Thursday, December 16, 2010

Play On, Said Shakespeare

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who play a musical instrument and those who wish they did. I have always wanted to be one of those people who could sit down at the piano and play any song by ear, so people could sing along to their favorite tunes. I took piano lessons for years, but don't practice now and am not very good. I keep saying I'll take it up again, but I already have too many (way too many) projects.

I also played clarinet during middle school. I was always second chair. First chair was held by a boy named Mike, who I believe went on to study at Juilliard. I retained second chair status not because of my clarinet skills, but because I was a good sight reader (thanks to those piano lessons). I never wanted to play clarinet. I wanted to play oboe, but our conductor said I didn't have the right embrasure and that we already had an oboe player. Never mind that we had 13 clarinet players.

As any parent of neophyte musicians knows, those early years can be painful. Squeaks and squawks, missed beats, wrong notes and rhythmic challenges are all part of the territory. Among our children, we have suffered through enjoyed two trumpet players, two violinists, a saxophonist, two pianists and a drummer. This does not count their Rock Band sessions.

We beg them to practice. We rent instruments and pay for lessons. We attend school events euphemistically called "concerts". We provide "black bottoms, white tops and black dress shoes" for said concerts. We smile and clap and pretend to recognize the songs they are playing. We endure 73,248 performances of "Hot Cross Buns". We buy band and orchestra fund-raising crap products. We schlep them to rehearsals at 7:15 in the morning twice a week. We secretly wonder why.

But then one day, usually sometime during middle school, the squeaks and squawks turn into sounds that vaguely resemble … music. At first, you're not quite sure you actually heard what you think you heard. But, then, sure enough, you identify a melody. Your ears stop bleeding. You recognize that though your child may not be a prodigy, there is a certain level of proficiency that has been attained. You pat yourself on the back for providing this cultural immersion, knowing that they will carry their love of music with them for the rest of their lives.

It's usually about this time that they decide to quit.

Last week, we attended the winter concert of our two youngest children. It was the school's "Winter Concert", as our public school no longer gives holiday concerts. The short video (I promise, it's just just 33 seconds) showcases the one holiday medley they played and features our curly blonde mop-topped saxophonist (in about the middle of your screen) and our shaggy brunette trumpet player behind him to the left.

If you still think this does not sound like music, then you either never took up an instrument yourself or your children have not yet started. If you thoroughly enjoyed it, then your children are still at the squeaky, squawky stage. I feel your pain. Either way, I hope it brought a smile. Donations may be sent to the Bearman Musical Scholarship Fund. Any level of contribution welcome. Comments are also welcome here.

Happy, happy, merry, merry to one and all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Haul-idays! 2KoP First-ever Giveaway

There are two kinds of people in the world — those lamenting the decline of publishing as we know it and those who believe that books are just too important to fade away. I love books. I love the Internet, too, but it's not the same as reading a book. I think e-Readers play an increasing and interesting role in the world of writing and reading, but they aren't books.

This holiday season (like every holiday season in my past) — I will be celebrating with books — giving some and, if I'm lucky, receiving some as gifts. Imagine my joy when I learned that Chronicle Books is offering bloggers the opportunity to win $500 worth of books. Even better, if you comment on this post, we could both win. Simple as that. This is my first-ever giveaway post here on Two Kinds of People. I hope it makes you as happy as it has made me. Here's my Chronicle Books wish list, in order of discovery:

Lotta Jansdotter Seedlings Journal $9.95
L is for Lollygag — Quirky Words for the Clever Tongue $12.99
Show and Tell — Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans $24.99
This is NPR — by Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, and David Folkenflik $29.95
You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, by Jack Kerouac $12.95
Secret Lives of Great Authors: What Your Teachers Never Told You About Famous Novelists, Poets, and Playwrights — by Robert Schnakenberg $16.95
You Know You're a Writer When … — by Adair Lara $9.95
Writer's Workshop in a Book — The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction — edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez $14.95
No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days — by Chris Baty $14.95
Art of McSweeney's — by the Editors of McSweeney $45.00
Creature ABC — by Andrew Zuckerman $19.99
Creature Floor Puzzles — by Andrew Zuckerman $24.95
Duck! Rabbit! – by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld $16.99
Eric Carle Decorative Prints — by Eric Carle $24.95
The Lonesome Puppy — by Yoshitomo Nara $17.99
Creature — by Andrew Zuckerman $60.00
Eric Carle Animal Lacing Cards — by Eric Carle $14.95
Eric Carle Animal Flash Cards — by Eric Carle $14.95
The Doorbells of Florence: Fictional Stories and Photographs — by Andrew Losowsky $18.95
This is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Works — edited by Kathy Kiernan and Retha Powers $16.95
Walk the Dog: A Parade of Pooches from A-Z — by Bob Barner $9.99
Amazing Animals: Snakes $5.99
Amazing Animals: Parrots $5.99
Animals Nobody Loves — by Seymour Simon $7.99
Simms Taback's City Animals — by Simms Taback $12.99
Happy Hamster — by Mathijs van der Paauw $9.95
Hope Valley Mix & Match Stationery — by Denyse Schmidt $8.95
Animal Greetings Mix & Match Stationery — by $8.95

That's a whole lot of book love (with a few peripherals thrown in for fun). Some I'd like for me, some I'd like for gifts, some I want for other, secret reasons. I know the list is a bit … eclectic … but, hey, I'm hard to pin down when it comes to books. If you would like the chance to win these books, comment here. If you think you might like someone else's list better (to each his or her own), you can check out other bloggers participating in this contest or write your own post with your own list. Be sure to leave a comment here and let me know if you do, but be quick about it: last day for entries is 12/10 and winners will be announced on 12/13. Good luck to us all.

Update 12/13/10: Sad to say we did not win. Congratulations to (sort of. I guess. I'm really happy for them. Really.) Happy Holidays, all. I guess we'll have to go to the book store.