Read This: “There’s No Such Thing as Original Music Anymore.”

This post by writer Erin Harris speaks for itself, so I won’t spend too much time here recapping it, because she already said it the way I think about it in my head.

Once you’re done parsing that, head over here to her post, and be prepared for an abundance of songs and equally melodious writing around that often-tricky concept: That it’s okay that musicians draw upon what’s come before them to push us forward a little more.

In fact, I’d look askance at a musician who didn’t acknowledge their influences. Because that’s what’s so wonderful about music. From the spheres to our ears, it keeps growing and evolving even as you can hear echoes of its forebears all down the line.

Great piece, Erin.

i-love-music-quotes

Yeah. This.

Benny Goodman Says “Tain’t No Use”

I first heard this song, oh, way back, and still love it today.

Benny Goodman is one of my delights, and the fact that he’s singing in this makes it even better! I don’t care that he’s not a trained singer, it’s BENNY.

benny.wix_mp_1024

Benny Goodman in his iconic pose, from jrblangton.wix.com.

“No, tain’t no use
Tain’t no use
Cooked my goose
No, tain’t no use…”

You will experience the same intellectual heights with the rest of the lyrics here.

The Day I Was A Model

You read that correctly: Just one day!

…so I should really call it The Day I Did Some Modeling.

But what a day.

IMG_8520_runway2

Representin’ the 1890s! But oops, spoilers.

 

Like most milestones, it actually started awhile before.

My friend Laura Meyer from Twilight Attire was working on a collection for Milwaukee Fashion Week 2015*.

She was creating a “Restro-spective”: A series of traditional Victorian and modern-day interpretations.

And she asked me to be one of her models.

I happen to love Victorian-era garb. I’ve also seen many scrumptious designs Laura has created over the years.

So my first thought was, “Oh my goodness yes please wow me really? Yes.”

My second thought came so close on the heels of the first that it was a stampede: What the hell did I know about being a model?

But then I thought, so what. There is no way I can pass up this opportunity.

“There is no way I can pass up this opportunity.”

What really made it click was the way Laura felt about it all:

“A word to my models: My runway show will be ‘incidentally inclusive,’ which is to say that we have some diversity of ethnic backgrounds, an age range from early twenties to forties, and a size range from 2/4 to 12-ish.

I say “incidentally” because (all due respect to the designers who throw in a size 10 model so they can say their line is “plus-size” friendly) quite honestly, none of you were chosen for your age, size or ethnicity.

I asked you to model for me because you’re awesome, and you all are my first choice… needing 10 models and 2 assistants, I asked 13 lovely ladies in my life to participate, and incredibly almost all of you said yes!

You *are* all beautiful, which helps, but I really asked you because of your spirit and your attitude, and I’ll happily admit that your personalities have influenced some of the designs I’m making.

So, really, this post is just to say “thank you” for agreeing to model for me, and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun!”

And it was fun.

It was also a lot of work, even before the show.

Laura is ace at turning head-to-toe measurements into clothes that actually fit who you are as much as where all of you is distributed.

I had shoe consultations and undergarment discussions.

I did research: What I did know from standing, walking, and posing? My Imposter Syndrome was running high!

But most importantly, I had to figure out how to walk without idiocy on stairs because oh my god it was going to be here:

11826067_10153149714223237_8712529382684802604_n

Milwaukee Theatre rotunda

I also turned temporarily insane, trying to Eat & Exercise Even More Better in the intervening months. I apologize again to my husband and all my best friends.

Then the day itself came.

The call was for 1:30 PM at the Milwaukee Theatre. The show started at 7 PM.

Therefore I packed a boatload of provisions, including:

  • Phone charger
  • Backup phone charger
  • Water
  • Granola bars
  • Sunflower butter and multi-grain crackers (yum)
  • Book
  • Backup book
  • Trashy magazine
  • Shoes for the show
  • Shoes for the VIP afterparty
  • Dress for the afterparty

When I arrived backstage, a disgruntled service elevator deposited me in this slightly sinister hallway of dressing rooms.

0926151300_HDR_Thisiswhatfacedus2

If this were a movie, suspenseful music would be playing

The harried stage manager consulted a sheet and ushered me into an empty room.

0926151258_HDR_dressingroom

Room 242, soon to become a close, personal friend

So, naturally, I took the below picture in case I ever wanted to document the transformation some day (surprise!). Plus, I thought the lights were cool.

0926151255_HDR_predressing2

Pre-dressing dressing room (those light boxes!)

Slowly the room filled up with first-timers like myself and seasoned amateurs, clutching bags and bottles and with not enough chairs to go around.

And there we waited. For a couple hours.

Just like reality TV (except without the script)

As with any group of strangers, not all of us clicked, but most of us got to know each other a bit over those first couple hours. And that was cool.

Even just among us 10, we all had different backgrounds but similar senses of humor.

The seasoned amateurs were also very forthcoming about what to expect, which was: A lot of waiting.

We first-timers felt proud that we’d already divined that.

And then, wonder of wonders, a table of snacks appeared.

47aa00d18dd2c4bc7b188fa191c51d6b

The snacks actually looked nothing like this. From pinterest.com.

We were supposed to have done the dress rehearsal at 1:30, but here it was getting on to 3 and nothing was happening. Then Someone Official poked her head in the doorway.

“I need two of you to get started on makeup.”

I was up like a shot.

What followed was more makeup than I’d ever had on in my entire cumulative lifetime. She even got under my nose! I instantly felt preternaturally alert but managed to refrain from sneezing.

Feeling heavily shellacked, I was half-unsure about such a different me…

…but I WAS sure that I was not going to smile for real until that lipstick stopped staining my front tooth every time I did (everyone assured me it would).

0926151450a_HDR_makeup_prehair2

Makeup done; hair to come

Finally consoling myself with the fact that these layers and powderings and slickings were intended for lights, cameras, and action, I settled back down and recommenced what I’d been doing just before: Waiting.

As did everybody else.

0926151641_HDR_models_waiting

Waiting is the hardest part

Might as well get (mostly) dressed

I knew that hair was next, and my outfit included a hat. I was not about to go through any more contortions than I needed to if there was any risk of messing up one or the other.

My outfit also included a corset that laced in the back, which meant I needed help getting it on, which meant I was phffft!-ed into it (that’s the sound of extremely-sudden corset-cinching) by one of Laura’s sisters.

“Laura does the best cinching!” she said gaily from behind my shoulder.

“You’redoingafinejobyourself,” I squeaked.

Around this time I had the brilliant idea of sitting on the floor instead of a chair. I don’t know how I didn’t crack in two. But my posture had never been so fine.

“I need two of you for hair!”

No pictures of this next bit due to the boneheaded fact that I didn’t bring my phone with me into the hairstyling room.

The hair stylist and I became instant pals. “I envy your color!” he said, which was entirely unexpected since I kind of just let things happen and plan to eventually go all Emmylou Harris.

But I’ll never forget how thoroughly my hair was backcombed and ratted up and just generally made GIANT.

This is the closest approximation I could find:

Donaldduckruggedbear

From “Rugged Bear.”

“We have to make sure that hat doesn’t fall off!” proclaimed the stylist. A noble cause! But I was worried my hair was going to fall OUT from these tender ministrations.

(It hasn’t yet. But I used up half a bottle of conditioner getting it all back to normal.)

And then he somehow folded and twisted and curled and pinned all of it back into a Victorian-looking coiffure.

Here’s the hat, seemingly balancing out of nowhere, but in reality skewered to my head. There’s still a bit of non-hat-damaging outfit yet to put on.

Incidentally, here’s a close-up of the super-cool veil:

0926151622_HDR_closeupveil2

The spotted veil

Dress rehearsal time!

Everybody spilled out of their rooms in various stages of dishevelment.

We wound our way through a starkly-lit, cement-and-cinder-block passage up to a grander, carpeted hallway, finally fetching up along a wide balcony overlooking the entire arena.

12132652_687605164703840_6803109847416361091_o_thearena

See those stairs? We used those stairs.

 

Best advice all day

The stage manager then told us the procedure that would make each collection seem like a continual flow:

Wait here. Start moving when the person before you is at spot X so it looks like you’re moving in tandem. Stop. Start moving when the person before you is coming off the stage. Pause at each of the four corners. Here’s where the press will be. Wait here after your turn. Start moving when the person who came after you leaves spot Y. Move up this far but no further. Wait.

As we were all reeling from the above directions, she then offered her sole bit of advice:

“Don’t trip.”

And back we went to our dressing rooms with nary a chance to practice for ourselves.

By this point I was thankful our group wasn’t going first, and more, that I wasn’t going first in it.

Well, might as well put the rest on

An hour and a half to go and I was getting antsy. Sure sign of a rank tyro! On went the rest of my outfit.

0926151837b_HDR_mirror1

I am now complete!

But how on earth do I pose?

Should I smile? Should I appear delicately touched with gentle sorrow? Should I do the hand on hip thing? Should I be all coy with my hat?

“Be yourself,” said Laura.

Agh!

TIME!

This was it!

Our group was third in line. Anticipation was high. We filed out into that same cemented hallway and–

–were almost instantly told that there would be a delay because an unplanned act was going ahead of everyone else.

Back we went to the sitting room.

TIME, again!

Back we went to the cement hallway, this time to stay.

Eventually we moved up to the carpeted portion, which was a little easier on our collective feet. There were seats at intervals, but I was afraid to sit down.

But here we were told something magical:

We were to forget the complicated routine and just do a normal walk-and-leave-the-stage before the next person started.

Awesome.

Except…

Just as our group came up, poised right there before our first person was about to move, we were told to forget about forgetting the complicated routine and instead remember it and actually do it. Eesh!

But fortunately I remembered one other thing.

I’ve done this before.

Not modeling, no, but being on stage in plays and musicals and music competitions. It’s been awhile, but I’ve done it.

And one thing I remembered was this: I don’t get stage fright.

I don’t know why; I just don’t.

And this was just another stage.

20150926_200728_Burst01_takingthestage

Taking the stage

Here we go!

Things I completely forgot about the instant my foot met the stage:

  • Not making eye contact with the audience, the ushers, the press, or anyone else
  • What I’d fixed on for posing, or smiling, or expressions in general
  • My secret considerations about putting a little sashay into my walk
  • Pretty much everything else I’d told myself just seconds before.

Instead, I just had fun! I flowed through the routine, hit all my points, and remembered to pause longer for the press even as I was staring them in the camera-eye.

And it was a dream to walk and hear the applause and see people smiling like I was actually making an impact. Like I actually fit in.

12087112_687610388036651_8447626676498144435_o_prowalk1

Press picture

11754676_687610414703315_4964888458496894044_o_prowalk1

Press picture

Non-press pictures:

 

In a breathless array, here some of us are waiting on the stairs for our full complement to finish, before coming back out for the final walk all together.

IMG_2594_waiting

A few of us waiting

And then just as suddenly, after all that preparation from months past to this evening, it was over.

We hustled back to our room, laughing in relief, and in an amazingly short time, had de-shellacked, de-corseted, de-shoed.

Here we all are!

12087142_10153276345998237_6149646399038296642_o_allofus

Before the show: Restrospective with designer Laura in the middle (6th from the right. I’m 4th!)

Would I do it again?

Yes.

–I met some really cool women whom I would probably have never met otherwise, and I still talk with them today. One’s a ballroom dance instructor. One is a scrumptious baker. Another studies sculpture.

–I got to participate in a world I had never considered entering.

–I learned how much work goes in to modeling.

–I experienced those hidden behind-the-scenes moments, from late-night messages about cancelled meetings and rearranged seams to witnessing the massive amount of organization that has to happen to make things appear, well, seamless.

–And Laura gave me the option to buy that marvelous outfit. How could I resist?

Oh, and the VIP afterparty was fun, too.

The End

IMG_8523_applause1

The end of it all

P.S. Here’s the song that was Laura’s soundtrack:

 

*Proceeds from Milwaukee Fashion Week benefit Pathfinders, a Milwaukee based non-profit organization that empowers and supports youth and young adults to get them going with a fresh start.

Day 35 of Microsoft MVP: Moving On Up

A colleague was walking behind me in the hallway.

I only knew this because he said, “Hello, MVP!”

And I turned around—

—and then caught myself turning around—

—and said, “Oh my god, I actually turned around.”

Him: “See, it’s going to your head!”

quote-if-you-aren-t-in-over-your-head-how-do-you-know-how-tall-you-are-t-s-eliot-56969

If you aren’t in over your head…

What’s an MVP? Start here.

Contemporary Wisdom From 1909 in “A Girl of the Limberlost”

“There was no form of suffering with which the girl could not sympathize.”

A Girl of the Limberlost may have been written in 1909, but you don’t want to wait another second to crack the covers or load up your e-reader, because Gene Stratton Porter is an author to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Even if you’re not at all a teenaged girl, this book is still relevant. And fortunately, Porter had written more than one novel. And I’d go so far as to say that this and most of her other books are still relevant.

Jacket

A Girl of the Limberlost, found at storyformed.com

Why I’m mentioning this today

The following passages recall me most strongly to our current

tendency to allow people to be famous for being famous.

SPOILERS AHEAD: While I realize this book is from another century, this may be the first time you’re even hearing about it, so feel free to skip down to the resource links at the bottom right now.

–SPOILER!–

This is from a conversation between Elnora Comstock and Philip Ammon. Elnora had just inquired about Philip’s fiancee. Bolding is mine.

“In what is she interested?”

“What interests Edith Carr? Let me think! First, I believe she takes pride in being a little handsomer and better dressed than any girl of her set. She is interested in having a beautiful home, fine appointments, in being petted, praised, and the acknowledged leader of society.  She likes to find new things which amuse her, and to always and in all circumstances have her own way about everything.”

“Good gracious!” cried Elnora, staring at him. “But what does she do? How does she spend her time?”

“Spend her time!” repeated Philip. “Well, she would call that a joke. Her days are never long enough. There is endless shopping, to find the pretty things; regular visits to the dressmakers, calls, parties, theatres, entertainments. She is always rushed. I never am able to be with her half as much as I would like.”

“But I mean work,” persisted Elnora. “In what is she interested that is useful to the world?

“Me!” cried Philip promptly.

“I can understand that,” laughed Elnora. “What I can’t understand is how you can be in——” She stopped in confusion, but she saw that he had finished the sentence as she had intended.

“I beg your pardon!” she cried. “I didn’t intend to say that. But I cannot understand these people I hear about who live only for their own amusement. Perhaps it is very great; I’ll never have a chance to know. To me, it seems the only pleasure in this world worth having is the joy we derive from living for those we love, and those we can help.

Much as I didn’t want “the real world” to intrude as I was reading this book for a countless time, I couldn’t help but think about it all the same.

Read it for the above, read it for the lush dive into naturalism, read it to find out both the tragedy and the love, and what happens to this girl from the school of hard knocks. But read it.

GIrloftheLimberlost_Kate

Image from a Girl of the Limberlost; this is Katherine.

RESOURCES

  • Project Gutenberg has it for free, though the format isn’t the most elegant.
  • Careful, more spoilers: Wikipedia entry here.