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A completely true scary story for my two remaining readers

Three months ago, I had thousands of readers every day and this blog had the opportunity to become somewhat successful. So, I did what any intelligent blogger would do and updated every day completely abandoned it for months. I expect that my remaining audience of two people (probably my sister and my mother-in-law) wonder where I went.

Well, folks, in case you have forgotten – I teach marching band. My family and friends refer to these four months of the year endearingly in such terms as the “marching band shell” and the like. In one week, I will emerge from the shell and will join my colleagues in gleeful shouts of “TGIF!” because I’ll get to work 8 hour shifts rather than up to 18 hours on Fridays.

My poor blog fell by the wayside due to exhaustion and lack of inspiration. That was, until last night when something happened that was worth breaking my writer’s block.

Husband and I decided to go out to eat and took the back roads on the way home. It was completely dark by this time and we turned right onto a country road. This road is so country, even the Beverly Hillbillies would call its inhabitants rednecks. Honey Boo-Boo is too good to live on this road.

A minivan coming from the opposite direction turned to follow us onto this road. As they turned, the driver began to turn the headlights on and off, flicked the brights on and off, and toyed with various combinations of headlights and emergency flashers.

“What the hell is wrong with this person?” Husband asked me.

“I don’t know, but they’re really freaking me out,” I replied.

Finally, the van’s driver turned off their headlights and left their flashers on, then sped up until they were almost touching our back bumper.

“I’m losing this guy,” Husband decided, and hit the accelerator. We flew down the road, far from the creepy van.

The van’s driver accelerated too, and soon they were right behind us again. At this point, I reached into my purse and found my cell phone in case I had to call 911. My imagination began to create scenes from horror movies and worst case scenarios. I started to wish we had a gun in the car.

About 5 minutes later, the van suddenly slowed down and stopped following us. We watched in the mirror as the van turned onto another road, once again putting on a light show with combinations of headlights, brights, and flashers. Both of us breathed a sigh of relief, and luckily that was the last we saw of the van.

Honestly, that’s the most exciting thing to happen to me lately, so it’s probably good that I haven’t written in a while, anyway. You hear enough mundane stories on Facebook as it is.

Well, I do have one other thing to talk about. I downloaded the new Muse album titled “The 2nd Law” a couple weeks ago. All of the music snobs of the world are in an uproar about it, calling it rubbish. I’ll admit there are a few songs on it that don’t give me the warm fuzzies or anything, but overall, I think it’s a great album and I don’t regret the $14 I spent on it.

Maybe it’s the musical training I have that causes me to analyze a song in much more detail than the average listener. When I listen to a song, my brain tears apart every track, analyzes the harmonic progressions, and picks out every little instrument and voice in the background. Matthew Bellamy is doing things with music that frankly, I don’t hear happening anymore in music. Who else these days is using an 80-piece orchestra or a choir in rock songs? Muse has a brilliant talent in knowing how to build a song from a whisper to a dramatic explosion in the matter of 2 minutes.

Most of the criticism is coming from long-time fans who call the album sold out pop, just because the band is experimenting with electronic sounds and songs that are inspired by dubstep. If you watch the making of the album videos that come with the deluxe version on iTunes, you can see that every sound is still created organically by the band’s instruments. There is nothing fake about this music. I guarantee you don’t hear any songs in this style on Top 40 radio that don’t use synthesizers and computers to create these same sounds. In my opinion, this is true talent.

Watch Muse on youtube to see them performing these new songs live. They sound just like the album versions. Matthew Bellamy sings in tune. Chris Wolstenholme sings background vocals in perfect harmony. Dom Howard is a percussion beast. The most impressive part for me is how well Matthew plays difficult lead guitar solos while singing in the top register of his voice with an unrelated melodic line.

Another criticism for the album revolves around the fact that there isn’t exactly a theme within the genre of the songs. They jump around quite a bit in terms of their sound. You know what? I think that’s one of the best characteristics of Muse. In my opinion, a band is truly talented when they can be so versatile in their sound. I like when a band’s songs don’t all sound the same.

Watch the following video and tell me these guys aren’t talented.

 

Playing piano will make you popular, unless you do what I did.

When I was about eight years old, I started piano lessons. I really have no idea why I started taking them. There isn’t a conversation in which I remember discussing this with my mom. Honestly, my first memories of piano lessons are of simply being in a room the size of a closet with a 30-something prude who would put check marks and smiley faces next to the exercises that I had mastered in the book.

I still shudder at the thought of those check marks.

Every week, she would assign something as homework for the next lesson, the same way I do now with my band students. For some reason, that check mark was really intimidating to my third grade brain. It was as if she were standing behind me as I practiced, scolding me for bad hand position and missing accidentals.

My main memory of piano lessons actually has nothing to do with the piano. The adult in me says that my audience might not find it as funny as I do, but the child in me says keep typing, so here I go. My family was always very open in our home. We never felt the need to stifle our enjoyment of potty humor and thus, we never apologized for rude noises at home. During one particular lesson, my worst nightmare came true. It turns out that a piano bench, with its flat wood structure and hollow middle for storing music, is a wonderful amplifier for noise. Yes, I farted during a piano lesson.

My teacher looked as shocked as I felt. I’m sure she thought about ignoring it for my sake, but instead she asked, “What do you say?”

I didn’t know.

Normally at home, the response would simply have been to laugh. Now I realized, all too late, that there was some sort of protocol in civilized society for this situation, and I had never been taught.

“I’m sorry?” The look on my teacher’s face indicated I had guessed the wrong response.

“Say excuse me.” And I did.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this little foray into my two year stint in piano lessons is that I never really learned to play the piano. Our piano ended up being repossessed and I had to stop lessons. My piano lessons were a great primer for the instrument I ended up playing for life, which is the flute. Don’t ask me why I chose the flute. I’m pretty sure that I only chose it because it didn’t require reeds and I was trying to save my mom money. (Our family’s financial situation was bleak, to put it mildly.)

So here I am, 16 years later, and it has occurred to me that I should have learned a cooler instrument. I mean, seriously, how often is the flute featured in popular music?

Anyone says Jethro Tull, I’ll cut you. My mom bought me a couple CDs when I was in middle school and I couldn’t stomach it. Now, the Marshall Tucker Band is a whole different story. Badass.

Overall, you never hear the flute used in a cool way. Piano, though, is used all the time. It’s versatile. It’s…just cool.

Allow me to cite some examples of why I probably should have stuck with the piano lessons.

First of all, Matt Bellamy of Muse’s Rachmaninov-inspired piano intro to “Space Dementia”:

 

 
Regina Spektor’s ballad “Samson”:

 

 
Amy Lee of Evanescence begins gently, but turns “Your Star” into a collage of crunching guitar and arpeggiated piano:

 

 
One of the greatest piano rockers needs no introduction for “Crocodile Rock”:

 

 
Ben Folds is one of my inspirations for improving my piano skills. Here’s “Zac and Sara”:

 

 
And yes, it’s cliche, but I have to include the original piano rocker, Ludvig van Beethoven. “Moonlight Sonata” is one of the pieces that inspired me to teach music.
 

 
Had I not stopped piano lessons about 17 years ago, I could have been pretty good by now. And much cooler. I guess I need to start practicing again.

Just don’t expect to see any check marks on my music any time soon.