Thursday, December 21, 2006

How modern marketing has jaded me and made me paranoid

So today I had an intense hankering for not-authentic Mexican food and grabbed myself some supreme tacos from my favorite fake Mexican eatery Taco Bell. I wasn't going to let a little thing like E. coli outbreaks keep me from that tasty amalgam of salty (maybe) meat, cheese, some form of (E. coli-carrying) vegetable medley and sour cream. It's the plague that gives it that irresistible tang.

The highlight of Taco Bell meals are their sauce. At least it is for me. I love that stuff. But only on food from Taco Bell. Anyhow, Taco Bell has been running this campaign for a while where the little sauce packets have messages on them like they're some kind of sentient being trying to connect with you via funny one-liners. Kind of reminescent of taglines from the ads for Crunch'n'Munch and Brach's Rocks in comic books from the 90s. They're not all that bad, but you know, it's some marketing execs who thought this up so every now and then they're gonna mess it up.

Today was odd though. I seemed to have reached in and grabbed a bunch from a batch created by the most lazy ass bastard on the marketing team. One simply said "I collect straws." TWO said "Not it." But the last one? That's the one that's making me write this entry.

The last one said simply. "Ta-dah." Now, it seems that years of being bombarded by pop-up ads/swooshing flash ads/collapseable banners that cleverly hide the collapse button/people stopping you in the street to ask, "Where do you do your hair?" only to try and foist some spa deal on you/sandwich board dudes with flyers/that one guy on who's always on St. Mark's with the mohawk who's REALLY good and flicking fliers SUPER loud right in your ear when you walk by, made me instinctively flinch as my brain quickly went through several seconds of defensive mode, going, "What the fuck. Don't tell me this is some kind of promo for the Scissor Sisters. What if I rip open this pack of sauce and instead of the usual spicy gloop I hear the opening bars of 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing?' Shit am I going to get a holograph of Jack Shears, like Princess Leia, telling me to check out their website for an exclusive song download? Did I just swallow the code to enter a drawing for a free ticket?"

But after I went through that string of thought I ripped open the package, squeeze out some sauce and went back to happily munching on the taco supreme.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Johann Sebastian BAH!

Today's post starts as a journey into inanity, but then veers back to the land of the highbrow.

Ok, my compulsive need to read has lead me down the road of actually reading stuff about "celebrities." I blame too much Gawker and just the fact that I live in New York for making me dream about making "socialite" Tinsley Mortimer cry and the vicious glee I displayed in that dream. It's kind of involuntary too. Nevermind trying to study something. Crap like that never stays in my head. It's random tidbits of trivia that always get lodged in my brain.

Anyhow, the term "frenemy" keeps popping up. Especially in regards to the crackhead, Stockholm-syndrome, PR-produced antics of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. (Random digression: So I was chillin' with some college friends a little while back and we were thinking back to the college days when one of them blurted out, "Remember on time in class when you said, 'What the hell happened to Lindsay Lohan?? One minute she's in 'The Parent Trap' and the now she's got BREASTS!'?" It took me a while to remember that moment, then I chuckled and said, "Oh yea. That was pretty funny.")

I myself have a frenemy. You guys might know him. Maybe not. He's chill and does great stuff with music. You know him? Johann Sebastian Bach? Yea that mofo. Me and J.S. (that's what all of us who are really down with him call him) got some history.

(That's right Star magazine. Take note. "Because like, you know? Bach threw a drink at me and hit me...that's not cool...but like no, he didn't. Like we're cool. People just need to stop spreading lies. BE ADEQUITE." Ok, ok...I'll lay off of making fun of Lohan.)

You see, I used to take piano lessons. Now in Korea, learning how to play the piano used to be pretty standardized. It didn't matter if you took private lessons or learned at a huge piano tutoring hive, the text was pretty much the same. So you'd start out with "Bai-ell" (probably, Bayer) to learn the basics. Then the next couple of books were a collection of exercises by "Che-reu-nee" (Czerny), starting with 100, then moving down as it got progressively harder. You weren't shit until you got down to Czerny 30. Seriously, we used to brag.

Kid 1: Hey, you know how to play the piano?
Kid 2: Yea, of course.
Kid 1: Well, I'm Czerny 50.
Kid 2: Oh yea? I'm Czerny 30.
Kid 1:...Oh..oh yea?? Well, I'm playing Sonatinen too! Which one are you on in that?

Now, when you got around to the Czerny books, that's when you got supplemented with others. The most basic and universal supplement was the blue, thick Handel book filled with finger exercises. That's all they were. Different ways to go up and down the scales. It was what you always started your practice and lessons with.

Then there was the Sonatinen book, which was usually orange and white with well...basically rinky dink Sonatas. Not rinky dink as in bad, but you know, for sort of sinking your teeth into with Sonatinens by myriads of composers before you moved onto real Sonatas collections. Basically, after Sonatinen, it was up to your teacher's discretion what you did in the Sonata area. My piano teacher had me move on to Mozart Sonatas.

Then...there was Bach.

Now don't get me wrong. Contrary to what the title of this particular post says, Bach is actually one of my favorite composers. However, we definitely had our difficult period when I was taking piano lessons.

I'm not the best ivory tickler. But my mom wasn't pushing me to learn because she wanted me in Julliard or something. Sure, it would've been cool, but her thinking was more that I should have some kind of skill. Oh, and she also wanted me to play in church. Yea...she really should have predicted that one not working out.

Besides, while I love music, I loved making music come out of the piano and how the music sounded. I hated the idea of playing for an audience. I could never do recitals. I had to play "Pomp and Circumstance" for a graduation. I wanted to die.

My piano teacher was the deacon's daughter at my mom's church. She was awesome. Now *she* played in church. In fact, she went on to college to be a pipe organ major. Which is so cool. If anything, I wish I had the tenacity to stick with my piano playing to move on to the pipe organ (Man, I'd play the shit out of Pachelbel's Hexachordum Apollinis). I love instruments. People know this. I have intense instrument jealousy over all the instruments I can't play. People, I will be your best friend if you play a dobro or a harpsichord or any instrument.

I remember for one Easter how my mom's church put on Handel's Messiah. My mom dragged me along since my piano teacher was going to be at the organ for this one, but honestly, even though I acted like I didn't want to go I enjoyed every minute of it. Years later when I was back in Korea during one of my breaks in college, my piano teacher invited me see a German pipe organist play. After the performance she said, "Sorry she played such...hard pieces. At least she played 'Sleepers, Awake' at the end. You were probably happy for that." I shook my head and meant it when I said it was damn awesome even when she was playing some of the crazy modern arrangements.

But back to Bach. Before the actual "Bach Inventions" book you get a practice Bach book with little Bach songs in it. I didn't like it that much except for "Arabesque." That's one of the few songs I can actually play well (besides "Plaisirs d'Amour") because I played it so many times.

By the time Inventions rolled around it was pure hell. The Handel books only sin was that it was tediuous. I mean you were doing scales over and over again. Czerny was just something you had to get through. It wasn't great music but it was all about technique. However Bach Inventions? A combination of tedium and technique that made you want to rip your eyes out like "Event Horizon" because you did not want eyes to see that book.

You have to understand. Bach is all counterpoint. That's what the Invention was about. Because not only did you learn different playing styles in regard to rhythm and finger, but thanks to the Baroque filigrees and and whatnot Bach kept adding to the basic tune, in the course of playing one song you were practicing 10 different versions of a tune.

Again, I love Bach. Love listening to him. I made myself learn how to play Toccata and Fugue in D Minor because I loved pounding away at the keyboard for it. Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor made me terribly sad that I didn't learn how to play the violin. For an English assignment I brought in a tape to play "Erbarme dich" from the St. Matthew Passion while I did a Friar Lawrence monologue after learning Romeo and Juliet had died.

But show me that damned ochre/burnt sienna Inventions book and I will chuck it across the room with venom.

Here's Heifetz playing Chaconne. The second half of the Chaconne is directly below.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's a too small world

For some reason, I've been continuously running into an inordinate amount of people who went to school with me lately. Not that it's bad, but seriously, what are the chances? Then after thinking about where I run into these people I concluded that considering the character of my commute routes and usual hang outs it's really not that hard to see why I keep running into old schoolmates.

Just this morning I ran into someone who I was on staff with me at the lit mag on campus (I know. Literary magazine. How geeky. Shut it.). I've seen people pass me on the street and get on subway cars too fast for me to talk to them, but they've been swarming around. But Tuesday night's run in is really itching at me.

Sometimes the connection between me and the people I run into can be as tenuous as the fact that we had the same class together. But that's a whole couple of months. I mean, sure, we might've sat at the opposite ends of a lecture hall or only talked to each other once to say "You think you did ok?" when handing in that final or something, but at least I can place them somewhere. Not this time.

On Tuesday evening I was at the Bowery Ballroom to see ¬°Forward, Russia! (Also, boo to all of you who could not go with me to see them. You know who you are. Seriously, quit your jobs, get fired or drop out of grad school so you can go see shows with me on Tuesdays. We used to stay up until 3 am back in the day, man. We operated on 3 hours of sleep max. What happened? We aren't that old. There's no reason I should be alone up front getting Tom Woodhead's spittle on me as I headbang. Though I will say I met a nice girl who was an excellent concert buddy. Anyhow, back to the story...). I was handing over money to a guy at the register to buy my ticket when he says something. I wasn't paying attention, so he repeats, "Hey, did you go to X?"

"Yea!" I say a bit too excited. After a minute of weirding him out by staring at him trying to figure out how this guy knows me and not answering his question of whether I wanted to go in or not I blurted out, "Where do I know you from?"

He looked at me and said in a "duh" voice, "Ha, because I went to X?"

OK, maybe I worded it wrong. I probably should've asked "How do you know me from X?" But come on, it was implied that I wanted the details. There was a line behind me and I wasn't going to get in the way of letting someone do their job (ignore the "get fired or quit" statement I made above). Unfortunately, he was not around when the show ended. In the really random chance that he does come across this (Hell, considering how this week has been going, I wouldn't be surprised.), I'm going to get all Craigslist here:

Mr. Bowery Ballroom ticket guy,

Seriously, this is going to bug me for a while. I hate being left curious about stuff. I know, I'm neurotic like that. When applied to me, "Curiousity killed the cat" isn't a cautionary proverb about letting sleeping dogs lie (see how I layered on the maxims like that? And interspecies, like? Lit Mag 4 Life, son.), it's about the cat getting an ulcer after randomly thinking every now and then, "Seriously man, what the fuck was that?" for weeks. On top of that, I feel like a total douche that I did not recognize you. I mean, you didn't know my name so it wasn't like you were so and so's friend or something. And it's not like I was involved with Greek life stuff so I'm suspecting it's something more random. Same major? Was it a class?

I'm sure it's probably something like you saw me walking around on campus. I won't think it's weird. I had funny colored hair then. It wasn't uncommon for people I had never seen before my entire academic career to stop me and ask for hair dying tips or to say "Hey, I've seen you around. You had bright red hair last year."


That chick you recognized who was buying a ticket to see ¬°Forward, Russia!