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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend...

I hesitate to start this entry with anything along the lines of "I've almost figured out what's wrong with my computer," or "I haven't blogged in a while." The first would jinx me and the second is obvious. But all that having been said, the whole reason for the second one is the first one.

It's all down to just rabid troubleshooting, relentless figuring out, plugging and unplugging and just generally ruling things out. In my research I've discovered that the crackling happens now after about 30 seconds of heavy audio processing and in tandem with a spike in processor usage. I downloaded a standalone called process explorer which is essentially a much more detailed form of the task manager familiar to so many Windows users. That along with this audio article I unearthed in my varied and various Google searches, has gotten me pretty far along in finding out what the problem might be.

On to some more interesting stuff. My folks came into town this weekend for Memorial Day and we had a load of fun. It was one of those weekends where we could have planned to do a whole lot of stuff and been disappointed that we didn't get to it all, but instead we just took it easy. I find that that's the best way to approach this city as a tourist or a semi-tourist resident (which is what I've decided I am, and I'm unabashed about it). Friday I had to work at NY 1 (the last day of an overtime week in which I picked up freelance shifts at Technicolor as well), so my parents arrived mid morning and, after unloading, followed me in to work. I showed them around work and from there, set them loose on the Highline Park and the Riverside Promenade (which I still can't remember what it's called...it's either the Hudson River Park, or the Riverside Park but then that's up at 72nd Street on the Upper West Side...I don't know, whatever).

That night we took it easy and hung out in the apartment and planned (semi-planned) the following two days. Yes, I took them off work and now I remember how great it can be to have a real weekend, not some truncated one where the last shift of the week "bleeds over" into my weekend and before I know it I'm back after only one full day off. The rather loose plan, then, was to meet some long time family friends who were coming in from Poughkeepsie at Grand Central Station and walk to a French restaurant I had been to a few times. The Pâté was excellent. Stuffed, I suggested we walk to Madison Square Park and discuss our next move. A street festival above 42nd on Lexington was mentioned but so was a desire for our Poughkeepsie friends to see the Highline Park, which required a crosstown walk but we were up for it...much more than we were up for a potentially bland street festival. Several hundred snapped photos later we had traversed Manhattan from Madison Avenue to 10th, surveyed the Highline Park, moseyed to the riverside, eaten ice pops and various other treats and plunked ourselves down on one of the piers, surrounded by joggers and sun bathers and drinking in the ridiculous breeze. I had forgotten the joy of lying down outside and forgetting the time completely. Bill and Pam were not worried about catching their train back (the trains come so often) and we had shirked our original plans to see the King Tut exhibit at Times Square. So, the afternoon was just a free afternoon to be spent doing nothing in the sun.

It really has been a long time since I've indulged myself as such. My days off are usually so busy with either picking up extra freelance work or working on musical ideas and running errands. So, needless to say, I feel so incredibly recharged right now. And I'm loving New York City this time of year. Though it's hot, I still remember what Carolina is like this time of year, and though I miss that somewhat, I do not miss the relentless humidity, which, here, doesn't arrive until around mid July. We still have glorious breezes provided by the miles of riverside both Brooklyn and Manhattan boast. And now, I have my bike which my parents were so kind to port up to Brooklyn with them. Prospect Park, here I come!

We moved on from the riverside pier and began to wander and wind through the West Village in search of a cafe with both outdoor seating and draft beer. We settled on this place which had no patio but open air seating and wonderful glorious draft beer, only to notice that Wilfie and Nell, directly across the street did in fact have patio seating, right under our noses. Oh well. After beer and appetizers we rode the 1 up to Times Square and subsequently the S over to Grand Central where we saw Bill and Pam off, arriving just in time for the next train. My mother commented on the fact that had we tried to pull off catching that specific train we would have certainly missed it and we probably wouldn't have enjoyed ourselves half as much. This, in fact, became a theme for the weekend.

Sunday, my folks came with me to the UU in Brooklyn and we had lunch with a friend at Sweet Melissa in Cobble Hill. Hands down the best brunch I've had in NYC yet. Smoked Trout and Potato Croquettes with poached eggs, sour cream and mango salsa and add to that a raspberry lemonade. Delicious.

We headed back to the apartment to freshen up and then went to Battery Park City to meet with my brother-in-law's brother's family who lives down there with their four adorable kids. Later, we were seeing Rock of Ages up at the Brooks Atkinson theater so I had my eye on the time. However, I misjudged how long it would take us to get up to Times Square from the Battery. Thinking we'd only need 15 minutes of buffer time, I suggested leaving at 6:55. This, of course, gave us plenty of time to finish dinner at the restaurant and play with the kids afterward. After we left, it became clearer and clearer the more we walked that we weren't going to even make it to the train before 7:30 when the show started. I reluctantly suggested a cab but it was only after walking all the way to Greenwich Street that we decided that we should just suck it up and hail one. From where we picked the cab up it was actually a straight shot up 6th Avenue to 47th Street and the cabbie was able to drop us right outside the theater. We ran to will call, picked up our tickets, ran into the theater, swiped play bills from the usher and found our seats. Right as we all three faced the stage to sit down in our seats, the first number started. We all three laughed saying that, had we taken the train, we would have never made it on time and missed a good fifteen minutes of the show.

Now, despite the fact that we did have to rush, had we left much earlier to get to the theater on time, we'd have cut down our time with the Lewis family and would have been just sitting down in our seats uncomfortably waiting for the start of the show. As it stands, we got to relax and play with the kids and have an adventure trying to get to the show.

Maybe that's a good life lesson. To enjoy the times when you're not watching the time. Otherwise you're entire life is spent watching the clock and trying to get to the next thing. And that's no fun.

Anyway, the show was great. Kooky, but great and fun. A guy that I went to high school with has a few roles in the show now so that was neat getting to see him on stage. And today, I'm just catching up on laundry and getting ready to go back to work...for just one shift before my regular weekend. Then, I'm going to hopefully have a long stretch of time to really solve this computer dilemma.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blurb #17

I've spent a week tinkering with my computer and I think I'm closer to being able to just sit down and work for a change without having to troubleshoot problems each time. I solved my crackling audio issue by installing the most updated drivers for my Tascam audio interface. I think. For now, it seems to be working all right. Meanwhile, I'm learning my way around Cubase which I haven't used since graduate school. Still trying to figure out how to get sound through MIDI, which is not working.

Other than that, I had a great Friday night attending the Rooftop Film Festival on the Lower East Side with Claire. Saw a group called Twin Sister that opened the night and a handful of short films, one of which had won the 2009 Academy Award for Best animated short film (Logorama) and one of which starred Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly in a hilarious film about a young man trying to talk about Tesla and Edison while drunk off his ass. Crispin Glover played Edison and John C. Reilly, Tesla.

Here's a pic that Claire took of the opening band:


Did I mention I love this city?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The triumphant return of...

Some of you may know that a few months ago, I learned that my computer had a virus and I foolishly wiped my hard drive assuming that all of my files had been safely backed up online via Mozy.com only to realize later that any project files such as those that would open with my DAW software like Sony Vegas or my sequencers (like Reason and Fruity Loops) or my notation software (Sibelius) were gone. Gone with the effing wind.

When I ultimately came around and assessed what I was missing, I felt a bit of despair, thinking that I'd never be able to start from scratch on half of those pieces. Some were just ideas that were never printed or saved in pdf form; the only form of them still in existence was hidden somewhere in my memory. Some had been finished, printed, saved in pdf, posted on the internet on sibelius.com, performed and recorded, but without the original file I couldn't edit them without having to input the entire score into Sibelius all over again. I was a bit angry, a bit sad, a bit forlorn.

But I didn't want it to get me down. A valuable lesson was to be had. One that half of you are probably going, "yeah, duh!" about. And I know. It's a lesson I've even "learned" before this. Hell, every college kid who's ever lost a term paper has gone through this. But I stopped degrading myself about it pretty early on and decided I was going to keep moving forward and accept that all I really lost were some records of ideas I had once and that my new songs would be better. I got all philosophical about it even, saying that maybe it had to happen so I'd want to write all new music and could let go of all the old ones I never finished. A kind of renaissance, if you will.

You ever have one of those moments though when you're sitting around drifting in your own thoughts and then one swims by you, a quick flash of a memory, and you say "holy shit, wait a minute! oh yeah!" It happened once when I realized, shortly after reading about the health benefits of garlic, that I had tried to cook garlic using, for the first time, a ceramic garlic baker that my brother had given me for Christmas and that said garlic was still sitting in the oven...two weeks later. Yeah, I don't bake all that often and at that time, I was baking some Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions (a favorite dish of mine). So when they came out of the oven, the garlic completely slipped my mind and hence, it ended up staying in the oven for two weeks until I had that flash and came home and checked it. Well, similarly, tonight I had a flash, a vision of a CD spindle full of data CDs. After the last virus, Windows wouldn't start up at all so I had to use a universal boot disc to get back onto my hard drive and back up my files before I reinstalled everything. I made a few backup CDs before I resorted to a backup hard drive that I had laying around. I just knew that the spindle of CDs that flashed into my memory had to still exist somewhere. I had a small moment of despair again, though, when I had yet another flash of me tossing out, err, recycling piles of stuff after moving to Brooklyn and saw CDs in that pile.

At any rate, I got home from work that morning and went through all the CD spindles I could find in my office/bedroom/creative space (they're all the same room). Nothing. Well, not nothing, but most of them were blanks. I had almost given up and, last I spoke to my dad, I half heartedly told him to keep his eyes peeled for any CD spindles I may have left at their place.

Anyway, a few days went by and this evening, I was placing my clock radio on my bookshelf away from beside my bed (the same book that was telling me about the health benefits of garlic was warning me of the dangers of electromagnetic radiation), and I saw it. A spindle full of CDs sitting on top of The Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness box set. My heart lept and, though my cousin probably thinks I'm weird, I, in a fit of excitement started dancing around the apartment, calming myself eventually to sit and thumb through them all. And wouldn't you know? On the very bottom of the stack, well two CDs from the bottom (enough suspense already!) was a CD labeled, simply, "Scores."

I haven't been this happy in a long time. Another victory dance.

I went through the disc immediately and found a lot of things that I was hoping I could revamp, a lot of things I know I might need to edit and so much more than I realized I had backed up. Of course, there are a few scores that I've made since moving up here (well one big one really, the hard copy of which is still sitting beside me as I type this), that were not on the disc because it was made in the fall of 2008. But it's enough. It was really like finding a bunch of old friends that I never thought I'd see again.

And anyway, as for that score that's sitting beside me in hard copy, I can always scan in it to get a head start on reentering it because I own this program.

So, the moral of the story? Backup your shit, backup your shit, backup your shit. Because there's nothing like being able to say, "F#$@#% you virus! Haha!"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The importance of clearing your head, part II

I met with the dancer today to talk over the piece, albeit slightly unprepared. Actually, to be truthful, I only felt unprepared. Once I got over the frustration of my computer's little tantrums this weekend, I decided to record myself improvising on the piano on my little hand-held digital USB Olympus recorder thingum. As well, a few days prior, when I still thought I was meeting the dancer on Sunday, I had written down a load of questions on my trusty pad of paper to help me figure out in which direction the music should go for this attempt.

So, I feel certain that, despite not having three thirty-second audio files of the first ideas I came up with last week, like I had hoped I would, I came across very put-together and professional for having all that other stuff ready. Simply knowing ahead what I needed to ask her would have been enough.

But, at any rate, I showed her the recording on my hand-held and, wouldn't you know it, I had hit the mark. What was meant simply as a representation of some of the other ideas and instrumentation I was capable of turned out to be exactly (well almost exactly) what she needed.

I think in a way, all of this scrambling around and nothing working right was just the universe pushing me to, slow down, sit down, shut up, breathe and improvise into a shitty mic and have no thoughts about producing something finished and perfect. Sometimes that's all you need to create, the desire to do so...and not the rushed, frantic, race to quickly stamp something out regardless of whether or not it's what you think the client wants to hear.

Thinking is better than doing sometimes.

On the other hand, it would be nice to actually have this box of wires and circuits do something right besides surf the internet and play mp3s. So, for the next week, I'm going to do nothing while sitting in front of this computer but make attempts at optimizing it and getting it back to its previous state of functionality or somewhere better even.

Anyway, random funny story, while I was in the coffee shop talking to her I got a bloody nose (I think from drinking cold cold iced green tea too fast...that hasn't happened in a while!) and had to go take care of it. While I was in the bathroom, another great idea occurred to me regarding instrumentation, specifically making the dominance of one instrument over another serve as a representation of the relationship between the two dancers in the dance. Sometimes you just need to get a bloody nose and go to the bathroom to spark creativity.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The importance of clearing your head...

Welcoming in May and its sticky weather, I spent an afternoon with friends from the UU in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for the last day of the Sakura Matsuri Festival and then went over to a little pub called Franklin Park in Crown Heights. Boy was it sticky. But, for now, I'm lovin' it. Nothing like spending time outside, especially in a place like the botanical gardens. The festival was really neat too, from what we were able to experience before we all started to tire out. There were performers and people in costume everywhere and I managed to get over to see the bonsai tree collection, as well. (Note: no pictures. It's been hard to plan on taking pictures since I got the Canon. It's just too unwieldy to carry with me all the time and we went to the BBG on a whim). P.S. Whims are awesome.

Beyond that, I've been trying to get back around to working on music for the dancer again but my computer is not cooperating. The speakers are crackling whenever the CPU is overtaxed and the audio will eventually start to cut out all together. Then, at one point, I actually had a complete shut down occur.

I meant to have a couple 30 second samples of my ideas ready for the dancer at our meeting Sunday but no dice. Luckily we postponed our meeting because of my romp in the gardens and the dancer's work overload. Wednesday it is. Now I have time to actually record the ideas that, in truth, I hadn't even fully come up with when I sat down in the first place. I was more preoccupied with coming up with the sounds using my guitar processor and actually had no musical ideas in my head yet. Anyway, after doing some research, I think I may know why my computer kept crashing whenever I tried to use Guitar Rig.

Check this out. Chapter 2.5 points out the potential of wireless LAN cards to cause disturbances in audio processing. Guess I should take the damned thing out of my computer since I don't use it anymore.

That having been said, the hiatus in my creative work actually provided me with a clearer head with which to approach for a second time. Once I got angry and had to stop myself from throwing my audio interface (the most tangible thing I could find that wasn't my guitar) across the room, I walked away. Thinking I couldn't actually get anything done (at least as far as recording went), I sat down with my guitar and just goofed off a little, thought about some structural concepts for a new piece and came up with some solid ideas that, to be honest, I may not have come up with had I sat fussing with my computer all night.

Nights like this remind me that it's better sometimes not to force things to happen. Accepting that I wouldn't necessarily have a finished recording by the end of the night cleared my head enough that I could sit down and let some ideas just flow out naturally. And now when I do sit down to the computer to record things, I may actually get something done.

I'm reading a book now called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. The author is a violinist and the book is about creativity and improvisation. The last chapters I read were called, respectively, the Power of Limits and the Power of Mistakes. A lot of what the author has been saying is right on par with what I'm trying to learn from the recent computer disaster (and all previous ones for that matter). His main point is that accidents and limits are what shape our art. I'm feeling a lot like I've been limited lately by my computer but have also been thinking that perhaps this is pushing me in a different direction. As much as I want to experiment with new sounds, maybe I should be focusing on pitch material and structure first. My limits are forcing me to create more systematically. Also, it may come down to me having to do something else entirely that doesn't involve guitar and it may come to me out of the blue.

As for the power of mistakes, if one was to view my computer failing to operate properly a mistake, then the power in that mistake lies in its effect on my determination to make this thing work properly so that next time I start a project, I won't be so hindered. Or maybe I'll remember my frustration and will start off working on the piece away from the computer.

In all honesty, though, having the computer functional is a bit essential to me, because I prefer actually recording ideas as opposed to writing them down, especially with a piece where, since I'm performing everything myself, I probably won't be ultimately writing it down in score format. If I can't record myself riffing on ideas then I've lost productivity. And loss of productivity leads to loss of confidence and added frustration which, if I'm in the right frame of mind, hopefully, will ideally lead to further streamlining of my process and not discouragement. On the other hand maybe I should be more apt to write things down in these situations. Which is why I brought notation paper with me to work this evening.

In other family-related news, I have a new nephew as of 5:30 Sunday morning. See the pics here.