Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bromancing The Stone

In anticipation of moving out to IN, I've suddenly felt the urge to strengthen my male relationships.  I'm pretty much a ladies man in that I gravitate hanging out with women a lot more than men.

It's kinda been that way my whole life.  Some of the impetus behind that is that I hate having to compete with people for attention (yes, I know...ME WANTING A LOT OF ATTENTION?! :) )  I hear girls talk about it all the time as to why they don't like other girls - "They're catty and bitchy when other women get around".  The same is true with a lot of men.  When alpha males get around each other, it turns into a big cage match of overcoming their own insecurities at the expense of others around them.  I feel into that sentiment quite easily.  So, instead of head-butting my fellow actor/musician/pole vaulter, I just avoid those situations where competition will be the outcome.  I run into the arms of my lady friends and gab and gossip about things like who they're dating, my family, and they occasional "Did You Hear About XYZ" topics.  I've always been a mama's boy at heart as well and have plenty of daddy issues as well which I think contribute to my social idiocy.

It's time for me to grow up a bit and tackle my fears of male relationships.  I've successfully done a ManDate a week for the last month and have reconnected with some people I haven't seen in years.  I'm learning that I'm more secure in some areas of my life while still childish in a lot of others.  Hopefully I can make these gatherings non-events in my mind because it'll just be the norm moving forward.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Relationships As We Get Older

Currently I'm trying to strengthen a friendship that has been strained due to multiple reasons (distance, non-communication, basic social retardation).  I had a pretty good conversation with that person over a few hour period and began working through a lot of core issues we had.  I felt like we broke a lot of ground and we have a lot of potential to kickstart an era where we get along much of the time and actually connect.

After reaching out a couple of times in the last 10 days, I finally put my pride to the side and got blunt on the last voicemail I left. I said, "I've been waiting patiently by th phone for you to call me back.  So, yes, I want you to call me.  Call me.  Call me. Call me. Call me. I want to talk to you."  I think the time for hinting heavily is over in this relationship.  I have to be blunt until we have an lexicon of understanding between us where subtlety can be used.

I feel a bit juvenile in my train of thinking ("Oh, that person should know what I mean") but I realized that many of us are not used to having to work a bit harder to maintain/build relationships. We can't read each other's minds and some people aren't as sensitive as I am in reading into things. 

It got me thinking about my own issues with making new friends as of late.  I still have practically 0 male friends in Chicago.  I've reached out a few times to a few people but it seems that I can't do much follow up.  Perhaps it's the alpha-male in me not wanting to compete with others or just ineptitude in making connections with guys.  I'd like to have more male friends but not sure as to how to a) make them and b) foster them into viable connections. 

Perhaps I need to find new male friends who can be just as candid and blunt as I am with my old ones :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

OK...So...I Like Netflix...

I have to admit that after a very long time of holding out on getting Netflix, I really enjoy it.  I've caught up on a ton of movies and TV shows that I previously shunned and I get access to shows that aren't easy to find on bootleg websites.

So, I like Netflix.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This Is Some Inception Shite Going On...

I don't know what the fawk I ate last night but I had some weird but cool dreams.  I want to jot them down before I forget them to see if there's any theme amongst them:
  • A friend decided to send me artistic black and white nudes of her and her husband.  Most of the pictures didn't really have nudity in them except one.  When I ran across the one that did I thought, "Why would she send these to me now? Why not when we were younger?" Then I woke up.
  • I was in the middle of an improv class being held on a Fear Factor type obstacle course.  There was this couple there getting ready to take the course.  At the starting point, the boyfriend was stretching but hyperventilating at the same time; it was quite obvious that he was freaking out.  The girl the entire time was badmouthing him telling him he was no good and that he was lucky to even be there.  He was doing his best to ignore her but obviously this behavior had been going on for some time.

    I went over to him and gave him the best pep talk I could.  He seemed to receive it well and started the course.  The course was sort of a relay where he had to reach her starting point in order for her to continue the rest of the course.  I don't know what I said to him but he took off!  He made it across the course in 30 seconds even with a few fumbles in logic he had trying to get gates to open along the way!  Once he got to the girl, she started her part of the course and made it to a section featuring monkey bars over dirty water.  She made it there, stopped, looked down, and noticed there was a 30 foot drop to the water.  At that point she started freaking out!  I'm yelling at her from the sideline to encourage her to go but she ends up timing out. 

    I leave the obstacle course on a bus with a bunch of people from Salsation.  They can see I'm troubled so I start telling them how jacked up that obstacle course was and about this couple I was counseling.  They all agreed those people were idiots.  Then I woke up.
 Yep.  I agree.  Weird.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tryin' To Find A House Sounds Easy, Right?!

Today the family and I loaded up to MoMo and headed on souf to Indianer (yes, there are a bunch of intentionally mistyped words in that sentence) to go look at a house.  The Wifey felt I would go (Lady) ga-ga over it.  So, of course, I had to rain on her parade.

Most of the house was actually pretty livable.  It was technically "move-in ready"; it had a new roof, new windows, updated kitchen and bathroom, plenty of office space and storage.  Even the garage was pretty killer.  The current owners converted the attached garage to a live-in area to allow someone to effectively live there adjacent to the house but have a sense of privacy.  I didn't hate the house...but then again, I didn't like it either.

Here's the thing with me.  I have the wherewithal to alllow my purchasing decisions to be based on vibe/gut feeling alone.  If the item I'm purchasing speaks to me, i.e., in my head it screams "BUY ME!", then I go with that.  This house didn't do it for me much to the dismay of my Wifey.  I could settle in it and like enough to live there but it by no means is a house where I'm like "MAN THIS PLACE IS AWESOME!"

Given the logistics of our situation (baby on the way, sick of living in this small 2 bedroom condo with 3 people and a dog, and would like to live closer to our in-laws), I'm allowing the chance for me to settle.  Maybe I could make it a cooler place.  Or maybe I'll grow to like it.  Or maybe I'll have buyer's remorse the whole time.

One thing's for sure, I know what I like...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things We Just Can't Teach

  • How to be professional.  You can teach someone the formalities of professionalism but the innate drive to be on point consistently comes from the heart.
  • How to take pride in their craft.  It's amazing how much we all half-ass things to get to the next best thing (looking at you Velazquez!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let's Show 'Em We Can Overcome!

It's taken 10 years for something to be erected at Ground Zero in New York City.  The Freedom Tower implementation so far has pretty much a mismanaged affair.  It's been redesigned a number of times, had very little to no input from the public, and has plenty of cost overruns.  It's not slated to be finished until 2014 barring any other problems coming up.  Watch this Penn & Teller BS episode (language and some images NSFW) for some background:






I feel that the best way to show true American grit and stamina is to build the following buildings at Ground Zero:


Yes.  The same, exact buildings (with modern upgrades internally for security, strength, and economy). It would say "Yes.  You knocked down our buildings and killed and injured many of our people.  Guess what. Fuck you.  They're back.  We overcame and we're believe in our strength! Now what?!!! ".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

FireStarter -Twisted FireStarter

So, this jackass in the picture - Pastor Dr. Terry Jones of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla - wants to make a statement by burning the Quran - that Christians/Americans are not going to be bullied into fear by Islam's radical wings.  He wants to do this on 9/11.  Oy vey!

The amount of coverage on this effort is staggering.  Had news outlets ignored it, it would've gone relatively unnoticed.  Yes, it might have been a bit bigger in this day and age of electronic media, but with so much attention on it that even General Petraeus has to give his thoughts on it, this idiot gets legitimacy and a platform to spread his Christo-fanatical rhetoric.  So much has been put out there into the ether that I even wrote a frakin' blog about it!

I have yet to see anyone in my circles show explicit support behind it - even those people I would consider redneck enough to be okay with it (y'all know who you are).  I have to wonder how much implicit support there is for this guy's actions.

Which leads me to point out the general hypocrisy behind supporting this from a religious perspective.  As a non-practicing Catholic, I have been put to sleep enough times during mass to know that effectively in order for us to be in Gawd's good graces, we need to learn the lessons from all of the biblical allegories and fully integrate their spirit into our daily lives.  Living is a lot easier when you truly understand these teachings.  therefore what this guy is doing (and what in turn other religious practitioners do towards other peoples) is just basically fundamentally opposite what his religion asks him to do.

Let me give an example.  The whole "an eye for an eye" mantra people use to misjustify it being okay to combat extremism with equal extermism.  The passage reads:
Book of Matthew, Chapter 5
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
First off, the "eye for eye" passage pertains to compensation not for justification.  If you were to damage someone else's eye for any reason, you are to offer you own eye in compensation for the damage you have caused. 

Secondly, why don't people ever talk/quote the next 4 verses?!  Those are the ones that in my opinion demonstrate true faith!  Effectively, the idea is that if you are harmed by someone who does you wrong, you are to continue to show good faith and reverence to that person!  My gawd, how awesome is that.  You can come at me with sword with the intent to kill me and I should allow it! Why?  Because if I truly believe in that I am one with Gawd, the goings on in my existence are rather trivial and inconsequential. Even death ain't a thang!  If you slap me, I'll shouldn't retaliate.  I'll just turn the other cheek as a gesture to show you that no matter what you do to me, I am one with Gawd, and my grace will show that you that the actions you are committing are wrong.

With that said, shouldn't the Jones Clan be turning the other cheek against Islam and believe in Gawd's power to do right by them even at their own peril?  It doesn't look like that's not going to happen.  This effort by the Florida church is merely at best a tangent religious publicity stunt and at worst an unecessary religious and social fire starter.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today Was A Good Day

AKV was all about Daddy today.  He would come find me saying, "Dadda?", grab me by the hand, pull to wherever he wanted me, and then play with me.  It made me feel so wanted and good about myself.  I guess I'm doing something right.  I love you Alexander.

Walk Down Constitution Lane - The First Amendment

I realized that most of us Americans throw around the numerical form of the Constitutional amendments when talking to others.  For example:

Friend: "Hey Nelson. Did you fool around with that ugly, old, fat chick after the show?"
Nelson: "I plead the fif! 1, 2, 3, 4...FIF!"
Nelson: "Man, I wonder if gun restrictions should be in place cuz mofos be shooting each other a lot lately."
Redneck: "I tell ya what, man.  If you take away my right to bear arms - my 2nd amendment! -then they'll have pry  it outta my cold, dead hand...sittin' over there. Ma gun went off accidentally and uhm...shot it clean off...kinda ironic ain't it?"
Republican: "THEY SHOULDN'T BUILD A MOSQUE NEAR GROUND ZERO! IT'S HALLOWED GROUND!"
Nelson & Obama: "They're entitled to be able to do so. The first amendment allows them to practice their beliefs. Hey, isn't that a strip club 2 blocks away from Ground Zero?"
I also realized that most of us don't know our Amendments beyond the 5th  so I'll post up the verbiage and any  related thoughts/jokes.


Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.  
Ratified 12/15/1791. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Return of Rock - Dovetail Joint & IvoryWire 08/14/2010

Dovetail Joint's Chuck Glaflter(Guitar/Vox),
Jon Kooker (Bass), Joe Dapier(Drums),
and Robert Byrne (Guitar - Not Pictured)
I got to see my two favorite local Chicago bands Ivorywire and Dovetail Joint reunite for the 2010 Doug Meis Memorial Concert at Lincoln Hall this weekend.  It's been roughly 7 years since I've seen these bands play so I was naturally excited to catch them at the newly minted Lincoln Hall (well, newly minted at least for me).

For not having played for a long time, both bands pretty much picked up where they left off before going on hiatus.  Ivorywire played songs off both of their releases The World is Flat such as "Hey You", "Geisha Girl", "Promise To Burn", "Living With The Static", "Backfire", and "Just Like I Remember It" along with rarely played "You're Never Satisfied" and "Faint Praise" from their last release Notables & Nobodies.  Dovetail Joint stook primarily to playing material off their Aware/Columbia releases 001 and The Level EP with songs like "Boy", "Home", "Motorcade", "Protocol", "Beautiful", and their most famous hit "Level on The Inside". They also busted out gems such as "Candy" and "Honestly" from their double-disc Killing of Cool independent release.It would've been nice if both bands could've delved into more illustrious b-side material but their set times were rather limited (35 minutes each I think) so we got a lot of music in a short amount of time.

The show itself was taped professionally for a hopeful DVD/Blue-Ray release in the future.  I would recommend everyone getting a copy of this show as it may be the only one we get for a while.  Below are fan-filmed clips from the show:





Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Rah Rah Rah Concert

The Smashing Pumpkins 3.0
Metro, Chicago, IL 07/27/2010
Last week I went to the Smashing Pumpkins  (SP) concert in Chicago to raise money to offset medical costs got musician Matt Leone who valiantly tried to fight off a man beating his wife while passing them on the street.  Matt's insurance lapsed two months prior to the altercation that put him the hospital, and the medical procedures required to save his life are incredibly expensive.  Thus, someone at Sweet Relief.org organized a benefit for Matt at the Metro featuring the Smashing Pumpkins along with Kill Hannah (KH) as the opening act.  Tickets were:
  • $500 for VIP seating during the show, merchandise, a sneak preview with the band during their soundcheck, and a picture with the band.
  • $100 for VIP seating only during the show.
  • $10 for a pair of tickets to the show done via raffle.
 I decided to go with the the $500 ticket as I figured it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Only 20 of us got the actual ticket so it was nice that Gawd looked upon me and blessed me with a coveted golden ticket (even if the ticket was paid for and benefited someone else).  All proceeds that night (as far I know) went to Matt's fund which included niceties such as large checks from Joe Shanahan (owner of the Metro), Billy Corgan, sales from on-stage (someone paid $10K for a guitar Billy played that night and another paid $4K to just do a 15 minute meet-and-greet) and online auctions, merchandise sales, and of course ticket sales.  Overall, I enjoyed the show (for a review, check this out).

The one thing that did irk me a little bit was the stage banter from KH and SP regarding how "Chicago came together to support one of their own" and how "we should be proud of what we've given to Matt".  Don't get me wrong.  I plan to write off my donation to charity at the end of the year.  I was there to see the might SP play, and inadvertently gave my money to help Matt out.  My intention wasn't to be charitable per se.  So, I'm not going to try to justify my attendance at the show as a sign of good father but rather as a sign of my selfish want of seeing my favorite band of all time play in a small venue.  Maybe they were doing this rallying to get people to give more which I guess is fine within itself, but I found it funny that people were cheering for themselves as if they were there to truly support Matt.

Let me restate this: 96% to 98% of us there were there for the same reason - to enjoy SP; not to give Matt our money; not the watch Kill Hannah, not get all hot and sweaty with 1200 other mofos to get closer to the stage.  If SP wasn't there driving this effort, this wouldn't have been a big deal enough to see Gov. Pat Quinn swing by to declare it Matt Leone Day.  It's a farce to think any other way.

Another Matt Leone benefit show is being put on by a ton of bands on August 21st. Will this make the news? I hope so. Will it be the smash I attended? Probably not.

Note: I wish no ill-will towards Matt and hope he does recover from his injuries quite soon.  I have a lot of respect for what he did for I probably wouldn't have done the same.  To donate to his benefit, please visit http://www.sweetrelief.com.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Most of Us Can't Handle The Truth



The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. - Morpheus, The Matrix
I've been thinking a lot about how political discussions with people has become less and less interesting as age and technology set in.  It seems that discussing politics now is akin to jabbing yourself in the eye with a #2 pencil and slamming your face into a vat of iodine - painful and fruitless.

My political leanings could be viewed at the surface as "liberal".  However I tend to think of them as more as "destructive".  They don't serve to necessarily outright "improve" anybody's well being, but rather point out a fact I continue to rally against even though time and time again I'm proven to be right - Americans are full of shit.

Case in point - I have a people in my life who are staunch conservatives.  Most of what comes out of their mouths is rhetoric they heard from some talk radio or cable news outlets such as:

"...Obamacare..."
"...protecting our borders..."
"...ruining this great country..."
"...liberal agenda..."
"...trying to make America a socialist state..." 
"...drill, baby, drill..."

You get the idea.  When trying to understand their viewpoints on things like health care, immigration, finance reform, energy policies, welfare, the war on terror,  or even gay marriage, all I get effectively are soundbites of impassioned, unsubstantiated bullshit.  Statements are made but never backed up with objective sources supporting their stand.  Granted, I don't expect everyone to carry an iPad with them everywhere they go with a browser full of links to their source material (although that would be awesome), but what would help discussions would be:

a) listening to opposing/alternative views
b) at least saying where they based their "own" opinions from a third-party who's not involved directly in the conversation.
c) listening to opposing/alternative views :)

I've started to avoid discussing politics with everyone now as a result of this.  My nature is to be pretty confrontational, i.e., I love to argue, but arguing things neither side can backup just make everyone angry and hateful and does no good to promote our friendship.

Technology has helped to take bickering up to a new level.  Now people can be anonymous while they rant and rave about how unfair life is without their beloved political party in power.   They feel emboldened to spread their ideas without having to suffer consequences of opposing in-your-face viewpoints.  With social networks, people feel that their opinions matter even more now because the can post their thoughts in one place and be viewed by many.   Go to Twitter.com and search for keywords such as "liberal", "conservative", "Obama", "Pelosi", or "terror".  You'll see all kinds of unfounded claims in ranging from ridiculous to racist.  What surprises me (for some reason) is the vitriolic nature of people's opinions - such hateful, mean things that they'd never say to someone's face.  With all of the noise people put out there into the "interether", it's just that - noise.  99.9% of these folks aren't really going to do anything about what they're complaining about.  It's easier to bitch about it and feel better by getting it off your chest than to run for office to change things.

From now on I will avoid speaking politics with people.  If you want to chat, rainbows and unicorns are still fair game (until you tell me they're extinct due to Obama's mismanagement of the BP oil spill :)) ).

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Could've Died Part 2

I decided to give myself a fever this weekend.  Apparently after running around non-stop for the last 4-5 months with shows, rehearsals, and late nights, the one day I get to take off completely was consumed with me having a fever all day...and doing nothing about it for the longest time.

In the morning I took AKV out on a doggy walk with Lola.  It was a sunny day and I felt pretty normal - until the sun hit my skin.  I felt as if somebody had decided to stick me under a heat lamp.  It thought, "Hmmm, that's weird".  We finished up our walk and I was more than happy to get back inside.  I complained to the Wifey about my condition and we  both chalked it up to a mild sunburn.

As the day wore on, my head started pounding.  At this point I felt that I was merely dehydrated from the sunburn.  I kept complaining all day and did my best to rest up.  Yet nothing really helped.  I thought an excursion out to Uncle Julio's would make me feel better and I was just miserable the entire time.

I got home from that and a minor rubdown, the Wifey decided to take my temperature.  When it read 103.4F, the thought, "Dude, you could die" popped into my head.  At this point, an action plan was put into place.  I took a relatively cold shower to get my body temperature down.  Wifey went across the street and got me Tylenol and I popped a couple of those along with some Clariton for my sinus headache.  Then the voice of Les Stroud (Survivorman) spoke to me.  He said, "Cool the blood down, Nurl."  So, I got out an ice pack from the feezer, wrapped it up in a towel, and placed it on my neck to cool down the blood flowing through the carotid arteries.  I thought, "Yeah, it's dorky, but if it works for Les in the desert, it'll work me tonight".  I slept pretty much all day off and on.  My fever broke around 9 PM and was alright for the rest of the evening.

Goes to show you.  Ignorance and pride can kill you if you're not careful.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Performing for people as long as I have, I've seen a lot of things happen from awesome shows to on-stage fist fights amongst cast members.  When I think I've seen it all, something happens to remind me that I "ain't seen nuttin' yet!".

The thing lately that has captured my imagination is how professionalism is a lost skill amongst people who need to take it the most seriously.  One should take pride as to what work they and how they're perceived especially when involving the arts.  I'm amazed as to what small things people take for granted that totally affect their professionalism. I'm even further amazed as to how much people need to be told directly how to be professional!  It's something that isn't taught and only acquired apparently.  I've had to tell people things like:
  • Show up on time (or even early) to rehearsals and shows.  This by far is the biggest problem I've run into regardless of endeavor.  Why do people find it acceptable to disrespect other people's time?  Time apparently had no personal cost to many of us.  If you had to pay let's say $25 for every minute you were late, I bet you'd be on time.

  • Come prepared to work. I can't tell you how many rehearsals and shows I've been to where people don't know their lines, don't know what form we're using, can't remember lyrics, or absolutely are brain-dead and don't engage.  Again, this goes back wasting people's time.  Why do it?

  • Don't sleep with other people in the group until after the production is over.  I've recently told this to a group I'm in and some people were shocked I would even think of this.  The idea is equivalent to pooping where you eat.  Sleeping with people introduces a whole other gamut of potential issues as a production goes on.  Unless you are mature enough to handle a sexual relationship (which most of us are not), the consequences of a falling out can be a detriment to the production.  People get weird, the rest of the cast/band gets uncomfortable, and ultimately it shows on-stage.  As Grandmaster Flash says, "DON'T DO IT!"

I learned these things primarily from being in band programs in middle and high school.  They taught us the importance of these things even though at the time we just thought they were being hard on us.  I am incredibly grateful to have learned this early in my life so that I am in the upper echelon of my peers when it comes to being deemed professional.I'm not perfect but compared to many of my peers, I'm a superstar!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Living In the Limelight

By all intents and purposes, I consider myself to be a performer - not just an actor, a musician, or a comedian.  Yes, the latter list of titles describe a facet of what I have to offer the entertainment world but don't sum up everything I can and want to do.  This distinction came up in a passionate discussion I had a couple of nights ago.

In a very polite way I was asked to be mindful of how I should be acting on stage.  The compliant  was that my natural actions on stage distract from the vibe, the attitude, or the mood of a show.  From what I've learned in many shows is that sometimes I do get a bit overzealous and do things to focus attention onto me.  However, most of the time, I'm very mindful about who has focus and where it needs to lie.  So, this hit a little nerve and got things a bit heated.  I responded, "No offense to anyone in this room  but I'm the only one here who performs on a stage on a regular basis and is very comfortable on stage."  I said it with such impunity and vigor that there was no room for argument there. 

What really unnerved me was this prefabricated notion of what "the mood" of the show "should be" - as if there's a manual describing one-to-one relationships between actions on-stage and reactions off-stage.  What I've learned is that no crowd is ever the same night to night.  What works in one show won't work in another and vice-versa.  With my current run of "Ctrl+Alt+Deport", I've been amazed as to how disparate the crowds are each night we perform.  We think "Oh, the crowd is gonna LOVE this line!" and the line doesn't receive a reaction while something we totally didn't anticipate kills.  The only constant one can count on is how they conduct themselves when that spotlight is turned on. If you get into the habit of trying to dictate what they're going to react to, you'll be disappointed almost all of the time.

For these reasons, I refuse to subscribe to some inorganic notion of just how things should be when my craft as a performer is concerned.  The task at hand now is to have everyone involved on-stage to figure out their personas and working all of our individual expressions into a cohesive unit at every show.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Acoustic Rawk Roulette


I played a showcase last night at the Elbo Room.  It was the most fun show I've done in a long time!

Working up to the show as a bit of a chore however.  I took my acoustic into 3rd Coast Guitars to get it setup and be primed for the show.  I open the case and the guy looks at it as if it has leprosy :)).  He then tells me, "Well, don't get me wrong, I want your money but did you notice that your bridge and neck are cracked?"  I had noticed there was something going on with the bridge but didn't think much of it, but I didn't know about the neck.  He quoted me a price for the repairs and I told him to not bother as the cost of repair totally superseded the cost of the guitar.  So, my $100 investment 12 years finally crapped out on me.  So, I bought another guitar instead:


So I worked up a batch of 15 songs and headed out to the bar later that evening.  I set up the looper, guitar, mics, and my Ustream channel for the show (playback of the show can be found here).  The staff at the place hooked up a laptop to the big screen TV in the center of the backwall and threw on the display of Chatroulette.com.   I'd never heard about this site until then and watched as random people webcams (tons of guys masturbating freely on it) would come up and the staff would act a fool in front of the camera.  I asked them to keep up the video while I played to keep things interesting.  I played a set heavy with originals, a few covers mixed in, and even a couple of songs improvised on the spot based on what I was seeing in the room.  I took the intro to "Jesse's Jam" and made a little hip-hop song out of it.  It was awesome!

I can't wait for the next one.  I love being able to play my own songs in my own way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee! Fit?! No.

I got a Wii Fit for the Wifey's birthday this month and have been working out on the thing rather regularly.  At first I thought it would be a walk in the park: boot it up, do some relatively easy exercises, then walk away feeling good about "working out" without breaking a sweat.   So much for that idea :).

It's a lot harder than I gave it credit for.  I've been fumbling through the different exercises trying to find a perfect balance of workout and challenge all the while trying to keep my pride intact.  Many of the exercises kick my butt; anything requiring core strength zaps the life out of me.  But it's a lot of fun.

Let's see what my Wii Fit age is at the end of next week!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

REVIEW:Smashing Pumpkin's Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (First Three Tracks)


A lot has changed in the music industry in the last 20 years.  We've seen a lot of death: major record labels, hair metal, nu-metal, grunge, guitar solos, electronica, compact discs, ubiquitous platinum selling artists, touring, general artist promotion, high-end recording studios, and radio.  We've also seen some exciting changes: digital singles, portable digital players, independent record labels and artists, satellite radio, social networking, home studios that rival established commercial studios, streaming online shows,and ubiquitous sources of music such as YouTube, TV, movies, and video games.  So with such changes in the environment artists live in, it's interesting to see how some artists who lived in the "old" system are adapting to the new one.  Artists such as NIN, Carly Simon, and Wheatus seem to be able to cross-over quite well.  Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins are striving to bridge the gap as well.

A 44-song, multi-year collection of songs entitled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope(TGBKS) is the current release from the Pumpkins.  As each single is being release roughly every 6 weeks from each other, fans have to wait patiently for the next chapter in the Pumpkins' musical journey - both artistically and just as importantly financially.

Each song is being released in a high-quality, non-DRM mp3 for free from their website http://www.smashingpumpkins.com.  At some point, fans will have the opportunity to buy a box set of all of the songs with artwork, lyrics, and a bunch of other unspecified goodies for a given price.  The questions I have for this endeavor are:
  1. The "old" way of making a record could take multiple years, but the end result seemed to encapsulate the feelings/emotions/thoughts of an artist for the public to digest in one gulp with each subsequent record being another helping .  With the approach The Pumpkins are taking, an open-ended stream of thoughts and feelings can inserted into the collection.  Will the initial vision of the collection be lost due to outside influences?

     
  2. Is the music going to be strong enough to support a 44 track vision?  With that many tracks, it's easy to get album filler in the batch over the years. 

     
  3. With each song being released independently, what true impetus will the public have to formally buy the same tracks again?  With the release of 2007's Zeitgeist, The Pumpkins got accused of price gouging by their fans by releasing multiple versions of the record with different artwork, tracks, and bonus material (granted, online file sharing easily took care of a fan wanting all of the song).  
With those questions in mind, I decided to hold off any kind of formal review of any of the tracks until I got a small collection of them in my hands and have lived with them a bit.  This way I could maybe get an initial feeling as to where the record is heading artistically and be able to back up my thoughts with some music (as I'm always on the defense for the band for the last 18 years).

Song For A Son
This is the first song released from TGBKS.  It's also the first song featuring drummer Mike Byrne who's replaced (my personal favorite drummer) Jimmy Chamberlin after an amicable split with Corgan post touring for Zeitgeist. It also features production and engineering from long-time Pumpkin cohort Kerry Brown.  This somber song ties in a lot of "non-traditional" Pumpkins instrumentation such as organ, piano, and synthesizers.  These additional sounds give a "nu-psychedelia" vibe harking back to bands such as The Beatles, The Yardbirds, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and The Doors.  Byrne's drums are recorded in such a fashion that they give a "vintage" sound to the recording.  The guitar solos are absolutely Pumpkins with screaming bends and harmonized progresions. Corgan's voice is as whiny as ever but still listenable to my ears.  Lyrically, the song deals with the trials and tribulations of a being someone's son; particularly, how sons relate to their fathers (Corgan has well-documented father issues many of which he's worked out and continues to work on).

In a traditional sense, this wouldn't be my first pick as the first song to release to introduce this new record.  I actually do like the song but it's by no means a "single".  Granted, Corgan claims to not be interested in releasing a traditional record with traditional promotion; hence, that should bear no relevance as to how the song should be perceived.  Yet, I think it's an inescapable reality that non-musically related idiosyncrasies influence the reception of the artistry.  With the line-up changes, the controversial stage banter and attitude taken by Corgan while on tour, and the Ghost of Pumpkins Past beckoning the group to play "the hits" only, the new music has a lot to compete with if the goal is to gain popularity and acceptance.  This song could've been released third or fourth in the series after releasing songs that would establish a bridge between fan expectation and their current musical direction.

Widow Wake My Mind
"Oh. Oh oh. Oh. Oh oh."
This song is much more in the traditional Pumpkins vein with a hint of nu-psychedelia.  I love the interplay between 6/4 and 4/4 time signatures.  Lyrically I don't really get the song so it may require more spins for me to come up with a meaning for it.  Mike Byrne is much busier on this song with flurries of drum rolls between verses and choruses; yet, he hasn't given me the indication that he's "the future" of the group as Billy has been quoted.  I am sure he can play his arse off but he's got mighty big shoes to fill.  Hopefully future songs will feature more interplay between the guitars and the drums like most Pumpkins songs.  Again, I like the song.  This one would be more appropriate to release as the first song for the public.

A Stitch In Time
Now, this song seems to be the most "Pumpkin"-esque song yet.  I feel the 1960's coming through the speakers in this one.  The acoustic guitars set the tempo and beat and the leads are played by an organ with sitars playing counter-melodies.  The mix is also much better balanced between the instrumentation and Billy's voice.  It reminds me of something I would hear off of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (MCIS).  So far, I like this song the best.

It looks like Billy's put his mind to something huge.  I hope he actually sees it through.  It would be a triumph artistically and socially in that nobody's ever done it before.  I look forward to more tracks and more Pumpkins!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

To Boycott Or Not Boycott?

As a follow up the protest video I made two months ago...







The owner call me back a couple of days ago apologizing profusely for how badly I was treated.  He offered just about anything to get me back as a customer.  I would like to think that this protest video has hurt him (AND IT DID! :)) )but I think that Corporate followed up as well to remind him of my complaint.  In any matter, he did call back and seemed genuine in his intention to finally rectify my complaint.

I decided to take him up on his offer of complimentary two large pizzas w/ two toppings, and order of chicken wings,  and a 2 litre of soda today.  I had the in-laws over for a get together and we all wanted to have some chain pizza :)).  I called the owner ahead of time to double-check that the offer still stood (it did) and proceeded to call the store.

The dude who answered on the other end of the line sounded eerily familiar, i.e., the guy who jacked up my order so horribly before :(.  So, I ordered the pizza as carefully as I could to not anger the man but yet show him that I had owner sponshorship on my side if they fawked up this order as well.  So, after a little bit of rigmarole, I got the order placed.

An hour and 15 minutes passed by.

My phone rang and the delivery guy was out front.  I took Lola with me (too instill the fear in the heart of the driver using my "ferocious", 30 pound dog) and we met him in the front.  I took the order off of his hands, tipped him (it wasn't one of the jerks from the last time delivering), and served the members of my family with what appeared to be the correct order.  I just have to hope any add-ons (spit, sweat, or mucus) were killed by either the heating process in cooking the pizzas or by my ever-so-fortuous digestive system :).

I'm going to wait to see how I feel in the morning before I decide to place a response video to this.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Day and A Half of Miming

My son picked up a nasty cold/flu-ish virus two weeks ago, and eagerly passed it onto the rest of his family so that we can share in the misery :)).  I had done a pretty good job of thwarting off the sickness by drinking a lot of water, taking vitamins, and keeping my thoughts on being healthy vs. not being sick.  I was doing well and then by Wednesday, I had a minor sore throat.  It cleared up by the afternoon, but I was definitely not 100%.  My throat was being pummeled by mucus and phlegm during the day.  So I was coughing up stuff all day and spitting out all kinds of shades of green as time went on.

I went to class and had a jolly ole time laughing so hard I couldn't breathe at times.  By the time I got home, my throat and voice were on fire.  I knew that I had hurt myself :( .  The only thing I could do is lay off my cords as long as possible to allow the extra mucus and phlegm soothe all the irritations I had created.  When I woke up Thursday morning, my voice was shot :(.  I struggled through the day w/ work to not speak to anyone (gotta love instant messaging tools), and get off any conference calls I was on as quickly as possible.  By the end of the work day, my throat was on fire again.  To compound the calamity, I had rehearsal that night.  DAH!  I was dying last night.

This morning I woke up and laid off my voice completely.  My voice was no longer feeling like the bowels of Hades but I knew that I was not even close to being out of the woods of ruining my voice for good.  I delegated my conference calls to others to run, slept a little bit, and haven't said a whole lot to anyone.  I wish some a happy birthday by taking a picture of me holding up a sign wishing them a happy birthday in an email.  I normally would call but this was a special scenario. I ordered the Wifey's drink at Starbucks by pointing at the text message on my cellphone and letting them read it.  to cap things off, I'm going to bed relatively early to rest up before trying to warm up my voice to morrow morning to a usable state.

I have a new appreciation for verbal and non-verbal communication.  I realized we don't need to speak as much as we think we do to communicate.  We should all take a day of silence a week to experience the world in a slightly different way.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Trials and Tribulation of a Professional Musician

There's been a series of postings on Craigslist.org discussing the business aspects of playing live music in the city of Chicago.   The fervor of the discussions got me thinking about my own views of the show business in general; how the arts holds very little compensatory value in society.  For the sake of my discussion, Ill be using the words "band", "performer", and "artist" interchangeably to represent the talent, and "bar", "club", "venue" and "promoter" to represent parties interested in having talent perform in their establishment.   Here's a summary of the points people have made:
  1. Bars/clubs/promoters don't compensate performers well
    Typically, bands get a percentage of the money taken in at the door.  This percentage varies from night to night/bill to bill/owner to owner.  Sometimes performers share the pot equally regardless of who brings the most of the people in.  Other times its based on a per capita tally.  Many times bands don't get paid at all.

    The idea is that these establishments are using bands to exploit their fan base to come in, pay for admission into the venue, pay for expensive drinks (of which they get to keep completely and not share with the performers), and spend wads of cash while the artist gets a pittance for everything they've done.  Some are clamoring for elevated compensation.

  2. Performers should get an agreed upon level of compensation and it should be done in writing
    Many contracts between booking agents and performers are done on a verbal "handshake", i.e., no formal contracts are written up and signed on by all parties involved.  This arrangement allows bars to engage in unfair practices against performers when it comes to compensating them at the end of the night.  The belief here is that this can be combated by placing all the terms in writing, thus, giving artists a recourse in the case they get screwed over.

  3. People willing to submit the the whim of these venues are hurting "real" artists by diluting their bargaining power. 
    This is an interesting collective bargaining argument.  If the individual artists do not band together with others to disallow predatory business practices to continue, then they hurt every artist out there trying achieve their "worth".

  4. Bands with followings deserve fair compensation.  Those without, shouldn't be performing.
    This sort of relates to point #3 above.  Some people feel that bands that can draw well should receive top choice as they are able to provide the conditions to the venues that owners/operators are looking for. As they are able to bring the people, so should they be able to "name their price" accordingly.  Those without followings have no bargaining power as they won't be able to bring favorable cash-making conditions to a venue; thus, shouldn't be playing with other bands that can thus disenfranchising them from making money. 

My thoughts on these points are:
  1.  Bars/clubs/promoters don't compensate performers well.

    Value of Music to Society
    This is true.  They don't.  They never have and probably never truly will.  Artistry has never been a glamorous, well-paying profession in most societies.  If it was, we'd all be writing songs and making sculptures.   Perhaps if society placed a higher value on music and the arts, perhaps there would be more equal compensation as a whole.

    Take a look at the payment musicians receive from record sales.  The statutory rate for mechanical royalties is $.08 for songs five minutes or less in length or $.0155 per minute for songs that are over five minutes long. So, for example, a song that is eight minutes long would earn $.124 for each recording sold.  8 cents?  Wow.  That's a whopper.  Then that can be split up between publishers and songwriters (typically 50/50).  Artists get royalties anywhere between 8%-25% of the suggested retail price for a recording depending on the amount of clout they have (the newer the artist, typically, the less clout they have).  With additional trickery by record companies (free goods, return privileges, and the 90% rule) along with recoupment clauses for record companies to recover the costs of videos, touring support, and promotion costs via the band's royalty rate, artists are basically earning jack shite.  Do we hear any outrage coming from consumer groups, the media, or cultural preservation groups?  No.  People accept that these gawd-forsaken practices are part of the deal when being part of the arts scene.

    Also, look at how so many schools have lost their music programs due to budget cuts in education and questionable academic standards imposed by government.  If there was really a value placed on music, these programs wouldn't be the first things cut every time there's a budget crisis.

    Expect to Get Ripped Off
    The road to a financially successful career in music is full of bumps, potholes, and detours.  music venue owners can be considered as the gatekeepers along that road that can easily be bribed into being more fair to get through the gate if they see financial incentive to do so.  When first starting out, expect to get ripped off and be as professional as you can be to set up conditions to be favorable to your situation .  One may need to network and grease a lot of palms be able to do so.

  2. Performers should get an agreed upon level of compensation and it should be done in writing

    Good Luck Getting It In Writing
    Try this if you can but I haven't reached a level of success where this is possible.  There are thousands of other bands trying to get into the same club you are.  It's my opinion that this is a level of formality you can achieve when:

    a)  A performer has a consistent, high-grossing draw and the bookie is aware of it.  This is effectively leverage one can use to further their finances for each show.

    b)  A performer is working through a third-party such as a reputable manager or agency.  When working with more corporate-minded people, contracts seem to be an easier selling point.

    Being a "niche" act
    Most bands I've seen are still going with the regular "percentage of the door" rate as it's difficult to get an agreed upon rate.  It seems that acts that have some kind of niche like being a jazz band, a wedding band, a karaoke host, or being a classic music trio are able to negotiate their rates.  There seems to be a decent amount of disrespect for rock bands/music by the general populace; almost as if since many a rock band don't take themselves, their music, and/or their music seriously, nobody else does either; thus, they get thrust into a situation where they're playing for less than what they're worth.  I'm not excusing nor condoning the behavior.  I'm just delving into the possible social aspects as to why some musicians can name their price and others can't.

  3. People willing to submit the the whim of these venues are hurting "real" artists by diluting their bargaining power. 

    Forming a Union?
    As I started writing this blog, this assertion jumped out at me as being frakin' ludicrous.  However, I thought about it a bit more and what people are truly saying is that they want to unionize the talent pool in the city!  Effectively, by unionizing, in theory, bands could demand more compensation if they had the power to establish a work stoppage and hurt the businesses employing live music.  It's a grand idea but I feel that it's more of a pipe dream than a practical solution.

    If bands agreed to unionize, who would speak on their behalf?  What would be the requirements of being part of this union?  Who would facilitate the contracts between bands and bars, make sure they were enforced, keep track of monies exchanging hands, etc.?  I could continue with 45 more rhetorical questions trying to put bands into the same area as labor unions.  The answers are "I don't know" and "Nobody".  Labor unions are incredibly political and cost-hungry beasts to maintain.  I just don't think the music scene has the infrastructure to create and maintain a viable bargaining agent to promote their interests.

    With that said, I do agree that it's hard to move away from the current model to a new payment model when people continue the old practices.  These "scabs" (like me) would be undermining any future efforts to make things more fair.  The bad news is that we're called scabs.  The good news is that there is no union or "League of Musicians" or "Uptight Citizens Brigade" to contend with :).  I also don't feel that everyone of these dealings with booking agents are bad or undermine everyone else.  Some of them could serve other purposes such as providing exposure, experience, or opportunity to new people trying to beak into the scene.

  4. Bands with followings deserve fair compensation.  Those without, shouldn't be performing.

    What's a "Following"?
    This is just a dumb statement.  A "following" doesn't really mean anything when you first start out.  It typically equates to the number of family and friends you had to beg to come out on an off-night to play just so you can get a better night to play on in the future.  Everyone has to start somewhere and sometimes you have to play in front of a complete group of strangers to get a following.

    Do Your Own Shows!
    Some of the support I've seen for this idea ask people to set up shows themselves in their basements or abandoned warehouses or on street corners (watch out for the crack dealer!)  first to make sure they have people to bring to club.  The problem with this logic is who the hell wants to go see their friend's band in a cramped, dingy basement playing way too loudly with no lights and no atmosphere?  It screams unprofessionalism to do it this way and can give people the impression you're not serious enough about your band to escape the clutches of a "safe" environment.

    Do Your Own Shows Part Two!!
    I've also seen people suggest to orchestrate shows in more legit areas like banquet halls, churches, or even theatres to build a buzz vs. playing in bars.   I find this to be more trouble than it's worth.  I have a lot of experience producing theatre shows in the city, and it's one of the hardest jobs to pull off successfully both artistically and financially.  If a band wanted to do this, here are all of the things they would need to consider having to pay for to pull it off:

    Rent
    Unless they can get it for free, there's going to be a cost associated with getting a suitable environment for a show.

    Insurance
    It's funny how so many people don't think they don't need a liberal amount of liability insurance in the event some gets hurt at your event.  Some venues' insurance policies may cover your event but sometimes they won't.

    Power
    Regardless of what people think, this is actually a costly item.  Lights, amps, PAs, video, vending equipment, etc all require power.  Unless a band wants to haul a portable generator with them everywhere (which would require money as well to purchase one and for the gasoline needed to run it), this is a cost.  It's usually included in the rent but not always.

    Beverages
    In those cases where people want to serve alcohol, this could be a HUGE cost.  There are liquor laws to contend with.  You may have to lay money down for a liquor license, people to card patrons and ensure no laws are broken with under age drinking,  and the beverages themselves (which may need to be transported).

    Security
    Many clubs/bars have security there.  Granted, they're normally employees of the bar doing other things as well but their job may include bouncing fools out of the venue when need be.  This would need to be taken into consideration as well.

    Maintenance
    While the show is going on and especially afterwards, the venue will probably require it to be left clean and in working order.  Depending on the situation, it may cost organizers money to hire outside help to keep the place in order while the function is going on and to help pick up after everyone's left.

    Miscellaneous Costs
    More things to think about:
    - Gas to get the production off the ground
    - Payment of any of the bands on the bill including yours
    - Payment of any staff helping out (merch, front door, beverage stand)
    -Ticketing fees - Unless the show is a cash-only endeavor, if you're going to sell tickets you may need to pay credit card processing fees.

    Now, factor in all of this stuff one would need to worry about just to put on their own shows and playing at an existing venue seems mighty more appealing :)).  Some people would argue that all of this stuff doesn't need to be accounted for.  I'll agree but the level of risk that something can go wrong increase the more these items aren't formally addressed.  These are the things legit establishments are thinking of when they are trying to justify the payment scheme with the bands.  I'm not saying it's a fair practice but these are things people take for granted that are being provided to the band (and ultimately, the bands are paying for in a way).
Ultimately, there are valid points to what people are saying on both sides of the relationship between bands and venues.  I honestly feel that if people spent more time forming a true dialogue between interested parties on these subjects, better practices could be put into place.  The more artists run their passion of music like a business, the easier it will be to deal with other businesses needed in order for them to become a successful act. 

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      We Are The World Redux? Hope Not

      In 1985, there was (and unfortunately, still is) a massive famine plaguing Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa.  Americans were getting pelted with images of malnourished children so weak they were unable to swat the flies covering their faces and Sally Struthers pleading with people to send money to support children abroad.  The news covered the political situations causing the famine while giving us no end in sight to the madness.
      At the behest of Harry Belefonte, he along with Quincy Jones corralled Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and Stevie Wonder,a a triumvirate of talented singers and songwriters, to write a song with proceeds going to the United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa - catchy, ain't it?), a non-profit organization aimed at feeding the starving people in Ethiopia.  Wonder eventually dropped out of the writing process, but Jackson and Richie carried on and put the entire song together.  Then they got 45+ of the country's most influential singers/actors (past and current) together to record the classic "We Are the World" (WATW).  They put the record out and it was an instant hit.  Millions of dollars were raised for famine relief and for a while there, we as Americans felt like we did something positive to help those in need.

      Skip to 2010.  A massive earthquake shook the island nation of Haiti to its core.  Hundreds of thousands people died, millions of people were displaced from their homes, and many more injured in the pure chaos that ensued due to lack of significant infrastructure, years of greed and corruption siphoning aid to their own people, and basic neglect from of the populace from the Haitian government.  Immediately, aid groups sprang into action to begin relief efforts.  However, in this situation, the power of technology had taken over.  Instantly America's focus was brought to island's plight; so much so that we felt we needed to do something.  Without much thought or discomfort, we were able to Tweet, Face book, and text relief to reputable aid organizations.  Along with these efforts, a star-studded relief telethon (with an absent Kanye West -thank gawd!) was orchestrated and millions were raised in a fraction of the time it took 25 years ago.   Once again, Americans came (and are still coming) to the aid of those who needed it.

      Then somebody decided that it wasn't enough to just do what was done thus far.  An updated "We Are the World" is needed.  Uhm, what?!  Are you serious?! NO! Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie were originally planning on re-recording the song for a 25th anniversary version (why?!!), but the Haiti disaster struck and they decided to shift the focus to Haiti's relief effort.  Check out the cast of talent they brought in for this(I will highlight those who are actually worthy of being remotely associated with WATW):

      * Akon
      * India.Arie
      * Patti Austin
      * Tony Bennett
      * Justin Bieber
      * Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
      * Ethan Bortnick
      * Brandy
      * Jeff Bridges
      * Toni Braxton
      * Zac Brown
      * Kristian Bush
      * Natalie Cole
      * Harry Connick Jr.
      * Kid Cudi
      * Miley Cyrus
      * Celine Dion
      * Snoop Dogg
      * Drake
      * Earth Wind & Fire
      * Faith Evans
      * Melanie Fiona
      * Jamie Foxx
      * Sean Garrett
      * Tyrese Gibson
      * Josh Groban
      * Anthony Hamilton
      * Keri Hilson
      * Julianne Hough
      * Jennifer Hudson
      * Enrique Iglesias
      * LL Cool J
      * Janet Jackson
      * Randy Jackson
      * Taj Jackson
      * Taryll Jackson
      * TJ Jackson
      * Al Jardine
      * Joe Jonas
      * Kevin Jonas
      * Nick Jonas
      * Rashida Jones
      * Gladys Knight
      * Adam Levine
      * Jimmy Jean-Louis
      * Benji Madden
      * Joel Madden
      * Mary Mary
      * Katharine McPhee
      * Jason Mraz
      * Mya
      * Jennifer Nettles
      * Orianthi
      * Freda Payne
      * Pink
      * A. R. Rahman
      * Nicole Richie
      * Raphael Saadiq
      * Carlos Santana
      * Nicole Scherzinger
      * Isaac Slade
      * Trey Songz
      * Musiq Soulchild
      * Jordin Sparks
      * Barbra Streisand
      * T-Pain
      * Robin Thicke
      * Rob Thomas
      * Usher
      * Vince Vaughn
      * Lil Wayne
      * Kanye West
      * Will.i.am
      * Ann Wilson
      * Brian Wilson
      * Nancy Wilson
      * BeBe Winans

      Reading this list, I have to ask who the frak put this together?!  C'mon!  Vince Vaughn?  The Jonas Brothers? Kid Cudi?  It looks as if they weren't really interested in sending a truly heartfelt message to the American & Haitian people by putting awesomely talented people together to sing in solidarity.  This list looks more marketing ploy to capitalize on 25 year old magic.

      I am sure these folks want to help and they can/will.  But why try to do it on the legacy of WATW, and in turn, destroy any good memory of the original?  As cheesy as the first one was, it was special as basically it had never been done previously on such a grand scale.  Trying to replicate that is impossible especially when the song itself has new lyrics, a damn rap section in it (Really?  How many times does a song get "updated" just by putting some jackass on the mic saying "Uh. Uh. Yeah."? Just look at how Puffy fawked up the classic Police song "Every Breath You Take"), and a bunch of talentless hacks crooning/talking all over it.

      If they wanted to do something like WATW, why not just take what they did to mess up WATW and GIVE IT A NEW TITLE?!  Cut out anything resembling WATW and see if it stands up on its own.  With the amount of star-power on it, it would definitel sell and go platinum while leaving WATW's legacy intact.  Then everyone can feel good.

      Is nothing sacred anymore?!!


      Sunday, January 24, 2010

      Rock of Ages



      Tonight I was invited to a party with a bunch of other guys to play Beatles Rockband.  Little did I know we'd be playing a lot of regular Rockband as well.   I had an awesome time!

      In a previous post, I had admonished those who played Guitar Hero excessively to the point they're perfect at it vs. learning how to play the real thing.  I never did address the reverse situation where a knowledgeable musician picks up playing the game (mostly out of ignorance and not having access to the game/hardware).  Tonight my inner rockstar was performing for a group of 8 other people and it was great!

      The game is a fantastic rhythm trainer.  However, I did find the controls clunky at times as they didn't match the feel of a guitar/bass/drum set and I felt like you almost had to anticipate the button click prior to it arriving at the point in the song/bar you were playing.  So, that got a bit annoying.  It could be that in actuality my natural timing is slower than I give myself credit for but I saw others struggling with it as well at times.

      The best part was more of the stuff you don't get scored on in the game - the showmanship.  Yes, I goofily pretended I was playing the real things.  I rawked out as if the guitar was really being strummed and there was a real crowd worshipping my ever move (even on easy level :))).  I put dance moves into my playing.  I tried grabbing onto others while singing songs from Lit, Alice in Chains, The Beastie Boys, RHCP, and The Beatles.  I heard someone comment that I must be playing a completely different version of Rockband in my head because I rawked parts that didn't require rawking :)).

      It s a great game for parties but I don' think I'll be picking up the game or others like it anytime soon.  You actually need friends willing to hang out with you often and play to make it fun to make it worthwhile in my opinion.  Tonight I got lucky with the companionship :).

      Tuesday, January 19, 2010

      Top Ten Lessons I've Learned From Yo Gabba Gabba.

      1. There are eyes on my face, eyes on my face
        There's a nose on my face, nose on my face
        There's a mouth on my face, mouth on my face...


      2. Don't, don't, don't bite your friends.


      3. Keep trying, keep trying
        Don't give up, never give up.

      4. Don't stop, don't give up.

      5. We're gonna make a...
        HIT HIT HIT!

      6. 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5 people are in my family
        We are best friends and I love them
        That's my family, that's my family.



      7. There's a party in my tummy
        SO YUMMY! SO YUMMY YUMMY!



      8. Peek-a-boo, we're gonna play peek-a-boo
        Peek-a-boo, we're gonna find you, find you!



      9. We love to rock, YEAH!
        Kickin' out the jams!

      10. Go crazy, go crazy, go crazy
        Go crazy, go crazy, go crazy...

      Friday, January 15, 2010

      Let The Craziness Ensue!

      Unless I have 45 spinning plates on sticks with each one narrowly falling off, I seem to be unhappy :).  2010 seems to be the year of creative growth with the way things are turning out - and I like it!

      One of the top priorities on the list for the year is get another Rue recording out there along with some actual shows.  I've done a couple of ustream shows (which will occur monthly from now on) to allow me to keep my chops up and to provide a goal to work towards, i.e., kick my butt into practicing for a change.  I went ahead and submitted electronic press kits (EPKs) to a couple of venues in town looknig for acoustic acts.  I'd love to go electric, but I've learned that putting together a band of like-minded individuals is incredibly difficult, and I don't want to go through the pain of auditioning people who may not have the love and belief in the music as I do.  I'd rather attract the right people by playing out, sharing music, and being an accomplished musician where they're asking me to join vs. the other way around.

      I'll be producing and hopefully performing in Salsation's next spring show as well which will go up in the April/May timeframe.  That in itself is a lot of bloody work :)).  Producing is one of the least thankful but necessary jobs in this town.  When the shows a hit and people come to see it, it's great to be able to take credit for it.  When the show doesn't do as well, you beat yourself up and take abuse from everyone else as to why the show didn't do well.  A lot of people equate a "hit" show as a "good" show and vice-versa.  Yes, it's actually possible to have a "good" show that isn't a "hit".  Things like marketing, location, timeslot, and applicability all factor into a show's success.  I've had actors that have been part of well-drawing shows think they're the sole reason the show did well =)).  Uhm, no.  Sorry.  You had a part in it but no one entity in a production can carry a show all by themselves.  It's that age-old argument as to who wins championships - the players or management?

      While that  goes down, I need to find a house for us to move into :P.  Let my lifestyle change again please!

      So, if I lose my mind, please forgive me.  I promise it'll come back eventually.

      Thursday, January 14, 2010

      I Really Like Getting High

      I did my ustream show tonight for the second time ever and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I decided it was best to play the set more naturally, i.e., independent of all the cabling and crap I was did for the first one to make the sound quality superb.  The old method also made the performance stiff and a bit too strcutured.  This time around I went with room acoustics and a little bit of extra light.  I do believe it turned out much better this way.

      I got my show high tonight.  I'm very pleased with how I played and I actually even watch the performance afterwards which I hardly ever do.  I'm going to crash hard soon once it wears off. 

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      iLove iPods

      With my crusade against overusing communicative technologies, one may think I've got a vendetta against gadgets.  Believe it or not, I love gadgets.  I own computers, gaming systems, and person devices.  I like wasting electricity like most of us on keeping my refrigerator running, keeping the lights on, and watching my flat screen HDTV.  Having turn-by-turn GPS directions from my phone blows my mind!  With all of these things I have, I could lose all of them - except my iPod.

      Music is such a fundamental part of my life. I remember as a kid stealing my Dad's boombox, tuning into my favorite radio station, putting it at the head of my bed, putting my pillow over it, and falling asleep to Casey Kasem lulling me to sleep with the smooth voice of his counting down the top 40 hits of the week.  I've been in a band of some sort since the 6th grade.  I've put out records, recorded a ton, done a lot of shows, and keep up with the goings-on in the industry.  All of this magic can be captured in a tiny box called an iPod.

      As talented as I may be, one talent that I am notoriously known for is forgetting personal stuff in random places.  Sometimes I'll re-leave the same item at someone's house.  It's not that I like doing so.  It's just that I get distracted easily (just try driving with me!)  So, every time I arrive and leave a location, I have to do an inventory for the gear I tend to misplace all the time - wallet, keys, phone, and iPod.  When I don't do this, something in the world feels wrong.  The hair on the back of my neck stands up.  I begin foaming at the mouth in the fear I've lost something important to me.

      Yesterday I went to Sketchfest to support some friends/colleagues in various shows they were doing.  I took my jacket off prior to the first show I saw and thought, "Make sure you check for all of your items before you leave the theatre."  After laughing heartily, I got up, put my jacket on and felt three of the four items I always check for.  My iPod was no where to be found.  Like a madman, I checked and rechecked every outer and inner pocket I had and still nothing.  At this point, I started fighting the oncoming panic trying to set in.  I checked under my seat - nothing.  I checked the bathroom - lots of pee on the floor but no iPod.  I then thought that maybe I had left it in the car.  So, I nervously sat through 4 more 35 minute shows at this point pushing the thoughts of some hooligan going through my iPod thinking that he got himself a goldmine of my music in his hands and just how much of a fool I was to have lost it into the back of my head.  Once the shows were over, I checked at the box office and with the event coordinator for help.  No iPod.

      I walked back to my freezing car hoping in vain that it would be there.  It wasn't.  I then started the car to warm it up and it was tuned to the FM frequency that I normally listen to my iPod on via a crappy transmitter.  This pretty much told me that I had lost it.

      The whole trip home I thought, "Man, how am I going to break the news to my Wifey that I lost my iPod.  Man I'm an idiot!"  I started making plans for how I was going to get another one and not lose it (GPS tracking devices were dancing in my head).

      I got home and decided for shits and giggles to check my other car I had used that morning.  I opened the car door and sitting in the middle console was my shiny iPod!  HOLLA!  I quickly grabbed it and put it in m pocket.  All my fears went out of the garage and then the feelings of idiocy kicked in.  There I was at the nation's largest improv festival brooding over an unlost iPod instead of just enjoying my time there whole-heartedly!  Dumbarse!

      I sent a note to the Sketchfest personnel thinking them for helping me look and that I had found it.  My iPod and I need to spend more quality time together so I don't ever misplace it.

      Saturday, January 9, 2010

      Killer Kustomer Service At Kohl's

      This morning I woke up and took AKV out with me to allow Mommy to sleep in and to get in my Daddy/Son-Son time in.  We ended up at a Kohl's department store to find me a new shirt for tonight's Sketchfest show.  After a long time of walking around, trying stuff on, and chasing AKV through the aisle and putting everything back he tore down, I finally got me a pair of shirts I was happy with.  I checked out, got AKV bundled for the walk to the car, then headed out the door.

      As soon as I got to the car, I fumbled around trying to find my keys. Suddenly, I dropped the bag into the sludgy, black snow and the shirts flew onto the street.  *ARGH!*  So, I stood there for 5 minutes contemplating whether or not I go home and wash these brand new shirts or go back in and hopefully exchange them.  I decided to get back into the store and try to convince them to give me new shirts.

      Once I got to the customer service area, which strangely enough was on the 2nd floor of the building vs. the first floor right at the entrance like most stores, I noticed the long line standing there.  I knew at this point this experience was probably going to be interesting at the least, because everyone in line looked miserable and angry.  I got in line while AKV decided to go and pull out as many gift cards out of their receptacle as possible :).  I let him tear up the store knowing full and well I would (probably) pick up after him.

      I finally got to the desk and the lady working the register asked me what I needed.  I told her that I had just purchased a couple of shirts 15 minutes ago and they got dropped into dirty snow outside.  I was wondering if they would be able to exchange them for new shirts.  The lady, like almost all "customer service" reps, gave me a dirty face, and silently began scanning tickets to begin the exchange.  I was happy with this all up until she tried placing the new shirts I had picked out on top of the old, wet, nasty shirts!  I quickly grabbed the shirts and told her, "Can you not place these on top of the wet shirts?  I need to wear them tonight."  That got me another nasty look.    She huffed, and puffed, and blew her way through the exchange.  I asked her for two bags to allow me to drop these shirts again with no consequences in the future.  Nasty look #3!  I felt like I was in a bad Janet Jackson video.  I go tmy shirts double-bagged and headed out.

      Customer service in America will never improve.  If it just wasn't for the pesky customer part, it would be so much easier.

      Thursday, January 7, 2010

      News for 2010!

      Moving My Blog
      Last year (2009) I thought my blog was going to die.  Facebook and Twitter had basically taken the "umph" out of posting up blogs by allowing me to now "microblog" via my updates.  MySpace has lost a lot of its shine as a centralized location for artists due to its clunky, outdated, and ugly layout and interfaces (although it's still good for musicians for now).  So, I toyed with the idea of migrating my blog to my own website.  I was about to do it when I remembered that I had started backing up my blogs here.  At the time I didn't really look into what capabilities Blogspot had until I started playing with Salsation's Wordpress-based website.  After playing with that, I decided I would check out what add-ons were available here to make things more centralized.  Long-story long, I've decided to keep my site here and not register a formal website name for now.

      I've also have learned under what circumstances a blog is more appropriate to express what I'm thinking vs. a simple 120 character Tweet.  Traversing that fine line will be a challenge this year but I'm up for it :). 

      What's Going On Artistically?
      • Salsation
        I'll be in the 2010 Chicago Sketchfest this weekend on Saturday at 6 PM.  It's the first time in a while I've performed with the group so I'm excited to get back on stage.  I have to admit that during rehearsals I felt a bit rusty as to just how to act.  It took some time for me to get used to being just an actor again (I've been producing since 2007).  I promise that the show is going to be fun and enjoyable as we have a good ensemble/cast for this.

        We're also about to start work on our Spring show.  It's a logistical nightmare at this point, but we'll make it work.

      • Courageous Rue
        The Rue is back up and running.  I did a Ustream.tv show last year with relative success and have scheduled another show for next week.  If you want to watch a live streaming show, then check it out!

        I'm also in the middle of trying to finish up tracks to give away for promotional purposes.  It's difficult to do when you have a child, but I must find a way to do it.

      • Back in the (Training) Saddle Again
        I've started improv classes at The Annoyance.  I've decided to do the entire program to get me grounded in  work and to help me expand in areas I'm strong in. 

      That's it for now.