Archive for My Life

XKCD

Sometime last year, a friend of mine turned me on to XKCD. In my travels around the intertubes interweb internet, I come across many web comics made for geeks and gamers. XKCD is my favorite of the bunch – it’s consistently funny, and unlike with the gamer comics, even if I haven’t been up on the geek news for the past few weeks, I usually still get the humor. Even if you don’t score very high on geek quizzes, you should get at least some of the humor. (You are reading a blag, so I’ll assume you’re part of one of the internet-ready generations)

So, umm, yeah . . . I bring up XKCD because today’s comic is particularly applicable to my life. Many people who have heard my music collection played on shuffle don’t know what to make of it. Years ago (when my collection was less diverse than it is now) it wasn’t uncommon to hear dancehall reggae followed by The Muppets or show tunes (anyone else like The Pajama Game?) followed by Akinyele (You know you still love Put It In Your Mouth).

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Capoeira

Many years ago (does that make me sound old) I encountered a friend of mine as I was walking down a hallway. I jokingly put up my fists. In the next instant, he disappeared. One more instant, and his foot was about an inch from my face. Once my brain was able to process what had happened, I realized that he had somehow dropped to the ground, stood on his head and thrown a kick. That was my very first encounter with Capoeira – it was brief, but I never forgot it. My friend told me about it and invited me to classes. He regularly encouraged me to check out the classes, but I was busy and constantly broke at the time. About five years later, I finally got around to taking a class. (It was six years before I went to the particular class he had told me about).

In the years between first hearing about Capoeira and taking a class, I had learned a little more about it and even seen some demonstrations. I started the class already having some familiarity with the basic movement, jenga, and with some basic kicking knowledge gained from other martial arts I’ve dabbled in. I felt pretty good about myself throughout the class – it seemed like I was picking things up pretty quickly. That feeling changed when I got into my first rhoda. The rhoda is the circle where you actually do Capoeira. Some call it a dance and some call it a game. That first time in the circle, with feet rapidly flying toward my face, it didn’t feel like either. It felt like “run for your life!” Now, whenever I see a newcomer step into his first rhoda and freeze up, I chuckle to myself as I remember my first time. I also think about the pain they’ll be feeling the next day – Capoeira has a way of introducing you to muscles that you didn’t know you had.

Due to life’s inevitable complications, I started and stopped several times. My last stretch was very definitely my most intense. I was taking classes multiple times a week, and I even started taking some classes teaching a different style of Capoeira with the hope that the diversity of styles would help improve my overall abilities. The effects of the intensity were definitely beginning to show . . . right up until I stopped. For three years.

For three years, I’ve been promising myself that I would get back to Capoeira one day, but time kept passing and it kept not happening. Well, about a month ago, I finally made it back. The first few classes were physically and mentally painful. The physical part was because I was out of shape. As for the mental part – I knew that I wouldn’t come back and instantly be at the same level that I was at when I stopped, but it was disappointing to see how far I had actually fallen. Still, despite my disappointment, I knew that I would get there, so I’ve been working hard. The hard work is paying off – even now I am doing much better than a month ago. I wanted to write about this now so that later, when I’m better than I was before I stopped, I can read this and smile.

If you’re interested in trying Capoeira, I found this directory through Google, though I’m not sure how accurate and up-to-date it is. You might be better off typing “capoeira” and your city or state name into a search box. If you’re looking for Philly area classes, hit me up or look here.

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In With the Old

Today I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with some co-workers. The restaurant we went to is one of my favorite places to eat in Philly. Despite that, I haven’t eaten there in years. I forgot all about the place. There have been a few times recently when my lady and I found ourselves completely uninspired when trying to figure out where to eat, and this place never crossed my mind.

I’m wondering if there are other things from my past that could be enriching my life now, if they hadn’t been forgotten. Even as I write this, some things are coming to mind. We tend to look to memories as ways of reliving what once was, the good times we had but memories can also be the key to the good times to come. Don’t forget that.

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Mobile Blogging

I am writing this entry on my newest gadget – an ipaq 110. The ipaq is a PDA – no phone, just a PDA. Sales on phoneless PDA’s have been abysmal over the past few years, especially in comparison to smartphones. I am purposely going against the trend.It’s not that I don’t see the benefits of having one device, the problem is that when it comes to purchasing smartphones in this country, I see nothing but a bunch of bad options. Let’s see . . .

- I could’ve taken the standard path – buy a smartphone that is subsidized by a service provider. After paying a chunk of money, I would’ve been stuck with a 2 year contract, a phone that would not have worked on other networks, and a monthly bill that was inflated by data costs. To cut down on data costs, I could’ve gone with a wi-fi enabled phone, but phones with wi-fi are more expensive.

- I could’ve bought an unlocked phone which would not be limited to one network. I would’ve spent a LOT more money, and once again I would’ve been forced to choose between extra data costs and expensive wi-fi.

- I could’ve bought a network subsidized phone and then used one of the various unlocking methods to get rid of network limitations. Depending on the phone model, unlocking can cost money and it can be risky – just look at the horrible experiences many iphone users had with unlocked phones.

None of these options seems worth it to me, especially considering the alternative – a plain old PDA. My ipaq 110 has wi-fi and bluetooth. I can get online, work on my website, blog, write lyrics, and more – and I don’t have to deal with any monthly fees or contracts. Counting shipping costs, the ipaq cost about $280 (www.datavis.com) – comparable to the initial cost of some of the cheaper smartphones. If you want to factor in the other costs, you could add the data costs for the 2 years of contract time (I believe it usually starts around $20/month) and you’ll find that a $280 smartphone really costs you $568. Ouch! I think I got a good deal.

So, my hope is that my ipaq will make me more efficient. There have been many times when I wanted to do some writing, but I was not at a computer or the computer I was at didn’t have the file I wanted to work on. Now, that won’t be a problem because my computer is with me. My e-mail is with me, my RSS feeds are with me, my schedule, my lyrics – it’s all here in my hand.

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Missing Summer

This is the first day since last winter that I’ve worn a sweater. Last night, as I was watching the news, I unhappily noted that the highest number in the five day forecast started with a six. I hate to admit it, but summer is over. I’ve never liked the cold, so summer has always been my favorite time of year. Over the past few years of my life, it’s become even more important to me, as I’ve been spending more time outside – hanging out in the park, walking, partying, biking . . . the list goes on. Colder weather doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll stop doing those things, but from now on, it’s going to be a bit more uncomfortable and a bit more unpleasant – whether because of ridiculously cold whether or the uncomfortable bulkiness of multiple layers used to keep the warmth in and the ridiculous coldness out. It’s a lose-lose situation.

And it’s not just about how the weather directly affects me. Winter means that when I step outside, I’m less likely to see, meet, and speak to interesting people. People-watching season is over. The assortment of people is one of the things that I love about Philly, but for the next several months, the world will be a less colorful place – literally and figuratively.

I guess the cold months aren’t all bad – they bring the holidays, an excuse to be cuddled and comfy with my lady, the satisfaction of stepping out of the cold into a warm house. It’s not enough though. I’ve always preferred too hot over too cold. In the summer, I make an effort not to complain about the heat, even on the worst days, because I am grateful. I often joke that I love global warming because it means more tolerable winters – and there really is a bit of truth in every joke. On those unnatural winter days when the temperature hits 70, as one part of me fears for the future of mankind (not the earth because nature always finds a way) another part of me rejoices in the stolen moments of warmth.

Oh well. It was a good summer. I’ll miss you.

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Lifetime Achievment Goal

It hit me the other day that it would be cool if after a musician’s death, they had enough of his music to do a 24 hour tribute. Now that’s a new goal for me. I want to release enough music to fill 24 hours without any songs being repeated. Between Reverse Psychology, Meeting of Minds, and Rough Drafts, I already got the first 2+ hours out of the way. Now some (very roughly estimated) numbers:

  • I have to release 21+ more hours of music to meet my goal.
  • Over the past 2 years I’ve released 1 album per year.
  • Each album is around 60 minutes.
  • I need to release 21 more albums.
  • If I stick to doing an album a year, I can meet my goal before I reach retirement age.
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True Story

The names in this story are changed. Otherwise, it is a true story.

I had a client, Dave, who recorded his whole album in my home studio. He was very happy with the quality of the recording and mixing, so after the album was done, he came back to record a song that he was working on with another artist, Robert. The whole time that Robert was in my studio, he kept making small comments, implying that because it was a home studio, the quality of the music would not be good. My studio is not flashy and when it comes to looks, it doesn’t have much in common with a professional studio, so I ignored the comments. I assumed that when Robert heard the end result, he’d realize that appearance isn’t everything. I wasn’t really feeling Robert’s condascending attitude, but other than that, the session went well. Robert had to leave before I mixed the song, so he didn’t hear the final version that day, but I mixed it and gave a copy to Dave. As usual, Dave was very happy with the result.

Fast forward several months. I ran into Robert and he told me that he finally got to hear the mixed version of the song. He loved it and was very impressed by the mixing. He said that the second version he heard was much better than the first. Second version? First? After the conversation, I realized that I didn’t remember if I had done two versions or if I’d given Dave a rough version of the song before giving him a final mix. Maybe he’d had someone else mix the song after me and the second version that Robert was praising wasn’t even the one I did! I didn’t want to take credit that didn’t belong to me, so I went to Dave and asked him if the mix Robert had heard was the one that I had done.

Dave told me that not only was it the same mix that I had done, it was identical to the “first version” that Robert said he didn’t like. Apparently, I did mix the song the same day we recorded it. Soon after that, Dave gave Robert a copy of it. Robert listened to it and told Dave to send it to him when he had it mixed in a real studio. Months later, Robert told Dave he was still waiting to get a copy of that song. Dave sent Robert the exact same file. Robert loved it.

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Performance Notes – Lessons Learned

On Tuesday night I went to a small open mic night. The vibe was different than what I’m used to. Lately I’ve been performing for people who came out specifically to see underground hip-hop. On Tuesday, it seemed that most of the people came out for the event (free food, open bar, etc.) instead of the music. On top of that, the first performer went on stage and rapped about guns, money, and hoes – typical mainstream hip-hop subject matter. The crowd seemed to react well to him. At the other events I’ve performed at lately, the crowd would have not-so-subtly stepped outside to socialize until his performance ended. I was second. I got up there and performed Resistance (from Reverse Psychology – which should be out by the end of this month) . It didn’t start off well. The DJ scratched it in instead of just playing it, so I lost track of where I was supposed to start. During the first verse, the music was way too low – the DJ did not seem to be paying attention to levels throughout the whole night – and it’s hard for me to get into the song when I have to concentrate just to hear the beat. Some of the people in the crowd were paying attention, but I knew I could do better. During the chorus, I signaled for the DJ to turn up the music, and I put my heart into the next two verses. It worked. I got their full attention. Lesson learned – just because people like music with no content doesn’t mean they won’t respond well to music that attempts to be thought provoking.

Towards the end of the night, when the host said he was putting on the last MC, a girl went up to the stage and corrected him – there was one more MC who wanted to perform. The MC who had been getting introduced offered to allow “ladies first.” She said “hold on, let me get a shot and then I’ll be ready” and walked away. The guy went ahead and performed. I don’t think he had been serious about letting her go first, but still – lesson learned – do not make the crowd wait for you while you do something completely unrelated and unnecessary.

So this girl had already called attention to herself when she approached the stage. When it was her turn, she went in the back to conference with the DJ while the host did his best to stall for her. Finally he told her she’d had enough time and she needed to do what she was doing. Apparently, she had been picking out a beat. She came out on stage and the audience gave her a welcoming round of applause. She corrected us, saying ,”like this,” as she raised her hands in the air and began snapping. I guess clapping wasn’t Nuyorican Cafe enough for her. As the music started, she told the audience that she had just written what she was about to perform. She then began to rap from a paper. Performing poetry from paper can work because there is no music to keep up with. Singing from paper can work because singers’ lyrics are usually less dense with more room for pauses than rap lyrics. Lesson learned – rapping from paper doesn’t work.

Her lyrics were full of awkward pauses as she figured out what was on the paper or as she realized that a particular word was too early or too late. It was not going well. Finally, about half way through, she stopped and told the DJ that the beat was too fast. “Do it acapella!” the host yelled. So she did it acapella. What followed was a mediocre, at best, poetry performance. I would have been a lot less harsh in my judgment of the final poem if this girl hadn’t made a big scene out of approaching the stage, making people wait, and insisting we snap for her. With all that build-up, her performance should have been amazing. Instead it was simply anti climatic. Lesson learned – do not make a big production and draw tons of attention to yourself when you’re about to suck or be mediocre.

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