Bios are Stupid

In this business of mashing my hands around on the piano in front of people, one of my least favorite aspects of the job description is bio-writing.

I totally get that a bio is a Very Necessary Thing to have. I know this because my first instinct when I get a program or run across a musician’s website is to greedily flip to the “About the Artist” page or click on “Bio,” because heaven knows you can’t enjoy an artist’s work without first knowing as much personal information about them as you can. I also know this because there is a whole section on bio-writing in the music career bible du jour, and I have also realized when talking to audiences that for some reason people are genuinely interested in Me as a Person and not just Me as a Thing That Mashes Piano Keys.

So of course I have a bio, always ready-to-go and ready-to-be-edited-for-space.

The thing is that I have always hated the fact that I need to have a bio. If I had my way, the “About the Artist” section on all my programs would either be a single sentence clarifying that I play the piano, or be a compilation of my silliest tweets. I do not like quoting nice things people have said about my playing, and I do not like listing all the allegedly impressive things I have done. In this regard, I identify wholeheartedly with Ron Swanson.

The thing I hate even more than having to have a bio in the first place is the fact that the standard practice for bios—in the classical music world, at least—dictates that they have to be Very Serious, with a dash of pretension and hyperbolic braggadocio. It makes sense if you are a superstar, or at the very least a widely-acclaimed youngster cutting a meteoric rise on the international circuit. But in the past couple of years I have seen too many random teenagers flaunting bios claiming they’d been named as being one of the greatest pianists of their generation (by their mothers, probably). This madness has to end, people.

After several years of playing the serious bio game (at some point I featured a number of selectively quoted phrases, like “fiery technique” and “turned heads” and other things my sister made fun of me for), I decided enough was enough. If I have to have a bio, I might as well have fun with it.

web bio

I have no idea, honestly, how long I’m going to keep a tongue-in-cheek bio in which the word “pianist” doesn’t appear anywhere. Maybe I’ll even replace the picture with something sillier. At some point a concert promoter or more adult person may kindly suggest that I put a more professional biography on my website, or maybe I’ll just get embarrassed and go back to using one of the boring alternate bios I have floating around.

But for now, I am a professional finger wiggler because my website says so.

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The Sunday Reading Roundup [02.28.16]

Dear cheese lovers, I have been to heaven on Earth, and it is The Cheese Shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Witness:

cheese shop

This photo, by the way, represents about 15% of the actual cheese available in the shop. It is impossible to photographically represent all the cheese for sale without stitching together a veritable quilt of panoramic photos. Shoutout to Midori for introducing myself and Bryce to this hamlet of glory.

(Goes without saying, but this post was not sponsored by The Cheese Shop. Cheese, like sleep, is one of those things I love so much that I will willingly write sonnets for any organization that enables me to have it.)

Now, on to some things I recommend reading. (Only one actually has to do with food.)

Articles

Bon Appetit: “Life Before Avocado Toast: The 16 Ways Dining Has Changed Since 2000” by Mark Byrne

Edison bulbs, the end of tipping, and lines that stretch out the door—all in the name of dinner.

Note: as someone who blithely eats up food trends and has, in all seriousness, done the Portlandia thing at multiple restaurants, I found this super interesting.

The Toast: “Kind-Hearted Reality Shows I Would Like To See” by Maddie Howard

I don’t want to watch anyone fail, and I don’t want to watch anyone fight — I just want the reality-show equivalent of a gentle massage or a home-cooked meal, and to be reassured that not everything in the world is horrible, all of the time. Here, for any interested networks, are brief pitches for some kind-hearted reality shows that would meet this need and pander directly to me.

Cracked: “5 Weird Ways America Has Returned To The Dark Ages” by Adam Tod Brown

When you think of the Dark Ages strictly in terms of the handful of conditions that defined the time, comparisons to the state of American society today get a lot easier to make.

Note: Yes, I know the headline is all doom-and-gloom clickbait-y, but it’s a thoughtful and interesting read, I swear!

Cracked: “I’m Asian: 6 Forms Of Racism I Deal With Every Day” by Dennis Hong

Keep that in mind the next time you’re inclined to call a minority oversensitive. Are you aware of their experiences? Can you step inside their body and say with 100 percent certainty that the lifetime of slights they’ve experienced are no big deal at all?  […] That’s why people who have never experienced racism have a hard time comprehending why innocent comments elicit such dramatic reactions.

Note: Cracked is killing it with their columns addressing racism, sexism, bullying, economic inequality, etc. I’m also really glad that the recent surge in published articles about casual racism across the board is calling into question the idea that everyday discrimination is an acceptable staple of the Asian-American (or really, non-Caucasian American) experience. In other words, I’m not going to stop sharing this stuff. #sorrynotsorry

Medium: “Yahrzeit” by Stephanie Wittels Wachs

I think about the day a person dies, how the morning is just a morning, a meal is just a meal, a song is just a song. It’s not the last morning, or the last meal, or the last song. It’s all very ordinary, and then it’s all very over.

Note: This is a piece by Harris Wittels’ sister on the year anniversary of his death, and it’s just too heartbreaking, and too beautiful.

Shameless Nerdery

Tumblr: Sorting Hat Chats

Confession: I don’t talk about my Harry Potter obsession most of the time because the depths of my past-the-point-of-cool nerdiness (and my unabashed hatred of the movie adaptations) are a little too intense for most people, and I like having friends.

That being said, I’ve been neglecting to read actual news lately because I’ve been tearing through the posts on Sorting Hat Chats. It’s not Potter nerdery as much as it is a very elaborate personality classification system based on the House system, but it’s fascinating stuff and I’ve spent too much time pondering the Primary/Secondary/Model/Performance classifications for various Potter characters as a result.

If any of that sounds remotely interesting to you, start here.

An Actual Book

Alexander Hamilton, by Rob Chernow

Speaking of obsession…Hamilton has officially taken over my head like a zombie infection. I actually bought the book (as in, the book that inspired the musical) for Bryce, but I’m the one reading it right now. Oops.

I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I’m happy to report that it is easy to digest, well-paced, and a totally fascinating read.

(The Amazon link above is an affiliate link that generates a small commission.)

Speaking of Hamilton… [More Shameless Nerdery]

Genius: Hamilton Lyric Annotations

You could legitimately spend weeks reading this stuff. Every single track has a mini-essay, and every single line has its own mini-essay, and the annotations are what I’d imagine you’d get if you threw some music majors, history majors, and literature majors into a blender and gave them a thesis deadline. It’s brilliant.

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The Sunday Reading Roundup [01.17.16]

Huntington

I am most definitely not putting off sending work emails or rewriting my bio. Procrastinating? What’s that?

Anyway, here are some things worth reading. A couple are from a while ago that I totally forgot somehow didn’t make it into last week’s roundup.

Some Variations on a Theme

BBC: “The man who studies the spread of ignorance

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Quartz: “There’s a good reason Americans are horrible at science

Surprisingly, despite America’s outstanding science credentials, the population at large is not science savvy. About a third of Americans think that there is no sound evidence for the existence of evolution or benefits of universal vaccination. Our leaders and wanna-be leaders say that evolution is a myth, vaccines cause autism, and a snowball constitutes proof that climate change isn’t a problem.

Bloomberg View: “How Facebook Makes Us Dumber

A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information.

The Standalones

New Republic: “Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams

San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area are gentrifying rapidly—especially with the most recent Silicon Valley surge in social media companies, though the trend stretches back decades—leading to a cascade of displacement of the region’s poor, working class, and ethnic and racial minorities.

Note: This was a horrifyingly fascinating read—and it packs an especially guilt-laden punch when you live in the Bay Area.

The Wall Street Journal: “Europe’s New Medieval Map

Look at any map of Europe from the Middle Ages or the early modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, and you will be overwhelmed by its dizzying incoherence—all of those empires, kingdoms, confederations, minor states, “upper” this and “lower” that. It is a picture of a radically fractured world. Today’s Europe is, in effect, returning to such a map.

Fusion: “Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame

The disconnect between internet fame and financial security is hard to comprehend for both creators and fans. But it’s the crux of many mid-level web personalities’ lives. […] In other words: Many famous social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to.

Quartz: “The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font

The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—that’s over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840 glyphs, according to Březina. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000 glyphs. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number of glyphs is 13,053.

Speaking of Taiwan…

BBC: “Tsai Ing-wen elected Taiwan’s first female president

::praise hands emoji::

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