The Saga Begins

Things are progressing nicely these days. We’ve settled into a good routine with the new school year. It’s a whole different bag now with the kids being older. Looks like Jeannie and I made it thru the baby and little kid phase, and now we have a bit of a breather before the teenage thing starts. Everyone has been telling me how difficult middle school can be, but to me it’s great. I can leave the kids home alone for a few hours, or have them go with their friends and not worry about it. I can pick the kids up from school on the days I work at home, and they do their homework and make dinner. We’ve started checking out high schools for Lizzy the last few weekends. Sort of a mind-blowing experience. How the time flies!

I’ve been working alot on music. In alternation to practicing piano for the rock thing with Blick, I’ve been playing tenor sax every other day for a good hour or more, getting back into shape for the show tunes show. It’s going quite well and feels good, however working the music out is not that easy. I’ve been working off of recordings, but we’re doing different arrangements in different keys. I finally got the charts to most of the songs on Friday, and some are more detailed than others. Hopefully it’ll all come together when there’s a rehearsal.

Meanwhile, Michelle has been good at getting me to spend quality time with her lately, mainly by figuring out what I like to do and then asking to do it with me. Michelle and Lizzy have also been getting into chess again lately and I’ve been playing again too. I guess they’ve been playing at school, and they’ve been playing each other at home too. I’m still giving them lots of pointers about tactics. They’re both good enough now that they have a sense of strategy, and can beat me now and then if I’m not paying enough attention and make a careless mistakes. Good fun.

A couple weeks ago Michelle had me sit down and work out a piano accompaniment for a song she wrote called “Now and Forever”. She wrote it for Jeannie, just a lyric and melody, and it’s very sweet. The song is basically a ballad, and I gave it some structure and cool jazz chords. Last weekend we recorded a demo, just piano and vocals. I’m tempted to mix it down and share it, but I think I’ll wait. My thing now is to really play the song rather than using proTools as a word processor for audio, so I’m just gonna put together the real version and let you hear it when its ready. I’m going to build it around a live performance on the piano, which means playing rubato over a click track. I’ll probably program tempo changes in to the click track, practice along and adjust it until it feels right. This means Michelle will have to sing all the vocals over again, but that’s okay. I’ll round out the arrangement with drums and bass, and Michelle asked Lizzy to do a flute solo.

Now the man point of this post: Michelle said to me the other day “Remember when you used to play Dungeons and Dragons?” I’m amazed she remembers this because we stopped maybe two or three years ago. We used to play on Friday nights, ostensibly after the kids were in bed, with a party of friends on Long Island and in Carolina. We would use our computers to run an audio conference and have software for maps and dice. The campaign eventually died when the DM and half the players got turned on to Warcraft.

Anyway, Michelle asked me to teach her how to play D&D. Lizzy and Jeannie are on board too. So I dusted off my old dice and books. The girls both want to be witches. Jeannie is going to be a rogue with a heart of gold. I’m DMing, so I’m putting together a world for them. I haven’t DM’d since middle school, but I have a lot of good ideas for a scenario and specific things for this campaign and these characters. I’ve been having fun working out the backstory and settings. The first module will be Keep on the Borderlands. This is a very old module I know, but one of the few I have around. Friday we rolled up our characters, but we still need to complete their skills, spells and starting equipment. And I need to flesh out some NPC’s. Still it was good fun. Next week the adventure begins in earnest. Watch this space for future updates.

Lastly, the kids have been clamoring to go apple picking and pumpkin picking this fall. Michelle even used it as a topic for a paper at school. We’ve been so busy it’s been hard to make the time. But today was the day, and we had a blast. Best of all we up with met Martin, Kathleen and Charlie.

Something for Lovers, Liars and Clowns

My kids’ school is doing a cabaret night in November as a fundraiser. It’s being put on by parents and faculty (no kids), and I volunteered to play sax and keyboards in the orchestra pit. I played orchestra pit for the school musical way back in high school and college, and I gotta tell you, show tunes are some of the most demanding and fun music out there. So this show is two sets of Broadway show tunes – classic and contemporary. The vocal director is my daughter’s math teacher and also has two kids in the school. Her husband is the piano player and music director. They’re both really excellent, and have a core of singers that they’ve been doing this with them for a few years.

Meanwhile, my project with Erik is coming along. We have enough covers for a set, and have six originals in the semi- to mostly-worked-out phase, so soon it’s be time to start setting up gigs.

So I’m getting back into practicing sax regularly again, and learning the songs. I’ve mainly been playing soprano sax the last few years, but now I’ve dusted of the tenor. It takes alot more wind power and lower back strength, so I’m working up to it. The good news is I can still get that really, really awesome sound out of it. The music is a pretty wide mixture, so I’ll be playing sax on about half the tunes, keyboards on about a third (mainly to provide orchestral fill), and laying out on the rest. Should be a lot of fun.

They asked me if I wanted to sing a number too. My first though was “39 Lashes” from Jesus Christ Superstar because I once worked up a heavy metal jazz fusion version of that song. But somehow it didn’t seem like the best choice. Then I thought of the musical Tommy, and the finale We’re Not Gonna Take It. But when I listened to the lyrics that didn’t seem appropriate either. Tonight I listened to “I’m Free” and banged it out on piano easily enough, so I’ll see if they’re into that.

Any Jobber Got the Sack

The recent death of Steve Jobs has put me in a surprisingly contemplative mood, thinking about how Apple has affected my life and career since 1982 or ’83 when I first programmed on an Apple II. In particular I’ve been thinking about the fall of 1996, when I first arrived in Silicon Valley, just as Mr. Jobs was engineering his prodigal return to Apple. Here’s an article I read last week, an interview from Playboy magazine back in 1985. Might’ve been the Madonna issue. I feel like I read it back in the day, because some parts ring familiar. It’s amazing how on he was about the future of the industry, and also how much everything has changed.

Time Is The Season

It’s been a really warm September, but the weather yesterday turned cool. Sunday we took out our air conditioner. Monday we woke up and it was 45 degrees out. Last night was the first night we put on the heater. Also the sun’s going down earlier and I don’t have time to go skating after work before it gets dark anymore.