DCI West Championship 2008

Santa Clara Vanguard. Phantom Regiment. Blue Devils. Easily one of the best shows of my life.

As important as marching band was to me in high school, I rarely think it it now. These rare flashes, however, come with large bouts of nostalgia. On one of those a few weeks ago, I fired up footage of my high school shows, then took a detour to the DCI website. The summer before my senior year, I had gone to “THE exSIGHTment of SOUND” in Houston, where I saw the Cavaliers and Santa Clara Vanguard perform. Looking through this year’s schedule, I saw several performances in the Bay Area. A couple looked convenient, but one was incredibly convenient: The DCI West Championship at the Stanford Stadium. I excitedly mentioned it to several of my non-initiated (read: newbie) friends and ended up nabbing 2 tickets for George (my roommate) and me.

We met up with Ben around some batteries warming up after a wonderful shrimp scampi dinner (read here), then went to the stadium. The seats, on the upper deck, were just at the 40 yard line on the left; great to watch, great to hear.

The open class (division 2 and 3) bands went first, and while not perfect, they were very enjoyable. The first was the San Francisco Renegades, a corps without age restrictions. Members were mostly middle-aged, but it was a spirited performance.

They, however, fit with most of the audience. I had anticipated seeing mostly high school and college students, but that was probably the largest gap. Many middle school students showed up, and a surprising number of middle-aged and seniors came as well. In retrospect, this likely isn’t so surprising. The just-younger students are likely those who will be shooting for a corps soon, and the older group likely aged out and are coming back for more. That last group reminded me of the older crowd from my trip to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The attitude felt different, but it does lend legitimacy to drum & bugle corps as a performing art.

The group as a whole, however, were also not what I was expecting. I seem to have developed a Stanford-centric attitude, where events like this come to Stanford for Stanford. This event proved me wrong. Almost everyone came from the surrounding area for a show that happened to be at Stanford. It’s not Stanford; it’s a thing. Ben commented how he enjoyed finding “sub-cultures” like these. In my own life, marching doesn’t feel like a sub-culture, but it absolutely is. Within the group that cares, it’s a big deal, and it has its separate population, as the attendance reflected. Everyone has their sub-culture.

But back to the show, we saw several other surprising shows. Mystikal came onto the field with complete battery, pit, and guard. And seven brass players. That takes bravery. And the Blue Devils C, with members from age 7 to 13, put on a show I never imagined them capable of. Though I don’t know how I feel about the fact that they’ll be doing drum corps for the next eight years of their lives.

After the intermission, the world class (division 1) corps performed, and the Mandarins left a huge gap from the open class corps. The Pacific Crest and the Academy also gave great shows, and the Santa Clara Vanguard performed the show “3hree” and made another gap from the preceding world class acts. As a local group and past champion, they generated a lot of excitement and performed as well as they should have.

I, however, would say that the Phantom Regiment and Blue Devils cleared delimited themselves from the competition, including the Vanguard. The Phantom Regiment’s show, “Spartacus,” reminded me of the Blue Devil’s 2006 show, “Godfather,” also with a weapon-like formation. Beyond that, it was a complete performance. The drill was both difficult and well-performed, and their playing was a usual best. The general effect and guard, however, added so much to the show. Audiences often are shocked by the quality and skill of the performers, but it’s not often they’re also shocked by the drama, too. It’s a must-see. That performance got me out of my seat.

And I was ready to do it again if the Blue Devils were better, as the scores would indicate from San Diego two days ago. Their show, “Constantly Risking Absurdity,” made me question a lot of choices, including an intro with more running than marching (and a member who slipped quite brutally; don’t know if that was planned) and some bizarre battery work. But it’s the Blue Devils, and it absolutely worked. The marching and playing were brilliant, and while their showmanship was far different from that of Phantom Regiment, I thought it was just as cool.

I came away loving it, and so did George. Given my nostalgia and the general effect of the show recognized by George, I couldn’t have had more fun tonight. Granted, no one was perfect. Every performance had its form problems and questionable moments, but the touring season has just started. And I would rationalize that my pickiness makes me enjoy it that much more, because I saw performances where I just didn’t care about the details; they were that good.

One of these days, I’m going to have to go to the DCI World Championships because that’s just insane. This show was great. Take the best of those in better form with a crazy crowd, and it does not get better. Someone want to come with me some year in the future?

Band, and how to have a life while doing Band

Okay, I lie about the 2nd part. I don’t have a life, but if I did, I’d be working on it.
So pretty much immediately after I got back from Austin, I began summer band, which was kind of bad since my procrastination has created backup in the other stuff I need to do, but I think I’ve handled it pretty well. As far as band goes, it’s definitely a mixed basket this year. I’m extremely proud of my section: every returning tuba is better than they were last year (more significantly at the bottom than the top), respect is generally going pretty well, and Mr. Phillips has been right on top of things (if you read this, you’re welcome). We cling to our ways, though with a new mentality: “Do the little stuff so we can get away with the bigger stuff”. Section pride is now much more visible than ever before (in a manner of speaking). GJ tubas.
What’s not cool is just a lot of band in general. Perhaps this is simply out of arrogance and 3 yrs of marching experience, but I don’t think that fundamentals and exercises have been handled all so well this year. Fundamentals have been drastically shortened. Back fishmen year, I don’t think I handled drill until after the school year started, and the same for soph year. I ‘member being vaguely startled by beginning drill during summer band last year, and I’m blown away that we started it this year after less than a week. As far as I’ve seen, fundamentals are things that sink in as time passes, not something linearly gets better the more you practice. I could march my section up and down over and over, but they really need to make their own discoveries to make their marching better. Exercises have been a lot different this year, with some being better, some worse, with a “go X, hold X” exercise being one that I feel falls in the latter. Without details, I’m skeptical that our work is really for the best, but then again, everything is new. Perhaps I’m clinging to the old ways like an old toaster oven: it didn’t seem blatantly broken and I’m used to dealing with its minor faults, and with things changing, I kind of look back at the “reliable” old ways. A lot of organizational changes have been bugging me too, but that’s probably the same thing. Time will tell.
On the plus side, the drill this year is really cool, and if everything falls into place, this marching season is going to be incredible.

So “life” for me can be interestingly defined. Wednesday night, after band, I came home, took a shower, then prepared for Aditya, Grant, Josh, and Matt to come over for a game of Axis & Allies, probably the coolest war game that most of you have not heard about. Around 10 (at night), they arrived, whereupon we started around 1030-11ish. Approximately 20 cans of pop, 2 bags of tortilla chips, 1/2 jar of salsa, a jar of queso, and a box of teddy grahams later, we finished. Basically, a very stupid mistake on my part (put the wrong starting piece on the map) costed me(Germany) Normandy, causing my downfall, with Japan taking the weakened USSR in the same turn. In an incredible sequence of moves, Matt (Japan) managed to hold off the Trifecta (Allied powers) long enough to successfully run east as they chased him, taking both washington and london (with berlin likely to follow), before we basically stopped caring around 5-6 in the morning. Thanks to my mom, I successfully woke up for uniform fitting (unlike the USSR), then went back to sleep until noon, when john, lonnie, and andrew came over to complete my day of ultimate nerdiness: we had a Magic the Gathering draft. All in time for me to get to band at 4.
And so I learn the ultimate trick of time management: sleep is a waste of time.
(I swear I’ll post the next chapter in my story blog tomorrow evening.)

Almost On Top

I could say how it feels like only yesterday that I was arriving at New Marcher’s Fundamentals, and how the last 3 years have been a breeze.
But that’s been pretty much a lie. To say that high school so far has been that little is giving a lot so little credit. A lot of really awesome stuff has happened, and a lot of crap has happened.
In ‘ne case, it’s the end of the year, and now is our chance to evaluate what we’ve done, and what we’ve accomplished. “Have you earned your oxygen this year?” =)
And we get to enjoy the excitement of almost being on top: being the big dogs, the representing class, the seniors. We’re the kids we looked up to when we were fishies. Boy, is that scary.

Why am I such an Idiot?

So the other day, during band, we were doing a recording session for graduation. If you ‘member, we recorded P&C last year because the Merrell Center wasn’t going to hold an orchestra as well. This year, they decided that P&C is much too boring to play in and out, so on the way out, they now get “The Throne Room”, the song they play at the very end of Star Wars: A New Hope, when Han Solo and Luke get their medals. We got our band arrangement during class, which wasn’t too difficult, rehearsed, and recorded.
We did 2-3 recordings and some practice, and during all of that, I did just fine. Then something bad happened. See, at the end of the song, there’s a fermata, then 2-3 silent beats, then a concluding triplet. I had counted it fine all period, but on the very last take, I had a minor lapse and played it a beat early, where there is complete silence. Remember that because this is a recording, that we stay still and perfectly quiet until the microphone is turned off. In the awkwardness, Mr. Janda looks straight at me. Demonstrating my lack of object permanence, I close my eyes really tight and hope that he disappears. Thank goodness they have to cut and paste anyways, and because of that, they can just use part of another recording right there. If they don’t, at least I’m immortalized in the music in one more way (last year’s recording has a nasty cracked note at the end of the alma mater, and you just might hear “Louie, Louie” during P&C).

In other news, life is good, while simultaneously being absolutely terrible. In school, a combination of APs, wrapping up of topics, and general unenthusiasm has made this past week absolutely worthless. Here’s what my schedule looks like:
English – study for other APs/do nothing
Precal – learn stuff we already know
History – watch “Forrest Gump” and “Miracle”
Band – play what little music we have left for the final concert, tell stories
AD – magic with Kosine
CS3 – ACSL stuff for half the period, then walk around and chat
Physics – learn obvious stuff

Thank goodness, right? Unfortunately, the worthlessness of it makes me question even going to school. What’s the point of waking up at 6 if I’m just going to do nothing? Oh well.

My mom insisted that we get hardwood floors in my house, so we did. For about a week, all of my furniture was smashed up into one room, while they preceded to rip out all of the carpet upstairs. In that time, I once again evaluated my dependence on my computer, decided it was for the best to be away from it, then went back to it after the minor disruption. Keeping up the status quo, I guess. On the plus side, I got rid of some junk, my room is reorganized, and I can now actually roll around in my rolling-chair. Stopping, however, is going to take practice.

A Proposition

I propose, that in honor of randomness, that we make this Thursday “Speak in Song Day”. During this day, all day, whenever you have something to say, you have to say it in song. Regardless of whether you can sing or not, everything must have a beat and a melody to it. It’s likely that you’ll have to explain it a thousand times, and that you’ll make a fool of yourself, but who gives? Oh, btw, if you’re wondering why I came up with this, “because I can”.

So we had a concert in San An for band this past Friday. It happened to be the Spring Trip one, and because of the financial situation after the NY trip, my mom and I decided that I would not go on the trip, but drive up to San An and play the concert. I skipped the AP US history exam and got out of school at 930, when we promptly drove up to Austin to pick up my sisters who were going to come and listen.
We arrive in Austin at approximately noon, where we take a break to eat lunch while we wait for Nicole to get back from one of her classes. We figure that if we get out by about 1, then we’d have plenty of time. Well, Nicole, unaware of the time constraints, comes back to their apartment at around 120. She hurries through lunch and we leave.
Next, my sister has to drop off a form at ACC. Easy, right? Well, she goes in, and we wait in the car. And wait. And wait. After awhile, she comes back, complaining about the stupid lady at the desk who took forever. By this point, it’s about 210. And I’m supposed to be in San An at 3 for warmup. My mom goes through some seriously aggresive driving to cut as much time as possible.
By 3, we’re only at New Braunfels. Well, that’s okay, I think. I only need to be there for the performance. I can afford to skip a bit of the warmup, as long as I’m there for the performance. We drive and drive, and I become increasingly more worried (‘member the 40 measure solo?). In downtown San An, we hit 2-3 traffic jams, which fortunately clear up really quickly. Drive, drive, drive. Trying to cut corners, I put my uniform on in the car. We pull up to Stevens High School at 340, which, as far as I could ‘member, was our scheduled performance time. I dash into the auditorium, where I get about halfway up before I, thankfully, realize that it’s Symphonic Band performing. Unfortunately, they begin their performance as I sit down, and I feel locked in. Then, rationalizing, I sit there, figuring I’m better off waiting in there, where I know the band will be soon enough, than wandering around for the warmup I may never find.
Halfway through their last song, I hear Mr Bailey beckon, and I rush out of the auditorium, muttering sorries for my delay. We rush over to the warmup room where I bust in, in time for the middle of the warmup, and to an applause. Funny how much more ppl appreciate you when you’re not there, eh?
And so I performed with the band, and, in my opinion, did a good job on my solo, with only a few verbal death threats and complaints from Katie. Not bad.

A Moment to Relax

Life has been interesting as of late.
This being jr year, I feel obligated to say something about the workload, and in the end, all I can say is that it’s a lot more pressure than actual work. And in the midst of the insanity, there’s always time to relax.
And TV and video games don’t count.
Even in times like this, with an AP in just under a week with all the preparation, literally, ever done is a single practice test self-graded, I still manage to get in an hour of video games, well wasted. Wonderful, right?
It’s times like these that make me wonder if ppl exaggerate the work that they have/do, or if I’m just doing something wrong. I mean, I would guess that compared to many, I do have a lot more work to do, but while they’re crapping about it, I’m lining my AK up with the top of a filing cabinet so that I can get an instant headshot when the CT comes in long hallway (if you didn’t understand that, aspire to never). But even in the motonomy of such a life, there’s still an escape.
I got a chance to have a bit of fun on my tuba.
Sure, my lesson teacher has been griping at me for weeks about how I don’t have my stuff done, and I’ll admit, I haven’t been the most studious. Unfortunately, “one more round” syndrome often takes immediate precedence over practicing. Today, however, was different.
If you didn’t know, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it here before, I have a totally awesome, almost exclusively tuba, 30-40ish measure solo in one of our pieces for WE. It’s great. And it’s jazz.
If you haven’t had a really important part like this, trust me, there’s a lot of pressure. When it’s region band, it’s whatever. Truly. When I go into that room, I’ve got no stress, because the only people judging me are hidden behind sheets, and the other students, I only have to see once a year, at region band auditions. When I play my solo for S&E, it’s whatever, because I’m never going to see that judge ever again. But when it’s for band, you have 40 of your peers, not to mention the parents and other peers in the crowd that will also listen to you.
Performance always begins with a pee.
So I’ve been working pretty hard to make the solo as good as possible, and there is no better feeling than being able to totally own it. Or mebbe there’s no better feeling than just busting out your instrument and wailing in the comfort of your own living room, knowing that whatever crazy style you go with, no one else will ever critique you on. A chance to totally let loose.

New York

So that was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. I hate to recount events like what shall follow, but it seems to be the easiest, most inclusive way to do it.
Before I even get into the actual events, a humongous hugs and thanks to my group for being a lot of fun. Even though I wasn’t really really tight with ‘ne of them before the trip, we literally spent as much time together as possible, beyond just a walking group, which is quite a feat considering how much Englebutt managed to screw with the groups. Allison, Kelly, and Denise are probably the perfect example of 3 girls who are just too awesome to ever have to hang out with ‘neone else, but still are totally cool about everything. Chris, the least cliquish of us, still managed to inject a lot of life into the group, and Matt got to be our favorite idiot. Ms. Yunker, our chaperone, almost seemed to fit in as another student, and let us do a lot of what we wanted while still eating with us and hanging out with us. And I was me, wvr that means to you. It was a great group.
Thursday morning, waking at 330 in the morning, was definitely an interesting start. With slits for eyes, we kicked off our trip with a little less enthusiasm than I ‘member with disney, but it definitely didn’t determine the rest of the trip. The airport and plane stuff all happened okay, with a rocky landing and a bit behind schedule, but it was fine. That afternoon, we went to the Met, which was easily one of the most mind-blowing parts of the trip. We got rushed a bit, having to go through a museum in about 2 hrs when it could easily take several days, so we only hit a bit of the greek/roman and african art, then ran over to 19th century european art, over to the musical instruments, then down to the arms & armors, blowing through all of them. The stuff there was pretty incredible: true, one can find ancient artifacts from ancient civilizations at a lot of museums, but it definitely “hit” me this time, that the pieces came from over 2000 yrs ago, while I considered Star Wars from 1977 a pretty “old” moobie. 19th century european art was great, as they let you walk right up to the paintings, where you could see the signatures and individual brush strokes. I definitely had a mental cow as I stood in front of one of Monet’s most famous water lilies paintings, not to mention the van goghs and others that we rushed past. Instruments was very interesting, but honestly, I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps since the history of music is not necessarily inflated to the same lvl as art, as a painting can be drawn once, while a recording/replaying can recreate music, but regardless, it didn’t hit me quite the same. The progression was fun to look at, but it was still kind of blah. A&A was just darn awesome, with suits of armor and swords and guns and such to look at. I really wish we had had the rest of the day there. Outside, on the steps, there were 3 black entertainers, who did feats of acrobatics, along with the necessary jokes. Sadly, we got cut short on that as we had to go.
Dinner at the Hard Rock was honestly forgettable, so we’ll skip that part. We got into our rooms around 900, and rain and delays caused us to push back our time square picture, and instead, we (me, david, tom, and andy) watched “Fight Club”, which was definitely one of the craziest moobies I’ve seen. I’m still trying to figure out if it was brilliant or just weird, but wvr. Kudos to my room for being awesome as well. We had not a conflict past 2 “doorknob” calls, and the washroom situation was like silk. David and Tom I have known pretty well, but I got a better look at Andy, who went pretty crazy, at least for his public appearance. That was awesome.
The next morning, I did my usual, eating reeses puffs and drinking hot chocolate, then going out for breakfast. We ended up in a “hole in the wall” place for breakfast, and while I didn’t eat ‘ne of it myself, all accounts complimented it. Our next adventure took us to Battery Park, where we would get a nice ride-by the Statue and a walkaround Ellis Island. The line was almost preposterously long, but a couple entertainers managed to keep us relatively entertained. Ellis Island was a bit of a letdown, but if nothing else, I got to spend time with my group, which was just as awesome as the rest of the time.
After that, we went back to our rooms, where I watched Anchorman (very funny moobie), ate authenic NY pizza for takeout in our room (nothing compares, I swear), then got ready for CARNEGIE!
It’s almost impossible to describe playing in Carnegie Hall. The unpack and warmup was just the usual, but the Hall itself was incredible. Sitting on the stage, you could literally just look up and around and totally pee in your pants over just that, without having played. With a bit of that, we played, and from the first little warmup run-thru and a concert F in the winds, it was absolutely insane. You could play, and then just listen to the sound stay for another 5 s, bouncing around. That Hall plays absolutely beautifully. I could rant on and on about it, but it really is a “have to be there” experience. Nick did his sh*t, and it was impressive. If you don’t know, I absolutely love his sound, and as I told him, the only thing more incredible than his sound is his sound + the 5 more s than you can listen to it ring. The performance was fine (it was New World, 4th movement, Carmen 9,10,11, and then the Cowboys Overture); I honestly don’t know how much of it was augmented by the Hall and our mindset by being in the Hall, but I was much to engrossed in it to discern. I played fairly well, I thought, and I know that I was doing my best to get the extra lift on every note just to hear it ring. I definitely cracked more notes on the Dvorak than I should have, but we’ll ignore that. That was definitely the climax of my music playing career, as I don’t intend to pursue it long term, but music is possibly worth quitting after that, because it really doesn’t get much better. That night, we had an extremely late dinner at Applebee’s, which was okay, except for Denise’s minor illness, but she was all fine by the next morning, thank goodness. We started watching “Kung Pow” in our room, but barely got ‘newhere on it.
The next morning was our opportunity to become famous, as we appeared on the CBS early show. We stood in on a lawnmower section and the weather, with “holy folks” stuffed dolls as a promotion, and that was vaguely amusing. Walking up and back was quite a bit more interesting. (I’ll sort of encapsulate this entire thought here) Around Houston, there’s nothing really special, per se. I get excited when I see the Chronicle building. In New York, you just stand there with your chin down, as you pass places like “Trump Tower”, “Late Show with David Letterman”, “MTV”, and “FOX brocasting”, just walking down the street. Everything is just so darn crazy famous, and it’s absolutely overwhelming how concentrated all of that is. There’s something else to pee in your pants about as well.
Next, we were supposed to go on a city tour, but somebody dropped the ball on our buses, so we were instead left several seats short, spending about 45 min resolving that. After that, we got our rushed tour. A lot of ppl trash-talked it, but I thought it was interesting. True, she could have cut a lot of the crap, but it was just cool to get to see all the places, along with the trivia that goes along with it. Pointing out the apartments of celebrities and such, I took a lot more interest in it than I thought I would, as a guy who really doesn’t care about that sort of crap, but wvr. We took a 1/2 hr lunch in central park, which was much too short to actually get to enjoy it, but then finished the tour and went back to our hotel, where we changed into our first nice attire and finished Kung Pow. Chinatown was fine, even if I didn’t purchase ‘nething myself, it was fun to walk around a bit and watch my group members (who, if you haven’t figured out by now, are AWESOME) go at haggling and shopping. It’s actually kind of funny, as you can imagine a bunch of high school students, who obviously are well off enough, in suits and dresses attempt to deal with and con the sellers to get better prices (kudos to the genius who sent us to chinatown in suits and dresses). I myself took the more global view, as while things were cheap, chinatown doesn’t beat china on the sucky economy, so I pinched my pennies, like most of the rest of the trip. I briefly saw Andy Deal going into the restaurant, which was cool, but not simultaneously. Dinner at the chinese restaurant was fun, but once again, doesn’t touch the authentic.
After that, we went to “The Lion King”, my first ever Broadway. It was quite spectacular, but I’m vaguely getting the impression that for a Broadway, it really wasn’t ‘nething special. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with “The Lion King”, and while everything was great, I, as a self-admitted amateur critic, would assume that all are great. The plot and a lot of the songs were extremely familiar, while the props and costumes and dancing had me pretty enthralled. Good stuff, for sure. After that, we took our time square picture, then went back to the room where we watched half of the “Godfather” (still need to watch the rest, someone), then conked out.
The next morning was literally the only time I didn’t spend with my walking group, as we had separate groups for church and such. As my one opportunity to hang out with Evan and Ian, we went out for a quick breakfast, then to the Easter Parade, which was probably the biggest letdown ever. Englebutt had inflated it, but it turns out that it is literally just a bunch of ppl walking down 5th with funny hats. And at the beginning of the parade, when we were there, by “a bunch of”, I mean “less than 10”. We quickly left, walking about for a bit. I wanted to walk around more and play tourist more, being absorbed by the city, but the group wanted to hang at the hotel for a bit, which was fine. We played a bit of magic, then went back out where we got more NY pizza, which was an absolutely humongous pizza, and easily the best I ahve ever had. I got back to my hotel a bit early, where I watched the “Bowling Skills Challenge” on ESPN, which basically entails a bunch of bowlers who screw around (throw between the legs of a chair for a strike, throw over a chair for a strike, throw a pin at a ball, throw 2 balls at once, push the ball down with a pool cue stick for pins, etc) in a competition. Amusing stuff.
Dressed up again for another Broadway, we watched “The Producers”, which was absolutely hilarious, even if it did go over the edge at times, even for me. Having not watched the moobie, I was in for quite a surprise. It was definitely classic Broadway, with the dancers and big flashy lights and such, but with a non-classic, anti-semitic (I’m pretty sure Mel Brooks is a Jew, but don’t quote me on that), neo-nazi, homosexual twist on it. It was darn crazy, but entertaining nonetheless. Once again, as an amateur critic, I would say that it just Broadway being Broadway incredible as expected, but I don’t know.
We went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (of the same theme as the one from “Forrest Gump”), which was a great dinner as well with my walking group again (did I mention that they’re the best?), and then to the Empire State Building. I thought it was going to be a bit of a tourist trap, and the line would definitely testify to that, as we must of easily waited 2 hrs to get in, but having to stick to the plan, we toughed out the line. At the top was an unbelievable look at NY and surrounding area. As far as the eye could see, there were lights right up to the horizon, and it just kind of hit me at once how ridiculously big NY was. There was definitely an epiphany moment as I looked as far over the edge as you could with the metal bars, thinking, “This is insane, that I could jump off, and I would still fall 10s of floors, still hit a 30 floor building, and still end up as just another stain. This building is tall.” At night, with all the lights, it is definitely a sight to behold, and even if I didn’t take pictures, I can still close my eyes and see the Chrysler Building to my left, the Hudson River to my right, the Statue as a little blip in the distance, and lights and lights and lights. I though seeing Hong Kong from Mount Victoria was incredible at night was great, but this was something else entirely. That night, we started watching “V for Vendetta”, but I dozed off in the middle.
On the final day (today), we went out for breakfast with our walking groups again, then to Madame Tussaud’s to hang with the wax sculptures. I’ve been to at least 2 before, so it really wasn’t ‘nething surprising, but still cool ‘neways. With a lot more familiar face than before, and set where one could touch and pose with the figures, instead of in the exhibits like before, it was a lot of fun. We went to Planet Hollywood for lunch, where I had lunch with my walking group (duh, right, since I did say that I spent all of my time with them, other than that one morning. I just like to emphasize how awesome they were) and got to see a few interesting items, including the original Death Star from RotJ, and Michael Dorn’s baseball uniform from DS9 (don’t ask). And then it was over.
Impressions? It was incredible. I have to agree with most other ppl: NY is a great place to vacation to and visit, but I couldn’t see myself living there for more than a month or 2. As exciting and upbeat and just crazy (with the famous landmarks and ppl on every street corner) as it was, it could easily be too much. It was a great experience, though, for the exposure.
Unfortunately, it was just a bit too little exposure. Everything seemed a bit shortened, as I mentioned that the Met could have used another week of looking around, and I could’ve spent another hr on top the Empire State Building, but it was good.
I know it might sound redundant and over the top by now, but I want to thank my walking group again. It could’ve easily have been less of a trip, as the shortened time and just bad luck in organization threw a lot of the awesomeness of the city off, but hanging out with them kiddies and getting to know them so well was just great. Thanks.
And everyone else, go to NY.

Recap on Life

Olympics, CS, Solo

So I’ve been a bit too busy to write, which basically means I was addictively watching the Olympics these past 2 weeks. Sure, a lot of the events aren’t worth watching, but there’s stuff to do in the breaks. I have other concerns, however.
I’m sure enough of my manhood that I can say that I like figure skating, mostly due to a family filled with females. The womens’ singles were this last week, and as exciting as it was, I was quite disappointed. The new scoring system is supposedly more foolproof, but I really think it’s killed a lot of it. I might be completely off, not knowing the details of the sport, but basically, the new system is designed to have more calculated, objective scoring than the old one, giving credit for specific moves and stuff in an effort to prevent the disaster of pairs at the last Olympics. Unfortunately, as I saw it, the athletes instead seemed a bit tense about getting all of those moves right and racking up the points with a lot of moves instead of just really cool skating. It’d be like if in band/orch/choir, the group was judged on how many notes they hit instead of how much music they made out of the music. But as I said, I’m a layman in the sport.

After the dinner concert last week, we finally got new music for the UIL season, including a really cool piece called “J’ai ete au bal” (accent aigu’s over the e’s in ete). When I got it, I looked at the front page, which covers 100 measures, and I had literally 10 notes on it. Typical, I though, flipping the page to probably the most insane tuba solo I have ever seen! It’s quite odd, because I felt quite a bit of pressure to do well. For Region Band, as important as it is, it really has been just, “whatever”, without a whole lot of stress, but having to play a solo in front of a room of your peers, and later, a panel of judges and parents, is beyond ‘nething else I’ve had to do. The first night, I looked over it and hacked through it, but the day after, there was definitely some insane practicing going on. It’s funny how it works, cuz when I play it in class and stuff, I play it, and then afterwards, go “f*ck” almost everytime, because it’s never nearly as good as it should be. People say, “good job” and whatever, but Jandaisms definitely win this time: “The only real judge is yourself”, because even if people think it sounds good, I know it should be a lot better. Guess it just means more practicing.

Frank and Fairley are absolutely insane (David, Willie, you guys are still awesome, but these guys are definitely making their move). So, without the mentioned two having ever met each other, we managed to score 87 points, a problem away from sweeping, and take 2nd place to the CyFalls team that has been on top for 3 years. We’ve gotten that close with, a basically, untested team. Those two are incredible.
Our pre-game was pretty interesting. We managed to take the grounds of the Prime Collective and update it into an updated system with Scanner, printf, and more shortcuts. We nailed a couple types of common problems to commit to memory (which most directly caused an instant solution to at least one 9pter), and just about prepared as much as a team could without ever really working together. In contest, we had an early scare, along with a slew of incorrects on easy problems, but thank goodness for Frank, who managed to cover my butt. General brilliance and good preparation covered up terrible organization, and it went really well. Good job, boys, I’m proud.

The Calm After the Storm

Calm, you say? Well, I’m not planning on watching the Superbowl this year: don’t care much for the teams, and I can just watch the commercials on the internet. Besides, it’ll feel good to avoid it.
Yesterday was pretty awesome for waking up at 530 to go to a Science competition. Even though I hadn’t planned on doing it, I got drafted into doing Science Bowl by Willie about three weeks ago (Fairley and Tom, 2 weeks ago), and with free donuts and pizza, who am I to complain? We had two teams of Willie, DNev, Evan Kornacki, and Aditya (AKA super pwnage) and then Tom Crockett, Fairley, Petri, Kosine, and me (AKA super pwned). We went in there with basically no plan and almost no experience, and then came out tied for 9th out of 32 teams. Not bad, I say. I would like to congratulate Mr. Crockett on his 18th birthday, a failed lottery ticket, and perhaps the most incredible guessing ever. The other team, however, owned. They won every single match, and then won the last match in “overtime”, with DNev playing his typical role as hero. They’ll be going to Nationals in DC at the end of April. If you ever see any of them, it is perfectly fair to start singing “We are the Champions” and then ask them for the incredible story.

Friday school was pretty sucky, with an essay, test, and DBQ 1,2,3. I can see that going either way. After school, I had Solo & Ensemble. The ensemble was, I thought, pretty good, considering how little practice we managed. My solo was different. Here’s what he said afterwards:

Judge: This is a fun piece. It’s a hard solo, yet still kind of tongue-in-cheek. *looks up* You have really great sound, technique, tone… you’re note accuracy was absolutely incredible. You play at an all-state level, and I think you did a lot of great stuff in a solo that many tuba players can’t play.
Me: (confused) Thanks.
Judge: That being said, however…
Me: (Thinking “shit shit shit shit shit”)
Judge: anytime there was a 16th note run, I couldn’t hear it. The notes were not clear, and you seemed to fumble your way through it. For a player at your level, it should have been much better. It sounded basically like an all-state player (I still don’t know why he kept saying “all-state”) who didn’t practice this particular piece enough. Am I correct?
Me: (fumbling) Well, I don’t think that was a representative performance.
Judge: (pauses) I really wish, then, that you had had a representative performance, because as fun as this piece is, I think it could have been more.

Then it was the “blah blah thanks blah blah”. If you didn’t read that, it basically went, “I think you’re a great played, but you seriously effed this up”. Oh well, I’ll deal.

So, about the future. Now that Willie, Aditya, and David are going to Science Bowl nationals (no possible reason can stop them, nor will I let it stop them), I looked on the net for dates, since I know that that time of year has really terrible conflicts. Well, the Science Bowl team needs to be in DC by April 27th and leaves May 1st. TCEA State (computer science, which me, david, and willie won last year) is April 29th, and we typically leave friday during the day and come back saturday afternoon. UIL for Wind Ensemble is either the 28th or 29th. This situation, I like to call “fortississmo” (triple f). While you’re singing “We are the Champions” to them, wish Willie and David luck in surviving the fury of Janda and Cunningham.