Archive for August, 2007

Open Mike Night

Wednesday night it was “Open Mike Night” all around. I was trying to “open up” my date Mike, while sitting at a coffee shop where various folks got up to sing and play bizarre instruments.

When I suggested this particular coffee place (The Fixx), I had no idea that we’d have such random entertainment. The problem was that many of them were playing guitar — and now that I’m learning how to play, I can’t stop looking at people’s fingers while they’re playing. Which made it difficult to pay attention to Mike, despite him being fairly amusing.

After a few performers had exercised their pipes, a guy got up with a sitar. It was simultaneously fascinating and annoying. It would’ve been great for one minute, but he kept going on and on and on…

I hadn’t ever seen a sitar in person. It’s weird. And since it’s based on a different scale than we Westerners are used to, it’s just hard to listen to after a while.


Hearing this guy reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my guitar teacher a few weeks ago about how different cultures have different scales. I guess I knew this, and obviously music from other cultures sounds different enough to suggest this fact. But I hadn’t given it much thought.

He told me that just like having a mother language, people also have “mother scales” — we orient all music to the scale we first came to know. So the Indian scale, in which octaves are divided into 22, definitely sounds different, but our ears/brain tend to process it as being a little off the mark.

I found an interesting description at Here it is:

The Greeks built their music on the basis on the pentatonic scale. Many Chinese and Scottish music is also been written based on this five-note scale. Pythagoras developed the Pythagorean scale which uses only two intervals: 9:8 (the second) and 256:243. Other scales were developed by other cultures. The Chinese divide the octave into twelve equal steps, but they frequently only use the notes corresponding to the black notes on the piano (the pentatonic scale). Arab music divides the octave into sixteen unequal intervals, making it entirely different from Western scales. They use the octave and the fifth, and they frequently use quarter tones. Indian music divides the octave into 22 steps, although only seven intervals are used. The octave, fifth, and fourth are part of the Indian system. The Persians divided their octave into 24 steps, so they must have used quarter tones (Culver 1956, p. 132). Egyptian flutes have been discovered which had a seven note scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B, which is identical with the Syntolydian scale of ancient Greece (Jeans 1938, p. 165). In England, a scale of music known as the gam was used.

Jeans (1938) noted that almost all cultures seem to have independently developed the the twelve half steps of the octave, and speculated that this was trial and error process which proceeded until the scale C1, G1, D2, A3, E3, B4, F4, C5, G5, E6, B7, F7, C8 was developed, in which each note is seven half steps (a fifth) higher than the previous one. This eight octave scale therefore gives a harmonic fifth for any two consecutive notes played together (Jeans 1938, pp. 163-164).


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Two Strikes for the Morticians

Last night I joined Jenn, Leah and Melanie at Wrigley for a Cubs-Brewers game. I was about an hour late, due to heavy traffic driving back from the burbs, but nevertheless I made it by the 4th inning to claim my luscious onion-topped dog and a Bud Light.

(And yes, I did feel bloated today at my 8 a.m. meeting, in case you were wondering.)

cubs 3

I like to think that my arrival caused the turnaround that ended in a win for the Cubs. Yea!

cubs 1

The other three girls started at Casey Moran’s (pub) at 5:30, so they were a little silly and causing quite a stir with the two older gentlemen next to us (Mr. Big and his sidekick) when I arrived. Note: by the end of the game, their wives had banished them to the end of the row, away from us.

After the game we zigzagged through the crowd back over to Casey Moran’s. The line was a half-block long.We weren’t in the mood to wait. So Mel walked up and asked the bouncer (who they had schmoozed earlier the evening) if we could go in. He said yes, and we walked right through the door, each of us kissing him on the cheek as we passed. Ah, to be a VIP.

Once in there, Leah and Mel spotted one of the patients they’d seen earlier that day (they work in a dentist office). He came over with his friend bearing drinks. The friend was standing next to me, so we struck up a conversation.

Not bad looking, seemed to have some wits about him.

Then he told me he was a funeral director. I told him I used to eat my pets. He thought I was weird. (I pointed out that it’s also not normal to be schlepping dead bodies around in your car and then draining their blood and putting make-up on them.) He then told me his latest business idea was to arrange lake cruises as funerals (cast the ashes into the water), since cremation is such a hot deal. I commented that such an ending is delightful.

Apparently his family has been in the funeral business for four generations. And since summer is his “slow time”, he gets to go to lots of Cubs games. (Halloween through New Years is the busiest.)

I told him I used to market Bibles to funeral directors, so I know ALL about their antics. One time we did a mailer with a picture of a hearse with the back door open, with the headline, “Waiting for business to pick-up?”

About midnight, we decided we’d both had enough of the noise, so I headed for home. Outside the bar I asked if he had children. He said no. I asked if he had a girlfriend. He said yes.

Dating morticians is clearly a prospect that is dead in the water.

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In need of a tune-up

My karma has been weird. But I think it’s on the upswing. (Despite the fact that my bike ride downtown this afternoon was fraught with chain-coming-off-spoke problems and a general inability to find a damn route that went directly from one place to the other. Sigh.)

Last weekend I literally laid on the couch all day Sunday, unable to move. I think I had a bug or something. By Wednesday I was feeling better, but everything just seemed to be so difficult  to accomplish.

I just need to get out of the city and break my routine. So I started thinking about going to Kansas over Labor Day.

I looked at flights. $560. Eeek. I looked at the train. 13 hours. Eeek. I thought about driving. 13 hours. Eeek.

I had nearly resigned myself to the fact that I would be in Chicago for the long weekend, when Mom called this morning telling me the whole gaggle of family from Dad’s side would be out at the farm. And I was invited. (This made me laugh, since as far as I’m concerned, I still live there — why would I need an invite to my own house?And after all, I do know the security code, which is only necessary for the 10 minutes a week the house isn’t locked.)

I whined that my only option left was Priceline. And most likely I’d end up with 6 am flights.

But I went for it anyway. And to my great luck and surprise, I got EXACTLY the flights I wanted, for $278! My karma has certainly taken a turn for the better.

So barring any work emergencies, I’ll be back at the ranch on Friday.

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Weird weather

As Roger (one of our creatives) keeps reiterating, this is one of the rainiest Augusts ever. And this was confirmed on the radio yesterday as I was coming out of a not-so-deep slumber — it’s in fact the 11th rainiest August on record.

Today was particularly weird. This morning it was sunny, and I even had a big conversation with my cab driver about the fact that there wasn’t rain in the forecast for this afternoon. (Clearly he was wrong.)

This afternoon I was holed up with 12 people in a new business pitch in an interior conference room on the 35th floor of our building. The five potential clients were the senior management of a fairly conservative company, who we’d never met before.

Around 3:30, we heard a big creeeeeak. I’d heard our building creak before, but not this loud. It did it a few more times. Everyone was looking around uncomfortably. I could feel the building moving.

Pretty soon we heard some static over the building’s security intercom, and a guy came on saying, “Attention all personnel. This is building security. I REPEAT, this is building security. We are under a tornado watch. Do not evacuate. Proceed to the interior hallway.”

You can imagine the shock of our guests. It was all very surreal. For a moment there I thought we were going to die in a terrorist attack.

So everyone just hung out in the hall — CEO of our potential client and all — sitting Indian style and singing Kum Ba Ya for half an hour.

Come to find out, it was actually a tornado WARNING. How nice.

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Girls’ Night Out

Jenn’s on the board of a Chicago organization that helps abused children, and on Monday night she invited five of her BFFs to the second annual Girls’ Night Out fundraiser.

It was held at Carnivale, a hip restaurant in the West Loop, known for its Mojitos and guacamole. (I had a stomach ache by the end from the chips.) We got our little gift bags from Neiman’s (wrinkle cream), avoided bidding for Oprah tickets in the live auction, and shopped the tables of jewelry and purses.

Our group was an exercise in a twisted version of the Kevin Bacon game — everyone knew each other in two ways. Jenn works with Kathleen, who had serendipitously just met Stephanie on Saturday night at a swanky BBQ in Winnetka.  Kelly used to work with me, but now she works with Stephanie, because one night Jenn and I were out with Kristin’s husband (who is one of Jenn’s vendors and works with Stephanie), and he mentioned he needed to find a salesperson. We recommended Kelly. Phew.

Carnivale 2

Carnivale 1

Carnivale 3

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A Crush on Kelly

I don’t know what’s wrong with my friends in Chicago, but none of them like country music! What the hell?!?!?

I don’t think I even started listening to country music until college, and I’m sure it had everything to do with Longhorns, the only bar in Aggieville that was 18 to enter. We danced all night with the cute cowboys, and suddenly I was in love with swing dancing to Fishin’ In the Dark with a certain Mr. Phelps. It’s not the first genre I flip to now when I’m listening to the radio, but I am proud to admit that one of my favorite TV shows is Nashville Star.

Allison Krauss songs seem to suit me best when I’m playing guitar, so a couple weeks when I was searching for “look-a-likes” on iTunes, I came across Kelly Willis.

Then I learned last week that she was playing at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Saturday! Yippee! (That’s where I take lessons.)

All my friends were booked last night (or so they said), so I headed out by myself to the concert. I’d never been to this particular Old Town School location, and I was worried that the concert might already be sold out. So I  jumped on the train and got there about 30 minutes early — plenty of time to get one of the remaining tickets.

Jesse Sykes opened. Blah.

But then Kelly came on with her band, and she was fantastic! Imagine Reese Whiterspoon on stage, with an even better voice. She just released a new album last month called Translated From Love. Apparently it’s been five years since her last album. Hear her tunes on her website

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Word on the street…

…is that I should be taking classes at Second City.

For those of you unfamiliar with this legendary Chicago institution, Second City is the authority for improv comedy. Tina Fey, John Candy, Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley and Jim Belushi all graced the stage at one point or another. Besides having multiple shows per night on two stages, Second City has improv, writing and other classes for “normal” people.

Three people in the last week have emphatically insisted that I take a class. They say it’s changed their lives, opened their minds, blah, blah, blah. And truly, their eyes light up when they talk about it.

Tonight I was at dinner with my two partners (Debra and Ray) on this dance company marketing plan volunteer project. Debra has been involved in improv classes for quite some time, and as a result of her raving reviews, Ray decided to try it this summer. They were telling me they literally cry because the scenes get so funny. One of them involved a grown man wearing Huggies.

The third recommendation came earlier this week on a first date with a very tall guy (6’6″) who I caught lying about his age. (Or perhaps he was only improvising a little…)

I guess I should add it to my hobby list. But, my rule is one hobby class at at time. It’s currently in the number 5 position:

1. Guitar
2. Songwriting
3. Writing fiction (I can only seem to write the truth)
4. Photography
5. Improv
6. Writing a screenplay

I think I need a sugar daddy so I can just take classes and humor myself.

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