Wednesday, 17 October 2007

As I said before, I won’t go into the details of each show. In Toronto, Jason Boots, Roger’s merch guy and hard-workin’ roadie, opened instead of Alternate Routes. Jason kicks ass in his own right, so it’s always good to hear him play.

The Horseshoe Tavern is really just a bar in front with a space for live music in the back. The lighting was marginal and the room felt kind of low, but the show itself was great, so it overcame the club’s shortcomings.

The next morning it was up early to make the trek back to Detroit. One thing I noticed about driving in Canada was that it was hard to translate speed limits on the fly. Sure the speedometer on the car shows km/h, but on a smaller ring that’s hard to read without concentrating and taking my eyes off the road.

The drive back was uneventful just the same. Coming back into the US it was the same third-degree as entering Canada, but with the added bonus of a look-see in the trunk. No meat. No fruits. No plants. No firearms. No narcotics.

I decided against hitting the Motown Museum. Mostly because my reconnaissance on Monday had been so dissappointing. Maybe I’d have been up for it had there been someone along for the ride. I settled for a nap, an early dinner, and some reading before heading to the show.

The Magic Bag was the venue, as it usually is for Detroit RCPM shows. The place is still oddly laid out inside, but I did get a slightly better vantage point this time. Also, it was less crowded this time, probably because this was a Thursday night show.

Friday was a quick drive to Cleveland for the show at the Beachland Ballroom, a former Croatian meeting hall. I didn’t plan for any sightseeing, having taken in much of what was of interest last fall.

A couple doors down from the Beachland is a music store, which not only has a cool neon sign out front, but has a cool name as well: Music Saves. Wish I had thought of it myself.

The Beachland show was the best of the three shows so far, but there were still four to go.

The artist that put together the now very rare “Iwo Jima” poster&dagger: had done a limited edition poster this time. It’s pretty simple, being mostly square with the glyph in bright green and a couple lizards on it. It’s a cool poster and I like his set, by the ones from last year were better.

Saturday night was Chicago, back at Joe’s Bar again. It was kind of confusing when I first walked in because they were still in sports bar mode with several screens all showing football. I knew better than to say anything about sports in Chicago — those folks take it very seriously and are not to be trifled with.

My hotel was WAY out on the western edge of town. I think the western half of a far western suburb. I really need to learn Chicago geography better for the next time I’m out there.

At least it was a short drive up to Madison for the Sunday show, so I could sleep in and take it easy driving up. Unfortunately my friends Michelle and Steve had other commitments, so they couldn’t make the show. All the same it was fun.

I met a bunch of good folks at the Madison show, slightly more varied than the group in Des Moines last spring. The club was kind of odd. Shallow, very blue, with metal edges everywhere you looked; The Annex, if I remember the name correctly.

Thankfully the show had kind of an early start, because my drive the next day wa going to be a long one, something I was not enthusiastic about.

† The artwork was lost in a computer crash after only some copies for the club had been printed. I managed to get a copy because I asked one of the bartenders and tipped extra for the favor.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The drive from Detroit into Toronto (by the way, did I mention that I was travelling by car — solo?) was uneventful. It was impossible for me to read the distances on road signs and have any idea how far it was. Thank goodness for my trusty GPS.

The border crossing was kind of surreal. I got asiked all the expected questions: Any fruits or vegetables? Any meats or plants? Any cigarettes? Any narcotics? Purpose of my trip? When I said it was for a concert the boarder guard wanted to know the name of the band and why I hadn’t flown in for the show. Eventually I was allowed to pass with a curt “Have a safe trip.”

In Toronto, I was sort of in a state of shell-shock. While it looked like an American city, it was still odd, especially the electrified street-cars running down the middle of the road. Literally. You had to drive on the tracks to get around downtown. The flip-side is that Toronto is a great city for walking and mass-transit.

After I checked into the hotel (cheap and close to the club), I had to go see CN Tower. How could I pass up the tall building?

Supposedly its the highest observation deck in North America, but it doesn’t feel like it. Somehow Sears Tower in Chicago felt higher, even if CN Tower has the stats. I went up to the observation deck, and the “Sky Pod” which is that extra bubble you see on the needle — 30-odd stories above the main observation deck.

I also went out on the glass floor which was disappointing in a way. Their Web site leaves the impression that the glass floor is much larger than it actually is. I guess I was expecting something like the inner half of the floor to be solid and the outer half to be the glass panels. That would give those afraid of heights ample opportunity to look through to the ground below while the more daring could walk the whole perimeter on the glass. The reality was a section of glass panels maybe 30 feet wide and 12 feet extending from the outer wall toward the center of the building.

All dissapointment aside, it still took me at least 15 minutes of peering over the edge before I could actually step out on the glass. I tried to take a couple self-portraits, but I couldn’t seem to get the angle right. I resorted to doing the souvenir photo thing, and even that didn’t turn out great. It suffers from the same thing that screws up most pictures I’m in — I simply can’t loosen up for photographs. Every picture of me tend to catch me looking goofy, or worse, stuff and posed.

I took a series of pictures from the SkyPod, one looking straight down from each section, all the way around. 36 sections in all. I hope to assemble them into a sort of mandala from the sky as long as enough of them turned out.

It was also from the SkyPod that I saw a 30+ stall roundhouse maybe two blocks away. I later discovered that it’s now a brewery and restaurant. Pity. Although there were a couple railroad artifacts in the vicinity, so I was sure to check them out.

The next day I slept in, then spent most of the afternoon wandering the area surrounding the hotel just snapping pictures. It was my first real foray into street photography, so I’m still not sure how well I did. Toronto is a beautiful city and it was fun to just walk around and check things out.

After that it was lunch at a nearby pizza place and a quick nap before the show.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Instead of the daily play by play, I figured I would just do one or two summary posts once I got home. After all, do you really need me to tell you how great each RCPM show was? Either you believe me and have gone to one, or you’re just not into it (read: lame).

I decided the first night out would be La Porte, IN; right near the Indiana Sand Dunes. My sister-in-law, Tina, said they were gorgeous if you could catch them at sunset. It also happened to be about 8 hours from home and would make a good place to stop.

On the way I stopped in Madison, WI and had brunch with my friends Michelle and Steve. I always enjoy seeing them and we had a good time, but I had left home later than originally planned, so I got to La Porte pretty much at sunset, so that part of the plan was blown. However, Michelle is like a sister to me and I wouldn’t have traded my brief visit for anything.

Second night was in Detroit, MI, after a visit to The Henry Ford Museum. Of particular interest to me were the restored Alleghenny locomotive, an operating roundhouse, and working narrow-gauge steam line. At least that’s what drew me in originally. They also had several other railroad pieces on display, as well as several Presidential limos.

The outdoor portion, known as Greenfield Village, was like a ghost town because it had rained all morning. I practically had the place to myself, but it was quite eerie walking along the deserted streets.

Greenfield Village has roughly 100 cottages, houses, stores, and workplaces all restored to nearly pristine condition. Each serving its original purpose, including Edison Illuminating.

Because it was so quiet, I got to spend some time talking to a couple of the guys at the roundhouse. I even had the opportunity to move the roundhouse turntable myself (with some pointers from the the proctor). No big deal you say, but to a train geek like me it was very cool.

I spent some time in their carousel, which also works, just looking at the magnificent job they did restoring the animals. Since there were no riders, I was allowed inside the fence to take some close-up shots of the menagerie. I still need to pick through the photos, but there should be at least a couple keepers in there.

For some reason, one of the most memorable aspects for me was sitting in Rosa Parks’ bus seat. I can’t explain why, but it was quite a solemn moment.

Sunday, 07 October 2007

In the interest of saving you some time: there’s a good reason they were giving it away on the street — it was awful. Read on if you absolutely must know more…

As I left the Crowded House show a little while back, there was someone outside The Orpheum handing out CDs. The disc was by a guy named Rich Shapero, whom I had never heard of before.

Once home I did the usual cataloging and importing so I could listen to it on the drive to work. Now I wish I hadn’t bothered because it’s 35 minutes of my life (5 for the import, 30 for the listen) that I will never get back. Normally I wouldn’t count the listen due to the multitasking factor, but it was so bad I wanted to run my car off the road just to make his music stop.

Putting aside the histrionics for a moment, the disc wasn’t absolutely and completely without merit. The third track, “Where Am I Bound?” was pretty good, but it had the misfortune of being surrounded by the rest of the album.

You may be wondering what made it so horrible, and while I assure you your time has been wasted with that thought, I’ll try to explain.

The music, possibly intended as some hybrid of Barouque, folk, and rock/pop, came across more as disjointed noise separated by the brief respite of 2 seconds of quiet between tracks. The lyrics were insupid like bad high-school poetry. The mix-down lacked dynamic. It was just bad, bad, bad.

If you have taken the time to read this far, I’m sorry. If you ever run into Shapero, tell him he owes you the 5 minutes it took to read this review. While he’s at it he can cough up the 35 minutes.

At least it’s clear why they were giving it away out on the street.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

I’m positively flying right now — in a good way. I just got back from the 4th Lavay Smith show in 2 days and it was amazing. Some highlights, since I’m hoping a more thorough review will come later:

  • The shows were every bit as wonderful as I expected.
  • Front row seats for all four shows.
  • At Tuesday night’s second show, Brian Setzer was in the audience and did a sang a couple songs with the band.
  • I was able to talk with him a bit after the show and got a picture with him.
  • Tuesday I invited a friend to the second show and they loved it.
  • Wednesday I invited a couple friends and they really loved it.
  • I got my pictures with Lavay and “Cousin” Danny autographed.
  • Chris (piano and band leader), Lavay, and Danny recognized me right off.
  • Lavay talked to me a bit from the stage at several of the shows. (She’s positively gorgeous and an absolute sweetheart!)
  • She asked me to do her a favor during the second show on Wednesday since it was Mark’s (tenor saxophone) birthday. At first I wasn’t able to do it because the kitchen at the club was closed, but the waiter I asked was able to hook me up.
  • I got a song on the set list for the 2nd Tuesday show: “Busy Woman’s Blues”
  • Lavay dedicated a song to me: “Big Fine Daddy” at the 2nd Wednesday show.
  • Chris is a great guy too! I brought my group photo from the Rossi’s show two years ago, go the first couple autographs on it myself, then he ran around and got the rest for me. That was HUGE!
  • Mike Olmos (trumpet) was the first one I caught to sign it. He asked if I could email him a copy. I gave him my spare (I always print two) and a Moo-card and said to send me an email and I’d forward him the digital copy.
  • In among all the other stuff I had to do Wednesday, I was able to pick through my Tuesday photos, make the edits, get a couple prints done, and burned a CD for Lavay. She and Brian Setzer were dancing during one of the songs and I got a great shot so I printed that and gave it to her with the CD, which had the photos from the Tuesday night show† with touch-ups and sized to make 8x10s. She loved it and couldn’t wait to show the dancing photo to her mom.

That’s all for now, but suffice today I walked away with a giant grin on my face and a bounce in my step that will last for a week.

† I told Lavay that they were welcome to use the photos any way they wanted (and included the same info in a readme file on the CD). Promo photos, Web site, posters, whatever. All I requested was a photo credit, nothing more.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Count me among the converted. My photo workflow has just made a huge shift for the better all with one piece of software: Noise Ninja.

To explain: I love Photoshop. It’s one of two programs that keeps me from switching to Linux full time.† I use it for all of my photo editing and while I may not be a power user, I get the job done. Traditionally I did noise reduction within Photoshop — a sometimes desperate series of selections, unsharp-mask, maybe another filter or two, then more selecting and filtering. It was a nightmare, often taking several hours for the noisier images.

Finally, after seeing it mentioned in so many workflow examples on various photography Web sites I read, I gave Noise Ninja a test drive. In under 60 seconds I took the image on the left and turned it into the one on the right (look at the brim of my hat and my forehead‡):

I’m serious, under 60 seconds having never used the software before. Imagine what would happen I knew what I was doing!

† Yes, I know about GIMP — but GIMP’s interface bites. The other piece of software is 3rdPlanIt. ‡ The dark spot on the crown of my hat isn’t noise, it’s wear because I (naughty naughty) grab it by the crown all the time.

Saturday, 08 September 2007

Patrick: Back in 94, even the porn was done in ASCII art. They even made the pictures by using the first letter of the name of the body part they were drawing so there was no confusion. You know, like BBBBBBBBBNNN. Me: What letter did they use for, you know, down there on a girl. Patrick: Why, “P”, of course. Me: Why not “V”? Patrick: Because it was porn. If they used “V” they would have to call it art!

I think that’s about the time that Bethany laughed and called us both dorks.

[Republished from Patrick’s site.]

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

I remember calling these systems many years ago, in a past lifetime. It was one of the things that got me interested in WWV, NTP, atomic clocks, and other timekeeping systems. Maybe this is the watchmaker’s version of GPS.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

If you’re using Dreamweaver and don’t buy this, then stop doing Web design. Just stop. You’ll be doing the whole world an enormous favor.

Eric Meyer is the guy when it comes to CSS. He’s a wizard at it. He’s also a Web standards type of guy too — and you know how I love Web standards.

Heck, I hand-code my stuff and I’ll probably start using it (and Dreamweaver) just to off-load some of the routine stuff so I can get designs done faster.


Thursday, 16 August 2007

In looking for something on Google Maps, I happened to find something kind of cool. At least to me it’s cool — then again, I love their shows.