By The Book

Last weekend I finished the intro text for my book, and the stuff for the symbols and basic folds. Now that my origami book is done I’m looking to start in on some new projects.

I was at the music store last week to buy some clarinet books for Michelle, and bought a couple really good music books for myself too. One is Bach for the Electric Bass. This is great fun to play so far. The first two pieces in the book are the two parts of a two part invention. The first has regular notation and tab, and the second only notation. It’s really good for practicing reading in the bass clef, and also works really well as a source for riffs for walking bass lines. The lines lay really well.

The other book is called Metaphors for the Musician by Randy Halberstadt, and its a jazz piano theory and practice. I already know lots of theory, and while in theory there’s no difference between theory and practice, in practice that’s not always the case. This will be a good book to help me get it together playing-wise and take it to the next level as a performer. Just what I’ve been looking for. The need was inspired by my desire to take a solo at the end of Checker Cab, while still holding down the bass part. I have to come up with a melodic right hand approach that works with the in-the-pocket bottom, sounds good, and is possible to play.

Right now I’m reading thru the book, but it’s designed to be used at the piano, so once I’m done I’ll start over at the keyboard. It will take a few months. Lots of deep harmony theory, very well laid out, and more general stuff about how to approach comping and improvising that transfers into playing in general. One thing he stressed early on is the importance of playing slow and keeping good time. I know I tend to rush, and I don’t play with a drummer that often, so I’ve started practicing with the metronome again, and in general just taking everything down a few BPM to work on a more relaxed feel. That alone is already making a difference. Especially on a song like Heat Wave or Steppin’ Out.

I also got a book of arrangements of songs from the various Mario video games. Some of them are pretty hard. And a Soundgarden songbook. They were my favorite of all the grunge bands of the ‘90’s and I recently got turned on to them again. Chris Cornell is a genius with his singing and his use of melody and out meters. Unfortunately the book is in guitar tab, so it’ll take a pretty good amount of work to make piano adaptations. Still, it’s faster then doing it by ear.

Martin came over last weekend with the family, and we had a little time to jam. Matrin always has a knack for picking interesting covers, and so now I’m working up Breaking Us in Two, which I knew once a long time ago but forget. Perfect song for me to sing on.

Wild and Scary

We usually put our Halloween pumpkin out on the front stoop. The local critters nibble at if for a while, and then sooner or later there’s rain and it starts to turn mushy and we have to get rid of it. This year we haven’t had any rain, and the squirrels have really be having a feast, so it’s looking, uh, really interesting.

In other news, Lizzy turned 13 recently. Yes I am now the parent of a teenager. She’s also now 5’7”, having really shot up the last few months. That’s a few inches taller than her mother. Wow. We had a party for her at our favorite local restaurant, the Oriental Palace. It was in the post-hurricane period and feels like a blur to me. After her birthday party Lizzy went on a shopping date with her friend Ella, who shares the same birthday, and bought lots of clothes. They were very excited.

Meanwhile, Erik and I resumed jamming. At this point we’re a little rusty, but it feels good to get back in it. Like I said, now that my book is done, getting back into playing music is a major goal for the winter. This includes doing a few more live gigs.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving at Jeanne’s parents house. Not thinking about work for a few days. Mary and Lou were there. They’re in the middle of putting a second story on their house. Looks like they’re off to a good start. It only took a week get the walls, roof and windows up. Lou wants to record and EP of some more of his songs and asked my to produce it It sounds like a fun project.

Michelle is all excited about a new Nintendo thing she wants to get.

Diagramming is Done!

I’ve hit a major milestone on my book. Make that *the* major milestone. All the diagrams are done. Twenty-two models, almost 900 drawings. That’s 123 page without the intro or the photos. Wow and woo-hoo. If I weren’t so tired I’d be all in the mood to party.

It was alot of work and it seemed to take a long time to finish. My publisher was very patient. The last model turned out to require more diagrams than I’d estimated. The American Turkey ended up at almost 100 steps, by far the longest model in the book. I’d figured on 70 or so. But it’s totally worth it. It’s a very popular model; I’ve taught and exhibited it before and it always gets a great response.

And I must say, I’ve gotten alot better and faster at diagramming over the course of working on this book, especially in the last few months.

All that remains now is to write the intro. That should be an easy task by comparison. Soon I’ll be able to get back to working on music, upgrading my we site and a bunch of other origami ideas I have that aren’t part of this book.

M.I.T. Origami Convention

It already seems like ages ago, but just this last weekend I went up to Boston for MIT Origami Convention, a.k.a. OrigaMIT. The conventions was put on by the MIT Origami Club under the leadership of Jason Ku. It was smaller than the OUSA convention in New York, but certainly big enough to be a lot of fun. MIT and the Boston area have some pretty heavy folders, and MIT is a really fun place to hang out.

I drove up Friday night with my friend Marcio. We both work in the city and live in Westchester, so we met a Grand Central and took the train back to my place. We took Jeannie’s car cuz it’s a Prius and gets amazing gas mileage. I actually got 52 mpg on the ride home! The trip up was smooth, except navigating around Boston once we arrived was a bit dicey. We stayed in a hotel not too far from Cambridge.

The convention was held at the MIT Student Union. It was easy to get to and find parking. I was teaching and exhibiting, so I brought diagrams and models. About half of models were brand new, including the Cuttlefish and Giant Squid; some were new-ish including the Armadillo, Turkey and some Tessellations. A few were classics, including my UFO, Rocketship, and War Elephant. The diagrams were the last few from my book that have yet to be test-folded: the Cuttlefish, Giant Squid, and Turkey.

As with most conventions it was organized into sessions that were either classes or seminars. The first session I went to was Erik Demaine, an expert in origami mathematics. He basically showed us slides and talked about his course ( I was familiar with some of the material cuz I’ve read his book, but it was all really fascinating stuff. Afterwards I had a good discussion with him about origami polyhedra design.

At lunchtime I went for a walk along the Charles River by the MIT and Harvard campuses. It was a beautiful fall day, and the riverside walk was full of people strolling, biking and jogging. I hadn’t been to Boston for a few years, although it seems like every time I’m here in end up in Cambridge. Anyway, I’d forgotten how nice it is down by the river and the park. Very Not New York.

After lunch I taught my course. It was cephalopods, the Cuttlefish and the Giant Squid. The class proved to be very popular. I had diagrams for both models, which I passed around at the start. Then I folded both models for anyone who wanted to follow along, which was most of the class. These are both pretty advanced models, somewhat more than I’d expected, but the class did a really good job. I folded the Cuttlefish first. That took close to an hour, and it was a two hour class. A lot of people were not fast in developing the tentacles. That comes near the end but is fairly repetitive. Then we started the Squid but ran out of time, again cuz there’s lots of repetition in developing the tentacles. The good news was everyone was so into it that when class ended, we all went down to the hospitality area to finish. I got good feedback for the diagrams and the models along the way. Mostly they were both very foldable and people really liked the models. As usual there were some minor errors and steps that could do with a bit of clarification.

After that I sat in on Michael Lafosse’s class. This was the perfect compliment to Erik’s class. Michael is a master folder and designer and has some beautiful complex models, and quite a few books too. He also runs a paper making studio for making high-end origami paper. One more thing he’s known for is his butterflies. He’s got lots and lots of butterfly variations, and this class was about that. These are intermediate level models, so the focus was much more on the artistic side than the technical side. Most complex models have a sculpting/finishing phase at the end, and this class was all about exploring that for butterflies. Toward the end I remembered a butterfly design I was working on, and dusted it off and began to get back into refining it. For me the major challenge was developing the points for the legs. I realized if I changed the geometry at step 3 it’s open up more paper.

After classes was dinner and hanging out folding. Some there asked me about the tessellations in my exhibit, so I ended up teach a group how to fold one. These seemed like such a simple idea to me at the time, that you could work out how to fold it jut my looking at it. But people seem to really like it, and it turns out (since it doesn’t use a square grid) there’s a bit of mystery involved. People keep asking me about the tessellations. I’ll keep them in mind for the next book.

I also had my Turkey diagrams test folded by a fellow folder named Mark. Even though the diagrams are not complete, we got thru to the end, and I showed him how to finish. This is definitely the most complex model in the book. We were hanging out and talking the whole time, bit it took three hours to fold. Still, I’m happy Mark got thru it. It’s a worthy model and I got good feedback.

As Saturday turned into Saturday Night lots of students were meeting at the student center dressed up for Halloween going out hit the bars. Rule 63 Guy Fawkes. Ah college life.

Sunday Marcio and drove home, trying to beat the storm. The wind was picking up already, and we passed several convoys of utility trucks heading east. Jason was supposed to fly back to Japan Sunday. I hope he got out okay.

The big goal for this weekend is to finish my book, which basically means finishing the Turkey diagrams. Oh, and cleaning up my yard. I’m really looking forward to being done with diagramming and getting back working on other things like music.

Late Halloween

Jeannie went into the city today and said the trains weren’t bad, but buses and bridges are still a mess. I bought gas; long line. We’ve heard back from enough of our friends now to know that a few of them in Brooklyn and on Long Island have suffered serious damage to their homes from the flooding. Trying to see if there’s anything we can do to help. Either way our hearts are with them. And again our home was full of neighbors and kids today looking to warm up and recharge.

Everyone has cancelled Halloween because of the storm, and rescheduled it for the weekend. We finally got around to carving our pumpkin tonight. It was a big’un, too: thirty-five pounds. The theme this year is mustache. Ask Lizzy. Hope this lightens your mood.