Monday, November 29, 2010

Take that, NaNoWriMo

And with a superhero quality roundhouse kick to the chest, I take out the NaNoWriMo challenge once again. At this point (with one day left to go) I've written around 52,000 words. I failed to write anything at all on three days because I was just too busy, with an average of 2,002 words per day, ranging from 1,165 words to 3,326 words.

But, why?

Why do I do this? My story is incomplete (really, 50,000 words is hardly enough for a full-length novel). I'm probably only three quarters of the way through (maybe even less) largely due to the fact that I've been writing on the fly (i.e. without a plot outline). Writing on the fly is both exciting (you never quite know what's going to happen next) and bad for my writing quality (I've written a disgusting amount of drivel). And wow, does it ever need to be edited (as per the previous remark). I've decided to cut out an entire character. That's probably a waste of 5,000 words right there on someone I'm not going to use, but won't dare to cut out until after Dec 1st so that I have enough words to complete the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge.

Why do I bother to participate in NaNoWriMo when I write almost everyday anyway?

I'm not sure.

Maybe I'm experiencing something similar to mob mentality/lemmingism (I made that word up) that if every one's doing it, than I should do it too. Perhaps that's the reason why I should absolutely not participate in NaNoWriMo--I write almost everyday anyway because that's what makes me happy. I know that one 50,000 word stint for one month does not a writer make, and now half the people I know seem to be 'doing it, man' and that kind of irks me. Now here's a look into my psyche for better or annoys me that so many people are doing NaNoWriMo (and succeeding) because it makes me feel less special, less unique, and more like I'm just like everyone else. I hate that feeling. Who doesn't, I suppose.

The only good thing I've gotten out of this month is Nora. I love writing her. She's neurotic, yet fun and I think I'll be a bit sad when I finish this manuscript--it's her last story. She's been through a lot since I first introduced her in The Cure, including chasing a thief, loosing a friend, breaking some one's heart, understanding her own heart better, being hit, choked, suffering a dislocated shoulder and nerve damage, moving thousands of miles away from her birth place, meeting her father and finally...well I haven't written that part yet, but finally finding happiness. Now if only I can find an agent and a publisher who believe in her as much as I believe in her.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Put on your stetson, we're heading to the rodeo

Okay, so we've actually already been to the rodeo, and I don't own a stetson, but the title sounded good. Last Saturday (November 13th) night we went to the Canadian Finals Rodeo held here in Edmonton at Rexall Place. We sat in the nosebleed section, which was fine. We could see the whole arena clearly from where we sat, and we didn't have to worry about any angry bulls charging the fence (which had happened the night before). Andrew and I brought our dinner (I love packing sandwiches on this sort of occasion), since we were on the LRT shortly after 6:00 pm and the show started at 7:00 pm.

I found the rodeo interesting, although I'm not too sure what to say beyond that. It's not something you'd readily find in other parts of Canada (although there was one cowboy from Ontario, and a few from Saskatchewan and BC), or at least not to such a large extent, so I thought it was one of those things we needed to do before leaving the province. That being said, would I/we go again? I know Andrew was not a fan. He could see the skill required and purpose of calf roping (done in singles and pairs), and he liked the woman's barrel racing, but didn't care for the bronco/steer/bull riding. I can see that. Really, why would anyone in their right mind willing take a seat on an angry animal whose sole goal is to get you off their back and possibly trample you in the process? I can see how it might easily be taken as a testosterone charged contest--and whether or not that's how the contestants feel I don't know. Regardless, I found myself cheering and hollering all the same and maybe that's just because I don't step back and think about things in an introspective manner.

The scoreboard over head listing how the cowboy's ranked, and showing us close-up pictures of the contestants as they waited to be released into the arena.
My pictures seemed to be rather washed out, but it looks like it's team calve roping here.
Bronco riding, don't remember if it's with or without a saddle, though.
After everything is said and done, I did enjoy myself. Not in an, 'oh my gosh that was fantastic I can't wait until next year' sort of way, more an 'I've never had that experience before and I'm glad I can say I've seen what it's like' kind of way. In fact, I really appreciated the horses used throughout the rodeo. Although I grew up in the country, I never lived on a farm, so I've always thought horses were pretty--and there were some very lovely horses in the arena on Saturday night. Beautiful white ones,with long flowing manes (just the type you might expect Princess Buttercup to ride away on), and gorgeous Pinto horses. *sigh* Maybe in my retirement I'll learn how to ride (right, like I'm going to have free time when I stop working for pay).

All-in-all we can cross rodeo off on our list of things to do before we leave Alberta. Yeah, we've got a 'to do list,' since we don't expect to stay out here for the rest of our lives and we want to make sure we've seen what the province has to offer. Next up? I don't know. It'll probably have to wait until spring when the weather improves (-24C today). Maybe a trip to Drumheller, or the Badlands, since I've never been to either.



Monday, November 15, 2010

The violin delights at the ESO (and so does the oboe)

This past Friday night was our regular Master Series concert at the ESO. We'd experienced our first session with a personal trainer that afternoon, and so had to rush through dinner to get ourselves out the door in time to walk down to the Winspear. Thankfully the night was pleasant and clear, and we were able to walk rather than drive. We got there with ten or fifteen minutes to spare so we had plenty of time to settle in and peruse the ESO program book. While I'm sharing my thoughts, I'm going to throw out this: I'm not a big fan of the new format of the program book. I feel like there are too many colours, too many different fonts and too many graphics (or at least larger ones) in the write-ups of the features music--but that's just my opinion.

On to the music...

The first selection was Handel's Royal Fireworks music. What is there to say about the Fireworks? It's well...classic. Even the orchestra at W.C.I played it when I was in grade 11 (I think), not nearly as good as the ESO, of course. It's been sometime since I've heard the entire piece (although I'm sure I've heard it on the CBC) and found I was not as familiar with the short movements after the overture as I thought I was. The ESO sounded wonderful, rich and expressive as always. It was a pleasant start to the concert.

After the Fireworks came two contemporary selections written by living composers. The first was Requiem for the Victims of a War Torn World by Malcolm Forsyth. To be honest, I didn't care much for this selection, and not for the reasons I think other people might have not liked it. The write up in the program states: "The imagery is clearly on the opposites: foreboding, discord on the one hand--peace and hope on the other." I expected something really weird with clashing chords that were tough on the ears, and there was a little of that, but I found the repetitious quarter or eight notes (I'm not sure which) unimaginative. After performing Threnody by R. Murray Schafer, in high school, it just wasn't weird enough.

The second contemporary selection was Borealis by John Estacio. I felt that this piece lived up to my expectations more successfully than the previous one. I expected it to sound shimmery (as it was inspired by the Northern Lights) and it did. It also had four (maybe five?) xylophone-type instruments, which I thought rather interesting, and thus my attention was drawn toward the percussion section for pretty much the entire performance (there were also three gongs, tympani, and possibly some other drums, which I've forgotten about at this point). The composer used a technique called glissing, where the musician bends the note their holding up or down to the next one, rather than playing two distinct notes. When the orchestra did this en masse it sort of reminded me of the sound-check thing you get at the beginning of movies, but it was still an interesting effect.

The second half of the night featured two short pieces, one by Bach (Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor) and one by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto in E minor). The former featured the principle oboist of the ESO, Lidia Khaner, and guest violinist, Elmer Oliviera. I love the oboe. I'm not sure why, I only learned the basics of the clarinet (being primarily a piano and string player), and I know some people equate the oboe's sound to a quacking duck, but I enjoy it all the same. The Bach piece was sort of a conversation between the oboe and the violin, with the rest of the orchestra just there to fill in the gaps. The program notes inform me that this piece was written as 'special occasion' music, meaning that it was commissioned by Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen for a specific event, unlikely to be performed again. Additionally, it's likely that this Concerto was used as the basis for another for two harpsichords, likewise composed for a single event. Regardless of how often it might have been heard during Bach's life time, this was a delightful piece that effectively showed off its two main instruments.

Finally, the Mendelssohn Concerto. This is one of those pieces I absolutely love, because of some mental block, I can never remember who wrote it or what it's called. Therefore, after hearing the first couple of bars I got excited when I realized what I was listening to. My fond memories of this piece stem back to a cassette tape that used to get played in my family's car on trips, called: Hooked on Classics. The tape included what was essentially a mashup of classical works put to a beat (I know, an absolutely dreadful idea, but this was the 80s). There's something about this wickedly complex piece and its jolly theme that just strikes a chord with me, but even if I wasn't already predisposed to enjoy this performance, the violinist, Oliveria, was extraordinary. For starters, he's the only American violinist to ever win the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. If that doesn't suggest to you how good he was, I'm not sure I can describe it. As a second note, of the last three years Andrew and I have been subscribers to the ESO, he had the longest and loudest standing ovation I've ever seen for a guest musician. Yeah, that good.

As per usual for a Friday night, the performance concluded with an After Thoughts session with music director Bill Eddins, Estacio, Khaner, and Oliveria. Of particular interest was Oliveria's discussion of his violins. His primary instrument is a 1729/30 Guarneri del Gesu, but what he played for us on Friday was a three-year old Chinese made instrument. Apparently, Chinese workshops are becoming highly noted for their stringed instruments and Oliveria likes to play them along with other contemporary makers. I would never have guessed his violin was of Chinese descent. It sounded wonderfully rich, but then an outstanding violinist can make any instrument sound good.

As long as I've read my schedule correctly, this is our last ESO concert until the new year. Good thing as I don't know when we'd squeeze another one in anyway.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catching up by way of Jeopardy's favourite category: Potpourri

I haven't been a terribly active blogger these last few weeks. This because: a) my life is frankly not that interesting (but I blog about it anyway); and b) I've been busy writing/editing and I feel like any moment I'm at my home computer and not working on my manuscript is equivalent to goofing off. Therefore, it's time for a lightening round/potpourri blog post.

Toronto Marathon, October 17th, 2010
I believe I mentioned in passing that Andrew and I had planned to run the Toronto marathon when we were home in October. It started out rather lovely. The weather was good--sunny, but only around 13/14 degrees Celsius--we were enjoying running the streets of Toronto and recognizing places we'd been, and we were projecting a finish time of around 4 hours and 15 minutes at the halfway mark. Unfortunately, we didn't get there. My IT band burst into flames around the 30 km mark.

Okay, it didn't burst into flames, but it started to give me that old familiar feeling that if I didn't stop running, and soon, my knee would tear itself apart. I seem to have a 30 km cap on my IT band, as that is usually where it bothered me in our training runs. Sometimes I'd be able to keep going (as in our last 37 km training route), but there were a couple of times where we had to walk home. I was disappointed to stop (I think I actually started to hyperventilate and cry a bit), but I'm still able to run now, which might not have been the case if I'd tried to push through. We're taking it slow right now, having only run more than 5 km once since getting home. We're also transitioning into our Vibram Five-Fingers, which are awesome, but they take A LOT of getting used to.

Hotel MacDonald, October 23rd, 2010
Andrew and I celebrated our 6th anniversary (actually on the 22nd of October) as if we were rich by staying at the Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton. For those of you who aren't familiar with Edmonton's Hotel MacDonald, it's an old CP Rail Hotel built on the edge of the river valley and it's beautiful. We brought our camera with us intending to take pictures of the hotel and our room, but we never got around to it. We booked a suite as apart of a packaged deal where we got our room, dinner (excluding beverages), breakfast and valet parking all for one price. The food was marvelous. I had pork for my main, while Andrew went for the surf 'n turf (also the most expensive entree on the menu). We were absolutely stuffed at the end, but it was well worth it.

Chantel Kreviazuk and the ESO, November 1st, 2010
To be honest, neither Andrew or I are huge fans. We don't own any of Chantel's CDs, although we're familiar with her music--and she wrote my favourite Song Quest song, from the CBC challenge last year: "In Waskada Somewhere." However, when we saw the show advertised in the 2010-11 ESO program we thought it might be fun so we purchased tickets. We sat in our regular spots (dead centre, front row of the Upper Circle), and so had a good view of the stage.

I rather enjoyed the concert. I think Chantel has a strong singing voice, and is an excellent pianist. Attending the concert made me wish I had more time to practice (both the piano and singing), but I still lack the basic underlying skills to ever be better than the average individual who's completed their Grade 8 Royal Conservatory exam. She told the audience stories about the origins of her songs, which I think added a nice personal touch, and also made her seem quite human--like she might be fun to have a couple of beers with. I also thought the orchestra sounded splendid, as always. The orchestrations were lush and dramatic, and seemed as though each arrangement would be perfect for the final scene in an award-winning movie.

RED, November 5th, 2010
I'd noticed a couple of folks endorsed RED through their Facebook posts, but hadn't much notion of what the movie was about. A couple of weeks ago I even had a conversation about it with my skating coach. On a whim last Friday afternoon I thought I would check out the trailer and immediately thought: yes. Andrew and I hadn't been out to see a movie since How to Train Your Dragon at Easter, so this seemed like the perfect choice to break that streak. It was full of action (lots of guns), was completely silly, contained surprisingly few swear words, and a whole slew of big names (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and others). Andrew and I both enjoyed it immensely. And, it was partly filmed in Ontario--during a scene in the movie I leaned over to Andrew and said: I think that's the Toronto Reference Library! I couldn't find anything online to absolutely confirm this statement, but I'm pretty sure.

NaNoWriMo, all of November, 2010
Ah NaNoWriMo, how I love to hate you. I've previously blogged on my concerns regarding NaNoWriMo here, so I'm not going to re-hash my feelings now. What it does do is force me to write everyday, which I should be doing anyway. I've choosen to work on Nora's third and final story, which has been a lot of fun. I've realized that Nora's a lot like me in her neurotic, over worrying tendances, which is perhaps why she's so easy to write. Presently I'm at the halfway mark in my word count, and that's with a day on which I wrote absolutely nothing. I should get the 50,000 done with no problem, but I'm hoping to get more than that written, since I know 50,000 words is not enough for a completed novel.