Tuesday, March 22, 2011

stress, pasta, and bit o' recognition

It's nearly 1 a.m. and I am blogging. It's nearly 1 a.m. on a day when I worked at 6.30 a.m. after only sleeping 3 hours, and I am blogging. I did have a little nap this afternoon, but not much. There's so much work to do and I am really overwhelmed and not doing well at channeling this energy into work, so I'm reverting to one of my favourite tactics: get the fingers moving on the keys, any way I can. Then get back to work.

So here's a blog in 3 parts.

Partie Une: Stress
(Does one say "partie une" or "partie un?" Partie has got to be feminine, right? But 'une' still looks wrong. Francophones, please advise.)

This course I am taking, on British Romantic Lit, is way more stressful than I thought it would be. I've read most of the material before, written papers on most of the material before, and liked most of the material before, but something about this course is not working for me. I don't feel like I'm connecting to the material the way that my professor wants us to. I don't know. I'm just not handling it well. I have to do all this work by Thursday and I need to go to the library tomorrow, which I hate, and beyond the library and the research, I have to reread Frankenstein for Thursday's class and write a final draft of my research proposal, because that's due too, and oh, I basically have to leave directly from class on Thursday to get to the airport because I'm going to San Francisco for the weekend.

The other source of stress is my thesis, aka the book on my trip across Canada. It was my goal for the semester to get a first draft done, but the semester ends with April, and between thesis and the research project, I'm not sure if this is possible. True, there have been times when I haven't worked as hard on my thesis as I should have, but overall, I have been working pretty consistently. And when I've let my thesis sit for a few days in a row, it hasn't been due to slacking off, it's just been to prioritize other deadlines.

Anyway, the present deadline I have is to deliver a chunk of work to my adviser tomorrow. Hence being awake and heavily caffeinated at 1 a.m. I wanted to give her Ontario and Québec, but I have 17 pages on Ontario and I'm not done yet. It's a big province and I was there for a long time. So I guess it will just be Ontario and I will view the deadline as another failure. Well, half failure.

My problem is that if I stay up all night writing, I'll get Ontario written, but then will I have the energy to go to the library and read Frankenstein and write the proposal and pack for San Fran and get up at 5 a.m. again on Thursday for another early day? If I can make it through class and if I can get to the airport on time, I'll have a long plane ride to catch up on sleep, but that was going to be designated reading time so I had less to worry about in SF, where I wanted to actually enjoy the city. Then again, it's supposed to rain all weekend, so maybe having reading material in SF isn't such a bad idea.

And oddly enough, writing all of this out has made me feel a little less stressed. At least I have organized my stress now, pinpointed the sources, you know. I think that counts for something. But moving on...

Partie Deux: Pasta
I love pasta in restaurants. I always have. One of my first grown-up, not ordered off the kids' menu meals was fettucine alfredo at the Olive Garden. I think I was 5. It was a huge deal. I had to split it with an adult, of course, but it was love at first bite for me and pasta.

So when I moved to Michigan and into my first apartment, it was natural that I should turn to pasta. It's easy to make, and it can be prepared in single serving sizes very easily. I defaulted to the packets of pesto that you mix with olive oil and milk for sauces, but occasionally switched it up with a bottled tomato sauce or the alfredo packets.

When I moved back to Chicago, I went shopping with my mom at Sam's Club to stock up on foods that I could buy in bulk, since I didn't have a car and there wasn't a full grocery store within walking distance of my first apartment in the city. One of the things I bought was a 5 lb. monster bag of pasta. And since that was before I knew about how taking 9 hrs of grad credits was a huge rip-off, I was so painfully broke that year. I ate pasta all. the. time. No matter how much I ate, the amount of spaghetti in the bag never decreased. The pasta stopped tasting good, but I felt like I didn't have a choice. Then one night, it backfired. The pasta actually made me gag and I couldn't force down anymore. And I still had at least 2 lbs of that freaking bag of spaghetti left.

It's been like this for two years, friends. Sure, I still love pasta in an Italian restaurant, but at home, I haven't been able to stomach it. I tried different brands of pasta, different sauces, but everything made me gag. It's been rough.

But this week, I had a breakthrough. I don't know why, but on Monday night, I was wandering aimlessly in the grocery store, and I found myself in the pasta aisle. It had been a while since I'd tried it, so I thought I'd give it another go. I ended up trying a new noodle, one I'd never cooked at home before: ROTINI. Rotini is fun and whimsical and cooks in 3.5 minutes! Win-win-win! I paired it with tomato florentine sauce and I loved it. Now I just have to make sure I don't overdose on rotini. Don't worry, I bought a small box.

Partie Trois: A Bit o' Recognition
The ladies at Ice-Dance.com and I definitely do not keep the site going for recognition. We don't do it for thanks, and we don't get paid for it. We just do it because we love skating, especially ice dance. For me, personally, it is linked to a possible career path that I am exploring, but IDC honestly isn't about furthering my own goals or anything like that. I guess I feel some sort of responsibility to share our coverage with the World Wide Web because I know that we do a good job. I'm floored by the talent and dedication of the dancers that we photograph and write about, and I want to honour them, too. We all have a sense of pride in what we do.

So for friends that aren't as heavily invested in the skating world as I am, the short story is that the World Championships were supposed to be this week, in Tokyo. For obvious reasons, they have were postponed. Last week, there was a ton of press about what the options were, so the IDC Staff decided to weigh in. We all had ideas and the article we wrote was passed between all 4 of us before it finally went online. I didn't do any of the rough draft work because I had the first draft of my proposal due last week, but I spent a couple of hours composting the various drafts, throwing in a few more thoughts, and piecing together the final version. So we published the article and did what we usually do—posted links to the IDC Facebook and Twitter accounts. A couple of people said nice things about it on the thread on FSU (skating's main discussion forum) on the subject of Worlds, but shortly after we published, a delusional Virtue & Moir bandwagoner hijacked the thread. And we moved on. The news kind of slowed over the weekend and we all had various things happening, so I was happy with what we'd put together, but I wasn't really thinking about it on Saturday night when I opened an email from Daphne, the IDC administrator.

It turned out that PJ Kwong, Skate Canada announcer and commentator and author, had read the editorial we'd written, had loved it, and had written a blog about it. Okay...whoa. Not expecting that.

Even though we're all really proud to be associated with IDC and we know that we do quality work, we're still underdogs in the media world. People keep getting their media from the web more and more, but web media is still the last one invited to the table. We're the first to get our credentials cut when we're short on space. I don't know about the other federations, since I've only covered big events in Canada, but Skate Canada prints out articles and clips newspapers and puts things on the wall in the media center at its big competitions. But they only print and clip from newspapers, not websites. Well, one of my photos made it onto the wall at Nationals this year—but it was uncredited, stolen by one of the Victoria newspapers off of the IDC website and printed without my consent. They were even careful enough to crop my name off the edge of the photo. So not quite the same thing.

In conclusion...I don't do this for recognition, but it feels really, really nice to get a bit of recognition on occasion. Thanks, PJ Kwong. You've always seemed like a really nice person.

And not to overexpose myself, but I really am proud of the joint effort that brought about this editorial, so if you'd like to read it, it's here.

And with that, my fingers are clearly moving across the keys with no problem at all, so it's back to Ontario.

Monday, March 14, 2011

the sweater + doop doop

30 Days of Skating
Hey, remember when I got through 15 days of this, and then I went to Canadians and forgot to finish? Me too. I opened my blog because I wanted to write about the situation with Worlds and Japan, but my thoughts on that are far too scattered, so I'm channeling my energy into a different skating post. Just for fun.

Day 16: What is your favourite ladies professional/show program?

This is turning out to be a tough category to pick from. Shows and galas always seem to be full of girls skating to GFBs (Generic Female Ballads, for those of you that don't speak FSU) and everything kind of looks the same. And when the girls try to do something different, it often comes off looking fake and overchoreographed. So it's a tough category, and I'm going to pick two true classics for my favourites.

The first is "The Sweater," a bit of comedic genius by one of my favourites, Josée Chouinard. There's just something about it that still makes me giggle now, and something about it that made me wear out my tape of it when I was about 13. I didn't tape a lot of skating in those days, but I was determined to have a tape of "The Sweater," so I sat with a video tape and the remote at the ready every time skating was on TV, just in case Jos happened to be in the event and she happened to be skating that program. I finally got it, but I didn't understand that rewinding a tape without stopping it is bad for it, and that tapes wear out after a while, so using a tape that had already been used for countless episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was probably a bad idea. So the tape didn't last long, but the memories are still there.

I like to think that my second pick was part of what inspired "The Sweater." I will never, ever forget the first time I saw Kristi Yamaguchi's "Doop Doop" or how much I loved the entire thing. It's so quirky and goofy and I just ate it up. I want to say that the year was 1994, I know the event was Ice Wars, and I know that I was eating Market Day Split Topper pizza while watching skating in my parents' bedroom. They were probably watching a movie or a game or something out in the living room, and I almost preferred it when they took over the big TV, and I got the little TV in their room, because I could close the door and get lost in the skating world. The skating world seemed so far away to me then, and so glamorous. I remember watching Ice Wars because I was taking very careful notes on the event so that I could write about it for some school project. I guess it was the first time that I wrote about skating. And Kristi's program was the one to get the best review from me...despite the fringed epaulets.

Honourable Mentions:
Michelle Kwan's "Fields of Gold" - Of course I still wish that she'd had the skate of her life and had won gold in a home Olympics, but I think this program was even better without having won gold, you know? Totally heartwrenching.
Joannie Rochette's "Summertime" - After considerable thought, I think this is my favourite Jo show program. I feel like it's a good choice, since she liked it enough to reprise it last year on tour (she originally skated to it in the 2007-2008 season).
Yuka Sato's "I Love You Always Forever" - this program began my obsession with this song that is still ongoing even today, after like 15 years!
Angela Nikodinov's "To Love You More" - Okay, okay, I know I just railed on GFBs, but this is a special program and it was perfect for her. Plus, I love Céline Dion more than I can possibly explain in this post, so to me, this isn't a GFB.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

busy break

Technically, I'm on spring break this week, but I'm not any less busy this week than I was last week during midterm week! So I'm not really feeling the "break" part of this week, but it's definitely spring in Chicago. This isn't to say that the weather is nice, just that we're experiencing some of that cold, damp, muddy weather that we look forward to every March here in the Windy City.

I did a phone interview last week with Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, Olympic silver medalists in ice dance who are currently touring with Stars on Ice. They were a great interview because they're very poised, they come off as very friendly, and they can pack a lot into a short amount of time. I was able to squeeze the 15-minute phone call into my midterm schedule a week ago, but I didn't have a chance to write the article for a few days. It went live on ice-dance.com today: read it here.

This is also deadline week for IFS, the figure skating magazine that I started writing for a couple of issues ago. I normally plan ahead better, but the timing of this deadline was tough, and I was still gathering information and frantically reading books at the beginning of the week. I'm reviewing two books in one of my columns, which are going to be my 4th and 5th reviews for the magazine, so I guess that's kind of becoming my thing. I like reviewing books and take that task very seriously, so I'm trying not to rush through them.

And of course, I'm trying to keep plodding through my thesis, but I'm having a tougher time with energy and motivation this week. I was so looking forward to working on my thesis this week, but with everything else going on, I guess it's not the relaxing break that I was looking forward to. I have stuck to all of my deadlines with my thesis adviser so far, but I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to keep this one.

When I need a break from the written word, I'm also working on my old scrapbook from 2004, which is proving to be a bit of a challenge, since I can't locate quite a few photos from spring/summer 2004. I'm hoping to find backups at my parents' house this weekend. I thought I had a stack of backup discs here, too, but I can't find them.

Music Page
This is my most recent page, in progress. I finished it yesterday.

Which brings me to two other projects: 1) cleaning and 2) organizing photos. Both are ongoing and monstrous tasks. I'm not exactly the best housekeeper, especially when I'm busy, so I have all kinds of piles of things to sort through. I cleared a bunch of stuff out of my bedroom last week, but somehow new piles have already appeared. I'm enjoying the extra space right now (my roommate moved out in December and I haven't found a replacement yet), but I definitely kept at least the living room cleaner when B lived here.

The photo organization is also a huge task. It's time for a portfolio update, so I'm trying to figure out which of my skating shots from this season that I should print. I'm also well overdue in posting photos, so I'll try to get a couple more sets edited this week. It's also nearing the end of the season, so I need to make sure that I have double backups of everything. Being a part-time sports photographer is a never-ending task. I can't imagine keeping up if I did this full-time!

And spring break week culminates with seeing Stars on Ice on Saturday. I might be going alone, which will be a weird experience, but at least it's just the U.S. tour and I'll be reunited with the girls for the traditional CSOI weekend in April/May.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

superchick in the house

Last Thursday (March 3), I had one of those terribly crazy days. It began at 4.30 am and it involved work and a midterm and a train and driving and exhaustion. But then I got to Mojoes and the music started, I finally relaxed.

I was there for Superchick, a band I've been following since the beginning, to say the least.

It started with Matt Dally, whom I met the summer I was 8. He was the lead in the children's musical at church, playing Gideon in Zeroes into Heroes. I was in the "corps," parading up and down the stage, holding a papier-mâché jar over my head in "Crash Go the Pitchers." I don't think he had any idea who I was.

But in high school, the jazz band was desperate for a pianist, and I was coerced into the job, despite having no idea how to read a chord chart. Matt played guitar, his friend Bill was the drummer, and Bill lived down the street from me. My sophomore year, they were both seniors, and Bill drove us to 7am practice every day. One day towards the end of the year, Matt gave Bill a cassette tape to play when he got in the car. It was a recording of a band he'd kind of auditioned for the night before, and he really wanted to join. 12 years later, Matt is still playing bass for Superchick.

For whatever reason, I'm often out of town or otherwise booked when they have nearby shows, so it had been almost 2 1/2 years since my last Superchick show. It was great to catch up with Matt and his mom, who was working the merch table, and of course, to see the band play. It's a really cool feeling when I look around and see girls shrieking for them and singing along to their songs.

From the beginning, they've always put on spectacular shows. At the last show I went to, in fall 2008, the shutter on my camera broke midway through their set. I've been a little worried about my shutter lately, but it held up just fine and I got some awesome shots. So enough with the sappy stories about the "beginning" and I'll get on with some photos. Warning: these photos have more lens flare than a pivotal J.J. Abrams scene.

The first opening band was Keep the Change, a local band from Joliet.

Keep the Change
They seemed a little nervous at first, but looked like they were having fun by the end of their set. I think this is Frank Stella on bass and Jeff Winter on vocals.

At Rifts End
Next up was At Rifts End, another semi-local band out of Bradley. This is their frontwoman, Haleigh Boatright. She tossed her hair a lot, so I had plenty of opportunities to get "hair-movement" shots.

I think the show was actually Made Avail's CD release party, and since they've played with Superchick before, they asked Superchick to join them. I'd heard the name before, but hadn't heard their music. It's not usually the type of music I'm drawn to, but they played really well and put on such a great show that I really enjoyed their set.

Made Avail 1
I tried to find the names of the guys in Made Avail, but I'm having some difficulty, especially since it seems that they've recently added 2 or 3 new members. So I don't know who this is, but I love the way the light is hitting him.

Made Avail 2
The frontman (also nameless) for Made Avail. Their last song was this crazy performance piece that involved super-dramatic lighting, a rose, and a face mask.

Then Superchick was finally up!

I got this hilarious shot of Matt early in their set. It really sums up the essence of Matt's typical performances. :)

Melissa from Superchick
Melissa Brock, guitarist and vocalist, working the crowd during "Hey Hey," I think.

Drummer from Superchick
It's really hard to get good shots of the drummer in most bands, because they're generally in the back and generally not well-lit. But I tried! So while this one isn't as pretty as the spotlight shots, it's a fun one. I believe this is a new drummer, and I actually don't know his name. Apologies!

Dave from Superchick
Guitarist Dave Ghazarian in one of his more tranquil moments

Tricia from Superchick
Tricia Brock, lead vocalist, in one of my favourite shots of the night. She's an incredibly photogenic performer, so I have a ton of photos of her to eventually post to my Flickr account, along with more shots from all four of the bands. I'll try to remember to post an announcement when they're up.

Whew, this has taken me 2 1/2 days to finish this post! I'm technically on spring break, but that only means that it's crunch time for the projects that I had to set aside while I was trying to get ready for my midterm. I have two chapters of thesis to finish this week, along with two columns to write for IFS by Thursday, which includes reading two books. Off to continue book #1...at least I won't have to worry about being bored this week!