4.30.2012

5 Minutes - Jazz, Sushi, and the Bus

Hi. It's Joe.

Sadly, I was busily writing two other posts and so even though I only have five minutes to spare for my daily blog, I feel like I have accomplished more than my daily quota of actual writing.

I am getting a fairly early night with full intention to take the bus tomorrow. I am going to read my library book. There is talk of an all you can eat sushi outing with co-workers tomorrow evening, but I do not know if I can fit it in. I have to go home and take care of Buddy before Tuesday night jazz at the Mason Lounge. Buddy has been a little under the weather since he came back from the kennel. I took him to the vet today and they put him on antibiotic.

I had my jazz piano lesson tonight and I think it went pretty well. My teacher seemed genuinely pleased with my progress. My assignment the next two weeks is to improvise with a metronome so I am forced to not think too much about what I am playing. He says my soloing is more fluid and organic when I do that. I am also starting a new song that has a pretty strong melody line ("All the Things You Are") such that I can begin exploring alterations of basic chords, throwing in extra notes to color them harmonically. This seems to me like it will take more than two weeks to master, and that is OK. It is a learning process.

Here is a picture of me acting goofy at the BABY ROCKET show last Saturday.

Rocklikeanegyptian

Time.

4.29.2012

10 Minutes - I Really Only Have 7 Minutes

Hi. It's Joe.

I don't mean to make this a rush job, but I need sleep.

Again.

I had caught up yesterday. Then last night I had a Baby Rocket show that went pretty late. I had to get up early today to be in Madison for an emergency band practice. HIATUS is hosting a Cinco de Mayo Rock-n-Roll House Party next Saturday, and we are not solid yet on a lot of the new material.

It doesn't really matter, because it is our house concert and we can play as much or as little as we like. We can also biff as much as we want, and not really care. We are doing it for fun. That is the beauty of house concerts. We are at the whimsy of no one, especially charlatan bar managers.

None the less, we are all musical perfectionists and so we wanted to at least go through the motions of having an extra practice before the gig to get as solid as could be. HIATUS does not usually rehearse on weekends. We usually rehearse on Wednesday evenings. But now the drummer has golf on Wednesday evenings.

Yes, you read that right. Golf trumps rocking. I can't wrap my mind around that either. But I don't have to. All I have to do is find another night of the week that works for everyone to rock. It's not easy doing it piecemeal. This coming week it will be Thursday, and that will be our dress rehearsal before the Saturday house party performance. We will run down the tentative set list and drop any songs that are not at least 85% (a solid B).

After the HIATUS practice, I had to rush back to Cambridge for GUPPY EFFECT practice. We don't have any gigs pending, but we try to diligently rehearse every week.

I have my jazz piano lesson tomorrow night. I am geeked for it. I am fairly well prepared, but I am still slow on improvisation over the chords and I have not delved into the new song my teacher wants me to start at all yet. That will be my mission for after this lesson.

OK, I squeezed out my 10 minutes, even though I only had seven. Good night.

Time.

4.28.2012

20 Minutes - Slept In

Hi. It's Joe.

I slept in today. I think I pretty much caught up on sleep, which has been in short supply since about last Tuesday (jazz night). If you remember my post from yesterday, my goal was to sleep in and get caught up on sleep. Goal accomplished. Hey, it's the little things.

Today it is cold and rainy outside. But I am not going outside, so this does not bother me.

I read a fun post at IN OVER YOUR HEAD a few minutes ago. You should READ IT. Tell me what you think. That is the beauty of this whole INTERNET BRAIN thing we call...well, I guess we call it the INTERNET. You can read a post at your leisure, or choose not to read it at all. If you do read it, you can choose to comment or not. It's all about choices. I think we need to keep the INTERNET free. We don't want a bunch of old white men dating from the 1940s telling us how to do our "thang" on the Internet.

Today, I am going to practice rock-n-roll music, for the most part. Not any of it will be BABY ROCKET songs, even though I have a BABY ROCKET show tonight. I know all of those songs backwards and forwards. I need to get up to speed on HIATUS songs for the Cinco de Mayo Rock-n-Roll House Party a week from today. We have a bonus practice tomorrow.

I also have GUPPY EFFECT practice tomorrow. There are not as many songs to learn for that and some of them I am already pretty decent at. But I still need to get them rock solid. 95% or better is the goal I generally go for before I decide a song is ready for prime time.

I have my jazz piano lesson on Monday. I practiced a lot of piano when I was in Colorado a week ago. This past week I was getting hammered by a lot of stuff and I didn't have a lot of time to practice piano. I am going to make time tomorrow to put in a couple of hours. I never did get to learning "All the Things You Are," which was my next song assignment from my teacher. I will probably touch on that. But I did spend a lot of time on improvisation on the songs I already know, trying to find hooks and phrases to play over the chords. This has helped me to get more comfortable with the scales that go along with the chords. It is still slow motion, but it is faster than it was, and I can definitely see it becoming second nature in due time.

I juiced this morning. I don't know why. Well, it is multi-factorial. I have a bag of organic carrots in the fridge and I am afraid I won't eat them any time soon. I don't really like carrots, except when they are cooked to invisibility within another food, like a stir fry. But I love carrot juice. I juiced four (4) carrots and a naval orange. It was tasty. I would have liked to have juiced some ginger root into it, for some kick. I fed Buddy the residual "fiber" from the orange and carrots that was centrifigully removed from the juice in the Juiceman Jr. That is kind of like when they make ethanol out of corn and then feed the remaining fiber and protein to cattle. Waste not, want not.

See, my brain is working well again. Yea sleep!

Another factor is that I am going to post on the benefits of juicing on another blog that I am involved in. It's top secret and not publicly available right now, but my hope is that it will revolutionize how things are done in corporate America.

I need to take Buddy to the vet. He has a sore on his left paw that looks like it might be a tumor. Also, he has been having the runs lately, and that is rare for him.

I need to start doing less stuff on weeknights. I know that is lame and I always tell other people they should do stuff on a "school night." But everything in moderation. This coming week I have jazz night on Tuesday and HIATUS dress rehearsal on Thursday (for the big Cinco de Mayo party). Oh yeah, backlink heaven there! But I am going to take it easy the other three nights, M, W, and F. Yes, I know Friday is not a school night. But if I want to make it a holiday, I shall. Actually, Friday is usually Claddagh happy hour social after work. That won't go late.

Time.

4.27.2012

10 Minutes - Today Was a Bear

Hi. It's Joe.

Today was just a tough day at work. I normally don't complain about work but it just sucked today. And by sucked, I mean it sucked my life force right out. I finally just had to throw in the towel, utterly defeated.

Most days like this, I just pretend I am doing battle with the forces of evil. That makes it a little bit more video game-esque and tolerable, even when it's a struggle. But today wasn't even fun. It was just brutal and soul sucking. But now I am away from it and I feel better. My soul is gradually being restored.

In about an hour, I have band practice with Baby Rocket. We have a show tomorrow. I don't really need to practice for Baby Rocket, but Gina usually makes a good spread of food for us and it doesn't usually last unduly long.

I need to get some sleep and just sleep in tomorrow for a long long time.

Don't worry. Even though I am griping uncharacteristically, things are alright. Everyone at work is being hammered by this idiotic new document control system the new management made us adopt, and the associated purposeless hoops we all have to jump through as a result of it.

All things will pass in time.

Time.

4.26.2012

30 Minutes - Laser Tag

Hi. It's Joe.

I played laser tag on my employers dime yesterday. It was funner than I thought it would be.

The rules said no running. I don't remember running, but I definitely broke a sweat.

It lasted for about 90 minutes and I felt like it counted as a workout, so I counted it as one of my weeklies. I would do it again.

Perhaps, to mix things up a bit and get outside our comfort zone, my core team of work peeps should have a laser tag outing in lieu of our annual BIG LEBOWSKI BOWLING NIGHT.

I don't like the gun play aspect of laser tag. But it makes you realize how easy it is to point a gun at people and pull the trigger.

I don't mean that in a way that will cause the Human Resources department at work to pull me aside.

I just mean, I can see how easy it is to commit yourself to a "mission" (ideology?) and then not let anything or anyone get in the way of you accomplishing the mission, even if it means gunning down people you generally like and associate with every day (think Arizona).

In laser tag, of course, you know that when you are shot, you will come back to life in about 10 seconds. That makes the killing less serious, in my eyes. That also makes war seem so much more awful. In laser tag, I knew I would get shot, but it would never be lethal. So while I had some slick moves, I took some risks that were guaranteed to get me shot.

I didn't cheat at laser tag, but I did catch myself thinking, how can I cheat this system and give myself the upper hand (perhaps putting a black tunic over the laser tag vest so that enemy laser beams would not find me, but I could pick off opponents at will)? I thought about it only as an abstraction. Fair play was the better option.

I am a strong believer in fairness. You could argue that it would be fair if everyone had a black tunic to pull over their laser tag vest. But then the game would be lame and stupid.

This is why I get so fed up when right wing Republicans don't play fair and try to rig the system because they can't win fair and square. They will say, "it's all about winning, and the other side does the same thing."

But that's like laser tag with everyone wearing black tunics over their laser tag vests and it is totally lame.

So, the moral of this story is, America...play fair. You might well lose, but enjoy playing the game. That's democracy. And in a peaceful democracy, you can "come back to life" even after you are brutally defeated. Don't cheat. Ass.

My team won at laser tag during "singles" play. But during team play, we came in second, because we didn't strategize sufficiently. We were there to have fun. The winning team had a great strategy. It was totally Navy Seals. They stayed together as a group and then attacked enemy bases methodically one by one. An individual on the team would shoot the base module until it exploded, while the remaining teammates defended the position. It was gloriously "Mission Impossible" and very admirable. I would probably use that strategy in the future, although there is probably a defense against it that someone knows.

If you knew that an opposing team was doing this strategy, I suppose you could conspire with another team to attack the Navy Seals team with "overwhelming force" and defeat their strategy, but even then I don't think it would do that much good, nor would it be entirely fair play, which as I mentioned, is the best policy.

You might be able to keep them at bay for a while, but you would miss opportunities to score base destruction points of your own. On the other hand, if every team did the group sticking together strategy, then they would never fight each other and everyone would win. I am not sure that story has a good moral ending. But it would be something like, let's all ignore everyone and destroy everything. That sounds like a pessimistic description of humanity.

Time.

4.24.2012

25 Minutes - Bussing It and Values Logic

Hi. It's Joe.

Elsewhere, I have calculated the financial benefits of public transport, so I shant rehash it again here. Since I have been on a values kick lately, I am going to talk about the value of public transport, touching briefly on the "soft" cost savings.

First, lets talk about time. "Time is money" is a common saying. But it is wrong. Time is only money if you are wasting time that could otherwise be spent making money. In fact, time is just time, part of the fabric of the cosmos, absolute and constant. The correct saying should be, "time is value," because it is what you do with your time that matters. Money is often a proxy for value, but it often does not equate.

Plus, if you can get someone else to spend time for you, while you do higher value things, that's even better. To me, driving is a low value activity, a necessary evil for getting to work, where money can be made. But driving is actually a waste of time for me, if I have to do it, because time is value. So if I can get someone else to do the driving, while I spend the time generating value, such as writing this inspirational blog post or reading my library book (which I am going to do momentarily), that's a plus.

Public transportation offers that high value scenario for me. I have two books checked out of the library right now and they are due back in less than two weeks. I can read them while someone else drives me to work at a lower cost than the price of gas for my car, as described in a prior blog post. Does public transport take a longer time? Yes. But it is high value time both spiritually and financially. By reading library books, I save money by not having to buy books. Plus, I expand my intellect. Even if I bought the books, I would still need to find the time to read them...time that is squandered just driving my car for 90 minutes (round trip) if I do not take public transport.

So the rest of this value logic you can reason through yourself. Suffice to say I had time to write this post on my smart phone and still have time left over for reading. Have a superb day.

Time.

4.23.2012

5 Minutes - Hawaii in Wisconsin

Hi. It's Joe.

I only have 5 minutes because I have my singing lesson in about 8 minutes.

The weather was superb today, sunny and low 60s. It felt like Hawaii. A coworker and I hit the Irish Pub for a pint and some snacks before I had to leave for my lesson. We had a meeting in the late afternoon that precluded us from doing any useful work. So we figured a trip to the pub would be more productive, because we could talk about our intellectual property idea and decompress.

Well, I am going to end it here and head in for my lesson.

Time.

4.21.2012

10 Minutes - Intellectual Property

Hi. It's Joe.

I have to mow the lawn in a few minutes. I should be doing it now. I am surprised by how much it grew this past week whilst I was on vacation. I heard it was cold in Wisconsin while I was gone. But also rainy, so I guess that helped the grass grow. In any case, I need to do my ritualistic 10 minutes of blogging before I head out into the yard. I don't think of it as procrastination because it is both fun and something I "have" to do. But it is still procrastination.

Last night, after my plane landed, one of my buddies and I brainstormed some ideas for putting together a book (or other intellectual property type medium) about professional lifestyle balance. How to enjoy life as a working professional. It's going to be a team effort, though it is not clear who will be a part of this team other than me and my buddy. We have some ideas, but we don't know if these other individuals will be interested. All we can do is ask.

I want to contribute to the chapter called "Cloak and Ddagh-er" - on the benefits of ending your work week with a couple of "team building" pints among co-workers at the Irish Pub. I can make a business case for this, but this chapter would be more focused on the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits to the productive and happy working professional. I can't divulge too much more, because you will have to wait for the book and because I need to go mow the lawn now.

Time.

4.19.2012

10 Minutes - Positivity

Hi. It's Joe.

Well, there is a lull in my day, so I suppose I will get my 10 minutes of blogging done now.

I got a text from a co-worker this morning that I have a new manager at work. I swear, you go on vacation and the whole universe shifts on its foundation. I don't have any deets to go into more detail, until I get back to work on Monday. All this re-organization at work would be enough to spook most employees, and that is clearly the goal of the new management that bought out our company last year. They are trying to scare everyone into obedience. They don't know me or my co-workers very well though it seems.

It doesn't spook me one bit to have a new manager. The new guy is great. I don't understand why it had to change, but I do not need to know in order to succeed. I don't get spooked by things that I can't change, I just face it and do my best to fight it when it is bad. I refuse to live my life in fear of change. Every change represents a new opportunity. Positivity.

When I fired my douchy boss at my last job for lameness and abusiveness, I did not see it as quitting my job. I saw it as a self-imposed sabbatical, a chance to clear my mind and explore new options, while putting losers and negative nellies behind me. It paid off. My life is quite enjoyable. In fact, I envy myself a little bit, when I try to step outside myself and look at my life from someone else's perspective. My friends and co-workers are great, my musical endeavors are fun, and my mental state is awesome.

Today is my last full day in Colorado, although I will be here for a good portion of tomorrow. I fly out of Denver at 7 PM tomorrow. I need to print my bording pass tonight. There is a bunch of crazy stuff happening with my niece and nephew tonight - some kind of awards ceremony and I don't know what else.

Anyway, my sister just got home, so this lull is about over. We are going to go on a hike soon. My legs are butt sore from the fenicular incline stair climbing yesterday. I need to do a light hike to work out the lactic acid.

I am easily going to finish my library book, Howard Bloom's "Genius of the Beast," before it is due back at the library on Saturday. Another goal accomplished. Seriously, I should start a lifestyle coaching company. Talk about accomplishing goals!

Time.

4.18.2012

10 Minutes - This is the View From the Top of the Fenicular Inclined Stairs

Hi. It's Joe.

I accomplished my goal of climbing the "incline," a railroad tie staircase up the side of a smallish mountain, that was once the track of a fenicular train. It's in Manitou Springs, CO, where my sister lives.

Here is the view from the top, just to prove I did it and to give you a sense of the vertigo I felt most of the way up. You can kind of see the parking lot way down there.

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I had the option to come right back down the stairs, but that seemed like it would be the wrong option given that the top of the stairs intersects the Bar Trail hiking path. I figured why not try something different on the way down, since coming up the stairs was the real challenge and I had already accomplished that? It was a good choice. There were some great views, like this one.

Img_20120418_113150

The views from the stairs were basically UP or DOWN. Granted, looking down gave a nice panoramic vista of the town of Colorado Springs, CO, and also a feeling of light headedness.

The Bar Trail was far less steep. In fact, it was quite pleasant. I jogged down it, stopping to take a few pictures here and there.

At the bottom, I met up with my mom and pops and we went to lunch at the Jerusalem Cafe in Manitous Springs. We all got the veggie plate, with falafel and stuffed grape leaves. It was awesome.

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I also treated myself to a chocolate mousse milkshake, a reward for my feat of accomplishment. I know it was not a huge feat, and I rested quite a few times on the way up. But I accomplished my goal, and that was my intent. You can acomplish any goal if you take it a few steps at a time. That is the moral of this story.

Time.

4.17.2012

10 Minutes - The Fenicular Stairs Revisited

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Hi. It's Joe.

If all goes well, my goal tomorrow will be to climb the entire fenicular staircase in Manitou Springs, CO. Wish me luck.

It is actually coming back down that intimidates me more than going up, because I fear heights a little bit and I get vertigo. The steepest part of the ascent is the last half mile. I will take a picture of Pike's Peak when I get to the top, as the view is supposed to be splendid. Then you will know I achieved my goal.

Stay tuned to my Facebook page if you care, as that is where I will post it via http://cactusjoesocial.posterous.com. You can also stay tuned to the latter blog site if you are not privvy to my FB page. And of course if you do not care at all, you can go pound salt. Ha ha.

Today was a productive day. I killed a few more pages of "Genius of the Beast" by Howard Bloom, toward my goal of finishing it by week's end. I practiced a ton of piano and went to my nephew's freestyle wrestling practice. I watched "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" on Discovery Channel, by way of YouTube and it was pretty fascinating. I left the program with a strong sense that the scientists really had found the tomb of Jesus and his family, including his wife, Mary Magdeline, and son Jonah. Science doesn't lie, but neither is it perfect. You go pull it up on YouTube and judge for yourself. Maybe the documentary filmmakers fabricated it all and are just bald-faced, lying charlatans. Anything is possible. But it was on Discovery Channel, so how much credibility do you attribute to that source?

Bison stew for dinner. Yum.

Time.

4.16.2012

10 Minutes - The Fenicular Stairs

Hi. It's Joe.

This week my goal is to finish my library book, "Genius of the Beast" by Howard Bloom. It is coming along. I think I will achieve this goal.

Today, I climbed a decent way up a mountainside along an abandoned fenicular railroad track. I also hope by the end of this week to make it all the way up the mountain, after my low altitude lungs aclimate. It could happen. My mom and pops also climbed part way up the thing. They did good. They are in better shape than me, once you account for age. Maybe even not accounting for it.

After the climb, we ate awesome Mediterranean food at the Jerusalem Cafe in Manitou Springs, CO, where my sister lives.

Piano practice is coming along well. My sister has a decent keyboard with weighted keys. I am figuring out some music theory stuff on the two songs I am working on. My next lesson isn't until April 30, so I have a good while to get solid on jazz improvisation. I can do some improv now but it is painfully slow. I have to think things through pretty hard. But I am starting to visualize the scale patterns that go along with certain keys, and that helps to think less hard about it. Right brain stuff. I think learning is all about tranferring analytical left brain thinking over the holistic right brained thinking. That is what art is, I suppose.

When Kung Fu masters first started learning Kung Fu, they had to painfully learn the moves, analytically, with much practice. Eventually, it moved into their right brains and became second nature. This is how I am visualizing jazz piano. I need to analyze and understand, then partition it into the appropriate right brain locations, wherever they are.

I think I will go practice right now.

Time.

4.14.2012

10 Minutes - Colorado is Nice

Hi. It's Joe.

I am in Colorado. I like it here. I will be here for a week. I know full well you don't care, and that's OK. I am sure you are enjoying yourself, wherever you are, just as much as I am.

My goal for the week, in addition to relaxing and enjoying Colorado Springs and surrounds, is to finish my library book that is due back on Saturday. That's all. Keeping it simple.

My dad made chili tonight. It was good. I saw that there are all kinds of tornados and bad things tearing up the midwest. That's a shame. Nature is cool though. Awesome actually. When you remove the human element, Nature is really quite amazing, even when she is destroying the crap out of things.

I am supposed to host open mic at Waterhouse Cafe this week, but since I am in Colorado, I shant be. Instead, Matt Alba and Co will host in my stead.

I should write a song called "Tri-tone Subs on Triton Subs." I might not be able to perform it on a Triton sub, at least not at first, but I can certainly fill it with tri-tone substitutions galore.

The book I am trying to finish this week, by the way, is "Genius of the Beast" by Howard Bloom. I am starting to appreciate his thesis on the natural basis for capitalism as I read more. It took me a while to warm to it. I am not saying it is correct, but it is fairly internally consistent.

Time.

4.12.2012

10 Minutes - Nice Weather

Hi. It's Joe.

It is a Thursday. But if feels like a Friday. Sometimes when my Smart Phone freezes and goes catatonic, I have this fleeting suspicion that it is taking a break to go talk with other Smart Phones over the Internet.

This morning, some contractors came over to my house. They were supposed to do something to my bathroom exhaust fan as part of a free home weatherization program I received from the state. But I don’t think they did anything. They were only working up there for like 5 minutes and I don’t think they took anything apart at all. I am kind of glad, because what I understood they were going to do was put a timer on my exhaust fan and leave it permanently on. I didn’t see any timer and it didn’t look like they worked on the fan. So who knows what they really did. I didn’t like the idea of not being able to control the on and off of the fan. Whatever they did, functionality seems totally unchanged. SO that’s a relief. And since it was free, I don’t really care if they twiddled their thumbs or did actual work. The state program can deal with that issue.

It’s been a tedious week at work. Not because of the workload, but because nothing is going to plan as it should. We just implemented a new document control system and it is an utter FAIL from my perspective, although it does seem to be working decently well for some people. But my boss is not too upset that I can’t get it to function on my computer. Mainly, that is because it doesn’t work on his computer either. But IT is totally unresponsive to our requests to get it up and running. It is more critical for my boss because he actually has to use the system to approve and sign off on things. Nothing will move to approval status until he has that capability.

For me, I just need to move documents into the review and approval process using the system. The system doesn’t work on my laptop at all, but when it does, I will be at its whimsy. If it does not allow it, there is not much I can do.

Time.

4.10.2012

10 Minutes - Jazz Tonight

Hi. It's Joe.

I am playing jazz bass tonight with 5 Points Jazz Collective at Mason Lounge in Madison WI. I am tired out. I'd like to get a power nap in before I play tonight. That probably won't happen. Sometimes I actually play better when I am tired.

You may not know about jazz tonight, if you are a subscriber and reading this on Wednesday, a day late. But if you are my Facebook friend, then you do know about it. I hope you can come. I feel like it is going to be a good time.

Work is a bit of a challenge right now. We are implementing a new document submission process and it is extraordinarily soul sucking. Surprisingly so. I thought it would be way simpler.

Time.

4.08.2012

10 Minutes - A Good-Arsed Easter Sunday (and No Zombies)

Hi. It's Joe.

I had a fabulous Easter Sunday.

I slept in until I felt like getting up. Then I made coffee and eggs with spicy tofu. I practiced some piano until about 11 AM, and then I went for a run. It was beautiful outside, about 60 degrees and sunny. It has been like Hawaii in Wisconsin for the past few days, with the exception of some chilly nights. I took Buddy with me for the run. I think he is getting old. He keeps up OK, but whereas he used to trot and be able to keep up with my feeble human running speed, he now gallops a bit to keep up. He's a good beast, pretty mellow for the most part.

Then I practiced a little bit more jazz piano and learned a Frank Turner song for GUPPY EFFECT practice, which happened at 4:30 PM. We brainstormed a bunch of songs we want to try and do in this new incarnation of the band (v2.0). If you want to see the master list of potential songs, it is HERE (requires SPOTIFY).

If you see one you really like, let me know and I will move it to the top of the learning list. You can also request songs that aren't on the list, but they have less likelihood of being prioritized, because it has to clear a unanymous decision by the entire band.

I am going to practice some jazz bass for a little while now. I am playing bass at Tuesday Night Jazz this week at Mason Lounge. It's 9 to midnight on Tuesday (obviously). It's free and very fun. The guitarist asked me to learn a new song, so I am going to try and learn it.

I guess that's all. No zombies rising from the dead, yea! I guess there is still time though. Keep an eye out (no pun).

Time.

4.05.2012

10 Minutes - One Month Until Jazz Piano Doomsday (or Utopia, If You Are an Optimist Like Me)

Hi. It's Joe.

I am going to Colorado soon. As a result, I will miss one jazz piano lesson. As a result, I have a month to become proficient at improvising on the 2 songs I am working on. They are, Straight, No Chaser by Thelonious Monk and Joy Spring by Clifford Brown, whoever that is (NOTE: Even though I am not familiar with him, he does wail!).

It's do or die. The task at hand is straightforward and known to me. In jazz piano, the left hand typically holds down chords, while the right hand plays the melody (or head) and solos. It is this latter skill, solos, that I need to work on. I more or less have the songs down, although I still run through them to improve and embellish them.

The solos are based on the scales that go along with the chords of the song, and in Joy Spring, the chords change at a good clip. Furthermore, they are not all in a single key. Not at all. In fact, Joy Spring modulates through several keys. This is characteristic of jazz. But it is also really good for learning the martial art of Jazz Fu. This is when the soloing becomes second nature, because the brain can transition between the keys and the associated scales almost effortlessly.

I know the scales that go along with the chords of both songs. However, they are not second nature for me to play them at the rather brisk tempo of these songs. It is acquiring the zen state of freely soloing over these songs at a decent tempo that will be my goal this month. By the next lesson, I want to be able to play through the chord progression of the song without stopping while playing a solo in the right keys over them.

My solos do not have to be awesome. They can't be. I am not awesome enough at piano yet. But within the boundaries of my skill level, they should be well constructed and unfaltering. This task is mightier than it may sound. I have a lot of practicing to do. I need to find a good method for stringing together motifs that I come up with so that they sound good.

I have added these songs to my SPOTIFY so that I can listen to them often and immerse my mind in how they flow. The jazz musicians on the recordings do an excellent job of soloing. Mastering an instrument, or a martial art, or indeed anything, is just a matter of diligent practice with a vision in mind. I have that going for me. Now it is just a matter of doing.

I am a doer.

Clifford Brown – Joy Spring

Thelonious Monk – Straight No Chaser

Time.

4.03.2012

10 Minutes - Why I Voted for Ron Paul in Wisconsin Today

Hi. It's Joe.

I have spoken, albeit meekly, through the power of my vote. I went to the polls first thing this morning and voted for Ron Paul in the WI Republican primary.

This did not make me feel dirty at all. It's true that I don't agree with RP on everything. Economically, I think we do need some oversight and regulation to prevent the charlatans from taking control of everything. But as a musician, it is probably not surprising that I am a social libertarian. I don't think drugs should be criminalized or the media censored. It is the responsibility of parents to control what their kids have access to, when it comes to both media or drug use. But I am not here to espouse my own ideology. That's unique to me.

I am here to tell you that I think Ron Paul is the only true conservative. The rest are buffoons. You may tell me...but Ron Paul can't win! Why not? If everyone who said Ron Paul can't win voted for Ron Paul, he'd win.

It makes no sense to be a lemming and jump on the "winner" band wagon if that person is a total loser.

I am an independent voter. I do not plan to vote for Obama in the 2012 general election unless he substantially ups his game. But I am not going to vote for the Republican contender either, even if by some miracle that turns out to be Ron Paul.

I am most likely to vote for the Green Party candidate, unless it is Roseanne Barr (see buffoon comment above). But I am not going to pre-judge Roseanne out of hand either. I will listen to what she has to say. I like the Greens because I really think it is time we weened ourselves off primitive fossil fuels and used American human ingenuity to create new alternative energy technologies and jobs. The best solution for American national security is to free ourselves from tyrannical nations in unstable parts of the world through conservation and renewable energies. Hydrogen is an almost limitless fuel and the United States has its raw material, sea water, o' plenty on three coasts. It is easily manufactured by applying an electrical current to sea water, and thus represents a storage medium for wind and solar.

But again, I ramble.

I voted for Ron Paul to express my view that he is the only true conservative of the lot. I don't agree with him, but at least he is honest. And if he "can't win," then I guess HONEST can't win in America. And that may be the reality of the situation.

But you don't have to subscribe to that reality by voting for buffoons and charlatans who want to get all up in your business. You can say no thank you to the mainstream candidates by voting for Ron Paul in protest. That's all I'm saying.

Time.

4.02.2012

10 Minutes - My Thumb

Hi. It's Joe.

My sister is an artist. She will probably think this picture I drew of my thumb is simplistic and amateurish. However, I have to say it is the best (possibly even the only) picture I have ever drawn of my own left thumb.

Thumb

It is actually a little bit disproportionate, now that I look at it. Perhaps too long. But thumbs are actually amazingly long digits. They seem shorter than the other fingers for two reasons, in my opinion.

One is that they stem from a point lower down on the hand than the other fingers. So it is an optical illusion that it is a shorty finger. In fact, I measured it, and on my hand at least, it is about the same length as my ring finger. Certainly not the longest finger, but not the shortest either.

The second reason is more abstract, but I think the thumb is subconsciously equated with the big toe, which is somewhat fat and squat, and often shorter than the other toes. I am not so sure about this second reason. I only thought of it because the drawing of my thumb here kind of loosely resembles my big toe, at least on the fat and squat part at the end.

My piano lesson went well tonight. I need to work on improvisation more. I worked hard on getting the song down that I am working on. But now that I have it down, I need to explore the freeform side of soloing. I am going to do that for a half an hour right after I finish this.

I am getting an early night so I can get up to vote and get an oil change tomorrow morning before work.

Time.

10 Minutes - Let's All Go Vote for Ron Paul Tomorrow, WI

Hi. It's Joe.

I think all Wisconsinites, whether democrat, republican, third party, or independent should make their voices heard in tomorrow's Republican primary election.

Even if you are not republican, you have a right, as part of a democracy, to choose who you would most like to see run against Barack Obama in 2012.

I am planning to vote for Ron Paul. In part, this is to protest vote against the mainstream candidates who are awful. But in actuality, I think that Paul is actually most representative of a true conservative. I even agree with Paul on a handful of items. I am a social libertarian if not an economic one. The mainstream Republicans are anything but conservative and I really don't like that they want to forcibly get all up in women's privates with their policies. They are essentially political rapists. I say no to that. Not that Ron Paul won't follow the Republican anti-woman platform if he ever gets elected. But I think his chances are slim against the incumbent intellectual powerhouse, Obama.

And that brings me to my earlier point. Obama has disappointed me in a few areas and I am inclined to vote 3rd party in the general election. But Obama should have no difficulty intellectually clobbering any Republican buffoon, and if it too close to call, then he is simply not trying at all, and doesn't deserve my vote anyway. He should win in spite of my third party vote in the general.

Time.

4.01.2012

10 Minutes - Osh Kosh...Begosh!

Hi. It's Joe.

I am quite sure I am powerless not to add "begosh" every time I say Osh Kosh.

Begosh.

See?

But if I refer to it as OK, then I don't fall into that trap, and I will do so henceforth, so as not to annoy you, my dear reader.

I went up to OK to visit Todd and Sherry, and was privileged to attend the grand premier of Dead Weight, an independent horror movie filmed in and around OK. It was at the rustic and cool Time Cinema, totally sold out show. We were lucky to get decent balcony seats sitting together.

The movie was technically a zombie movie, in that it takes place in a post apocalyptic zombie laden world. But what made it cool was that it was secondarily a zombie movie. It was simply set in a zombie plagued world, but the actual plot of the movie focused on the human drama. They never even showed actual zombies until near the end of the movie. That wasn't the focus. I think that is what I liked best about the movie. The characters just dealt with fighting and fleeing zombies as part of their everyday existence, but it wasn't a direct part of the film. Anyway, I dug it and you should see it if you can.

I met some of Todd and Sherry's friends and they were super nice. I gravitate toward good and wholesome people these days, people with brains in their heads (although it makes the risk of zombie attack greater...).

After the movie there was a cast and crew party at a local pizza place. We went for a little while and it was a good time. There was this one guy we met going into the place who seemed all fun and happy and joked about squeezing my butt. He seemed quite friendly, but later there were some dramatic moments when he went a bit overboard about owning guns and self defence when the revolution comes. It was a little bit intense. I just wanted happy go lucky butt squeezy guy back, but the mood had changed.

Took my dog Buddy out to the dog park in OK with Sherry and we met a girl named Lisa and her dog Rocky there. Lisa had come to the movie with us. I took a bit of a shine to her, very intelligent woman. Rocky is a Basset Hound blend. Very chill dog.

Todd and Sherry have three Boston terriers. One is a male named Leo and he and Buddy decided to have a pissing match, literally, every time they met. So I had to keep Buddy separated when he was at Todd and Sherry's house. Buddy is peculiar sometimes. He used to never do that kind of stuff inside. When I caught him doing it, I rubbed his nose in it (actually, just near it) and I don't know if it taught him a lesson, but he didn't do it anymore. Of course, by then I was keeping an eye on him.

After I got back home from OK early Sunday afternoon, I took a power nap and then had GUPPY EFFECT practice. I made the band some dinner and then practiced piano for a while. I think I am going to practice a little more, but I want to get an early night. Tomorrow is my piano lesson and I have made a TON of progress since my last lesson. But I have a long way to go.

Time.