🎵 Do you think if I listen to Bauhaus for the rest of the day, that will magically make it be October?
🎵 Do you think if I listen to Bauhaus for the rest of the day, that will magically make it be October?
🔖🎵🎭📚 Read 8 Musicals that You Might Not Know Were Based on Books by Emily Neuberger.
I’ve been grieving the fact that public performances likely won’t be a thing for the next couple of years. I grieve it both as an audience member and as a performer. Neuberger’s book is going on my to-read list, as her main character’s early experiences with musicals are nearly identical to mine. The musicals and books she writes about are now on my radar if they weren’t, or things I’m going to make a point to revisit if I was already familiar with them.
🎵🎭📚 You know that feeling when you’re irritated that you have to feed your family instead of just reading Stephen Sondheim’s annotation of his lyrics for the rest of the night? No? Just me, then? (If you haven’t yet, go watch this concert.)
I’m trying a new thing with a weekly round-up on Friday.
This has been the second week of social distancing for us. We order our groceries via Instacart, always tipping 10%. I’m wondering now if we should tip higher. If they go on strike, we will find other ways to get groceries, but as someone who is potentially high risk for COVID-19, it has been such a blessing/privilege to be able to get groceries this way.
This was our first week “back” from M’s earlier-than-expected spring break, which means Zoom calls with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, parents, and teachers at 9:30 am every morning. It’s been such a balm to see all those precious faces, to hear the kids say each other’s names and say hello. M and I also did a call with the family of one of his dearest friends. He wasn’t super interested, so it was mostly me talking to them, but it was still nice to do. (Moms trying to talk to each other while the kids are around, though, isn’t really a thing that can happen.)
I have stolen a few moments here and there to work on both my dissertation research and the research for my assistantship. I’m hopeful that next week I’ll be able to dig into those more.
Very little gets done aside from keeping the kid alive. I have had a couple of glorious baths with sea or Epsom salt in them. Media gets consumed. Sleep happens, though often poorly. We eat, and the food mostly isn’t junk (my Hershey-bar-with-almonds habit notwithstanding) but I wouldn’t say there’s much cooking going on. W makes tacos, or I toss some chicken and potatoes in the Instant Pot.
It’s been beautiful outside. Going out and sitting on the deck, it’s easy to forget what a scary time we’re living in. People walk their dogs on the trail. Kids ride bikes. M and W’s mom play in the yard with a beautiful set of fairies and animals that she got for M.
I am trying to blog daily. I spent a late night using every resource from holisticism that mentions purpose or career to help me think about what’s up with my life. While I don’t think the movement of the heavens controls what we do, I think astrology and human design are valuable tools for interrogating ourselves. If we’re reading a description that is supposed to be of us, we can ask ourselves whether it resonates or not. Mine usually does.
Between those resources and Co-star, I am coming to terms with the fact that while I want to do meaningful and helpful work, my priority in life is more home and family and less career. Not that I don’t want one, but that career doesn’t define me. I’m realizing that spontaneous self-expression is very important to me, as is interrogating identity and how it is constructed. I’m embracing the fact that blogging is the most accessible form of spontaneous self-expression for me, that it’s one I’ve been carrying on in one form or another for almost 20 years, and that it’s a very fine hobby to have as one’s primary hobby. The others wax and wane, but blogging is always here.
This is a nice segue into what I’ve been reading online this week, because as I decided to really embrace kimberlyhirsh.com as a personal blog rather than a professional blog or something aimed at getting me jobs or providing income, I’ve been reading about personal blogging and its value. Here are some of the things I read that stuck with me:
Personal blogging does not require you to become an expert at anything but your life. We’re all experts at our own lives, and sometimes we have experiences that are universal that would bring like-minded people together. We share these experiences on a personal blog in the hopeful attempt to reach out and make other people who are going through the same thing a little less alone.
This helped me think about the purpose of my site/blog. It’s three-fold: first, it serves as a way for people who meet me to get to know me deeply. Whether we meet face-to-face or online, it has value because I try to be myself here. I’m old enough that I’m kind of done pretending to be something I’m not. If people see what I write here and don’t want to work with me or be friends with me, we weren’t going to be a good fit anyway. Second, it serves as a set of reminders to myself. My future self is the primary audience for this blog. Over and over I search its archives for things I’ve written, whether about health or academics or something else entirely. Third, it is a way to help people, to make them feel less alone, or to illuminate processes that may be opaque to them. This is really what this quote is getting at. (You’ll notice the new description, with both Helpfulness and Transparency included in it. That’s what this is about.)
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
And this is an especially valuable moment for it, for focusing on this small bit of the digital world over which we have control:
Finally on the personal blog front, Robin Sloan and Colin Walker really get at the reason I’m embracing kimberlyhirsh.com as a fully personal blog (which will necessarily include my work, because it’s part of who I am):
The thing about blogging is, you can just write about the things you love. A “professional” “critic” (scare quotes because who even knows what words mean anymore) has to do something else, something more difficult: manage a kind of unfolding… aesthetic… worldview? Balance one thing against the other? A blogger suffers no such burden. A blogger can simply 1. love a thing, and 2. write about it.
In that aforementioned new tagline, “Enthusiasm” is the first word. It’s placement is very deliberate, I assure you.
And one more thing. Because it’s All Muppets All the Time (my DVD set of Season 1 of The Muppet Show just arrived!), I really appreciated this article asking Why Doesn’t Disney+ Have More Muppet Stuff?.
Last but not least, current consumption:
🎵: Labyrinth Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/The Muppets (2011) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
📖: Blue Mind by Wallce J. Nichols
🦸♀️: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures
🎮: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Lego Marvel Superheroes, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2
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Challenging @ailuruscosmos to join me for a #showtunesisters duet. An anecdote: one time after one of my improv student shows, ME came out with the class to the brewery. Someone told us we sound alike. When one of us mentioned that our voice teacher said we had all the same vocal problems, someone said, "You sing? Will you sing for us now?" I said, "Sure, what do you want us to sing?" Clearly thinking they had us stumped, this person said, "The Confrontation from Les Mis." This person did not know that we had watched @nph and @jasonsegel do this time and again on the Megan Mullally show and Inside the Actor's Studio. (Look it up. The best part might be @joshradnor's reactions.) #broadway #showtunes #lesmiserables #lesmis #confrontation #javert #valjean
🎵 Another Dragonforce recommendation: “Symphony of the Night”. (If you think you know what it is, you’re 100% correct.)
🎵 Decided to listen to Power Metal while working today. There’s a lot wrong with the world, but Dragonforce’s cover of “My Heart Will Go On” is 100% right.
I “picked this up,” to the extent that one can digitally do such a thing via a streaming service, because it is the source of the game Illimat. Illimat was conceived as a device for a photoshoot related to the album, and the Luminary cards - colorful, narrative-ish Tarot-sized cards - in the game are drawn from the story of the album. I read the summary on Wikipedia before listening, and flipped back and forth between tabs with my work in them and the lyrics at Genius to make sure I was following everything.
After reading the summary, I was like, yeah, this is my kind of narrative. Fairy story elements, creepy goth kinda stuff (The Rake is hella goth, y’all), sad love and such. As I was listening, the first thing that occurred to me was that this reminded me of Whisper House, the first thing Duncan Sheik released in the wake of Spring Awakening. It, too, is a creepy and old-fashioned feeling concept album that was eventually staged as a musical. It was released in January 2009, a couple of months before The Hazards of Love. And it has ghosts in it.
It’s weird listening to these things 11 years after their release, especially because I first listened to Whisper House as soon as it was released. I’m sure as I ruminate on them more, I’ll come up with some thoughts about the timing of their release and how it relates to my own life experience in early 2009, when I was about to leave teaching behind to go to library school, just after the inspiring inauguration day for President Obama, which happened on the day after we had a snowstorm here and the world felt quiet and peaceful and full of promise.
And here were these two albums, like a warning, almost.
the prettiest whistles won’t wrestle the thistles undone
from The Hazards of Love and
When everything is done
and everything is said
Life is naught but pain
from Whisper House.
Now that I’ve depressed you thoroughly, back to my thoughts about The Hazards of Love, which actually isn’t similar to Whisper House at all, I just have only very limited experience with concept albums and thus they all remind me of each other. (But I’m about to go listen to a bunch more because they really are very the kind of thing I like.)
Anyway. In summary, I liked it, but it’s not a thing I’m going to listen to over and over again (which I did, in 2009, with Whisper House). I don’t know from music if it’s not showtunes, so I can’t tell you about the sound, you know, or how it affected me. And I don’t care about the depth of the story, I care about the flavor, which is very much my speed.
So here’s what I can tell you, then:
Parenthood has ruined me for culture.
Happens to most parents, I think.
Anyway, I like The Hazards of Love, and I love Illimat.
🎵📽 I realized as I was describing yesterday’s musical autobiography (which is different than an autobiographical musical) to W. that I had left out three of the most important musical pieces of my life. I think I left these out because they have been as ubiquitous for me in the past decade (or in one case most of my life) as water is to a fish. I imagine if a fish were writing an autobiography, it probably wouldn’t comment on the water around it, any more than a person who isn’t taking an explicitly ecological slant would comment on the air.
But here they are, three huge bits of my musical taste:
Enya: Especially her album Shepherd Moons. I don’t know when my family got into Enya, but we really committed once we did. We had the piano/vocal songbook for Shepherd Moons, and these were some of the only songs I ever learned to play on the piano. “How Can I Keep from Singing is a great favorite, which I think I’ve probably used as an audition piece at some point and just is the best when you need a boost. “Marble Halls” is so dear that when I came upon a beautiful bound score of its origin opera, The Bohemian Girl, I bought it without bothering to even look at the rest of the score. (I later gave that score to my sister, who might ever actually use that as an aria.) When I was in the darkest parts of my depression, Shepherd Moons and Watermark brought me great comfort (along with the soundtrack for The Princess Bride). (My love is like a storybook story, but it’s as real as the feelings I feel.) And perhaps most importantly, Shepherd Moons was playing both when my mother was in labor with my younger brother (I was 13 and in the delivery room) and when I was in labor with M. Soundtrack of my life much?
The Lonely Island: I know The Lonely Island got big because of “Lazy Sunday,” but it’s really “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover” that made me fall in love with them. So many favorites: “I’m on a Boat,” “I Just Had Sex,” “Jack Sparrow,“and “[Space Olympics]()” are tops with me (with “Space Olympics” as the one that best represents my comedic sensibility), and “Diaper Money” is especially relatable since M’s birth. (See also: Garfunkel and Oates’s “Pregnant Women Are Smug.“) And don’t even get me started on Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience.
Finally, because I’m the same as everybody else, Hamilton (except I’m a Hamilton hipster, having listened to it via NPR’s First Listen before the album was released). Hamilton reminded me that I actually liked hip-hop and R&B. (I failed to mention Eminem in my list of music I enjoyed in college, so let’s just stick that here.) It blew me away and made me believe that rappers were magicians. Around the same time Hamilton was released, I started regularly attending a hip-hop improv show, and the March after it was released, I actually joined the cast of that show. I set challenges for myself: first, to rap along with Angelica’s rap in “Satisfied,” my favorite song in the show mostly for the couplet “I know my sister like I know my own mind/You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind” (check out that sweet internal rhyme, btw), and then once I mastered that, I challenged myself to learn Lafayette’s piece of “Guns and Ships,” which has the most words in three seconds in any Broadway musical. I knocked that out and I kind of learned to freestyle, which was the most terrifying part of improv before I got into Hamilton. I called my flow “passable,” until my friend, actual rapper and hip-hop educator Rowdy, scolded me for not giving myself enough credit, so now I call it “good enough for comedy.” Which, since my heroes The Lonely Island aspired to be “the greatest fake MCs on earth,” is good enough for me.
I bet I’ll remember more music stuff later. I’ll write a new post about it when I do!
🎵📽📚 I don’t know if it’s a problem or a good thing that when my mind can’t come up with a topic to blog about and I’ve committed myself to blogging (as I’m now trying to do first thing everyday when I sit down to work), I just jump in and treat my blog like morning pages. Which is fine unless I’m working on a blog post that I’m not ready to write yet and that is sort of occupying my stream-of-consciousness. Which is what’s happening right now: later, I’ll write a post about reclaiming my Spotify recommendations - Discover Weekly and Daily Mixes - from my kid’s music tastes, and the different tools and articles I’m using to do it. But I’m not there yet.
I can talk about music, though. That’s a thing. So, I don’t consider myself a person who has well-defined musical tastes. When I was growing up, my parents had a Columbia House membership, and I listened to their Gold & Platinum tapes a fair amount. I feel like I mined their tapes for other stuff, too: Styx’s Kilroy Was Here, Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers, a Peter and the Wolf that they transferred from vinyl to cassette (I don’t know which one, but my money’s on Cyril Richard), and The Irish Rover’s The Unicorn, which I guess was my grandfather’s album and not mine. I also had a Mousercise album that familiarized me with a bunch of Disney songs from movies I may or may not have seen, and the songs in the Totally Minnie TV special: “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Nasty,” and “Eat It,” among others.
It was probably this early that I started getting into showtunes (my parents took me to see A Chorus Line when I was 3) and film scores, especially the John Williams oeuvre. These were always shared family experiences, and I loved them.
The first album that I remember as really being something I listened to because I chose it was Madonna’s Like a Virgin. I would put this on and dance, and of course had no idea what most of the songs were about. In fourth grade a friend introduced me to the movie Beaches, which brought me into the Bette Midler fold. I think it’s kind of hilarious that my mom was relieved when I traded Madonna for Bette Midler. I don’t think she’d done her research.
Around 1991, I started paying attention to pop hip-hop and R&B, and I think those are the genres that still speak to my heart in a very real way, especially R&B. In particular, I loved Kris Kross, En Vogue, Vanessa Williams’s “Save the Best for Last”, Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be,” and pretty much everything Boyz II Men. I briefly had a quick interest in Tim McGraw due to a friend liking him, but then returned to R&B. I also choreographed a secret dance to Paula Abdul’s “The Promise of a New Day” that no one ever saw.
In high school, I went back to Bette Midler and doubled down on the showtunes my parents had introduced to me in childhood, plus new shows. This is what I think of as my “musical taste” - a preference for showtunes to pretty much all genres, including R&B. My friends were into alternative from 1992 on, probably, and I can sing at least a few bars of every song on Spotify’s 90 Pop Rock Essentials playlist, less because I actually like them than because they were the big radio hits when I took Driver’s Ed.
My senior year of high school, I started dating W. and he loaned me CDs for many musicals, expanding/deepening my showtune horizons even further, and I really sort of locked in on showtunes until I was 20 or 21, when my participation in Domain Grrl culture led me to take an interest in more contemporary music as well as some older artists, and that’s when I got into artists like Michelle Branch, Lucy Woodward, Evanescence, and Jeff Buckley, with a little Dave Matthews Band thrown in because why not. I really loved Shakira’s “Underneath Your Clothes at this time, too.
Then I took a turn into punk/punk-influenced stuff, digging into The Sex Pistols, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Jimmy Eat World(not sure that counts as punk, but I listened to it around this time), Superchunk, and older Goo Goo Dolls stuff. Plus I picked up a little bit of hairband stuff, mostly Poison’s Greatest Hits. Opposites, right?
I also listened to a lot of what might best be called “Buffy rock” at this time - bands featured on or somehow related to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel: Velvet Chain, Darling Violetta, Four Star Mary, Common Rotation, and Kane. (And I guess a little Ghost of the Robot, and actually a lot of Tony Head and George Sarah’s album Music for Elevators, especially the track “Last Time,” over and over on repeat one until it made my friends very tired of it.)
W. gave me Cake’s Fashion Nugget and They Might Be Giants’s Flood around this time, both of which I love. Also, my friend A. gave me a copy of Eisley’s Room Noises, which I still love and find magical.
I retreated back to showtunes until around 2012, when I made friends with author Nathan Kotecki, who gave me a giant mix of all the goth/darkwave music that inspired him as he wrote his first novel, The Suburban Strange. In a real sense, this felt like going home, and when I then followed that up by listening to all the music Jillian Venters (also a friend) recommends in her book Gothic Charm School, I decided that Switchblade Symphony was my new favorite band. Which makes sense, because it’s a team up of a film composer and a musical theater performer.
And that’s where we are today. Writing this has helped me realize that actually, I totally have defined musical tastes. Look for tips on teaching Spotify to follow.
Just updated my Now page with the following information:
I’m living happily in Durham, North Carolina with my husband, W, and our three-year-old son, M. We eagerly look forward to M being old enough to get kittens. All of our parents and siblings live in our metro area, and we get to see them often. It’s really lovely.
We’re hosting monthly brunches so we get to see friends more. I’m planning to try to find more ways to get social interaction in, because both grad school and parenthood are immensely isolating.
I’m in the process of scheduling my dissertation proposal defense for my doctorate in Library and Information Science. My dissertation investigates how cosplayers find, evaluate, use, and share information, both online and in-person. I’m working as research assistant to Dr. Marijel (Maggie) Melo, on a lot of exciting projects related to academic makerspaces. I’m also accepting word-of-mouth referrals for information services consulting clients for summer 2020 (including literature search, bibliography, literature review, metadata analysis, content strategy, writing, editing, and web development) and exploring what it might look like to commit myself to an independent information services business more extensively.
I’m making it a point to take my fun where and when I can: reading books using recommendations from NovelistPlus, watching TV shows and movies based on Tumblr’s fandom statistics, and playing video games based on whatever mood I’m in.
I’m back to being gluten-free and corn-free, after the extreme indulgence of the holidays. My hormones are still finding their way out of the woods in the wake of weaning my son.
I recently found the term “agnostopagan” in Erin Morganstern’s book The Starless Sea, which the character who describes himself using it defines as “spiritual, but not religious.” For me, it’s more than that, but it definitely felt like something clicked when I read the word. Mostly, I believe we make our own magic through setting intentions and creating visual and metaphorical reminders to assist us in setting them and carrying them out, and also I believe that I don’t have enough knowledge to be certain about anything bigger than me. Lately, the tools I’ve been using for setting my intentions are moon cycles, the Tarot, candles, and crystals.
🎵: Spotify’s “This is Big Daddy Kane” and “This is KRS-One” playlists
📖: The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern and How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick
🎬: The Empire Strikes Back
🎧: Micro Monday
🦸♀️: Ultimate Spider-Man
🎮: Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns
Last updated January 8. 2020.