Lots of family time this weekend, so I'm already feeling behind and the week hasn't even started yet. Last night was filled with lots of musical tinkering. I think I've figured out some basics of the trumpet, and I came up with a couple more beginnings of tracks that I enjoy quite a bit. Eventually, there will be some previews of things that have been worked on, but it's not quite at a public consumption level yet.
Today, after more family stuff, I came home to find that TG had bought us some pets. She had me close my eyes, then led me into the house where I found two goldfish swimming around in a big glass bowl. After much deliberation on names ("Pee and Poo," "Mary Kate and Ashley" and "Christopher Walken and Don Knotts" were particular favorites), we decided on the names "Yeti" and "Gill" ("Gill" is the slightly bigger one). Until we get a place that allows mammals, they'll have to do, but I have to admit that they're still pretty neat.
Went to see Panic Room last night with some friends, and I thought it was a pretty good film. At first, I thought that the lack of character development at the beginning of the film would make me not care, but the film unfolds in a way that things are explained along the way. Although there are a few things you have to overlook in terms of plot devices, it was one of the tighter thrillers that I've seen in a long time. Good, nail-biting fun with atmosphere to burn (what else would I expect from Fincher?) and fairly solid performances all around. Forest Whitaker was great as always, and I was really impressed by Kristen Stewart, who played the daughter of Foster in the film. Oh, and Dwight Yoakam continues his string of creepy, high-strung characters (see also Slingblade). Look for the cameo by Andrew Kevin Walker (writer of Se7en, which he also played a dead guy in) as a sleepy neighbor.
In music news, I'm borrowing a trumpet from a family member (thanks Ken!) and I'm going to try to teach myself the basics on it. I'm seriously into the whole music creation thing now, and although I'm not sure if it will become a staple in what I'm doing, it's definitely something fun to play around with. That, and I'm going to build up a huge set of lungs. Hoo-Ha!
I've been on sort of a creative upswing lately, which is a good thing. The writing (some of which will make it to the site, some of which might not) seems to be flowing pretty well, and in terms of developing musical ideas that are banging around in my head, I feel like I've steadily been getting better at translating them into actual sound. I've even managed to fit in more reading like I've been wanting to do. 3 books are now within 30 pages of completion. Now, if I could only get back into the photography full force again. I guess something has to give.
I was running around in a t-shirt again at lunch today, and this time I didn't even need a stocking cap or gloves. Once again, the weather this week threw a curveball and after delivering over 7 inches of snow on Sunday night, it was back up over 50 degrees today, pretty much melting all the white stuff in sight. A lovely day, even though it completely obliterated my creation from two days ago. Feeling slightly behind and tired this week, which is strange since I had a day off on Monday.
Aaron and Ryan played an acoustic night this evening and it was quite nice. I was kind of itching to contribute, since we've all been working together on stuff, but it was good to just sit back and listen as well. There's something inherent about live music that makes you want to create, so hopefully it inspires me for the rest of the week (or longer).
It started sleeting yesterday in the late afternoon, which then turned into snow at about 7p.m. last night. At first, it was just a light flurries, but after only 45 minutes or so, I looked out the window again and noted that it was coming down pretty hard. It kept up at this pace throughout the rest of the evening, and was doing the same when I last looked out before going to sleep.
After waking up at the regular time, I looked outside and saw a huge amount of snow on the ground. There was no way I was going to make it in on time, so I decided to take it leisurely and scoop a bit, then have breakfast and head into work after the initial rush. By the time I got both cars dug out and a small path cleared, I finally left for work. On the way there, I saw 4 separate accidents, although there wasn't that much traffic on the road. In one instance, a person had slid up on the curb and into a pole, while in another, a pickup carrying rock salt had smashed into the back of another large pickup (how's that for irony?). The one that seemed to be the worst, though, was a smashed VW Beetle close to my workplace. The drivers side door was mashed in, and there was something really strange about the front left (also smashed quarterpanel) of the car as well.
At any rate, I got to work and found out from a supervisor that I didn't even need to be there, so I left again. My one goal for the drive home was not to get hit by anyone (the roads were completely ice-packed and rutted out). As I passed back by the VW Beetle, I noticed that they were getting ready to tow it and realized what was so strange about it before; A guy from the tow company was pulling the imbedded bumper of a Dodge Neon out of the side of the front quarterpanel.
I made it home safely, then decided to scoop the walk. After that was done, I ate a bit of lunch, ran (through drifts of snow) to the post office, and checked my email. By noon, things had cleared considerably, so I ran around in the snow in nothing but a t-shirt, gloves, and hat (and pants and shoes) for about an hour. I was going to make a snowman, but then just decided to start sticking things together into sort of a weird snow blob thing. It stands about 7 feet tall, and it will be funny to see what happens to it as it melts.
Looking through my offline journal (which doesn't consist of a whole lot), I noticed that up to this point in the year, I'd only actually finished one book. Granted, I'm currently in the middle of 5 others, but it seems like such a weak total that I'm going to try to buckle down and fill in more of my spare moments with reading. I need to cut some of the aimless surfing I do at lunch at work, as well as try to read at least 10 pages before bed every night. It's just good habit, baby.
The Oscars are on in the background. No huge complaints yet, I'll probably have more commentary tomorrow. So far, though, Arthur Hiller has impressed me the most by shooting through all the Hollywood bullshit and seeming sincerely humble and honest in his reception of his humanitarian award. That, and Sidney Portier will probably be the most elegant and intelligent person on the show the entire evening.
Had El Salvadorian food for the first time today, and it was pretty good. It was nice to just get out in the (partial) sun, as it had been sort of spotty weather all last week and the upcoming week is supposed to be just as cold and possibly snow/rain/sleet filled. On a minimal techno kick lately, and I helped suppress my urges for awhile by picking up Gravity by Monolake today.
Watched Session 9 with some friends tonight, and while it was really good for the first three-quarters, like many other movies of this nature it petered out towards the end. In the same way that The Last Broadcast turned me off with it's very slash-em up ending, I felt sort of the same way about this film. There were some little elements that the filmakers used to good effect to tie things all together at the end, but it still felt like sort of the cheap way out, especially since a majority of the film was atmospheric and creepy. Why aren't there more truly scary films out there?
Met up for music as usual on the Thursday evening and things came together pretty well after a bit of tinkering around. We're still just a fledging collective/group (without a name) and don't have anything we'd release to the public yet, but things are definitely starting to sound better.
I started biking to work today again, then was met with a north wind in my face that made pedaling twice as hard and the temperature below freezing (wind chill). After about three-quarters of a mile, I biked home and decided to drive. I felt like a wimp, but there will be plenty of nice days upcoming for biking to work.
For the first time in about 2 months, I biked to work today. It was the first time I'd done so since moving into the house, and I had sort of a mixed reaction to setting out in the first place. On one hand, it felt good to be back out on the bike and getting to work on my own power, and on the other I realized that I'm horribly out-of-shape and that there are many more hills with the new distance involved. All in all, though, it was pretty nice. I made both the trip to work and back home again in under 30 minutes each way, so time-wise it's only about 10 minutes more each way than what it takes in the car. If I can get the clothing situation figured out a little better (I got quite warm and had to shed a layer on the way there), things will be running smoothly once the weather is full-on nice for biking.
Also, my new pair of shoes and a CD I purchased awhile back arrived in the mail today. The CD (Königsforst by Gas) makes my head swim in a good way, and the shoes are sweet. And when I say sweet, I mean totally awesome.
For some reason lately, I can't shake the feeling that I'm a bit of a failure. It's not that I've dragged myself into a depression because of it, or that I want sympathy for it, but it's a feeling that's been lingering now (probably since sometime around my birthday last year). I don't know if it's a combination of reading books and articles about amazing people who actually made a real contribution to society, or the fact that some of my close friends are vastly more talented than I at things I wish I was better at, or something else. Sure, I've written a fair amount, but one of my main forms of writing isn't even that original in that they're written critiques on some other form of media. It's a vicious circle, because then I wonder whether I'm even qualified to critique music when I haven't yet created anything of value myself. On the other side of things, I've created original writing that I'm fairly happy with, but it's this work that nobody is really very interested in. I'm happy in general, but it seems like I'm constantly fighting with myself internally about whether what I'm doing makes any difference at all. I
If you have a little extra time and a decent connection, there's a whole plethora of great interviews over at Brave New Waves. You can hear Kid 606 tell the excellent story behind his track "Luke Vibert Can Kiss My Indie-Punk Whiteboy Ass" (from Down With The Scene), Matmos talk about their operating room encounters (as well as how they chose the title of the album) while making A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure, as well as Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three just plain telling interesting stories.
In addition, there are also great interviews with Manitoba, Lesser, and Kid Koala (among others). On the non-musical tip, they even have an interview with comic artist Chris Ware in which he is his usual insightful and self-depreciating self.
I didn't leave the house until about 4p.m. this afternoon today, when I took the full trash bag out behind the house and put it in the garbage can. It was then that I finally realized how nice of a day it was and how silly I felt for sitting in the basement for a good majority of it. Instead of going back inside right away, I simply walked around the backyard (it's really large) and picked up some small branches that had fallen out the trees and tried to suck in as much air as possible. It was one of the warmer days we've had yet this year, and I imagine things will only be getting nicer. It's time to start biking to work again, and when it gets a bit warmer, I think it will be time to have people over again and have a grill out.
I was at the thrift store today and came upon a realization that it might be fun to start buying every piece of velour clothing that I see. Eventually, I would amass a large stockpile of different things, and meanwhile even more velour articles of clothing would be destroyed with impending time. At some point in the forseeable future, I could quite possibly corner the market on velour, then go about systematically selling everything away for high prices.
Then, I realized that I don't really have space for all that velour, but remember that when it comes back into fashion, you heard it hear first.
Although world population and overcrowding is still obviously an issue, I think that things like this will become more abundant in the following years, as we start seeing more and more problems that we as humans have caused for ourselves in our past 150 years of growth. Granted, drugs and chemicals are tested in the short term and in large doses, but as years pass I think that unfortunate lack of long term testing and safeguards will probably act as sort of a population control. On one hand, there may be less of a growth in population (which is a good thing), but that may in turn be caused by environmental factors that we as a human race have brought upon ourselves, such as sickness and infertility (which is a bad thing). Without trying to sound too fatalist, the human species seems to keep stacking the odds against itself, whether its going out in one bang (nuclear holocaust) or with little things that slowly add up over time (like the above mentioned link).
This link is making the rounds today, but I had to post it anyway. A guy built a rollercoaster in his backyard, and the thing actually looks pretty safe. Wait for the pictures to load, it's worth it.
And to think, I sometimes complain about having to pay $7.50 for a movie ticket.
As promised, a link to the piece I wrote about my jury duty. I'll warn you now that it's fairly long, but I wanted to get everything written down as I remembered it. Oh, and new music reviews are up too.
Let me just say that it sucks to be the alternate on a trial. It's basically the equivalent of jury duty blue balls, because you get to set through the entire trial process, including the opening statements, seeing all the evidence and hearing all the witnesses, and then the closing arguments. Just as you think you have all the information and that you're going to get to go meet with the rest of the group, your name is called and that's the end of things. You leave the courtroom and head home.
I happened to be the alternate today, and although the court case wasn't anything life shattering (a traffic accident with minor injuries that somehow hadn't settled before court), I did have opinions on the case by the time it was all over, and I wasn't able to discuss them with the group and decide. Instead, I went back to the jury room, grabbed my book, and went home. Although I felt a bit shafted by the whole process, it was still good for me to see how it worked. I wrote up a longer piece on it that I'll post a link to tomorrow.
Showed up at the courthouse this morning at 8:45 and was led into the courtroom about 15 minutes later. First, 24 random names were drawn out of the 30 or so people who were there. I was the last name drawn. Then, the lawyers went through the process where questions are asked and everyone is narrowed down to a jury of 13 (12 and one yet-unnamed alternate). I was chosen as one of the 13, and today we sat through the opening statements and 4 different witnesses. I obviously can't talk about the case yet, but things are supposed to wrap up tomorrow, then I should be able to spill the beans...
Got yet another entry today for the 2001 Readers Lists in my music review section, and I took a little time to revisit. In total, I received 49 different submissions from different readers, but the most amazing thing to me was that 18 different countries (including the United States) were represented. It was the first year I'd done readers lists, and I'm still blown away by the amount of contributions and the international readership. I'm going to plan on doing them every year, and hopefully participation will just keep growing. That, and I've already discovered several good things from reading lists of other people.
I constantly have to remind myself that it's not possible to at every moment maintain the same level of creativity and output as during the highest peaks of said creativity and output. When constantly raising a creative bar, there is the danger of not clearing it and having a slight lapse of doubt. The main point for me then, is to remember the long term goal and know that it's still something that is easily within reach, and to keep the bar at a modest level. I know that makes me sound like somewhat of a pretentious buffoon, but just getting it out will help me. Honestly. I feel an upswing already.
Oh, and The Brain is HUGE this week!
Finally saw Amelie this evening and I tried to put everything out of my head that I'd read about it ("It's amazing!" "It white-washes the real France!") and found it to be a quite enjoyable magical realism film (what else could I expect from Jeunet?) that had me just a bit happier after I saw it than before I went into the theater. At times I felt like characters were written to be quirky for being quirkys sake, but on the whole everything fit together so nicely that it was easy to overlook. Plus, everything looked so lush that I was just about ready to trade in my Volvo for a Vespa and start wearing less drab clothing.
TG and I told people to show up at roughly 8 p.m. for our housewarming party. At about 7:40 I was sitting on the couch in the living room reading, when I heard little clicking sounds coming from the front window. I got up and looked out, and it was little chunks of ice. Over the course of the next 30 minutes or so, it gained in intensity (including thunder and lightning!), and by the time it was done, almost an inch of ice had fallen.
Still! Guests braved the elements amazingly and we had about 12 people show up (which is much more than I thought considering the weather). Showed off the house and then congregated in the living room for some good conversation and lots of appetizers and a fair amount of alcohol (still takes only about 2 glasses of wine for me to feel a bit swimmy). The ice eventually stopped and some snow trickled down on top of it, reducing the slick quotient by a fair amount. Everyone got home safely, and hopefully had a great evening (I did). In the picture collage below (from top left, clockwise); Torsten (hidden Jen), TG and I, Torsten again, Aaron and Gretchen (and Jen's back).
Another music session tonight with Aaron and Ryan tonight, and I'm completely amped. After some slight technical difficulties early on, we banged out two tracks (one almost complete and the beginnings of a barnburner) that I think we're all pretty happy with so far. After our initial night of work, I was wondering if we could keep inspiration and all get our ideas in, but after tonight I'm completely excited. It's a great feeling creating music that you know that you'd buy yourself if you heard it. I think I might need to de-frag my hard-drive, though.
Oh, and this is the last time I'm going to tell you. Tomorrow night: housewarming party.
A link (courtesy of Jessie) of some amazing pictures taken over the course of the past year. After six months, I thought I might be somewhat steeled against pictures from Sept. 11th, but some images in the collection are so haunting that they'll never lose their potency. The rest of the sections are really good as well, and to offset the somewhat serious nature of the majority of pictures, there are even some excellent animal and sports. pictures, as well as this crazy picture.
I got a call today and it turns out that they don't need me to show up for jury duty tomorrow. Instead, it's been postponed until next Tuesday, which isn't really too big of a deal for me.
Was TG's birthday today and so I let her open presents as soon as midnight rolled around (technically last night) and then tonight we went out to eat. Instead of hibernating, we decided to head out and see a show, as Drums And Tuba were in town. They're a three piece that has more funk than a funk band and rocks it out with a tuba and tons of effects pedals. Quite a bit of fun, although once again the cigarette smoke got to me. Ech.
It's official now. I got called today at work and I report in for jury duty on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. I know nothing of the case that I could be a part of, and I honestly don't even know whether I'll even get to sit in on a trial or not, but I find this all very fascinating. I was trying to think of what I would wear, and being the goofball that I am, my "crimimal" shirt from The Fray popped into mind, then I thought better. As with everything, I guess I'll see what happens.
Been working on music again with Aaron and Ryan, and it seems to be coming along pretty well considering we're all just sort of starting out. There are moments (as I'm sure there will be for awhile) where ideas just seem to ricochet around without ever really ending up as something workable, and yet we're also making some progress. I think that the creation process will as much involve us hammering out ideas on our own time as it will when we're together, because things sort of get lost in the process when we're all trying to chip in at the same moment.
Even though I had a three-day weekend, it seemed to fly by unusually fast. The problem may have been that I needed to get outside more often, but then I would have had to deal with the sub-zero temperatures. At least a warming trend is in store for this week.
After sleeping in today, I got up and scooped our entire driveway and sidewalk (which admittingly isn't a lot). It took me about an hour to do it all, and I decided to take a picture of the house with the snow (about 5 inches of light powdery stuff). The wind is still blowing so it's pretty darn cold still, but it's supposed to be 40 by Tuesday, so the white stuff will be short-lived.
Took a day off from work and got some things done. Including, but not limited to; getting a haircut, re-registering my car, buying a snow-shovel, going to the post office, paying rent, doing my taxes, and buying a few CDs (imagine that). The weather progressed from bad to worse throughout the day, though, and by the time I went to bed it was -15 with the wind chill and the snow was coming down like crazy.