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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. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cornelia Street Cafe...

The concert tonight at Cornelia Street Cafe went really really well.  It's funny how after three performances of Moon, Tides, Cycles, there are still technical difficulties that come up but fortunately, I've been getting better and better at troubleshooting under pressure.  Plus, we've been getting better at performing the piece together.

The night begins with me arriving early and having to wait upstairs since the previous show was still going on and the venue was packed.  So, I'm thinking already, it's going to be pretty small downstairs.  Old West Village building, tiny staircase leading to basement performance space.  I sat drinking my wine at the bar upstairs trying to imagine how little space we'd have to set up.  When Tania arrived, the downstairs was emptying so we wiggled our way downstairs, me with all of my equipment taking up the whole width of the stairs practically, making it near impossible for people to get out.  So that took a bit.

When I came to the bottom of the stairs and through the doorway into the space, I saw that it was, in fact, fairly long with many tables lining the walls with a full service bar just to the right as you walk in the door.  The stage, though small, fit a baby grand piano with just enough space for me to tuck myself into the corner with one of the tables from the dining area to set up all of my equipment on top of, and still have room to stand comfortably without knocking anything over.  No rickety music stand for my laptop this time either.

Once I finished setting up my equipment, we tested the sound.  Our sound guy, a Bulgarian as well, hit it off with Tania right away.  In fact, they were conversing in rapid-fire Bulgarian from the moment they were acquainted leaving yours truly half confused as to what they were discussing.  He was very helpful though when it came to setting up my equipment and understood all of my requests without questioning me or seeming confused.

So, I was pretty confident from the beginning that, barring any problems with my equipment, we'd at least get good sound.  However, upon powering up the M Audio Axiom 25 that Lacy gave me, I realized it wasn't talking to my audio interface.  Instead of freaking out, (okay, I freaked out a little), I used the track pad on the laptop to twist some knobs so we could at least test the audio, while the place was empty.  After that I tried talking to my equipment a little until it occurred to me to use their wifi to download the manual for the keyboard and figure out how to do a hard reset.  I remembered that the other night, while we were rehearsing, I may have hit some buttons and changed some settings inadvertently.  I was trying to get the USB cable to function (which it won't because I stupid broke it…long story) because I didn't have my  MIDI cable with me that night and in the process I was aware that some of the things I was doing to test it might need to be undone.  Luckily, I had the presence of mind to remember that little episode so, I knew exactly what to look up in the manual: how to do a hard reset.  After clicking on a few articles, I learned all one must do is hold the + and - buttons while powering up the keyboard.  Easy.

After that, I twiddled the knobs to check it was working, solicited a high five from the sound guy and slipped out to use the restroom.  On the way out, I overheard someone in the ticket line coming in saying they had heard about this event in the paper.  Wow!  I thought. Then I looked at the crowd and realized that they were mostly comprised of people who looked as though they either were regulars there or just walked in off the street for dinner and a show.  A co worker of mine also showed up along with a lot of Tania's friends whom I've met before.  So overall a great turnout.  I think it was even one of the best turnouts we've had, other than the Metropolitan Room.  I, unfortunately, had to come right in here to work on the overnight so I didn't get to socialize a whole lot with the audience and Tania's friends but I did get to chat a bit before leaving.  But I did get to hear some compliments and talk with one of Tania's friends about the software that I use.  

There's been some talk about us doing this again in Boston but now I'm looking forward to the next piece that we will perform together, a new longer version of a piano sketch that I'm turning into a piano and electronics piece.  This should be pretty awesome…I will say more about it in another blog soon hopefully.  For now, I must get back to work.  Good night! Pictures from the concert are coming soon!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Get ready...

The tag on my Yogi Tea bag says, "Work, but don't forget to live."  Which is exactly what I need to hear right now.  It's Christmas Eve and I pretty much have been working all day long.  I had my laptop out at work during my down time so I could do some research and think up a plan of action for the start of the new year.  What am I researching, you ask?  Production companies, ad agencies and talent agencies.  Yes, I'm trying really hard to hit the ground running with a much more effective strategy come next week.  Proactive is the watchword, something I haven't really been.  It's quite frankly been a few cautious half starts for the past year and a half with this VO thing and, while I have been building slowly and making progress with my voice, I feel like I haven't really done the brunt work of truly marketing myself.  It's like I've essentially been just dropping business cards in midtown hoping that some ad agency employee will pick it up off the ground and call me.

Anyway, I've spent the better part of the day on this plan, opening up my laptop again upon finishing dinner and continuing the hunt, while admittedly sitting in front of the television.  Now it's about 10pm and I've cut myself off.  But I did want to type up a blog since it's been a bit, minus the blurb about the concert from the other day.

It's also getting excruciatingly close to the end of the year and you know how I get.  Reflective.  Reflecting? Reflect-y?  I think I was right the first time.  Anyway, I always start to look back and see how far I've come and size up where I am, when the new year rolls around.   I like putting things in perspective.  Life just sort of starts to run together unless you mark time and parse out events and check your progress.  It helps to assign meaning to what's going on and remember why I'm doing what I do.  

I've also kind of been thinking about something some snooty guy said to me during the first few months I was here in 2009.  "It takes about three years to really get it together here.  That's the general rule."  Whatever that is.  Define "getting it together."  Who's rule is that?  Anyway, despite not fully being there and to some extent still working on what "there" is, I do feel pretty accomplished.  In fact, this newfound vigor with which I've been approaching the VO career is actually inspired by a sense of momentum with my overall career, in both music and film, and not by any sense of urgency to make something happen by that three year mark that could be defined as "getting it together" or "having gotten it together."  At the beginning of last year, I had this sort of existential "I'm turning 30" thing driving my reevaluation of my career.  It was a sort of franticness that didn't wholly lend itself to results, just a lot of flailing around…controlled flailing around, mind you, yet flailing nonetheless.  I job hunted, I reconsidered my approach to voice over, I considered a dozen different scenarios to make more money than I'm making now.  But it was all too rushed.

Now, I'm suddenly struck by a focused and rigid tenacity that's driving me to finally do something I haven't really truly been doing (at least not to any high degree).  And that is truly betting on myself.  A month ago I finished my new narration demo, taking some cuts from the old one, and also finished a documentary demo both of which I'm satisfied with, perhaps even proud of.  And now, I'm ready to get out there and really promote myself.  

On top of that, I have music and film jobs lining up, (two on the docket and maybe two more lined up), Tania and I have several collaborations planned and I'm starting off the new year with a recording session in Philadelphia for Lacy's new album.  I'm feeling pretty excited.  A new year and I feel poised to really take some steps forward.  So step back and watch out because 2012 is going to pretty awesome.  Merry Christmas all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Concert on Monday...

I'm typing tonight to promote a concert I'll be performing in on Monday, December 26th at Cornelia Street Cafe.  Here's a link to the Facebook invite.  Tania and I have performed the piece Moon, Tides, Cycles that I wrote last year twice now, this being the third performance.  The other pieces being performed range from Satie to Ginastera to Mason Bates to all sorts of Bulgarian composers.  Guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser as Ms. Stavreva is an extremely talented pianist.

There is a $10 cover and a $10 food/drink minimum.  Here's a video of the performance from December 3rd at Waltz-Astoria Cafe in Astoria, Queens.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cousins...

I don't have any pictures yet but the visit with Cousin Kelley and her husband Brice was pretty fun.  Of course, yours truly had to work through most of it but I did get to spend a little time playing tour guide, mostly this afternoon.  

Yesterday, we managed to get up to the Highline Park together during my break, after they spent most of the morning and afternoon in Central Park and then midtown checking out window displays.  When I left work later that night, we all met at 5 Napkin Burger, one of the best burger joints in NYC in my humble opinion.  I discovered that they have gluten free buns there too so I was psyched to safely devour a nice greasy burger, smothered in aioli mayonnaise, caramelized onions and gruyere cheese.   Unfortunately, later in the evening I accidentally broke my gluten free streak by inadvertently sipping Katrina's beer at Heartland Brewery while she was in the bathroom.  Oops!  I laughed it off.  Shit happens!

Today, after they went to the MET we all converged on Carnegie to see the American Symphony Orchestra.  Katrina was working the concert so she got us all free tickets.  Orchestra seats with a clear view of the pianist's hands!  We didn't stay to hear Liszt's Faust Symphony but we did enjoy a piano concerto by Busoni.  Both pieces were around an hour long so we opted not to stay past intermission so they could pack in some more sight seeing.

I knew that Brice was keen on getting some decent pizza in and seeing the World Trade Center.  So, I figured I would take them to the Village and see about either Risotteria if we had time or Joe's if we didn't.  At 6:30 they needed to be at the Minskoff Theater for The Lion King.  Which got me thinking…dinner first? Or should we head straight on to Chambers Street?  Despite not having eaten since breakfast they chose WTC first.

It was the perfect time of day to be down there, too, with the sunlight fading and illuminating the glass of the buildings a pinkish-orange hue.  After circling the site, passing Zucotti park which was mostly empty save for some police officers and barriers and one guy shouting about Tylenol, we wound down to Greenwich street trying to get a closer look at the Memorial Site.  Right next to this mural, was a man engaging all the passersby with anecdotes and historical facts about the site and the attacks, showing them his photo album from the WTC site.  He was a wealth of info so we listened in for a bit until he mentioned the Sphere, a sculpture that used to sit in the plaza of the old World Trade Center that was salvaged after the attacks.  The sculpture now sits in Battery Park, a short walk away from where we were.  I suggested we go see it and we managed to arrive in Battery Park city, a few blocks south, just as the sun was setting over the harbor.  So that was nice timing.  After viewing the sculpture and then snapping a few pictures at the water's edge, we headed back to the Village, hoping to have time to sit down and eat some pizza at Risotteria before they had to head up to midtown for their show.

Luckily, Risotteria was able to seat us right away and we had plenty of time to enjoy our meal.  We even had time to snag Brice a cannoli at Rocco's Pastry shop on Bleeker Street.  On top of that, while standing outside scanning for a cab they got to experience a little slice of New York when a police car turned a corner in front of us, trying to break through the traffic on Bleeker.  Getting on the loudspeaker, the officer instructed the car in front of him to pull to the right so he could slide through in the bike lane.  When the driver of the car instead opted to try and pull up on the curb on the left side of the street, the officer said, "Okay, pal, maybe in your country!"

So we got a good laugh about that.  Then, I took them over to Carmine Street to give a little lesson in hailing a cab and sent them on their way to the musical.  And of course, I went home and tried to sleep it all off before the overnight…where I now sit typing this blog entry.  

Tonight, I'm going to be working on a theme for George's pilot episode of "The Life."  More on that as it unfolds.  There's no real deadline for this but I'm working on a driving rock song to accompany the mood of that series he's hoping to develop.  On top of that, I'm working on an accordion driven piece for Mohammad's film reel, talking with my new friend Steve, the cinematographer from Sides of the Track about scoring his film reel and potentially collaborating with Chad, a co worker of mine who is the D.P. for "The Life" on some small side projects.  So, there's a lot of opportunity coming up in the next few weeks to months.  Tania and I will be performing again on the 26th of this month at the Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village and I'll be sure to let you all know about that.  So long for now!  Gotta get to work!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The night...

I wasn't sure if this would still work or not but I told myself at 745 this morning as I lay down in bed after the overnight shift, "You will sleep until your alarm goes off."  I took me until now, walking back from the laundromat, to realize that I actually did manage to sleep solid up until my alarm went off at 2pm.  Not too shabby. 

Now, I'm about to get to work on a few voice auditions.  After Saturday's mixer, I'm wanting to attack this thing with a whole new vigor and intensity.  You may remember that I had the New York Voiceover Mixer to go to along with my concert last Saturday night.  The mixer unfortunately didn't manage to meet my expectations of at least meeting a few casting agents and production people.  No, I mostly met other voice actors at varying stages of their careers but this alone was valuable and made the night worth it, even though I couldn't stay the whole time. 

When I arrived there was a relatively short line snaking down the sidewalk and I only had to wait a few minutes to get inside, long enough to wonder if I'd see my coaches there whose names were on the guest list, to wonder if I'd be alone most of the night or if it would be easy to meet total strangers and to witness to younger people in front of me get booted from the line because they were underage.  Yes, there was a cash bar.  And at $12 for a glass of wine, I was partially glad I wasn't staying all night.

Once inside we waited on a long line to get name tags and to submit our business cards for the raffle, which took almost 15 minutes.  The crowd was packed pretty tightly too but it wasn't long before I had a drink in my hand and was inching my way through the crowd, scanning for familiar faces.  I was only really sure I'd see two.  I managed to make my way across the room to the other bar where I took up a spot leaning against it.  Thankfully, I didn't have too much time to think of how to approach anyone in the room because people began introducing themselves almost immediately.  I met a handful of people from New York, one from Philly, one from DC and exchanged business cards with everyone.  The conversation took a similar route with each person, always starting with "do you do voiceover? what kind of stuff? how long have you been in it?" and progressing to various questions about how they've come to find success with various avenues and whether they have agents, etc. 

Around the time raffle drawings started I started nervously check the time.  Luckily, it wasn't too long before they did the drawing for the one item I was most interested in: The Harlan Hogan Signature microphone.  I did not win.  So, I said farewell to the last of my new friends and skipped back to work to grab my equipment and rush back to Astoria for the concert.

The Waltz-Astoria is a little cafe in the unlikeliest of places on a quiet stretch of Ditmars Blvd around 23rd Street.  They serve sandwiches wine and beer and program all kinds of music from singer songwriter stuff to classical like our concert and even host an open mic that Lacy and I have performed at recently.  Pedro Gonzalez, the Emcee and part owner of the venue also curates a lot of the talent and is hosting a singer songwriter competition pretty soon.  I got to meet and chat with his wife, Song, who is a piano player as well during Natti Vogel's set after Tania's.   Overall it's a great venue...much better than the Metropolitan Room this summer.  But I hardly need to say that as I may have already expressed our dissatisfaction with their hospitality and their sound system.  Pedro has a very nice Bose tower to plug up to that sounded amazing with the electronics.  Well, hear and see for yourself:



Yes, we also had a much more reliable videographer this time around.  My friend Chad Heird from work at NY1 offered, since he lives so close by and was free that evening, to come by and shoot our performance. 


The performance, I feel, went very well and I was mostly satisfied with it.  There was a spot of technical difficulty which yields a great anecdote about non-technical people and technical people.  While I was prematurely freaking out about why their was no sound coming out of my audio interface (I had barely gotten through checking all the typical things you check when troubleshooting something like this...maybe it was the pressure of time constraints since Tania showed up a little late and there was a limited amount of time for us to perform), Tania, who would be the first to say she's not technically inclined at all, comes over
and says, "Tim, calm down, think.  How did it work at my place the other night?"  Of course, even though she probably had no idea how to fix the problem, she knew exactly what to say.  The issue?  When I rehearse, I set the output of the program to be the laptop speakers and always have to remember that when I go to perform it I need to actually go into Preferences in Mainstage and tell it to use my audio interface as the output.  That's why it was working at rehearsal and wouldn't work at the venue.  Duh!  Problem solved and we tested it and got underway with the concert, the rest of which should be posted on youtube very soon. 

For now, I have to pickup my laundry and start recording my voice!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Victory!

New York City landlords, 0.  Tim and Katrina, 1.

I didn't think that the post office operated the day after Thanksgiving but there was a stack of letters in the mailbox last night when I got home from rehearsing with Tania.  Through the window of one envelope, I saw both mine and Katrina's names, then the apartment number of my old apartment next to the words MEMO.   Knowing what it was right away, I started to do a little dance in the hallway and exclaim my disbelief out loud, trying to be as quiet as possible, being it 1 in the morning at this point.

Dropping all of my stuff unceremoniously once inside the door to my apartment, I ripped open the envelope to see a check for the entire amount of our security deposit!  Upon closer inspection I realized that the check was dated the 17th of November, before I sent the letter the second time.  Even closer inspection revealed that the street number of my landlord's address was actually one number off from what I recall putting on both copies of the letter that I sent.  This explains why the first one bounced back.  I remember now that I actually called him shortly after I figured that first letter should have arrived (even though I hadn't seen the receipt saying he'd signed for it).  I ended up leaving a message but whatever I said in that message must have prompted them to finally send it along.  I didn't even need to send the letter the second time and it doesn't matter now anyway, because it's most certainly going to bounce back again.

In a way, I'm slightly disappointed that he didn't get to read the masterpiece I crafted with the help of my loyal editors (thanks mom and Josee!).  But I'm in no way disappointed that the money is now in our possession.  In fact, some combination of floored, ecstatic, incredulous and relieved might come closer to encapsulating the feeling I had upon receiving it.

That having been said, go us.  Now, I can really say that we landed on our feet.  Moving right along, I rehearsed Moon, Tides, Cycles with Tania last night in Queens.   It went pretty well, considering I didn't have my score with me.  Everything in the Mainstage template worked as before, with me barely having to do anything with regards to setup.  I'm thinking about adding some more things to it, like a control for some delay effects on the ring modulation and perhaps a filter sweep for the Absynth sounds.

I already added a channel to record the whole performance which I'm surprised I didn't think to do before when we performed it at the Metropolitan Room.  It's going to be so much better to actually have control over the recording and not have to worry about whether it's going to be in stereo or whether or whether or not some guy is even going to record it and hand it over in a timely fashion.

It occurs to me now that I do have that recording of the Metropolitan Room performance but I haven't posted it yet.  Wha?  But speaking of posting, I posted new voice over demos in advance of attending the New York Voiceover Mixer next Saturday (the same night of the concert!)  So, check those out if you're interested.  I composed all the music beds for the newest demo, the documentary demo and one of the new cuts on the old narration demo which has only been re-edited a little with the addition of one new script at the end.

Anyway, I'm going to return to being giddy about the security deposit and see if I can't get some work done on the Mainstage template for next weekend's concert.  Huzzah!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Composing at Roots...

Trying out the Roots Cafe on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn right now.  There was a fussy child in here earlier with an excessively baby-talking mother and then another sort of spastic child who was taken to running in circles for no apparent reason.  The fussy child and squeaky sounding mother left and the spastic child has since calmed down.  And she is actually kind of cute.  The music playing over the stereo system has even been turned down so most of the distraction has abated.  So, perhaps I will be able to work here after all.  Besides, I really like the atmosphere at this place. Leaning on the wall next to my table is the sound board from a grand piano.  And there are all kinds of neat pieces of art and old musical instruments laying around.

That said, I'm editing the score for the piano piece at the moment.  I was tweaking a few of the chords here and there and trying out some things but now I've resigned myself to adjusting the layout and cleaning up the look of it ahead of time on the pages I know I'm done with.  Tania and I should be rehearsing Moon, Tides, Cycles next week sometime for the concert on the 3rd at Waltz Astoria.  Hopefully by then I'll be able to show her the score to this new one.  She's seen the piano sketch version from 3 years ago but this one is much longer now and there are some logistical nightmares in our future.

First, I can't freakin' decide what the nature of the electronic part should be.  First I wanted to sample the piano live, then I wanted to record her at rehearsal and cut and process samples from the recording to create some textural stuff for the middle section.  Now, I'm thinking about looping her and having her layer new parts on top of it while I process the sounds that I'm recording.   Or, some mix of all of the above.  So the logistical nightmare is really on my side.  But I want to do something really innovative with this piece…while at the same time trying not to let the material suffer.  Like I don't want to just write any old crap to do this with.

I will say that I'm liking the way the middle section of the piece is coming along.  It's funny.  When I left this sketch alone about 2 years ago, I felt it was done and I couldn't write any more.  It was probably a mix of being tired of working on it and really feeling like the statement the end of the piece made was enough.  Like there was nothing more to be said.  Then I just played what sounded like the next chord and this new part was birthed.

Anyhow, I'm having fun fleshing out these ideas but I have to know when to stop.  But I'm not sure that particular eureka moment is going to come to me while sitting in this coffee shop.  So, I'd probably better go.  I'm also going to a concert tonight at Brooklyn Bowl.  Mike Doughty, the lead singer to the band Soul Coughing is playing.  So psyched.  So at some point I need to go and get ready for that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Schedule full...

When it rains it pours doesn't even begin to describe it.  Well, it guess it does begin to describe it but it doesn't finish describing it.   I'm speaking about jobs.  Work.  Lots of it.  And most of it I'm excited about.

First, I'm working overnights and overtime and my full time job, and I'm getting more calls from Technicolor.  Second, I've been helping shoot a film with my friend George.  He's shooting a few scenes from his pilot to drum up interest in making the series and he's asked me to help with audio.  So for two nights out of my weekend I was operating boom mic on a sidewalk in Hell's Kitchen for a scene between two pimps and a prostitute.  Edgy subject matter.  But more on that later.  I'm also going to be writing some music, a theme, for this particular piece.  And on top of that, Mohammad has me working on a tune for his production reel, utilizing the accordion.  Bringing in my friend Crystal on this one potentially.

So, on top of writing the piano piece Tania and I will be performing together in Feburary, I'm suddenly writing two other pieces and working like a mad man.  I LOVE IT!

I'm crazy, I know.

Anyway, on the VO front, I just caught wind of an event in midtown in a few weeks that I desperately want to be at and for which I would hope to have at least one of my new demos done.  The 2011 New York Voiceover Mixer.  I've been waiting for something like this for a long time.  And now it comes at a time when it's going to push me to finally get my new demos done.  But I'm not sure it's going to be enough time.  So, a little nervous about that.  I guess I could go with my old demo but I would much prefer to get the new ones done.

Guess there's no rest for the weary!

On another note altogether, I still love my apartment and the new neighborhood…in fact, more and more everyday.  Under the blanket of my apartment is included my landlord, whom I also love.  Leaky radiator?  Fixed in a day.  Breaker blown?  Fixed in minutes.   The other day, I took a bike ride and was at Prospect Park in minutes, where I took these pics:


Fall Colors Prospect Park 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Breaking in the new apartment...

I finally posted a clip from the finished DVD of Sides of the Track on the new website.  Had a little time this afternoon around the apartment since I was preparing to host my friend Lauren for dinner.  The first guest we've had in the apartment since moving in.   Also, put some more touches on the piano and electronics piece that I've been working on.  I've got a neat workflow going on with the laptop and the piano.  With the piano being in my room I can put the laptop behind me on the bed with my notation software open and all I have to do is just swing around on the bench and enter notes in Sibelius as I riff on the piano.   It's great.

While I was at it, I couldn't resist, since the apartment was looking so nice after I tidied up for my guest, taking a few pictures of what the place looks like, specifically my den/lair/studio/bedroom.  Here they are:


New Apartment all set up best


Some of those were taken on another night when we were bored playing with the cat.

I can't describe how amazing it is to have a space that I enjoy working in…and cooking in.  I made a nice roasted root vegetable soup for my friend to break in the kitchen…unfortunately though, I had to come in to work tonight, for my fifth overnight in a row.  Tomorrow's technically a day off but I'll be working until 7am Friday so it won't really feel like one.  I go back in to work at 10am Saturday and straight afterwards, I go to the location for the film shoot.  Another shoot, same time on Sunday and then I come back in for another overnight at NY1.  Five more in a row and then I'm back on my regular schedule.  If I survive this, I can do anything.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Composing on the go...



It's warm(er) out and I'm sitting in DUMBO with some unexpected free time, contemplating composing at the piano vs. composing on the laptop.  This is something I keep going back to in my mind, now more than ever because I actually have the laptop and can compose anywhere…like, I could be composing right now but instead I'm typing this blog.

There are many reasons why one would prefer to compose at the piano, ranging from the practical to the more aesthetic.  One practical reason is that when composing at the piano, it's a lot easier to tell if the stuff you are writing is playable and that there are no voice crossings or hand crossings or ridiculously large chords (piano music) that might require inhuman Rachmaninov-type hand stretches.  You can get pretty carried away with a computer program that will play back anything you input, using professionally recorded samples of every instrument imaginable.

Aesthetically speaking, the stuff you play vs. the stuff your computer software plays back from what notes you input is a lot more inspiring.  There's something about playing an actual instrument.  You can get lost in playing it and just record yourself and transcribe later.  You can play the lines with a lot more artistry and feeling than a computer can and are therefore more likely to come up with something more musical than mechanic.  Plus, since improvisation on ideas is a huge part of my own compositional process, actual playing the lines is essential.  In this way, it certainly helps to have at least a MIDI keyboard plugged up to my computer when I'm composing with the computer (something I can't carry around with me as easily right now).  Otherwise, you're basically just inputting values with the computer keyboard and tweaking them this way or that without regard necessarily to all those practical things like voice crossing, hand crossing and whether or not any real person can play the notes.

Having a laptop to jot down ideas, though, is invaluable these days.  Ultimately, I've saved time if I can put something into Sibelius while at work and then have something to play around with when I get home to the piano.  But that having been said, I do get to a point where I've done as much as I can, or care to, with the laptop and I just want to bang things out on the piano.

The piano which now sits at the foot of my bed.  I really need to get into a routine of just jumping up and playing piano first thing in the morning after turning off my alarm.  Only, of course, on mornings when I wake up after my cousin has left for the day.

So starting tomorrow afternoon, then.  Barring any unexpected work.  I got called in to Technicolor a few times this week so that blew out a lot of my plans for what I have to get done.  One of the other things I can only really do at home ultimately, voice over, being one of them.  I was able to do some test records in my room and wrestle with the noise floor and the acoustics.  Synopsis: I really need to put some stuff on the walls to tone down some of the reflections that are making their way into the portable audio booth I built.  I have all of my scripts together though for the Narration Demo and only really need to get a couple better takes for the Documentary Demo and I'll be ready to do some more coaching with my old voice coach, the one who also volunteers at Learning Ally.

So, at this point, I think I'm going to compose the piano and electronics piece I'm working on out here for a bit and maybe work on logistics of performing said piece.  I've decided that it's pure insanity, not to mention severely limiting and somewhat impractical, to do all the sampling live. I'd be better off taking a recording of her playing and chopping it up and doing all the processing (reversing samples, etc.) at home and then having it ready to perform alongside her.

So wish me luck.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A room with a view...

I would just like to point out that I live in an apartment with a view of Manhattan. Partial view, but still.  I dub that cool. I probably spoke at one point about things happening so slowly that you don't realize that your life is getting better or that you are getting closer to achieving your goals.  Sometimes, though, one little thing changes in a big way and you start to look around at other things to see what might happen next. 

I just keep working at all this stuff I do hoping that one day things will come to fruition, but not always being able to tell whether or not the things I'm doing are having an effect.  I spoke about the voice over thing a while back and how I had one or two people tell me I was doing all that I should be doing. Same with music, when I met with that composer who's a friend of a friend. Just keep plugging away was the advice I got in both instances.  Of course, they were a little more specific than that but that was the gist. 

Now, seeing myself finally land an apartment that I love, here in New York, makes me realize that good things can and do happen.  Granted sometimes there's a hefty dose of luck involved.  But in all honesty, when I look at this situation, yes there was luck, but there was also action on mine and Katrina's part.  We saw, we agreed, we moved, we seized and then we moved in.  And I don't think we could have pulled it off had we not had all the previous experiences we've had with apartments and apartment hunting in this city.  No one gets it right the first time.

In the same way, the strides I'm making in music and voice over are stacking up and it's because I'm doing all these small things and gaining experience that I'm opening myself up to other opportunities.  Building a foundation, as it were.  I find excitement sometimes in that I don't know where it's going to lead but I have a strong feeling that it's somewhere good or at least somewhere interesting. 

Sometimes, I think back on my life before New York (and by before I mean, before I even hatched the idea of moving up here to pursue a career in music and film).  Back then I was practically at a standstill paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of what I wanted to achieve and how little I knew.  I had to learn a lot.  But without that despairing feeling of knowing what I wanted but not knowing how to get it, I wouldn't have even been able to begin. 

It's probably pretty normal, at the beginning of an endeavor like this one, or at the beginning of any difficult career course, to feel it's pretty massive.  But I think the more you work at it, the less overwhelmed you feel.  Because you're not trying to do it all at once.  You begin to understand that it has to be bit by bit.  That's the only way anyone can handle anything this size.  And the more you build on it the more you start to feel you're on the right track after all, even when you can't see the end.  And because no one can see the end, you come to terms with the fact that you have to go at it with faith that you can accomplish it against the odds.  You obviously can't go at it thinking, "this may or may not work."

So anyway, I'm feeling a little more strongly about the fact that I might be on the right track here with a lot of things.  But right now, I'm so incredibly tired I think I might just sleep.  Now.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Swarthmore and Philly...

Just back from Philly today, having ridden on a Bolt Bus for the first time since the accident.  That was fun.  But so was Philadelphia and the concert last night at Swarthmore College.  Every spring and fall they do an alumni and student composers' concert at Swarthmore and Lacy, being an alumnus, was invited back to perform again.  We did her song Moon of Fire which we've been practicing and have performed a handful of times at various open mics lately.  I think she's going to post a youtube video of our performance, too.

The other performances at the concert were all great and there was such a diversity of styles and genres represented, from folk songs, to pop songs, to contemporary concert music to vocal music to duets to small ensemble pieces with percussion, even some electronic music.  I even got to meet some of the alumni composers, one of whom is a professor at NYU, another of whom organized the event and was a phenomenal pianist.  Some of the composers were not present at the concert, the more well-known of them, like James Matheson, a pretty big orchestral composer who has had works performed by the NY Philharmonic, and Peter Shickele better known as the fictional composer, P.D.Q. Bach.  Yes, I had no idea that the P.D.Q. Bach attended Swarthmore College until Lacy clued me in.  And I had forgotten that until Saturday night at the concert when they introduced some of his more serious work that he composed under his real name, Peter Shickele.

So, overall I had a good time.  Murat, my friend the oud player, who helped out on the score to Mohammad's film, showed up with his girlfriend, too.  They live in Philly and drove out for the event, despite the snow (I mean, I guess the snow wasn't all that bad…it only provided me with a slushy, hurried walk to the subway after work and wet socks on the way into the concert hall and was not enough to deter me…although it cause some cancellations on Amtrak).  Anyway, we all went out after the concert, deciding to meet in Center City.  Turns out they both live down there as does Lacy so it was convenient.  After we each found parking, we met back up in the lobby of Lacy's building and began wandering in the cold to find a watering hole and, after trying a few places, wound up at Fergie's Pub.  Chatting about everything from music to dance to Occupy Philly, we stayed out until almost 2am.

Hence my tiredness right now.  Sunday morning I got up around 930 and Lacy and I took off eventually for a walk around Center City checking out the architecture and a few random fun things, like the Sound of Philadelphia Souvenir Shop at the Gamble and Huff Studios on the Avenue of the Arts and the Magic Gardens on South Street.


Philly


The Magic Gardens were pretty damn cool, I thought.  Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar created these mosaics covering every outer wall of this and other buildings in the South Street area.  Composed of his own tiles, mirrors, glass bottles, bike wheels, tiny statuettes and I even saw an old toilet bowl, the work was part of his and his wife's attempts to revitalize the area.

We didn't tour the inside due to time constraints since I had to catch the bus at 3pm and we still wanted to catch brunch.  We might have gone down to the City Hall area to check out the Occupy Philly demonstrations but only really had time to do a drive by on the way to the train station.

The Bolt Bus came pretty quickly and, though it was rickety and devoid of wifi, it got me to my destination just fine, with just one weird moment when the A/C started whining pretty loudly just outside of the Lincoln Tunnel.  Freaked us all out but thankfully nothing more eventful than that happened and I caught the first C train at 34th and 8th and was home in no time.

Went straight through to the overnight shift without a nap because I'm crazy like that and tomorrow I hope to start working on the piano and electronics piece again.  An update on my progress there soon and hopefully I'll even get some VO work done tomorrow afternoon!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blurb #27

I must be insane…that or I'm determined to never have a quiet trip to Philadelphia.  I have to leave work early and catch a train at Penn Station and hope that this weather will do no more than wet my guitar case a little.  They are calling for snow though.  Wish me luck at Lacy's concert tonight!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I've never...

I've never found a place this fast that I like this much, yes.  But I've also never gotten settled in said place quite so fast as I have.  Maybe time is just moving faster and I've perceived it as such.  It did take a full almost a full week to get where I am now: boxes all unpacked, window treatments hung, important decisions about furniture placement made.  Hell, we even already have cable by some random fluke (I hooked up the wires when I was setting up the TV and stereo and Katrina happened to notice that our old wireless account as popping up on her laptop).  But that week seemed to breeze by.  I didn't have a long period of feeling uncomfortable and unsettled and I didn't even mind that I had no blinds on my windows for most of the week.  Maybe it's because, unlike when I lived in Sunset Park and having no blinds was a huge problem with me being on the first floor of the building and on the street side, my room was actually quite pleasant without blinds with the sun pouring in.  Never mind the fact that I barely could sleep those first few mornings due to the brightness.  Maybe it's also because I like the place that much.  It could be that simple.  I was already thousands of times more comfortable even with a maze of boxes and no internet and barely any food in the house.  

Anyway, the only thing remaining to do, at this point, is to decide where to hang pictures and take boxes out to the garbage.  But now my mind is turning toward things like how awesome it's going to be to have a comfortable living space.  Especially for my creativity.  I remember now that one of the best things about my favorite apartment and living situation (500 Mendenhall Street…the big apartment in the 110 year old Victorian house) was that I had so much more creative energy in that place.  I wrote prolifically and my concentration was unparalleled.  It's so important to have a good healthy space in which to create.  Hopefully, now that I have that again, I can harness that energy. I mean, I can't imagine it being that hard with a piano just inches from the foot of my bed.  It's going to be especially important because Tania and will be needing to get together soon to work on the new piece.  I'm not even finished fleshing it out and I have to sit down with her and practice using my software to sample the piano parts live and mangle the samples while the piece is being performed.  I also will need to use this time to figure out how to creatively use the sampled piano to advance the piece.  But that's why we're starting this in November for a concert in February.  I may need all that time, but I may only need a single recording of her performance of the first part of the piece.

How exciting to be composing again already!

Inevitably, there are a few things about the apartment (more about the building than anything really) is that we do live with a smoker downstairs…smoker of what I can't seem to figure out.  In the morning it smells like cigarettes, in the evenings something else all together.  There is also a dog but I have yet to do more than just smell the animal in the halls.  Oh, and also to contend with the minefield of poop in the backyard where I lock my bike.  But these are things that register barely if at all with me in light of recent indoor fungal growth and difficult landlords.  My own new landlord, when faced with a leak in the apartments below us, called a plumber immediately and scheduled him for the next week.  We were only in the apartment without a shower until around Wednesday.  A tiny inconvenience when you factor in what we had been experiencing.

With all that having been said, I can't get enough of this new place and how amazing it is.  And I don't think my opinion is too terribly influenced by the previous situation by comparison.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No sleep 'til...

People are always saying they don't know how I do it.  It being overnight shifts alternating with day shifts.  And while they don't always directly ask how I do it, I am sometimes compelled to ponder how I would answer such a question.  If I had to say one thing that is key to staying up all night, it's mindset. I've tried every combination of trying to sleep in the morning before an overnight shift, napping in the afternoon, over caffeinating myself etc. But none of these things has served its function of keeping me awake through the whole stretch like adjusting my mindset has.  It's too easy to go into an overnight shift after being up since 8 am thinking, "Dear God, how am I going to pull this off!?" This kind of thinking actually makes you more tired though.  I've found that if I just forget that I've been up for that long and that I have to be up much longer, it goes a lot more smoothly.  It's exhausting thinking negative thoughts.  And if I can manage to distract myself from those kinds of thoughts than I can usually go a pretty long time without getting terribly lethargic.   I sometimes even go into work pretending that I haven't already been up for almost 16 hours.

I'm not going to lie and say that there aren't nights when I've passed out at work (see last night), nor would I say that there aren't moments throughout the day and during the overnight shift that I get tired, but basically if I've had 8 hours of sleep the night before, then even if I don't pull of a brief nap, I can usually make it through relatively well if I try not to think about how much it sucks.  I even have spurts of energy at select times throughout the evening.  Right when I arrive at night, sometime before I take my lunch at 4am and the walk to the train from work at 7am are the big ones usually.  The slump comes anywhere between 2 and 5am.  

So, I've found a way to pull it off because I have to…for now.  That's not to say that I'm not so sick of it that I want nothing more than to be my own boss for a change.  But, all in time.

In a few weeks, I've got some freelance work with George Perez of "Peeper: A Sort of Love Story" fame.  I'll be operating the boom mic on a couple of weekend shoots in November for his series titled "Life."  This'll be the first scene of the pilot episode.  Should be tons of fun.  They're shooting on location in the West 40s on 10th Avenue.  Gritty Hell's Kitchen location that they scared up.  I've yet to check it out but it should set the stage quite nicely for the scene we'll be shooting.

More on that later.  I'm still trying to get things square away with the old apartment and get settled in the new so I can start composing again.  I had a little bit of an issue with my speakers when I set up the computer today.  Not something I can't fix but it always seems like every few months something comes up like this.  Some technical issue that puts a damper on my progress.  I'm just glad it's something that I can work around for now.  And not something necessarily earth shattering.

Either way, I can't wait to get my space comfortable again.  I think the worst part about moving is the period of feeling unhinged.  I had to unpack a bunch of things in the kitchen before I could even cook breakfast this morning and that took a chunk out of my morning.  Because you start looking for what you need and you find ten other things that you think you want to put away.  It's hard to stay focused.  Especially when the exhaustion starts to kick in.  Speaking of which...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The move...

Moving a piano is an art form and one that I enjoy observing as such.  I've witnessed the act enough times that, even when performed by four Polish guys, I can understand the untranslated dialogue because the whole time it's dawning on me that I've had these arguments before in English many times about which way to turn the piano and how to ease it down and heave it up the stairs.  I did have to look up the word "suka" though.  I was sure it was something profane.   

Anyway, my slightly uncouth movers were quick about the job and managed to accomplish everything in under four hours, for which I salute them.  And even despite my own unintentional unpreparedness (I think I may have blogged before about how one can't prepare for anything even if you do think you've prepared for everything).  I did the ol' set your alarm for PM instead of AM number and sprang out of bed not at the sound of my alarm at 7am but the sound of the movers buzzing the front door at 845am!  Not my best move all day.  I was intending to get the cat out of harm's way early, take a few small things over including the bike (yeah, I know it's not small) and pack up what was left laying around that we couldn't find boxes for, well before the movers got there.  Unfortunately, none of that happened.    

I let the movers up and started trying to frantically do some of that stuff but ultimately decided to take the cat over with her litter box first and get her set up.  She was fairly well behaved on the walk over (all 6 blocks of it), and even did her standard slinking around low to the ground maneuvering that she does whenever introduced to a new space.  Then, once she had settled on a spot to hideout until she was comfortable, she started to hack and heave as though she was about to leave me a hairball.  Her idea of christening the apartment I guess.  But after a second or two of watching her she seemed to be having a bit more trouble than just a hairball and I wondered if it was more serious.  She gave me quite a scare but ultimately calmed down and when I returned later on with the next batch of small stuff she seemed fine.  

In my absence, though, the movers had begun to box things using all the extra materials that they brought and that we found out they'd be charging us for (see, no matter how much you prepare, there's always something that you didn't prepare for…they charged us for tape, too, so they could double wrap all the boxes we had packed…plus they wanted me to take all of my clothes out of the dresser so they could just wrap it in and carry it in one piece and that took extra time).  The good thing was they were making awesome time even doing all this.  Before I knew it we were finishing up at the old place and I was trying to beat the truck over to the new place on foot.  

The piano went up the stairs a whole lot easier than I thought it would.  At the old apartment they took off the legs, wrapped it in moving blankets and plastic and slid it onto a cushioned board with rope handles, ran two straps through holes in the bottom of it and dragged it down the stairs with relative ease.  

At the new place, they quailed at the sight of the first flight of stairs and we joked a little about the task ahead.  One asked if I was sure I wanted it upstairs.  It wasn't long, though, before they were sliding it in the front door and into my bedroom where we each played a few triumphant chords on the thing upon unwrapping it.  It felt good.  


After everything else was in and we paid the guys, Katrina and I took off down the street to a small restaurant on 5th Avenue called Korzo.  They had an amazing looking brunch menu that even offered all you can drink Mimosas and Bloody Marys.  I dug into a German omelette with a side of grilled sausage and Katrina had their potato latke with a poached egg on top.  All the food was amazing and our server actually was gluten free savvy and realized without my having to tell him that the sweet potato fries would be no good for me because they were fried in the same fryer with all the breaded foods.  That was a little hard because I wanted to devour everything on my plate since it was the first food besides dried figs and peanuts I'd had all morning.  

Upon sobering up from my two mimosa buzz, we set to work on getting the last few items at the old apartment over to the new place and I eventually began unpacking what little I needed to to be comfortable enough in my new room to take a nap.  A nap which never materialized because my mind is completely full right now.  So here I sit having just devoured my dinner in the breakroom at work and contemplating how I'm going to stay up for almost 24 hours straight yet again.  

Hopefully, once we are completely done with the old apartment, place cleaned and keys turned in, I'll get a little rest and can get to work on this piano and electronics piece.  I need to make it a longer piece and organize the structure of it, then Tania and I need to get together at some point so I can work out the electronics part and everything…but right now, I'm too unsettled to do anything creative.  Even though I did take a little break from supervising the move to improvise on the piano for a good five minutes while the movers kept on moving.  It's good to have a new place with a piano in it.      

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Again...

It never ends.  By that I mean, the constant introduction of obstacles by the universe.  Some of them great, some of them minuscule and manageable.  I called my new landlady last night to let her know I'd be by to bring over a few small things and let her know our move in date while I was on the phone with her.

Now, a few days ago, Katrina and I were cleaning the new place when our landlady came huffing up the stairs frantically (as frantically as a woman in probably her 70s can) asking if we had been using any water.  The tenant downstairs had water coming from his ceiling and she wanted to know where it was coming from.  At first, I'm thinking, "great, this again."  It was even raining out at the time so I'm thinking it could be a leak from outside and here we go again.  But then I realized the good side of all this:   My landlady was there in seconds to respond to the problem.

However, this means that she has a plumber coming on Tuesday and until then there's no water in our bathroom…until he fixes the problem which might entail taking out a wall downstairs.  This is what she tells me when I called last night.  Now I feel like a real jerk for moving in early.  And I have yet to tell my cousin about it.

Good news is the apartment is pretty much packed up and we await the movers at 9 am tomorrow.  The actual brunt work of moving is actually the easy part (especially when you hire people and all you have to do is direct them). It's all the logistical bullshit from finding a broker who's not going to bait and switch you, to finding a place, to passing the credit check, to seizing it before anyone else does, to signing the lease, to finding respectable movers at a decent price (don't even get me started on having to find ones that'll move a piano properly and not charge an arm and a leg), to hiring said movers, to gathering together boxes because you threw all of the ones you had out because New York City apartments are tiny and then finally to packing every damned thing in your apartment into whatever boxes you can manage to scrounge up (and carry awkwardly on the train hopefully not during the evening rush hours).

It's a mess and every time I move into an apartment where I have some reservation, even the tiniest, about whether or not I'm going to like it still in a few months, I quail at the thought of having to do this all over again.  Especially with a piano.  I just found out that I have an 80 year old neighbor directly below me.  I'm going to have to make friends with him or having the piano at all is going to be moot.  And that will actually be a problem.  My process for fleshing out piano sketch no. 4 into a full on piano and electronics piece to be performed in February is going to involve sitting at said piano and playing…a lot.

We'll see how it goes.  So wish me luck.  I gotta finish my tea and head to work.  I'm sitting in 'Snice right now on 8th Avenue in the West Village soaking up their wi-fi and listening to one of my favorite Fleet Foxes songs that just came on their stereo.  So I'll probably hang out and listen to the rest of it.  Laters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creator's Project

Blogging about my experience at the Creator's Project's New York City event in DUMBO this evening.  I was strolling through DUMBO on my way to yoga when I spotted a flyer for the event and there, in big letters, was Four Tet, one of my favorite electronic musicians, on the list of musical acts.  I immediately started trying to RSVP on the website with my phone, as I continued walking down the street, before I even knew much about the Creator's Project.  Apparently, it's a collective that supports artists who are using technology to create in innovative ways.  The event in DUMBO this weekend was to display a lot of the most recent installations and projects.  Some incredibly cool stuff.

Because I had to work until 6pm today and because Four Tet was playing right at 6pm, I rushed over to High Street right after work and managed to catch the end of Four Tet's set first (after checking in and getting a wrist band, of course).  As I walked up, I heard a familiar song off the album that came out last year and began to get excited.  DUMBO was throbbing with activity.

After Four Tet's set was over (the 15 minutes I managed to catch), I scanned for a map and made a plan of what I wanted to see.  Having read about most of the installations before hand, I knew what I wanted to see first.  "Origins" by United Visual Artists with music by Scanner.  First, I stopped in to Powerhouse Books to see what was going on and caught a glimpse of this.  "Urbanus Female" by U-Ram Choe. It was a giant metallic looking flower hanging from the ceiling with a glimmering light in the middle that would react to your movements.  I didn't get close enough to try though.  Just watched a few people stare at it for a while. 

After that it was on to the Tobacco Warehouse for "Origins."  This was a giant 30 foot metal cube erected inside the Tobacco Warehouse on Water Street, with LED lights lining the frame that would flash on and off in elaborate and intricate patterns aligning with the score being pumped out of speakers in the four corners of the cube.  At the entrance of the warehouse, they were doing the old one in one out routine and again at the actual structure...because you could walk inside it and observe it from within. Keep in mind that it's already dark out and the only light is coming from the structure itself.



I stood around and watched it for a bit, then slid into another portion of the roofless warehouse to see the musician that was performing on stage there.  Looking at the program I picked up later, now I see that it was the end of Atlas Sound's set.   

I watched one song and then hurried along to see more of the installations.  Still without program at this point, I opted to jump on the next line I saw, having no idea exactly what it was.  I even was asked by passerby and had to admit my ignorance.  After about 40 minutes of waiting in line (15 of that actually inside the building before entering the installation, hearing an almost unintelligible wash of sound oozing out of the speakers),  I finally found myself in a small room with four openings in the ceiling, light pouring out of them, the music much louder.  I was inside Jonathan Glazer and J. Spaceman's "A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space."  There was an ambient electronic piece, much more clearly parsed now floating out of the speakers in the floor but depending on where you stood (or laid down):
 

you would hear different parts of the mix louder than others.  The four openings in the ceiling were pouring shafts of light onto the ground and we were told to try lying down in each shaft of light to get a different experience with the music.


After I had my fill of that, I wandered back out onto the street and turned a corner headed toward 81 Front Street, a gallery that, only a few weeks ago had been displaying some of my favorite exhibits at the DUMBO Arts Festival.  Inside this time was another of the installations that I had read about earlier in the week.  Meditation by Minha Yang.  It was comprised of three speakers emitting meditative sounds in the middle of a screen with an animated projection that would interact with your movements.  This might have been the most fun I had the whole time.


People were dancing around in front of the projection screen and watching the lights play.  Standing and watching was almost as fun as actually playing with the light yourself.  You could get really creative with your movements and almost always get satisfying results.  One other attendee asked me to repeat something I had done so he could take a better shot of it with his camera.  A handful of other really cool installations were in this same space and among them this.  "Strata #4" by Quayola.  Scroll down and watch the video. 

I left this space with a mind to grab a snack at the grocery store on Washington Street and then go check out "Life on Mars Revisited."  The music video for the song "Life on Mars" by David Bowie apparently had all this extra footage that got lost and then rediscovered (check out the video here on the reimagining of the footage if you're interested).  Film director Barney Clay took the footage and edited it into a stunning video piece and it was on display on the 9th floor of the building where my yoga studio is.  The building at 10 Jay Street is sort of off the beaten path from all the other exhibits, and to get to "Life on Mars Revisited" we had to wind our way to the back of the building on the second floor to find the freight elevator, so it felt a bit secretive, like we were sneaking off to see something exclusive...which we kind of were.  I almost might not have gone all the way down there if I didn't know much about it, wasn't that interested or didn't know the area.  But I'm glad I did.

When the freight elevator left us off at the 9th floor, we were led into a small room with floor to ceiling projection screens on all the walls.  Just like "A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space," we were told the best way to experience it was laying down, so we all kind of piled onto the floor and waited for the footage to start.  I fully did not know what to expect.  The video was projected on all four walls but each wall was different.  The video footage itself was very spare, mostly a single shot of David Bowie, all made up with blue mascara, singing the song.  Part of the way through the video though, you start to see Clay's divergence from the original, the video seemingly cracked like glass and flashing while the audio becomes granulated and distorted.  There was a warning on the door to the screening room for epileptics that simply said if you have epilepsy, do not enter.

At the end of the video, I left and began to head back to the center of it all to catch one last gallery full of installations.  I was trying to get back to 55 Washington Street but it happened to be cordoned off from earlier because it was the main avenue that led to the music stage set up under the Manhattan Bridge archway.  I displayed my wrist band to the bouncers but they turned me away, rather rudely, probably because they were tired.  I tried to explain that I was not headed to the stage but to the one last venue I had not checked out but I realized that they were probably underpaid and didn't really give a shit and that it was probably better to just go around the block the other way to get in.  So I did.  First I ran across "Soil" at 30 Washington Street, a series of aluminum plates that move as you walk across them.

After taking this in for a while, I wound my way back behind 55 Washington Street and slipped into the place.  In this gallery was, first a DJ and a group of dancing hipsters but then four other works that I had only read about that night.  The coolest was "Diskinect," a puppet connected to a Kinect controller that sensed your movement and caused the puppet to somewhat mimic what you were doing.  I played with it for a while then moved on to "Super Pong," which, as far as I could tell was a cross between Pong and foosball which you could actually play.  This I opted not to play but just to watch.  The last thing I experienced was "Six-Forty by Four-Eighty."  This was yet another interactive piece that was comprised of several magnetic blocks with colored lights on a screen.  You could rearrange the blocks any way you wanted on the screen and also tap them to change their color.  

At this point, I was pretty tired because I brought my laptop home with me from work and had been carrying it all night, even during the Four Tet concert.  So, I wound my way back to High Street and headed home.  Greatest part about the evening?  It was all free!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New digs...

It happens that fast!  Yeah, this was the third apartment we looked at between the two of us and it happened to be it.  The way I found it: a friend.

My friend (remember the person I shared a cab with back in December that I ended up becoming friends with?) told me she had an apartment in her building that was opening up so she gave me the number of the realtor. I called him and they told me that it was already rented but that they had another one a short distance away.  Thankfully, a short distance away in the right direction: North.  It's on 19th street, so it's closer to the Prospect Avenue subway stop.

Anyway, I set up a time to see the apartment with this guy on Wednesday afternoon.  He initially told me it was on 16th street so I was checking the street view on Google maps and really liking the block.  On the Wednesday, he told me it was actually on 19th Street.  I'm thinking, "okay, not a deal breaker…let's just hope it's still a good block."  It was.  And it was a cool looking building.   He had told me before that the landlord lived in the building, another bonus for us because it means, first of all, that she'll take care of the building…unlike our current landlord.  I did get a chance to meet her and she seems like a nice lady.

The apartment itself was on the third floor (a slight worry for the prospect of moving the piano in…the first quote I got today from a mover to move the piano up 3 flights of stairs was $700!) but it was at the back of the building.  Inside the halls, family pictures adorned the walls and the stairs creaked pleasantly asI ascended the stairs.  Upon entering the apartment though, I had one of those rare, "This is our apartment." moments.  You just know when you see a place.  It was spacious, airy and bright.  The kitchen is big with lots of light and a view of downtown Manhattan out the side window.  The buildings around it are smaller so we have a clear view in two directions.  The larger bedroom was about as big as my bedroom in Sunset Park two years ago, and there are double doors opening into it.  The living room is about as big as our current living room, perhaps slightly bigger.  There were three closets, two in the common area and one in the smaller bedroom.  This alone made me feel like this would be a perfect match for Katrina and I. She needs a closet and I need space. Plus all the closets are big.

I could rant and rave but I didn't need to to convince Katrina that we needed to move on this place.  I sent her these pics:


Apartment on 19th Street


…and a similar description to the above, only organized into cons first, pros second.  She said she liked it but wanted to do a walk through later that night.  I called and scheduled it with the broker and we came back, cashier's check in hand, ready to seize the place.

I can't encapsulate how excited I am about this.  Suffice it to say that I'm floored that I like this place this much and that it was so easy to find.  We really did luck out.  There are more and more things every day that I realize are going to be great.  It's on the back of the building and on a quiet block, so no more getting pissed off because people are honking their horns outside while I'm trying to record.  I can fit the piano into my room (that is, if I end up moving it).  Think of the inspiration and being closer to the computer when I come up with ideas that I want to save…no more running between rooms!  Their is an alley to access the backyard where I can lock up my bike more safely.

And while the laundromat may be further down the block and the subway slightly farther, I think we've pretty much moved up.  More to come on the trials of moving.  Thank god we're going to be able to move in once we get the key on Monday after I sign the lease.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confusing wisdom...

Finding wisdom in the inside of a label on a bottle of tea is pretty standard stuff these days.  And I drink a lot of tea.  But today, I had one of those interesting days where I seemed to be getting signs from not just tea bottles but just about everything around me and some of the signs were conflicting with others.

In truth, it all started with an impromptu discussion with a co-worker and friend of mine about working in the corporate world and how it's always going to be the same no matter where you go, as far as workplace politics go and you're really only ever going to avail yourself by being your own boss.  Which, in a way, has simultaneously discouraged me from even trying to job hunt for a better career in this climate and encouraged me to work that much harder at being freelance eventually.  The end of that conversation actually found me feeling grateful that I have a job and a lot more level headed about my general situation than I have been for months when at times, I tended to get rather frustrated that things weren't better with the money situation or the hours.  

It's file checking week at Learning Ally where we go through all the audio book files that have been recorded and spot check them for errors.  Today, one of the audio books that I was checking today at Learning Ally was some kind of business text book that had a ton of chapters about building resumes and interviewing for jobs, etc.  So, while I waited for my assigned booth to open up (the last volunteer was still finishing up her session), I perused a bit of it and got thinking about what I was doing wrong with my last few attempts to find a job.  Here I am now swinging back the other way in my thinking about what I need to focus on right now.  Should I take another shot at job hunting but be more focused this time?  Should I be so cynical about the job market?

On the inside of my tea bottle was this quote though: "Lack of money is no obstacle, lack of an idea is an obstacle." - Ken Hakuta

Maybe I just need a good idea.

Here's one, I'm doing some freelance audio stuff for George's next film and if it needs music, I'll likely be doing that too.  The audio stuff will be operating the boom mic for the first few scenes of a pilot for a series he's going to be putting together.  The scenes will act as a teaser/short for the pilot which will eventually be shot and pitched a few places to get support to do the series.  It's exciting because it could be some steady work and it seems very interesting.  I won't say too much else about it so as not to jinx it.

But anyway, all those confusing signs and I'm tired.  Need sleep.  Tomorrow I see apartments.  The first one is in Park Slope and I might just fall in love with it, so long as it's cat friendly.  Good night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day...

I must admit, it's making less and less sense to work on the laptop in my "office" at work…especially since now, it's doubling as a storage room while they renovate some offices upstairs here.  I do have a nice arm chair to sit in but I'm surrounded by stacks of boxes, extra chairs and furniture and, the latest addition, a huge divider that's half blocking the door.  It's still secluded though and I'm able to work relatively distraction free.

So, here I sit blogging.  I went to see my first apartment today.  Katrina has already been to see one but this is the first we were able to see together.  And only because of the fact that I can never sleep much farther past 12 noon after the overnight shift these days.  I figured I had just enough time before going to yoga to check out the apartment with her.  She was off today for Columbus day so it was ideal.  Every other day this week we are unable to go searching together.  And I've already had one broker that I spoke with tonight tell me they'd rather have us both there…i.e. they want us to be able to make a decision that day, so we don't waste their time.  But I've found that you almost never take any of the first apartments you see.  It's like you have to build up a few impressions, see what all is out there, and knock down your unrealistic expectations a bit before you can settle on something.

So, the apartment today was in Prospect/Crown Heights (it's always these muddled neighborhood borders with brokers…they could just call it Crown Heights but they want the allure of Prospect Heights which is a better neighborhood).

When we arrived on the block it was busy and there were a lot of people out and about while we waited for the broker.  What made me nervous was the general behavior of just hanging around and looking tough.  I didn't want to judge based solely on that though.  This was after all an apartment that was right on the corner of an avenue with a lot of store fronts.  Now, I actually thought this was a great place for the price and it even had an elevator (something that might make it a little cheaper to move the piano in).   It had huge rooms and lots of light as it was on the corner of the building but in the back.  The bathroom smelled strongly of pot (interesting, he thought) and there were electric baseboard heaters which I don't tend to like too much as they inevitably take up wall space and can be a bit dangerous.

I was starting to warm to the place though but something happened while we were there that made me change my mind a little (and this is a classic New York City story here).   While we were upstairs and the broker was raving about the apartment and the neighborhood, sort of tap dancing around a little (making a real effort to convince us that the neighborhood was up and coming etc. etc. blah blah blah), I started to hear screaming coming from the street downstairs.  Now from my vantage point out the kitchen window, all I can see is a little sliver of the street through the alley but what it looked like was a tussle of some sort going down in the street with no less than two women screaming and several men appearing to be kicking someone who was down.  I seemed to be the only one among the three of us who noticed, and knowing how hard the broker was working, I opted not to bring it up so as to keep from making her have to tap dance harder about the merits of our current location.  Luckily, by the time we reentered the street everything was cleared up.  God only knows what happened.  "I don't want to alarm you, Katrina," I said, "but there was sort of a fight going on out in the street while we were up there talking to her."

We still did opt to walk a bit in the neighborhood to see how it looked.  Granted, it's two in the afternoon at this point, but still the scene on the street was a little tense.

Only in New York…and hopefully only on that particular street corner in Crown Heights.  I've got a handful of apartments to look at that are close to that place (we're talking mile radius here) but across Atlantic Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant, a notoriously bad neighborhood that has been rumored, as well, to be on its way towards gentrification.  We'll just have to see about that and get out on the ground out there.

Tonight, before leaving for work, I called a handful of these ads and, to my mild frustration, I find that at least one of them was a Rapid Realty broker, a company I don't want to work with if I don't have to. The unprofessionalism among their office staff was a source of stress last time we moved.  In addition, they seem to be very strategized and focused more on getting you into an apartment quick than helping you find the right place.  I almost never get the feeling that they want to help me find a place any worse than they want to make sure they don't waste time taking me to a bunch of places that I could potentially not like.  They were the ones who had a problem with it being just me who would come out with them, saying they like to have both roommates present.  I understand this but it's still annoying. Basically, they don't want you to lose the apartment because you have to go home and confer with someone else.  That's how good apartments get snatched up.  Anyway, at this point, we're kind of just doing research and that should be allowed.  These brokers guard their listings so jealously, it's impossible to see a place without a broker pressuring you because most of the ads you see, even on craigslist and padmapper.com end up being broker listings.

I've rambled and ranted enough for one evening.  Tomorrow, I voice audio books and then continue on the hunt.  Wish us luck as we're trying to get into a place as soon as possible and not necessarily wait until the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Statue of Liberty...

Checklist: Statue of Liberty = Done!  So, around, 10:30 today I moseyed up to Battery Park to meet my friend Allison for lunch at a little burger joint outside the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center before heading to the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.  We've been planning this trip since May, neither one of us having been, and she being a lifelong New Yorker.  Back then we talked about doing this over sushi in Chinatown one night, thinking we'd be able to do it a few weeks later.  Apparently, though, the crown was booked solid until September.  So we were going to have to make reservations and wait.  By the time we settled on a day to do it, it ended up having to be today, all the way into October...and what a day to do it!  The weather was fantastic, mid 60s, sunny with a light breeze...okay, a big enough wind that the boat was rocking something violent when we first boarded.  But I got my sea legs pretty quick.   Having bought our tickets in advance we got to bypass the line for the ferry and were on the island well before our reservation time of 2 pm.

It was a bit odd, at first, because, at the entrance to the pedestal, they sent us back to the information center by the ferry dock to get crown access wrist bands (we had no idea that we had to go there first), but once we had the wrist bands, we felt like VIPs.  The rangers were giving us very detailed instructions on how to bypass the lines and which way to go up the stairs so we'd go straight up to the crown first and work our way down to the pedestal.  They were extremely helpful and offered to answer any questions we had...it felt like we had our own personal guide at each level, as we chatted with each ranger before going up further (They apparently have a nick name for people with crown reservations: "Crownies").  There was no line to go up for crown access and it felt in some ways like we had the whole statue reserved to ourselves for a little bit.  There were only two other people and a ranger up in the crown when we finally got up there, the ranger perched rather precariously on the support beams above the staircase.  I'm not even sure that many more people could have fit up there, the actual space being slightly bigger than a broom closet with not a whole lot of overhead clearance.  I bumped my head on the beams on the roof several times (not too hard though) and right after the ranger told me to watch my head.

The climb to the crown itself was not all that bad.  The spiral staircase inside the statue did get pretty narrow but it was all very exciting and we were up at the top before we knew it.  Statue's kind of shorter than I had realized.  Something like 354 steps total though, including the climb from the pedestal.  There was a plaque at the bottom with facts about the different measurements, like how long is the nose, the arm, how wide is the face, how much does the pedestal weigh (54 million tons actually), that I should have photographed but didn't.  I shot a ton of pics up there and as I was kneeling down to take a few shots out of the windows, I could feel the Statue swaying in the wind.  Allison noticed this first, like, the second we got to the top step.  But I didn't feel it until my knee was against the side of the crown as I knelt to take my photos.  Our friends that were sharing the crown space with us offered to photograph us and we did the same before heading back down.    

The pics in the crown did not come out all that well but here is the album of everything I took today, encompassing a few pics at the World Financial Center, the ferry ride, Liberty Island and a few of Ellis Island.


Best of Statue of Liberty


We made sure, after our descent, to check out the Pedestal Museum.  The goofy picture of me picking the face's nose was Allison's idea.  A bit of a history nut, I enjoyed this part (the museum, that is, not pretending to pick a statue's nose).  This and the Ellis Island Museum, which we managed to breeze through in under an hour, checking out some of the special exhibits, us both having been there once before. Ellis is always inspirational to me, even when you read the crazy stories of what the conditions were like for immigrants over the years.  Inside the Pedestal Museum though, I learned about the origin of the poem "The New Colossus." Ya know, the whole "Give me your huddled masses yearning to be free" that is engraved at the base of the statue inside the monument.  Apparently, Emma Lazarus wrote it for an auction to raise money for the statue but it was years before the poem was actually associated more permanently with the statue and the plaque installed.  People often credit the poem now with realigning the statue's purpose.  Instead of being a sign of liberty and republicanism, it became a symbol of hope and welcome for incoming immigrants.

Just a tiny bit of history before I call it a night.  The trip was a good time all around and I think I would definitely go back, in the future, for the climb to the crown, when it reopens in 2012.  They are apparently closing down again to further improve safety inside the statue. They are not shutting it down, though, until after it's 125th anniversary, this month, according to this article.  They want to reopen it before the 126th anniversary next October.  Either way, it'd be fun to do again. And for only $16 it's cheaper than the Empire State Building and in many ways a more unique experience.  Sort of an adventure, too. 

Anyway, good night!  Enjoy the pictures!

Moving out and a test screening...

I'm definitely moving out.  We are definitely moving out, that is.  There was some doubt in my mind because I was starting to get a little paranoid that I wouldn't be able to afford to move the piano and would most certainly have to donate it, something that has crossed my mind many a time over the last few years during which I've possessed said beast of a musical instrument.  That among other things.  I did one of those classic listing the pros and cons exercises and it did wonders to clear my head.  But the biggest thing was looking at these pictures again and realizing, of course we effing have a valid reason for wanting to get out of this place!


Messed up Kitchen


And anyway, if I were to get a subletter, the task would be convincing that person, likely a friend that I've probably already bitched to about my predicament, to live in the very apartment that has been the source of my woes. So, that's one of the cons of that situation; the extra effort of acquiring a willing subletter.

All in all, it was a fruitful exercise and by the morning, tired though I was, my head was clear.  I didn't call my landlord today though because for some reason, all the thoughts I had about what I was going to say to him had escaped my head (or buried themselves behind other synapses).  Plus, I had a test screening for Sides of the Track that I wanted to make it to before heading over to the dentist to get a damned cavity filled.  The test screening was awesome, getting the cavity filled, not so much.  But then, it's getting a cavity filled, what do you expect?

Mohammad was able to rent out the very theater that we will be screening in on Friday this afternoon so that he, I, the DP and the Executive Producer could take in the full experience, big screen, big speakers, etc. It sounds awesome!  And looks awesome!  There's nothing to compare to seeing (and hearing) your work on the big screen.  Unfortunately, the screening is by invite only and I've already chosen my +1.  They are sure to screen again soon.  But I'm psyched, you know?  It's another milestone marked but it's also a chance to network.  I haven't gotten to meet any of the other cast and crew yet and am especially looking forward to meeting certain people on the producing team.  All around it should be a good night as I have the whole evening off from work and there is a reception and after party as well.

For now, I need some sleep. The leg is feeling better, especially after another amazing yoga class with Adriana, my favorite teacher at Abhaya.  I think it should be okay for my long planned trip to the Statue of Liberty with my friend Allison.  Sure I nearly killed it this weekend hiking about 6 miles through the Adirondack mountains, but a few stairs shouldn't be a problem right?  Anyway, I'm excited because I'm finally doing this for the first time...plus, it's Allison's first time too (she, a lifelong New Yorker, too!).  So it should be a blast!  Pics are, of course, forthcoming.