Random adventures through my life... in all their glory and splendor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beware of Good Lasagna

I wrote up a devotional for Church and since it's the only thing I've written in 6 months I thought I'd post it.

If you were asked to freely associate the word "Holiday" what is the first word that comes to mind? Personally, I would blurt back "Food". Food means Cooking, and Cooking is a tradition that is loosely translated as, "Opportunity for failure" in the Gardner household. My mother is a gifted and loving woman, but I am reasonably certain that she was afflicted with a childhood disease that has permanently altered her perception of temperature and flavor. With my mother, meals were always hit or miss and holidays usually doubly so. My sister and I had a game called "Burnt or Frozen?" which was kind of like betting on red or black in roulette. The gambling analogy continues in that there was the possibility that dinner could "land on green" and be both. This was usually due to some unsuspecting bag of peas, happily minding its own business in the back of the freezer, getting called into active duty at the last second. Which leads us to the next critical flaw in my mother's cooking philosophy, creativity does not equal edibility. There are people who can improvise with ingredients, but my mother is not one of them. I'm just saying, just because you CAN combine leftover chicken and strawberry jello, doesn't mean you should.

Anyway, what I..m getting at is that when my mom said, ..Your sister will be here for lunch. Why don't you come over too, I'll make lasagna," there's just cause for suspicion. Actually even when she says, "I'll make grilled cheese," you should proceed with caution. But as it turns out, on this day, the lasagna was good. Initially cold, but good. Really good. Too good. I was suspicious.

Now, my mother won't outright lie about her dark art mealtime techniques, but you do have to ask the right questions. So instead of brutishly saying, "The lasagna is really good, what's wrong with it?" I waited and gathered more information. You probably should know that my parents are retired and now spend a lot of time volunteering for various community projects. So when the conversation shifted toward the local food bank and the pattern of giving around the holidays, I started to put things together. "This lasagna is really good. Did you take it from homeless people?" I asked sensitively. This is the point at which I believe my sister snorted a still frozen pea out her nose, but don't quote me on that. "I think it's from Market Day," she replied providing an answer yet completely dodging the question. Now I knew I was on the right track so I continued to poke at my mother. "Don't the homeless like lasagna too? This IS really good lasagna." Cornered, all she came back with, "They were full." Huh? Laughable yes, but this logic clearly required further needling. "So.. you're saying we're eating some homeless person's leftovers?" I said as innocently as I could muster, but by this time she had formulated a better argument.

"Listen" she said, "Today we are dining in unity with our brethren, the homeless."
I was trumped and I knew it. "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for you." She added. "And if you don't like it, maybe you should do something about it," which was a completely unnecessary thing to add. I had gotten the picture at the word "Unity."

It's my understanding that generally food banks and other public services have little problem with getting donations between Thanksgiving and New Years when people are still in "the spirit of giving." Reflect on Ephesians 2:4-7 and commit yourself to an act of kindness in the off season.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions..it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Break the wrist and walk away. Break the wrist. Walk away.

You know... when I started blogging I kinda wondered what kind of writer I'd be given a clean slate. Well, I'm starting to get an idea. The good (or bad depending on how you look at it) thing is that apparently I don't write when I'm depressed. March was really rough. I don't know why exactly, I think it was just all the normal things adding up. The job, the lack of movement in the adoption, the constant grey, etc... But I didn't feel like writing, or singing, or any of the other stuff that I'd normally enjoy. About the most I did was watch movies and hang out with friends who are far more interesting and are dealing with more significant issues than my "general malaise." April has been better and I've been feeling more like myself. I blame the weather.

So you know when you go to the gym and you see that guy who just has absolutely no business going anywhere near workout equipment. Not the totally over-buff meathead who is obviously just parading around the gym to make you feel like poo. But the other guy. The one who gets winded at the drinking fountain and reminds you of Kip from Nap Dyn. Yeah, well you're reading his blog, so shut up. Chris and I recently signed up for the local workout joint. Wanna know why we chose this one?

Good: The treadmill and eliptical machines have individual tv's
Better: With Cable
Worth dragging my sorry butt to the gym: Includes the Sci-Fi channel!!!

So yeah, I'm the guy that joined the gym for the cable package. I *TOLD* you I had no business going near free weights. Nothing gets my blood pumping more than watching that lame-o "The Shining" remake while bulking up my quads. I think they're going to have to put up signs that say, "Caution! Awestruck Nerds sliding off treadmills!"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Illin' and Chillin'

So I've been feeling my throat slowly scratching more and swelling shut for about 4 days now. Yesterday was big as I had a seminar to get to, a presentation to give, and worship to lead, so I finally got through that and then slept for 12 hours. Chris was cool with it and called me in, which is good, because I wouldn't have called myself in until about 10, which is a full 2 hours after somebody probably would have noticed my absence.
Little hint though, if you ever find yourself hopped up on cold meds and have to speak into a microphone in front of church folk, try not to improvise any more than you have to. Otherwise you might say something like, "Hey, we didn't pray yet, and isn't that kinda like diving into a pool without your swimming suit?" ... I'm speaking from experience here when I say that it's really hard to create 'an atmosphere of worship' after saying something like that.
Anyway, when stuff like that comes out, I figure it's my body's way of telling me to lie down and watch movies sideways for awhile. Which I did. So I had a little Independent film festival today.

I watched 'Land of the College Prophets' and 'Save the Green Planet.' Neither of which you've heard of. LoCP is absolutely the lowest budget movie I've ever seen. No seriously. Nap Dyn at least had extras. This movie the lead guy wrote/directed/scored/edited/ starred and even played ninja #2. Yes, he was his OWN extra... Ok, I didn't see Blair Witch, so that might have cost less, but seriously, if I read the credits right, his mom did the costumes. BUT all that being said... it's really interesting to see what these guys did with no cash, and apparently a dream to make a movie. To me, that's the fascinating part.

Save the Green Planet is Chinese and not-so coincidentally, completely wacked. I got thrown off by the synopsys on the box, so they get points for not giving away the ending on the cover. I don't want to give too much away, because I know that chances are if you're reading this, you probably like movies with lots of mind games and twists, but here's the basic plot... The crazy main character is trying to stop an alien invasion. He captures a guy that he's convinced is the head alien, but also just happens to be his old boss. So the movie starts pretty innocent and light, but then takes this total Saw-like bender as he starts trying to get a confession and more info out of the alien. Seriously, creepy bath house and all... it's like they borrowed the set or something. Anyway, it starts out as a pretty straight forward, "Is he crazy or not" movie with the typical "when will the cops catch on" subplot, but then it just gets really messed up.

Anyway, if you're up for one of those, bendy 'HUH???' movies, I recommend Save the Green Planet, and don't be fooled by the smiling Chinese people on the cover. If you need a movie that makes you feel like you should be getting off your butt and out making your own movies, rent Land of the College Prophets.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Assuming No wind Resistance or other External Factors...

I've had a great week... I got to hang out with tons of old friends, got guitared, work was mildly satisfying, and despite my best efforts, I'm still alive.

Saturday night, I was heading back into Elgin to Brian's house for game night. In Belvidere, the streets were clear so I figured my chances of getting chased around with a kitana (AGAIN) were pretty low, and worth the risk.
But the drive was a total theater of the absurd experience... I do this drive every weekday, yet on Saturday, all the unwritten codes that commuters follow are thrown out the window. Saturday, you have to stay awake while you're driving because the other road zombies are wisely staying at home while the young, old, and insane are out in force. I guess I fall into the last category...

So I'm not even out of Belvidere and I end up behind a foreigner (Iowa plates) who, though I've never met and don't know their destination, I can tell you that I had a better clue of how to get them where they needed to go than they did. How? Because people from Iowa that end up in Belvidere aren't trying to get to DeKalb. They're looking for the interstate, and that, they were doing poorly. Driving 35 in a 45, creeping up to lights (making me miss the arrow) and picking the wrong lane forcing them to do that creeping merge thing. It's like the car is apologizing... Anyway, I watched the last part in my mirror because I passed them while they were still in the 'This way to DeKalb' lane. So now I'm on the onramp, which has an East/West split about a quarter mile in, and there's some guy sitting in his car at the split with a map in his lap. Which I might add, is past all the signs so it was really going to be a coin toss anyway, no matter how long stared at his map. So instead of trying to fire up to Interstate merging speed, we're all gawking at this guy who should have put an extra 5 seconds of forethought into his trip.

At the tollbooth, was Mr. "I'll stop in the IPass lane until I get the green light" and then at the Marengo exit I ended up between not one, but TWO cars that were driving like they were comparison shopping for the best gas price or something. I don't know, but they did a total Shriner's minicycle maneuver, crisscrossing each other then choosing different directions. Kinda like the Blue Angels except, in super slow motion...

So I'm finally off the interstate and in the clear heading east on 20. The road is a little wet and cold, but nothing I haven't seen before, and so I'm now going the socially acceptable speed of 10 over, but it doesn't matter because there's nobody anywhere near me anyway... Unless you count the two deer that had just cleared the road 20 feet in front of my car.

So yeah, I figure if I had not been 'encumbered' by multiple slow drivers, that probably would have put me significantly closer to those deer. I'm thinking like windshield close, and at that point there was an oncoming car, so swerving probably would have made a bigger mess.

You can interpret this account as you like, but if deer are good for nothing else, they reminded me of my own mortality when I was generally feeling in charge of my own destiny.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Of old friends and male bonding

Sorry I've been kinda quiet this week. I've actually been writing quite a bit and doing stuff with 'The Band' (more on that later) but none of it has ended up in blog. Two of my friends from high school emailed me, thanks to myspace, and I've found myself trying to find things to talk about with people that I haven't seen in 20 years. It was much harder than I thought... trying to find words that were witty, talking about myself without bragging or sounding like a jerk, asking questions that don't pry but aren't totally irrelevant. It's weird. These are people that I knew when I didn't know myself, so I'm assuming that there's alot I don't know about them anymore either. It's not like bumping into someone in line at the store, there's social expectations in that case... or more accurately, a lack of expectations. Email is totally open ended, though. Do you babble? How much do you reciprocate vs. letting them have the last word? I've found myself trying to 'type casually' but it's one of those things where the more you try not to think about it, the more you're aware of every possible nuance of what you're writing. Anyway, it was really cool to hear from them, so if you're reading this, Kudos for initiating! Sounds like things are going well for both, which makes me deeply happy. So like I said, I've been doing some thoughtful writing, just not in this blog.

Meanwhile, I've been hanging out with two guys from work who also have the need to get musically stupid every once and a while. We're really just writing and playing for ourselves, but the difference is that our 'sessions' and I use that term loosely, get recorded so that's kind of a twist. The advantage is that the 'You had to be there' factor is greatly reduced and there's more of a drive (for me anyway) to try and create something of value. The disadvantage is that spontaneous music by it's very nature doesn't pull any punches and can have very targeted subjects or audiences. You sing about what you're feeling at that moment and that doesn't always reflect your true position on a given topic. Nor should it have to...

Music, like any other art, is a journey. Either you're trying to go someplace you haven't been, or your trying to take someone with you. A lot of times you're just exploring, though, and you don't always want your attempts documented. Chris, fairly recently, threw out most of her art from college for that reason. They were explorations into areas of art that didn't end up being her direction. They didn't mean anything to her... they didn't have value because they were assignments or experiments, but not her creative path. Very few pieces still had nostalgic value when she took 'how much time did I spend on this' out of the equasion. I'm just saying that there's a difference between the journey and the destination, but it's the final result that always makes the first impression. People don't care what route you take if they don't like where you've taken them.

Anyway, I love the creative outlet, and I love tapping into that part of me that gets supressed 40 hours a week, especially since the results can be so surprising. I tend to have a moral hangover afterwards, though, and I have to reconcile myself to that somehow.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Kinetic vs Potential Energy: A tale of Two Snowballs

Ok, so on Friday I had two noteworthy snowball experiences.

The first happened when Chris and I pulled up to our friends' house, and I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to bean the first person to open then front door. If it was Justin, the 13 year old of the house, I'd be gold, otherwise I'd improvise. My first mistake was a critical error in timing. I started packing a snowball at the end of the driveway instead of waiting until my scheme would be obscured by the front door. So while I'm walking up the driveway, rounding out my weapon of choice I see two eyes looking out one of the front windows. Crap, so I run up to the front door and try to knock causually. Surprisingly, noone's biting. I look through the window and the eyes are gone so I figure that they've now gone to fortify their position. At this point I realized that Chris had avoided the whole debacle and was already in the house. She had walked through the open garage, and into the house from the side. So I bolt to the garage, and through the laundry room... still armed, cocked and ready to administer a little Frozen Justice.
Now this is where things get interesting. Coming through the garage gave me a significant tactical advantage over anyone coming down from upstairs expecting to find someone at the front door, in this case, Brian. So I find myself behind enemy lines, with their counter-offensive launched and facing the other direction. Time to improvise. So here's my thought process:

"He's heading to the front... Holy crap, Brian hasn't seen me yet."
"He's 8 feet away, you can hit him. You can even aim for his head."
"Oh, he's going to remember this..."
"He can take a joke He won't think it's funny right away but he'll laugh about it later... well not as hard as I will, but... He can take a joke."
"Escape route, back through the garage. Clear."
"Can you hit someone who's back is to you? Any ethical problems with that? No? Just checking. Clear."
"Is that a kitana?"
"Here comes the pitch... Sweet Justice is about to be SERVED!"
"KITANA??!!?!! WTF?"
(Scenes from Kill Bill play in slow motion in my head as I see him trying to unsheath this three-foot blade in the narrow hallway between the stairs and the front room)
"Who brings a KITANA to snowball fight?"
"Is beaning a heavily armed man in the back worth possibly losing a limb?"
"WHO brings a KITANA to snowball fight?"
"This has Darwin Awards written all over it"
"WHO the hell brings a KITANA to snowball fight?"
"Screw it."
"Justice is going to have to wait."

I ditch the evidence, thwarted by superior firepower.

So what do you call it when you're standing there AGAIN with a snowball to dispose of, and ANOTHER happy black lab is sitting there smiling at you? It's just begging for a face full of snow, but it's owner is standing there with a sword? Is that Irony? Coincidence? Sigh... I swear I heard that lab laughing at me. Stupid Dogs. They're much more organized than they appear to be.

So actually, we were just meeting at Brian's to go over to Sean's and help him move. Sean had just closed on his new house and we volunteered for the second shift of unpacking. So after hauling stuff around for a while, and getting the tour, we sat around crabbing about work and listening to stories about all of the stuff we just moved... like how his wife, a Disney fan, got 8 rolls of Finding Nemo papertowels as a gag gift for Christmas. Or how Sean keeps a bat in the bedroom, unlike the kitana I had previously encountered at Brian's... My problem is that I barely find my own stuff interesting, let alone anyone elses, but I guess I'm just not nosey like that.
ANYWAY, so we're leaving and I realize that this is another snowball opportunity. Unfortunately, I'm the last one out of the house and once again all the soft targets are safely in their cars before I can reload and assess the situation. So I'm standing there with a hunk of snow evaluating my options... I can throw it haplessly at a car... or drop it. And I ask you, where's a freakin Black Lab when you need one? That's when I notice Sean standing in the doorway of his brand new house, waving goodbye like a good host and not weilding a Bat. This time my internal conversation was totally short circuited and I let fly 'The-Glory-of-Snow" (It had to be named, you know, like all weapons of Legend...) to seek out it's destiny. I was standing at the street end of the driveway so Sean had plenty of time to calculate it's trajectory and dodge it easily. However, Sean was thinking like a warrior and not like a new homeowner as The Snowball stayed true to it's course and sweetly flew clean through the front door, and found its mark somewhere on the virgin carpetting of the dining-room. I suspect Sean watched the whole thing in slow motion. But the conversation went something like this:

Sean: I can't believe you did that! There's snow all over the dining-room!
Me (nonchalantly): Guess you shoulda taken that one for the team, huh?
Sean: Now I've got to get this all cleaned up before my wife gets back!
Me: Good thing you've got plenty of Nemo papertowels...

At which point we were all laughing so hard Sean was down on one knee and we could barely drive out of there.
That my friends is how a snowball fully realizes it's potential...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Carpe Chionodoxa - Seize the Glory of Snow - Director's Commentary

Ok, so I though 'Seize the Snow' would be a really cool title for my next posting, and the only thing that would make it cooler would be to do it Caesar-style. But since I don't know crap from carpe about Latin I thought I'd just jump on Ye Olde Googlee and have it do all the work as I sat back and smiled to myself, revelling in my resourcefulness. The problem is, though, for as long as Latin's been around, you'd think there'd be more people talking about it... but for the most part, the internet seems to run quite nicely without it. Fortunately, thanks to sophomore English, I knew that 'Carpe Diem' meant 'Seize the Day' which means I was one word away from success. So I finally found this great Latin to English dictionary that was completely useless to me, since I already speak English, and mostlikely useless to any Latin speakers, because I think they're all dead. Fine. So I get granular and Google for, "All I want is the freakin word for SNOW in Latin" but apparently that wasn't specific enough. Next I Asked Jeeves, but he's not a big fan of the dead languages either. Eventually I found some Latin convention's website where the vocabulary word of the day was 'Snow' and this is what it said:

  • nix, nivis, f., snow
  • nivalis, -e, adj., of snow, snowy, snow-like
  • niveus, -a, -um, adj., snowy, snow-white
  • nivosus, -a, -um, adj., full of snow
So now I've got 3 adjectives and an 'f'. I was really hoping for a 'n' or possibly a 'v' so I'd know if it was a noun or a verb. Now this is just a guess, but I think 'f' is for,"foo" as in "FOO, you ain't gonna learn no Latin over the internet," but I could be wrong about that.

You know how sometimes you notice things in your periferal vision that you wouldn't see if you looked directly at them? Deeper in the search results my eye happened to catch a link to a linguists page that mentioned a flower called Chiondoxa aka 'The Glory of Snow.' Following that lead, it turns out that yes, Chionodoxa is indeed the Latin name for a little blue flower. Nix this Nivis crap, I'm going with that. It's perfect! Well, almost perfect. Shouting, "Seize the little blue flower" wasn't exactly the message I was going for, but it gets worse. Apparently, the translation of the phrase "Modern Latin Name" means, "Greek" in this case because Chionodoxa (khion "snow" doxa "glory") is definitely of Greek origin.

So what I learned tonight was how to say "Seize the Weed," in what I like to call 'Greco-Roman,' which I suspect, if it was ever uttered at all, was probably used to describe an illegal wrestling move. And I also learned that Latin is so frickin impossible you apparently have to be dead to figure it out.
What a load of Carpe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

All warfare is based on deception. Guess what I've been reading?

Well I stayed home from work today, mostly because I would have been wasting precious air that my workmates should be using to be productive. And although I've done a whole lot of nothing, I did read this article on Loving your Work by Paul Graham which was surprising appropriate today. Paul Graham always has a bunch of nuggets to think about, but the one I'm stuck on is the line about how people who decide their profession while they're still in their teens often look back and realize that their career path was chosen by a high school student. I also read Sun Tzu's The Art Of War this morning. I didn't realize that without commentary, it's works out to be only about 35 pages. If I had known that I would have read it years ago. :) Anyway, I can see why there's so much commentary on it because there's a whole lot of room for interpretation. It pretty much says everything at least once, so you can hear what you want. Rules must always be enforced but some rules have to be broken, be unpredictable but calculated, neither a borrower nor lender be, you know... I can see why business leaders think it applies to them, and it *kinda* explains where my boss is coming from on some of his 'crazy like a fox tactics' where even your officers don't know the big picture; but again, you could turn around and quote all the trust and loyalty building bits too. I especially relate to this one:

"If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive, and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless."

Yeah, that sums up where I'm at today.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Exit - Stage Fright

Public Service Announcement: Glossophobia and You

Recently the topic of good old fashioned stage fright has been brought up by a couple friends of mine, neither of which I would classify as introverted, so I thought I'd give y'all my angle on it and how I've dealt with it... or still dealing with it as the case may be.

First of all, it never goes away to the point where it can't come back. It doesn't get 'cured' it just goes into remission. I've been caught off guard or pulled too far out of my comfort zone on stage and suddenly I feel the same way I did at my fourth grade piano recitals. So what do you do about it? How do you psych yourself up but not out?

Everyone wants you to succeed.
Well, 'in the Band' (I refer back to my Captive Free experience a lot here...) I was told that, "No one expects or wants to see you fail." Granted, the performing I do now isn't judged or competitive anymore, but it's generally good advice. The audience is for you, not against you. Chances are pretty good you aren't going to get heckled or boo'ed no matter how badly you think you screwed something up.

You are the only one who knows what you are going to do.
Again, this doesn't apply to the recital-scene, but really, the audience isn't sitting there with your sheetmusic. They don't know that you were supposed to be playing mezzopiano but it came out mezzoforte. On only ONE occassion I was with a friend who noticed that the local talent skipped the third verse and sang the first one over again. Once. Otherwise, people that are listening tend to discuss either how they like or dislike your rendition or how they agree or disagree with your interpretation.

You are your own worst critic, so be kind to yourself.
Let's face it, if you hose something, you know it. There's no denying it and it feels like every pupil in the audience is dialating trying to comprehend how such a flagrant error didn't drive you immediately off stage. Ok, so flip it around, think of a performance you saw where the actor/musician/whatnot flubbed up. Do you remember how many times they messed up, or just the fact that they did? So this leads my to a couple things... if you can't think of the last time you saw anyone else screw up on stage, then that proves point one. You haven't seen any mistakes because as a member of the audience you weren't looking for them, you were there to enjoy the program, not to tally errors. If you do remember a specifically poor performance, I guarantee that if you knew that person well enough to ask them where they thought things fell apart, their list would be 5 to 10 times longer than yours. Again, as the audience, you don't know what the artist's intended result is. Sure, they probably don't want to hit the wrong note or sing out of key, but there's a whole realm of errors that are really only pointed out when the performer lets everyone know that they messed up... which brings me to my next point.

Kill your Tell.
The previous points are psychological, this one however has a very physical manifestation. More often than not, you'll be the one to let the audience in on your mistakes. You may not be able to stop your face from turning red or your knees from shaking, but you can stop yourself from giving the audience too many clues to your current feelings about your performance. Don't roll your eyes at yourself. Don't deflate no matter how defeated you feel. And don't flinch. One of my good friends plays excellent piano, but back in the day, you wouldn't know it by watching. If you closed your eyes, the music that flowed out was amazing, as if you were being taken on a journey. However if you opened your eyes, every 'step off the path' was indicated by the pianists shoulders. Either they were clentched up after a quick mistake or drooping with defeat when the music didn't end up where it was 'supposed' to. As an audience, you're along for the ride. As the artist, you dictate the path. And some of the most critical musical moments happen when you allow yourself to be swept up by a performance... even when it's your own.

Learn to smile through anything.
Channel that wince, eye-roll, and flinch into your smile. It takes some work, but it can be done. If you have to indicate that something just went horribly wrong, smiling is socially acceptable. Especially since you should probably be smiling anyway. It conveys confidence and can camouflage all kinds of things. More importantly though, psychologically, it keeps the feedback loop positive. If you look out into the audience with the 'I just hit the windshield' look on your face, you're going to see a bunch of people bracing for a trainwreck. If however, you do the opposite and muster up the, 'My, my, wasn't that awkward, anyone for tea?' smile you'll notice people nodding and smiling back. This is especially true if you're performing with others. Glaring or scowling at another musician on stage, regardless of fault, is totally unacceptable. You all know already know something went bad, and if you're really ticked about the bobble, talk to them afterwards and work it out. Any finger pointing done on stage basically punishes the audience and makes every one look bad. I think every musician has a, 'I can't believe that just happened' or a 'Dude, that totally sucked' smile. Sometimes it's even outright laughter, but the important thing is that the show goes on and heck... now you're all smiling.

Then there's practice...
Yeah, you knew it was coming... the more comfortable you are with the content of what you're performing, the less likely you are to be thrown off in the first place, and the more likely you will be able to stay focused after a flub. It's easier to get back into rhythm when your fingers and mind know the groove. One of the best bits of advice I got when learning guitar was to always keep the right hand strumming, regardless of how well (or poorly) your left hand is keeping up. Your left hand will learn the fingerings for various chords with repetition, but if you stop the rhythm every time your left hand misses something then it will never be trained to make quicker chord changes. The other trick with practicing is to make a mental distinction between technical practicing and performance practicing. By technical practice I mean that you are working on the nuts and bolts of whatever you intend to perform. Whether that means memorizing lyrics or repeating a tricky passage over and over, the point is that when you hit a bump, you stop there and smooth it out. You don't have to start from the begining and similarly you don't have to play all the way through a piece before going back to a trouble spot. Now's the time to work through the problems. Once you're fairly comfortable with the mechanics of what you are going to be presenting, then it's important to do work on the performance angle. For me that means standing, singing, and playing guitar as I would when I'm performing. Standing helps me breathe right, and I try to sing and play at the volume and tempo that I plan to perform at. It took some getting used to... hearing my own voice at full volume... in my basement... singing to myself. But it makes a huge difference when it's time to hit the stage, because my ears know what it's supposed to sound like and my body knows what it's supposed to feel like. I know which notes I can grind out and which ones are going to crack if I don't support them.

Just do it.
The bottom line is that the more you are in front of a crowd, the less it's going to phase you. The thing that sculpted my stage presents the most was touring for a year and performing upwards of 8 times a week. After that year I had learned how to perform exhausted, forgive myself for saying stupid stuff into a mic, and recover from all manner of musical goof. Now, pretty much any performing I do is easy and enjoyable by comparision. So once you break the ice, keep doing it.

As you get more comfortable performing, allow yourself to branch out. If you are really uncomfortable talking into a microphone start out easy. Compliment someone. Thank the audience for coming out. Tell people why you picked a certain piece to perform or why it's worth hearing. If you get really ambitious, tell a joke. Learn a new instrument. Find a new venue. Keep pushing yourself until your regular gigs don't shake you any more.

I've been trying to catch as many aspects of stage fright as I can, but I know there's more to be said about tryouts, competitions, and inter-band dynamics. Those will have to be covered in another blog or something.

Thanks for reading this far. *SMILE* You've been a great audience and thanks for spending some time with me. Drive safe, and I'll see you next time!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

That's Snow Moon... (Winter of DisBasement pt II)

Yes indeed I stepped outside and all I saw was snow waiting to be packed and whipped at something... or someBODY... or somebody's DOG! My neighbor 2 doors down was out snowblowing the sidewalk with his black lab. A very happy black lab. Now I know what you're thinking... "Not the dog! Resist! Fight the urge!" No, I didn't peg the dog. Too small a target for me anyway. No actually, I was thinking about how miserable the cats would be if they were in the snow and how nice it would be to have an animal that liked snow. Instead I took the snowball in my hand and threw it at the garage. No, I didn't miss. Shut up. So I proceded to use my energy constructively and dig my car out plus a little extra room for Chris's car. Cuz I'm so mature like that... well at least I was until Chris came home. Then I thought a Helm's Deep reenactment was appropriate. Of course I didn't tell her, but she figured it out pretty quick after the first volley of 'prisoners' hit her car. Oh, and for the record, she was outside the gate, which makes her an orc. *I* was a nobel elf, and the winner writes history.

Not a bad ending for a day where I was so out of it at work that I tried to wake my pc by jiggling a can of coke... yeah... uh, just missed the mouse. So as it turns out, caffeine is more effective when you drink it and not just slide it around your desk. Conversely, don't ingest your mouse, which is probably a more important lesson.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Winter of DisBasement

Well we're supposed to get 3 to 6 inches of snow tonight so it's a darn good thing I've been in my basement on the computer for the past 2 weeks so I wouldn't get stir crazy now that the weather is 'bad.' Ok, it's bad for driving... I can't argue that. It took forever to get home tonight. But fortunately the commute was uneventful, except for one Volkswagen in the ditch. Guess the Autobahn is wider or something... Anyway, right now, it's like 33 degrees so it's just barely staying snow, but it really wants to be balled up and chucked.
I might have to go test that theory...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sensitive Blackholes

Here's an excerpt from an email I recently wrote to a college friend regarding how to deal with that part of you that wants to care, but the other part that doesn't want to get walked all over. I've genericized it and taken names out, but I'm sticking to the spirit of the message. It's where I'm at... Your mileage may vary.


From one post-sensitive person to another in the thick of it, sensitivity isn't the problem, it can keep you in tune to needs that other people aren't going to notice... and personally, I think that's really important for anyone going into your profession... The problem is prioritizing the resources. Prioritizing YOUR resources so that you can deal effectively with what's truly important to you. That's when your sensitivity is going to make you stronger. When it keeps you focused on your passion and not distracted by all the other things you think you should be caring about. If you assume your physical and emotional resources are limited, then you've got to make the best of what you've got when you've got it.
"Important things" get clearer as you get older and... well... DO more stuff. The more things you do to get out and relate to other people, the more you can keep the other fires that pop up in perspective. There's alot of unimportant stuff going on at college. Mostly narcisistic... but that's the stage of life a lot of people are at. Fortunately you're already narrowing down the scope on how you are going to make a difference.

Ok, last thing... Emotional blackholes. You know the people I'm talking about. The people you can't fix. The people that 'just need to talk to someone' but never get anywhere. As soon as you spot one, avoid it! There's nothing you can say or do that can help that person out of their situation. Usually because deep down they aren't ready to accept the consequences of 'moving on' and from experience, I can tell you that you won't be able to convince them otherwise. Anyway, the problem is, these people PREY ON sensitive people. They aggressively hunt us down trying to fill some void with our emotion. It doesn't work even if both parties want it to... Anyway, going back to the part about limited resources, you can see how feeding blackholes is actually detrimental, and not charitable. They hurt and distract you from investing in the important things.
There's a saying about knowing when to 'fish or cut bait' and I didn't learn how to do that emotionally until my 20's. But recognizing the need is half the battle.

Sunday, January 8, 2006


Ah... The ever important First blog. One small step for me, one giant leap toward more carp on the internet.

Man... it's been so long since I've written freely. Usually the only time I write is specifically to dole out some info, not just for writing's sake. I've had my creative times, but nothing I've really fostered lately so I feel woefully out of practice and inadequate. Gotta disengage ye olden brain-filter. I was just telling Chris that I hope I'm not one of those people that only writes when they're angry or bored. But the idea here is to turn off the filter and see where I end up...

So, a couple of things I need to get out of my system:
For all you punks that got iPods for Christmas, enjoy this: 50 things to do with your iPod Sleep well knowing that I'm not bitter.

And here's my all-time favorite Vin Diesel 'fact' courtesy of the Vin Diesel Random Fact Generator:
"Most people don't know this, but the bible actually ends with Vin Diesel showing up at the crucifixion with a pair of Uzi's and kicking some Roman ass. Vin Diesel was all like, "Jesus, I totally saved you." Then, off on the horizon, a bunch of Romans show up riding dinosaurs led by Mecha Pontious Pilate. Jesus busts out this sweet ninja sword and says, "Now it's my turn to save you." Then Jesus and Vin Diesel run towards the Romans in slow motion. That's how the Bible ends. It's a cliff-hanger. I can't wait for the sequel, "The Bible 2: Water Into Blood."

That cracks me up everytime I read it... because you know, I can relate. My life is a cliff-hanger too. Wonder what my sequel will be called?

I think it would have a Bond-ish feel to it... like 'The Nerd is Not Enough' or something. As long as it isn't called 'Leave it to Leevis' or turned into a musical, it should be ok. Oh, and the role of Lee Gardner would be played by someone cool like Michael Shanks or Jerry O'Connell. Definitely.

K, I think I blew a cranial gasket...