Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I need some help figuring out what to do right now.

(a) watch Battlestar Galactica
(b) prepare for my classes tomorrow (we're doing Affirmative Action in one class, and preparing for a midterm on The Meaning of Life in the other)
(c) play bird with the cats
(d) steal Jen's encaustics and do some painting.
(e) just go to sleep.
(f) read the slog.
(g) go to the party at Christopher's place.
(h) read Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard, Count Maeterlinck's Life of the Bee.
(i) put together the table.
(j) put away the laundry.
(k) other

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm On TV!

A couple of months ago we created this song, called I'm On TV. It was recorded as a benefit for The Strangercrombie 2007. The winners of the Strangercrombie "Make "Awesome" Create and Record an Original Song For You" auction were the folks behind Puppet Entertainment Television, and they wanted a theme song for their show. We didn't have a whole lot of time to work on it, but um, this is what we stuck them with. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Best Part of the Show

Undoubtedly, the Best Part of the Show was before the show, when Rob and Jen and Kirk and Basil and I were standing outside Neumo's, just passing the time, saying to ourselves, "Hey, I think the teenage Johnny Cash guy is playing. Maybe we should head in soon." During this time, it was noticed that across the street, up on the second floor there was a gallery, the sort with large colorful paintings on the wall and large non-representational sculptures looming, waiting to fall out of the giant open windows. And because the windows were open, we could see and hear that some kind of party was going on. It looked like adults at a gallery opening or something. Accordingly, I dared Rob to go across the street and see if he could crash the party. In fact, I told him that I'd give him $5 if he got in and waved to us from that second story window. Without a moment's hesitation, he went. He disappeared through the first floor door, and after about 5 or 10 minutes, there he was with a drink in his hand, waving to us from that second story window.

Then, suddenly, there was applause from inside this party in a gallery. All of the party goers who had been casually looking out the large windows stood up and turned around. There were flash bulbs going off. Some event had just started. Then I got a text message from Rob: "I'm trapped!" Clearly, he couldn't get out without walking right in front of the event that just started. We saw him casually shuffle over another window where there were less people and climbed halfway out, looking to see if there was any way to climb down. Nope. There was more applause from the party goers. I got another text from Rob: "Help!" It was totally awesome.

I started telling everyone who walked by until there were a bunch of us all staring up at the windows laughing. Eventually, maybe 15 minutes later, Rob left the window, and about 10 minutes later, emerged from the first floor door, striding across the street with a flute of champagne in his hand. We all applauded, and I gave him his 5 bucks. Well worth it. It turns out that it was a private birthday party for some guys named Robert and Steven. (Sorry about the party crasher guys!) The entertainment was a piano player who was performing parts of a musical she'd written, and Rob couldn't leave without walking right through the performance area, right in front of the birthday boys. Eventually he escaped through the kitchen.

Another fine performance from the guy who can get away with anything.

Or maybe the Best Part of the Show was after the show, at home, when Jen and I were playing ball with our cat who likes to fetch, and I took this picture with my fancy new digital SLR camera. (I love you fancy new digital SLR camera!) Note the gold glitter ball in the upper right.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Space Playing

I am an amateur Theremin player and enthusiast. Here is today's lesson in playing The-World's-First-Musical-Instrument-You-Don't-Touch the incorrect way. Factual inaccuracies in my account of the Theremin can be taken up with my mother. PS: I am fully aware that some new Theremin models switch their right-hand-pitch and left-hand-volume antennae around, so leave me alone, dad.

If you watch professional Theremin players, 99% of them play the pitch antenna with a loose fist, making an 'O' out of the thumb and other fingers, changing notes by subtle adjustments of the wrist (the universal jacking-off gesture) and extending the pinky finger to hit notes just out reach. This approach makes the most sense, since it affords the player easier sensitivity in hitting pitches. I do not play this way. Instead, I aim the back of my fingers to the antenna (like I gon' slap it!) and, with all four long fingers creating a wall, adjust the pitch by moving all four fingers in unison along the 'hinge' that is my knuckles, only moving my arm closer or farther away when the fingers have reached the end of their range.

The volume antenna is the younger, underused brother of the pitch antenna. After all, the fun lies in making the 'whoooop' sound, not in making it quieter. But the volume antenna is the key to those subtle moments that distinguish the Theremin tourists from the golden buddhas (???). Playing the volume antenna is counter-intuitive because you play with your left hand raised, dropping it only when you want a decrescendo. It is also used to distinguish one note from the next...otherwise, using just the right hand, the Theremin would emit one long, continuous, whiny sine-wave. For non-math nerds: That's bad. Well, depending on your artistic vision. If, for example, you are playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with the designated "Twin-kle, twin-kle, li-ttle star..." syllable breaks, the left hand dips down quickly right on the 'N' in "Twin-" and lifted immediately in time for "-kle". If you follow this pattern to speed, it's as if you're throwing your left hand toward your left shoulder on each note/syllable, causing your elbow to go out and all the little children at the birthday party to cry or scream at you.

If you watch Clara Rockmore play Theremin, her upper body is utterly still while her arms from the elbows down gracefully dance to and from the antennae with super-controlled movement. More rarely taught is that you can also play a Theremin with wild abandon when you have no patience for exact pitches and it will deliver sounds that match the intensity of your spastic movements. Yeah, I'm talking to you, spaz.

For all the melodies that can be played on Theremin ("sickeningly sweet", says John Cage), it's the wacked-out sounds I like. You can make old school record-scratch sounds by waving your right hand quickly by the pitch antenna, going in and out of pitch range so quickly that the sound just becomes a 'whoosh'. I've been using other objects to affect the pitch in an A/B fashion. For example, one of my favorite items to use is a harmonica. By placing it on the Theremin box near the pitch antenna, it does nothing on its own, but when touching the end of the harmonica (the end furtherst away from the pitch antenna), the harmonica becomes a conductor of body electricity and suddenly, the pitch jumps as many increments as you can fit into the length of the harmonica. So, hand by itself is the A note, hand on harmonica is the B note. By A/B-ing rapidly, it sounds like a flute doing a trill! Or a really annoying Theremin! Regardless, it creates great visual spectacle, causing the girls to scream and throw their wet panties at my face, which gives me acne. Finally, I've also been hooking the Theremin up to an ocatve pedal, achieving low-end sounds. (Example found in the choruses of this song.)

My Theremin heroes can be found here and here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In praise of ADT

I'm a sucker for automatic double-tracking. It sounds like it happens a little on John A's vocals in "When it Rains..." and again with Kirk on "Shape song", but I don't know if that's intentional. I probably should know stuff like that.

I do know that bands are using it all the time now for "vocal enhancement" and it's becoming played out a bit, but it's such a simple and satisfying effect when used strategically. Like reverb or delay. I love it.

You know what else I love? Potato skins with bacon and sour cream. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Poetry De Jour

One of my favorite ways of making poetry or lyrics is the “algorithmic replacement”. The gist of it is that you take some existing poem (or other text) and replace all the content words (usually you end up leaving the small words like ‘the’ and ‘of’ and such). It’s especially helpful when you find that your poetry or lyrics tend to fall into certain grammatical patterns. The resultant replacement poem will retain the grammar but otherwise be totally different from the original.

This time I tried it on a late-night menu from a jazz club. Sometimes the replacements are weird. I usually use my Fourth Edition Roget’s Thesaurus (from the 1930’s I think). It’s great because it has weird phrases that would never be used now-a-days. So for example the phrase, “SMALL PLATES. Perfect for sharing with your friends!” became “MEAGER SLABS The very prince of joint tenancy with your bedmates!”. With the help of Wikipedia and my trusty thesaurus, “Carolina Pulled-Pork” became “Home of Jim Crow Yanked-Pig.” Sometimes I can’t find a suitable replacement in my thesaurus and I just have to make something up. Thus ‘garlic’ became “vampire kryptonite”.

Here’s the whole replacement menu:

Club Jazz Nouveau, Late Night Menu Revisited.

MEAGER SLABS. The very prince of joint tenancy with your bedmates!

Soup of Beans Want of Light with 
Stumpy Avocado Corpse & Gilded Crabby Churn

Hypermodern Shrubbery with Dulcet Wrinkled Nuts, 
Molten Peaches & Swanky French Overlay 

Venerable Roman Emperor with Vampire Kryptonite Burned Bread Cubes 

Venerable Roman Emperor with Glass-Brittle Poultry Boobs 

Antique Carbuncle Beans & Rice with 
Parts of Oinking Beasts 

Smoldering Vampire Kryptonite and Cheddar Lumps with 
Acidic Emerald Onion Cream and Infantile Greens 

Reekin' Joseph's Layered Bread Slabs with 
Fried White Wheels, Frog Fries or Motley Botany
[Domestically Ash-Clouded]

Home Of Jim Crow Yanked-Pig Layered Bread Slabs with 
 Fried White Wheels, Frog Fries or Motley Botany
[Domestically Ash-Clouded]

Tiny Pithy Squidlings & Fried White Wheels From Toombs County with 
Vampire Kryptonite Frog Tincture & Blaze-Broiled Ruby Freckle Ketchup 

Layered Bread Slabs of Ash-Clouded Chest of Mooing Beast Flanked by Fried White Wheels, Frog Fries or Motley Botany
[Domestically Ash-Clouded]

Ash-Clouded Clucking Beast Limbs For Flying with Sapphire Cheese Immersing Potion

[Domestically Ash-Clouded]

Creole Stew Looking Down on Honky Rice 
(Ask server for today's selection) 

Infant Rump Bones with Nectarous Coca Bean BBQ Liquid Served Neck and Neck with Maize Loaf

[Domestically Ash-Clouded]

Mexi-Booze Greenfruit Spawnfish Taking Sabbath on Childish Plant Parts Ravaged by Puckering Caper Glop and Vampire Kryptonite Burned Bread Cubes


The original is HERE.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

News from the land of The Half Brothers!

So, David and I are in a l'il bluegrass trio with Rick Miller called The Half Brothers. Our first CD is finally finished baking, and it's called Half & Half & Half. We're having a super-secret pre-release party at Theatre Off Jackson tomorrow, Sunday the 20th, at 8pm. We'll be joined by Jose Bold and Becky Poole, and although this is not the official CD release, we'll still have CDs for sale. That's just how we roll.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A nice surprise

Somebody mowed my lawn while I was gone this week... was it you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Happiest Man in the World

I saw him today. He was standing amongst the shrubs at the side of a building, right next to the industrial vents. High-pressure air was blowing out, and he, with his hands full of groceries, was dancing around and rolling his head wildly, wearing a large smile.


Q: How are you doing?

THMitW: Dancin'!

Q: Have you tried other vents around town?

THMitW: I call this dance The Franklin!

Q: Don't you need to get your groceries home?

THMitW: Dancin'!

Q: Thanks for your time. You're an inspiration to us all.

THMitW: My pants is doin' The Franklin!

Today's CD listens were...

Is Is (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
Mikrokosmos (Bela Bartok)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Gyorgy Ligeti)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Surrounded by guitars

What does your mind conjure up with the phrase 'drum circle'? Hippies? Parking lots at Dead shows? 15 people all playing djembes in varying tempos? Now think about the phrase 'guitar circle'. Anything? No?

Sarah and I got to experience a guitar circle last night. A collective of guitarists known as the Seattle Circle puts on performances every Monday night at Fremont Abbey called Tuning The Air. Basically, it's eight guitarists who sit in a circle, and perform for an audience in the middle of that circle. I'd heard of them before, but never caught a show. For any prog geeks out there, the group is an outgrowth of this methodology/cult of guitar technique known as Guitar Craft, started by King Crimson guru Robert Fripp.

I wasn't really prepared for how amazing an experience it would be. For starters, they're all great musicians and incredibly tight. At first it's a bit unnerving, having all these really intense musicians surrounding you. But you get used to it. The pieces were all originals (with one exception: Led Zeppelin's Kashmir), and are very harmonically dense with lots of interlocking patterns that shift and confound. The sensation of hearing music like this, not just in stereo, but truly in 360 degrees, borders on the mystical. One piece was a melody that twirled around your head as each guitarist played just one note at time. Other times two guitarists on opposite ends of the circle would play the same part, and play it so precisely that it created the effect of not knowing exactly where the sound is coming from, a sort of musical ventriloquism.

Do yourself a favor, and check it out.

In honor of tax day

Confidential to the the tax code: I hate you and your ass face.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What am I doing?

It's 70+ degrees and sunny here in Seattle, and what am I doing today? My taxes. Indoors. I should get a deduction for making that sacrifice; I mean really.

On the bright side of things, earlier today my Half Bro compatriots and I did a press preview for the piece we're premiering at On The Boards' Northwest New Works Festival, an album side-length suite of songs entitled "Things Have Never Been The Same". Oh, and I made some glazed beets, which are delicious.

Friday, April 11, 2008

...And other classic favorites

1.) "Pinch a frog, get a sorpano saxophone."

2.) "Ditch a friend, acquire a Dutch carpet."

3.) "Wax a dog, see your unborn child."

4.) "Wash a lawyer, stumble upon a bake sale."

5.) "Incriminate an umpire, select one item from a wardrobe of pain."

6.) "Polish a British Navy ship, induce hives in your most fashion-forward co-worker."

7.) "Spit on a hilarious boulder, inject positive energy in the Ukranian economy."

8.) "Investigate the untimely death of Herbert Hoover, lose both your nipples."

9.) "Dodge jury duty, fall under a badonkadonk."

10.) "Eat a squirrel, see what happens."

Pinching the Frog

I went to my first Pilates session today. They have all sorts of interesting terms, like "Transversus Abdominus". One of the exercises involved something called "pinching the frog". I ended up leaving with a soprano saxophone. A nice one, too!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Band's Visit

I saw a great film last night called "The Band's Visit". It's about an Egyptian Police band that arrives to play a show in Israel... only there's no show. I think we need to get uniforms like they have. Check it out:

The Band's Visit

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Band Practice?

You've probably been wondering for some time, "What do those "Awesome" boys do at band practice?" You've probably been talking about it with your friends and co-workers for some time. While other folks sit around the water cooler talking about Obama's speech on race, or the price of tea in China, you and your friends have been arguing back and forth about what it is that we might or might not be doing when we're in our secret underground practice space, or "lair" as it is sometimes called. Well now's the time that we finally divulge our secrets. Please note that I have NOT obtained permission to expose this highly classified information. But here goes.

This is what happened last night, Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008:

First of all, "Awesome" is run by democracy/mob/confusion/e-mail threads of abstract jokes. We have no leader, per se. So for each rehearsal we appoint (by democracy/mob/confusion/etc.) a Rehearsal Captain. Last night's was John Osebold. So the first thing he did was force us to leave our precious and safe practice space to go get ice cream at one of those marbletop creamery places (that I shall forever associate with sorority girls only because the only one I'd ever gone to prior to this was on the Ave and was always packed with said humans.) Kirk offered $100 to anyone who was willing to take a crap in the garbage can by the door. No one took him up on it, but several (including myself) thought about it carefully before declining. Kirk paid for the ice cream to assuage his guilt over skipping rehearsal last week. The Johns got chocolate glop or something. Kirk got something called Love In The Oven, I think. I opted for strawberry with almonds mixed in.

Next Osebold ordered us to walk down to the Fremont cut and eat our ice cream as we watched the sun go down over the water. We talked about art and watched a barge full of sand go by. We talked about Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. Then Osebold forced us to return to the lair.

At this point Rob and Evan showed up. Then Osebold put us in 2 groups and gave us 15 minutes to make short performance art pieces. There were some restrictions, like there had to be a surprise entrance and some kind of use of "ceremony". My group (me and Kirk and John A) made a piece involving John A using his own spine to dig his grave while he sang a song about putting a peanut on the railroad tracks to make peanut butter. Meanwhile Kirk and I did three movements in slow succession: whisking a batter in a bowl that was nowhere near the whisk, trying to point out where your tooth hurts with a shaking and arthritic hand, and trying to help John A out of his grave while our arms keep falling off. Rob and Evan's piece involved them playing their instruments. Yeah, I guess you can do that. Whatever.

After that, we played some music I think. I didn't actually bring any musical instruments. I just played the one John A was playing.

Finally, we all congratulated ourselves on a job well done and went home, avoiding the Fremont Bridge which was closed.