Tuesday - December 11, 2007

Category Image  Moments musical

While doing a few dishes this evening and some mental planning for this weekend's visit by Dr. Rush, I had a good memory of our 1998(?) spontaneous performance of Boston's "More Than a Feeling" at the IASPM-US conference at UCLA.  It became somewhat legendary thanks to Dr. Rush's impassioned and spot-on impersonation of Brad Delp, Boston's lead singer.  "That was a great moment," I thought to myself, and immediately set about thinking of other such moments in my musical life.  So, here in no particular order, are six.  You should consider this a meme...

1. Performance of "More Than a Feeling" (1998) – I think Dr. Rush or Amper7sand reintroduced me to the transcendent glory of Boston's three worthwhile songs ("MTaF", "Peace of Mind", "Foreplay/Long Time"), and the three of us, plus Cute Kurt on bass, had been jamming on MTaF for a few weeks at rehearsals in Riverside.  Anyway, during the opening reception at the IASPM-US conference there were instruments available for an open jam and after a bunch of Chuck Berry, etc covers featuring Dr. Baur on drums and Steve Waksman on bass, I grabbed one of the guitars and started in on the opening of MTaF, just to see if anyone would follow along.  I was pleasantly surprised when Baur, a child of the 70s, and Waksman started following along.  Surprised because Boston at an academic pop-music conference was (and still is) a bit declassé.  But they kept going!  And they -- holy crap -- knew the song.  And -- holy crap -- they knew the weird bit at the end of the chorus.  And -- holy crap -- they knew it right now.  Transcendence during the really high vocal bit and guitar solo followed and then big cheers from the assembled musicologists.  I think Waksman and some other guys then went into "God Save the Queen," which totally rocked.

2. Performance of Megadeth's "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due" (2004) – I've written about this gig before.  Still can't believe I played so many notes.

3. Singing along with thousands of strangers to Dream Theater's "The Spirit Carries On" (2000).  At the Palace in Hollywood during DT's tour supporting their Scenes From a Memory album, the fire marshall pulled the plug on the show (overcrowding) just as this song was getting started.  As this was a concept album, we didn't get to hear the end of the album's "story".  While the crowd sang along with the first verse, the P.A. was cut and singer James Labrie left the stage.  Then the crowd continued singing, straining to hear the guitars that were being played through only their onstage amps.  Finally the power to the backline was cut, but we all kept singing.  It's a cheesy lyric, in no way my favorite song from that album, but it was quite something that night and it's turned into something of a revival-style moment in the set in later years on subsequent tours.  After clearing the theatre, we were met by a battalion of L.A.'s finest in full riot gear and the night went down hill from there...

4. Leading the IASPM-US house band ("The Roadcrew" -- after the Motörhead song, natch) at the 2003 conference at UCLA.  With the legend of MTaF still present in my mind, I set out to top it with more fun performances of classic rock songs at academic conferences.  So, I recruited four other grad students and came up with four tunes easily learnable by those fine musicians.  I made strategic cuts to the songs (mostly second verses and long intros) to keep the crowd interested.  Better still was the fact that they could all sing harmony vocals, which made the song selection straightforward.  We actually rehearsed for a couple of weeks before the opening reception of the conference.  While this performance was far more planned it seemed to get a good reception, and I remember feeling incredibly proud that it all came off.  Our set: Boston, "Peace of Mind" (wanted to reestablish the Boston thing), Kansas, "Carry On Wayward Son" (learned to love this tune during the Mirror Image days), Cheap Trick, "Dream Police" (contrast the theatrical middle section with the huge pop of the chorus!), The Cure, "Just Like Heaven" (I actually had to sing this one...), and Poison, "Talk Dirty to Me" (a fun way to make the crowd roll their eyes at first, but then be impressed by how tight you pull it off!).

5. KISS day, 1996.  Having worked with Erich and Chris from Mirror Image for several years, and been sucked into KISS-dom by them, I'd enjoyed learning quite a few of their classic tunes.  Thus, I was excited to go with everyone to see the big KISS reunion tour, where they put the make up back on and did the whole stage show from 1977-1978.  With the concert that evening, a large group of us gathered at Chris' house for an all-day pre-party featuring bootleg KISS videos on all the TVs, every bit of KISS memorabilia they owned on display, and of course our instruments.  What followed was about 90 minutes of any KISS song we could think of.  I had spent the weekend before woodshedding the first five albums as best I could since I wanted to pull out some really obscure stuff, but we mostly stuck to the classics like "Detroit Rock City," "Cold Gin," "Love Gun," "Strutter," "Come On and Love Me," and "Rock and Roll All Nite."  Then four of them did their KISS make up and got into the Dressed to Kill outfits and we took the limo to the show.  It was great.  Kim's Pat vomited out the back door window on the way home, so it was totally rock-n-roll.

6. Singing solo in Tosca (2006).  I've written about this one, too.  Suffice it say it still makes R3P roll her eyes in mock disgust that I turned out to the professional opera singer in the household!

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Tuesday - September 18, 2007

Category Image Homestar Runner -- Harbinger of Fascism 

 Reviewing my Netflix queue this afternoon revealed an interesting connection I'd not thought of.


Who knew?

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Monday - August 06, 2007

Category Image Interesting stats from Amazon 

Amazon.com has done some statistical analysis on the book: http://tinyurl.com/ytsg9j.  The Concordance chart is nifty and I'm glad I actually talked about music in the book instead of just whiny "feelings."  Real musicology, that.  However (a word which is on the Concordance chart), I don't know whether to be proud that I'm harder to read than 92% of the books out there, or that you need a 16th Grade education to even get past the book's title.  Still (which is also on the Concordance chart -- geez this is embarrassing), at almost 30 words per sentence, I'm sure there's some payoff.  Or, at least a good belch...

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Thursday - August 02, 2007

Category Image This is a test 

 Testing iBlog 2.0

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Sunday - July 22, 2007

Category Image Hand Job

What's with all the advertising nowadays that extols the virtues of having something done by hand? I hear radio commercials all the time for "hand-leafed" lettuce or "hand-scooped" ice cream. Um, I'd actually prefer you use an ice cream scoop to make my sundae instead of your hand, thank you very much. hehe And, combined with the Brittany-Spears-groan thing female voice-overs add to food commercials (and commercials for Las Vegas), it's all very weird. I'm just waiting for those companies that rip your CDs to your iPod for you to start claiming they "hand-rip" every CD...


Ok, back to your regularly scheduled Sunday. 

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Sunday - July 22, 2007

Category Image Look kids! Corn!

1. Corn.
2. Trains at night
3. Midwestern thunderstorms and buckets of rain
4. Near-tropical lushness of Wisconsin
5. Soybeans.
6. Pleasantness of family -- 20+ second cousins and lots of old family photos
7. Shagging fly balls at Field of Dreams Movie Site in Iowa (FYI, "shagging" has nothing to do with Austin Powers...)
8. Pleasantness of Madison, WI -- only as large as Modesto, CA until the college kiddies arrive
9. Stupid toll system on Illinois interstate highways around Chicago (not the tolls themselves, but the piecemeal system used to collect them)
10. The dying (dead?) midwestern town
11. Corn.
12. $19/day Chevy Aveo with power nothing (locks, windows, mirrors, no cruise control, one cup holder). Big trunk though!
13. New Salem Historical Site outside of Petersburg with recreated building of mid-19th century town and costumed actors on hand to interpret (some better than others)
14. "Hearty" midwestern foodstuffs and the blissful release of a simple and light Subway sandwich
15. Pleasant lunch in downtown Maquokata, IA. Go ahead, try to guess the pronunciation.
16. Can there be patriotism without militarism?
17. Learning Pete's dad was known as "Pookie" back in the day and was fascinated by water going under bridges
18. Soybeans.

Still working on pictures and the unanticipated amount of family history video taken with the digital camera. We went through almost 4 GB of memory cards (had to keep buying them!).

Click the image to watch a 12-minute, 52 MB film of the Petersburg part of the trip. It's probably best to click the image then go put some tea on or do a load of laundry while the file loads.

The elderly people in the video are Pete's Uncle Earl and Aunt Gerrie. Everyone else is a cousin of some sort or other. 

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Thursday - July 12, 2007

Category Image Pete's Final Post... 

...before he leaves for vacation in the wilds of the Midwest. It's a small family reunion of Pete's paternal family in Petersburg, IL this weekend (flying into Chicago). Following that, Pete and R3P drive north through rural Illinois to southwestern Wisconsin for a couple of days. "Because it's there" is the answer to why we're going to Wisconsin. On Wednesday we drive back to Chicago for our Thursday morning flight home. Lunch in Madison ("ooh, Madison" is what everyone has said today) along the way.

Pete spent about an hour finessing the planned route at Google Maps, using the new customizing feature. You can find it here (GM simply would not let us drive up IL 97 without strange jaunts off and back on the highway, hence all the "stops" near Petersburg -- strange).

Pictures when we get back! 

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Saturday - June 30, 2007

Category Image Interesting stuff 

Did you hear about Google's new maps? They finally let you create the actual route you want to take without having to know (and type) an exact waypoint. You simply drag a part of the existing route over the new area to be included and it does all the recalculations for you. This is great for people like Pete who simply like to drive, often times making it up as we go. With the new system Pete can return home and then create a digital map of the day's travels simply by dragging. This Pete likes. 'Tis interesting.

Another interesting thing is Pete's new 'mer'can flag:
He figured the wind had to be good for something, and he's always wanted a 31-star U.S. flag (the site that sells them has been in his bookmark file for almost ten years) because a) they're neat and b) he'll dead in the cold, cold ground 'fore he up 'n recognizes the state of Minnesota. Still, Pete's been a little concerned about the integrity of the $9 flag pole (with plastic gold eagle at the top!).

By the way, you can blame R3P for the increased wind of late. SHE suggested to the apt. office that they take down the huge dead willow that was in danger of falling into one of the nearby buildings in the complex. Oops. We now know that the old girl (the tree, that is) was a great wind blocker and a decent shade creator. As it is now, it's basically like living on Mars only without two cuddly rover robots to take mineral samples from you. Full disclosure: Pete did not disagree with the telling of the office about the tree.


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Saturday - June 09, 2007

Category Image Ah, summer 

First, I sort of fulfilled almost every guy's fantasy on Friday: I got to go inside a sorority house (built in 1925) and walk around and imagine all the pillow fights...

Ok, weekend was grand. Truly felt like the summer has finally started (condolences to those living on the wrong side of the Earth who are descending into winter). Uncovered the grill, cleaned it up, and beef was seasoned, charred, and consumed using the table and chairs we bought last summer. Veggies as well. I'm never very confident in my grilling abilities, unlike RW's "thrill of the grill/licensed to grill" mentality, but the steaks came out wonderfully. Perfect weather, too. Oh, R3P's been growing lettuces in a large pot on the balcony, so she made a nice little salad. Stockton isn't the best place to grow lettuce of course, but I'm just impressed it's grown and is edible.

Home improvement has been the mark of the last two weekends. Last time it was Home Depot for balcony roll-up shades. Pete's grand idea was to build, in essence, an awning out from the edge of the apartment building. This would shade the balcony without blocking the view the way a roll-up shade would when it's rolled down. A couple of sleepless nights later and the plan was formed. Dowels and bolts and heavy flag-holder supports were purchased. Dowels were sawed, holes drilled, supports attached and...it worked! It was beautiful -- the shade was attached to two supports, which were themselves attached to two "arms" that connected to the balcony railing. For 10 minutes it was perfect, but then we were reminded that we live on the delta, and the winds simply don't cooperate. A 6x6 shade strung up on two 3/4" 5'-long dowels that are attached to two other 3/4" dowels turns into a 72 sq.ft. sail, and is simply no match for the delta "breeze." The whole contraption was ripped to shreds. Well, one of the supports was simply sheared apart by the wind, but the effect was a waste of about $20 in materials. Sigh.

This week we simply bought a $80 kitchen trash can. It's fancy though! And red. And then we went to Food-4-Less because we spent too much money on the trash can. Did I mention it's fancy though? And red?

Oh, there was more stuff too. Chores and groceries and Target-type stuff and pleasant tunes on the stereo courtesy of iTunes, but I'll leave those details to the whims of your imagination. Post 'em in the comments if you like! 

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Friday - May 25, 2007

Category Image Update 

Just a quick note to satiate your thirst for news.
• So looking forward to a weekend getaway in Cambria starting tomorrow. It's been a long and grueling spring (though productive!) and we're both ready for a break, and for summer. 
• Reviewed Damn Yankees! for the local paper last week. Solid effort, but I ended up calling it mixed
• We have a Ports mini plan again this year, after taking last year off (no workie, no baseball-ie). In the interim we filled our time with more...refined...outings such as singing in the opera, writing about the symphony, reviewing theatuh, etc. So, coming back to the ballpark was a little strange. Completely different crowds for the most part. Unfortunately, the Ports are a floundering, uninspiring bunch this year, and with the novelty of the new stadium worn off (beautiful though it is! the stadium I mean, not the novelty), it's a little hard to stay past the seventh inning. It's L.A. of us, but the games are soooo looooooong. Whaaaaah. 
• Work's been good, I have to say. It's annual review time right about now, and my review was transcendent. I knew it would be. I've been planning all year for it to be as such. I'm that good. Seriously. It's all about vindication. It'll be posted on the refrigerator. Ok. Back to humble-time. 
• Had my first speaking engagement on the book, or at least a chapter. Goron the Tall invited me to speak to his Writing About Music class. Had a lovely time with his students and then an even lovelier time with Mr. Tall's Woman and Offspring. Rode in Woman's Prius, first time in one of those and I finally understood what the point is, and, sad to say, I'm not really sold. Offspring and I had a nice chat about school and Dora. She's a keeper. 
• Looking forward to also to a plethora of family reunion-type events in July. One weekend for the Runners and two weekends later in Illinois for the Pillsburys. Pete and his middle brother haven't been back to the homestead in around 20 years, so it should be good. We're planning on spending about four or five extra days in the area, maybe visit Wisconsin since neither of us (Pete especially) has been to that state.

Good enough? ;-) 

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Saturday - April 14, 2007

Category Image Music Week 

This is the time of the year when things get busy, musically. Tonight is the second and final performance of Beethoven 9 and Chris Brubeck's new piece "Music Is the Power." Last night we had tickets to the big Dave Brubeck concert at the Conservatory as part of the annual Brubeck Festival. Thursday evening was the first Beethoven/Brubeck concert and the three previous evenings were spent in rehearsal for them. Tomorrow evening is the final Sunday regular rehearsal for the all-Brahms concert with the Master Chorale, and rehearsals for the final concert of the big Chorale resume on Monday. Did I say it was busy, musically?

An update to the last Beethoven post: it's quite a different piece when you're inside a performance of 300+ singers and instrumentalists. The choral section is still shouty and screamy, and Beethoven still isn't a vocal composer, but it's hard not to be impressed by the aesthetic experience of actually performing the Ninth.

Brubeck the Younger has also written a good work, and it gets the difficult job of opening for the Ninth. Well, someone's got to do it. You can read more about Brubeck and his new work in the preview article.

Last night's concert by Brubeck the Elder was quite nice. Dave and the Brubeck Quartet opened with over an hour of music. He's 87 and pretty frail, but it's pretty amazing to see that he's still 100% there rhetorically and in terms of his interactions with the other guys in the group. About halfway through, the quartet was joined by vocalist Roberta Gambarini. She sang a few very old Brubeck songs quite nicely, as well as doing some scat singing during other numbers (such as the venerable "Take Five"). Not a fan of scat singing, and that's all I'll say. After intermission we were treated to a wonderful performance of "Cannery Row," a very recent work by Dave (and lyrics by Iola). Brubeck the Younger sang in it and played bass guitar and bass trombone, while two of the Beethoven soloists also performed. It's basically a song suite, unstaged though there were basic costumes. It's very short and there isn't any drama or story, just four or five vignettes on the characters in Steinbeck's novel. Still, it was great.

Ok. Enough for now. It's Saturday and I get to wallow on Saturdays. Bye. 

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Sunday - April 01, 2007

Category Image On Democracy and Authoritarianism 

Interesting incident at work a few days ago with a student I was helping. He came into the studio and asked for my help with, of all things, his vocabulary assignment. He's an advanced non-native English speaker who is in a remedial reading course and I'd helped him before while he was working on a podcast recording of an previous vocab list. This assignment consisted of a list of vocab words and next to each were four choices. From them he was to circle the word that was closest to being the vocab word's opposite. He did very well on the vast majority of the words (though the choices were sometimes really strange and only distantly related to the vocab words).

However, one word that tripped him up was "authoritarian." He had circled "fictional" as the word's opposite. I then asked him to tell me what authoritarian meant. He sort of stumbled and couldn't really. I then explained that authoritarian was basically about concentrating power in the hands of a few (or one) with no meaningful way for others to object, etc. I even mentioned Saddam Hussein as an example of an authoritarian leader -- whatever Saddam says, goes. At this point I expected him to see the correct answer -- "democratic" -- but he didn't. I then pointed out that democratic was the correct answer and he actually asked me what the word meant. In ensuing comments it became clear that he'd never actually heard the word "democracy" before and couldn't use it to identify the U.S. as a "democratic" nation.

After looking over his work, we got to talking and it comes out that he had spent several years in the U.S. Army and had even served in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 where he'd been on the front lines. That he wouldn't have been able to explain one of the main motives for the war is ironic to say the least. Of course soldiers being unable to explain why they're at war is not necessarily new, but seems odd in this day and age. More shocking I suppose is his presence at a university when he can't describe the concept of democracy. 

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Monday - January 29, 2007

Category Image Beethoven 

We're doing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (by Beethoven, aka "The Ninth") in Chorale this semester with the symphony. The choral section sucks. One note, really loud, really high. Repeat. Sit next to sopranos for two hours: leave rehearsal deaf. Gah. Terrible. Really terrible. Should be banned.

On the other hand, the Christopher Brubeck piece that's also on the program (a world premiere by the son of Dave) is quite nice. Lots of silky jazz-like chords and stacked chromaticism. Reminds me a little of Mr. Whitacre, though the scale of the Brubeck piece is much larger. As a plus, he's local, which is always cool.

P.S. Happy new year... 

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Thursday - October 19, 2006

Category Image Whence the Romulans? 

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Thursday - October 19, 2006

Category Image I hate Macs 

Got the full thrust of Mac woe this afternoon as I wrestled with the inability of our four Mac Minis to perform the way a 21st century computer should.

1. Dog slow. Safari, especially, takes too long to open, and when it does there is an embarrassing stall while it does...something...before releasing control to the user and letting them type. Logging in...start-up items just bounce and bounce and bounce...beachball just spins and spins and spins. Interface elements just take their sweet time to open and close. Maybe it's supposed to symbolize "gracefulness" but after using Windows all day you realize it's just "slowness." Always has been.

2. Won't read a simple CD-R consistently. Some Minis read it, other don't. No scary message about being unable to recognize the CD. Just nothing. No mounting, nothing.

3. Dog slow. Now that Macs use Intel processors, we can compare apples to Apples. Why should I buy a 2.1 gHz iMac for $300 more than a 2.8 gHz Dell, including 20" monitor? And 12 USB ports between the machine and monitor? Apple used to be able to (partially) justify its higher cost by saying it really was faster, you just had to use "new math" to see it. No longer. Now, it's just more expensive to get a slower machine.

4. Constantly forgets the printers are installed. Embarrassing when you have students innocently trying to print their papers and they have to come get me to reinstall printers. Again. Stupid students. Should just use Windows -- no problems.

5. Not really designed for a lab, managed environment, without a lot of holes and a lot of extra work, especially if you can't work with AD because your IT division won't loosen their policy.


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