Monday, December 11, 2006

Comments in Moderation

Just this weekend, I realized I actually had some comments from real people and not SpamBots. I turned 'em all on. I promise to be more vigilant about that in the future, so the 3 or 4 of you who are actually reading this can both make comments and see them show up.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A few days in the life

Over the last month, I've managed to get down to 177 pounds. My blood pressure is more or less 120/80. Some days the systolic is a bit higher, some days the diastolic. Definitely moving in the right direction. A few more pounds to go. I'm hangin' in there.

Work is settling down a little bit. Or at least I'm hitting it with a better attitude.

Going on a little vacation soon, away from all of this San Francisco madness. Iran will be done with school in a few more days and then there's...oh man, holiday shopping. I need to take care of that.

What do you all want?

Me, I know I'm hard to shop for. I made one of those Amazon gift lists, but no one ever buys me stuff from it. Friends and family say it all looks like homework. What can I say? I am a sucker for books that I can pretend make me smarter and slightly less-crappy-sounding versions of CDs I already own!

My Top 10 Albums of 2006

Here's my list of the 10 new albums I enjoyed most in 2006. This doesn't mean I listened to them the most, just that I made it all the way through at least once and didn't say "oh man that sucked."
  1. Scott Walker - "The Drift"One of the weirdest things I've heard in a long time. Mysterious, disturbing, beautiful. A David Lynch movie in music, all the more remarkable because it's made by a guy who was a pop star in the 60's. Apparently recorded with no compression! "It's a swanky suuuuuit..."
  2. Tim Hecker - "Harmony In Ultraviolet"
    You only need one Tim Hecker album. This is it. Ambient. Sounds like the music of the spheres played over a static-y radio. Any track is as good as any other, and the album itself works great in sequence or shuffle.

  3. The Church - "Uninvited, Like The Clouds"
    Same shit they always do. I really like about half of it. "Block" and "Song To Go" (the first and last tracks) are great. Good production, nice guitar playing, and their typical semi-psychedelic lyrics.


  4. The Knife - "Silent Shout"Yeah, it's pretty much the same song over and over again, but that one song is pretty good. Clever use of limited/unique pallette. You definitely only need one record by this band. Having checked out their others, they're all pretty much the same.

  5. TV On The Radio - "Return To Cookie Mountain"
    Soul/Indie. Not solid the whole way through, but interesting. This is one of those "gimmes" - pretty much everyone making a list this year stuck this one on there. It's good, not great. So everybody includes it.

  6. Mastodon - "Blood Mountain"
    My heavy metal favorite this year. These guys are great. Not as good as Leviathan, but better than 95% of anything else that came out with distorted guitars and yelling this year. Not as derivative as Wolfmother, but not as catchy, either.

  7. Tom Waits - "Orphans"
    It's Tom Waits. He puts most other songwriters to shame, even with his "odds and sods". Another gimme that everyone put on their list this year. I don't know if anyone can actually listen to 3 CDs of his 'junkyard blues" back-to-back, but in smaller doses, he's unbeatable.

  8. Tie between "Pick a Bigger Weapon" by The Coup and "Mo'Mega" by Mr. Lif
    Neither one of these hip-hop albums is great the whole way through. But if you took the best halves of each, you'd have something. No thuggery here. Some thoughtful, angry, and catchy hip-hop. Try "We Are The Ones" from The Coup's album and "The Fries" from Lif's joint.
  9. Wolfmother - "Wolfmother"
    They really like old Black Sabbath, Zep, and AC/DC. Do you? Not particularly inventive, but blissfully free of the tongue-in-cheekery that kept anyone from really enjoying The Darkness.
So there you go. There were some other albums that were contenders - Neil Young's campaign ad "Living With War". There were also a bunch of records (like every year) that people hyped to death which completely mystified me. Coming soon: the list of non-2006 things I "discovered" in 2006.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Arnold's Law

We're all familiar with Murphy's Law.

Recently I've become more familiar with what I am calling "Arnold's Law":

No matter how full or empty the locker room is, once you pick a locker, someone will appear next to you needing to get into the locker occluded by your locker door.

I've been spending a lot of time at the gym lately and found this to be ridiculously true. Hell, the gym can be closed and someone still seems to appear out of nowhere. It's nuts.

Anyhow, work is settling down a bit - part of it is the usual end-of-year "nothing's going on". Part of it is my group is just in a bit of a lull. Regardless, it's a nice change. Lots of other big pieces moving around, but I am not heavily involved (yet).

I haven't spent much time working on music, just been monkeying with some new equipment (new mic pre, new mic, some software upgrades). Noodling around, coming up with some ideas. Also trying to find new people for the band and rehearsing for the upcoming Palace Family Steak House gig.

Also been spending some time with Neverwinter Nights 2.

Got back to DC on a business trip and saw some family and friends. The leaves were turning, it was raining, it was sunny. Made my heart ache a bit for the past.

And as for the gym? Well, I'm down to 179 and my blood pressure was normal this morning (it's been close all week).

As for music and such, the things I've been enjoying lately:
  • Tim Hecker "Harmony in Ultraviolet" - Ambient.
  • Pan American "For Waiting, For Chasing" - Ambient.
  • Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto "insen" - Glitchy ambient.
  • Cranes "Particles and Waves" - Still doing the same weird gothy thing. I still like some of it.
  • The Knife - "Silent Shout" - Off-kilter disco.
  • The Church - "Uninvited, Like The Clouds". It's a new Church album.
What are you all up to?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'm fat and I have high blood pressure

184 pounds, at 5' 10", which gives me a body mass index of 26.4. That's "overweight".
180/34 blood pressure, which is smack in the middle of what is considered "pre-hypertension".

While being fat is annoying, I'm mostly concerned about the high blood pressure. I don't smoke, don't drink to excess, and don't eat a lot of salt. So what else is there?

Stress? Check.
Lose weight? Yeah. So there you go.

Looks like I need to lose 15-20 pounds. And get life a little calmer. By eating salad or something.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Everything Must Change, Only One Thing Can Change

A few days ago, a manager I respect said
"Your problem is you're too nice! You have to stop that."
Yesterday I woke up at 4:45 am for a day trip to Seattle. The office visit wasn't unpleasant so much as unnecessary. I didn't get to do the thing I was nominally flying up there for, and key players neglected to show up for some of the important meetings that had been scheduled. Aside from a muffin and coffee hastily downed before getting on the plane (since, you know, liquids are bad), I didn't get to eat.

Sometimes when I fly I can fall into a deep sleep, only to pop up wide awake and restless for the remainder. Once that happens, the flight is pretty unpleasant. Not enough room in the seats to even sit comfortably with my shoulders. Can't even reach down and get items out of my bag. So I flip rapidly through songs and think.

I realized I'm pretty annoyed. And I haven't really had time to do anything of substance (or even update this blog) in the 6 weeks since I returned from teaching. I haven't been able to get to the gym much. I have nearly 6 hours of meetings every day, plus "real work" to do.

In short, everything must change. Of course, I can't change the way my employer does business or how it treats people. I can't change the world news. I can only change myself, change the way I live, change what I say "yes" to.

So I'm going to.

This is the sort of deep personal introspection sitting in a middle seat in front of the bulkhead for 2 hours gets you.

At least the hives haven't come back.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hives


Last night, about an hour after dinner, I started feeling itchy and noticed a few bumps on my arms. I figured I had been bitten a few times by a bug. By the time evening session was over, the bumps were expanding and spreading.

By then I figured out that I was having some sort of allergic reaction. But to what? I guessed it was something I'd eaten at the dining hall, but I hadn't eaten anything different from what I normally ate, other than one particular sauce on some tofu and vegetables.

Did some reading on the Internet and realized I probably had hives. Wasn't much I could do by now, it was 11 pm. So after I finished writing up the student rubrics at 2 am, I went to bed.

I woke up at 5 am this morning scratching at my own throat. In the men's room I looked in the mirror and found myself covered in a bright red bumpy rash from neck to knees. My skin felt like it was on fire. I took the picture above.

I wandered around outside in the pleasantly cool air until 8 am when the health center opened. The nurse was concerned. So was I.

She gave me some Benadryl and told me if I wasn't better by 3 I should go to the clinic. Well, looks like the Benadryl did the trick. My hives are all but gone, though my skin is still pretty sensitive. And I feel like I'm half asleep, though how much of that is the Benadryl and how much is the 3 hours of sleep I got is unclear.

Today was also the last day of class for the students. I met with each of them for a few minutes to cover their rubrics and final exams. A good bunch.

It's also about 100 degrees outside, so tonight I will probably stay holed up in one of the air-conditioned commons rooms and get some work done. Lots going on at the office and of course, I'm right back in it come Monday.

Quite an experience being here. Pleased with the students and their performance. A good term, if not life-changing. I'm ready to go home, though.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Order and Disorder

A good day in class! Started off what was known as "Mopey Monday" in truly mopey fashion by giving the students a very hard pop quiz. Some were quite upset. I haven't had time to read them yet.

We did "Jumping Dance" to get into a more learning-friendly mental state and then started talking about Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern - the serialist/12-tone composers. This is typically one of the best days for me - seeing the students "get" what 12-tone is about and how much fun it can be to compose is incredibly satisfying. Also, once the students start composing, the whole class takes on a different tone. Today did not disappoint!

We also discussed John Cage, his silence piece, and prepared piano. The students like that.

I am thrilled with one student in particular. Unlike past classes, most of the students this time have had some music experience and read music. Two don't. One of these two has really taken to this stuff and is really working hard. It's exciting to see someone want to learn so much!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

37

Today I turned 37.

Hot today if you were in the sun and not in the shade. Beautiful breezes. Had a good breakfast and worked in the air-conditioned classroom on various tasks until lunchtime, managing to squeeze in some Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Post lunch, I retreated to my room for a little siesta - I've really gotten into the 20-minute power nap here. 5 minutes in, Lisa and Chris called, and I agreed to meet them at the Nasher gallery. I finished my nap and walked over, sticking to the shadows and hoping for a breeze.

The gallery itself was atypically modern for Duke's staid campus. Like most modern galleries, it featured a fancy gift shop selling all sorts of stuff barely relevant to the galleries. Of the remaning 4 rooms, one was reserved for a concert and one was a 90-minute film.

One of the rooms had an interesting exhibit, a loosely-themed mix of old and new with some nice pieces. The other had a survey of some African-American artists. Given how closely I've been looking at art lately, I could just see the influences right and left - Surrealism here, Ferdinand Leger there, Raul Hausman's photomontages there.

A quick tour of East Campus and then a huge, lush meal at a local restaurant. I ate way too much but it was quite good. Now I'm sitting in a darkened classroom watching Deadwood and reflecting.

This isn't the first birthday I've spent here. I still have a cassette copy of "Synchronicity" given to me here with "Happy Birthday, Anu!" written inside.

37. Life is good. Happy to be here, at TIP. Happy to be alive. Happy to have the life, family and friends I have. Thanks to all of you for another great year.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sticky

The heat is oppressive.

Yesterday was a great teaching day, though we got a little behind. This resulted in my having to stay to teach evening session. We covered Expressionism, and this ended up being rather suitable, since it meant they saw all the creepy stuff as it was getting dark.

I also went for a run with one of the other teaching assistants - this 19 year-old kid with long, long legs. He ran like a gazelle. I couldn't keep up with him, and he had to slow down frequently so the old man could catch up and/or catch his breath. Ah well. At least I got out there in the heat.

Of course, my feet are paying the price. Having grown accustomed to sitting all day, suddenly changing to standing, walking, and running around a classroom 6-7 hours a day plus all the walking across campus has left my feet rather sore the last couple of days. The above-mentioned run didn't help much.

The food here has gotten much better, and I've been eating both healthy and well. Forecast says rain, hope this will cool things down a bit.

As for the students...well, when they try, they can do great things. Sometimes it's tough to get them to try. For the most part they seem interested in what's going on, and the class is moving along very quickly. I don't know if I could keep up were I in their shoes.

I feel like I've done some really good things in terms of presenting the material, however, and this makes me happy. Even if they're not totally getting it, I know they're getting it better/more than kids in previous years.

I'm also very tired.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day 2

Today we talked about early musical technology, Bach, Wagner, Debussy.

I have a few great students who are really thinking and talking. I have one or two who are disturbingly quiet (as in "saying nothing"). The rest of the class is a good distribution in-between.

Trying hard to keep things varied and interesting in class - the first few days are difficult because there's so much to learn before you can get to the more interesting stuff. Oh well.

Some days I feel like a bad teacher. Today is one of them. I even misread a schedule and missed a lunch duty I needed to do.

It's been hot today - over 90. The cool weather of the last few days is unfortunately gone, and the forecast says "hot, until the weekend when it's hot and rainy".

Can't complain. I miss my wife. Work seems to be doing OK without me, too.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

That's some good eatin'


Very good BBQ. Of course.

Hot and Raining

Until July 29, I am at Duke University, teaching at the Talent Identification Program.

I’m here!

My flights were relatively uneventful – I sat in the exact same seat on two identical planes, both times lucky enough to have the middle vacant. However, the DFW-RDU leg was troubled by bad weather and we had to sit on the ground on the plane for 2 hours.

Aside from the usual nausea of getting up at 3:30 am to get to the airport (I don’t think the bad yogurt and fruit I ate for breakfast helped much!), everything was fine. Read some magazines. Slept a bit.

Turns out a few old friends are visiting in town this weekend – an unexpected bonus. Hot and rainy. Not as hot as I expected, and apparently the rain is part of a cold front moving through which should keep things cool tomorrow. The rain is the good, old-fashioned, East Coast kind of rain that’s like someone turned a shower on. It hisses against the pavement. Wonderful! Can’t get that kind of rain in San Francisco.

Ate some Mexican food, met some of the new staff. They asked me what I did for a living. I told them, and surprisingly, they’d actually heard of Rhapsody. Unfortunately, some of them through the TV commercials…

Adam made it in, but I haven’t seen him yet.

Now it’s 1:34 am on Thursday, and I’m almost tired enough to sleep. I better, because I have to get up way early tomorrow. I’m excited to be here, though I already miss my wife very much. Just walking around campus, catching the scent of the place, seeing the buildings…I feel like I’m 16 again.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Entropy, Chaos, Sickness

How have 2 months passed so quickly? Here's a brief rundown, in case you weren't there:
  • Someone stole a whole wheel off my car from in front of my house. Lug nuts, wheel, and brand-new tire. Yet they left my plastic hubcap and their jack and lug wrench. Found out in the morning of the day of street cleaning, leaving me precious little time to fix the issue. Now I have locking lug nuts
  • A close friend was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I don't know what I can do other than be supportive and send good thoughts
  • A close friend miscarried after about 6 months of pregnancy
  • I got back in touch with several people I hadn't heard from in years (if not decades) (Hi there Jim, Howard, Jeannie...)
  • More people have left my job as the workload and stress ratchet up, magnifying its effects on those who remain
  • I rode home on my motorcycle only to find a screw completely through the nearly-flat rear tire
  • I interviewed my Dad about his life for over 3 hours
  • I performed in the Palace Family Steak House Orchestra
  • I've flown to Seattle (4 times), New York, and Las Vegas. Sometimes as much as 3 trips in a 7-day period
  • Purchased and installed a new high-efficiency clothes washer and dryer
  • Had my credit card number stolen
  • Wrote 2 new cowboy songs ("Back in the Saddle" and "I Can't Find My Guns") for a good friend and former bandmate
There's probably more. The bad stuff stands out the most. I feel lucky to be where I am right now, despite my minor inconveniences and major work stress.

Interviewing my Dad was the most satisfying thing Ive done in a while - he was great!

I've also been preparing for my upcoming class - from July 5 - July 29 I'll be in Durham, North Carolina teaching "A History of 20th Century Music" at the Duke University Talent Identification Program.

I plan to blog about that a bit over the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Earthquake Preparedness and Probability

I live in San Francisco. Just a little over 100 years ago, the city was destroyed by an earthquake. Scientists are as sure as they can be that another major earthquake will hit San Francisco. A 62% of a 6.7 or higher in the next 30 years. I'll leave a discussion of exactly how this is calculated and what it means for a later post.

People are very, very bad at understanding probability and the math behind it. They don't grasp what this means. So let's put it another way:

If the forecast called for a 62% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow, would you take an umbrella with you?
You should. And likewise, all of us who live in the Bay Area need to be prepared for a major disaster on a daily basis. But most of us aren't.

Fortunately, I have some friends who recently held an "Armageddon Night", where we got together and talked about how to prepare for this stuff. We had someone from FEMA come and talk, and some presentations and discussions on earthquake preparedness.

Since then, I've started making real preparations. Flashlights and radios that don't need batteries. Extra food. First aid kits. Water. A "go bag" stashed in my car. I just need to get some important papers copied and I should be as set as I can be.

If you live in the Bay Area, you should make sure you're prepared, too. It's yet another thing to deal with. But having lived through the Northridge quake in Los Angeles, I know first-hand how much life can be disrupted by even a modest interruption in services.

The last time the power was out, how much were you annoyed? Inconvenienced? OK. Now the power is out. The water is out. The gas is out. The phone may be out. For several days.

The only thing you can do is to act now. So do it. And read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Fooled By Randomness".

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dr. Greg Kimble (1917-2006)

I just found out that Dr. Greg Kimble passed away.

You can read the link to his obituary above and read about his achievements in psychology, but that really doesn't provide a full picture.

Dr. Kimble had a profound effect on my life. I first met him in 1982, my second year at Duke University's Talent Identification Program. He was teaching Introductory Psychology. I had never had a teacher or classroom experience like Dr. Kimble's, and had never been so excited about learning. Nor had I been so challenged. I took the next class he taught ("Thinking, Knowing, and Problem Solving") without even reading the description.

When I finished my first class with him, I asked him to sign the textbook we used (which he had written with Norm Garmezy and Ed Ziglar - names I can rattle off 20 years later because I studied the book so much!). He wrote:
Anu - So much seems to be going on underneath the surface. Peace!
- Greg
Of course, he was right, and I've never forgotten his insight, pithiness, and brevity.

Over the next few years we had other interactions - I was asked to speak on TIP's behalf a few times, and Dr. Kimble (along with Dr. Robert Sawyer) was always there, smiling. I attended TIP's first alumni reunion, and he was there. Remembered us all. I eventually became the first alumni member to serve on the TIP advisory board, and he came to many of the meetings.

Dr. Kimble had an incredible capacity for caring for people. It's a cliché, but his smile really did light up a room. He also had a gravity and seriousness about him such that no one ever mistook his good charm and humor for lack of substance. He always treated everyone with respect.

He's why I teach at TIP. I strive to accomplish even half of what he did. I hope to inspire some bright kids to love learning, work hard, not give up, "become who they are", and find peace. I crib shamelessly from my memories of how he taught - the speech cadences, the different instructional methods. He was able to keep a room full of antsy teenage prodigies attentive and engaged for hours a day.

I knew this day would come, and he certainly lived a full life. But I mourn the loss of a great human being. I can still see twinkling eyes and charming smile, still hear his wonderful voice. And my heart breaks.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Nuclear Power

I have been pro-nuclear power since reading my first few ecology books back in the 1970s. The world is running out of oil (another thing I've been hearing since the 1970s). Burning coal and oil is directly contributing to global warming, pollution, and political and economic instability.

Nuclear power costs less. It emits no greenhouse gases. If our own uranium reserves aren't sufficient, we can buy uranium from Canada, which is acknowledged as having some of the largest. I'd rather send them our cash than some of the other places it goes.

Some other fun facts: Most coal has traces of uranium in it. So much coal is currently burned yearly that the total radioactive waste release from coal plants is much greater than that from even today's old reactors. And if that's not enough, the uranium that's "thrown away" in this fashion contains more energy than the burned coal trapping it.

I think people's objections to nuclear power amount to fear of catastrophe and fear regarding the waste. So what about those issues?

The world recently passed the 20th anniversary of the terrible accident at Chernobyl. Truly awful. But one bad disaster shouldn't scare people away from one of the many sources of energy we'll have to utilize. Look at the recent coal mine disasters, or look at the coal mines on fire and burning out of control. How many toxic oil spills have there been? Does anyone even pay attention to them anymore?

Safety improves when there are incentives and when it's a priority. Look at the abrupt, substantial changes that happened in airports after 9/11. Many people (myself included) may argue those changes are largely cosmetic and do little more than address the public's fear and perception. But the goal (removing fear) is still accomplished. And to be clear, nuclear power requires real, serious, rigorous safety measures in place. Nobody sane will argue with that.

People continue to be irrational regarding nuclear waste. Much money has been spent on WIPP - the legendary New Mexico nuclear waste repository that has yet to be opened. People say "it's not safe enough" - but it's the safest possible place and design humanity is capable of creating at this time.

And while the irrational people argue about WIPP's inability to absolutely, 100% guarantee safety for 10,000 years, where is the existing waste being stored?

The exact details are considered state secrets. But much of the waste is sitting in rusting drums in military facilities surrounded by little more than chain-link fences or in temporary storage at the originating plants. These temporary facilities are much worse than what WIPP, imperfect as it is, could offer.

We must all realize there are no "permanent solutions" to our energy needs. Our civilization will be playing technological "leapfrog" forever. Put the waste in WIPP for now, and keep working on finding a better solution. Switch to more nuclear power for now, and keep working on improving and developing better, cleaner, and greener sources.

Nuclear power won't solve all of our energy problems. It will create some new problems. And we still have to deal with oil - we can't just give it up overnight. But it's a start. There is no single solution to our energy problems. We have to chip away a little bit at a time.

Inevitably, people resort to the weak strategy of asking me "well, would you want a nuclear power plant in your backyard?" Of course not. I don't want an oil refinery, prison, garbage dump, airport, or strip mall there, either. Nobody does. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have nuclear power. And that doesn't mean that we all shouldn't be prepared to sacrifice a bit for safer, cleaner energy. I should probably start answering them with something like "I'd rather have a nuclear power plant in my backyard than blood on my hands (or someone else's hands)".

The NIMBYs who keep voting against putting wind farms in various places are especially offensive to me. There is no free ride, people.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Improving the Blog

As you may have noticed, I've spruced up the blog a bit. My HTML skills are extremely rusty, but I managed to get a few changes made:
  • Dark gray background. Easier on the eyes than the straight black.
  • Addition of some Rhapsody stuff - you can click on any of the album covers under "Hear Me" and get taken immediately to the Rhapsody stream. If you're not a Rhapsody subscriber, you can still play 25 tracks a month for free!
  • Truncated the displayed bio and moved the rest of it to a post. Sort of a hacky solution, but it works.
  • Added many new links and new link categories.
I'll be adding and modifying more in the future - adding more music and Rhapsody features as they become available and looking for other ways to keep the blog current.

If I had more than 3 readers, I might consider dropping the Google ads on the site, too.

Let me know what else you'd like to see/hear/experience! If you want linkage, drop me a line and let me know.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

181!

I weighed myself today. 181!

More cardio to come.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time and Life

Though it may seem as though I have been failing my New Year's resolution, rest assured I have been doing a lot.

My occupation has been keeping me, uh, occupied. Many good people left the company over the last 9 months - old friends and new. Several new companies came a-calling, wanting me to come and work for them. This resulted in a very long period of contemplating what the "right decision" would be -- which one of these fantastic jobs should I take?

I probably take too long to make up my mind, but I like to think things through. All of the jobs had good points and bad. I probably talked to almost everyone who might conceivably be reading this about my options (even if they didn't know it at the time!).

In the end, I decided to stay at RealNetworks. I received a promotion, more responsibility, and more work. I like a challenge. A few years from now I'll be able to decide whether or not I made the right choice. In the meantime, things are already getting better at work.

I also decided (and made a condition of staying at RealNetworks) to teach my music class at Duke TIP again this summer. This requires lots of preparation, especially since I haven't taught it in several years, and I try to make each year better than the last. I am compiling notes, reading some great new books, and working with my friend Adam Tober. That last bit is only slightly complicated by his living in Tokyo. But come July, I'll be flying to Durham for a month. I'll keep you posted from there.

I was lucky enough to see my brother a few times this year. He took a contract position with a video game company here in San Francisco, and was in town every other week. I really enjoyed seeing him so frequently - he is so very talented and smart. Unfortunately, his contract wasn't extended, so I probably won't see him in person for a while.

He's been doing a lot of music - a record he's been working on with his friend Tommy looks like it's getting picked up by a small, hip German label. In addition, my brother is almost finished with his own solo album, which I am dying to hear. What little of it I have heard was fantastic.

As for my own music, I've been doing some writing, too. CHILL finished a new collection in honor of the recent probe launch. We each chose a planet to compose music for. I did "Saturn" and "Jupiter". I wish I had more time to do more electronic music. Or even just get to know my tools better.

Also, Rich Trott (the artist formerly known as "Throb") has practically finished an album, most of which I recorded and engineered here at Blue Moscow. Looks like he's putting together a live band, and I think I am the designated bass player.

My friend Sid Luscious has written 5 new songs. I helped him out a bit with those, too.

The guy who used to be the bass player in my first band ever got in touch with me a few weeks ago. Turns out he's been living in San Francisco for years. It was great to see him and catch up. I hope to do some recording with him soon, too.

Wait, there's more.

2 weeks ago, I had my body fat measured. 22%. I need to lose 10 lbs. Like that's a surprise. The funny part was the gym guy said "all you need to do is 1 hour of cardio a day for...hmm, 2 months, and you'll hit your goal."

1 hour a day for 2 months. 60 hours. That's all. It sounded almost ridiculous, but given that my current workouts haven't been producing the results I wanted, I figured "can't hurt to try." So today was Day 10. Let's hope this works!

Anyhow, I will try to post more frequently. Next time: Adventures at Guitar Center!

Also it's been raining a lot. Boo!

Monday, January 02, 2006

The next music business

One of my New Year's resolutions is to create more. Among other things, that means more blog entries.

I recently put my last solo album up for sale on CDBaby.

CDBaby is a great site for musicians. For a nominal fee, they will act as a fulfillment center and billing processor - they'll sell your CDs for you and take a very modest cut while offering tons of great features. They provide streaming MP3 clips, a functional (if a bit ugly) page set for your product, and will even act as a digital distributor, getting your content into iTunes, Rhapsody, and the like.

CDBaby makes it much easier for people to sell their music online. I put up "Songs for the Last Man on Earth", which is nearly 10 years old. Within a week, someone bought a copy. I guess they liked it, because it looks like they proceeded to buy some other music I put up there.

I didn't promote "Songs for the Last Man on Earth" - all I did was upload it - and it sold. Theoretically, if word of mouth spread, I could keep selling it without doing anything else. The music would be effectively succeeding on whatever merits it may have. That is the closest thing to a musical Utopia we can hope for, and it is that dream that has driven much of my work over the last few years.

The "Songs for the Last Man on Earth" sale phenomenon isn't isolated, either. Back during MP3.com's heyday, I uploaded the whole Bastard Science Records catalog to MP3.com.

Among other things, the Bastard Science Records catalog included an ambient album I made as Captain Kirk ("The Shape of the Universe") to MP3.com. For about 6 months, I had half of the top 10 slots in the experimental genre and sold several hundred dollars' worth of CDs. Again, this was without any promotion whatsoever.

I received fan mail from around the world - Japan, German, New Jersey - places I would have never been able to reach.

Most people would call the acts on CDBaby and MP3.com "aspiring musicians" or "wannabe musicians" or "amateur musicians", but I think that both belittles their work and continues the lie that there's something very special about the major label artists.

There isn't.

Yeah, there's a lot of crap music up on all these sites. But there's also a lot of really good music, too. It's the finding it that's hard. Working on improving the mechanism for finding good music is my next professional challenge.

Today there are a variety of MP3 blogs, but the more successful these blogs become, the closer they edge to returning to what is effectively "major label content."

Word of mouth is still king - nothing beats someone you know telling you about a great new band. Your friends don't care whether something is signed or not, and if they make you a solid recommendation, you don't care either.

CDBaby and its ilk epitomize the next music business. Artists will be more able to focus on making music and have to worry less about distribution. Even marketing can be lower effort and more targeted.

William Gibson famously stated that "the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed". The future is here in the form of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - a band that topped many critic's lists this year and is doing very well on iTunes and Rhapsody. And they have no label. They are completely self-released, and arguably the first true Internet rock stars.

They'll probably parlay all this attention into a fat major label deal. But perhaps the next band won't.