename Voois," which were better than I'd imagined. Especially "Image No. 2." The carillon doesn't sound so bad at all when you're not sitting there playing it! And to see the reactions of my audience through the lens of Gary's great sense of cinematography, and the strangeness of watching my hands from a different angle... What a gift.

08 December 2006

search and ye shall raise

Summer Science ProgramUse GoodSearch.com for your routine web searches. After you designate the "Summer Science Program - SSP" as your preferred nonprofit, Goodsearch will donate about a penny to SSP for every search you make. The underlying search engine is Yahoo! Please do it for this recovering nerd!

In short, Belgians may be crazy but they're happy.

So summarized the writer of an article about how Belgians are rated amongst the happiest and yet most in-therapy European citizens. That actually describes my condition by the end of the year pretty well, minus the therapy. Apparently I took part in a national experience.

07 December 2006

rochesterse duivelskermis

I'm looking up from deciphering my 16th-century Dutch tract by Huygens and it's snowing and sunny. More Low Countries déjà vu in Rochester!

06 December 2006

"A Passion For The Bells"

The carillon is in Currents! This time Leslie Scatterday emailed me about it. I'm always the last to notice, go figure. Time to buy some frames and to deck the halls of the belfry. And thanks to Sarah Permutt for writing the article and Richard Baker for his professional photography.

05 December 2006


Cycling back from the River Campus along the scenic portion of the Genesee Riverway Trail, I was overtaken by a flock of black birds. They were flying in the same direction as I was going, and looking up at them, I felt pulled along almost as if I was one of them. They kept on coming, for perhaps five unbelievable minutes, more and more birds overtaking me almost until I had reached the Troup Howell Bridge.

I gave up practice for 100 minutes this evening to chat with Andrew over coffee. We found that we had stranger things in common than just cycling and The Elegant Universe, despite our disparate backgrounds and my allegiance to the bohemian hipster Java's crowd. By the time I was getting antsy about tomorrow's lesson, we had more to talk about than before and were accelerating in our haste to beat the close of the day. I excused myself in some alarm and a little bit of exhaustion to return to Bach. But what a refreshing personality. What time well spent.

03 December 2006


I have finally, finally, finally accomplished the terrifying task of writing to the former main alumni supporter of the Hopeman Memorial Carillon. I don't know when or if he will respond, but I am very happy to have reached the point in my efforts at which I can contact him with a persuasive campaign and story of progress and promise.

02 December 2006

hummers go green!

An algae-filled recyclable Hummer that opens like a flower to absorb sunlight is pretty funky and an attention-getting way of designing a fully recyclable car. It's a nice surprise for GM spokesmen to speak of the SUV's original intended customers as "people who worked in the outdoors, environmentalists, naturalists and outdoorsmen." But my favorite is Toyota's "electric-powered, tandem-style vehicle with wicker seats that the occupants could opt to pedal through stop-and-go Los Angeles rush-hour traffic." I'd definitely get me one of those.

The most intriguing social commentary I've seen in a while: For one analyst of popular culture, [the popularity of public apologies and rehab solutions is] a measure of the "therapeutic culture" that we live in. "It's like a huge moving conveyor belt. Once you declare yourself to be a client of our therapeutic culture, we say, 'OK great! Welcome aboard,' " says Jerry Herron, professor at Wayne State University. "Somewhere, there will be a sofa waiting for you."

01 December 2006

It's weird being a graduate student. I'm surrounded by married people. Or at least almost married people. Congrats, Ben!