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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, August 30, 2011

Home at last...

I type that title as though my travel experience yesterday was so awful. While it was as long as it usually is on the way back, it was actually my smoothest day of travel all weekend, in a weekend that started with a bus accident and then preceded to an airport delay that had nothing to do with the storm into which we were flying, all followed by a near miss or a close call, whichever way you want to look at it, in which we barely made it to the airport in Raleigh before it closed! Aside from the 30 second sustained screaming of some demonic child on my flight and a seemingly unnecessary detour out over Long Island (halfway to the freaking Hamptons!) which I assume had to be some kind of holding pattern (we did arrive a little late), it was all pretty smooth. In fact, I had some of the best train luck ever getting home...mind you, I said train and not bus luck. The MTA is apparently working to restore their riders' faith.

Of course, what I saw in my room, though what I pretty much expected to see, was a bit of an adjustment. One of my shelves, which had until recently been screwed into the wall most likely to leak in my room during a rainstorm, fell, sending my tool box and other large objects to the floor. Why I've had the heaviest object in this room aside from my guitar amp on such a weak perch is beyond me, as is how it didn't break anything on my desk during its flight. I cleaned everything up in about a half hour and even unpacked before taking an epic nap which almost went uninterrupted due to my inability to set an alarm properly. Luckily, my internal alarm went off and I sprung out of bed a full forty minutes after I had expected to be up. Thank god for leftovers. I had plenty of time to nosh on something and put together a lunch for work, my nightly routine on Sundays and Mondays for over a year and a half now.

Since I missed my shift Sunday because of my altered travel plans though, I was essentially napping on a day when I don't normally have to. And now that I've had fewer days to get used to the sleep schedule, I'm somehow up slightly before noon and typing this blog. When I get up after having strange dreams about getting knocked off my bike (a dream that will likely deter me from biking to yoga tonight) and can't get back to sleep I tend to just want to give up on the whole affair. So, I'm up and, because this is the way my mind works, I'm already trying to think of ways to use this unexpected time. Eating is in order but then music is probably next. Gotta tweak the mix of the film score one last time. Then see what's happening with the edit for the trailer. I think I'm going to sit down at the piano at some point today too. But we'll see what actually happens. For now, I'm going to start my day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rain and wind...

I'm sure everyone in NYC is starting to freak out. Meanwhile, NC is clearing up. We spent the day watching relatively tame winds and rain from the porch and grazing on food around the house. The power went off around noon and we soon found out it was due to a tree which had fallen on some power lines that feed my parents' street. Surprisingly I wasn't half as stir crazy as I thought I would be in a house with 15 people and no power. No, we're pretty well adapted around here. Anticipating at least a dip in the power, my mother had most of the food for the day prepared before it cut out. Lunch was her famous corn and cheese chowder and dinner was mostly cold salads with steak that was to be grilled (my dad wheeled the grill over to the garage door to get out of the rain). The only thing that was a bust was the bean dish that we usually do in the crock pot. The whipped cream icing for my niece and my dad's birthday cake almost didn't happen but my brother-in-law the chef ended up whipping that up by hand because he's the man. We even broke out the Sterno for some coffee after dessert.

I needed to charge my phone at one point because, admittedly, checking Facebook ran my phone battery down. My dad has a 400 watt converter in his car hooked up to the cigarette lighter adapter so we went out there to escape the kids for a while and charge my phone up. This led my dad and I to take an excursion in his car to see the very tree responsible for our situation. Later on we took a walk back up that way to get closer than we could in a car. The police had blocked the road while the workers removed the tree and got the power lines back up and running. Even with them working all afternoon, the power didn't actually come back on until around 8pm. By then, even with the fading daylight we were already all in the pool because the rain had finally stopped. It's a mark of how well we fared without power that seeing the porch light click on while we were out there didn't even register with me.

Now, I sit blogging at the kitchen table, talking to my brother, drinking a gluten free beer and listening to Ra Ra Riot on Grooveshark, fully ensconced in my electrified life again. So, as I sit with my comforts and the thought of a full sunny day to swim in the pool tomorrow I say "Good luck NYC!" It's going to be a real shit storm for you guys. Have fun! And of course, be safe! Here's a video of the wind outside my parents' house:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Airport blues already...

This was typed earlier today in the airport:

This does not bode well. I've been here since 10am and my plane keeps getting further delayed. First it was late getting here. Now, the plane needs maintenance, and apparently, two hours worth. This bird better be flightworthy by the time I get on it. And all this time I keep thinking about how Sunday is going to be so much worse. Or maybe not. At least Sunday, I'll know ahead of time about delays and cancellations. I can plan ahead and not even bother to come to the airport. Only thing is, if I have to miss another day of work because of this storm, I'll have to use a personal day I was intending to use for a camping trip I was going to take with a friend in late September. That might get blown out or moved to sometime in the middle of the week when I don't have to use personal days to get the time off.

Going on four hours in this god-forsaken airport but this is till nowhere near the longest I have spent in an airport. That title goes to a stint that I spent at this very same airport on the way back from Paris in 2002. The scene: I was returning from a month long study abroad trip in Angers, France with 5 of my classmates, anticipating a layover that we were all prepared for. It was probably the reason our flight was so cheap. We were to land at New York's JFK airport at 8pm and then take a cab to LaGuardia to await an 8am flight the next morning. On paper this didn't seem so bad as we thought, incorrectly, that we'd be able to leave the airport, get a hotel and spend some time partying in the city as a final highlight to our trip. The reality of the situation was that by the time we got to LaGuardia, it was 10pm and there was nothing open, no way of checking our luggage until the morning or checking in for that matter. If we'd tried we maybe could have gotten a hotel room for the night near the airport but for what? To wake up at 5am to make sure we made our flight on time? No, we decided collectively to spend the night in the terminal (this very same terminal in which I sit only out in the lobby). We slept in shifts and some of us started hallucinating. But back then, it was fun. Despite the jet lag (considering we had been awake since 7am Paris time) and all that goes along with that, we just powered through. Funny how a few hours in an airport when you don't know when you're getting out of there can seem so much worse than a situation where you know what you're in for.

In the middle of typing that story, I got talking to a woman who was also waiting to fly back to Raleigh, swapping stories and speculating as to when we would actually get out of there and what the best course of action would be. She became my airport friend pretty fast. It came out in conversation that she is actually the owner of the Guglhupf Bakery in Durham, a place that I've been to a handful of times and have always enjoyed. So that was kind of cool. It helps at a time like this to have a friend to go through it all with. Someone to bond with over the shared discomfort and aggravation of airport delays. It's also good to have someone to drink with. She was very outgoing and had already made friends with two French guys who were also flying to Raleigh. At one point, when trying to explain to them what was going on with our flights, she turned to me and jokingly asked how my French was. So I was on the hook and had to try my best to help out. I stuttered out a few phrases but ultimately the jist of what was going on ended up being communicated in simplified English phrases.

So anyway, we were all collectively losing faith in the maintenance crew working on our plane (and I'm starting to wonder when they're going to just swap planes out instead of trying to fix a plane that obviously has a real problem with it). My new friend then proposed that we see about switching flights, a thought that had occurred to me as well. So we started to ask the woman at the desk if there was another flight to Raleigh we could switch to. There was. But not until 3:20. At this point, I think it was around 1pm. So 3:20 was not seeming so bad. At least it was a solid time we could somewhat count on. They were literally announcing every half hour that it would be another hour until our plane was fixed. So, I swapped my ticket out. But it was only a matter of time before the word came down that they were, in fact, swapping our plane out with one that had just landed. So then they were saying the original flight was going to leave before the 3:20 flight. We decided to switch back to that flight because there was one fundamental difference between the 3:20 flight and the flight we were originally on: The 3:20 flight hadn't even arrived yet. The new plane they swapped us to was at least on the ground at LaGuardia and pulling into our terminal.

Once we had all that settled, my new friend and I went and had a drink and I scarfed a burger while she periodically checked back at the gate to see what our status was. We later found out the 3:20 was delayed getting to LaGuardia and when I finally did arrive in Raleigh, on the original flight, my airport friend heard from her friend that our flight was the last one in to Raleigh-Durham airport before they shut down the airport. So the 3:20 flight wouldn't have even made it out of NYC! What luck!

Getting into Raleigh and hearing all this news about airports closing and seeing the dark clouds on the horizon was pretty crazy. But not even the fact that a light drizzle had started to fall kept me from jumping straight into the pool when I got here. Now, I'm sitting typing this blog watching HD TV and hanging out with the family. So glad to be here right now. While I was waiting at the airport I got an automated phone call from US Airways informing me that my flight back Sunday was cancelled. I called right away to get another fight but was already hearing that every flight into NYC on Sunday was cancelled. I managed to book a flight back on Monday afternoon so hopefully, that will be the least eventful travel day of this crazy ass weekend. Meanwhile, it means that I get a full sunny day of swimming in the pool after all. Sunday should be nice.

Flying into the Storm...

So, I got to see a cut of the film last night. It totally holds up. And of course, I'm hearing more that I want to do to the mix. Especially the solo oud parts. It seems like they're over compressed or there's some EQing that needs to be done.

Anyway, I'm typing this in LaGuardia airport into a text file which I will upload later. When are airports going to start having free wifi? You have to sign up and pay for Boingo to be able to get online in here. I guess they can't afford to give away wifi like other places can. So, why am I at the airport and flying into the path of a storm when everyone else in NYC is freaking out and buying bottled water, deciding whether to hunker down or evacuate? Because I miss my family and I made these plans weeks ago when this Hurricane was just a gust of wind in Africa. It's kind of exciting but I do face the possibility of not getting back in time for my shift on Sunday night. They're making all kinds of plans at work to have people stay in the city at the Maritime Hotel across 9th Avenue from the Chelsea Market because mass transit may get shut down as early as Saturday afternoon. Ironically, they're even talking about having to evacuate the Chelsea Market, at which point, our affiliate in Albany will take over our programming. In a way, I'm sad I'll miss the excitement but I'm sure there'll be enough excitement in NC.

At any rate, I need to find out what's happening with my flight. It was on time when I left home but I just overheard something about another flight being delayed arriving here so anything could be happening. And I have earbuds in, music blasting like usual so I might have missed even more info than that. More later.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bolt to Philly Part Deux, Amtrakin' it back!

So, that was effing crazy. a half hour after I closed my laptop we were slowing to get off the turnpike and someone hit us from behind. Before it happened I was only marginally aware that there might have been something happening. We were slowing pretty fast and our driver hit the rumble strips a little but we weren't in any danger of hitting anyone. Then, a huge thud and my neck swung forward. We were stopped again just as soon as it happened so the truck that hit us couldn't have been going all that fast though my neck did snap back a little. We all looked around and checked ourselves and made sure the person next to us was okay and then the bus driver began shouting toward the back of the bus to make sure everyone was okay as well. At this point, I had to hand the lady in front of me her shoes as they had slid back. Turning my head to look out the window behind us, I saw another car half spun around and crumpled like a tin can. A second later I heard the bus driver shouting back to the passengers to get off the bus. I went for my bag and then realized it had slid to the seat behind me. Once I had all my effects, thanking my lucky stars I hadn't opted to bring my electric guitar with me to the studio (it would have surely been stuff under the bus in the luggage compartment), I followed the other passengers off the bus. We all then gathered on the shoulder of the highway and as I turned back to look at the bus I saw it:

Our bus was the front end of a vehicle sandwich. The other slice of bread being an 18 wheeler and the meat was a smaller semi. The juice running down the shoulder I assumed was gasoline. About this time I started to notice the other cars. There was one ahead of us which had been rear-ended and I'm assuming was the accident that we were slowing down for. The other cars were off behind the two trucks and I'm not sure how many more there were besides the one I had already seen. I recall, shortly after the initial hit, seeing another car careening off into the ditch just off the shoulder. This one disappeared so I'm assuming the driver, having had such a close call and come out relatively unscathed, decided to keep on driving.

Not so lucky, my fellow passengers and I were being held on the side of the road, subjected to legal red tape. We were told to all stay together and write down our information and then someone with the paramedics, who had arrived almost instantaneously, came around and starting asking who wanted to go to the hospital to get checked out. A few people, probably litigiously motivated, took tags from this guy of varying colors depending on, I guess, the severity of their supposed injuries. I felt nothing but a little soreness in my neck and was hoping, between phone calls to Lacy and my parents, to be able to leave at some point, already hatching a plan to have Lacy meet me at the exit once I filled out the form they were handing out.

While I was waiting for someone to hand me a form, I looked down and saw about ten ants crawling on and under my shirt. Apparently, there are ant hills all over the highway shoulder and I was standing right on top of one. Those bastards bit me too!

At this point, once I had handed in my form to the bus driver and scratched all the ants off of my body, the woman to whom I had handed her shoes approached me and asked me if I was headed anywhere, complaining about the fact that they didn't want us to go anywhere. I could see we were of the same mind and I offered her a ride if we could get out of there without too much trouble. I was simultaneously coordinating said ride with Lacy on the phone. The first time we try to abscond, we were stopped by one of the guys with the tags. Yammering about there being a process and blah blah blah whatever. We feigned compliance and then waited for the next opportune moment and bolted, no pun intended. In fact, it was more of a sneaking than a bolting. All the emergency workers between us and Exit 4 on the New Jersey Turnpike couldn't be bothered with our apparent escape.

It was a short quarter mile hike to the exit and during this time, I found out that Margot was from NYC but had a biomedical business in Philly and therefore took this trip all the time. She was relatively unfazed and like me had business to attend to. We made it to the gas station on the corner of highway 73 and Fellowship Rd. and Lacy met us shortly after but not before I made a few phone calls and accidentally broke the soap dispenser in the men's room sending a cascade of that disgusting neon pink soap down to the floor. I didn't tell the management.

The ride to Philly was short thankfully. Lacy informed me that when I called her it was only about 30 minutes before I was supposed to arrive. And the session at Turtle Studios went well. We only really needed to lay down a few takes of a few different ideas on the guitar and get started with mixing it all in. The guys handed me a blue Les Paul and hooked me up to their Vox amplifier, miked me up, tweaked my sound and handed me a headset. The room was huge and filled with all manner of musical instruments, the most notable an organ and a beautiful Steinway grand. At around 12:30 I had to go back into Philly with Lacy in order to catch the 1pm Amtrak back to NYC and here I sit typing this here blog entry. Hoping to god that nothing jumps in front of the train before we get back to Penn Station…and then I go to work.

So, in short, I'm unscathed but very lucky. Just goes to show that even a semi and an 18 wheeler can't stop this train from gliding down the tracks. Notice I didn't use a bus metaphor.

Bolt to Philly...

Now, free wi-fi on a bus. That's something I can get excited about. Heading to Philadelphia right now on the Bolt Bus to record a few guitar tracks on a new song Lacy is recording for her new album. First time going to Philly ever and unfortunately, I have to turn right around and come back to NYC for work tonight right after the session is over. But it's still going to be a fun little adventure. Mostly the making it back to work on time part. In all honesty though, I feel like I've gotten the hardest part of the day out of the way: waking up at 6am and making it to 34th and 8th in time for the bus. At which I succeeded, in fact, even had time to grab a tea at Starbucks. Don't know how I would be doing right now sans caffeine.

Tonight, I may blog again to let you know how the session goes. It promises to be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. Though Lacy and I did spend some time on ideas yesterday when she came to Brooklyn. The song, name of which I shall keep private, is in need of something to make it sound more urgent and have more momentum. That's where I come in. And here comes another challenge in blending my music with another musician's. The studio musicians have already laid down guitar tracks of their own. But you know me. I love a challenge.

Now, what to do with the rest of the bus ride? I actually have some editing on the site I want to do. I was showing another composer my site yesterday when I met with him at his studio in Korea-town (East 30s), and it immediately occurred to him that the players on my site have no volume control. The reason is that the divshare site's embedded player has so much crap on it that you don't need (a shuffle button for starters) that I trimmed them down in the code. Luckily, I just needed to adjust the number for width a tiny bit to allow room for the volume control. Now, I just have to fix that on every player on my site! Shouldn't take too long though. And as long as this driver continues to drive relatively smoothly, I should be motion sickness free.

And now, to work!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


So, the earthquake that I didn't feel here in Brooklyn but was hearing about all day actually forced me to be productive. You know how I can't sit around idly when there's work to be done but you may not know about a fear I have (actually a pretty common one) of being buried alive. After hearing on NY1 that there had been an earthquake and knowing how aftershocks can happen, I opted not to go into the city for my regular volunteer session at Learning Ally, so as not to have to ride underground on a train for 30 minutes. Instead, I stayed home and redid my reads for the voice over demo I'm working on.

I'm actually quite pleased with it and if it all goes over well and I get good reviews from some of my peers I may put a shine on it and upload it in place of the old one. More on that later. In a second here, I'm gonna ride the bike up to the yoga studio in DUMBO. The weather here right now makes it impossible for me to refuse the temptation of getting out on the bike.

I may try to blog later in the week more about the recording session with Lacy and about my upcoming trip to NC...hoping to swim in my parents' new pool all weekend but there's a high probability that Hurricane Irene will make landfall Saturday. Nature is pissed off this week apparently. So long for now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sleep no more...

Oooo! Free wifi in DUMBO! How cool! Blah blah blah whatever, I had the coolest night last night. Really. I'm so excited about it I can't even get excited about having free wifi in the park. I went to see Sleep No More with a free ticket from my work. What an incredible time! I don't even know where to begin.

I feel like this is the kind of play where you could go not knowing too too much about it and have an amazing time still…mostly because of how alarming it might be to walk into this place not knowing what to expect and how unique your experience would be. You get taken for quite a ride. It's a modern dance production of Macbeth crossed with Hitchcock's Rebecca and set in an old warehouse that they've cleverly reconstructed into a hotel, The McKittrick Hotel (apparently a reference to Hitchcock's Vertigo), with several floors of intricately decorated sets (of which you can and should touch anything and everything). You are allowed to walk around the hotel during the performance, following performers from scene to scene or just exploring the place to your heart's content. Also, you are made to wear a mask and told not to talk during the performance so it becomes a highly individualized experience. You could be all alone exploring the hotel and it feels like your own little adventure. There is period music and Bernard Herman scores pumping through all the speakers as you wander from room to room providing the eeriest of soundtracks. Goose bumps covering my skin most of the time, I got lost rather easily and, in my disorientation, was always surprised when I came back upon something I had already seen. When we first entered the hotel, there was a 1930s era bar filled with fake smoke at which you could order a drink, punctuated by a stage with piano and drums set up. Here, we waited for a gentleman, presumably the host, who stood on the stage to call us up according to the playing card we were given upon entering the hotel. I was a 3 of diamonds so, once I realized they were going in sequential order from Aces up through whatever, I had to guzzle my scotch that I was drinking. We were then masked and given instructions and then funneled into an elevator.

Now, I went in having heard a ton about my co workers' experiences who had seen it last Tuesday so I don't feel too terribly bad sharing most of mine. I'd say spoiler alert but honestly, you won't have the same experience as me if you go. So, consider this a preview.

One co worker told me about how he ended up being the first off the elevator and how the elevator operator stopped the other audience members from leaving the elevator. Now my co worker was totally alone in the near pitch black hallway and eventually a woman walked up to him with an old fashioned wheelchair which she directed him to sit in. She wheeled him into a room and reclined the wheelchair so he was looking up at the ceiling when the lights came on to reveal a painted ceiling (I believe that's what he described). Anyway, the woman kissed him on the cheek and told him he'd never be able to see that place again and then promptly sent him on his way.

I did not have the same experience though I expectantly waited to be the last on the elevator so that I'd be the first off. As had happened with my co worker, I was the only one let off the elevator while the others were held back. I turned slyly to my fellow audience members to see their stunned expressions showing through their masks as I raised my eyebrows and grinned though they couldn't see my face.

The floor that I found myself on was a psychiatric ward with rows of beds and charts describing patient conditions. I wandered through the ward into another room lined with claw-footed bath tubs, one of which was filled with water. More on this later.

It wasn't long before I ran into other audience members and started to traipse around amongst them exploring, picking things up and reading letters on the desks and tables. Soon after, actors started to appear. It was quite hilarious to watch every one perk up and start swarming after them as they moved out of the rooms. I won't say much about the scenes acted out so as at least not to spoil that aspect for any of you who might go but I will say that it was some amazing acrobatic stuff and that the costumes were spectacularly done as well. I found myself in one particular scene shortly after that my co workers described as the naked goat head man dead baby orgy scene. Use your imagination and don't hold back.

This is where my experience got way weird and incredibly exciting at the same time. After the strobe lights went down and after one of the dancers, supposedly one of the witches from Macbeth, did her solo dance, a lady in red with feathers walked past me and trailed her feathers along my neck as I locked eyes with her through my mask. After watching a scene unfold between her and another woman, she began to leave and made the same motion with her feathers along my neck and so I did what any curious audience member might have done and followed her out of the room. She turned at one point, in the hall, and met my eyes again, studied me for a second and then grasped my arm and gently pulled me into a room, closing the door quickly behind us. Not sure where she was going with this, but terribly curious and excited to be essentially in the scene with her, no longer a passive observer, I consented to join her. She studied my face again and then drew in closer, lifting my mask. At this point, she quickly turned to a desk covered in tiny vials and jars and raised one to my lips. It tasted salty and I imagined it was either salt water or tears. Either way, I didn't exactly drink it but some dribbled down my chin at which point she hastily turned and grabbed a note, saying, "I need you to take this to the porter in the hotel!" I asked, "Downstairs?" She nodded, "I can trust you with this?" I said yes and she pulled me towards the door, then quickly turned to me and kissed me on my mask and then shoved me out the door.

Holding the note in my hand, I began to frantically run through the hotel, now fully ensconced in the action of the play, feeling truly a part of it, trying desperately to trace my steps back to the hotel. Before I could get very far, new scenes were unfolding in front of me and I got drawn in. Then I started to think, "This is just a play! Of course, I don't need to take the note if I don't want to, and I can't be that big of a deal if I don't find the porter right away and besides, I don't even know which one is the porter!" The gentleman on the microphone in the bar could have been the porter, so could the elevator operator. I was at a loss and the play was happening before my eyes. So I chose to follow the actors that I first saw and wound up watching scene after scene unfold not sure at what point in the narrative we were. Some were more obvious. Lady Macbeth was played by a young woman who, at one point, was stripped nude and was washing blood off herself in the same bath tub I had noticed earlier in the psychiatric ward. When I saw it this time the water was tinged red already, a sign that the scene had already played out once before by the time I came back to the room. As the scenes changed I followed her and watched her dances which were incredibly choreographed and artfully executed. The most fantastic scene I saw took place in a giant ballroom with a huge table on an elevated stage. I figured that this was the banquet scene at the end of Macbeth. Seeing this climactic scene for the second time signaled to me that the play was through its second run of the evening and that it would soon be over. The disorientation complete, I was startled when I found myself jumping out into the hotel bar to the sounds of a jazz band in full swing (no pun intended) and being pulled into the room by grinning hosts, shuffling me onto the dance floor where I was offered champagne and absinthe. Here I joined up with some co workers who I knew were attending but whom I had not seen the whole night (masks and all that). So I sat with a fellow media operator and watched the band while swilling a shot of absinthe, something I had wished I knew they served before I paid $15 for Johnnie Walker Black Label earlier in the evening.

I'm finding out more and more about what I was seeing as I read the reviews linked from Sleep No More's website. Here's a really good one I'm currently devouring. The reviewer really captures the essence of what an evening at the McKittrick hotel will entail and even gives really good tips, one of which I may take if I happen to get the chance to see it again before it closes in September. That is, read Macbeth and/or see Rebecca.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Train logic....

Often on a train ride home I find I have multiple options as to what route I take. The number of routes I could possibly take numbers in the double digits and it usually depends on which train comes first. During rush hour anyway, any route will take about thirty to forty minutes. In cases where it's late at night and the number of stops, whether the train is stopping at local stops and whether or not it's actually running on its regular route, all come in to play, often it makes sense almost immediately which one is the best way to go. But sometimes I find myself debating what could get me home faster, if I actually have the time to engage in such ridiculous analytical exercises. Picture it: I'm on the F and the train is stopped at the Jay Street/Metro Tech stop in Downtown Brooklyn for a seemingly indefinite period of time (probably more like 3 minutes). Here, I could forego the waiting, get up and switch to the R up the stairs and down the hall. Or, I could stay on the train until 4th Avenue/9th Street and switch to the R there. I'm debating whether I'll end up waiting for the train longer at Jay Street or at 9th Street and then I'm wondering if the R train is even stopping at Jay Street (it is the weekend, though probably not late enough on a Friday night for the service changes to be in effect). If I get up and check, I risk missing both trains and having to wait for the next F. If I stay on the F until 9th Street, then I'm at least walking distance from home should the R train fail me entirely or if I end up missing the connection and don't feel like waiting longer. A unique aspect of the R train stop at 4th Avenue/9th Street is that it takes me the same amount of time to walk home as it does to wait for another train when I've just missed one late at night. Just about. So, I end up staying on the train at Jay Street and getting off at 9th Street for the R train. And wouldn't you know it? I just miss the R train at 9th Street. Maybe I could have caught that same R train if I had gotten off at Jay Street? Or maybe I would have just missed it there too and had to wait the same 10 minutes.

So you see, to some degree, such speculative calculating is seemingly useless especially when you factor in the amount of time it actually saves. It's usually zero time though it might be 5 to 10 minutes. Maybe I find it fun because while it may not save time it certainly kills time and on the off chance that it does save me time it gives me a boost of confidence like I have beaten the system that screws me over so regularly. It is also good to know these things when considering whether or not to even bother with trying an alternate route that isn't dictated by which train arrives first. After all, in this case, the distance in number of stops between Jay Street and 9th Street is the same on the R train as it is on the F train (at least it will be when they open up Smith/9th Sts again).

And then I deal with ironies like the fact that the route that is shortest for me from home to work, in terms of number of stops, requires that I take 3 trains, while the route that takes the fewest train connections nears the most possible stops it could take me to get to work.

Either way, whether thinking like this can make my dealings with the MTA more efficient or not, it certainly does make good practice at time management in every other aspect of my life. I use the same kind of logic in the name of productivity when deciding what to work on while at home and what to save for while I'm on the train or at work in my downtime. It doesn't make much sense to answer emails at home or blog at home when I have work to accomplish that I could only do with the equipment I have here at home. I can't exactly bring my MIDI keyboard to work so I can compose on my break. Nor can I practice piano or write songs on the guitar (or do laundry for that matter). I can, however, mix things on my laptop, write blog entries and answer emails from my phone or laptop while at work or in transit.

That's not what I'm doing now. No, I'm actually blogging at home after a thundery, rainy commute home and debating, as always, what to start working on next. I have to play piano at church on Sunday, so I'll practice a little bit and I feel like I may be able to accomplish some VO stuff tonight but ultimately, I'm just planning for the week. I'm planning on starting to take a look at a few pieces that I've left unfinished and seeing what sparks the most inspiration to decide what I'll work on next there. I'm still waiting for a friend to find me lyrics for the choral piece, so there's almost no reason to start work on it yet. I'm excited because, beyond all that, on Thursday, I'm shooting down to Philly for half a day to record some guitar tracks for Lacy's new album. After that, I fly to NC for a little visit to the family. When I get back is when I'll really get to dive into my new projects. For now, I think I'd better get to practicing...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A musical day...

So, I'm about to tweak a few things on the film score mix because a composer's work is apparently never done. I dreaded listening to the mix after I submitted it for exactly this reason. But last night I was showing Karishma and a crucial part was not coming through the mix strongly enough. Plus, I just spoke to the director, who submitted the film yesterday to both Sundance and the Big Apple Film Festival, and he had a few extra ideas once he heard I was in an editing mindset. But that's okay. Perfectionism can be a good thing. At least it's not procrastination.

And speaking of, I don't want to procrastinate since I'm free of one job and essentially don't have anything big on my plate. So I spent most of last evening trying to figure out why my notation program wouldn't open. Turns out there was some background process interfering with Sibelius. I need to be able to edit my scores though so that was something I definitely wanted to work out. I'm planning on diving into at least three different pieces. I want to tweak a piano sketch that I finished writing this year, write a new choral piece for which I have no lyrics yet and finish a chamber piece with electronics that I started the year I moved to NYC.

On top of that, I'm playing three hymns on piano at the Brooklyn Unitarian church on Sunday so I need to practice today and then Lacy is coming so we can practice a little and maybe play Bar 82 or scope out another open mic to play.

So, it's going to be a pretty [insert title of blog entry here].

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Film Score = Done!

I just submitted the final mixes for the film score to my dropbox so that Mohammad can download and listen. Tomorrow is the deadline for online submissions to Sundance Film Festival, the first of many that he intends to submit to.

So, I'm pretty psyched about that and pretty pleased with my final cut of the music. It's been a great project to work on and has taught me a lot. I especially enjoyed working with another musician again. My scores for Boyce Returns (2008) and Solstice (2007) both included my friend Jon on the clarinet but most of the other scores I've done, I worked alone on even if they were collaborative scores like Zero Sum Game (2008) and Peeper: A Sort of Love Story (2009). I was just responsible for my cues and the other composers either were working before I came on to the project or were working simultaneously on their cues.

Anyway, there's a dynamic nature to the piece when you have another mind come in to interpret what you've done. On this score, in particular, there were ideas that occurred to me only after we had recorded the first few takes of the oud (sampling his performances and mangling the results to create atmospheric sounds, for example). Add on top of all that the fact that we had our oud player improvise around an idea that I wrote. You almost never know what you're going to get in that case. All you can do is set a mood and hope that it works with what's on screen.

And in this case, as with Solstice, I was writing the music before the film had even been shot and continuing to work on it after the shoot and well into the editing process without even having seen the scenes I was scoring. Luckily, there wasn't too much that had to hit at the right time, so it was easy to conform the piece to the action on screen after it had been written. But miraculously the key, the tone, the mood, the tempo, everything fit perfectly when we saw it with the scene. I can't wait to be able to show everyone a finished product.

Right now, it's rainy and muggy in New York and I just finally dealt with a fly problem we were having out in the living room. It was apparently due to the window being cracked open at the top, unbeknownst to us. Our window is uncomfortably close to the recycling bins down on the ground level, so that explains the high number of flies and why they were wafting up to our level.

Either way, it feels good to have a clean apartment and a clean slate to get to work on some of my next projects. I do want to write a choral piece again and I have tons of other unfinsheds and as yet to be writtens floating around the apartment and the inside of my brain. But I've also thought it might be nice to try and find some more film scoring work. I'll probably focus on the choral piece first though because it's always good to know when starting a piece that there's a high probability that I can get it performed without too much financial investment.

So, I'll be updating as that progresses. For now, I'm too tired to think of anything else to say...imagine that. Me. Tired on an overnight shift.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Diving into work...

When I get depressed or just harried or when things don't seem to be going my way, I tend to throw myself into my work. It's gloriously therapeutic and has the strange effect of helping me to change my perspective on a lot of things. I remember that I'm lucky to have something I'm passionate about and that things are going to swing back and forth from good to bad, overwhelming to underwhelming, good times will come and go. The ever popular, "This too shall pass." No matter how bad things get I remember that at least I have the basic things I need to be happy, right here and right now and that whatever is bothering me probably won't last too terribly long.

That having been said, this is the perfect time for me to be feeling like that because I have a lot of work to do. Sunday night I finally saw the scene that I've been writing music for all this time. It fits amazingly. I watched it about three times in a row with my music over top of it before actually sitting down Monday afternoon when I got up to put it on a timeline and line up all the hits. There were at least three points in the animation where we wanted to have the music accent and sync up with the action on the screen. So that only took me about an hour or so. I had to play with the length of the oud solo a tiny bit and then cut down the electronic part at the end so it would finish with the end of the scene.

But seeing it with my music was pretty awesome. I actually got chills a few times! This is going to be a great film. The rest of the week will be devoted to getting the mix to pop. I'll be trying it out on a few different sets of speakers and headphones in order to really fine tune it.

On top of squaring away all that, I've been plowing ahead with my new VO demo. I've decided to get some peer reviews on this, first to get an idea of how the quality of my equipment measures up and then to get an idea of how my delivery is. Additionally, I've decided to compose the music for all the scripts I'm reading and have gotten three of them done so far. But this won't be finished until I get the peer reviews. That's key. I can go on Edge studio's website and upload it to get people to review it. They have system where once you've uploaded your first, you have to review two other people. And then each subsequent time you upload you have to first review two other people again. So, I can at least expect to get some attention up there. Either way, I've found other online VO forums as well that I can tap into.

It occurred to me that this was the way to go. I'm not going to be able to jump to where I want to be without acknowledging where I still am. So, I decided to back off of trying to jump to getting a paid gig right away and start to work on honing my skills even more. That doesn't mean I can't submit to jobs and auditions but I feel I should spend more time on presenting myself professionally. Just a few things at a time. The next thing after re-doing my demo is going to be to train a little more and then eventually, when I'm confident I can get one, to go look for an agent.

Incidentally, this is also attached to something I've realized a long time ago. The best way to achieve a goal is to break it up into manageable increments. If you tell yourself, "By next year I want to be blank," and blank happens to be a monumental task, it can get overwhelming thinking how you're actually going to get there from where you stand. So, I find, you should set the goal and then just focus on the next step. You can't reach the goal from where you're starting, you can only reach the first step, so worry about that first. It's sounding a little bit trite and obvious the way I'm explaining it but you get the idea.

At any rate, I'm pretty confident about the first few steps. Once I finish those, the ideas is I'll be confident about what comes next until I'm doing what I couldn't have imagined doing a few months ago.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll spend some more time on the mix and then devote the rest of my time on getting a first version of the demo together for uploading to Edge's website. I got here late today because of the trains so I have to stay a little later and then I get to sleep. Glorious hours of sleep.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The best place to work away from home...

Trying to decide where to do this comes down to three factors: how restrictive is the wifi (i.e. does it time out or do you have to pay or is it a weak or often interrupted connection?), how expensive the coffee is (does it justify leaving the apartment to do work), and how full it tends to get on a typical afternoon (i.e. will I find a seat that I can hold on to and make my trip worthwhile)…this also depends on what day of the week it is. Like, is it national effing brunch day in New York City and does the place serve food that attracts brunchers? So, considering all these factors, I wound up at Tea Lounge on Union Street. I needed to spend the afternoon here working on the business plan and other stuff so I couldn't go to Ozzies, even though their prices are a bit cheaper, because Ozzie's wifi connection times out after a certain amount of time (or at least it did last I was there) and I think you have to pay to keep it going. 'Snice was full of brunchers because they are first and foremost a veggie sandwich shop that sells coffee and happens to have wifi that attracts laptoppers like myself. (Boy, I'm just making up words left and right, aren't I? There's lots of red squiggly lines in this blog entry). Unfortunately, I paid almost $4 for an iced green tea so I could sit here all afternoon.

I could have honed in on this shop first and saved myself some time but I tried "Snice first. Was full. I had wanted to take a meandering stroll through parts of Park Slope I don't get to that often, anyway, just to feel a little leisurely before diving into work. I find that taking an aimless walk or just allowing myself some leisure time helps with my focus just as much as the act of getting out of the house. While the internet itself is rampant with distractions, I find so many more at home than I do when I come out. Here at a coffee shop, I have the sense that I've allotted time and I'm here for a reason so I'd better take advantage of the time and be productive. At home, I feel like if I wanted to laze around, no one would judge me. Not that they would here but I'm still not compelled to lie down on this couch on which I sit.

But I digress, I'm considering in a few months when I have the extra money to throw at it, going back to Edge Studio to take the next round of webinars and workshops. Actually making a plan to take off two Saturdays in a row from work so I can make it to the workshops and mock auditions that they have. I missed out on getting to take these when I was doing the program last summer because of work. I did do two of them, one of them over the phone, but I feel like I could benefit from going to a few of them this time around so I can meet more VO artists like myself and keep in touch with them this time. I met some great people last time but they too quickly disappeared off my radar.

So, that's the bulk of what I've been doing this afternoon, researching the cost of all of that and working it into the business plan. Additionally, I'm trying to hone in on voice over events and places I might go to meet an agent. This one is not as urgent because I'm not even going to approach an agent until I re-record my demo. This might be what I spend the month of September on. Doing the first test runs of that this week. My cousin will be on vacation and I will have the apartment to myself to focus on that.

Beyond all the VO work, I think we'll be done with the film score as I mentioned last night. So, it'll be a busy week for me but I don't mind. I'm getting my opportunities to socialize. This past Friday was Ra Ra Riot in Prospect Park. I went with Karishma and met a co worker and his wife and another co worker there. They're a great band with an incredible live show. We had to sit pretty far back and the band was half blocked from our view by the beer tent but we didn't care. The weather was freaking amazing and we had snacks and booze. If you haven't heard Ra Ra Riot, give them a listen. For now, I'd better get back to my work. Talk soon!

Film Score...

Another evening spent working up a mix for Mohammad. We were hoping to get some more time with the oud player but he's leaving the country for we don't know how long so we have to either get him to record us one more take from his apartment and send it via FTP in .wav format, or just go with the cleaned up mp3 files that we have.

Tomorrow will tell what we end up doing. But I think we have just about everything we need to make it good. I finished a mix this evening but I may still have to tweak the timing of things once I see the fully edited version of the scene which we'll be laying it over. That should be tomorrow as well.

It's exciting that it's almost finished and that there's a first deadline in sight. I had a lot of time to work up my part of the score because I started working on concepts before they even shot the scenes. But now that everything is coming together in the editing room over there, I can see an end in sight. Well, in truth, my anticipation is just heightened. I can't really see anything yet. Except for the few concepts I've gotten to glimpse along the way.

Either way, it's been fun getting reacquainted with using Logic Studio along the way, and finding ways to use Native Instruments' Kontakt Player as a sampler. I even got to use Guitar Rig 3 again, as one of the things I added this evening to make the mix a little stronger was guitar.

Anyway, here I sit, exhausted but wide awake and listening to the indie version of Marvelous 3's Hey! Album. A song I haven't heard in ages that wasn't on the later version of the album. It's really bringing me back to junior year of college when I last listened to this album regularly. A time when I lived in West Greensboro in a house with 3 other guys while I was finishing up the last semesters of my music degree and before I ran off to France for a summer and met the woman I would eventually marry and later get divorced from. It was an innocent time. Little did I know that that would be the last year I took piano lessons. And little did I know that a decision I made that year to study composition instead of piano for my masters would lead me where it eventually did. As I remember, it was a decision that was hatched partially out of my disappointment with my piano professor and my disappointment with myself for failing at lessons and not having improved much over the course of three years of study...but mostly out of a realization that I was not cut out to be a performer and that I should be a composer instead like I had dreamed of as a kid at the age of 13. Of course, I needed the expertise if I was going to become a composer. I remember feeling as though I'd wasted the time I had in college doing the wrong thing for myself, studying piano and doing horribly at it (I was a bad sight reader and couldn't discipline myself to practice 8 hours a day like some over-achievers that I was studying with) when I could have been learning about composing and getting started earlier. I regret that more and more that I didn't realize that from the beginning.

I was told by that same piano professor when I suggested changing my major that I should just do a masters in composition because it didn't really matter what I did my undergrad in. Of course, he made this statement because he was assuming that I wanted to go into academia, a place I still find myself at odds with. After that year, so many things changed and I almost didn't pursue this career. But I did. It just took me a while to feel like I was making any headway.

I'm going to start this next thought with a disclaimer that I'm not comparing myself to other composers and other human beings by this, but I often do look at other people and see how far they've gotten when they've been alive the same amount of time as I have or shorter. By "far" I mean that they've succeeded in doing things I've aspired to do but haven't been able to find a way to do...yet. I consider that maybe they've had more opportunities than me, but then maybe they've had the same amount of opportunities as I have and have just taken more of them, or just taken the right opportunities and not wasted time with ones that weren't right for them or weren't going to lead them anywhere. I wonder what they knew that I didn't know and where they were getting that information. Was I cheated? Or was I just not paying enough attention? Letting things slip by while I got distracted by things like love and alcohol and social situations?

I know. It's pretty dark stuff for a Saturday night, but I assure you I'm not depressed right now. No, I'm feeling relatively good despite how harrowing it can be to pursue something for years and feel like you're moving at a snail's pace. But I guess this is just the way it goes for some of us. I've already said I'm not doing this because I think it's going to be easy. I'm doing it because I have to.

Despite having just done some fairly big stuff recently (performing in two very different concerts back to back for starters), I still feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. So, I should probably just sleep on it and I'll be good tomorrow morning. Good night.