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The Bass Geek

Online Magazines

Within the past day or so, two of my favorite magazines (Bass Player and Electronic Musician) have hit my inbox with previews of upcoming issues (and the offer to subscribe to online versions), and a third resource made itself available to me (Bass Musician Magazine) via a free e-mail edition. I have to admit, I'm a little psyched about the last one, as I pulled up the latter's website and was immediately confronted with an 11-string bassist using MIDI. That's darn close to heaven for me. I'm still keeping the print editions (mostly in binders in the office, gathered by year for easy reference), but I'm glad to see some additions to the standard paper fare. I'd even sign up for Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey's site if the $100/year cost wasn't prohibitive. That's two sets of strings, right there.


More Fountain Square Art

It's not just in the alleyway. There are new murals up on the Murphy Art building, the National City Bank drive-in, and evidently behind some other buildings (although I haven't seen them in person yet). Things seem to be going smoothly, although one muralist shared with me that if she ever paints another mural, she'll start from the top down. Many times did gravity conspire to share the blue of her sky with the landscape below. She did seem to be remarkably quick with the paint thinner and sponges, though.

We also got a show while we were observing the artist at work - one of our neighbors managed to turn a random exchange with a wandering drunk into a full-blown shouting match, complete with his roommates massing for a possible frontal assault. I'd give the edge to the neighbor over the drunk in sanity, but he'd just spent five minutes talking about getting both his dead dog and the statuary in Fountain Square memorialized in ink on his chest and back. I like where I live, and my dog is swell. They're not getting tatoos, though. That guy's crazy.

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I've spent many hours telling laptop users to buy a nice, padded bag to safely protect their investment. Not only do I want them to keep their laptop in working condition for their sake, but I don't want to deal with it once they've damaged it. Small equals complicated in most cases, and pulling out all of those parts can ruin an otherwise wonderful day.

My dog Sadie agrees with keeping padded bags, but for different reasons. Having evidently tired of her crate and bed, she carefully emptied out my wife's laptop bag recently and made it her new residence. That part doesn't surprise me. It was the neat pile all of the removed gear had been arranged in. Kinda cute, kinda disconcerting.


A Quick Update . . .

Since things are beginning to slow down a bit in my little section of Fountain Square, it seems a good time to log in what I've been doing.

  • As I write this, whoever is kicking for the Atlanta Falcons just shanked a field goal into what appears to be the hot dog stand of their stadium. It's late in a preseason game, so I'm expecting to see that kicker on the waiver wire soon. Football seasons is creeping up, and I made it through the first telecast of a Steelers game without a burst blood vessel or cardiac event. This bodes well for the overall season, I think.
  • I just finished a run in the house band at the American Cabaret Theater for their Elvis retrospective. The review from Nuvo was abysmal, but there were large crowds that were generally enthusiastic (even as they trended towards the nursing home set). Once I get the songs out of my heads, I'm sure I'll better appeciate playing with the caliber of musicians I did - they were quite fantastic.
  • The Playboy Psychonauts managed a couple gigs with new material ("Tears Of A Clown" seems to go down especially well). I'm still only using the MIDI bass and laptop on a couple songs, though, and I want to expand on that. I'm just running a couple of percussion loops and using some additional synth sounds, but I want to work some more into the songs. It's only a three-piece, so there's some room to tastefully work with. Realize, of course, that I say tastefully while wearing a fez and swinging the rhythm to "Blitzkrieg Bop."
  • The Warner Gear managed a 2+ hour gig at the Pine Room in Nashville, IN with no issue, which was a blessing given the amount of new songs we had to throw in to fill out such a set. I had a bad feeling about the show at the start, but it turned out that it was just the premonition of accidentally playing Sheryl Crow on the jukebox during the set break.
  • There should be three books with my name in them somewhere hitting the shelves within the next few months. I'm in the author review phase of "Expert Podcasting Practices For Dummies," which means my editors are throwing my words back at me with all inadequacies revealed, begging for correction. This is always the part of the process where I swear never to take fingers to keyboard in such an effort again, but this time things seem to be moving along well. I say this with a few chapters still unseen by my eyes, though, so I could be walking directly into a literary tiger trap. I'm seeing the other side of the process as a technical editor for "Second Life For Dummies" and "Composing Music Digitally For Dummies," both of which are flinging chapters at me with great rapidity. I think I'm caught up now. I could be wrong.
  • One of the cool things about the composing book is that I'm playing more with Sibelius, a music composition and notation software package. I don't do a lot of work with sheet music, but my recent experience with it left me a bit cold. My bright idea to play the examples for Teach Yourself VISUALLY Bass Guitar on the MIDI bass into a notation program worked so poorly that I had to go back and edit everything manually. Part of that could be MIDI bass itself, which can be a little inaccurate by nature. Part of that could be my seeming inability to hit that millisecond window that causes the note to actually show correctly, instead of wrapping itself in a tangle of slurs and dots and ties, rendering it so much tonal gibberish. Sibelius promises to be more forgiving, but I haven't had time to test it yet.
  • Recently loaded on my iPod were the new albums from Talib Kweli, Common, along with CDs from King Crimson, Trey Gunn and Kenny Garrett. The first two were because they were indeed new, and therefore begging to be experienced. The King Crimson and Gunn recording I blame on my ongoing fascination with the Stick (only ~$4000 to go before I can afford one!), and Kenny Garrett because he's coming to town this week, reminding me that I should see this show.

So there you go. Things are looking calm for the foreseeable future, but the last time I wrote that, two books and about four shows came down the pike. My desire for rest time is beating me for writing that last sentence.


I Want A Stick

That title sounds wrong.

The current focus of my geek lust, the Chapman Stick

It seems strange to post on the Bassgeek blog about my desire to try out another instrument (I've been known to curse bands to various pits of damnation I don't even believe in for refusing to include a bassist in their lineup), but more and more I'm drawn to trying out a Chapman Stick. It's an instrument that appeals to all sorts of geeky urges I've either entertained (or suppressed) over the years:

  1. Tapping on the fretboard - usually the province of shredding metal guitarists and bassists; there may or may not be tales of superheroes or dragons involved
  2. A tendency towards use in progressive rock - see the above about superheroes or dragons, add possibilities of hobbits or Ayn Rand discussions (I've even heard one album dedicated to the Magna Carta)
  3. All sorts of esoteric tunings and setups - it's not contentious like Mac vs. PC or Linux flavors, but multiple options always inspire geekery
  4. It can use MIDI to trigger sounds and loops - I'm already doing this on the bass, but it's still geeky

The problem is that these things start at around $2500 (before you get into all the accessories, and there are ALWAYS more accessories), and there's about a 9-month waiting period for new instruments. The folks over here seem to all want one, and I've only ever seen one on eBay (for way more than I can afford; I am a new homeowner, after all). So I'm going to wait for a bit to find out if it's possible to be funky on a Stick. James Brown's "Licking Stick" gives hope, but I think he was talking about something different.


Coming Home In The Square

Making my way down the alley that leads to my garage is an adventure - you never know what you’re going to find on your journey. Located on that scrambled mess of concrete slabs, gravel mess coming out of parking spaces, and some weedy overgrowth are some surprises and some inevitabilities. People lounging outside the rapidly degrading house behind us? Always. The next-door neighbors managing to park on our sidewalk, just ’cause they want to? Indeed. Assorted trash? Yep.

Occasionally there are deposits of kitty litter (because putting in the trash is just too much work) and broken televisions full of beer bottles and pork chops (I thought it was an ongoing art project before it became rancid, and I set aside my appreciation of the work to trash it). Currently, there’s a microwave resting next to a tree, for no apparent reason.

Today, however, I saw a nice landscape painting on a wooden fence. It’s certainly not visible from the sidewalk or the street, so I’m guessing it’s just a present to the neighbors. Or a more reasonable and less maggot-infested art project. In any case, it’s a welcome diversion. There’s quite a bit of art present in the neighborhood, stored mostly in galleries or artist lofts in a couple of studio/housing buildings. And now it’s leaking out.


First, the location . . .

Fountain Sqaure is one of the cultural districts of Indianapolis, as declared by whatever governmental organization has been charged with such responsibility. A green stripe of paint running down Virginia Street (one of the roads leading to the heart of this district) and a couple of pedestrian pedestals (which look like upended music stands painted orange) indicate that we've received this honor from the city - plans are to build a cultural trail along that length of green paint, terminating in a new pedestrian park. Construction has already begun downtown, near the interim library location and the tapas restaraunt my wife and I occasionally drop by. We're looking at a couple of years on the trail back home, more than likely. The paint will have to serve until then.

There's a fair share of business and community in the Fountain Square area, radiating out from the central location at the intersections of Virginia, Shelby, and Prospect. So it's not so much a square, I guess. The name stuck, though. In any case, that's where most of the life of the area starts. There are galleries, restaurants, the local coffeehouse, a music venue (and what a pleasure it is to have a place to play within walking distance), an old theater (a remnant of the district's former life as the city's theater district), and other assorted businesses. It's coming along - there's still a lot of work to be done on the neighborhoods, but the intentions (and finally the work to back it up) are coming along.

This site gives a good summary to the outside viewer, but it's a little bit different living here. Not bad at all, just a little different.