Going to the Mall

I’m on winter break now. Woo-hoo!

There’s a big new mall in Yonkers that Jeannie and the kids have been to a bunch of times already but I’ve been avoiding because they make you pay to park. But Lizzy needed a new winter jacket, and we all wanted to see The Hobbit, and the Michelle wanted to do so xmas shopping for Jeannie, so we all went last weekend. Figured we’d get dinner as long as we’re there too.

The mall has a Guitar Center, and I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a new guitar for a while now. I’ve kinda narrowed it down to some kind of semi-hollow-body or a Les Paul. But since I don’t know really and new guitars are expensive, I’ve taken to checking whatever they have used for sale whenever I go into a music store to see if anything calls out to me.

So that night I found a used bass made famous by Geddy Lee back in the day: the Hentor Barbarian. No, just kidding, it’s a Steinberger! It’s not an 80’s vintage, but 21st century, and in like-new condition. It has that famous headless, minimal body design. It feels and sounds great. My p-bass is like a truck in comparison. The Steinberger has a much cleaner sound, and is faster, with lower action, a flatter neck, and flatter frets. Plus it has a second pickup near the bridge, so there’s alot more control over the tone. And cheap too, a real bargain. So I picked it up. I’m really happy with it.

I played it for a while the next day. Alot of things I’ve been working hard to articulate came easy. It took me a while to realize I should play with a much lighter touch than the p-bass. I don’t know if it can really replace the p-bass for everything, but it adds a whole new area to my bass sound. I’m thinking down the line somewhere I should trade in my p-bass for a fender jazz, and that might be the one bass.

The Hobbit was for the most part amazing. The acting was great, esp. Martin Freeman as Bilbo, and it has the Peter Jackson lush locations and over-the-top helicopter shots and all that you’d expect after LotR. It feels great to be back in Middle Earth with a new movie. Riddles in the Dark absolutely stole the show.

We saw the 48 fps version and I thought it looked great. I can’t understand the controversy. You raise the sample rate it’s gonna look better. There was one shot in particular where I thought the 48fps really shined. It was a made-for-3d shot, with the camera looking straight down on the Company of Thorin as they made they way down thru a cleft of rocks to the hidden valley of Imladris. It was a dolly shot, and looked absolutely virtuosic. However, the film did actually skip and pause unexpectedly a couple times, like there was a buffering problem. That was pretty bad.

My only criticism with the movie itself is that where they deviated from the book to add new material, alot of it was focused on pumping up the action with bluescreen/CG set pieces that came off as increasingly improbable toward the end. They also altered a few important plot details. Everyone I’ve talked to who doesn’t really know the book doesn’t seem to mind, but to me it was unnecessary. If it were up to me I’d have hewed closer to the book, and started with a simpler-and-more-innocent-times vibe, and brought the party to the foot of the Lonely Mountain by the end of the picture. Then I’d have closed by following up on the where-has-Gandalf-gone question, circling back to meeting with Saruman and Galadriel and dropping the bomb that there’s something much bigger and scarier going on here!

They did have two musical numbers, both by the Dwarves, none by the Elves.

Armadillos and Spiders

Last week one day I took the girls and one of their friends to the Museum of Natural History. It was a fun day.

We checked out the Origami Holiday Tree. The theme this year was collective nouns. I had fold a group of armadillos, called a fez of armadillos. There were lots of others: a murder of crows, a barrel of monkeys, a fold of sheep, a galaxy of stars. You get the idea. I think my favorite was the lemurs.

We got to see the dinosaurs and all that, but the for us this time was the Spiders Alive! Well, my daughter Michelle and I were fascinated, by my daughter was repulsed. Ah well. Lots of giant spiders, scorpions, and vinegaroons. I’d never heard of vinegaroons. Plus a great live demo. Did you know scorpions glow blue under black light? Neither did I. Now I’m trying again to design some origami arachnids. I tried for my book but ended up designing a giant squid instead.

Catching Up

Busy these days with work and lots of stuff. So here’s catching up on a few random things. Work has been busy and problematic, and I’ve putting in extra evenings and fixing other people’s bugs to keep things on track. I think we turned a corner mid-week last week. We have a release coming up this week, and now we’re in good shape.

My book has been done for a couple of weeks, but now I’m waiting on the publisher to get back to me.

We got our xmas tree up today. A nice wide bushy one. Lots room for ornaments. Went out to pick one up in the rain. Always a nice feeling to have the tree up.

I’ve been starting to get back into the music recording thing, picking up my half-finished third Buzzy Tonic album. So far the focus is on playing. I have a backlog of half-written songs, so I think I’m gonna work them up to play and sing live before I get back into tracking. Ought to go faster with the arrangements worked out and under my fingers.

The other day I was showing Michelle how to hammer-on on the bass. I’m kind of a lazy bass player and will often hammer-on or pull-off when I’m doing a fast chromatic riff, just so I don’t have to articulate the note with my right hand. I use my thumb on the right hand alot, especially on the bottom two strings. I generally switch to fingers-only as a tonal effect, from rounder to punchier. So my hammer-ons and pull-offs on the bass are really quite solid, which is weird since I’ve never really consciously worked at it.

One of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever played with was this cat Jim Wynne, who was a master of the two-hand tap technique on the bass. I little two-handed-tap blues improvisation for Michelle to demonstrate his style, playing the bass line in the bottom two strings with my left hand and tapping the 3rd and 7th on the offbeats on top two strings with my right. To my surprise it came out sounding really good! I guess it’s not that different than piano. I’m gonna have to work a part like that into one of my songs.

The girls are having a good fall. Yesterday they had the holiday show at the performing arts group they belong to, Young at Arts. Michelle has been working out Do a Deer from The Sound of Music by ear on the piano. Talented girl. Meanwhile Lizzy is enjoying being in 8th grade and her grades are up, and that comes at a good time. She’s finally getting algebra. She was cast as one of the leads in her school play this winter. The theme of the play is New York, and the songs are all taken from classic shows, with an original story to string them together. She has six songs. Her character is British, so she’s been having fun practicing her accent. I’m going to be playing in the band again this year. I got the list of songs and put together a playlist. It’s a fun set. We listened to it as we put up the tree today. It has two different songs called New York New York.