Tuesday, August 31, 2010

artist spotlight: kristen loya





Once again, it's almost midnight and I'm still here working on getting the August artist spotlight posted! It's been an interesting month, and I've had some minor communication/time issues with the spotlight this month. Still, this gave me a chance to feature someone I've been wanting to feature for quite a while now (but was going to wait until her new website was completed). She happens to be one of the most creative and inspiring individuals I've ever met. She's a photographer, she makes jewelry, she crafts, she paints and she recently reunited with her drawing mojo once again. Her name is Kristen Alcantara and she also happens to be my wife (she also doesn't know I'm posting this, heh heh, shhhh). So, no interview here...just pictures. Just a little background info: Kristen was born and raised in a beautiful little island in the Caribbean called Trinidad. She studied art and graphic design and came to the states to marry some kooky art teacher dude she met on Illustration Friday (kinda nuts, right?). She listens to singer-songwriter girls like Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareillis, Lenka, and Zee Avi, as well as Caribbean music and the occasional bad pop (which drives her husband more insane than he already is). She is also kind to animals and recently befriended a small chipmunk who she says I have to meet. In the meantime, enjoy!




















For more, check out Kris' Flickr stream!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

aphex twin: "alberto balsalm" (steel version) arranged by ben wallace, & original track



According to the credits on You Tube:
"Alberto Balsalm" by Aphex Twin
Arranged by Ben Wallace for the CCM (College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati) Steel Band directed by Rusty Burge
June 2010

One of the blogs I follow is Merck Fragments, irregularly updated by Merck Records founder Gabe Koch. When the blog is updated however, Gabe will occasionally post some great and interesting music performances, including this recent school band cover of Aphex Twin's "Alberto Balsalm". As with many electronic music heads, Aphex Twin (name, Richard D. James) is up there as one of my all time favorite musicians. When his "I Care Because You Do" album, which includes this song, was released in 1995, I played it to death that summer. The song featured here, "Alberto Balsalm" takes me back to simpler times when I had no car and rode a bike to the grocery store with ten dollars in my pocket every week. The song itself was made by simpler, hands-on means and would mark Aphex's last analogue album before he went digital in 1996, producing much more complex, dynamic musical compositions with the aid of computer technology. Richard D. James would later put out an extensive series of analogue tracks under his AFX moniker, but in my opinion, would never quite eclipse those musical heights found throughout his earlier work. The video footage above does however capture the spirit of "Alberto Balsalm", and seeing these kids in a school, doing such an amazing job playing Aphex (on the steel pans no less!!!) makes me happy beyond words. I'd like to thank Gabe for posting this, otherwise I might have never seen or heard it. I'd also like to thank those teachers, composers and kids for doing such a fine job with this modern classic. Below you can listen to the original version while attempting to stare down a maniacally grinning self-portrait in oils made by RDJ himself (staring optional), also serving as the cover art for "I Care".



For another great cover of this "Alberto Balsalm", check out this beautiful version played on guitar by Andrew Tab, which puts the song in a whole new light!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

immovable



For me the word "immovabe" had both positive and negative connotations. I found this week's Illustration Friday topic to be a challenge, maybe because I didn't want to conjure something so literally, as I have done with recent attempts. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just something I wanted to move away from this time around. I thought about the word immovable as more of a psychological state. I also thought the word itself was somewhat of an awkward word and felt the need to look it up to see if it was for real (I kept wanting to use "immobile" instead). I thought about a certain stubbornness and an unwillingness to change for the better, to benefit oneself or others, perhaps guided by ego-based motivators blinding one from considering different possibilities or points of view. This made me also consider this topic in a more positive light where one stands by certain principles or values despite overwhelming pressures which may undermine those principles. What's important is that one's personally developed mindset should be carefully examined before making final conclusions, however, I wonder if ultimately it's a good thing to become too attached to concrete ways of thinking. It seems such an immovable mind is counter to personal growth and human intelligence.

* made for the Illustration Friday topic "immovable", Pigma Micron pens in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 8/2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

tears for fears: "pale shelter" and "woman in chains"



Now would be a better time than ever to feature some Tears for Fears here at the blog, while I'm still flying high from their show in DC a couple of nights ago. The video above is the official promo for the song "Pale Shelter", from their first album, "the Hurting". Like many fans, I actually heard this song and album after the band blew up big with their second record, "Songs from the Big Chair". An early cult classic, The Hurting has a more bare bones sound throughout, showcasing the duo's early interest in new wave production and electronic experimentation. This sound would continue on throughout their Songs album, however the production had become much fuller and more ambitious, merging elements of jazz, ambient, soul, and even industrial throughout the entire LP. The video itself is far more than a mere compliment to "Pale Shelter", taking on a very cinematic, artful approach. You can click on the video itself for some extensive and thorough background information with regards to the making of the clip. By the time their third full-length, "The Seeds of Love" was released, the band had developed a very full, multilayered sound, further expanding on their approach to "Songs" while embracing a somewhat Beatles-inspired sound on many tracks. This extremely ambitious effort costed the band millions, leaving them deep in debt and eventually contributing to a falling out with founding members Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, the later of whom kept the name and group alive with a couple of LPs before the duo's eventual reunion over a decade later. While some might consider Seeds to be a bit of an overblown affair, it is arguably their greatest work to date, giving birth to the heartbreakingly beautiful opening track, "Woman in Chains", featuring singer Oleta Adams, which you can listen to below.



For more Tears for Fears, don't miss this segment from the film Donnie Darko, brilliantly incorporating "Head Over Heels" into one of the movie's key scenes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

tears for fears, live at the 9:30 club, washington, dc, 8/23/2010 (sold out)








Last night was a fine way to end my summer break with one of the best concerts I've been to in a while. When I first saw that Tears For Fears were playing the 9:30 Club in DC, I was thrilled. To see that founding members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were touring together, even better. Then I saw the cost, which made me hesitate before jumping to buy tickets. Still, this wasn't any ol' band. This was a band I grew up with when Songs From the Big Chair came out. Thanks to my younger brother who had both "Songs" and their follow up masterpiece "The Seeds of Love" - two albums we listened to constantly, Tears For Fears would forever be a crucial part of my music-loving youth, exposing my teenage brain to a much bigger and bolder word of music. Yes, this was an important band, on both a personal level, and on a level which sold over 20 million albums worldwide. If I missed this show, I would have regretted it terribly and would have been kicking myself for years to come.

Their sold out performance at the roughly thousand-person capacity 9:30 club was nothing short of fantastic, as both Roland (the long-haired guy) and Curt (short hair) played and sang wonderfully from beginning to end, having lots of fun with the fans throughout the show. The crowd was great too - enthusiastic but not too over-the-top (or drunk, thankfully), singing, dancing and clapping along to some powerful live and faithful renditions of classics like "Shout", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Head Over Heels", "Break it Down Again", "Pale Shelter", "Advice For the Young at Heart" and many more. The band performed "Mad Word" twice even, as an intro song, first using a recording of an orchestra and big chorus from their previous tour several years ago, with Smith coming out and singing along before Roland and the rest of the band ventured on stage to join him. Later they played a more faithful version of the original - a song that was brought to the attention of a whole new generation in the excellent film Donnie Darko a few years back. It was great seeing them in a more traditional rock band set up, minus the big orchestra and chorus, making the performance all the more intimate in such a relatively small venue where there are virtually no bad seats in the house. Not to be a nitpick but perhaps the low point of the show (for me at least) was when the band did a somewhat slow, brooding cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean". Don't get me wrong, they did a very good job, I'm just not an M.J. fan even remotely, and all I could think of as the song seemed to go on for a lifetime was, damn, they have a million other amazing songs of their own they could be playing right now and they're covering Michael Jackson? It could have been "The Working Hour", "Broken", "Change", "Year of the Knife", "Mothers' Talk" or many others that weren't played, but please, not a cover, of M.J., or of anyone for that matter! Well, all rants aside, "Billy Jean" was greeted by moderate enthusiasm, and despite that small segment of torture, again, brilliant show. Perhaps the biggest highlight was when opening act, singer-songwriter Wainwright, who joined the band for a good majority of their performance, sang the soulful "girly" vocals (as Orzabal jokingly referred to them as) on "Woman In Chains", originally sung by Oleta Adams on "The Seeds of Love" LP. I'm not big into singer-songwriters, but I was originally impressed by Wainwright's voice when he opened for Tears. When he sang during Woman in Chains, a good majority of the audience's jaws were on the floor, and left there for most of the duration of the song, as folks were too busy clapping for this man who was somehow performing the impossible before our very eyes and ears. No pun intended, but the performance of that magnificent song alone nearly brought me to tears - flawless. One thing about Tears for Fears is their mass appeal, which was evident in the variety of folks in the audience. As a friend of mine who went to the show with me said, the duo always have toed the line, sometimes getting (dangerously) close to that dreaded genre, "adult contemporary", yet somehow maintaining a sound that is still unique and experimental yet highly universal and accessible. Check 'em out if you get a chance. Tickets might seem a bit pricey (though no more expensive than a ball game or a five star meal), but if you like good music, and especially if you're a fan, don't hesitate to go and see them play. Who knows when they'll ever decide to tour again! For more info on the band and their tour, drop by their official website.

Friday, August 20, 2010

that place


"There's something about that place that's not quite right - something strange about the atmosphere."

Here's one I based on another Illo Friday drawing I did a couple of years ago. I think it's a real improvement, though there are things I like more about the older version.

*made for the Illustration Friday topic "atmosphere" , mixed media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 8/2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a reboot revival



During the summer of '95, my friend Eric turned me on to one of the most amazing animated TV series I've ever seen. It was a program called ReBoot. It was the very first CGI series to air on TV and was way ahead of its time. The stories were engaging and entertaining, with lots of action, suspense and humor, yet never overdone or overwhelming. In fact, I found watching the show to be very calming at times. The characters were also all very believable and quite real, all based on certain aspects of the computer, which at the time wasn't yet a common item in your everyday household. Visually, the program had a beautiful aesthetic, not cold or awkward like a lot of computer graphics can be, and to this day, hold their own very well. Back in my avid TV-watching days, I'd religiously record the show to VHS. The earlier seasons (especially the first two) were my favorite, and are the ones I was most familiar with. As the show reached season three, it evolved into a more darker, "mature" tone. Unfortunately, I had lost track of Reboot in it's later seasons and always wished they put out the entire series on DVD. Well, there is hope, at least for a series of movies. A brand new trilogy is in the works. I honestly hope they don't change the characters or voices, etc. all too drastically. I remember how disappointed I was when the new Transformer and Godzilla movies came out. Update shmupdate! Anyhow, here's more info according to "ReBoot Revival":

The last television episode of ReBoot aired in November of 2001 with a cliffhanger that left viewers wanting more. Through websites and online forums, die-hard fans continued to speculate, predict and - in some cases - fictionalize the next chapter in the ReBoot story.

Six years later, Rainmaker Entertainment teamed with Zeros 2 Heroes Mediato create a unique digital campaign where the fans were asked to decide what the next chapter of the story should be. Fans were asked to vote, comment, rate, create,blog and ultimately decide which Rainmaker team they trusted with carrying the torch.

As a result of this incredible outpouring of "fantensity", Rainmaker Entertainment has now embarked on the first film of an all-new ReBoot trilogy.

*above is a small sample from an early ReBoot episode
*below is a little hype trailer for the new Reboot, though this will not be part of the movie (or will it?)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the comment conundrum pt 2



From my friend Chris, this morning via e-mail:

steve,

i think you should allow comments on your blog.
whoever said :
"when a person leaves a comment at your blog, it is proper to "return the favor" and leave a comment at their blog, to show some kind of support"
is quite simply WRONG.
that may have applied a long time ago when blogging was something new, but it definitely no longer applies now.
you don't even have to look at their blog.
no one in the entire world has time to do that.
and you don't even have to respond to their comment (which i noticed that you always did) unless they ask you a direct question.
but leaving comments is important.
people want to be able to respond to what you have posted.
it is an integral part of the blogging process.
people aren't going to leave a comment somewhere else (such as flickr) about something that is on your blog.
and people don't want to have to email you directly.
they might if it is something really important.
but if they just want to say "hey i like this" they're probably not going to bother.
plus some people would rather just keep their distance with a comment on your blog.
emailing you directly removes anonymity and assumes friendship.

feel free to post this on your blog if you want

So, after reading my friend's thoughts on blogger comments, I think he made some pretty good points. I decided, after some consideration, to allow comments again. Why not? If the new Blogger Spam guard works, then there should be no problem. I'll also try my best to check out your blog if you do decide to drop me a line. Since I like to kick it old school, there will always be a "thank you" as well, if a nice comment is left, and not a "thanks" out of necessity. That's just how I roll and that will never be a problem for me. I am curious as to what anyone else thinks (now that you can comment again!)- have you had Spam issues, is the guard working well for you, etc ? I guess this would make me some sort of "flip flopper"? ;)

Monday, August 16, 2010

the comment conundrum



As some who stop by this blog know, about a month or so ago I decided I had enough with the comment Spam that was invading my blogs more and more. I had Blogger's comment moderator set for about a year prior to this issue, and while it allowed me to see what my comments were and who they were from prior to publishing them, it was still a problem. I wish I had taken some screen shots to illustrate what I'm talking about. Most, if not all the Spam was in a language I unfortunately was not able to read, and it always included a link, which I'm assuming was harmful. Finally, one day I just got sick of sorting through the good and the bad and chose the option to close comments and invite folks to e-mail me if they would like. During this period of time, I actually got some really nice e-mails from some folks, including an British art magazine who inquired about featuring some of my work, as well as an animal rights group who kindly asked if they could use an image of mine. Recently, Blogger has upped the ante and now feature a new comment moderation system, since others were experiencing the same problem. I'd like to thank Bob and Susan for the heads up, with regards to this new feature. Strange thing is, I'm not as excited as I should be perhaps. In fact, as much as I liked reading some of the nice comments at my blog, I have now discovered closing the comments to be somewhat liberating. How, you ask? Well, according to blogger etiquette, when a person leaves a comment at your blog, it is proper to "return the favor" and leave a comment at their blog, to show some kind of support. I read this in a book last year (can't recall what book it was) and I've always made an effort to reciprocate in the past. Still, this seems kind of silly and it has made me think of the issue of comment sincerity. Not that I have ever doubted the sincerity of a comment at my own blog, or have lost a wink of sleep over it, for that matter. I would however feel guilty at times, when folks left a comment at one of my posts and I never got around to even checking out their blog after a week or more. It still amazes me that with the billions of things one can be distracted with on the internet, a person would choose to not only look at my blog(s) but even drop me a line. I never took that for granted. Anyway, I think I'm going to stick with the "comments off" despite the new Blogger feature. In a nutshell, it keeps things simple, for me at least. I'm happy with simply having a presence on the web and putting whatever it is I feel the need to put out there, out there. I've had no issues with Spam on Flickr, so comments are always welcome there, and anyone can still shoot me an e-mail with regards to anything I post at any of my blogs.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the future sound of london: "papua new guinea" and "omnipresence"



"When I hear old music that is older than me, this is of such quality, and such power like this, it makes me want to cry, music is dead these days." -benjsy (referring to the Future Sound of London, on You Tube)

While music is indeed not dead - you just have to look, or should I say, listen a little harder, and with ears wide open, there was a "golden era" of modern electronica, and the two tracks posted here represent that era very well. Back in the early nineties I'd regularly tune in to a college radio station, WPTS (Pitt/University of Pittsburgh), who hosted the popular, long-running (and now politically incorrectly titled, sorry) program "Techno Terrorists". Actually, the title was taken from a magazine article on pioneering industrial band Front 242, who will be featured here on a later date. As for the show, it was usually a six-hour mix of more-dance-friendly sounds from around the world, much of it coming from the UK. One track that was featured quite a bit was a hard-driving, robotic stormer called "Stakker Humanoid" by an act called Humanoid. Years later, this track would be considered a techno classic, reissued in CD format on Aphex Twin's own Rephlex label. During those years in between, the guys responsible for Stakker Humanoid, Gary Cobain and Brian Dougans would go on to produce an enormous amount of material as The Future Sound of London. Words can't do much justice in describing what FSOL accomplished with music, video and digital media, though their Wikipedia site does a decent job.



The video above features FSOL's "Papua New Guinea" from 1991. The song was huge, landing them a deal with Virgin Records, and even a spot on the Cool World soundtrack. While still retaining a heavy dose of dance music sensibilities,Papua was a step away from their more techno-inspired sounds, moving in a more ambient soundscape direction, a direction they had explored further under the alias "Amorphous Androgynous" in '93. While the song itself has a timeless quality, the video is both dated yet strangely current, reflecting the highly psychedelic, spiritual vibe of early rave and ambient music culture. You'll even see both Dougans and Cobain featured throughout the video with a presence amplified only through the magic of early nineties computer graphics. A strong pair of sunglasses might be a good idea upon viewing this video. The track above, "Omnipresence" is from FSOL's groundbreaking ambient double CD masterpiece "Life Forms" in 1994. In Cobain's words "We wanted to release a very immersive, mind-blowing piece of music that was long and would deeply drench you in it...Lifeforms was redefining 'classical ambient electronic experimental'". To this day FSOL continue to release music at a pace that can be difficult to keep up with, putting out mostly unheard works under their "Archives" and "Environments" series. Currently there are rumors of both a world tour and brand new FSOL material in the works.

Friday, August 13, 2010

star gazer



"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love."
-Carl Sagan

Before Kris and I got married, she stayed out here in Virginia with me for a summer, a couple of years ago. One of my fondest memories from that time was when she told me, with great excitement, about a major meteor shower to occur during the early morning hours. It was only for one night and was predicted to be a highly visible spectacle, seen easily with the naked eye. So, around midnight that night, we got some blankets and pillows and set up shop in the middle of the tennis court in front of our apartment. At first, nothing. In fact, after about a half an hour we almost threw in the towel. Then we both, at the same time jumped, fingers pointed to the sky. It was a meteor, bright as can be but only lasting for a couple of seconds. The brief presence of this tiny streak of light was, for some reason, incredibly exciting to us both. We ended up staying out there until three in the morning, and to our surprise were the only people out there. It was kind of disappointing but it also made our little adventure all the more special. I ended up counting eleven shooting stars, and Kris saw about seven. Every time we saw one it was like seeing one for the first time. Seeing those meteors was just as amazing as when I got to see Saturn from a big telescope in the country in Pennsylvania sometime in the late nineties. Knowing Kris enjoyed this experience as much as I did further made me realize she was the right girl for me.

*made for the Illustration Friday prompt "star gazing", watercolors, coffee, gel pen and Pigma Micron pen in A4 watercolor Moleskine, loosely based on a photo I took and an album cover by Nightmares On Wax, 8/13/2010

More Carl Sagan words of wisdom can be found HERE.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

dc veg fest in one month!

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.



Yes yes, let the countdown begin. In one more month George Washington University will be hosting the 2010 D.C. Veg Fest. I've been wanting to attend this event in the past but something always came up. I've marked my calendar and will be making a concerted effort to be there. I'm hoping Kris can come along with me as well, 'cause I know she'll love it, if work doesn't get in the way that day for her. The event takes place September 11, 2010, from noon 'til 6PM at University Yard, George Washington University. It will be good to see what's new, sample some good food and be around like-minded folks, especially since we live in a pretty non-vegetarian-friendly town, with regards to food choices. It seems to be getting a lot better with each year however. Above, I also uploaded some great highlights from last year's event. Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

basking gammera




Kris and I never get tired of watching our turtle Gammera. Lately he seems to be slowing down, which he tends to do towards the end of Summer. He's been eating and swimming a lot less and has been spending more time basking under his sun lamp on top of his log. I bought the log - an artificial one by Zoo Med a few years ago, and it's the best purchase I've made for Gam. He loves it and uses it to climb and bask on, swim through, and even sleep in at night. It can be pricey, averaging forty dollars, but I found a good price HERE. I've even witnessed Gam underneath the log, shuffling back and forth, attempting to speed up the process of shedding his shell scutes - something he'll be doing soon. It looked as if he was stuck underneath the log, but after a while it took me some time to figure out what he was up to. One thing that is not recommended is the act of aiding a pet turtle in the shedding process, by trying to manually pull loose scutes off. This can do some real harm to the turtle's shell and overall health and doesn't help the animal in any way. In the meantime, Gam says "hi"!

Monday, August 9, 2010

cylob: "morning", " foid"



Cylob is an electronic musician and deejay from England. Real name, Chris Jeffs, Cylob first got the attention of Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) in 1993 when he handed him a demo of some of his music. Soon Jeffs was signed to Richard's Rephlex label, where he released a hand full of titles under various names, showcasing a variety of styles. Originally inspired by early eighties synth-pop, old school hip hop and electro, Cylob's sound is both futuristic and nostalgic. Chris keeps active to this day as Cylob, offering mostly digital format releases on his own run Cylob Industries label, as well as DJ'ing all over the world. Cylob's writes his own music systems to produce a very unique sound. While Jeffs dabbles in many styles of electronic music, including quirky, electro-pop and abstract ambience, it's his melodic, instrumental beatswise compositions that I love most. I featured two good examples in this post, including the video for the track "Morning" above, synching up footage from a long walk, to an optimistic, strolling beat accompanied by lush, naive melodies - a signature sound found in Cylob's tracks. With regards to the visuals, there is a whole series of these types of "traveling" videos made by Cylob, found on You Tube. Below is an older Cylob track, "Foid", from his classic 1996 LP, "Cylobian Sunset". If ever there was an essential electronic music CD to own, this would be one, and it was truly difficult finding just one track from Cylobian Sunset to feature here. I chose a more delicate and understated composition that slowly unfolds with subtle changes like the warm colors and shifting shapes of a firey evening sky in summertime. The charm in this music is the merging of a very developed and sophisticated sense of composition with a childlike sound, evoking a sense of awe and wonder. Other artists working in a similar vein include the likes of Bochum Welt, Global Goon, D'arkangelo and AFX, all of whom have been associated with and influenced by each other in some way. Well, enough words, just listen to the music. Good speakers or headphones are highly recommended. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

caged for bile



South Korean bears are still used and brutally abused for primitive, outdated and outmoded medicinal purposes, but there is hope for these wonderful animals. According to WSPA:

Right now more than 1,400 bears suffer on bear farms in South Korea. These bears are confined to cramped, barren cages until the age of 10, when they are then slaughtered for their bile, which is then used in Traditional Asian Medicine. This industry is still legal under South Korean law.

Bear farming is cruel. The captive conditions greatly restrict the bears’ movements and have a terrible impact on their wellbeing. WSPA has witnessed bears rocking and pacing in their small cages, and seen the severe wounds, sores and stress caused by confining them.

Bear farming is unnecessary. Academics, experts and Traditional Asian Medicine advocates in South Korea agree that there are many readily available herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile. Even bear farmers in South Korea acknowledge that their farms are losing money and they are prepared to consider a phase out.

The South Korean government is willing to find a way to end this suffering. Government officials have been in discussions with WSPA and GKU about ending bear farming. This September, a bill to phase out bear farming will be proposed to the Korean parliament for the government to deliberate.



above: a caged and captive bear
below: a rescued bear, safe in an animal sanctuary




You can make a difference. It costs no money and takes only a minute of your time.

*note: this drawing was made for the Illustration Friday subject "caged", and was loosely based on a photo taken by Green Korea United, used by the WSPA, mixed-media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 8/2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

summer's end








I hate to jump the gun here, declaring an end to summer when August isn't even a quarter finished yet, but I guess it's the mindset I'm beginning to develop, as I always do this time of year. It's a time of bittersweet and mixed feelings. The days are already gradually shortening though the heat is still overbearing, making one wish for Autumn's speedy arrival, yet want to savor every last bit of summertime. It's time for me to get my mind mentally adjusted for the school year once again, and start making attempts at winding down and getting to sleep earlier and awake by the crack of dawn. I'll be taking on a much greater workload this school year as well, which makes me both anxious to get started, while reluctant to even think about what's in store. What I'll miss most about summer is the sounds of the season - sounds of life and its daily rhythms. Soon I won't hear the waves of cicada calls in the morning, the songs of various birds during the day, or the calming din of cricket chirps greeting the nightfall. It's easy to take these incredible, everyday sounds for granted, as one grows accustomed to their very presence. I've been trying to listen more closely to them lately, as well as look more observantly at my surroundings. I find that taking up a visual form of art, such as drawing or photography, actually makes this process of being more in tune with the present, easier. The same can be said for making music, or in my case, making an effort to listen to music, with an emphasis on the word listen. Ultimately, this can improve one's enjoyment and satisfaction with life, while the need to obtain more extraneous "things", which ultimately lead to a hollow and fleeting happiness, gradually decreases. Unfortunately, none of these things - the drawing, the photography, or the listening to music have ever improved my horrific sense of direction, as anyone who has ever known me will attest to. In the meantime, I finally have acquired one "thing" that I find very useful, a camera that takes decent macro shots. If there's one thing that signals an end to Summer more than anything else, in my humble opinion, it's the discovery of dead cicadas.

Friday, August 6, 2010

the klf: "3 am eternal" and "elvis on the radio, steel guitar in my soul"



My very first Compact Disc was a three-inch single I purchased while in my Junior year of highschool. Our art department had gone on our annual field trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA. On a lunch break, some friends and I high-tailed it over to a tiny, second floor record shop called "Collectors Twelve Inch", run by the great Pittsburgh deejay, E-Z Lou. Upon walking up the narrow stairway I heard thumping electronic beats, rumbling low-frequency basslines, a melody sounding like something from outer space, robotic voice snippets and a spirited chorus singing "Doctor Whooo-oo, Doctor Who! Doctor Whooo-oo, The Tardis! Doctor Whooo-oo, Doctor Who! Doctor Whooooo! Doctor Who.". Who was this Doctor Who and why haven't I heard this song before? As an American, I claim ignorance to Doctor Who, sadly. Perhaps one day I'll make time to give it a chance. As a former Pittsburgher, I actually have heard the song before, or at least the original, more primitive but no less primal version by Gary Glitter called "Rock and Roll", a song played often during Pittsburgh Penguin hockey games. Being a street hockey player with a love of industrial music, "Doctorin' the Tardis" by The Timelords was the perfect song. I immediately asked the in-store deejay what the song was, and five bucks later, it was mine. For weeks the song would play in constant rotation in the art room, as well as from the fuzzed-out speakers of my then-best friend's beat-up, bright orange Volkswagen Scirocco, as we'd drive home through the country, after our weekly deck-hockey game. Somehow it all made perfect sense.



What I didn't realize at the time was that this insane, and now classic dance track was also the work of The KLF, who was known in the states for their massive hit single "3AM Eternal". It would be several years later, long after The KLF were no longer in vogue that I would purchase and appreciate the brilliance of the group's "The White Room" LP, which included "3AM Eternal". What caused me to pick up "The White Room" however, wasn't a hit single, but rather a somewhat obscure, one-track album showing sheep sitting comfortably in a green pasture on the sleeve art, entitled "Chill Out", also released under the name, The KLF. In the pages of acclaimed musicologist and ambient music producer David Toop's book "Ocean of Sound", I had read about the legend that is "Chill Out", a magical ambient DJ set, involving band founder Jimmy Cauty and Doctor Alex Patterson (aka The Orb), edited down from eight hours, to roughly forty-five minutes. I won't go into anymore verbal descriptions of the KLF's music but instead, feature their excellent video for "3AM Eternal" above, as well as one of my favorite selections from "Chill Out" below. Since the group has such a long and infinitely fascinating story, HERE's the link to their Wikipedia site, for further information. "Ladies and gentlemen, The KLF have now left the building."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

the skies in late july








While the heat can be too much to bear sometimes during the summer, one of the best things about it is the skies. While in Akron earlier last month, I took lots of good shots of the dramatic cloud formations above me, and later in the month, the ones you see here were taken while in Leesburg, VA. I'm glad to have a little camera I can carry around and use on a whim, yet still get some quality photographs. Both the ones you see above and below were from when I was out and about.