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An immensely productive weekend so far. Yesterday I:

  • Got my hair cut, a procedure I dread and loathe; my hair had started to cross over from Overgrowth Stage 2 (anime hair) to Overgrowth Stage 3 (Oscar Wilde)

  • Dropped a load at the Salvation Army

  • Got one of the most amazing massages of my life--if you're ever at the Square One Mall massage place, ask for Lili

  • Went clothes shopping--found no clothes, but two pairs of shoes

  • Got groceries

  • Read a significant portion of the chapters on Japanese names of the 14th through 16th centuries, plus a bit of the chapter on 8th-century names that explained one of the mystery names from the later chapters

This morning I awoke just past 6, and for no reason except sheer cussedness, got up and:

  • Put in two loads of laundry

  • Converted my favorite, and now very dead, stripey purple kneesocks into armsocks

  • Did a load of QC that's due much later today, solely so it wouldn't interfere with my tentative brunch plans

  • Wrote a self-congratulatory LJ post

Now I'm going to go read a book on handmade houses and see what else the day holds. Stand back. There could be vacuuming.

An open letter to Fred Phelps

Dear Fred Phelps,

Congratulations on finally knowing the truth. I hope you find it enlightening.

Yours,
Issendai

Mar. 21st, 2014

A little over a year ago I wrote about a friend whose husband became jealous and threatening when their marriage started to break up. He was stalking her and waving an entire army of red flags, and she was too ill and exhausted to take evasive action. Everyone she told about it said WHAT IN HELL RUN THIS MAN IS DANGEROUS AND HE'S NOT GOING TO WAIT FOR YOU TO FEEL BETTER BEFORE HE ACTS, which only stressed her out more and drained what little reserves she had. I was frantic. A lot of people were frantic. When I didn't hear from her for several weeks, I checked the police logs for her name.

The upshot was that eventually she collected enough spoons to file a restraining order against him--and it worked. He simmered down, shut up, and went away. He was even cordial at their divorce hearings. Amazing. Being arrested would have fouled up his immigration status, which my friend says was a powerful inducement to stay out of trouble. But that wouldn't have worked for the garden-variety jealous stalker.

According to my friend, the other half of the equation was cultural. In the area he came from, guilt trips were a normal part of relationships, jealousy was the right and proper way to react to romantic disappointment, and when a woman dumped a man, she stopped talking to him and erased him from her world. All the immature, unhealthy things middle-schoolers do were enshrined in the culture as The Right Way to Be. When my friend told her then-husband that the relationship was over but she still cared about him and wanted to be friends, she told him, "I'm not serious. Go crazy and you'll win me back." When they were still living together, she found that things got better when she refused to talk to him, stopped cooking for him, and acted like he wasn't there. It wasn't that she felt better because she learned to detach--he acted better toward her. Gah. After she made him move out, sending the restraining order broke the last bond between them, and he finally got that the relationship was done and he could stop trying.

It doesn't make him less psycho. I wish she'd gotten him deported. But it worked for her.

She didn't figure out the cultural issues on her own. The two of them had a mutual friend who came from the same region, and he told her what was going on and how to fix it. My friend is kindhearted, willing to put up with a lot, and psychologically evolved in an East Coast, New Englander way; if someone in the know hadn't told her that being cruel was kinder than being kind, her ex would still be stalking her... or in prison for trying to murder someone he suspected of being her boyfriend.

I don't recommend her methods to anyone else. But I'm grateful that she's free.

Her divorce was finalized earlier this week, and to celebrate, she had a little party in the North End. Her sweet, adorable new boyfriend was there. Her ex wasn't. Cheers to her, and many more years of the same to come.

Embouchure: Dammit

The correct embouchure for the Irish flute is, in fact, to be inside the flute. If you're not nose-down in the flute with the sounding edge at the level of your eyebrows, you're not close enough.

At least, that's what it feels like to me. It was the same with the fife and the xiao. Apparently my mental map of the flute/player interface involves me blowing daintily across the hole from a polite distance, possibly the next room, so the correct distance feels like I may as well move into the flute and set up housekeeping. That, or at least learn its name and favorite color before we get to first base.

Becoming more intimate with the Irish flute has helped, but I still can't say I've played a song on it. I can hit the low notes if I start on them, but God forbid I move a few notes up the scale--the low notes flounce off in a snit and are nowhere to be seen when I return. Practice doesn't help. I can get the embouchure right for about a minute at a time, then it's gone for the next several minutes, and trying harder only makes it harder to get back. Sometimes I flip between the Irish flute and the tin whistle several times in a session, playing the flute for as long as I can and then practicing "The Riddle" on the whistle until I'm ready to try again.

About the tin whistle--AAAUGH, WHO MADE THIS THING? The amount of air it takes to produce a clear note drops off precipitously for the bottom holes, so blowing with enough force to play the top four notes almost overblows the bottom two notes. The upper notes will sound if I blow them with enough force to play the bottom notes, but they sound subdued. (The Irish flute is similar.) How do you handle this? Are you supposed to continually adjust the force of your breath, even if you're playing as rapidly as Irish music likes to go? Do you blow at the correct force for the bottom notes and use special flute magic to make the upper notes sound good? GRAAAAAAH. It's a good, satisfying frustration, but it's still frustrating.

Last night I discovered that the "flute" Ian Anderson plays in "The Whistler" is a tin whistle:



...so now I MUST learn to play this song. Because Jethro Tull.


ETA: "The Whistler" requires both a D and a G whistle and you can't switch between them quickly enough to actually play the piece. Bastard. Bastaaaaaard.

I'm still going to try to learn the D parts.

An Embarrassment of Xiaos

A few days ago another package slip arrived in my mailbox. I had a second package from Hong Kong, with a different tracking number. The "lost" xiao that Carrotmusic put on the slow boat from Hong Kong in February finally arrived.

So now I have two xiaos, and still zero ability to play. Using the top five holes, I can make attractive random notes with rather good vibrato. It gets harder and harder to get a note the lower down the xiao I go, and even a friend who used to play flute and has fingers long enough to reach the last hole couldn't play the bottom note. I can't tell how much of it is a lack of skill, and how much is because the xiaos are, to put it delicately, not instruments hand-crafted by masters. (The embouchure holes of the two xiaos are so different that I suspect they cut them at random. There's already a chip on the sounding edge of the first xiao because a sliver of bamboo flaked off.) The xiaos do sound pretty, but until I'm good enough at fingering to cover the bottom holes with not-my-fingertips, I can't actually play any songs.

But--a friend lent me her concert flute and Irish flute. I couldn't do the concert flute. My brain kept going SOMEONE CROSSED THE PLUMBING WITH A TYPEWRITER, WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOOING, and the disconnect between my fingers and the holes made it impossible to figure out which combinations made music and which ones made shrieks. It was easier to get sound out of the concert flute than out of any other fippleless flute I've tried, but the results weren't anything you'd want to hear.

The Irish flute, though, the Irish flute is lovely. Low and resonant with a lovely vibrato, beautiful even when I get the embouchure and the fingering wrong. From embouchure hole to last hole, it's only an inch shorter than the xiao, but because it's transverse I can (barely) cover the last hole. The lower notes are elusive, but last night I got a fine clear bottom note, so it's possible. I just have to practice fingering... and embouchure... and how to shift my entire hand without moving the mouth of the flute so much as a millimeter.

The Irish flute combines the sound I like with the challenge I want and the playability I didn't know I needed, so I've chosen it as the instrument to master. I'll return to the xiao (and the fife) when my basic skills are better.

Meanwhile, my progress on the Irish flute is slow. Embouchure. Fucking embouchure. *wheet* *wheet* *huff* TOOOOOOOOO TOOOOOOOoOoOoO TOoOoOoOoOOOOOOwheet! *wheet* TOOOOOOhuffOOOOOoOoO *huff* *huff* Everything's good as long as I don't try to change notes. If anyone knows of a beautiful, very slow piece played with only the top three fingers with minimal note changes, let me know.

To learn songs in the meantime, I picked up a penny whistle. It has the exact same fingering as the Irish flute, but it's a fipple flute, so no embouchure, and it's a fraction of the size, so no hand strain. It's an excellent instrument for learning fingering, rhythm, basic ornaments, and the simple how-to of making music with a woodwind. A forum of folks who know their stuff said the penny whistle is harder than the Irish flute--HAH, said I, impossible! It has a fipple! And there are many, many Youtube videos of people making music with it, some of which is even palatable! Well. It's easier to get sound out of a penny whistle. It's easier to get attractive sound out of the Irish flute. Or a beer bottle. Or an angry cat. At this point, though, the thrill of being able to produce a recognizable rendition of "The Riddle" is more compelling than the pain of rendering "The Riddle" on what sounds like an enraged hamster.

Sorry, neighbors.

Some thoughts on narcissism

Writing on narcissism, old, new, and refurbished:

Narcissists Online

Narcissists show all the traits online that they show in person, plus a few that are unique to the Internet. Here are a few of the distinctive traits I've seen in online narcissists:

Not belonging to web communities, except as a guru

Narcissists can’t bear to be part of the masses, and they sure as hell don’t share interests with the masses. They almost never hang out on forums like normal people. If you do find a narcissist in a web community, she’ll almost certainly be posturing as an expert or a guru—or she’ll be the owner, and she and her works will be center stage. It’s common to find a narcissist sitting like a toad in a hole in several empty forums and blogs, all dedicated to her.

Narcissists are also infrequent blog commenters unless they’ve attained an expert status that follows them from blog to blog. Normal blog comments ask for too much interest in other people and offer too much risk of being attacked where they don’t control the “delete comment” button. If you see a narcissist in someone else’s blog comments, he’s pimping his work, cozying up to his social superiors, graciously accepting the acclaim of his lessers, or starting a fight.

( Read more behind the fake LJ cut... )

-------------------------------------------

What to Remember When Dealing with a Narcissist

Don’t believe the narcissist’s self-reports. Narcissists will say anything they think makes them look good. Whatever they say is either a lie or a delusion.

Read between the lines.

Watch for weasel words and fuzzy logic. “I sold a book, and we bought a house.” You’re supposed to hear, “I sold a book, and we bought a house with the royalties.” The fact that the narcissist didn’t say that in the first place is telling. If she really did sell a book that brought in enough money to buy a house, she’d have told you how much she made or she’d go into detail about how rare it is for a book to earn that much and how special she is for writing it. If she says anything less–especially if she lets you infer the best part–it’s a red flag.

( Read more behind the fake LJ cut... )

Thoughts on the Xiao

The xiao was designed for people with long, long fingers and no chins. Frogs, basically. Lovecraftian sentient frogs.

The mouthpiece is a joint in the bamboo with the hole cut in the far side, so you have to press a disc the size of a quarter against your chin. That would be fine, except the xiao is supposed to be held at a 45-degree angle. I don't know about your chin, but mine is roughly parallel to the rest of my face, so the xiao sticks out at an 80-degree angle. Bowing my head helps, but you can't bow too much because that's not how it's done. So bow just enough without bowing too much, but get the xiao to a 45-degree angle. And when you're done, kiss your elbow.

Then cover all six holes. The first three are okay. The next two are easy enough. The last requires some sort of prehensile appendage, maybe a double-jointed sixth finger or a spare tail-tip. If you're neither polydactyl nor the Monkey King, you can make do with your pinky--as long as you're holding the xiao sideways while you experiment. As soon as you bring the xiao into position, all the joints of your right fingers undergo amazing three-dimensional torque and explain to you, through the throbbing pain, that they are leaving you and taking the dog, the car, and half your joint accumulated assets with them.

(This answers a question I've had for a while: Why is the transverse flute so popular when the end-blown flute looks so much more natural? Because human fingers curl in only two dimensions, that's why.)

After some experimentation, I worked out that I could cover the bottom three holes with the roots of my first and second fingers and the tip of my third finger, provided I covered the top holes with the middle joints of my left fingers for balance. I don't play the xiao so much as snuggle it rhythmically.

How does it sound? Surprisingly good! There's a spot that produces pure, deep notes without needing so much air that the main sound is my huffing. Staying in the sweet spot is impossible so far, but knowing it's there is half the battle. When it goes just right, I can feel the air in the flute vibrating against my lower lip.

One interesting detail: The distinctive Chinese bamboo-flute sound isn't inherent in the instrument. A recorder sounds like a recorder and a properly blown fife sounds like a fife, but a xiao in the hands of an unskilled player sounds like a low-pitched Western flute crossed with a beautifully tuned soda bottle. There's another layer of technique involved. I'm partly pleased because it's possible to play Western music on the xiao without making everything sound Chinese, and partly appalled because there's so much more to it, and so little info in English.


ETA: The best way to get a clear, pure note is to sprawl on the sofa with your iPad in your right hand (or left hand, if you're a lefty), watching comedy clips and clutching the xiao in your left fist. Why didn't they explain that in the Youtube clips?

Tags:

Xeno's xiao breaks the paradigm!

The xiao has arrived.

THE XIAO IS HERE.

I'M TOUCHING IT, GUYS. I'M TOTALLY TOUCHING IT. IT IS PRESENT IN THE, UM, BAMBOO.

This morning it was in the wrong post office. Our town and the town next door share postal staff, so last night they bundled it up and sent it a town away. Fortunately, the women who helped me this morning got invested and called around until they found it, then had it brought to the right post office. I HAVE IT NOW. Full props to the incredibly helpful folks at the local P.O.

It's... tough to blow. The notch isn't cut with the human mouth in mind; they get the edge that makes the sound right, then cut a square bit out of the adjoining top and go, "Here you are. Make the bottom edge with your face." I've produced a couple of convincing xiaolike notes, but they're mixed in with what sounds like the complaints of a disgruntled gosling.

The holes are spaced irregularly one to two and a half inches apart, so although the fingering is like, say, a penny whistle, it's not left thumb and first two fingers, right first three fingers. It's more like left thumb, first finger, third finger; right first, second, and pinky. It's going to take getting used to.

The good news is I can flip someone off without interrupting a song.

The xiao is in the office with me. It's not leaving my side until I get it home. The universe isn't getting one last chance to grab it away.

Tags:

Xeno's xiao continues to elude me

I got up early and went to the post office this morning to pick up the xiao, all atwitter with excitement, with my orange parcel notification in my hand like a ticket to Paradise. The xiao... wasn't there.

It wasn't in the cabinet with the rest of the registered mail. It wasn't beside the cabinet with the registered mail. It wasn't by the cabinet of regular mail. It wasn't in the mysterious corridor to the left of the cabinets, or the even more mysterious depths of the basement. The two women on duty searched for it assiduously, but it was nowhere to be found. In the end they took my phone number and a copy of the parcel ticket, and I rabbited out the door to work.

I'm both impressed and paranoid. It will never come. IT WILL NEVER COME.

Tags:

The xiao is at the post office.

I repeat: The xiao is at the post office.

MOMENTOUS NEAR-OCCASION, PEOPLE. LET'S HEAR SOME GUARDED QUASI-JUBILATION.

Tags:

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