Some Local Color
Last friday I met some friends at a local coffeehouse where a local band Living Trees was playing - I was mostly there because one of my friends was playing drums with them. They're kind of an indie/folk/bluegrass group composed of guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright & drums. It was some interesting & enjoyable music, though the sound quality was a bit muddy and it was difficult to make out the lyrics. The Acoustic's in-house PA leaves a bit to be desired...and the space itself is a few notches short of "ideal". It may be for this reason that nothing really jumped out at me musically. I'd like to see them again sometime with some better audio.
Show Photography in Bad Light
I also, predictably, took my camera along and took some photos of the show. The lighting in there was terrible - terrible enough that the autofocus on my 50mm f1.4 prime was hunting a lot. I shot most everything at ISO 1600, 1/200 and f2.8 - and then bumped the EV a full +2.00 and pulled the saturation down in post. The photos are still dark and noisey, but they're not terrible. One or two I'd even call "good". Despite the difficulty, it was a lot of fun. I'm always looking for new things to photograph.
I've been listening to Pandora a bit lately. I've discovered a few more groups that I've enjoyed (particularly humourous groups like Da Vinci's Notebook, Great Big Sea, Tom Lehrer, Tripod) and some music from groups I already knew that is pretty cool as well (some stuff from The Academy Is, Iron & Wine, and some kids' albums by Barenaked Ladies).
I've been working on some recording & composition when I have the opportunity and inspiration at the same time (which is unfortunately a somewhat rare occurence). I've come up with some new ideas lately though.
|Wednesday October 28, 2009 at 1:05pm||social theory, friends, moving, chorale, concerts, gaming||Comments (0) »|
It's been a while since a blog has happened. Only a few things to report from the interim.
Got to talk about Wallerstein in Dr. Beck's social theory class. That was fun. I think I might have been a little too long-winded though.
Helped the Hippies move into their new house. It's a lot bigger and nicer than the other place they were renting (which was much too small for them). We're all really excited for them. They're still in the process of finishing that move & getting settled, but I think they're most of the way there.
Sheri had a Chorale concert last saturday night, before which we went out to dinner with Patrick & Stacy. It was a fun time - got to hang out with some friends and hear the choir sing.
Been working really hard on stuff for Thanksgaming. I think/hope my stuff will be ready by then. I think it will, but I still have a lot to do.
As I was mentioning in the last post, last night Sheri, Robb and I went to see the Decemberists at the Civic Center in Asheville, NC.
The show was amazing. Anyone who owns or has heard the Hazards of Love - particularly if you only thought it was so-so - should really try to see this tour. It's a "good" album, but it is wonderful when performed live. The first half of the concert was the Hazards of Love - straight through, start to finish. For those who may not know, the Hazards of Love is a concept album. It tells a single story and there are no real breaks between "songs" - one simply flows into the next (some more obviously than others). I found it very impressive to watch the band play it all the way through without so much as a pause - through instrument changes and all. It really kept the story flowing and, most importantly, maintained the mood the tale created.
But, to my surprise, that was only half of it. After they had finished the Hazards of Love, they took about a 20 minute break before coming back to play a second set, which was much more like their usual show. That is to say, there was a fair amount of bantering with the crowd and Colin making up crazy and bizarre personal myths on stage. In this set, they played a little of everything from 5 songs to the Crane Wife (basically, all of their previous records). Those tunes, being more familiar to me, were also very enjoyable and I was glad to see a more 'typical' Decemberists show in addition to the previous musical narrative. In this set I was glad to hear The Crane Wife (3) and Chimbley Sweep and Robb was glad to hear Leslie Anne Levine (which he'd apparently had stuck in his head for a while). In an amazing instance of unexpected randomness, they ended this second set on a song by Heart of all bands - Crazy On You - which I maintain they could only pull off because they had two female vocalists with them for the performance of Margaret and The Queen from the Hazards of Love: Shara Worden (aka, My Brightest Diamond) and Becky Stark.
There was one minor downside. See, I had been carrying my camera around Asheville all day. When Larry, Sam and I went to see them a couple of years ago (at the TN Theatre in Knoxville), we specifically asked if we could take flash pictures during the show and were told "absolutely". So imagine my surprise when we get up there and there's a big orange sign on the door which literally says "no cameras of any kind". What? I asked an attendant about it, to which I was told "only camera phones - no flash". I asked why and was told "I guess the band don't want it".
I decided to pursue this conversation for just a minute. I asked the attendant if it was simply that flash photography was prohibited (I wasn't intending to use my flash anyway), to which she nodded and said "only camera phones". This irked me because those aren't remotely the same thing.
So anyway, I took my camera back to the car and went in without it. But THEN, I saw 10 or 20 people using cameras with flashes throughout the show - sometimes very obviously. Also, I can't make any sense of "I guess the band don't want it" since their website has a place for fans to upload their own photos from the tour.
In the end, I probably enjoyed the show a little more because I wasn't concentrating on taking pictures, but I really would have liked to have had a few. I'm going to post something on the Decemberists message board - maybe I'll get an explanation there.
That annoyance aside, we had all had a great time. :)
|Monday September 7, 2009 at 3:55pm||sociology, milligan, photography, music, gaming, concerts||Comments (0) »|
Ah, yes. A holiday. This basically means I slept in (more). We haven't done a whole lot today. We did take Ally to walk around Sycamore Shoals - and she actually voluntarily jumped into the river!! So...maybe it's not the water that makes her dislike baths? It was quite hilarious...
I feel like I've been busy lately, but my calendar seems to disagree.
I've been trying to read some sociology lately. Dr. Beck, one of my favorite professors from Milligan, told me earlier in the summer when we were chatting at a Milligan picnic that if I ever wanted to sit in on any of her classes, I'd be welcome to. I responded by warning her that if she offered such an invitation, I would, in fact, show up. So ever since the semester started a couple weeks ago, I've been trying to make it to her Social Theory class on my lunch break on tuesdays and thursdays. I bring my laptop along and sit in on the discussions whilst going about my normal work - this is one of the great things about having a job like mine: I can pretty much work from anywhere I can get a 'net connection.
It has been very interesting. I've found that I miss having to think critically to understand things. While my job is very stimulating and requires a lot of creative thinking, it's far less taxing than reading Durkheim.
I got a call a while back from Sue Shanks at WAPC who asked me if I'd put up some of my pictures in Watauga's Gallery / Coffeehouse (Just Coffee) for about a month. I told her that sounded like fun, and since then I've gone through and selected about 25 of my pictures to get prints of and then mount in some mats and frames (where available/affordable). I've been getting the pictures printed as 8x10's, which necessitates some cropping since the aspect ratio of my camera's frame isn't the same as 8x10. For this and other reasons, I think some of my pictures look better on my computer screen than in the frames, but many of them look wonderful and I'm excited to have some hard copies and to get to share them. I've been working on getting them set up and thinking up interesting names for them (I like naming things). After the show, I'll probably end up giving quite a few of them away to people that want them.
The "show" officially "opens" this Friday, September 11th around
8pm 7pm at Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church in the gallery downstairs. I'll be hanging out there most of evening. If you're reading this, you should come hang out with me, play some games, listen to some music (no salsa, I promise) and look at some pictures.
I've been playing my electric guitar quite a bit, but haven't done much with the band in the last couple of weeks.
On the gaming front, We had a very enjoyable second Mouse Guard session last night. As I've mentioned before, I'm finding that I'm needing to tweak a few rules to my liking, but overall I love the game immensely.
I've also been enjoying Patrick's Star Wars game quite a bit - last time, we found ourselves sucked into a Bonanza episode, and actually, it was quite awesome.
I've made a little more progress on my developing rp system, but I tend to go back-and-forth on a lot of things.
Sheri and I are making plans to head to AR for Ben's wedding in a couple of weeks and then, after that, we have tickets to go see the Decemberists in Asheville on the 25th!!!
You know, if i remembered to do this more often, I wouldn't have to cover eight things in one post... ...though I might have fewer nonsense titles, and I would miss that...
It seems i've been pretty busy over the last couple of weeks - though not with anything particularly important, mind you.
The band we're starting seems to be taking off nicely. We had our third practice last tuesday, and I thought it went pretty well. We're having a good time. Mahto actually joined us for that one. It was fun to have him around, but I think the sound got a little muddy with three guitars. I'm not entirely sure if it was just volume/eq or if we need to have a clearer conception of our respective guitar "parts" or possibly a combination of both. Anyway, I think our next practice is tentatively scheduled for wednesday, and I'm looking forward to some more jamming.
We *finally* got to start our Mouse Guard campaign friday evening, which I'm very excited about. It was a fun is slightly shorter session. I still feel a little awkward with the system as, unlike the d&d i've been playing/running for nine years, I don't always remember all the basic mechanics off the top of my head. I'm sure that will smooth out as we go though. I'm looking forward to continuing this game, and I hope we can get to be somewhat regular as I think that would help us as we learn the system.
I got to play golf for the second time this year yesterday. Our church helps sponsor the East TN Children's Home benefit tournament at the Elizabethton Golf Course each year, and so two of us get to go play in it. They asked me if I'd like to play and, after telling them I wasn't sure they wanted someone as lousy as me representing them (heh), I said I'd love to. Tracy Moore and I did pretty well, finishing up at +1. Of course, that was pretty much all him, but I will take credit for a few shots, most of which were chips and putts but they ended up saving us some pars and birdies. It was a good time, though it was pretty hot and I did get a nice sunburn.
A vague look ahead...
Well, my calendar looks kind of empty for the short run as of this moment, but it'll probably end up filling in too fast. Next month we'll be taking some time to go out to AR for Ben's (sheri's brother) wedding, causing us to miss yet another Talk Like A Pirate party. There's also a Decemberists concert the next week that I might be trying to go to, another small GitP gathering (with munchkins!) that I'd like to attend (though it kinda looks unlikely :() in october and then, further out at the beginning of november, we'll be enjoying having Thanksgaming - which will be another mini-gaming-convention much like RuchtCon for some of our gamer friends. I'm hoping run Mouse Guard (because everyone should get to try that game) and/or my homebrew system (because I think it will be fun and I'd like to see how it flows... ...but I haven't heard much interest in it as yet :\) for this. If I do get to run something, I'm glad I have a few months to prepare this time.
Whew, I've made it back. That's a lot of driving for a 24-hour period. Still well worth it though. Much fun was had (although, I hear the jeep was misbehaving while I was gone). ....Oh, and what would a trip to see Kevin be without the subsequent inheritance of fun-yet-obsoleted tech toys?
So yeah, i've downloaded the concert pics from my camera, sorted through them, pulled out the best ones and posted them on the site in the Cat's Cradle Gallery. They're a little noisy, but the exported jpeg's clean up pretty well at the small, web-friendly resolution and I'm quite happy with the results. I think i got some good stuff there. :-)
I've also expanded Anselm and Paddington's Gallery, which now included a few pics of Stitch and Dharma.
Anyway, I'm tired. Later.
Now to expand on something I previously mentioned in passing...
Yesterday I drove out here to Kevin's place in Durham to see the Weakerthans play at the Cat's Cradle. I'm currently reclining on his futon (where i crashed last night) doing some work (i love how i can work from anywhere with a net connection) and generally hanging out (cause those two can go together quite nicely for me).
It was kind of a crazy thing to do - drive 4 hours (each way) in the middle of the week, pull some rather complex car-switching (special thanks to Ginger) and orchestrate things around work and play schedules just to go to a concert and hang out with an old friend... ..but it occurs to me that I don't do crazy stuff all that often, so i figure i'm good. And it's totally been worth the trouble.
The show last night was awesome. The opening acts were good, and the Weakerthans are great in concert - very talented, energetic, animated, and entertaining to watch. They played a lot of their upbeat stuff - which is great at concerts - though I'm also a big fan of their much mellower stuff as well. They played most of the songs that I really like - including Plea from a Cat Named Virtue, which is probably my favorite.
I (of course) took my camera and, by cranking the ISO to 3200 (and possibly using some under-exposure), I was able to get what I *hope* are some pretty good shots with my lens (which isn't particularly fast). If I had a lens that could open up to 2.8, I think I could have done a lot more. Still, very fun. I found the burst drive mode to be very handy in this application as well. Anyway, I'll be posting the best of them after i get back to the Igloo, as I don't want to mess trying to pull them off my camera and convert them from raw from here.
My plan for today is to hang out here in Durham and head back to JC sometime this evening.
It's been a few minutes since i've written up a blog entry...
Been doing a lot of gaming - as it happens, every group i'm in or running (total = 4) has met or is meeting in this two-week span. It's been fun.
We had a cookout for Justin on saturday. He has successfully defended his masters thesis and, though he's not quite out of the woods, things are looking good. It seems none of his family or out-of-town friends are going to be around for his graduation - which is sad. We needed to celebrate, so we did.
Sunday (yesterday) was spent in Erwin - the first time we've had to do that in few weeks. It was a beautiful day and we went down to the Linear Trail (which follows the river). I took about 240ish pictures - granted, a lot of those were duplicates. I've developed the mantra that any shot worth taking is worth taking (at least) twice - just to make sure you get a good one. I created a gallery for the Erwin Linear Trail and put a few of the best shots in it. Speaking of taking pictures, I put a couple really nice ones I took at dusk at Milligan a while back in its gallery, and I also posted some pictures of the dogs (Ally and Abby) from saturday evening.
Tonight we have Robb's Exalted game, which I'm looking forward to. It's the only game I'm a player in. It's nice to be on the other side of the screen (as it were) once in a while... ...and it's also nice to take a break from d20.
On wednesday I'm planning to drive out to Durham, NC to visit Kevin and go to a Weakerthans concert - that should be pretty sweet. :)
Last night, Sam, Nick, Larry and I went to Knoxville to see The Decemberists at the Tennessee Theatre.
That was easily the coolest thing I've ever seen. Period. Really.
The trip started out with some minor hiccups - like the exit we were supposed to take being closed to the point of non-existence and the fact that there's really not much in the way of restaurants (that we could find) in downtown Knoxville.
Once at the theatre, however, it was awesome. We were there plenty early and so stopped at the table at which they were selling stuff. I got a spiffy, blue Decemberists t-shirt - which was, in fact, a goal of mine. :)
The theatre itself is beautiful. Very ornately decorated and old-fashioned looking - yet with a modern twist of having some very cool color-changing cove lights which illuminated various alcoves and borders. It occurred to Sam and I that its style really seemed to go well with the band.
The opening act was My Brightest Diamond. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance - though I have to say, I think I prefer the energy and attitude she has on stage to their somewhat mellower recordings of the same songs.
At about 9, the Decemberists came on stage. As I said before, their show was amazing. Every member of the band played at least two different instruments - and most played three or more. Its one thing for a band to have dramatic instrumentation on their recordings - it's another thing to watch them do it all in a live show. I have an even greater appreciation for their musical talent. Their live performance easily sounds just as good as their albums, if not better.
They played mostly songs from Picaresque and The Crane Wife - with a few others thrown in. They brought out the singer from My Brightest Diamond to sing with them on Yankee Bayonet (one of my favorite songs of theirs). I always think it's cool when artists collaborate like that.
The most notable song I suppose was the Mariner's Revenge - which they played as an encore. They had wrapped up their performance and left the stage but, at our continued prompting, returned for one last song.
For those of you who don't know the song, it tells the story of a boy who goes off in search of a man who betrayed his mother some years earlier. He eventually catches up with him on the high seas, only for all of them to be swallowed by a whale.
Colin (the lead singer) told us that we had to supply the sound effects of a multitude of people being swallowed by a whale - i.e., screaming - at the appropriate time when his bandmate directed us. Once that instruction was given, they began playing the song - which they essentially goofed-off their way through, but yet somehow played it flawlessly. I would do a poor job describing exactly how their stage antics went for this one, but I'll hit a couple of points to give you a hint:
The drummer was only playing a floor tom - which scooted across the stage in a random direction each time he hit it. At one point in the song where there was no drum line, he actually picked up the tom and put it over the head of the bass player, who continued playing the large stand-up bass he was holding. When the drummer took it off, the bass player pulled the bow out of the sheath on the bass and mimed stabbing him with it.
At a particular bridge in the song, the entire band sort of hopped side to side while playing the song in a sort of waltz time. It looked hilarious, yet fit the song and the band wonderfully.
At the point in the song where the characters are swallowed by the whale, we were directed to scream as a giant costumed whale plodded out onto the stage (didn't see this one coming...), engaged in a brief battle with the band members (most of whom continued to play the song while the lead guitar player pantomimed beating it with his guitar). The whale ate all the band members, who collapsed on the stage as the lights when out at the musical break at that point in the song.
The lights slowly returned as they played the rest of the song, at the end of which is a particular repetition of a musical phrase at faster and faster tempos - which they took to extremes not on the recorded version. The accordian player was quite tired at the end of that one.
I know why they played that song last: Nothing follows that.
I would highly recommend their show to anyone who is even passively amused by their particular style. They did a fantastic job. If/when they come back to Knoxville, I will be going if it's at all possible.