About dwolfert

Puget Sound Alumnus, Music Composition Major, lover of tea, avid reader, terrible dancer.

Who Are You Again?

In which you and Daniel become acquainted, if it has not happened already.

Fun fact about me: Not only am I snappy dresser, but I also have a talent for color coordinating with my friends.

Fun fact about me: Not only am I snappy dresser, but I also have a talent for color coordinating with my friends.

To my dear reader,

If there is anything that I love, and love to collect, it’s get-to-know-you questions. Given my complete lack of shame, I frequently fire them en masse at someone that I have just met, hoping that at least one of the questions will spark real interest in them. Usually, I fail, but at least I get some entertaining anecdotes out of the person. Every once in a while, however, I succeed and the questions come in terribly handy.

A complaint I’ve begun to receive recently – especially from my fraternity brothers of Beta Theta Pi – is that I spend so much time asking others about themselves, they don’t get to know me. I beg to differ – I spend more than enough time talking about myself. I blog, after all. The university is paying me to talk about myself. While this is all I’ve ever wanted, I began to see their point and considered the fact that I don’t necessarily have answers to all these questions myself. I shall take this chilly afternoon on the last day of December to answer seven of my favorite questions – if not for your edification, than for my own.

1) Are you the favorite person of anyone?

I believe (and very much hope) that I am the favorite person of my best friend, and I am possibly the favorite person of the younger of my two older sisters.

2) You have a big event to get excited for. What song do you listen to?

Katy Perry’s “Birthday”, as its retro guitar riffs, suggestive lyrics and celebratory nature put me in such a good mood.

3) If you had an autobiography of your life up to this very moment, what would its title be and what would the cover look like?

It would be entitled “Mixed Bag”, and there is a specific reason for this. At the end of my sophomore year, I had a meeting with my advisor – who was also the teacher of a class that I had great difficulty in – over my junior year schedule. The exchange went as following:

HIM: Daniel, did you have a good year?

ME: Well, what do you mean?

HIM: I mean, in a nutshell, how was your year? Was it good or was it bad?

ME: Well, I suppose that it was… kind of a… mixed bag.

HIM: Well, no offense, but YOU’RE kind of a mixed bag!

Well played, advisor. After such a conversation, all I can see as the cover of my autobiography is a picture of me sitting in at an arbitrary table, an expression of amused exasperation on my face. I hold a brown paper bag with the words “MIXED BAG: The Daniel Wolfert Story” written on it with Sharpie.

4) Of all the compliments you’ve ever received, which would you consider your favorite and why?

This is a three way tie between the following compliments:

“I like your voice. You’re like Santa Claus mixed with those radio people.”

“Daniel is happy… but also angry. Angry happy.”

“I once described you as being the manifestation of the word ‘jolly’, because you’re like a jolly gay Santa Claus trapped in the body of Napoleon.”

5) If you were to become world famous for one thing, what would it be?

I would want to not only have written an epic, perspective-changing, intellectually stimulating fantasy series that was “Harry Potter” for a new generation, but ALSO record myself as the narrator of its audiobook, which is how the book would REALLY take off.

6) If you were a tea, which kind would you be and why?

I would be Hairy Crab Oolong, because I am rarely anyone’s first choice and I also frequently remind people of the woods and children’s fiction. Similar to Hairy Crab Oolong, I am not quite reminiscent of anything else and, like the flavor of oolong, I am difficult to match well with anything else. Oolong and I both are a little whimsical and a little strong and a little odd. And a little hairy.

7) What is your six word memoir?

“Silly disappointments strung together by hope.”

So now, dear reader, both you and I know these answers. Who knows – maybe they shall come in handy for future reference! Probably not, but just in case, you know them now and I have my answers ready should someone else ask such questions. Even if they don’t however, at least I had a chance to answer them for myself here. I don’t get paid to answer them in real life.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Do You Hate That Question?

In which Daniel begrudgingly converses with grown, working adults and steals some holiday treats.


To my dear reader,

At a recent holiday party my parents dragged me to, I was cornered once again by a grown, working adult with some professional connection to music, intent on politely grilling me about my future plans. Do not mistake me; he was a nice man with lots of experience in musical theater, which was fitting given my interests. Nonetheless, it seemed the umpteenth time that I had to unpack the messy and vaguely formed goals I have for the future. Such plans hopefully include any and/or all of the following:

-WOOFing (Working on Organic Farms) in some cold, distant country such as Iceland, wherein I would work on a farm in exchange for room and board, while also exploring some of the local culture, folklore and musical practices

-Taking my Birthright Trip to Israel, wherein I would learn of the history of the Jewish people alongside a large group of other young Jews from around the world

-Becoming a professional narrator of children’s audiobooks

-Taking more cooking classes

-Becoming a park ranger

-Attending graduate school for music composition, with an emphasis in music theater

-Joining Peace Crops, AmeriCorps or Teach for America

-Becoming a proficient pianist

-Getting a masters in teaching, choral directing or composition

-Becoming a choral director

-Owning a very large dog

There is a pattern that opens such an exchange. It usually begins with a grown, working adult looking down at me (I am of rather small stature), asking, with benign interest, how involved I am in music. After I list my credentials most politely, they finally ask “What are your plans for after college”. There is a slight pause in which I either snort, laugh, grimace or perform a lovely combination of the above, and after which they always ask “Do you hate that question?”

The real answer is “not really”. Yes, there is a part of me that is irked at having to explain my extremely uncertain future over and over again, but I do not begrudge such grown, working adults for expressing (or feigning, at society’s bequest) interest in my future. I do begrudge them, however, for the statements about a career in music such as “Oh, that’s a hard business to get into”. To such statements, I respond with the following. Everything is hard.

All I seem to hear is that everyone has a college diploma these days, so they’re worthless, and that the economy is in ruins, so finding a job is hopeless, and global warming is going to destroy the Earth and soon the world will be a desert wasteland and I may as well give up and die right now. No matter what profession I chose, it would be hard. Life is hard.

Despite all this irritation I have with the attitudes that grown, working adults have toward my plans, I still don’t really mind the question. The reason for that is that, unlike most of my peers, I am actually very excited for the future. Yes, I am EXCITED about the prospect of having to work hard and pay rent and be a real adult. I am excited to own a house and paint it a horrible shade of green and realize my awful mistake and have to paint it twice more before I get the shade right. I am excited about working on a farm and waking up sore and groggy before the sun has fully risen to assist a wizened Nordic man harvest leeks in late spring. I am excited to adopt an enormous puppy and take it on a seemingly endless hike through the Appalachian mountain range, during which I shall tell every memory I can possibly remember and sing every song I possibly know to that poor, exhausted animal.

I firmly believe that am lucky enough to be excited about future because I have seen my best-laid plans fail a sufficient number of times, and seen things work out one way or another a sufficient number of times, to know that I’ll just make it work. I may not get what I want from my messy plans for the future, but no matter how I plan them, they will inevitably fall apart and be a disaster. They will also inevitably be – in the most messy, exhausting and unexpected way – perfect.

So, grown, working adults, I say this to you: I have no fear. I’m an adult. I DO WHAT I WANT. And after I was done with that conversation, I decided that I was done with that party, and that my future was to steal as many cookies as I could fit in my pockets before sneaking out the door to watch the TV show “Supernatural” with my sister at home. That plan worked out – how hard could the rest of them really be?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Ke$ha, with a Dollar Sign

In which Daniel teaches you to speak a little Dinosaur.


To my dear reader,

In the last week of classes of the Fall 2014 semester, I decided that, since my choir class had been canceled for the day, I would sit in on the student presentations in the music history class “Music in the Twentieth Century”. This class, intended for non-music majors, was a sort of little brother of the music major history class I was taking, “Music Since 1914”, and I was curious about the presentations of the friends I knew taking the class. I was also curious, however, about the views that on-music majors held on the place, significance and purpose of music. Amid the mass of desks, the fifteen student presenters each paired with one non-presenter and sat down to give their one-on-one presentation, changing partners every ten minutes.

The prompt of the presentation was to answer the question “What is good music?” (in the light of all they’d learned about music perspectives and recent history), and I was mightily impressed by the first two presenters.  The first, who was a good friend of mine, gave an eloquent presentation on why the Beatles demonstrated good music by means of pushing boundaries while communicating effectively with their audience. The second, who I had not met before, gave a concise but effective presentation on how electronic music, by means of recognizing and utilizing past music to create music of the future, exemplified good music through innovation. The third presenter, however, gave me pause.

The premise of his argument was that true music serves some sort of purpose, and that there are three categories of music. The first is music that simply fulfills its function, giving the example of Ke$ha, whose music seemed to him solely for the purpose of dancing. The second is music that fulfills its function and creates a feeling in the listener, giving the example of a rock song I hadn’t heard of, which for him brought back nostalgic memories. The third is music that fulfills its function, creates a feeling in its listener, and makes the listener think, giving the example fo a rap song I hadn’t heard which compelled him to sympathize with the poor and consider their plight. Given my boundless love for Ke$ha, I suppose we got off on the wrong foot from the get-go. Yet considering my feelings for Ke$ha and his argument together as objectively as I could, I couldn’t help but find his argument unconvincing. Let me explain:

Category One: Yes, Ke$ha’s music serves its economic purpose of being dance music. This music is sold with the intent of being primarily danced to, and so it is written, arranged, produced and recorded with the intention of creating a consumer good that consumers will desire and subsequently consume. People want dance music, Ke$ha and her collaborators create it, people buy it. Effective indeed.

Category Two: While for this presenter, Ke$ha’s music was cold plastic, my experiences with Ke$ha’s music made me feel differently. I associate Ke$ha primarily with my best friend, with whom I spend an enormous amount of time bonding over self-indulgent pop music. What with the positive associations I have with my best friend, the number of times we’ve had Ke$ha dance parties in my friend’s car, the letters we’ve written to one another quoting Ke$ha, and the general hilarity of the self-empowerment that Ke$ha bestows, I cannot help but smile when I hear her. This is not to say that everyone (or really anyone else) will feel the hope and power and joy that I feel listening to Ke$ha, but rather that feelings are subjective.

Category Three: Being cold plastic to the presenter, Ke$ha’s music is intended to make people dance and to be sold to consumers, with no intellectualism being part of the final product. But what makes him think and what makes me think are different. What with the associations with my best friend, listening to Ke$ha makes me think of that friend and all the complexities of our relationship. Moreover, Ke$ha makes me consider the complexities and injustice of gender roles. By this, I mean that when people think of Ke$ha, they think “slut”, in the sort of tone implying shame and insult.  Why? Because society says that a woman displaying sexuality is inappropriate and shameful, while a man – such as Pitbull – displaying sexuality with such lyrics as “face down, booty up, that’s the way we like to what” (from the song “Timber”, coincidentally featuring Ke$ha) is acceptable. Disregarding the social boundaries impressed upon her as a woman, Ke$ha still wants you to “pull over and spread ‘em, let {her} see what you’re packing inside of that denim” (from the song “Gold Trans Am”). She does not ask permission for being a human being with sexuality.

Ultimately, the fault I saw with this argument was that what makes one person think and feel is completely different from what makes another person think and feel. With something as subjective as music, almost all aspects of preference are enculturated, meaning that what’s happened in our lives and who we are around leads us to prefer some things over others. Nothing in music is good or bad. It simply is, and maybe you like it or maybe you don’t. Many cultures use mictrotunings that, to American ears, sound like instruments are broken, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different from what American ears know. But don’t take my word for it – let this interview with Ke$ha convince you:

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

The Best Seasoning

In which Daniel embarks upon a most unexpected spelunking adventure and eats some delicious crackers.

To my dear reader,

PSO – the Puget Sound Outdoors club – had, since my freshman year of college, been an organization that I continually meant to get involved with and that I continually failed to dedicate any time to. “Next semester,” I told myself over and over again. “After this coming break, I will sign up for a trip, or an event, or a hike or bike ride. Yes, I will do it next time, next time I swear.” Yet next time never seemed to arrive, and four of my eight semesters passed without embarking upon a trip.

But the day came that, in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving break, PSO was found in the student union building, tabling for a three day autumnal camping trip, complete with an breakfast, lunch and a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner. “But this will occur the weekend before break,” I thought glumly. “I have so much work to do that weekend.” And then I reconsidered that thought. Yes, I had work, but would the world end if I missed it? No. Would it really matter in the long run if, rather than doing my assigned reading for English 212, I went camping? Good Lord, no. And as I signed up for the trip, next time finally arrived.

Needless to say, the universe would not let me succeed so easily. Only days before the trip, a great storm front began to approach the Puget Sound, threatening our camping trip with thunder and lightning. Arriving on the doorstep of PSO’s house, I was informed that the camping trip had been canceled due to the imminent weather. In place of it, a day hike through the caves of Mount Saint Helens was being planned, to be concluded with a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner at a PSO leader’s residence. “You don’t have to go to the hike if you don’t want to,” the student leaders of PSO said. “We understand if you would rather have gone on the camping trip and don’t want to go on this trip instead with the weather.”

“Ha!” I laughed. “A little inclement weather and change in scheduling cannot deter me!” I borrowed some hiking boots and prepared for our morning departure.

Something my mother used to say is that hunger makes the best seasoning. By this she meant that being hungry makes everything taste better than it would while you were satiated. I suppose that this is partly due to the increased metabolism that exercise gives. But I had not been as reminded of this fact as I was the day of this PSO trip.

The caves of Mount Saint Helens were dark, yes, and wet too. But I had forgotten how strenuous the act of moving through a cave was. Moving ten feet might mean more clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling than I had certainly done in the past four semesters. After four hours of such spelunking, I and the other PSO members ascended from the exit of the tunnel to the brilliantly lit forest above to feast on our lunch.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

To be specific, we were to feast upon Bickeys. For those of you not familiar, Bickeys are a strange type of cracker meant as a high-calorie train upon which condiments such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and peanut butter can travel into your mouth They are, essentially, camping lunchables. Admittedly, I had long since come to despise lunchables, and under normal circumstances, I might have turned down the Bickeys in favor of granola or fruit. But after four hours of clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling, I was ready to eat anything.

The breakfast oatmeal that PSO had given us in the morning and the amazing pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner we prepared and ate at our student leaders’ residence were both remarkable meals. Sharing such meals with students that I was getting to know for the first time was a new and wonderful experience. But in all my life, I cannot remember biting into something and finding it more satisfying than that moment when I bit into my first Bickey, covered in cream cheese and cheddar cheese. No, it was no food of the gods, but was in many ways, better – food earned after finally achieving my goal of joining a PSO trip, traveled great distance for through the dripping darkness, and seasoned with my truly formidable hunger.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Keep Up with the Class, Please

In which Daniel revels in the fruits of his labor.

To my dear reader,

The universe, being old and full of mysteries, is prone to speak obscurely and tell you its secrets in the most confusing manner. The following story, in four parts, is an example of such an occurrence:


At our final meeting of the Spring 2014 semester, my a cappella group Underground Sound was debriefing over the semester – my first as a co-director alongside my friend Lisa Hawkins. With me and Lisa in the front of the classroom and the other members sitting in desks, we had spent the past half hour trading ideas and feedback on the ways that Lisa and I had run the group (in a successful, albeit crazed and panicked, manner). There was a momentary lull in the conversation, and as I stared out of the windows of the classroom into the dark campus outside, I had a sudden thought.

“When I first became a co-director,” I said, “I didn’t anticipate enjoying it all that much. I thought I would just do it to get the job done. Looking back on it now, though…” I struggled to assemble the right words. “Looking back now, I realize that doing this – teaching and coaching and helping you all grow – that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.


An hour before our performance at the Fall 2014 A Cappella Extravaganza, Underground Sound had gathered in a small classroom beside the door to the concert hall. As we awaited the end of the performance preceding ours, Lisa and I attempted – unsuccessfully – to corral the group into one space. It seemed impossible, however, to ensure the presence of all thirteen of us in one location, and every time one person was accounted for, another seemed to vanish. Sighing, I turned to one of our new members, a small and reserved sophomore named Marisa Christensen who, alongside her quiet nature, had a glorious voice and an unprecedented level of dedication.

“Come on folks,” I muttered partly to her and partly to myself. “Get on top of your lives.” I rolled my eyes at the other members as they scrambled in and out of the room. “Well,” I grimaced at her, repeating something I’d said to her on multiple occasions, “At least YOU’RE keeping up with the class”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.


In the wake of our final Fall 2014 performance at the school’s holiday celebration Mistletoast, Underground Sound had gathered at the house of my co-director, Lisa Hawkins, for a Secret Santa.  We had gone around the circle and I was the last of the group to receive my gift.  Holding up the white bag stuffed with red tissue, I read aloud the clue on the side: “From someone that’s always keeping up with the class”. I turned to Marisa Christensen – who was sitting on the couch beside me and had also, coincidentally, been the first to open her Secret Santa gift from me. “You?” I cried in delight, and she burst into laughter as I swooped down to hug her. I reached into the red tissue to pull out this:


If you are observant, you may notice something odd about this Christmas ornament: a portion of the apple is missing. Despite what one might think, this was not part of the ornament’s original design. This is a characteristic of the ornament because, after placing the ornament on the arm of the couch, I reached into the bag to pull out my second gift – a box of scrumptious holiday teas – and in my frenzied delight, knocked the ornament to the ground. “Oh my goodness,” I moaned to Marisa, “You got me such a sweet gift and I IMMEDIATELY broke it like an idiot. I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Marisa laughed, waving the apology aside.

“Oh!” Lisa Hawkins exclaimed as she examined the now imperfect gift. “I thought it was intentional designed like that – as if a bite had been taken out of it”.

“You know what?” I said, taking the ornament back and examining it with resignation, “I’m going to take it as a symbol from the universe of the imperfect beauty of teaching. Sound like a plan, Marisa?”

Grinning, she replied “Sounds like a plan.”


On my last day on campus for the Fall 2014 term, I was part way through packing in preparation for winter break, and was admiring Marisa’s gifts to me once. “Best not to take the ornament home with me,” I thought to myself, “Lest I break it once more”. Smiling at the sweetness of the gift, I traced a finger along the words “Number One Teacher” before looking at the attached tag for the first time. It was not until that moment that I saw this:


Well played, universe. Well played.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Finger Licking Good

In which Daniel ruminates upon his nibbley nabbley thoughts.

To my dear reader,

If you have been keeping up with my blog posts across the past year and a half, you may notice how frequently food is a subject of my writing. They do say that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, after all. But food holds a place of special meaning in almost everything I do – I write about food, I compose with food in mind, I compare people to food, and there are few moments in life when I am not eating.   am not a heavy eater, mind you, but a grazer.  I am always nibbling on a little smackrel of something.

My fixation with food has much to do with my eleventh grade creative writing teacher, the delightful Tarn Wilson. Ever wise and magnanimous in her teaching, Ms. Wilson proposed to me that all humans have two general, basic urges: to love and to eat. Needless to say, there is plentiful literature and art explicitly discussing the first, yet little explicitly dealing with the second.

Yet food is a powerful world-building tool, and because the part of the brain in charge of memory and the part in charge of smell are so near one another, even indirect stimulation of the “smell” part – such as reading descriptions of simmering stew or the bitterness of espresso – can conjure powerful mental pictures. Food therefore became a logically powerful tool in my writing, as it can so easily connect to an audience. Yet it is this year especially in which my fixation with food transformed into something a bit more succulent.

Firstly, I decided at the end of the 2014 spring semester to compose a piece for the 2014 fall semester’s musical theater cabaret, which was to be Halloween themed. Intent on expanding my compositional palate, I wrote scraps of dissonant violin lines and food themed lyrics that I wove together into a piece entitled “Good Enough to Eat: An Opera in Miniature”, which can be found on my SoundCloud here:

The self-contained nine minute musical adventure tells the tale of a little girl named Isabella, who lives with her wicked stepfather by the woods. One day, while wandering through the woods, she stumbles upon her fairy godmother, who promises her a world of magic.  Upon discovering the wickedness of Isabella’s stepfather, however, the vengeful godmother hunts down the stepfather and gobbles her up, and that is why the opera is called “Good Enough to Eat”.

But although the cabaret occurred in October, my urge to write about monstrous mothers and delectable daughters was not satiated. For my Magic Realism class, my final writing project became one a story entitled “Pepita’s Daughter”. The short tale speaks of Moschata Russel, a young girl with skin as vividly orange as a pumpkin.  Impressionable as children are prone to be, Moschata begins to idolize her new babysitter and takes her mother’s advice that “you are what you eat” a shade too far. Take a nibble of the first page:

When Moschata Russet stepped into the Halls of Full Harvest Elementary School, whispers followed like a wind in her wake.

“My mommy said that she ate too many carrots.”

“That’s stupid, that would give you big eyes and hers are normal.  My daddy says that her papa must have been a squash or something like that.”

“My mama says she doesn’t have a Papa. Her mama grew her from a seed she found in her pocket one day, and that girl just came from the sprout. Cross my heart, hope to die.”

No student seemed willing to speak to her over the matter directly. Once, however, a small boy in the grade below came to her as she sat alone eating her lunch, asking “Why do you look the way you do?” To this she replied, “For the same reason you look the way you do.”

The boy pondered this for a moment. He nodded and skipped away, back to his friends standing near the playground watching. They hurried away with him, throwing nervous glances back as they walked.  Moschata returned to her lunch of wheat bread and toasted slivers of squash.

After that, no children dared ask her why her skin was so perfectly orange, so cramoisy cardinal, so flavescently flammeous. Pumpkin skin on a plump little body; cheeks blushed with decay.

Why cannibalism, then?  I suppose that it goes back to what Ms. Tarn Wilson taught me: love and food. Food brings people together. It allows cultural boundaries to be crossed, and creates common ground between people that might not otherwise have any. Food builds bridges and sparks imaginations and recalls stories long lost. So, oddly enough, does love. I love my dog to no end, and every time I see her, I tell her “I could just eat you up”.  Why not, therefore, bring them together?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Keep the Four Cents

In which Daniel professes some delayed gratitude.

To my dear reader,

In truth, I have never found Thanksgiving to be a time to profess gratitude. Do not misunderstand me; I am very grateful that I have the chance to eat an enormous and delicious meal with family and friends. That being said, I don’t see the holiday as a celebration of gratitude, so much a celebration of family and food – both of which are perfectly wonderful. I instead find myself being thankful at the most unexpected and often inappropriate times, such as realizing how lucky I am to have a loving pet dog and bursting into tears while watching “The Hunger Games”.

Studies demonstrate that people who begin to consistently express gratitude begin to become consistently happier people, regardless of circumstance.  It seemed logical to me, then, that my next post should be one in which I express gratitude for the unexpected and seemingly trivial things in my life. Here are just a few:

1) The delicious combination of a buttered, toasted cinnamon sugar bagel and a chai latte at Bertolino’s Coffee on Union Street in Tacoma, WA.

2) The woolen socks currently on my feet – for, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “One can never have enough socks”.

3) The calming nature of the scent of peach tea.

4) The fact that my room is currently quite clean.

5) The way that the texture of flannel feels like a warm blanket and thus makes me feel as if I am still in bed.

6) The day when, after asking my fraternity brothers for camping gear for an upcoming hike for which I was unprepared, I came back to my room to find a small mountain of their camping gear waiting for me.

7) The short play “Perfect”, from the collection of short plays “365 Plays/365 Days” by Suzi Lori-Parks.

8) The dog that just let me cuddle it as I took a break from writing this blog post in Bertolino’s Coffee.

9) Indoor plumbing.

10) An afternoon I had with a good friend at the Tacoma teashop Ubiquitous Journey, in which we played word association games.

11) The fact that, while we were at Ubiquitous Journey, one of the employees gave me a free gift card because of a previous blog post I had written about the teashop.

12) Waffle Day in the School of Music – a glorious event in the music building of the University of Puget Sound in which the School of Music’s two secretaries/gatekeepers/guardians Carol and Leah make waffles for the students on the last day of classes.

13) The squishy brown couch in Diversions Café, where I have publicly napped and shamelessly wept on more than one occasion.

When I think of gratitude these days, however, what comes to mind foremost is a recent experience I had while in the Cellar, the university’s pizza shop.  I and a few friends had been spending time in an on-campus house, and decided to take a break from our movie by stopping by the Cellar.  Not wanting to spend too much money, I left my wallet in the house and took only the four dollars inside.

Arriving at the Cellar, I realized that what I really wanted as my not-so-guilty snack was a chocolate milk and a pack of Hostess Donuts.  With only four dollars and the price of food, I suspected that I’d only have enough money to cover one.  “Ah well,” I thought, “I’ll check with at the register which one is under four dollars”.  But I secretly bemoaned the preemptive loss of one of my snacks.

Upon arriving at the register, I placed down my two items and the cashier rung them up.  “I suspect that I won’t be buying one of these,” I told him, “Since I only have four dollars”.  But much to my surprise, when the cashier scanned the barcodes of the two items, the number that appeared on the little screen was three dollars and ninety-six cents.  “Yes!” I cried, whipping out my four dollars and slapping down at the table.  Ah, the beauty of little things!  The joy of the small triumphs of life!

“Don’t you want your change?” the cashier asked as I seized my items and began to walk away.  “Not necessary!” I called back with relish.  “Keep the four cents”.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

An Open Letter to Taylor Swift

In which Daniel unpacks his complex emotions regarding the new musical ventures of the pop star Taylor Swift.

Dear Taylor Swift,

My darling Tay, dear Tswizz, Tswizzle, Swisscheesizzle, Tswift of the swiftest Taylors. When first I listened to your new album 1989, I was a different person. I dismissed it with a certain amount of derision and laughter.  And yet I still felt compelled, perhaps because of my allegiance to trashy pop music, to download your album onto my iPod and listen to it on repeat. Over and over again, I listened to the songs, with the assumption that I would eventually remove it from my music library, but to my surprise, the awkward, almost juvenile manner by which the songs were constructed became charming to me.

The album cover of Tswizzle's new musical masterpiece.

The album cover of Tswizzle’s new musical masterpiece.

Many of the lyrics first struck me as bizarre, as if they were a stream-of-consciousness first draft.  The best two examples are from the song “Bad Blood”, describing a grievous offense by a past friend:

1) “Don’t think it’s in the past; these kind of wounds, they last and they last.” So, Tay, not only do these wounds last… they ALSO LAST AGAIN. Could you think of no other phrasing wherein you didn’t use “last” twice?

2) “Time will heal, but this won’t; so if you’re coming my way… just don’t.” Again, Twizz, it sounds as if you just couldn’t think of anything better. Your ex-lover is approaching you and you tell him “What are you… could you… just… don’t.” I am heavily reminded of the phrase “Could you NOT?”

And yet I am simultaneously delighted by the ridiculous self-indulgence of so many of the album’s lyrics.  Take the words of one of the bonus tracks entitled “New Romantics”:

1) “We show off our different scarlet letters; trust me, mine is better.”  Let’s be real, for a second, Taylor; if someone is actively seeking and listening to your music, I doubt that they are wild enough to merit a scarlet letter from anyone. Mind you, I have no idea what the “crazy kids” listen to these days, but I have a strong suspicion it is not your music.  That being said, the concept that any of your listeners might be wild enough to attract the derision and scorn that “scarlet letter” suggests is hugely over-dramatic, and therefore I am a massive fan.

2) “We need love, but all we want is danger.” Again, few true swifties would be inclined to seek out terribly dangerous activities, but still you offer the philosophy of “thrill over romance” in this song that is so clearly an over-dramatization that I can’t help but love it.

In no particular order, here are a few of my other favorite lyrical and musical moments of the album:

1) The line “The monsters turned out to be just trees” from “Out of the Woods”

2) The first bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

3) The introduction of male vocals after the bridge of “Out of the Woods”.

4) The line “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream” from “Blank Space”.

5) The second bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

6) The moment in “Out of the Woods” at 3:20 when the stacked vocals singing “Are we out of the woods?” (for the umpteenth time) form an Am add9 chord.

7) The third bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

8) The line “Love’s a game; wanna play?” from “Blank Space”.

9) The retro guitar riff that carries most of “I Wish You Would”.

10) The sick arena-rock drum beat change during the chorus of “I Wish You Would”.

11) That ENTIRE section of talking in the middle of “Shake It Off”.

12) The use of head voice, rather than belting, in “Wildest Dreams”.

13) The arpeggiation of the EM7 chord in the background vocals at the end of “This Love”.

14) The line “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their mind” from “Wonderland”.

15) The bass drop during the chorus of “Wonderland”.

16) The fact that the melody of “You Are in Love” only uses four pitch classes: A, B, C#, and E, and yet the song gets stuck in my head all the time and I do not find it unmelodic.

So, my dear Tswift, what I am getting at? I am saying that your album reminded me that life can be ridiculous and fun and, sometimes, you’ve just got a kitten and a cake full of blood and a gazelle, and when the time comes, you just have to stand on your white horse before your Long Island mansion and sing:

I mean, magic, madness, heaven, sin – what’s not to love? They tell us we’re insane, Tay, but we’ve got a blank space, baby…

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

So Many Days

In which Daniel attends an absurd and beautiful play, and contemplates the nature of narrative.

The poster advertising the Theater Department's production of Lori-Park's "265 Days/365 Plays".

The poster advertising the Theater Department’s production of Lori-Park’s “265 Days/365 Plays”.

Every day from November 13th, 2002 to November 12th, 2003, award winning American playwright and screen writer Suzan Lori Parks (b. 1963) wrote a play.  Some were as small as a single line, others as long as two pages, but all were compiled into a book entitled 365 Days/365 Plays, forming a cabaret of absurdist narratives linked together by a seemingly random combination of themes such as war, dancing ants, racial injustice, sou’westers, and history.  The Theater Department of the University of Puget Sound selected only 30 of these plays to be performed, and hoping to draw connections between the ridiculous but socially critical group of theatrical works and the genre of Domestic Fabulism, my Magical Realism professor Suzanne Warren decided that my class would read them before attending the play together.

At first glance, the plays seem random and somewhat unconvincingly bizarre.  They are permeated with references to American history, myth, and monsters.  Many of the stage directions are difficult or else impossible – demanding actions to be repeated into eternity – while facts about characters are given in places outside the dialogue, so that the audience will never hear them.  Yet if taken with a grain of salt, the scripts can be a fascinating combination of character study, narrative examination and playwright practice, and the plays performed can be an amazing, albeit unconventional, discussion of identity, love, distance and time.

I was not surprised by the high level of acting of the university’s theater department, nor by the clever use of minimal staging and simple but powerful sets, but as a musician, one of the most fascinating aspects was the play’s use of music.  It is strewn throughout the play at unexpected times, using Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 to musically narrate a flight attendant repeatedly performing a silent announcement of flight safety like a dance, and using avant-garde jazz and Beethoven pieces to musically pit modernity against tradition.  Toward the end of the play, a character tries to comfort another by bursting into an unexpected but beautiful song, and ambient music opens and closes the show as unrelated characters bustle about their busy lives.

If there were to be one aspect of Park’s plays, and the university’s production of them, that I enjoyed the most, it would be the absurd optimism permeating both.  In one of Park’s plays – one that the university did not perform – a fallen starlet of questionable sanity speaks to her sane companion, who is attempting to comfort her as they watch the starlight on the sea.  “What if I don’t get to be the person that I want?” she asks.  He replies, “Then you’ll be someone else.”  I believe that there’s a great deal to be said for a work that can examine so many aspects of life, with such a combination of ridiculous humor and sincere compassion.  So a hand to the university’s Theater Department, and I can only hope that my English class continues to deliver such deliciously absurd literature.

I’ll Be Mother

In which there is tea.

            Camelia Sinensis: (n.), the white-flowered evergreen shrub that is the origin of all teas.  Family Theaceae, Genus Camelia, from the Latinized name of the Reverend Georg Kamel (1661-1706), a Jesuit missionary to the Philippines who made substantial contributions to seventeenth century botany. Sinensis, Latin for “from China”.

To my dear reader,

I sit in Ubiquitous Journey – a sandwich and tea shop that is my favorite off-campus location in Tacoma – and after having stumbled upon Keith Souter’s The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink, I have begun to wonder about the drink.  I have Nickelodeon to thank for the beginning of my love of tea, due to my love of the character Iroh in the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender and his love for the beverage, but tea has since extended beyond my relationship with that TV show.  The complexities of tea fascinate me; the intricacies of its creation are baffling, the delicacy needed to blend it enormous.


There are six families of true tea – white, yellow, oolong, green, black and pu-erh – of which all are made from the Camelia Sinensis, while floral, herbal and fruit teas are delicious falsities, not containing the tea bush’s leaves and therefore not being true teas.  Each family of tea has its own creation process and therefore its own distinctive flavor, and all have great health benefit, such as the tumor and apoptosis inhibiting ability of tea’s polyphenols or the antioxidant abilities of tea’s catechins.  Tea has been used in all manner of literary adventures, from the Hatter’s tea party in Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the teashop setting of Baroness Orzy’s Old Man in the Corner, and tea’s beauty has inspired the lineage of tea literature from Lu Yu’s Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea), c.770, to Kakuzo Okakura’s 1911 volume The Book of Tea, to Keith Souter’s The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink itself.

But what interests me most is the use of tea in social interaction.  The Taiwanese tea tradition uses the Perennial Tea Ceremony as an opportunity for participants to celebrate the seasons, elements and philosophy together, while the Moroccan tea tradition calls polite conversation over three servings of maghrebi mint tea after dinner.  As eighteenth century dining customs changed to suit the increasingly industrial society, and the midday and evening meals grew ever farther apart, afternoon tea was invented to tide the upper classes over and allow for diversionary social interaction in the intervening time.

I, however, used tea in an enjoyable and completely accidental social interaction between me (as I sat in Ubiquitous Journey) and a fellow Puget Sound student that happened to have stumbled upon the shop.  We ordered sandwiches and soup together, and feeling inspired by reading The Tea Cyclopedia, I decided that I would offer her a cup of my Hairy Crab Oolong tea.

“What you tried this one before?” she asked.

“Oh no,” I replied, “But that’s part of the adventure.”


There is a saying in the United Kingdom, Keith Souter writes, that goes “I’ll be Mother” if one desires to be the one to pour tea for others.  There is speculation that this originates from old fertility practices, wherein a woman hoping to conceive would serve drinks unto others as part of a ritual.  Whatever the origin of the saying, however, I immediately took a liking to it and, when this friend from Puget Sound reached to pour her own cup, I waved her hand away and said “I’ll be Mother!”

Something that no one tells you about college is that not only do you must learn to speed to catch up with all the things you must learn, but also must learn to slow down to a rate of life that is healthy and reasonable.  Drinking tea, to me, is a purposeful act of slowing down, no matter how rapidly the world is shifting.  Drinking tea with another, to me, is an invitation for another to enjoy a moment with just you in just that very moment – a difficult thing to do.

As I later learned, “being mother” also entails pouring milk into the cups of those that want it, offering sugar cubes rather than a bowl of granulated sugar, and using tongs to lift the cubes.  But never mind this, and never mind my inadequate knowledge of tea practices and traditions!  For it is a learning process, and one day, I shall be mother indeed.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

P.S. I highly recommend the Hairy Crab Oolong.  It was delicious.