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A Kid on the Slope

2 Jun

You guys. Okay, you guys. No… hang on. You guys. Seriously.

You need to go watch Kids on the Slope. It’s this show, see? It’s a show that was essentially Custom Made For Kirk Hamilton. You will like it too though, I sense, even though it was custom made for me.

It’s about a group of high school kids in 1966 Japan who find friendship, love, and discover themselves, and it’s all filtered through the lens of jazz. Not only is it lovely to look at, funny and full of heart, it’s maybe the most right-on piece of “Jazz Fiction” I’ve ever seen. From the way the performances are animated to the tiniest details on record covers, the show has been lovingly crafted by jazz lovers and musicians.

The most recent episode, titled “Now’s the Time,” brought together all the struggles, trials and tunes of the past six episodes into one musical moment so cathartic and wonderful that I wouldn’t even want to attempt to write about it. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.

I did, however, write about the show at Kotaku. I was thrilled to see my article introduce a lot of people, Bebop-fans and newcomers, to the show. Sometimes I love my job.

Each episode is named for a jazz standard—”Someday my Prince will Come,” “But Not for Me,” “Summertime”—that encapsulates the theme of the episode. When characters are fighting, they come back together around jazz, and it heals them; when they’re lost they find solace in classic tunes and old records. As Kaoru learns “Moanin,” he travels back and forth from the record player to the piano, wearing down the grooves in the vinyl while mimicking Timmons’ swing. Everything about it rings so true, and hits so close to home… as I devoured the show, one episode after another, there were times when I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.

Go read the whole article here, and watch all the episodes for free at crunchyroll.


Hi There, Kotaku

27 Jul

Well, then. I’m crazy-excited to announce that I’ve accepted the position of San Francisco Features Editor at Kotaku!

We announced the position today – I’ll officially start this coming Monday. I’ll be writing features, criticism, developer interviews, reviews, doing field reporting from SF, keeping up my music/games column… basically everything, really. I’ve had so much fun writing stuff for Kotaku over the past couple of years, and the fact that I’m going to get to do my thing full-time for them has got me pretty pumped.

I have a ton of goals and plans and what-have-yous for what I’ll do there, but for the time being I’ll just be getting started and getting my feet under me. I’m really looking forward to working with and learning from Joel, Stephen, Crecente, and the rest of the crew.

Furthermore, I’ll be doing a lot more interacting with Kotaku’s wild and wooly commenting community — commenters have been getting a bad rap lately in many corners of the internet, but on my past few Kotaku columns I’ve been enjoying responding to the lengthy, thoughtful responses that so many people have posted. So, yeah: I’ll be reading the comments, so if you want to talk about something I wrote, please do pipe up.

The new gig does mean that I will have to step down from my position at Paste, which I’ll be sad to do. I’ve had such a good time working there thanks largely to Paste EIC Josh Jackson’s tireless work and awesome self, as well as all of the fantastic contributors I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Thanks, all. I still can’t believe some of the stuff I got to publish there, and will definitely put together some sort of list of my favorite pieces.

I guess I should mention the fact that Kotaku takes a lot of flak around the internet, for reasons as numerous as they are varied. Most of my friends, colleagues, and online acquaintances have ripped on the site for some transgression or another over the years, often publicly. To those people I say: You are forgiven! It’s okay, just never ever say anything bad about Kotaku ever again, and you and I will be cool. Everyone deserves a second chance.

KIDDING, jeez.

In all seriousness, I have always thought the big K was damn cool, and that their format works really well for delivering an incredible amount of content. The staff works their asses off, and they celebrate games and gaming culture with an unmatched joie de vivre. I’m really excited to add my voice to the fracas, and I’ll always be available to talk about whatever I write at kirk [att] kotaku [dott] com.

Anyhow, freaking out a bit at the moment, currently enjoying a fun combination of “Damn I’m Stoked” and “What the hell have I gotten myself into.”

Wish me luck, friends. This should be fun.

Game Gear

11 May

I knew that the coming 3DS system update would add the ability to purchase classic Nintendo, Game Boy and GBA games via Nintendo’s online store. But for some reason I was unaware that it was also going to allow us to buy and play Game Gear games on our 3DSes.

My first reaction to this news was, “Yes. Yessss.” But then I thought about it some, and I’m not so sure I miss any of those Game Gear games. I think I miss the Game Gear itself.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t allowed to own any proper videogame consoles growing up; I played PC games pretty much exclusively. I say “pretty much” because my parents did allow me and my sister to have handheld game systems, a compromise that they informed us of in typically devious fashion. After refusing to let me get one for months, they suddenly gave us both Game Boys for Christmas. (I think it was for Christmas, anyway.) It was almost more than I could handle.

As excited as I was about the games I would get to play, I was even more excited about the hardware itself. The way the new plastic and the electronics smelled, the weight of the system in my hands, the layout of the buttons. The speaker on the lower-right corner, those four ‘AA’ batteries lined up in the back, giving the system some extra heft.

I also remember the Game Boy came with its own headphones. They were color-coded—I just looked them up and found a picture. I’m surprised by the level of feteshistic nostalgia I feel when I look at that picture. Those headphones were for Game Boy Use Only; they were not for Walkman (or later, Discman) use. They were for listening to the Tetris theme, over and over and over and over again.

Eventually the Game Boy lost its hold over the portable gaming market. My friend Bjorn got an Atari Lynx, a monstrous thing with reversible controls, a wide, washed-out screen and a weird selection of games. He had a game that involved flying a blue fighter jet, and I was really bad at it. But who cared? The Lynx had a color screen.

So pretty soon everyone wanted a color handheld, and in a year or so we had three choices: the Lynx, NEC’s extraordinarily overpriced but allegedly amazing TurboExpress, or the Sega Game Gear. The Game Gear seemed like the best compromise between affordability, game library and screen-awesomeness, so I decided I wanted one.

For a long time Game Gears were prohibitively expensive, at least for me. But on a random visit to Sam’s Club with my dad, I wandered over to the electronics section. I remember thinking, “Wow, Sam’s Club has an electronics section? I thought they only sold box wine and weird extra-large sweatshirts!” As I walked through the field of vaguely sad off-brand TVs and stereo recievers, I saw a small screen glowing in the distance. Holy shit, it was a Game Gear.

A bundle package, in fact. It included a Game Gear, carrying case and two games and for more or less the list price of the baseline unit. I’m not totally sure which games came with it… I know one was Sonic the Hedgehog. I barely had the money for it, but I made the purchase right there.

I’ll never forget how awesome the Game Gear felt to hold, to play. The contours of the plastic, the grooves dug in beneath the D-Pad and the two big buttons. The odd, half-moon start button. The glowing red power light and of course, the big, glowing screen.

Sega was really into the screen. They had this (*sold separately) TV Adapter for the Game Gear that, they stressed, could turn your Game Gear into a TV!

The above image was on the box, and was featured in all of the promotional materials for the system. There was always an asterisk that read:

*Simulated Image

I have a feeling that the TV Tuner’s actual reception was less than crisp, but for me, that was unimportant. I was never, ever going to buy it.  The important thing was that simply by existing, the TV Tuner proved that the Game Gear’s screen was as good as a TV screen. For kids whose only portable gaming experience was the Game Boy, this was a big frickin deal.

I loved my Game Gear. I don’t entirely remember the games I had on it, though I do know I had Mortal Kombat. I suppose that at some point or another it was given away or it broke. I’m actually a bit troubled by the fact that I can’t remember what happened to it… maybe it’s still in a drawer at home somewhere. I doubt it.

But I am struck by how vividly I remember the way that rounded black rectangle felt in my hands, the way I would organize and lay out my game collection before traveling with it. Little things like what it was like to plug in the power adapter and how the batteries went into two separate compartments on the back, one on each side of the cartridge-tray.

I felt a sort of lonely, personal attachment to the Game Gear, because none of my friends had one. In fact, to this day I don’t believe I’ve ever even met someone who had one. None of my friends in the videogame community have ever talked about owning one. As far as I know I’m the only person in the world who ever bought a Game Gear. Maybe that’s why they were on sale at Sam’s Club.

At any rate. I don’t know if playing Game Gear games on my 3DS will bring back warm Game Gear memories any more than browsing Google Images did, but I’ll sure give it a shot. Plus Shinobi was pretty sweet, from what I remember.


24 Jan

Multi-tasking. I have been multi-tasking lately. The job of an editor, particularly a new one, is a thankless stream of emails that need to be written. Emails to contributors, co-workers and PR folks, follow-up emails to contributors, co-workers and PR folks…

Okay, it’s not exactly thankless; after all, I get to have correspondence with some of my favorite people! But it is somewhat consuming. Beyond that, there are the commitments of my day-to-day; writing charts for school, coordinating with students, practicing for upcoming shows, writing my own pieces for the mag, working on new music, etc.

Twitter is gasoline on a fire, since Tweetdeck’s constantly updating feed offers an endless stream of possible distractions. I’ve developed a fair number of conditioned mouse-movements while at my computer; every few minutes I’ll slide my mouse over to the right and bring up my dock, check Twitter for new stuff, check my email inbox. While these actions feel ‘necessary’ to ‘keep up’ with the ‘online rat-race’ (single-quotes ‘TM’ Leigh Alexander), it has become surprisingly difficult to maintain focus on a single task.

(Single quotes added to ‘TM’ because I have been informed by multiple people Leigh did not, in fact, ‘invent’ nor ‘trademark’ single quotes. Her ‘Five Emotions’ piece, however, seemed relevant to the topic at hand.)

When I first heard people talking about internet-blocking software, I scoffed. “I can control myself,” I haughtily haughted. “I am more productive now than I have ever been! I do not need this program to allow me to get work done.” But this year, Urban gave all faculty members a bunch of productivity software, including an internet-blocking app. Since it was just sitting there, I decided to give it a go. And it’s pretty great.

We’ve actually got a whole suite of programs— “Islolator” blacks out the entire screen except for one window and “WriteRoom” closes down the machine except for a single blank piece of paper, which it then saves into TextEdit. But the most famous (and most unforgivingly medieval) of all of our apps is Freedom, the internet-blocker created by Fred Stutzman.

It’s simple: turn it on, set an amount of time, and the internet is blocked. The only way to get it back is to restart the computer. Of course, Freedom doesn’t block web access from my phone, or my PC, or any number of other internet-ready devices around my house. But I find that by eliminating the web from the computer on which I am currently working, I am able to focus much more effectively. I tend to use it in 20- and 30-minute stretches, usually when I have a single task (article, chart, editing job, lengthy correspondence) that I need to complete. It works, and it works well.

[Though I must say, there is no small amount of irony in the program's "mission accomplished" dialogue box, which informs me my time is up while asking if I'd like to "tweet my stats." Akin to a note at the bottom of a package of Nicorette that reads "Congratulations on five smoke-free days! Why don't you celebrate with a nice, smooth Parliament light?"]

It’s easy to look at a program like Freedom in binary terms. The internet is an evil distraction, and Freedom is the cure! But of course, the reality is more complicated than that. Modern-day connectivity allows for a great many things, and all of my methods of communication and creation are phenomenally empowering and fun. Freedom is simply another tool. It’s a counterbalance, a bit of yin in a sea of yang.

Or maybe it’s the other way ’round, I can never quite get yin and yang straight. Hang on I’m gonna check wikipedia.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

1 Oct

I want to ride my biiiike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

Two weeks ago, I began to ride a bicycle. It was a long road up to that point – I’d been talking about getting one for what seemed like forever, but the time to finally go for it came only recently.

I started teaching a new course on music notation down at Academy of Art University on New Montgomery. The class sounded fun, I needed extra money, and it fit in my schedule – but only barely. My wednesday rehearsal at Urban gets out at 11:30 (in the Haight) and my AAU Sibelius class starts at noon (down at Third and Market). It was a doable commute, but only if I rode a bike. My cousin Mark, to his eternal cycle-loving credit, turned out to have three bikes, one of them a sweet mountain bike that he let me borrow. Overnight I went from a regular dude with two legs and a bus pass to a bona-fide San Francisco cyclist.

I haven’t written a “Things I am loving today” post for a while – I guess I ran out of household things to which I could convincingly write loving odes? But my dear god, I am loving riding my bicycle around town! LOVING. IT. Why haven’t I been doing this for years?

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my
bicycle bicycle bicycle

The first time I rode it was early on a Tuesday morning, heading to Urban from my Inner Sunset place up the 9th Avenue hill. It was… bracing. My first action, of course, required me to cruise straight down the  hill, riding the brake the whole way. Huge, terrifying vehicles shoofed by on my left, while on my right every parked-car door felt primed to explode open, clotheslining me straight into the emergency room.

The wind! There was so much wind. I hadn’t felt the wind like this in a long time – I was probably doing 115 miles per hour down the hill (note: estimate) and let me tell you, San Francisco’s cool morning air takes on an entirely different character when it’s whipping into your face and hands at 320 mph (note: I have also also estimated the wind’s uphill speed and combined them).

But I made it; I survived. The next day I biked from Haight to my AAU class on New Montgomery and I made it in fifteen minutes. Woah. Fifteen minutes for what would’ve taken MUNI thirty at best and a car anywhere from twenty to thirty, depending on parking. It was a piece of cake, fast as hell, but more than anything else… it felt exhilarating, better than anything I’d done in ages.

After that, I was hooked. I’ve been riding everywhere – I can get to school in twelve minutes, I’ve mastered The Wiggle, I can get my bike onto the front of the 6 Parnassus without a hitch, I’ve even gotten my own groovy Nutcase Helmet that both keeps my brain safe(ish) and looks pretty kickin’. Mark has been awesome enough to let me continue to use his bike until I get my own hybrid or road bike, to which he assures me the transition from his mountain bike will feel like going from a pickup truck to a sports car. I can’t wait.

Although I check daily and have hugely benefited from their online maps, I also find that every time I ride, I fall in behind other riders and learn new things. I’ve learned how people use the curb to put their foot up and push past cars on Market street, that there is a killer route up market to the Castro Safeway that shunts you around back and comes out by Duboce Park. I’ve figured out how to signal with my left hand, which let me tell you was not as easy as I maybe would’ve thought it would be. I’ve learned that no matter how unsafe I feel rocketing down the road, there is always some guy around the corner who has elected to replace his helmet with an iPod that makes me feel like the picture of sensibility.

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah

But more than anything, I’ve learned that I love biking. Shit, people, I love it to tiny pieces. I’ll even make a pledge: as long as he lives and works in this city, Kirk Hamilton will get there on two wheels.

When we were driving to and from a Urban School recent backpacking trip to Yosemite, I got to spend a lot of time talking with Sarah and Scott, the two (very cool) outdoor-program educators who organized the trip. They’re both bikers, and they were both excited to hear that I was about to start riding.

“You’ll love it,” said Sarah. “It’s the best of everything – it’s fast, you’re outside, you’re getting exercise, and it feels amazing!” And man, was she right. It’s hard to describe the things I notice, the feelings that accompany biking. I feel so free and so light, it’s almost existential. The Enjoyable Lightness of Biking. I move everywhere of my own volition, consuming only what power I put out, using my body to travel great distances in a short amount of time. I sweat more, I work more, I breathe more, my heat beats more times per day.

I am The Benign Mover. As fast as a car, but people walking around don’t react to me the same way as they do a vehicle – there isn’t a sense of “Okay, that guy is currently capable of killing me with his vehicle.” When I pull up to a stoplight on a bike, people waiting to cross strike up conversations, they make eye contact. I’m not of their world, but also not a threat to it. When traffic jams and pedestrians must wait, I thread in between.

On your marks get set go!
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

There is a moment that I hesitate to even attempt to describe, a feeling that I could never hope to put into words. It’s that first five seconds after I climb to the seat and start to pedal; the ground seems to fall away as the light clicking of the derailer blends with the wind in my ears…

I catch my balance, center my frame, and I’m flying.

“You’re a Marshmallow, Veronica Mars.”

20 Jan

“A Twinkie!”

Things I Learned in New York

22 Jul

I just got back from a whirlwind tour of the Grande Pomme – six nights, six different futons/couches, two shows, four massive hangs, one wedding, two amazing bands, and not as much falafel as you’d think.  Along the way, I learned a few things that I thought I’d share.

Virgin Airlines1. Virgin Air is, Indeed, Pretty Great

Speaking of Big Apples, I’ve heard various descriptions of Virgin America Planes, all of them somewhat apple-centric.  My friend Karen mentioned that it’s like “traveling inside of an iPod,” and  Mindy Kaling tweeted that the plane reminded her of a “Douchey iMac.”  Well, the apple comparisons are right on – everything is white and shiny and slick, with cool LEDs lighting up the ceiling like it’s a nightclub and TVs in the seats.  Sure, anything you want will cost money (even snacks!), and the WiFi is ridiculously expensive, but hey, the ticket was cheap!  So, yeah – Virgin Air.

Compass2. The iPhone Compass Rules

From the moment I arrived at JFK, my iPhone was saving my ass right and left – the MTA map I downloaded was incredibly helpful, as was the GPS and google maps.  The most useful feature, however, was the compass, which I did not anticipate. I suppose that in retrospect, it should have been obvious, because how often do you come out of the train in Manhattan thinking “okay, which effing way am I facing now?” A lot, that’s how many. It saved my ass more times than I could count. Also, looking over my recent searches in Google Maps is pretty hilarious.  It’s, like, “CoffeeCoffeeCoffeeDinerCoffeeDinerCoffee.”

Jess Fine at Sullivan Music Hall3. Jess Fine Puts On A Hell of a Show

The night I arrived, I went straight from the Airport to Sullivan Music Hall (rolling suitcase at my side), where I got to see the lovely and talented Jess Fine perform a set – Jess and I went to Miami together, and she plays with a ton of the rest of the UM Gang. She did tunes off of her new EP (which is totally great), and sounded just killer – great hooks, nice piano playing, and the wisdom to allow her killer band stretch out. That band consisted of fellow UM alums Woody Quinn and Tommy Harron on guitar and bass, respectively, and Chris Smith on drums, who I just met this weekend, and who sounds great.  Woody was getting some killer, juicy-ass guitar tone from what turned out to be a little Fender Blues Junior Deluxe amp, and Tommy, well… wow.  I haven’t heard him play in a few years, and he sounded totally ridiculous.  Kenji and I were having fun trying to picture him playing something that wasn’t ridiculously grooving.  Great show, Jess – come to SF on tour!

Trader Joes Three Buck Chuck4. Trader Joe’s Labels Two-Buck Chuck Differently in NY

Interestingly enough, the TJ’s at Union Square labels it’s two-buck chuck quite differently than in SF – no “Charles Shaw” label, and a ton more words – “Trader Joe’s Presents: A Charles Shaw Production: Red Grapes in: WINE.”  Or some such.

Oh, and also, a bottle costs $2.99.  Transport costs are a bitch.

5. Oh, Yeah, and New York is AMAZING

Jeez, it is really the center of everywhere.  Maybe it was the iPhone assist, or the fact that I’ve visited before, but this time around, the city felt both smaller and grander at the same time. It was never too hard to get anywhere (well, discounting a two-train ride to Brooklyn at 3:30 in the morning), and there’s just so much awesome stuff to do, so many fantastic musicians to see and play with, and so much delicious food to eat… and so many old friends to see. And, thanks to Virgin and Southwest, so many affordable ways to get out there!  I’ll be back soon, and I already can’t wait.

NY Via Inbound N Express

I shall return to you soon.

Still Life in Three Parts

7 Jun


Part One: Origin! Potential!




Part Two: Actualization




Part Three: The Cycle Continues



Things That Are Not Lame

26 May

JFC already.

Blerg!  Not a shocker, I guess, but it’s now official: California is retarded.  Not so much about the court ruling, but the general existence of the constitutional amendment.  And not only just that, also the budget, the effing special election, the B-L-E-R-G.

Okay. I will now share some things that are not lame, do not suck, and don’t make me roll my eyes and gird myself in anticipation of more years of barf-tastic, wedge-issue-y fighting.

Deep breath… blue air in, green air out… and here we go.

1) A Giant Mixing Bowl Full of Cookie Dough

I made it yesterday, and, in accordance with the amazing new recipe I’m using, I’ll let it coalesce and chill for another 24-32 hours before baking into amazingness.  Aah, yes.  The sheer potential of the thing!  Lovely.  Also, that is indeed a bottle of Big Daddy IPA next to it, which makes everything even better.


I chill, and then I cook.

2) Hamlet The Cat

I got to take care of the Fur-Monster this weekend while my sister was out of town, and he most definitely does not suck in any way at all.  In fact, I can confirm to you that, not only does he have great taste in the things that he loves, he is one of the most chilled out, people-loving Fur-Monsters I’ve ever known.

Hamlet The Cat

"Hello again, You."

3) Our Giant New Showerhead

After an afternoon of surprisingly satisfying work, not only is our apartment now incredibly clean, so is our bathroom!  And as if that weren’t enough, our awesome landlord came in this morning and replaced our broken shower head with this badass.  You guys, it is the size of my FACE.  Behold the glory:


"Look at the size of that thing!"

4) Hanne Hukkelberg’s Video for “A Cheater’s Armory”

Thank you so much to my listening-guru Russ Kleiner for telling me about Hanne Hukkelberg.  She is an amazing Norwegian multi-instrumentalist gal with the most georgeous voice, whose albums (I have the first two) are just crazy awesome.  Loaded with tiny clangs and whistles from her makeshift percussion instruments, each song sounds like a captured recording of a shattering crystal ball.  The only video I could find online is from her second album, “Rykestrasse 68,and it is so, so, so awesome.  Watch it all the way through, full-screen if possible.  And something about the story the video tells makes me think about our dumb state’s current Prop-8iness, and the nature of corrupt people-power vs. Real-Power, and whatever, just watch it:

See? Not everything is heartbreakingly dumb. Some things are actually quite wonderful. Now have fun at your local protest, stay safe, and let’s get girding.

Things I Am Loving Today

22 May

1) Full Jar of Papalote Salsa

Hmm, I’m kind of hungry… not sure what I could eat…  I’ll go over to the fridge, I guess?  Okay, going over to the fridge, opening the door, andHELLEEEEW there!  Full Jar of Papalote Salsa, I had completely forgotten you were in there! What a completely random happenstance! I totally hadn’t been dreaming of your rocking, spicy deliciousness all day, thinking endlessly about twisting off your lid, gently tipping you over a small bowl (bowl #15, actually), and dipping chips into you over… and over… and over again.  Er… what?  What was I saying?  Um, yeah, I had totally not thought of you in ages, not since that sort of awkward time I professed my love for you in the newspaper. It’s nice to see you!  How have you been?  Yeah?  You have? Hahahahahahaaahaoh, Full Jar of Papalote Salsa, you’re so funny!  I had forgotten how much you make me laugh.  It’s so nice to talk like this.  Hey, what’s this here?  Oh, sorry!  I just thought you had something on your lid.  Thought I’d get it off.  Here, let me make sure that your lid’s screwed on tightly enough… hmm…. seems a bit loose, let’s see what happens if I just twiiiist it a litttle…. hmm, maybe a little bit moooore.. twisttwistpourpournom nom nom nom nom.

Sigh. Oh, why try to hide it?  I love you, Full Jar of Papalote Salsa.

Papalote Salsa

It's hard to play it cool when you're so spicy.

2) My New Ludwig(TM) Brand Xylophone

Lately, I find myself out gazing at stars, playing guitars, like someone in love!  In love with whom, you may ask?  In love with you, My New Ludwig(TM) Brand Xylophone!  Because when I’m playing those guitars, I’m missing a certain sound, something high and ringing, a perfect something special to put on top of all the buzzing strings, looping melodicas, hooting clarinets… something like you.  Some say that the internet is no place to find love, but I think we did just fine, don’t you?  I can still remember when I first laid eyes on you, My New Ludwig(TM) Brand Xylophone. You were selling yourself on Ebay, and I knew right away that something about you was different. Some might say that it was merely that you were $10 cheaper than the other Ludwig(TM) Brand Xylophones, but you and I both know it was something more.  Sure, you’d had a hard life, being banged on by student musicians, and when you finally arrived at my door, you had some dents and scratches… but that made me cherish your shining, ringing, wounded heart all the more.  After a little TLC, you’re as good as new, ready to accompany me onstage and add your crisp, chiming color to my compositions.  And for that, for your humble, 2.5-octave brilliance, I simply adore you.


Cmaj7 | E7/B | Am7 | Am7/G | D7/F# | F7#11 | Em7 | A7...

3) Fishsticks

I don’t care if the world laughs at me – I love you, Fishsticks!  I love you so much – your salty, processed deliciousness… I could eat you all day long.  For some reason that I don’t understand, people may snicker at my love for you, but that does not mute it in the slightest!  Fishsticks in the morning, Fishsticks in the evening, Fishsticks at suppertime – if all of the world could just eat a big fat Fishstick, then it would be a happier, more satisfied place!  I could dip you, a Fishstick, in dill, in mayonnaise, in ketchup, or even in my other love, the Full Jar of Papalote Salsa, and you’d still be but a variation on the same delicious, frozen treat.  Fishsticks, I will love you until the day I die. I just don’t get why everyone is laughing at me.


I am a GENIUS, and the VOICE OF A GENERATION. I can have any type of food I want, and I choose you.

Things I Am Loving Today

27 Mar

1) My AKG K240 Studio Headphones

I truly hope that no one needs my attention at the moment, because it is focused squarely on you, My AKG K240 Studio Headphones.  When I put on your large, soft, circumaural ear cups, the outside world melts away! Everyone says not to look for perfection in a partner, but with you, I don’t feel like I’m settling in any way – you really ARE perfect!  From your wide stereo field to your removable mini-XLR plug, you are the full package, My AKG K240 Studio Headphones.  What’s more, I could wear you all day, and never get listeners fatigue or sore ears. And now that you’ve been discontinued and replaced with a twice-as-expensive, worryingly different-looking “Mark II,” I cherish you all the more.  Would that I’d known, I would have bought five of you!  But alas, there is only you, My AKG K240 Studio Headphones; lucky you, you’ll get my whole heart, and both of my ears.


Mmm, baby. XXL Transducers, indeed.

2) Trader Joe’s Columbia Sumatra House Blend

Roses are red, violets are blue, coffee is various shades of brown, and I love grinding you up and straining you through water! Oh, Trader Joe’s Columbia Sumatra House Blend; the thought of your delicious flavor gets me up in the morning, and your high level of caffination keeps me up! I have tried many roasts of coffee in my time – TJ’s Bay Blend, French Roast, some of the smaller sumatra cans, not to mention various roasts and blends from Harbucks, and none can hold a candle, or a coffee grinder, to you.


You also make a great hand-drum.

3) Patterns For Jazz by Jerry Coker

They say that true love never gets boring, and you never cease to surprise me, Patterns for Jazz by Jerry Coker!  Whenever I want a method book that will surprise me with its puckish, irascible nature, I reach for you, and you never let me down!  One minute, I’m running my major 9th arpeggios by whole-steps, and then, surprise!  You rascal, you’ll make me do them in minor thirds! You so crazy! And it makes me crazy with love. Before I can wipe the bemused smile off of my face, you’ve had me play the same pattern five different ways, inverted, or rhythmically flipped, or, oh ho!  With a new chord tone!  You have so many ways of making your first fifty pages interesting that I wonder if I’ll ever make it through to the end? But when a journey has been as deep and rewarding as ours, well, Patterns for Jazz by Jerry Coker, can you really blame me for never wanting it to end?


My love for you will never be diminished, or even half-diminished.

4) The Sun

Hello, The Sun.  I’ve been waiting for you.  I know you were always there, lurking just out of sight, thinking of me like I was thinking of you… in my heart I knew this was true, but seeing you again, it still feels so good! Now that you’re back in my life, every day is a wide-open window, a fruit salad in the breeze, a long afternoon jog.  Sure, you may be a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees, but, The Sun, you’re my mass of incandescent gas. Now is the springtime of our love; let’s make the most of it, before the long, foggy days of summer come to steal you away from me again.


Only a middle-sized star, and the only star of my heart.

Things I Am Loving Today (Hamlet the Cat Edition)

12 Feb


1) Box

Box Box Box.  I love Box.  Box where I lie down. I like lie on things, paper things, cloth things.  Your thing? I will lie on. Box is thing, actually several thing.  It is crepe paper; it is a box. Crepe paper is in Box. Box is warm, it is in kitchen near food.  Box, Box. I like say box, too.  Box, Box Box.  I love Box.





3) You

Hello, You.  I love you, You.  You gave Box.  You gave Bacon.  You have Rug.  You also have House, and Couch, and Cushion, and Space Behind The Center Speaker In The Entertainment Center.  You have Furminator.  You have all the things I love.  And I love you, You.  Look into my eyes.  Can you see the love.  Hello, You.  I love you, You.

Things I Am Loving Today

31 Jan

1) Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn

Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn, you are a prince in the kingdom of snacks; long have I admired you, sitting haughtily on your throne next to good King Potato Chip and fair Queen Popcorn. But I did not really know you then, and I fear that many of your subjects still do not!  There is such depth to your character, far more than just the wonderful combination of salty and sweet that is so prominently displayed on your (sort of weird) candy-striped exterior.  After getting to know you, Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn, and learning the joy of finding the occasional kernel that has far more sugar than the others, of the irregularities that make you who you are, I find that I love and respect you all the more.  Your deep, delicious flavor demonstrates the strength of character that will be needed in the years to come, when you are called upon to rule all snacks.  I trust that you will do so with honor, fairness, and, most importantly, deliciousness.


Not even the carnies on your packaging can dim the light of my love.

2) The Hooded Robe My Aunt Lee Gave Me

Shall I compare thee to a chilly morn? Thou art more fluffy and more warming. Rough winds do shake the darling window of my upstairs room, but you, The Hooded Robe My Aunt Lee Gave Me, you keep me warm through it all. I didn’t know how bad I had it in my old robe until you came along. What’s more, your giant hood and ankle-reaching length combine to make me feel like a wizard. And as I’ve always said, “Anything that lets me start my day feeling like a wizard is worthy of my undying adoration.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the drift.


You have cast a level-five charm spell upon me.

3) My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod

Hello there, My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod. Can I tell you something? It’s about how I feel. More specifically, it’s about how I feel about you. As you sit there on the other side of my room, filled with my entire jazz collection, serenading me with the dulcet tones of Rollins and Davis and Evans… well… I’m overwhelmed!  My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod, when I wanted a permanent musical fixture so that I could listen to records while I worked, you immediately came to mind, but on that fateful day when my sister gave you to me, I couldn’t have anticipated how much you’d change my life! The click-click of your scroll wheel takes me back to a better, more innocent time, and your clean, no-frills interface reminds me of when Apple didn’t feel the need to include a touch screen and Monkeyball on all of its products. And the fact that you came pre-loaded with a copy of The Low End Theory, which I lost several years ago? Bliss.


Your nav-buttons glow red, like my heart.

Things I Am Loving Today

12 Dec

1) My Avocado Percussion Shaker

Oh, my Avocado Percussion Shaker, could you be any more wonderful?  Not only do you provide a nice, grooving texture to so many of my recordings, you are also shaped like the most delicious fruit on the planet!  Indeed, of all of the fruit-shaped percussion instruments they had at Haight-Ashbury Music, you are the finest, My Avocado Percussion Shaker.  Better than Tomato Shaker, Banana Shaker, and all of those anonymous gourd shakers combined!  If I could eat you, well, I probably would, and though my recordings would take a hit, it would be worth it.


One for shaking, one for eating; both for loving.

2) Sibelius Music Notation Software Version 5.0

Sibelius Music Notation Software Version 5.0, where would I be without you?  I can actually answer that – I would be in a dark, dark place, away from the light of your copy/paste function, your dreamy dynamic part extraction; an unfeeling place with graphite-stained hands and carpal tunnel. Sibelius Notation Software Version 5.0, you are a light in my life, one of the many computer programs upon which I rely so heavily, and I fear I couldn’t live without you by my side!  What’s more, your aesthetically pleasing, dare-I-say sexy swappable wood backdrops make score writing a feast for the eyes, as well as the mind.  I don’t know what it is, Sibelius Notation Software Version 5.0, but you’ve got it.


The composer was perfectly fine, too, though.

3) My Yahoo Acorn Slipper/Sock Hybrids

Perhaps I am just feeling unusally lovingly towards things that keep me warm these days, but I truly love you, My Yahoo Acorn Slipper/Sock Hybrids, for your looks, your brains, and your double-woven softness.  You came into my life so unassumingly, as several Yahoo Acorn products have before you – a gift from my aunt, made by a company that I have never heard of, but which is most definitely not related to any search engine.  No, the only “Yahoo” you are affiliated with is the one that I shout when I put you on my cold feet in the morning!  I love you, as well, My Yahoo Acorn Slipper/Sock Hybrids, because I can get away with treating you not quite like socks, and don’t need to worry about washing you all the time.  I know that my rationalization that, because you are thicker than socks, you somehow don’t need as much washing is utterly off-base and kind of gross, but I don’t care!  That’s what you do to me, My Yahoo Acorn Slipper/Sock Hybrids.  You keep my feet warm even as I throw caution to the icy wind.


The fastest way to a man's heart is through his cold feet.

Things I Am Loving Today

7 Dec

1) My Lasko Space Heater

Of all the (doubtless plentiful) odes to space heaters to be found on the world wide web, may this one stand alone.  I love you, My Lasko Space Heater, sometimes so much that it’s a little scary!  I find myself thinking about you when the lights are out, in the stillness of the night… I wonder what you’re doing at that exact moment, what you’re thinking about; sometimes I ponder turning on my bedside lamp just to see what you’re up to – it’s crazy, I know!  But you make me crazy.  The moments that we spend together are sacred to me, My Lasko Space Heater.  Whether you are feeling frisky, oscillating to and fro, or the two of us are just hanging out and relaxing, me on my computer, you pointed directly at my feet from six inches away, the bond that we share transcends mere inefficient heating and higher power bills. It’s more like love.


Also sprach Zarathustra, anybody?

2) The Awesome Acoustic Guitar Line That Scott Played

When I asked Scott Foster to lay down a guitar track for my album, you were but a twinkle in my eye, The Awesome Acoustic Guitar Line That Scott Played, but now that I’ve finally met you, I can’t get you out of my mind!  Before you came into my life, all I knew was that I wanted a cool counter-line that would work in 5/4  and give a sort of Oud-ish sound.  But after sitting at the piano to work you out, it was like I could feel you sidle up behind me, caressing my shoulders and ears, whispering sweet nothings about complementary rhythms and subtle reharmonization.  And when Scott actually played you, why, my microphone nearly wept with joy!  You are the real deal, The Awesome Acoustic Guitar Line That Scott Played; you are The Dude’s Rug.


It really ties the tune together, does it not?

3) Trader Joe’s Nothing But Sea Salt Bagel Chips

Oh, Trader Joe’s Nothing But Sea Salt Bagel Chips, where do I begin?  Which do I love more, your salty, buttery flavor, or your insanely inexpensive price? Or, perhaps the thing I love about you the most, Trader Joe’s Nothing But Sea Salt Bagel Chips, is your versitility – five or six of you are the perfect mid-afternoon snack, and yet you also function beautifully as the croutons in my salads.  Indeed, you add such a delicious, crunchy texture to the proceedings that you can transform even the blandest green salad into a party for the senses!  You are my secret salad weapon, and together we make an unstoppable team.  If I am dreaming, which so often, when I am in your glorious presence, I fear I must be, then may I never wake!  Every moment with you, Trader Joe’s Nothing But Sea Salt Bagel Chips, is pure, crunchy bliss.


Behold a shining, beautiful soul.

Things I Am Loving Today

3 Dec

1)  The 6 Parnassus

The 6 Parnassus, will you marry me?  We already live so close to one another, and spend so much time together, it seems like moving in and having a joint bank account is the next logical step.  I am loving you, The 6 Parnassus, because you do so much for me; you take me everywhere I need to go, you are quiet and considerate, and you are, if I may say so, quite the looker!  I am willing to forgive your shortcomings, The 6 Parnassus, such as when you tell me you are coming in one minute on nextbus, then move it to 2 minutes, and then vanish altogether, forcing me to wait a really long time.  I forgive these transgressions because that’s what love truly is – forgiveness.  So let’s do it!  It’s California, after all, and I’m sure that man/bus marriage is right around the bend.  Isn’t that what that Santorum guy said?  A quick jaunt to City Hall, and we could have it all; a house, a cat, and little buses scooting around, like The 37 Corbett and The 66 Quintara!


Your zero-emissions power lines are attached to my heartstrings.

2) The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I know you pretend to be gruff and unfeeling, but I see the real you beneath the facade.  You spend so many pages scaring the living Christ out of me with your vivid portrait of a dead world, and the bleak, last gasps of humanity, scratching along the surface, starving and eating itself, but what you’re really filling those pages with is joy and caring.  Because you do care, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and without you, I wouldn’t know that after the bombs fall, I should fill up the tub with water, and that if I need to put my scavanged food in a shopping cart, that it’s a good idea to carry spare wheels! The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you even let me know that when my gun is down to one bullet, I should carve false ones out of wood so that the road agents who would otherwise rape me and my son to death and then roast and eat our corpses will think I have six bullets.  I see right through you, The Road by Cormac McCarthy; you scare because you care.  I and my newly-updated 72-hour survival kit thank you, from the bottom of our heart and emergency-band radio, respectively.


A spartan cover can't disguise the warm, caring soul inside.

3) Nervo’s Marshall Vintage Modern Half-Stack

Come over here, Nervo’s Marshall Vintage Modern Half-Stack, I want to get to know you better.  I think I am loving you, not only for your delightfully contradictory name, but for the sweet, sweet rock you produce.  After recording you on Sunday, I’m not sure I can ever go back to using a PODXT to record demos; even though it would save the trouble of lugging your gigantic ass around, I would miss your warm, crunchy, extremely high-gain embrace too much!  Nervo’s Marshall Vintage Modern Half-Stack, when you play a power chord, kitty cats are moved to learn the piano. When you play a lead line, an Obama supporter gets her wings.  Though I will never have the space nor the need to own one of you, I am happy to know that you exist, Nervo’s Marshall Vintage Modern Half-Stack.  You rule.

Bringer of the rock

Mic's-eye-view of the impending awesome.

Things I Am Loving Today

27 Nov

1) Yellowwood State Park

Yellowwood State Park, you are truly a fantastic place to go for a hike.  Every time I am back in Indiana, and we drive to you, I am reminded how truly great it was to grow up so close to such great hiking.  Northern California hiking is very fine as well, but there is something about the cold, simple, autumnal beauty of you, Yellowwood State Park, that feels more like home.


Good Boy.

2) The Awesome Pandora Presents: Gabe Dixon Band T-Shirt That Lindsay Gave Me

I haven’t gotten a cooler t-shirt than you in a long while, The Awesome Pandora Presents: Gabe Dixon Band T-Shirt That Lindsay Gave Me.  Not only are you a really cool color with a great graphic on the front, you represent two of my favorite things – Music Genome’s Pandora Project, and my fellow UM alums The Gabe Dixon Band. Every time I wear you, I will remember to thank my friend Lindsay for getting you for free at a promotional event.


Awesome T-Shirts are the new Ironic T-Shirts.

3) My Parents’ Jank-Ass Old Piano

Old and out-of-tune pianos may be la mode these days, but there is nothing stylish about you, My Parents’ Jank-Ass Old Piano.  Your pitch problems and sticky keys are not kitchy, you simply sound like crap.  And your low Bb key sticks and rings out, as though you’re determined to add your own contribution to whatever I am playing. I adore you, though, My Parents’ Jank-Ass Old Piano, less for the tones you produce and more for the way you remind me of the passage of time, decay, and the vitality of family furniture.


Re-tuned in the key of H-flat.

Things I Am Loving Today

20 Nov

1) Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Chips

I am color-blind. You could be blue, yellow, or white, but no matter your appearance, today I am loving you, Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Chips.  You are so salty and delicious, I do not need salsa, or guacamole, or taco salad to enjoy you.  I could snack on you all day.

No Salsa Required.
No Salsa Required.

2) Mizuno WaveRider 11 Running Shoes

Oh, Mizuno WaveRider 11 Running Shoes, you are amazing.  I did not realize how lacking my Mizunno WaveRunner 10 Running Shoes were until I put you on, and now I see so clearly!  Running on you is like running while getting a foot massage from someone who really cares about me as a person.

It's like they know who I am inside.

It's like they know who I am inside.

3) My Brother-in-Law Mike’s Taylor 710 Acoustic Guitar

How amazing can a guitar sound?  This amazing.  There is no sound quite like you, My Brother-in-Law Mike’s Taylor 710 Acoustic Guitar.  You are easy on the fingers, eyes, and ears, and you record like a dream.  I will borrow you as often as Mike will let me.  You make the days of playing on my Ovation acoustic/electric feel like a distant, unclean memory, mere plastic washed away by the purity of your resonance.

My capo is ecstatic.

My capo is ecstatic.


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