I Had Dinner With Famous People

So, a hip-hop artist, a recording studio engineer, a former VP of ASCAP, and a graduate student walk into a bar… 

Okay, that’s not entirely how it goes, but this is pretty much what my Thursday night looked like.  I met some pretty famous people, folks.  Even had dinner with a few of them.  And it’s pretty much all thanks to my brother (don’t gloat, Mike).

So, here’s the whole story: 

We all know The Recording Academy, yes?  In charge of the Grammy Awards, that thing that most musicians, recording artists, song-writers, music publishers, etc. are members of, yes?  Well, there’s also this thing called Grammy U.  It’s a college student organization affiliated with The Recording Academy, which is open to any full-time college student interested in the music industry (and you don’t have to be majoring in music or anything to qualify).  Grammy U is about promoting education on issues dealing with the music industry, and about networking with various full members of The Recording Academy.

My brother is the Grammy U representative for the entire Greater-Houston area.  Early this year he convinced me to join Grammy U as well (its more for undergrads rather then graduate students, but I still technically qualify because I’m a full-time student, and I’ve always been interested in the music industry).  Mainly, my brother just wanted to someone he could trust to help him out with running events on the UH campus.

Now, my brother’s pretty much got this whole networking thing down pat.  He’s a film student, and he’s interning at a local Houston production company called Zen Films (which happens to be a pretty big deal); he’s done some work over at SugarHill Studios (the oldest still-running recording studio in the United States, folks!) and knows the chief engineer/co-owner Dan Workman; etc, etc, etc.

So, on Thursday night, The Recording Academy was hosting one of its GPS Summer Lecture Series at the House of Blues in Houston.  It consisted of a lecture from Tod Brabec, former Vice President of ASCAP (Association of Songwriters, Composers, Authors, and Publishers) on the topic of Performance Royalties, and then a short networking mixer afterwards.  My brother had to go because he was helping to set up the event.  I decided to go because a) it’s free for Grammy U members, b) it sounded interesting, and c) it’s a little-known fact that I have a secret desire to be a songwriter.  I was nervous about the whole mixer thing because the only person I knew was my brother and I don’t do well with the whole “just start introducing yourself to random strangers who might be famous people” thing.

The lecture itself was really interesting.  It was hard to follow because Tod Brabec threw a TON of information at the audience, quite a lot of it dealing with legal issues that I just can’t quite wrap my head around, but it was all very useful information.  But the best part was, of course, the mixer.  Here’s most of the people I met (I can’t quite remember everyone’s names, but these are the big ones):

Dan Workman (the co-owner and chief engineer of SugarHill Studios) who was one of the coolest guys I’ve met;

Tod Brabec, who is a very big deal but who talked to me for a minute and then asked me to take a picture of him and a friend of his;

Theresa Jenkins, the Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy (who kindly treated my brother and I to dinner along with all the big-wigs);

Eric Jarvis, who is a BIG musician, a UH alumnus, and the President of the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy (and also hilarious at dinner);

David Acosta, a CPA for musicians who’s starting his own music publishing company here in Houston, and who gave me his card when I mentioned my interested in writing lyrics;

and Karen Aptekar, an indie-film maker here in Houston who was very friendly, told my brother that he was interning with one of the best film-makers around at Zen Films, and offered to talk to both me and my brother sometime about doing some work with her.

All of this happened during the Mixer after the lecture, at which there were about 70-80 people, plenty of whom were little nobodies and interested parties like myself, mixed in with all the big-names.  The mixer broke up around 9:30 or so, at which point the original plan was for my brother and I to head home while the big names went off to dinner in the House of Blues restaurant downstairs.  But then we were invited to dinner – or rather, my brother was invited because he’s the Houston Rep, and I was allowed to tag along because my brother was my ride home.  But that’s okay, because I got to sit down and have dinner with Dan Workman, Tod Brabec, Theresa Jenkins, Eric Jarvis, and Paul Wall – a rather well-known hip-hop artist, who I did not actually get to speak with as he was clear at the other end of the table – and a few others whose names elude me now.  The five big names were all seated in a row across the table from me, and I was a little floored by it.  I sat directly across from Dan Workman and Eric Jarvis, and they were hilarious.  Though, so was Tod Brabec, who spent some time talking to my brother about having been the one who signed METALLICA (along with many MANY other very well known bands).

My brother has already promised to take me by SugarHill Studios next time he goes, which Dan Workman was very okay with.  When he found out I was a literature student, he got all excited and said that books were his next favorite thing to music, and that we’d have to sit down and have a nice talk about books sometimes.  Well, hell, that sounds good to me!  And music is my next favorite thing to books, so it evens out nicely.  (Also, he wore those cheap Target brand One Star Converse shoes, which I thought was absolutely HILARIOUS.)

The point of all this is that I had an absolute blast last Thursday night, and I hope I have a similar opportunity again in the future.  It was so much fun!

Point of fact, most of the last few days have been pretty awesome: the mixer on Thursday, seeing Dark Knight Rises on Saturday, and then I went to the Chicago & Doobie Brothers concert on Sunday night.  Which was ASTOUNDINGLY AWESOME.  Those guys may be getting on in years, but they still know how to rock.  The BEST PART was the encore/finale.  The Doobie Bros had been the opener for Chicago, but at the end, Chicago brought all of the Doobie Bros on stage to play with them.  All the members of both bands were on stage at the same time, including four drummers on FOUR SEPARATE DRUMSETS, more guitars than seems possible, practically the whole brass section out of a marching band, two keyboardists, and all the singers taking turns. There were EIGHTEEN PEOPLE on that stage at once.  They sang a few Doobie Bros hit and a few Chicago hits, including “Listen to the Music” and “25 or 6 o 4.”  It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen at a concert.  And it was seriously EPIC.  Definitely the best part of the night.

Okay, this post is getting pretty damn long, so I’ll call it quits for now.  See ya’ll later!

Highlights from Yellowstone National Park

Gallery

This gallery contains 23 photos.

From June 29th through July 3rd, I went to Yellowstone National Park with one my best friends and another friend of hers (whom I now consider my friend as well).  It was the first time in quite awhile I’d really … Continue reading

Going Offline

Aside

Hello all! This is just a quick note to let you know I’ll be offline for the next few days.  Or, five days to be exact.  I am going to Yellowstone National Park with a friend of mine, and I’m not bringing my laptop, which I’m going to be completely out of touch until I get back on Tues, July 3rd.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it. It’ll kind of be like a detox.  I don’t think I’ve been offline for more than a few hours at time in like… a year… or something.

And my flight is at 6am. Which means I’m waking up at 3:30am to get to the airport on time. Oh God, WHY did I do that to myself???!!!

*sigh*

Okay, anyway, I’ll catch up with you all when I get back.  I hope you can keep yourselves entertained until then. 😀

Rest assured there will be plenty of photos to share when I return.  See ya then!  Bye!

Blog Update

Hey there, folks! As you can probably tell, I’ve made just a few changes to the blog.  Mostly cosmetic.  Just to give you a quick rundown:

I changed the theme to Twenty Eleven, because I was looking for something more streamlined and also more versatile.  I changed the header image.  I still love the other image, which was done by my friend Denny (whose website, Insanesoft, is over there in the Links list), but I decided I wanted something that better reflected me personally and the wide range of topics I tend to ramble about on this blog, so my great great friend, Nathan Wilson, kindly agreed to create this new header image for free (I tried to pay him, but of course he wouldn’t let me).

I’ve slightly updated the “About” page, and added a new page that contains a list (a short one) of the few articles and things I’ve had published so far.  Hopefully that list will continue to grow over the next couple years.  *fingers crossed*

I also streamlined the categories I used, and went through EVERY SINGLE POST to update both the categories and tags.  And I’ve added a category drop down list to the sidebar.

The next thing I need to do is update the blogroll.  I feel bad because there are a number of blogs I follow that have not made it onto the blogroll (I haven’t updated the thing in months and months!), but that’s next on the agenda and hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend.

I hope you like the new look to the blog.  I haven’t made too many changes in terms of content.  I’ll still be rambling about all the things I have been.  However, as you may have noticed over the last couple months, I’m not really holding myself to that 3 posts a week schedule I tried so hard to keep up with last year.  With my schedule, it was simply untenable.  So, if you all don’t mind too much, I’m just going to go with the flow for now.  I will post as often as I can (and I know it’s been a week now, sorry), but I’ll post when I actually have something interesting to share and some energy to share, as well.  I’m not going to force it right now.  Quite frankly, between school work and teaching, working on rewrites for Midnight’s Knife, the blog, and myriad other things I’m involved in, I’ve lost a lot of my energy.  So I’m trying to find a way to make this work for me, in a way that will allow to keep up both my energy and my interest, and hopefully, therefore, keep things interesting for you as well.

Hopefully, I’ll have something new posted in the next few days.  Thanks for sticking around as long as you have, and have a great rest of the week!

Old Town Charm in Brenham, Texas

About two hours north-west of Houston is the small town of Brenham, TX in Washington County.  According to the brochures and signs, Washington County is known as the “birthplace of Texas,” where the Texas government first formed.  There is an astonishing amount of history in the area, as well as an old plantation-turned-museum, and several vineyards, and two lavender farms.

But we (my mother, brother, and I) went to Washington County for one very good reason: ICE CREAM.  For Brenham, TX is the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, a company that some people will not be familiar with (as it is regional and has not yet reached the coasts or the northern-most states), but if you live in the South or Midwest, you know the wonders of Blue Bell Ice Cream. And Brenham is where it began, and where it is still headquartered.

We’d heard that the Blue Bell creamery gave tours, and so during my mother’s short vacation we decided to make a day-trip of it.  The tour was a lot of fun.  Seeing the inside of a creamery, with the huge tanks of ice cream ingredients, the frozen-over pipes, the actual ice cream being cartooned and stored… It was all pretty cool.  But the best part was, of course, the free sample of ice cream at the end.  I got peaches n’ cream.  DELICIOUS.

Sadly, photography was not allowed inside the creamery (understandably), but here are a few photos from outside the creamery, where they have a beautiful little courtyard, and an ice cream delivery truck, circa 1920s that still runs and is occasionally taken out for a spin for carnivals and parades.

courtyard outside the Blue Bell Ice Cream Creamery

the founders of Blue Bell Ice Cream

the girl and cow that make up the logo on every carton of Blue Bell Ice Cream

my brother and I in front of the 1920s ice cream delivery truck

After we had finished the tour, however, we discovered that Brenham also has an historic main street district, with antique shops, cute cafes and restaurants, a couple bed and breakfasts, the Washington County Courthouse (which also meant lots and LOTS of lawyers offices), and the FIRST paved road in Texas.  So we had to go check out it.  My photography leaves much to be desired, but I still think the photos are better representative than any description would be, and so, and give you:

Brenham, TX!

Washington County Courthouse – I LOVE this building, seems somewhat Art Deco to me (though I’m definitely no expert)

We’ll DEFINITELY be going back. The antique shops alone made the trip well worth the gas.  And there are some more restaurants I want to try out.

‘Til next time, folks! Have a good day!

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

A Letter from Your Host:

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I saw you last!  I’ve been gone far too long, and for that apologize.  As my previous posts have made clear, this past semester nearly did me in.  I’m rather disappointed with myself, actually.  During the Fall semester I managed to keep mostly on top of my blogging despite my PhD study and teaching, but for some reason I just could not do it this semester.  In my defense, it has been universally agreed among my fellow English grad students at UH that this semester was especially heinous for some reason we can’t identify.  For some reason the workload, the time-crunch, the number of things going wrong, the stress, were all WAY worse than usual.  Bad juju. Gypsy curse.  Karma biting us in the ass.  I have no idea.

Anyway, the semester officially ended for me a week ago.  I wrapped up three papers (I got an A- on one which I am particularly bitter – an A- is grad work is about equivalent with a B-, maybe even a C, in undergrad work, and I know for a fact that the prof simply did not AGREE with my argument).  I graded an enormous stack of freshman papers, and turned in my grades to the department.

The same day I turned in my grades, my mother graduated, receiving an Master of Science degree in Technology Projects Management, with a focus in Future Studies (pictures of which I have been forbidden to put online because my mother is paranoid about the internet, despite – or because of – being a computer programmer/engineer).

That was two Fridays ago.

I have spent the last week wrapping up a last bit of work as part of the editing staff of University of Houston English Department’s literature journal Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature.  It’s our second year doing the journal, so we’re still getting the hang of things, but we’re pretty proud of it.  It is free and (as far as I know) you don’t need an account to view it, so please feel free to take a look.  It showcases the work of my fellow graduate students, and is affiliated with the graduate student conference I mentioned early in the semester.

I also spent the last week with my mother, who took a week off her day-job to celebrate graduating and get a little bit of a vacation.  We’ve been up to a lot this past week, and it’s too much to cover in one post so I’m spreading some of the fun out over the next few days to stretch my blogging-muscles and get back into the swing of things.

Besides spending a lot of money at the mall as a belated birthday present to myself (my birthday was May 6th, right in the middle of finals, so I didn’t have much chance to celebrate), there were several highlights: a trip to Brenham, TX where Blue Bell ice-cream is made, my mother’s birthday (which was May 18th), and seeing the Irish alternative rock band Snow Patrol in concert (but more on all of that tomorrow, and probably Wednesday).

I have a lot of plans for this summer that I’ll probably be sharing with you as well.  I intend to start revising Midnight’s Knife, the novel I wrote a first-draft of last summer.  I want to start practicing the piano again (I say this every summer, and I always do for a while before it falls away again).  my mother bought me a fantastic painter’s easel for my birthday and I’m going to start drawing (again) and painting (which will be a bit new, despite a little experience from high school).  I have an ENORMOUS stack of books I want to read (I started Hunger Games – FINALLY – on Friday afternoon, and finished it on Saturday night).  And I’ll be doing a bit of traveling as well.

On top of that, I am planning to sit down and build a new syllabus/curriculum for my freshman writing course, which will incorporate a lot of student-blogging.  I was not at all happy with my performance as a teacher this semester.  I mean, I was admittedly extremely busy with PhD stuff, and I still did okay by my students – I didn’t completely slack off or anything.  But I had much more trouble this semester staying on top of things, and keeping my students engaged.  I firmly believe that what I do is important, but that only remains true if I do a good job, put serious effort energy into it, and I did not do as good a job as I could have this semester.  That’s going to change in the Fall.

I also have some ideas for ways I want to change-up the blog.  And I’ll be frank, that’s not so much for the benefit of you, my readers, as it is for my benefit.  To keep myself moving, to keep myself interested, to find a focus or a rhythm or whatever that will work for me, and will hopefully make it possible for me to keep this up through the Fall semester when things have gone upside-down-wacko again.  I’m fiddling with some ideas/plans, and I’m waiting on one major component before these changes will begin to take shape.  But I’ll keep you in formed about that.

In the meantime, I hope I didn’t lose too many of you during my extended absence, and I hope I can keep you entertained over the summer at the very least.  I’ll see you tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Amanda

Because I Do Not Hope…

I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately… T.S. Eliot is one of my all-time favorite poets.  And, while I love The Waste Land, my favorites poems by him are “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Ash Wednesday.”

It’s “Ash Wednesday” that has been on my mind so much recently.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why, though have a few ideas on it that I won’t be sharing here.  In any case, the words are ringing in my ears and vibrating between my ribs.

(EDIT: …and apparently today is World Poetry Day, which I’m embarrassed to admit I did not know.  But I’m also highly amused that I managed to post a poem on World Poetry Day despite the fact that I DIDN’T know it.  So… Happy World Poetry Day!)

“Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot

I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.