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playing tunes

I've returned to active music-making with Byron, friend and fellow work web guy, in the past month and it's as great as I remember. I'm appalled at myself to admit that it's been since circa 1994 in Iowa City that I played regularly with another live person (as opposed to one-time stints or just solo recording or doing nothing at all) -- and by most systems of math THAT'S TEN FREAKING YEARS! Holy Jesus on a Marshall amp, but these are bad signs that I've not only reached middle age but have forgotten what was fun during my otherwise-bland 20's already. I wholeheartedly suck at suckiness, if that's not too redundant.

But extensive self-laothing aside, it's great to get back to it, to feel a song come together live, to stumble through all the mistakes enough times that we arrive at that moment where it just works and starts to happen subconsciously. With some Google research that I'm not inclined to do at the moment, I expect I could find some good quotes about the longstanding human tradition of creating music as trance-inducing, mind-healing, soul-lifting experience; and even if not, I'd believe it anyways, because after an hour of stumbling through some songs (and, to be perfectly clear, no supplemental chemicals) I feel my 10:30am post-coffee high even though it's the end of a long day and my fingertips all hurt. Hurray for hard fun - I love it!
We're finding some good complementary aspects, despite my myriad flaws at playing bass, guitar, remembering song structures and singing, and I'm liking the songs he suggests pretty well, which in my prior band experience is about all you can ask for. It hasn't ruined our friendship yet!

Our provisional playlist is something like this:

big yellow taxi - counting crows
melissa - allman bros
out of my head - fastball
wall of death - r.e.m.
tea in the sahara - police
hallelujah - rufus wainwright
hangin blue side - son volt

And some others I can't recall at the moment, too. Byron, masterful technician that he is, has got me in the habit of finding lyrics online and ACTUALLY PRINTING them, so that we can play a song with a bit o' structure and not vacuously speculate as to the real lyrics or number of choruses... what a perfectionist! He balances out my lazy what-the-fuck attitude. It's pretty swell that he's a former music major too, because they guy can plot out chord charts in his head (astounding!) and yells things like "Play the major third!" or "Pedal D!" -- to which I reply "Huh?" and just keep thumping along spastically. I'm sure it'll all end badly.

What fun.
~ scott @ 11:04 AM [link]
What to say about San Francisco?

So I just got back from SF, a chock-full 5 days of being somewhere other than Greencastle, and I return with these nuggets of thought for your pondering:

A. The Asian Art Museum was really well done, and in a newly rennovated building that was excellent. The permanent collection on display was kind of sparse for my tastes, but I guess they're going with the newer museum trend of not cramming the available square footage full of thousands of pieces when mere hundreds will do. Not enough emphasis on ceramics, of course, but then again I might be biased. The pots they chose were really nice, with very appropriate curating, from my perspective. I saw a few examples that I'd never come across before, and with my new found interest in brushwork and decorating, really focused on those pots. I'm consistently in awe at seeing the same telltale marks of a brush on a pot that is 4000 years old as I get in my basement today. The age of this medium is a huge part of its power... almost like pots are hardwired into the human worldview.

B. The Alcatraz tour was great; a choppy boat ride across the bay, free wandering on the walking tour, and the usual national parks schmaltzy stuff. I was disappointed to see the continuing trend of automated audio tours replacing human rangers... I've gotten old enough to appreciate the quirky tourguides (as with PBS and 60 Minutes on tv), but it's happened just as they're dying out. Sad. Poor rangers.

The most surreal part of being on The Rock wasn't the "oohh, it's a scary old prison" factor, but instead the virtual deja vu of having spent many hours, 'fraid to say, navigating the island by skateboard, under the auspices of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. Same with Fisherman's Wharf. How bizarre to know a place I've never been, to have such strong spatial memories, and even to feel like the real thing is "wrong" where it doesn't match up to the virtual environment. And where's my goddamn skateboard!? My crew and I talked about how that virtual knowledge of physical space is coming at us full-steam; as the development costs of simulating a place plummet from million-dollar game developer level to personal desktop software, sooner or later just about every public space will be mapped, GPS tracked, visualized in 3D and navigable remotely. No one will ever need to go anywhere! Yay for us antisocial recluses!

C. Oh yeah, the ostensible reason I was there was the Flashforward 2004 conference, trip fully-funded by The U. The sessions were certainly informative, and I'll dredge up info I gathered there later on in several ways, but I have to say that the Flash ship has somewhat sailed for me in terms of wild abandonment and unadulterated enthusiasm. When I fantasized about going to this conference a few years back, Flash was still brand new to me as a dev tool, and it was almost exclusively focused on whiz-bang motion graphics - my first love in webworld. Nowadays, it's being promoted as a full application dev environment, which it can do and is cool, but that's secondary for me... the focus of the conference was on the new stuff, and hence a lot more code heavy and design light than I'd have liked. Live and learn.

The Film Festival part was pretty swell, though, and several of the categories made me want to get back to the half-dozen or so projects lingering on my hard drive, particularly the ridiculous idea of creating visuals to go along with lou shoes + sweaters songs from scratch. Three minutes of flash animation takes forever!

D. One thing about the big city is that is puts the homeless issue (and the class/caste one as well) right in front of your face. Certainly a lot less obvious in a small midwestern town, and something I just don't think about much since I so rarely see it. I seemed to have a strange attraction for several of these guys - perhaps because I've lost the detached "go away" 1,000-yard stare of the urban sophisticate and unintentionally broadcast curiosity - and had some memorable run-ins.

"I just woke up - what day is it?"
"Friday, it's Friday evening."
"No, you're wrong sir - it's Saturday."
"Sorry, but today's Friday..."
"No sir, it's Saturday!"
"I just woke up - what day is it?"
~ scott @ 10:49 AM [link]