Sunday, April 13, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

Hey, this guy is almost in focus!  He already had a peanut, but was giving serious consideration to the hazelnut I was offering.  After a lot of tentative scurrying, he climbed a tree and ate the peanut.  And all this happened this morning.  The end.

Bell Street "Park" Fest

Well, there was an official shindig to celebrate the opening of Bell Street "Park." They closed Bell between 2nd & 3rd and brought in the big guns.  We're talking face painting, oversized checkers and chess, a band that played Van Halen covers and a food truck selling expensive grilled cheese sandwiches.  I suppose a good time was had by all.  I just stayed around long enough to take a few pictures.  Here they are:
Sorry that these photos aren't more interesting.  It wasn't a very interesting event.  But the band did sound like they knew their way around a Van Halen tune.  They were just packing up when I arrived on the scene.  As for the "park" itself, oh, it's pretty unsightly.  Three million bucks and that's the best they could do.  I still think it looks like some kind of crazy traffic revision.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

Although I was at Denny Park almost every day this week, it was difficult to get good shots.  This one is from a few weeks back when I had plenty of hazelnuts for any interested squirrel.  This week was not the greatest week in history, as I was informed that I have to vacate my storage space in the building.  Apparently, the space is being rented out.  OK, so it has no street or public access and there's nothing even remotely appealing about it.  I dunno, I'm thinking either the club (Corbu Lounge; formerly SeeSound) is expanding or it's gonna be a weed growing operation.  The building's managers have told me nothing and I haven't been exactly pleasant to them about this situation.  We're not on the best terms anyway, so we'll see what happens with the space.  The major pain is that I have to shed my 78 record collection and almost all my bad art.  For about a year in the nineties, I went to Goodwill and the Salvation Army looking for the very worst in art.  I totally found it.  There are some enduring classics.  Hey, if anybody wants it, let me know.  The sooner, the better, since I'm trying to clear out the space by the end of the week.  This whole thing is super-inconvenient.  Life is an accumulation, but I accumulate more than most.  I'm no minimalist and my apartment is filled to capacity already.  The most galling aspect is that most of the items relate to Mackris v. O'Reilly, my neo-baroque oratorio that was performed seven years ago.  It was something of a financial catastrophe and I still have a ton of posters, music, CDs, t-shirts and related items.  I can't really throw this stuff away, as I once loved this piece as one would love an ungainly child.  But it failed.  Boy, did it ever.  And there's just so damn much stuff. 

So my apartment already has more than enough boxes of unsold CDs lining the walls.  I'm about to get more.  Plus t-shirts.  And posters.  And all sorts of other stuff that I can't part with, but don't want.  Sure, there's always the public storage option, but the prospect of paying another $100 a month doesn't appeal.  I guess I'll just have to start looking like a hoarder.  I hear the ladies dig hoarders.

But seriously, if anybody wants to adopt my bad art collection, let me know.  I'll hold back just a few pieces and you gotta take the rest.      

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

This week, the squirrels were damp and twitchy.  Just about every morning I went to Denny Park it was raining.  Here are a few shots from the week before.  They were drier, but every bit as twitchy. 

Poker?? I Don't Even KNOW Her!

Well, this weekend it was time for the grand annual Hold 'Em poker tournament put on by the organizers of what I used to call "the doctor game." This was because so many participants were doctors.  It was in contrast to another game known as the "stoner game." I called it thusly for obvious reasons.  Since I'm not in that circle anymore, there is just one game, so forget I said anything about it.

Anyhow, it's a day-long game that offers a pretty hefty payout.  Two years ago, I won it.  Last year, I did not.  In addition, it was absolutely no fun.  There were more than a few "serious" players present, so table conversation was at a minimum.  The mood was grim and competitive.  It was a drag.  I made it clear that I wasn't interested in attending if it was like the previous year.  After all, if I'm gonna pay $200, I want to have a little fun in the process.

This year was quite different.  It was a smaller group, people were much friendlier and, at times, it was very lively.  I didn't win again, but I did finish 5th out of 16.  If it wasn't for one little nasty 4, the results would have been much different.  Bill knocked me out.  He had my number all day.  But I managed to knock a few guys out and that's always fun.  You know what's really fun?  Getting a straight flush.  Here is a dramatic recreation of my cards:
Although big hands are exhilarating, it's often very tough to get people to bet into you, i.e. enticing them to part with their money.  I only won a little bit on this hand, because it was just one other person and me.  But this is the first straight flush I've even gotten in competition.  I've gotten four of a kind, also known as quads, many times.  When you have that, it's really hard to get people to bet, because everybody pretty much knows what you have, so once again, the payout can be minimal.

This particular tournament had three phases: singles, doubles and tournament proper.  Singles are generally rapid fire.  You can play two hands a minute if you feel so inclined.  I like to slow things down a little.  Doubles is this really wacky configuration where you have a partner, but only one of you can play the hand at a time.  So if your teammate is a shameless and aggressive bluffer and your play is tighter, you can drive each other nuts.  But it's pretty useful to harmonize styles.  The tournament proper is just one of those big-table affairs.  We started with eight guys each on two tables.  And if you don't bust out, it continues for hours.  A lot of people aren't in shape for that kind of time commitment and end up making very wacky bets that end their evenings.  You can always tell who they are, because they go all-in on every hand.  Or bet heavy with junk hands and then play them poorly.  Like I said, I played the tournament well.  I chased a few things, but nothing that got me into any trouble.  I put together my nice straight flush.  I made it to the final table, won more hands, knocked guys out and busted out around midnight.  It was really not bad.  The company was pleasant and the chairs were comfortable.   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here's a fellow from yesterday.  I realize that he's not entirely in focus, but just the fact that I caught this pose is something of a miracle, as there was another squirrel in the vicinity.  Squirrels are ordinarily very twitchy by nature, but factor in another of one them and they're constantly in motion.  This is usually the pose that I miss, because my focus-bot takes around two seconds to work.  Which is why I'm always taking pictures as fast as I can, even though focus-bot is groaning under the strain.  So this one almost worked.  It's almost calendar-worthy.  But alas...

News Flash! Spring Is Here!

The best blooms are at the Grange Gardens at 2nd & Cedar, what with the Fuji cherry trees gone on Battery & Bell between 5th & 6th, but I have quite enjoyed watching the pear trees on my block unfolding.  Very nice.  And nice weather also seems to have brought out hordes of beggar-folk, not just in Belltown but in downtown, as well.  Or is that my imagination?  I'm pretty sure it isn't.  Many a corner has somebody on it with a sad sign.  Some time ago, guys used to ask for money.  These days it's all signs.  

OK, so spring is here.  I look forward to it, but I'm really gonna miss winter.  I quite enjoyed it this year.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yes, Master...

What the heck is mastering anyway?  It's sounds kind of kinky, first off.  Well, it has nothing to do with any of that 50 Shades of Grey nonsense.  It's actually the last step in recording, where all your levels are evened out and your stuff gets final tweak and a bit more compression.  It's a crucial step, because it makes the music sound professional - or at least less unprofessional.

Now, it's not like mixing.  If you ask your mastering engineer to make the slide whistle louder, he can't really do that.  But he can bump up the equalizer range where the slide whistle is.  This will also make everything else in that range louder, too.  Be careful what you wish for.  More importantly, all your instrument levels should be dealt with during mixing.  I know, I know, some things sneak past you; that organ is too damn loud and the bass is playing the wrong note and the drummer is speeding up.  Mastering can't help you with those things.

Last Monday, I had my Day of Mastering.  In my previous efforts, I've sent my tracks to a mastering engineer and he's sent them back to me, I listen to them, make notes for changes and he sends me more versions until the thing sounds normal and acceptable.  This process usually takes a few weeks.  He's mastered three albums for me and I still haven't met him.  Don't get me wrong, he's done a great job.  But I wanted to witness the process.  And the fact that I would have to hear any given track just a few times and make suggestions was a little daunting.  I mean, what if my ears didn't hear something right?  With the old way, I could listen to any track a bazillion times and pick out even the tiniest of errors.  This time around, it was just a bit overwhelming.  Luckily, the guy I worked with was great.  His has a very professional ear, so he knows what to bring out to make a recording pop.  He did a tremendous job.  I was mostly just this approval machine, because his decisions were all very much in line with what I wanted.  There were only a few things that I wanted to bring out and even fewer things that needed revision.  The session was on Monday and by Thursday, I had something that sounded great. 

The long and short of it is that the album is done.  It's off being manufactured right now.  It should be done in a few weeks and it's being released and radio promoted at the end of April.  It should do well with young persons as it does include much of the rock 'n' roll that they crave.  Meanwhile, I'm busy writing tunes for future albums.  As always, I'm worried that I won't be able to top this effort.  It's kind of strange, I was quite unsure about this album.  There were a lot of variables that would only be made definite in the studio, as I was hiring a lot of live musicians.  I tell you, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  But before I began recording, I was sensing disaster.  The opposite happened thanks to incredible musicians and a wizard of an engineer.  I have similar concerns about this upcoming album.  We're going to record it in August.  That should be interesting.  I'm currently writing two or three tunes for it.  I have a little less than five months to bring everything together and I'm already sweating the details.  If this last album is any indication, it should go well.  And everybody will have fun.  And then in six months, I'll write another post about mastering.    

For No Reason at All...

...here is a giraffling.  This was last month, so he's probably taller now.

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here's a fellow from a few weeks ago.  The squirrels at Denny Park have been keeping a low profile lately, what with the bad weather and the work crews with their leaf blowers.  I know that squirrels really don't like two things: crows and leaf blowers.  Whenever they're in use, there are no tree rodents anywhere.  Speaking of squirrels, I went to the Arboretum this week.  There were quite a few squirrels around, but they were super-unfriendly.  They'd just stare at me and then make for the nearest tree.  They didn't care that I was offering yummy hazelnuts.  They were unimpressed.  So even if Denny Park squirrels are sometimes uncooperative, at least they're not unfriendly or paranoid.