Summer Fun Part Duex

Since I’ve been feeling better the last few weeks I’ve been trying to enjoy what’s left of the summer. Last weekend I took Michelle to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island. This was the first airplane museum we’ve visited since our trip to Ohio. It’s a pretty cool place, featureing mainly locally built planes from the World War I era and the space race. Not as big as the Smithsonian or Wright-Patterson, but first rate. We met Mary and the cousins there and it was a good time. Michelle still really into seeing and learning about airplanes (and still wants to grow up to design airplanes and spaceships, or videogames).

By coincidence there was a videogame convention going there that day too. At first this seemed a little nerdy even for me, but it turned out to be a really fun bonus. There was a ton of classic videogames, vendors, even coplay babes. Michelle was to see an original Atari condole and play the classic E.T. game. They had an amazing band, called Con-Soul, with a six piece horn section (two trumpets, two trombones, alto and bari sax), a syth mallet player, drums and fender bass. They played all video game music, with the format of doing a horn arrangement of the main themes and going into a funk/jazz jam. Very cool.

Then one night last week Mary’s came up and went with Jeannie and the girls to Rye Playland. I joined them after work mainly for a walk around the park.

I’ve been working really hard the last month or so to meet a deadline at work. Going back to work in the evenings and weekends, and all the while tryng to focus on my health. It’s not easy keeping a huge amount of code in your mind and tends to take over your imagination a little bit. Kinda stressful but I try to be zen about it. Two days ago I finished and made probably the largest single commit since I’ve been writing software, at least 60 files in four different languages, into both the trunk and the release branch. So that’s a huge load off my mind and I can relax a little.

Last night I went to sit in with my friend Charlie’s band. It’s a happy hour gig at a little cafe right on the waterfront in downtown Yonkers where there’s a little park and everything. Great spot to watch the sun go down over river and sip your drink and listen to some jazz. We did some standards like Impressions, Footprints, There Will Never Be Another You, and All of Me. Felt great just to let go and be in the moment.

What a Long Strange Trip

I was upstate last week on a visit to Buffalo with a dual purpose. One was to visit my parents and the other to drop of Lizzy for her college orientation. She’s going to UB, entering the business school. Jeannie and myself are UB alumni, along with lots of friends we haven’t seen in a while. It’s getting to the point where thirty years doesn’t seem like a long time ago. I’ve been re-connecting with quite a few people this year, mainly over facebook but in person this spring with my former college roommate Rich, and now on this trip with Danny, who just happened to be in town visiting his parents the same weekend as me.

Danny is literally my oldest friend. He grew up four houses down from the house I lived in until I was ten years old. He’s also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. We were entering freshmen in the UB honors program together. Danny is responsible for Jeannie and I meeting. His roommate Todd went to Jeannie’s high school, and they had a party one night and Jeannie showed up and we got to talking. After college Danny moved to D.C. while I moved to New York and then California. So there was alot of catching up to do. Danny has has a very interesting career working for the State Department in the foreign service. He’s been all over the world: Egypt, Russia, Brazil, and most recently Afghanistan. I was pretty itinerant for a number of years, but I can’t imagine the level of commitment one must have for this lifestyle. Even now he’s loving learning languages and cultures, passionate about the mission, grateful to be able to do some good in the world. It’s good to know he’s doing well.

We also saw the movie Dunkirk when we were up there. It was very visual, not like a typical Chris Nolan movie. Almost like a tone poem of a war picture. It was also basically a single extended action sequence, like the opening of Saving Private Ryan drawn out to fill the whole movie.

There was a classic car show in my parents’ neighborhood. Over 400 cars they said. Lots of American muscle, Mustangs, GTOs, Cameroes from the 60’s and 70’s. Lots of rebuilt hot rods, and all kinds of more exotic stuff going back to the 30’s. There was a whole parking lot full of Corvettes. Apparently they have this show every year and it was begun by a guy at a local garage who specializes in fixing up classic cars. I wish I’ve know cuz I could’ve gotten his card and talked to him about restoring the Mustang.

Lastly we went to a party at Larry and Jackie’s for their son Joey’s high school graduation. He’ll be entering UB in the fall as well, living in the same dorm as Lizzy. Big wheel keeps on spinning around.

Now back to crazy busy situation at work.

The Unfinished Work of Alan Lomax’s Global Jukebox

The paper of record, the New York Times, wrote another, pretty in-depth article, about my project The Global Jukebox:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/arts/music/alan-lomax-global-jukebox-digital-archive.html

We just pushed a big upgrade to correspond with this article, and as it points out, the jukebox is a work in progress. It started off as a short-term contract gig for me, but I’ve been involved for over a year now. We have another major upgrade slated for the fall, and beyond that, if we can get funding, the scope is open-ended.

Some Summer Fun

I had to cancel my trip to Europe at the last minute because of an injury and I’ve mostly been sitting around the house getting better. Apparently the Origami Creators Conference was a good time. The next interesting international origami conference for me is the BOS and 7OSME in Oxford in 2018, so Imma try to go to that, and maybe take Michelle with me.

Still I’ve been having a bit of fun and trying to make the most of summer so far. Of course I’ve been really busy with work too. Right at the end of June we went to see Sheryl Crow at the Beacon Theatre. Excellent show, great venue with it’s classic maximal art deco. Great sounding band, including several guitar players, and a pedal steel guitar, Rhodes and organ. Surprisingly Sheryl played bass on a lot of songs.

Last weekend we saw McCoy Tyner at Caramoor Art Center. That was really good too, but a very different kind of show. I can’t believe I’ve live in Westchester for years and never seen a show a Carmoor. It’s like a mini SPAC, full of gardens and an amphitheater under an awning. There were three piano players, the last of which as McCoy, all playing an eight foot Steinway, accompanied by a fantastic rhythm section. I’m amazed at how three different players can get such different sounds from the same piano, down to the sound of a single note.

We Got Oliphaunts

Last weekend was the 2107 Origami USA convention in New York City. It’s a bit more low-key now that it’s out in Queens, but still a great time, and St. John’s campus is a great venue.

I had been thinking that I didn’t have much new to put into my exhibit, but I ended up with a good amount of great stuff. For the last month or so I had been meaning to get around to developing some new model ideas but I’ve been busy with work and graduations and stuff. Nevertheless, I recently finished the draft of my Airplanes and Spaceships book, and had five new models from that plus a few others that I’d never really folded a nice version before. So I made a collection out of 8” squares of so-called shiny paper. I folded another batch out of 6” shiny lotka paper for the model menu. Both very nice and very effective.

Both my classes went over really well. One class was the new Airplanes and Spaceships. I had diagrams and the class folded the models well, and along the way proofread them and found a few corrections.

The other class was my War Elephant a.k.a. Oliphaunt. This is an older model but I always thought it was cool. I only ever folded one satisfactorily and alot of the details were improvised. At the time it pushed the limit of my abilities. So the goal was to get it to the point where I could reliably reproduce it, teach it and eventually diagram it. In the last few weeks I folded quite a few studies and began honing in on the trouble spots. With a complex model like that you may have to fold for an hour or more before you get to the point where you can try out a solution to a design problem. Unlike with a computer there’s no save and revert, so if it doesn’t work you crumple up the paper and start again. This process can take some time.

By the start of the convention I was getting close. I’d completed several studies, although the best one, which I used for the model menu, was a bit sad looking and I didn’t have one worthy of putting into my exhibit. I’d created a CP and pretty much worked out most of the issues except for a critical series of steps steps to separate the head from the shoulders. With animals this is very important to the whole pose and attitude of the model; it can make or break it. For this model there’s alot of layers at that point, and crumpling it down was the easy way out.

We had to take off early on Saturday to go to a wedding on Long Island, so by Saturday night I’d run out of time to work on it any further. When I went to bed I meditated on it, which led to a lucid dream. When I woke I (felt like I) knew what to do.

When I teach supercomplex models soemtimes there’s only maybe two or five people in the class. This class was very full, to the point where I ran out of handouts and people had to share. And everyone in the room was actually and advanced folder too. When I got to the critical step I had all the proportions worked out and all the precreasing done, but had never really attempted the collapse before. So I told the class to do the collapse however they thought was best. Then I looked around at everyone’s result. I immediately saw that three people folded the correct solution. Everyone finished the class with a good looking model.

Since my Airplanes and Spaceships books in now with the publisher I’m in waiting mode. There will be some revisions, and the photography is still ahead, but it’ll probably be a year before it hits the shelves. I’m free to invest some creative energy in some other project. Since the response to the War Elephant was so strong I decided do an ebook with Brian of a half dozen or so complex to supercomplex models with a fantasy/mythology theme, including my War Elephant and Medieval Dragon.

I’m off to France and Switzerland in a few days for the Origami Creators Conference. That should be a good time and give me alot of opportunity to develop new ideas.

Sing!

The first day of summer is here! We had a big graduation party for the girls last weekend. Martin came down from Albany, and lots of Jeannie’s cousins from Long Island. Good time. Things are a lot more more mellow around the house now that the kids don’t have to get up for school. Plus I’ve cut back on working out while I bounce back from an injury. Still, lots of stuff coming up including Origami this weekend and a trip to Europe next month.

The quartet format for the rock band seems to be solidifying, and I must say my singing is sounding better and better. Most of the new songs are far enough along that we basically know them, so I can focus on phrasing and performing. And we can get started adding a few more. It’s a pretty big switch to go from singing two or three songs a set to singing most of the time. You’ve got to make your voice last. Which means singing loader and stronger but more relaxed. Which makes you sound better too.

Also I’ve been finding it easier to stay on pitch. The big breakthrough came last fall when I got my new piano. I typically practice with the lid open and I’ve found that when I’m on really right pitch my voice resonates with the open strings, and sounds louder and fuller. This lead to increased microtonal awareness and a cycle of getting the know how the sound of being on pitch feels in my throat, a sort of self-reinforcing feedback thing. Now I find it easier and more natural to get there.

I guess it also helps we’ve been picking songs that are in my vocal range. Next step so to convince the band to do some of my originals. Of course now that it’s the summer all the rehearsal schedules become more erratic as lots of people have vacations and other commitments. Ah well.

Graduation Time

It’s graduation season and this is a big year for us. Two weeks ago it was Lizzy graduating from high school, and then last weekend Michelle graduated from eighth grade. Lots of ceremonies and parties, and a time of big transitions and moving on. Of course I’ve very proud and happy to see them growing up and doing well. It was a bit poignant for me to say goodbye to ICS, since we’d been there for six years, with both girls going thru and we met and became friends with a lot of other parents. I’ll definitely miss doing the musicals. I was involved with five of them, three with the kids and two with the parents and friends, as well as a couple talent shows. Well they said they’d love to have me back in the orchestra next time the do one, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile both girls are off to new adventures in the fall. So it a time well worth celebrating. One more party coming up this weekend!

Space Race

Over the weekend I completed a major milestone on my forthcoming origami book, Origami from Sky and Space, namely a complete draft. The diagrams and layouts are done and I’ve approved the graphics for the paper to be included in the kit.

There was one late-breaking substitution. I created a new Jumbo Jet to replace my Jet Airliner. The model looks similar but is much larger for the same size paper, and uses the sheet better, is thinner, has fewer steps, and is better proportioned. I went from design to full diagrams and layouts in one day.

It’s a strong collection, fourteen models of low intermediate to intermediate range, ranging from 14 to 30 steps, all foldable from an 8 inch square. This being my second complete book, designed for a wider audience than Origami Animal Sculpture, my style has become a bit more streamlined. In fact although I had a bunch of models that fit the theme and were the inspiration for the book, most of the models were designed specifically for the kit book format.

None of the original models made it in, and I have lots of others that are too complex for the requirement of this book. These include some great designs such as my original Rocketship and U.F.O, as well my Zeppelin and Biplane. Some of these are 60 or 100 steps, and they’re already diagrammed. So there’s a whole nuther potential book out there or Airplanes and Spaceships on the level of Origami Animal Sculpture.

Next step is the photography. I’ll be shooting models from the kit paper and unpatterned paper as well. For while the graphics are nice and eye-catching, the models can be folded equally well from just about any paper, and in a way the plain paper shows off the pure form better.

Fulsome Foursome

After MJ left as lead singer of LEFT HOOK, we decided to audition a replacement. We’re setting our sights fairly high since Gary and I can already sing, and we want someone who will come in and lift up the group, someone who’s as good on vocals as we are as instrumentalists, i.e. a real musician. Unfortunately it’s hard to find someone like that when you don’t have any gigs lined up.

We got a good handful of responses, and five actual candidates. I called each of them up to pre-screen them. It’s interesting since everyone can now point you to a performance they have on the internet. They were mostly were pretty good, but in the end we decided none of them really brought anything we don’t already have, or else they don’t fit in with the sound we’re going for. One in particular was in a band that just kinda sucked, to the point where the vocals didn’t really matter. Yet somehow they’re getting gigs!

After that exercise we decided to carrying on as a quartet, with Gary and I splitting the lead vocals as well as the harmonies. And so we join the ranks of bands without a frontman and with multiple lead vocalists. This list includes the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Supertramp, The Cars, They Might Be Giants, Fishbone, the Cheshire Cat, Run DMC and countless others.

We’ve added five songs in the last few weeks, and we’re finding it’s not hard to find songs that are doable and in our zone. Recent additions that I’m sining include You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson and I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News, both really fun, uptempo numbers with a great sax part.

There are some songs from our old set we can’t do, but we probably have about twenty song right now. Not enough for three sets but maybe two. So the focus is on adding more material and getting the whole set tight. And it’s time to start looking for gigs once more. As the first step I’ve updated out poster. Soon we’ll be making a new demo. Rock on!

On with the Show

Getting towards the end of May already. How time flies! Alot has happened in the last few weeks. Rewinding a bit, Michelle had her Confirmation. My parents came into to town for a visit (and my Mum brought cabbage rolls!). Jeannie’s folks and Mary’s came up for the day. We went out for lunch at a local restaurant and came back here for a party.

Toward the evening my dad got in a storytelling mood. We were watching some horse racing on TV. It began with a story I’d never heard before of him driving a wagon as teenager, and his horses being scared by an exploding shell. It went onto all kinds of memories of growing up in Hungary, the war, the time they spent in Germany, coming to Canada and going to college and the early years of his career. Even though I know the general contours it’s always good to hear because there’s always new details, nuances and connections.

The following weekend it rained. We had lots of stuff planned but instead we stayed indoors and realized how tired we all were.

Lizzy had her spring choir concert last weekend, in the local Episcopalian church with the monster pipe organ and fantastic stone reverb, no mics or electronics. The concert was in the evening, choir and organ, not all liturgical music. Quite a bit of Mozart in fact, plus a few originals by Philip Stopford, the choir director. Lizzy had a solo, really beautiful, and the other highlight for me was the organist did a really modern, modal piece by some French guy from the 1930’s. I wish I could remember his name; it sounded like something Keith Emerson might’ve done.

Now Lizzy is done with classes, writes her last final exam tomorrow, starts her summer job this weekend, and is all gaga over her upcoming prom and graduation. You’ll be happy to know she has a tall guy as her date.

Meanwhile Michelle is closing in the end of her school year too, and the end of middle school. We had a birthday party for last weekend. She and a group of friends went to opening day of Rye Playland. This was a couple weeks late cuz of her Confirmation and then the rain. She got a new Nintendo system.

Last night was her spring band concert. We’ve known Mr. A, the director since Lizzy was in 3rd grade. He’s a really great and the kids all love him, and also happens to be a really excellent jazz drummer. This was Michelle’s last concert, so now that he’s no longer my kid’s teacher I asked him if he’s interested in playing in my jazz quintet.

In between was lot of yard work now that spring is here, a busy release cycle work at my day job – our first major Cloud functionality, getting going on the next round of work on the Global Jukebox, finishing the last of the diagrams and approving the graphics for my new origami book, and lots of action with the rock band and jazz combo. More on that soon as time permits. Looking forward to the long weekend, and then there’s lots more activities in the time ahead.