Why do I love the Oscars so much?

I really don’t get it. For years now I haven’t seen most of the nominated films. I used to go to the movies constantly and I went to pretty much every movie released every year, but for some reason I don’t do that anymore. So for the most part, I am not familiar with the movies people are voting for.

And yet, I love the Oscars. It’s like a holiday. I make sure the house is all clean and fresh and nice. I plan and buy delicious snacks to last from the pre-shows on (in the past that meant onion dip and potato chips, now I go for healthier snacks like carrots and broccoli and olive tapenade). I get all set up on my couch with my laptop, and do my best to lure people on Echo into watching and commenting with me. I’m in a good mood today because the Oscars are on tomorrow. WHY?

A garden/courtyard down an alley and behind a building. Adding to my list of things I want when I am rich (and time is running out for that to happen): a semi-secret garden. If this were my semi-secret garden though, I would make an effort to make the alley you walk through to get to it more enchanting. I would make it like that scene in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, when Beauty walks down a long corridor when she first enters the castle — it’s lined with lamps, held out by disembodied hands (sounds scary but it was more magical).


Boychoirs and Amadeus and Confutatis maledictis

Leaving aside for now the fact that girlchoirs don’t get the same attention, I just heard about a new movie called Boychoir, which has an amazing cast and is about to start filming. I loved the French movie, The Chorus, and the actor who played the director of the chorus, GĂ©rard Jugnot. You don’t have to be a choir person to love this movie! Jugnot will make you weep.

Chorus America recently published a Best Picture Nominees For People Who Love Choral Music, and The Chorus is number 1. I picked Amadeus because of this scene, where Mozart is composing his Requiem. Just watch it. You’ve got to trust me on this. It shows Mozart composing the Confutatis maledictis section, one of the most exciting pieces of music EVER. Although it’s fiction I love how they show him build it piece by piece and then you hear the marvelous whole. Please watch it!

My choir is singing this piece in the spring and we’re working on it now. Our director recently had everyone sing along with the tenors and basses on the Confutatis maledictis. It was thrilling! Lucky tenors and basses to have this to sing. It’s just so magnificent and electric. We were told that only ten sopranos and ten second sopranos and altos will be singing the salve me part. I am the longest of long shots and don’t expect to be picked for this, but a girl can hope.

Back to boychoirs though, I wonder if I have posted about this before, but I love and now own the choir song sung in the movie The Bishop’s Wife. It’s called O Sing to God and it’s sung by the Mitchell Boychoir.

There’s one boy who always gets my attention and I tried to find out who is he, but so far no luck. I haven’t tried that hard really. The movie was made in 1947, and I’m guessing he was 15 years old, except I’m terrible at guessing children’s ages. Maybe he’s a little older. But that would make him 79+ now.

Here’s a screenshot, but you can also see him here. I cued it so when you click on the link it starts at the moment he appears.


Behind the Scenes of a TEDx Talk

I’ve been meaning to post about what goes on when you are invited to do a TEDx Talk.

The first thing that happens is you’re sent a set of rules about what you can and cannot do, and guidelines in general about what makes a good talk. You’re told that you have to give a memorized, prepared speech, and you’re asked to submit your speech in advance for approval.

A quick backstory about me and public speaking. When I first started Echo, the social network I started in 1989, I lucked out when a local news show decided to do a piece about us. I got my brother Douglas (who was helping me), my boyfriend, and someone else who was part of Echo to gather in my apartment to be part of the piece. They were all great. I froze. Because I was the one who started Echo the news guy wanted to feature me. So he kept trying and trying to get me to relax and talk. He eventually gave up. I signed up for a public speaking class the following week.

The problem was the class taught us how to give memorized, prepared speeches, and I quickly discovered that it’s very hard to give a prepared speech and not sound like you’re reciting, which is tedious for the audience. Actors can do it. I cannot. So I came up with a modified version of giving a speech. I plan the main points I want to make, memorize those, and then wing it in-between. This has always worked well and this is how I’ve done it ever since.

Now here I was being told to give a planned and rehearsed speech. And you have to give it with absolute timed precision. You’re instructed to rehearse it every day until you are sure you can give it within your allotted time. I had 15 minutes. You’re also told not to move around on the stage, to not have a lot of text on your slides if you’re going to have slides, to not start with a bunch of stats, and to never look back at your slides, something I generally do to remind myself where I am.

I write my speech, get it approved, and start rehearsing. I’m terrible. I start asking people for pointers. I film myself to see the worst things I’m doing. I give my speech to friends and ask them to tell me how to make it better. I talk to people who have given TED talks before and ask for helpful hints. Bit by bit I start to suck less.

The night before the conference they have us all come in for a dress rehearsal. I was thrilled because I was so scared and I thought having the chance to do it once before the real thing would help with my nerves. I’d get through it, and armed with the knowledge that I could get through it I’d be able to walk up onto the stage the next day with at least a little bit of confidence.

I blanked out a minute or two into giving my talk. Worse, I stood up there scrambling to get back to where I was in my talk. People waited. Finally I found a place somewhat later in my talk, skipping a whole section. Then I blanked again. And once again I came back in skipping a section. I did this four times. My talk was an incoherent wreck. It was a nightmare.

I calmed down and told myself that I would practice when I got home and everything would be fine. Except I had lost all confidence and when I got home my speech was gone. I couldn’t get through it once. Still, I didn’t panic. I figured I had psyched myself out and everything would be better in the morning, when I would try again before leaving to give my talk.

The next morning same thing happened. I couldn’t get through my talk without continually blanking out and skipping entire sections. I came this close to calling the organizers and telling them I had developed a high fever overnight and I couldn’t come in. But I knew that the self-loathing that would generate would beyond enduring. For the rest of my life anytime I felt doubt or insecurity my mind would go right to, “Remember that time you chickened out and didn’t give your TEDx talk??” Until the day I died it would be incontrovertible proof of my hopelessness. I had to go through with it.

When I climbed that stage to give my talk, I was absolutely certain I was walking up to what would become the most public humiliating experience in my life. If you look at my video you can see me look down at the beginning and take a deep breath. What I’m saying to myself is, “There’s no getting out of this now. This is going to be bad. Let’s just get it over with. Oh God oh God oh God oh God.”

I looked up, spot lights were shining in my eyes and I couldn’t see anyone in the audience. I had to begin by pretending to be able to see people! Maybe that helped me, I don’t know. You decide. If you haven’t seen it already, here is my TEDx Talk.


Randall Thompson and Everyone’s Happy

I love this quote from Randall Thompson. “I put the notes on paper: they sing it; they are doing something they love to do, just as I have been.” Everyone wins. Everyone is happy. Thank you for the notes on paper, Randall Thompson!

Out to dinner with Josh, Sue, and Santa Claus. I mean Ernest Hemingway. I mean Kevin.


Here we are at the same restaurant, Bubby’s, in January, 2009! Andi, who is in the back next to Susan, couldn’t make it this year due to unforeseen circumstances. You were missed, Andi! Hadley, who was also invited and couldn’t make it, you were missed too!!

Marine Traffic

I don’t remember where I learned about this site, Marine Traffic, but I’m kinda hypnotized by it. It tracks all the ships at sea. You can look anywhere in the world, click on all the ship icons and learn about each ship’s name, the kind of ship it is, what flag it’s flying under, see a picture, etc. It’s mesmerizing.

Here’s a screen shot of the waters around New York City. I clicked on one of the ship icons so you can see what comes up. Another shot on a different part of the world follows.


The two busiest ports at the moment are New York and the Persian Gulf. I see that the ship I clicked on there is designated Hazard A (major). What does that mean? Googled. Well, like it sounds, the ship is carrying the most hazardous cargo of all. This is an oil tanker. Aren’t there more hazardous materials than oil? Like plutonium, maybe?