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I got maracas

Jordan 2019-08-02

Any container you put a maraca in becomes a maraca. If you need to stow them for a flight, you can shake around your overnight duffel bag and use it exactly as you would maracas. The same is not true of ukuleles, pianos, flutes, or harmonicas. Even drumsticks, whose simple function is that they are used to whack something, would not function as drumsticks anymore if the container they were put in was too soft. Maracas are special.

I brought my own maracas back from my last trip to Glacier National Park with my brother and my parents. They had brought them from their car in Michigan, where I had left them when they came to see the workshop for my musical in Chicago. We, in fact, didn’t even use them for the workshop, because the theatre we rented out was acoustically very live, and they ended up being too loud to play.

Putting on a musical, by the way, is different from writing a musical. That’s probably obvious from the outside, but if you’re someone who is writing a musical and eventually want to put it on it’s less obvious. Putting on a musical mostly involves producing it – that is, lots of communications and making sure not to forget things. Writing a big list of everything that needs to be handled, and then crossing off the items one by one, very slowly, over the course of hundreds of email threads over several months.

In contrast, writing a musical is like living in a space ship. You commit a large chunk of time to leave the earth and hook yourself up to machines which capture the things you expel – moisture, CO2, poop – gather them up, and turn them into something that can sustain life, or at least not become poisonous and kill you. If you’re a songwriter, all of your song ideas become potential musical numbers. If you’re a comedian, all of your jokes become potential zingers in your show. Producing a show is a beast, for sure, and writing one is another beast altogether.

And perhaps the most surprising thing about putting on a musical that you’ve written is how easy it is. Before you start you think of it as a blackhole. A sort of infinitely far away idea – something for people who already know how to do it. A world you can’t break into, you can only be shepherded into at a young age you already passed. You think it would take some extra-human capacity for not being afraid to take risks, put yourself out there, market yourself, network yourself. That part of you that wanted to move to New York and try to make it big as an artist, to quit your job and just focus on your passion, no matter how scary it is, you think that you have to finally let that part of you take the wheel.

I was once told “If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.” This turned out to be true to an extent, but not in the way I thought it would be. I had thought that in order to do something so big, I would have to overcome the fear of doing it. In fact, all I had to do was organize my life in a way where I could make progress without needing to overcome my fears. So if I tend to lose motivation on my projects after a few months, what if instead I worked with a co-writer who would keep me motivated, and just scheduled regular times to work on something with them? And if I was worried about taking risks and networking, what if that co-writer happened to excel at this, and also brought out the social butterfly side of me? And what if I did all this without quitting my job, so I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’m good enough at it to pay the bills? Well those are all technically things I’ve never done before, and they all technically got me something I’ve never had, and yet there is something still so unextraordinary about those extraordinary things.

A maraca is a hard shell full of something loose inside. Lots of things can be maracas. Marbles in a coffee cup, a bag of uncooked rice, crushed Pringles at the bottom of the can, ice melting in your mouth, the crackling of a campfire, or rain hitting the window. Really even the sound of your voice, at the molecular level, is just tiny loose particles bouncing around their container (your vocal cords) and reverberating in a way which produces a sound.

12:42 haiku

Jordan 2019-08-01

I got out of bed
Just to sleepwalk through the day
Passing by like drool


Noah 2019-07-18

I think I got bit by a large dog when I was little. The dog was probably normal sized but I was little. We grew up with a service dog for my sister named Pook, who became a pet because it turned out the things my sister needed weren’t very readily provided by a service animal. I adore dogs and always have, but I also know that for most of my life I had some real reservations anytime I was around a dog any larger than a lab and I think I have some really fleeting memories of being at a camp up north and being nipped by a dog and responding poorly.

Our early memories are weird. They are unreliable, often times flashes of images or experience, but powerful all the same. I sometimes wonder the extent to which this is the case for my early memories because there wasn’t much else to store in my brain at the time, or because they’re old. What if as I get older my brain is going to take all the important memories I have and shove them into this weird reptilian part of my brain where they are distilled into intense emotion and some flashes of brief pictures or images? That would be weird.

I can say that my happiest memory is like this. I have three or four brief images tied to a day that I am unsure whether it happened or not. I don’t know how old I was. I think it was on Lake Michigan.

I am pretty sure we were visiting some friends of my parents at their cabin for a retirement or end of the year party. I remember that we were there on a summer night. I know for certain that there was a trampoline that was square and installed into the ground in a weird way, because I was able to go from playing on the trampoline, then wander down what seemed like a mountain of wooden steps to the beach, where the wind was stirring up huge waves. Well, waves large enough that I could jump over them and sometimes get caught up in the water and washed backwards. The sun seemed like it took forever to set. I remember just playing in the waves, eating cookout food, and jumping on the trampoline.

I don’t want to know more about the details of that day in case it loses its magic. I don’t remember why it was the best day of my life. I just know that I wasn’t anxious the whole night and it was wonderful, but it is a little slice of heaven that is always accessible for recall.

Oh, and the reason I wrote about this story under George is that I know my fear of large dogs was completely gone when my brother’s girlfriend got her big ole Bernese Mountain Dog, George.


Noah 2019-07-16

Latin doesn’t have the letter W.

Or the letter U for that matter, they really just used the letter V for all three. Church Latin made the V sound like the V sound we know today, but please remember that Caesar’s famous summary of his military exploit while written Veni, Vidi, Vici would have been pronounced Weyni Weedy Weekee. Which sounds way funnier.

But wait.

What? Why? Who would want no W?

Why do all of our interrogative pronouns start with “Wh” by the way?

In Latin these words all start with Qu-, what’s up with that?

Well there’s a common answer named Grimm’s Law.

Our interrogative pronouns come from Germanic.

Germanic and Latin share a common linguistic ancestor that linguists have worked on reconstructing called Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.

The common root here *kw-. Look at all the English words that come from this root! [Jordan, could you make this a hyperlink but keep these words as the hyperlink please?]

This root is categorized as a “Labialized velar consonant” – and if you’re curious about why it’s called this, here’s the answer from Wikipedia: “Labialization is called rounding in vowels, and a velar place is called back.”

So think about making a consonant that is round in the lips, but the sound originates from the back of the mouth. This kw- sound matches the description. Now, imagine saying this thousands of times in conversation but trying to say it quickly and easily. Eventually, you lose the voiced sound in the back of the mouth.

Now you’ve got one piece of Grimm’s Law down. [Here is the Wikipedia page for Grimm’s Law.] There’s a lot more cool stuff in there if you find this interesting.

That’s W.