New Song: Your Dancing Shoes

I’m close to finished song I’ve been working on lately. One feature of this song, which I’ve wanted to write for a long time, is a horn section break in the mode of Domino, Spain or Sir Duke. Last night I laid down the horn section tracks. All that’s left is some percussion and maybe rhythm guitar, and then onto mixing. I’ve been focusing on simplicity in my songwriting, at least in certain aspects. This one has a eight-bar chord progression that changes every two beats and loops over and over the whole song, nice and soulful.

Bb Eb C7 F7 Bb Eb C7 Bb
Bb Eb D7 G7 Eb C7 F7 Bb

The finished track should be ready soon. Meanwhile, here’s the lyrics. Not the deepest thing ever, but lively and fun.

Your Dancing Shoes
by John Szinger

Put on your dancin’ shoes
Don’t wanna hear about no bad news
I spent my nine to five just payin’ dues
So put on your dancing shoes

Throw down your safety vest
Kick off your working boots and give it a rest
Don’t wanna hear about what’s worse or best
Just wanna see you in that party dress

I’ll loosen up my power tie
Put down my thinking cap and let it all slide
Been payin’ dues yeah since the nine to five
Now all I wanna do is catch your eye

So put on your dancin’ shoes
Ain’t got time tonight to sing the blues
Yeah spent my nine to five just payin’ dues
So put on your dancin’ shoes

(horn break)

Now your decoding ring
And your utility belt don’t mean thing
My smoking jacket and my fancy pants
Now all I wanna do is see you dance

So put on your dancin’ shoes
Don’t wanna hear about bout no bad news
Ain’t got time tonight to sing them blues
Just put on your dancin’ shoes
Yeah put on your dancin’ shoes

(horn break and out)

Rock and Jazz

The summer’s been buzzing along nicely. I took some time off after OUSA and did some traveling, lots of seeing family and friends. Today we went to the beach, which was nice even though the sun never came out and eventually is started raining. Still we got a good swim in the ocean. All back home now. Tomorrow it’s back to work for the first full week in a while. Still lots of other fun stuff coming up this summer.

In origamiland I’ve gotten back all the models from my various exhibits, and am preparing a new round of exhibits. These will both be sent out by mail. One is Centerfold in Ohio, at the end of July, It’s the biggest origami convention in the Midwest. I wish I could go this year, but the logistics are too much. The other is for a bookstore in Lake Placid. They contacted my asking if I could do an event there. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make the trip this summer, but I figure since they were nice enough to reach out to me, and several of the chapters of my book are Adirondack themed, it might be a fun idea to send them a box of models to display and promote the book.

The third thing is I’m now starting work on the ebook version of my book for Tuttle. This ought to be fairly straightforward. They’re doing the actual production. I’m providing guidance and approval on the layout and format as necessary, and re-rendering any art assets that need t be scaled. Lastly, updating all the photo galleries on my website to use lightbox for slideshows has been in the offing for a long time and is inching closer to reality.

But this blog post is about how things are going with my bands. I’m happy to say it’s all going great. My jazz band seems to have solidified around the time I became a regular member, with a new bass player and piano player too. Things are now getting really smoking, with an ever-expanding set of material, played at a higher level of musicianship. One night when I came in I warmed up on the intro to Liberty City. The bass player Ken jumped right in, and so I found out he’s a big Joco Pastorius head. Now we’re doing The Chicken with Joco’s Soul Intro, and I get to do all the wailin’ Michael Brecker tenor parts, which is tons of fun. Last week we had another really amazing cat sit on alto, and I feel like my playing rose up a to meet him.

In the rock’n’roll realm it looks like the new group is going to work out, and sound better than the old group. The two guys that came in are Jeff on guitar and Mike on Vocals. At this point we’ve rehearsed three times and have about thirty songs. We’ve pretty much combined the best of our set list with the best of theirs, and started adding new material. Among the new songs I’ve learned are: We’re an American Band, Them Changes, (Ain’t Nothin’ But a) House Party, I Got You (I Feel Good), Dancing Days, Godzilla, Love Me Two Times, Can’t You Hear me Knocking, Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Woman, Come Together, Miami 2017 and Dear Mr. Fantasy.

I’m singing lead on the Stones songs. Mike says he’s sick to death of singing these songs, but they’re a lot of fun for me. You don’t need a lot of range, you just belt it out. These are all saxophone songs too, so I need to manage switching between singing and playing the horn. We’ve also jammed a few others like The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Money and some other Pink Floyd, but these seem a bit sprawling for a bar set. The consensus is we need forty songs before we’re ready to gig out. And of course we need to get the ones we have tight, but that’ll come naturally.

The big thing now is we need to come up with a name for the band before we can start booking gigs. We’ve been brainstorming and tossing around ideas. So far the one to beat is The Strolling Jones.

Single-sheet Dual Cube with Color Change

I came up with a few new models for convention this year. First, since I’d loaned my Stellated Dodecahedron to Uyen for her exhibit, I folded a new one for my OUSA exhibit. This turned out to be harder than I expected and took over a month to finish. While was in the middle of it I got sidetracked and created a Dimpled Dodecahedron. Now I think I’m finally done with pentagon ideas.

One long-standing idea I’ve had was to do a single-sheet Dual Cube with a color change. This turned out the be fairly quick and easy because I was back to working in square geometry. I’d folded a single-color version of this shape previously. It’s two intersecting cubes, and the idea of the color change is to make each one of the cubes a different color. This means that the color changes need to alternate in a checker or zigzag pattern. The model begins with a 7×9 rectangle. It could be folded from a square, but then the first step is to fold under two edges. That’s how I did my test models, but this way I was able to use a larger sheet.

The sequence of drawings showing the development of the crease pattern. The last drawing shows the parts that are exposed in the final model as highlighted. From there join the two opposite ends of the paper to form a ring, then collapse the belt along the center. This results in a thick, zigzagged ridge on the inside. Finally you tuck in the tabs on ends in a pinwheel lock. I wetfolded my model by spraying a puff of water in from each end before I closed it up, then covering it with tape and string for 24 hours. When it was dry it held its shape quite nicely.

Origami Weekend

Just got back from another OUSA convention. This one was extra special because my book, Origami Animal Sculpture, made it’s debut for advanced sale at the Source and at Kinokuniya. It looks like the book is a hit among the OUSA crowd, and maybe even in the wider world. Friday I folded most of the day, and got my exhibit together. I finished my American Turkey with color change, folded from a sheet of Wyndstone laminated on side with red tissue. I started this model around the time I was doing the photography for my book but didn’t finish it in time, so it’s been sitting in a box. All that was really left to do was the final sculpting, which went just fine once I started it. I also finished the design for my Butterfly Mark II and folded a small flock of them.

Once I got to the convention and set up my exhibit I went straight to the Source to get a copy of my book. I’m pretty sure the advanced copies sold out over the weekend, based on the number of people who came up to me to ask me sign theirs. I think people really respond to the wildlife theme, and to the fact that the models have a lot of character and detail but are not too complex to fold. It was really fun and nice, all the support and positive vibe from my origami colleagues.

Saturday I did the book signing event at Kinokuniya. I actually got a pretty good sized crowd and informally taught models out of the book the whole time, held and audience, and even signed and sold a few books. These are intermediate level models for a general audience, so I’m glad they went over. Bob my photographer was there, and so was Jon my publisher and they met for the first time, and afterwards we went to lunch. It was a very interesting discussion covering various aspects of publishing and printing and the book biz. Jon stressed the importance for getting some social media buzz going to try and ignite online sales. We also talked about potential themes for a second book, and he mentioned the idea of simple models to appeal to a wide audience outside the origami community.

My Saturday class was my Foxy Fox, and it was very full. I’m told it was the first class to sell out Saturday. I sometimes teach from diagrams, but this time I just demo-folded and used the class as an opportunity to hawk my book. Everyone finished and thought it was a wonderful model. I skipped a few of the fussy details, but this got me thinking more about how to simplify my models.

Saturday night I got into a long conversation with the master John Montroll on the subject of folding simpler models. My premise is that it’d be worth exploring but the models would still have to be interesting and have something to say, not just the some old traditional and/or crappy folds you’d find in say a desk calendar. And that would actually be a really good challenge. Always one step ahead, John said he’d working on a book of simple models and pulled out a stack of diagrams. The average model was maybe 8 or 10 steps and the longest was maybe 16. Very nice models too, the Bald Eagle in particular. Wow!

Sunday I taught my Adirondack Moose, again by live demo to promote the book. Again the class was pretty full, and this time it had critical mass of short-attention-span kids, who I had to tell several times to quit interrupting and just wait for the next step. This model was closer to complex than intermediate, but again they all finished and a few stayed after to work on the finer points of the sculpting.

Monday I went downtown and saw Uyen’s Surface to Structure exhibit at Cooper Union. I was really blown away at the whole thing. First of all, the space and presentation were just fantastic. It was a well lit gallery space, very open, very white, and the models were all displayed on simple stands, very minimalist. And second, the collection of models was the finest you’ll see anywhere, and quite a broad range at that. I feel honored to be included in an exhibition with classic Yoshizawa and all that other stuff. My stuff was well presented along with everything else, but when I got there I thought one of the models was a little off, so I waited until the guard started playing with his phone and the nudged it a little to one side. Far and away the best origami exhibition I’ve seen, and think Uyen definitely did the world a service by really raising origami to the level of fine art in the public eye. She also gave me a copy of the program, which was very nice too. Just as beautiful as the exhibition.

Monday afternoon I had some free time and started coming up with some simple models. It seems like a good direction to explore right now. At the very least I can come up with lots of models quickly, which is refreshing after spending weeks or even months on a single idea with the single-sheet polyhedra and tessellations. I did a version of my Butterfly II without legs that was about ten steps. Then I did a variation and it became a hawk. Now the trouble became every time I finish a design, I think maybe I’ve seen it somewhere before. So I took advantage of the opportunity to ask around. These two at least seemed to be truly new and original.

All in all another great convention. I always come away with my creative energy charged up with a bunch of new ideas. It’ll be interesting to see what develops in the coming year.

Kinokuniya Exhibit

It’s on! Today I went over to Kinokuniya to set up my exhibit there. While I was there I saw a physical copy of my book for the first time. Very exciting! They gave me a good amount of display space, including half the front window and a set of shelves up the escalator. The models are all from my book, and many of them are the ones I folded to do the photos for the book. This is a great opportunity display them as a set. Even before I left I heard people comment favorably on them. Hopefully the exhibit will be seen by lots of people and help promote the book. The people there are all really nice and I want to give them a big thank-you, especially John Fuller. It’ll be on display thru July 9 or so.

This works out really nicely because I have lots of new stuff I want to display for OUSA and I only have one table. I finished my Two Intersecting Cubes with a Color Change from a single sheet using some fancy, soft paper I got a few years ago. It’s white on one side and patterned on the other. It’s a 17.5” x 22.5” rectangle, which is a bit of break with tradition for me, but I figured eventually I’d come up with a model where an arbitrary rectangle is justified. (I could have used a square but then the first step is just to fold two edges underneath.) Finishing the lock was a real challenge. I wetfolded the final model, and you never really know how that’s going to turn out until you take off the tape and string and paperclips. This one came out really nice and will debut this weekend.

I have some time off from work starting tomorrow and still a few days before the convention. Trying to decide what subject to tackle next. My next geometric idea is Two Intersecting Tetrahedra with a Color Change from a single sheet (a.k.a Stellated Octahedron). I’ve tried this one several times without success, but now I have an idea for a new approach. The other ideas I have are for insects, including a Ladybug and Butterfly Mark II. I’m also trying to think of some good animals. Maybe some more dogs and cats and pets, since people responded to Timber and Sophie so well.

Origami Animal Sculpture at Kinokuniya and OUSA

It’s on! Advanced copies of my book Origami Animal Sculpture will be on sale at the OUSA convention at the end of June in NYC and at Kinokuniya bookstore in Manhattan. Trying to get some buzz going. At the convention I’ll be teaching models from the book: the Moose, the Fox, maybe some others, and at Kinokuniya I’ll be doing a book signing event on Saturday June 28 at noon. This is during the convention but not at a time when there are classes or other activities, so I hope I get a good turnout. The good people at Kino are also making available some exhibit space. So watch this blog for further announcements.

Convention Countdown

The origami convention is right around the corner. I finally finished my Stellated Dodecahedron Mark II. I sort of improvised the collapse step before the close, which turned out to be the hardest part, tucking in all those layers. I wetfolded it and bound the whole thing up with tape and string. Next day I unwrapped it and it looks great. It’s on my piano now, filling in for the one in Uyen’s exhibition.

I immediately started in on a new model, Two Intersecting Cubes with a color change, continuing the ludicrously complex single-sheet polyhedra theme. At least this one is from a square. I’d had this one in the back of my mind for a long time. I made a single-color version a few years back, but the color change adds a whole nuther level of complexity. I sat down an made sketch of a CP and started folding. To my delight about an hour later I had a finished model. Well nearly finished at least. My first attempt was rather small, so a made another out of larger paper to work out how to lock and finish the model. This second study was from foil, however, which is a bit soft, so it got a bit crumpled. So now it’s time to find a good sheet to make the final model. Hopefully still have time to bang out a few more new models.

My publisher told me that advanced copies of my book will be available for sale at the convention and at Kinokuniya bookstore. Most of the copies are on a container ship somewhere, but one crate is being airlifted to the States. Kino is trying to set up a book signing event and exhibit, which would be awesome. If it happens I’ll be in three origami exhibits in NYC at the same time! More on these developments as they unfold, but look for the big announcement about my book soon!!!

Let’s Pick Up the Pieces

Today is the first really hot day of the year, and hot night too. Sitting around with the windows open and the fans on trying cool down.

Work has been going well. Only one more homework left in the Scala class and then it’s onto learning web frameworks. We’ve had two perfect sprints in a row, beating the previous record we set last month of one perfect sprint ever. Today my team’s boss called a meeting to discuss what’s going right. I told her “We’re awesome.” I also told her good code begets better code. I’ve been working quietly to improve our code quality for some time now, and I think it finally got to a tipping point where we’re spending less time on bugs and technical debt and more on getting it right the first time.

I tracked the bass part to Your Dancing Shoes. It took a few attempts because there’s very few places to punch in, so I had to get it essentially in one take. Had to practice it to the point where it was tight and grooves well.

My new rock group seems like it might be a thing. It’s made up of two guys from the Relix, two guys from another band, and the drummer who had been in both. The new guys are Michael on vocals and Jeff on guitar. Both sound really good. We got together last week and jammed a solid two hours of music, twenty songs or so. So there’s one set already. We’re picking a bunch more songs for this week. So I’m learning a bunch more new songs again, which is always fun. Now the challenge becomes getting them to learn a few songs I want to sing, because my songs tend to be a bit harder and not everyone is as fast at learning songs as me.

Meanwhile in jazzland, I got my tenor sax fixed, and it plays great, especially on the low notes. Last week we had a really excellent jam with the group. This dude Charlie sat in on guitar, and he was really good, reminded me of Keith Martini. Everyone’s playing seemed up a level from usual that night and we had some great moments. Left with a really good feeling. Charlie invited me to sit in with his group, which rehearses on Monday and has a few of the same players as my Wednesday group. I met this really smokin’ alto player Omar, who really had the Charlie Parker bag down. Very melodic with that bebop slink, reminded me of Ron Palidino. Best sax player I’ve heard in a while.

Random Reflections

Let’s see … lots of bits and pieces these days.

I spent the weekend hanging out with Seth and Mark at Seth’s cabin in the Berkshires. Good to get away from the wife and kids for a spell and eat lots of barbecue. We went on a nice hike to a waterfall. You should know that Mark is an amazing musician and leads the band Cracklin’ Foxy out of Saranac Lake, NY. I learned the only music Mark hates more than Happy is anything from the soundtrack to Frozen. Also Mark has grown a mountain man beard. I think it was 20 years ago this weekend Seth invited my out on his dad’s sailboat and we cruised up an down the Hudson.

I’m over the hump on my Scala class. It’s actually making sense now. I submitted the homework on Huffman encoding and got a perfect score. I’ll admit I googled the problem, but hey, that’s what you do in real life when faced with a programming challenge. Rather than just copy what I found, I took several different solutions and read them and compared them until I understood what they were saying, and then created my own solution that best expressed it to my sensibilities. This week I finished the last lecture, and there’s two more homeworks to go, but the last one is another double, pushing up against OUSA.

Jeannie is back at work, starting a new job after switching jobs followed by a spectacular flameout a couple months ago. Woo-hoo. Meanwhile the kids are counting the days until the end of school.

I’ve been rockin’ my own work of lately. Ever since Olga got sacked it’s been so much easier to concentrate. Today at work I wrote over 200 lines of code! Also I came across a situation (marshalling data parsed out of an xml response) where the Scala approach is better than the way I’ve been doing it in Java all these years. Would have been far less code.

My train reading these days has been the Conan the Barbarian series by Robert Howard. It turns out these were originally published in Weird Stories magazine in the 1930’s alongside the first C’htuulhu stories, and Howard and H. P. Lovecraft were friends similar to Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Conan is perfect train reading. I had to give up Game of Thrones because it got to be so rambling and pointless. The Conan stories OTOH are nice and short, with tight plots, heavy on action and with a supernatural twist. I can usually read a whole novella between my morning and evening commute.

The Relix are officially defunct. Our drummer Gus finally quit last week, frustrated with auditioning new singers. He’s now trying to start a new group with Mike and me from the Relix and some guys from his other band, which also crashed and burned. We’re getting together later this week. I learned Space Truckin’ tonight in honor of the occasion.

Meanwhile I’ve written and begun recording two new tunes. One is called Your Dancing Shoes, and it’s a catchy blue-eyed-soul number with a big horn break in the mode of Domino or Sir Duke. I’ve asked Lee, the erstwhile Relix guitarist – the jazzy one – to lay down a guitar track for me, and he enthusiastically agreed. Now I just have to get the bass part clean enough that I’m satisfied with a take. I’m going for no punch-ins on this one because the there’s not very many gaps in the part, and it’ll just groove better.

The other song is called To Be a Rock, and I plan on asking Frank, the other – straight ahead rock – Relix guitarist to sit on that one, cuz it matches his style. In fact I wrote these two songs with these guys in mind. I hope he agrees because even though I could probably play the part myself, I want to capture his sound, which I have no idea of how to reproduce. This song still needs some development; I feel like it’s missing a part toward the end.

Since I’ve become a regular member of my Jazz combo I feel like I should learn the tunes. I have an older version of the Real Book (1980’s) than everyone else, and it’s just chock full of errors. I also want to get my chops of for slaloming changes of the bebop and bossa nova numbers. I finally had a chance to practice sax this week. I’d been noticing for some time that it’s been getting harder to pop out those low notes. I went over the horn with a leak light but the low notes are all tight. They ought to be; I just had the horn repadded two years ago. I finally discovered the problem is the octave key. So tomorrow I’m gonna call up Virgil Scott and see when I can get the horn in. For now I’ve fixed it with electrical tape. I noticed it’s the third spot on my horn fixed in such a way.

Live update – four firetrucks pulled up to my neighbor’s house a little while ago. They loitered four about an hour and just took off.

The last topic for tonight is origami. I finished my Dimpled Dodecahedron, wetfolded it and all, and it came out very nicely. Only one step away from the Stellated Dodec, v2. The closing is working out different than the previous model since I can’t remember how I did it before. I still have two weeks before the convention and hopefully I’ll be able to finishe a few more ideas. The big problem now is that my folding style has grown so complex it’s very difficult to fold these models even for me.