Thursday, May 31, 2012

Classical Thursdays: Chopin's Tristesse

I was intending for my Classical Thursdays to be a weekly thing. Goodness knows there's enough great music for that. But somehow last Thursday slipped past me, so I guess it will be a catch-as-catch-can arrangement.

Today I want to highlight a piano piece by Frédéric Chopin, who I would say is in my top three favorite composers. His Étude Op. 10 No. 3, in E major, nicknamed Tristesse (sadness), is slow and lovely, and the asymmetrical structure of the melody was pretty advanced for its time. Chopin is said to have thought this was his most beautiful composition. When I listen to it, I think it sounds like regret.

Here's a great quote about Chopin's creative process, written by his companion of ten years, George Sand:
Chopin is at the piano, quite oblivious of the fact that anyone is listening. He embarks on a sort of casual improvisation, then stops. 'Go on, go on,' exclaims Delacroix, 'That's not the end!' 'It's not even a beginning. Nothing will come ... nothing but reflections, shadows, shapes that won't stay fixed. I'm trying to find the right colour, but I can't even get the form ...' 'You won't find the one without the other,' says Delacroix, 'and both will come together.' 'What if I find nothing but moonlight?' 'Then you will have found the reflection of a reflection.' source
I feel like that sometimes when I'm writing--I'm trying to find the right color, but I can't even get the form. I think what the artist Eugène Delacroix meant is that you've got to start somewhere, and eventually it will start to resemble what you see in your head. Art doesn't just happen--it's hard work.

In other news, I am a complete ninny and forgot to point out that last week, my CP Liz Briggs interviewed me on her blog! To read my embarrassing answers to her questions and see a mortifying high school photo of me, go here.

I was also interviewed a little while back by Deborah Blum, who I was in a critique group with the past couple of years. Check it out here!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Final Frontier

You might have figured out from my background pictures here and on Twitter that I'm a bit of a space junkie. It's the great unknown, and the possibilities of what could be out there are enough for a lifetime of daydreams. I love a good space movie! Ever seen Sunlight? And don't even get me started on how excited I am for Prometheus.

In reality, space adventuring is still an impossibility. But last night, I stayed up late to watch this:

Unfortunately, since they launched at night, you can't see much. If you want to watch the coolest part after liftoff, skip ahead to 4:17 to see the first stage of the rocket separate, and the second stage engine ignite. And if you're curious why I'm so into these rockets, scroll over to 12:55 and look for the fellow on the right rolling backward and fist-pumping in his chair. So proud of that guy ;)

But the part of all this that had me bawling on my laptop last night was the following video and accompanying sounds. This is such a tremendous achievement. I can't wait to see what happens in the next few days of this mission.

Congrats to all the brilliant, hard-working people at SpaceX!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Squees With Friends!

Just a quick Friday post to share some things I think you should know about:
  • My wonderfully talented friend Cortney Pearson is participating in the multi-blog Writer's Voice competition on Team CupidLC with her creepy YA horror, PHOBIC, about a girl caught in a struggle against her evil house. Check out her entry here! I've just started reading PHOBIC and so far I'm loving it. I think Cortney's going to clean up the competition! 
  • My awesomely creative friend Karen Akins just sold her debut novel, LOOP! Go check out her blog to read the official PM posting and tell her congrats! I read an earlier draft of LOOP and fell in love with Karen's sharp, witty voice and smart mystery plotting. Can't wait to ask her to sign my copy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Classical Thursdays: Dvořák

So I've noticed from your music-related posts and tweets that in general, popular tastes in these circles run to indie and classic 90s. I guess people don't listen to classical music much, unless you're a music major or one of your parents was, and I understand that. The pieces are loooong, and there are no lyrics to enjoy, and frankly it can be as boring as a 14-hour plane flight. But there's some good classical out there, stuff that will make you fist-pump or weep or dance around like a hyper idiot, and I think it's a shame that it's only heard in movie scores and commercials.

In the spirit of my Blog Me MAYbe Thursday assignment of telling you about someone else, I'm going to try something new here. Every Thursday, I'm going to post a piece from my morning playlist of favorite classical music, along with some interesting details about the piece or composer. A lot of them you'll probably recognize from movies or Saturday morning cartoons. One of them makes me cry every single time I listen to it, but I'll save that one for another day.

Today I'm going to start with the 4th movement from Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World." Antonín Dvořák was a Bohemian native, born near Prague in 1841. His father, an innkeeper, butcher, and professional zither player, wanted him to be a butcher as well, but he chose to pursue music instead. He wrote this symphony in 1893 during a visit to the "New World," aka the USA. He was especially interested in Native American music and African-American spirituals, which he considered musically very similar, and used these influences when composing his symphony.

The 4th movement is called "Allegro con fuoco," or fast and fiery, which is exactly how it sounds. Clearly John Williams loves this piece, because you will hear first Jaws, and then Star Wars when you listen to it. Also this video is awesome because the conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, currently the music director here at the LA Philharmonic, is a riot to watch. It's pretty long, but I encourage you to at least listen to the first couple of minutes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BMM Blogfest: Myself in survey form

Last Tuesday, all the cool BMM kids were filling out this A-Z survey from last month's blogfest, so this week I'm following their example:

A is for age: Halfway to seventy, baby, as of tomorrow.
B is for breakfast today: Latte (which is what I call my morning ritual of espresso and nuked milk, not sure how legit that is) and a homemade breakfast burrito, which I make ahead in large batches and freeze like the Suzy Homemaker I am.
C is for currently craving: Red velvet cake. Always.
D is for dinner tonight: Going to try the paella for two from Cooking for Two 2009, my current favorite cookbook.
E is for favorite type of exercise: Running or rollerblading on the beach.
F is for an irrational fear: Two things I worry unnecessarily about are getting caught in a fire and home invasion. Hooray for fear-based media!
G is for gross food: I'll eat just about anything, including offal. The only thing that really turns my stomach, if you can call it a food, is chewing gum. Blarg.
H is for hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the oldest European settlement in the Midwest.
I is for something important: Health. As long as you've got that, everything else is gravy.
J is for current favorite jam: Raspberry. Blueberry. Rhubarb. I'm a fan. Oh wait, you meant music? I'm not terribly savvy...We Are Young is a fun one. Right now I'm listening to Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor. I'm kinda all over the place.
K is for kids: Not yet, but I've hit The Age, so...I'll keep you updated.
L is for current location: Home office, curled up on my chair in a most un-ergonomic way.
M is for the most recent way you spent money: Registering for LA SCBWI 2012, baby!
N is for something you need: Me time.
O is for occupation: i'm in ur internets, cleaning ur searches 
P is for pet peeve: People who make a right turn on a red light when there's oncoming traffic. It's an LA thing.
Q is for a quote: "Precision of language, Jonah." -From The Giver.
R is for random fact about you: I used to play on an adult kickball team with Mena Suvari. 
S is for favorite healthy snack: Baked kale chips!
T is for favorite treat: Paaaastries.
U is for something that makes you unique: My middle name is Zouri, and I've yet to meet anyone else with that name.
V is for favorite vegetable: Cauliflower, kale, pretty much fresh anything. Love all my veggies.
W is for today’s workout: Yoga at lunchtime.
X is for X-rays you’ve had: Broken foot, dysfunctional sinuses.
Y is for yesterday’s highlight: Tennis class and dinner with two of my oldest LA friends.
Z is for your time zone: Pacific--it's 500 feet from my house!

Can you see the tiny sliver of beach visible from my office? It's right behind the tattoo parlor...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blogfest: MAY I tell you something about myself?

Today is the first day of the Blog Me MAYbe blogfest, hosted by Sara McClung. Jump over here to check out the other participants' entries!

Tuesday's writing prompt is: MAY I tell you something about myself? Since I might be getting some visitors today who've never been to my blog before (Welcome!), I thought I'd give the quick and dirty version of how I got to this point.

Elementary school: Win a blue ribbon at a Young Authors event in first grade. Write stories obsessively throughout the rest of elementary.

Middle school: Decide I want to be a nurse. Still enjoy writing stories.

High school: Start studying French, go on a trip to Morocco. Pick up Spanish and German courses as well by the end of high school, decide I want a glamorous international job that requires foreign languages, intend on being fluent in at least six. Still enjoy writing stories.

College: What else could I become but a diplomat? Major in Political Science, second major in German and near-minor in French. Story-writing ceases entirely.

Post-college: Move to Germany on scholarship. Intern at U.S. consulate, decide I should become a lawyer and get a job at a patent law firm in Munich. Worst-looking career ever. Office mate presents the idea of studying journalism because I like politics and writing, which leads to brief stint in Istanbul writing for English-language daily paper. Creative writing idea flutters like a tiny, near-dead moth in the back of my head.

Grad school: Realize within a month of starting journalism school that this is not the field for me. Also within a month of starting j-school: 9/11, which shapes the entire experience. Squeak through with an internship in copy editing and a thesis in photo (wanna see the pics? more on that here).

Real world: Land a great job at a great company, who could ask for anything more? Using my foreign language skills, job satisfaction high. And yet. These stories, they keep popping up in my head, and so little by little, in my spare time I begin trying to write them down. And they're awful. But I keep starting stories, and eventually one sticks, and I finish it. And it's awful. And then I begin the very long process of learning how to tell a story.

So that's me and my writing journey in a nutshell! Did you tread a similar path?