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My Middle Finger Isn’t Working

After several days of piano practice, I’ve done a number on my left middle finger. Gotta take a break from the drills and extraneous typing, at least for tonight. I must protect this most expressive of digits at all costs.

Also, I had rice cakes, tortilla chips and 1/8 of a hotdog for dinner. And wine. Because I’m a grownup and I can eat whatever the hell I want.

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D Minor: Possibly The Most Nefarious Key In Western Music


Between scales, drills, sight-reading and recitation of a few standards, I’ve also spent some time improvising on my brand-new piano, and I’ve determined that if you want to convey that you or someone else is up to no good, you can’t go wrong with d minor.


Notable exceptions:

  • Grieg’s “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”
  • “Imperial March” from Star Wars

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Headline Conventions That Tire Me


  • On The Eve Of Such-And-Such, Such-And-Such
  • It’s The [Noun], Stupid
  • Meet The So-And-So Who’s Doing Such-And-Such
  • Wait, Did So-And-So Just Such-And-Such?
  • So-And-So Just Such-And-Suched!
  • Such-And-Such Raises Fears Of Such-And-Such
  • This, That Or The Other Is A Game-Changer
  • This Thing, That Thing And Another Thing
  • Something, Something And Something. Oh My!
  • Any Headline That Employs Unnecessary Punctuation. Period.
  • Yes, Virginia, There Is A Such-And-Such
  • No, Blah-Blah Isn’t Such-And-Such
  • Yes, Blah-Blah Is Such-And-Such
  • I’m Too Lazy To Distill My Story’s Main Point Into A Real Headline So I’m Just Going To Write A Complete Sentence Instead

I’ll update this list as ire dictates and time allows.

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Ideal Day Off Had By Me

Brooklyn Bridge Park IIII really don’t require much to be happy — adequate rest, a little sunshine, daily exercise, music and solitude. Unfortunately, circumstances rarely allow me to enjoy all or even some of these in the same day. Today, though, was close to perfect: 12 hours of sleep, a glorious hour-long walk along the Brooklyn waterfront, loads of music (played and listened to) and ample time alone with my thoughts.

This afternoon I went to Julliard’s campus store to buy some sheet music. Even at the height of my piano career, I was at best an average sight-reader, so one goal is to improve in that area. To that end, I bought a collection of classical piano music that’s much easier than the stuff I ordinarily play. Having just spent the last hour with it, I’m awfully glad I didn’t go with anything harder. I also bought some Czerny and Hanon exercises, and they’re every bit as horrible and dull as I remembered them being. Horrible and dull, but also necessary for improving technique.

Also: I got carded buying beer. So, yeah. Not a bad day at all.

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Working My Way Back

Jo Seated on the Old Sofa from "The Most Beloved American Writer"I have forgotten how to write — if I even knew how to do so in the first place.

Part of the problem is the Internet. A large portion of my job involves copying and pasting. The rest of the time I’m condensing a story’s main point into a headline, or a 140-character tweet, or I’m emailing reporters and editors. That hardly counts as writing, now, does it?

The other part is that I’ve become lazy. Rock and Roll Grammarian, back when that was a thing, was a labor of love (though that may not have been apparent to my readers). I spent a goodly amount of time thinking about each post before I even started typing. Because I edit at the sentence or even word level — a terrible habit that I’m determined to break — the typing itself often took hours, even for a humble little 500-word post. So Rock and Roll Grammarian was work — but it was work that I loved.

My job now is demanding. I start the day at 7 a.m. and frequently don’t get home until after 7 p.m. I’m often drained by that point, but the things I’m doing to unwind — idly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter posts, fiddling with iPad apps, watching HGTV and drinking wine — aren’t really helping me unwind. I might as well spend some of those off hours writing.

And playing the piano.

You see, I was once an accomplished musician. It also was a labor of love. My freshman year of college I practiced a minimum of four hours a day. In high school, the weeks leading up to a big competition or recital were intense — painstakingly playing the hardest passages, measure by measure, over and over, until I could quite literally perform the piece with my eyes closed. Piano was work — but it was work that I loved.

Yesterday I bought a Roland digital piano. It was expensive, and I’ll have to scale back my spending for some time to make up for it. But I know without question it was worth it. I played for hours yesterday — Scriabin, Chopin, Beethoven, scales, arpeggios — and with each passing note, I felt a little more like myself. I devoted 30 or so minutes alone to the C scale and that of its relative minor, A minor. It will take some time to get my technique back, but the results of that half hour are proof that I can get it back.

The same goes for writing. And so, my plan is to do a little of each every day — a little piano, a little blogging. Hold me to it.

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Behold: The Piano Of The Future


If I were a digital-piano maker, I’d be working feverishly to develop a model with a built-in touchscreen display to replace or supplement sheet music. Pianists would be able to select measures, click on them and hear instantly how they’re supposed to sound. They also would be able to browse and download music at will, plus research composers and the history behind the music — a practice that can help musicians play pieces as they were intended to be played.

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18 And Life

20120318-123200.jpgAllow me to don my house coat and sensible shoes for a moment and say a few words about kids these days.


No matter how smart they may be — and in some respects they seem smarter than my generation at their age — they are not mature enough to take the wheel. It isn’t safe for them, and it isn’t safe for the rest of us.

I think 18 is more like it. Not sure if the lobbyists for the automotive industry would agree, though.

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