Strange Radiation

Andrew Willett, unreliable narrator.

Category: the avenging virgo


Okay, I’ve had it. I can’t take it anymore.

Perhaps it’s not my company’s fault—perhaps the blame lies with the building managers—but still. I work for a Seriously Major Educational Publisher, and yet the schmancy brushed-brass sign on the door to the gents’ says:


Its effect upon morale is subtle, yet corrosive.

virgo’s dilemma

I finished my last project for the day twenty minutes ago. So did nearly everybody else at the office. Nonetheless, here we are, bored out of our minds and trying hard to look productive, as we wait for our minimum weekly requirement of hours to be met.


Meanwhile, there is a box on my desk that arrived this afternoon. It’s from my mother. Inside it is a birthday present. It is torturing me. See, she called me yesterday to find out where she should send it. (I’m very proud of her for doing so, because it means she’s remembered that we have a teeny tiny NYC apartment-style mailbox and sending us packages at home is an exercise in frustration.) And I have this vague memory of her saying that I should ‘open it as soon as it gets there.’ I think.

But what if I’m wrong? What if she didn’t say it? The Avenging Virgo does not like breaking the rules of How Things Should Be Done. And one of said rules is that Birthday Presents Are for Birthdays. You know, like Christmas Presents Are for Christmas. If she told me to open it early, then it’s okay; I had to. But if she didn’t tell me to do it, and I do it anyway, well…that’s cheating. Bad. Simply Not Done. And my birthday isn’t actually until next week.

But what if it’s cookies? It might be cookies. It might be a batch of the family specialty: Mrs. Peppard’s Cookies. Oh what if it is? What if, inside this innocent-looking box, there is a supernova of chocolate deliciousness? All for me? Desperate to be eaten ere they go stale or get broken into crumbs?

(Well, if they get stale or broken into crumbs, you put them on ice cream. In my experience. But they never hang around long enough to get stale.)

Oh, the torture. Outside the window the window-washers go up and down on their platform, and far below them the taxis head north towards the Park. But here on this side of the glass it’s just me and a white cardboard box, and a decision as yet unmade.

POSTSCRIPT: My sister just called, not five minutes later. I told her about the box. She said, and I quote: “What if it’s cookies? What if it’s Mrs. Peppard’s Cookies? I bet it is. You have to open it.” So I did.

Oh yes.

the avenging virgo returns

We just got back from Kroger’s. We had to buy ground beef and chips and suchlike—we’re grilling some burgers for dinner. While selecting our hamburger buns I looked up at the signs posted at regular intervals above the bread racks. They read:


Why, why, why do people insist on scattering random quotation marks across their signage? For the love of god, WHY?


Hello, Dalí

So Paul and I had an extra rehearsal this evening with the JCU. We’re bearing down on our performance of Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony a week from tomorrow. It’s a monster of a piece, technically quite demanding. Bernstein wrote it in the 60s, apparently wrestling with a burning desire to be accepted by “serious” musical types, which at the time meant that he had to compose twelve-tone stuff. You can hear his enthusiasm for twelve-tone composition wax and wane throughout the piece–sometimes we’re hip-deep in chaotic atonality and other times we’re whanging out these crazy syncopated jazzy things that suggest West Side Story and the Chichester Psalms. Oh, and it’s in Hebrew and Aramaic, and it has a really overblown poetic narrator shouting at God (or rather G-d) in English, and it goes at about mach seven. It took us (the chorus) ages to even start to appreciate the thing, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to sit in an audience and hear it for the first time. I think you’d need to be an afficionado of either Bernstein or of late-20th-century musicology to really get much out of it. If you’re neither of these things you’d do better to start with the Chichester Psalms.
At the end of the Kaddish this evening we did some work on the music we’ll be doing in December. It’s at Lincoln Center again, this time as the backup chorus to übersoprano Deborah Voigt. Where the Kaddish is high-concept and difficult, this stuff is…well, the word ‘camp’ springs to mind. Big sweeping Hollywoody show-choir arrangements of all your holiday favorites. Many of them fused into an extended medley that uses “Carol of the Bells” as its thematic backbone. It has the obligatory “ding! dong! ding! dong!” passages plus these fabulous sweeping glissandi, up and down ooooOOOOOOoooooOOOOOOoooo…whoa. It is proving rather difficult to take the rehearsals seriously, which is bad because this is, you know, Deborah Voigt already and we can’t really allow ourselves to screw it up.
Of course, it would be easier if this little gem weren’t buried in our score:

from We Need a Little Christmas
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carol’s at the spinnet…

We in the tenor section find this rather amusing. While Mrs. Brady was raised as a contender, we agreed that really it could only be talking about Miss Channing. Every time it goes by the tenor section kind of goes to pieces, visions of big blond wigs and sequined dresses dancing in our heads. And who knew she could play? (Furthermore, they misspelled ‘spinet,’ but not everybody finds that sort of thing as noteworthy as I do.)
Anyway, that’s the news from New York. If I didn’t have rehearsals and things to break the craziness down into manageable bites I’d be completely freaked out by how quickly the year is passing. Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing fine.

see what’s become of me

Oh, and meanwhile, I’m obsessing over chronological order and how strictly to adhere to it in this forum. I realize the following can be looked upon as insane or inane or most likely both, but hey, it’s my damn blog. At any rate, here’s the conundrum: Do I put the entries within each day in reverse chron order, so the journal will flesh out like this?
    Friday (3, 2, 1) // Thursday (2, 1) // Wednesday (4, 3, 2, 1)
Or in chron order, so that the journal will flesh out like this?
    Friday (1, 2, 3) // Thursday (1, 2) // Wednesday (1, 2, 3, 4)
The former allows one to read from top to bottom of the page until one sees something one recognizes, at which point one can stop. The latter makes a day’s entries more logically structured within the day. You don’t get to the evening’s answer before the morning’s question, if you follow me.
A more formal introduction will be made at some point soon, but consider yourself acquainted with my deranged alter-ego the Avenging Virgo. I have changed the settings about seventeen times in the last twelve minutes. Let me know if any of you (assuming somebody ever reads this) have an opinion you wish to share.
(Finally, let us reflect on how unlikely I thought it would be for me to make more than one entry a day. That entry is either above or below this one, if you need to catch up.)

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