My instruments

All of my life I have been obsessed with making music. I can't begin to add up all of the hours I have spent composing (with no formal music theory, just trying to get my ideas into soundwaves), sitting on the floor surrounded by cassette players, patch cords, and instruments. I've owned and played quite a few things, and each one has brought me down a different creative path.

Fernandez Nomad Deluxe Guitar

After seeing this technological wonder in Japan, I asked my parents for a Nomad Deluxe for Christmas. The Nomad is a travel size electric guitar (full size neck, tiny body) with a complete digital effects processor built in - now I can play with lots of wild sounds and feel the power of distortion! I am having a lot of fun exploring the different possibilities, and I know it will come in handy if I start recording compositions again.

O-Kay Acoustic Guitar

Cheri bought me this pawn shop guitar for one of our anniversaries, and I promptly did nothing with it. However, after the divorce I went crazy writing and playing, so I started intensive lessons using this guitar. I have never heard of the brand, but this guitar is actually pretty nice - the neck has stayed straight and the body is quite resonant. I will always love this guitar - it has been my companion through so much, and no matter how much I have beat it up, it will always be perfect to me.

Yamaha Power Special Drums

My friend Karen tipped me off on a nice set of drums that had been repossessed from some poor schmuck, and I bid on these at a finance company. I got the whole set for $500, which was a steal. There are certainly better kits around, but the ol' Power Special has served me well, being the drums I played at hundreds of Day Jobs gigs. I really would like to get a new kit soon, but these babies are still working hard with the Greatest American Heroes.

Cosmic Percussion Congas

After my divorce, I decided I needed to buy something fun and be creative. Since I didn't want to spring for a drum kit, I decided to buy some congas and try out Latin percussion. I took six weeks of lessons to get some basic patterns down, and then started developing my own stuff. I played these with Empty Pockets and Loose Brix - sometimes even cutting my hands and bleeding on the skins during a performance (I thought that was cool). I used to do some interesting things, like play the congas with wire brushes, or play one conga and claves simultaneously, and I had a blast.

Kyle's Synthesizer

My good friend Kyle Dean bought a cool synthesizer when we started FineLine (thankfully it wasn't stolen!), and he would let me borrow it for weeks at a time. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I could layer things using the sequencer without using my tape hiss method! I composed so many songs that I could hear in my head but not actually play, thanks to the good 'ol sequencer. The synth had really cheesy sounds, but I loved it.

Various Electronic Toys

Since I have always been obsessed with making music, I had lots of "toy" instruments that I played all the time, including Casio keyboards (I even had one of the first with a built-in sampler) and Mattel Synsonics Drums. I would spend hours making tapes by recording a composition all the way through on one keyboard, then recording another keyboard along with the previous tape, and then add the drums, and so on, until finally I had a nice song buried in seven layers of tape hiss. It was a ton of fun, though!

Sears Drums

It all began with a set of white drums that I received for Christmas, direct from the Sears catalog. It was a pretty decent set actually - nice shells and okay hardware. The cymbals were just passable - Cheri got me a nice Zildjan cymbal for Christmas the next year and I realized what I had been missing! I took private lessons and played with FineLine on this set, until the fateful day they were stolen from the church where we practiced! The church was so cheap that they didn't have insurance, so that was the end of that. Later I bought a terrible used set, but I was so unenthused about them that I never played them.


Poor Charlie Parker
This year I'll outlive the best
Thirty-four years old


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon : 5 of 5

I had been dying to see this movie from the moment I first saw the trailer. It was well worth the wait - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (the title is never explicitly explained in the film) is by far the most beautiful Chinese movie I've seen, combining martial arts action with fantasy and romance. The plot is simple, but the choreography is breathtaking - the characters perform an ancient martial art that invokes the power to fly, and this opens up the door to rooftop battles, skipping across water, and even fighting in the tops of delicate bamboo trees. The women are absolutely beautiful, which makes the fighting action even more enjoyable. There are also opportunities for tears, as well. This is easily the best fantasy film ever made, even pulling off the genre better than Star Wars (due to the characterization that hopefully Lucas will pay attention to in Episode II!).

Snatch : 4 of 5

I have read so many reviews of this film that say it's a pale imitation of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (the director's first film), so I guess I enjoyed Snatch more since I didn't see Lock, Stock. I thought the plot was pretty funny, very twisted (so you have to pay attention), and the bizarre cultural aspects were interesting, too. My favorite thing was the camera work, though, with the award going to representing an international flight by quick cuts of a guy drinking a shot in an airplane seat and having his passport stamped - so fast that it makes you laugh. The only thing I didn't like was the complete lack of ladies in the plot! If the girls get Brad Pitt, what do we get?


Shopgirl / Steve Martin : 4 of 5

I knew that Steve Martin was a talented author from his work in The New Yorker (not from Cruel Shoes, mind you, though I've always loved How to Fold Soup), but Shopgirl really shows his prowess. Steve can really create characters and lets them explain themselves to the reader through their actions. Everyone in this book has huge problems, but you end up loving them all anyway. The only question that remains is if women really do trim their pubes when they're depressed. OK, that was uncalled for - this is a beautiful book that will make you fall in love with anyone who's lonely.


Jedi Apprentice 10: The Shattered Peace / Jude Watson : 4 of 5

My beloved series continues with a very subtle episode - no huge battles here, just good character interaction between two races of a species who just can't handle being different from each other (where would plot lines come from if HG Wells hadn't written The Time Machine?). Lots of good Jedi patience here, with some nice references to past stories and the emotional baggage that goes along with them - the character of young Obi Wan is actually growing, which is so nice to see from book to book. A little more action or mysticism would have been nice, but in general, this is a worthy addition to the series.


Dubstar / Goodbye : 4 of 5

Just a whim purchase based on hearing this band on LAUNCHcast, and after many, many listenings, I can say Dubstar is a solid band. I know almost nothing about them, but their music is wonderful - kind of post trip-hop, if there is such a thing. Beautiful vocals on top of nice synth and guitar phrasings, most of the time very lush. Like many CDs of this kind, it ends with a couple of remixes of the opening track, which actually are pretty bad, but the rest of the CD is excellent rainy day music.


Being John Malcovich : 4 of 5

After nearly all of my friends recommended this movie to me, I somehow let it get away from me at the theater. Now that I've seen the DVD I know what my friends were raving about - this is a fantastically bizarre film! I'm sure you've heard enough of the plot by now, but on top of that wild story, there are so many other cool aspects: the beautiful marionettes, the imaginary speech impediment receptionist, that fact that Cameron Diaz looks so dumpy you won't recognize her, and the excellent music. Everything about this film is put together so well - it never deviates from itself, just the norm.


The Beach Boys: Endless Harmony : 3 of 5

Everything I read about this DVD touted it as one of the best biographies ever, but actually I found it a bit disappointing. I had seen most of the footage before, and there really wasn't anything new here that was revealed in the cool-but-silly Beach Boys: An American Family miniseries. The priceless scenes are of Brian Wilson sitting at a mixing console listening to old recordings of the group - he starts bringing things in and out whenever he wants. Sometimes he'll isolate an instrument, sometimes just the voices, sometimes just one voice, and after he adjusts the sliders he looks at the camera with a kind of inner joy that says, "Can you believe I put that in there?" Very fun to watch those segments, but not much cool between.


Battlestar Galactica : 4 of 5

I was so in love with this show as a kid that I talked my Dad into filming the TV screen with Super-8 film while it was on (before VCRs!). This DVD is really just the first 2 or 3 episodes tacked together and released in the theater as a movie (with Sensurround!), so there's nothing new here. Unfortunately, since Galactica was shot for TV, the DVD doesn't add any clarity or sound effects. Still, the show is fraking incredible! Spend a few centons watching it.


Battlefield Earth : 1 of 5

I know, I know - I can hear you groaning now. I only watched this because I thought it might be a fun DVD, and possibly one of those "so bad it's good" flicks. Well, let me tell you, no matter what supposed science fiction critics say, this is a lousy story. The acting is downright terrible, and I had big trouble staying awake through a very slow middle section. I have to give it a little credit though - the final 30 minutes are pretty exciting and have some great effects and visuals. I really didn't see too much Scientology in the thing, but you know John Travolta had to be thinking this would be a tool to get folks thinking.


Oleanna : 3 of 5

I can't say that I've seen too many David Mamet plays, but I can say that this is my favorite. This is my third stage production to see, and I have to say it was my least favorite, though very well done in its own right. Oleanna is a very difficult play, deals with emotional subject matter, and provides a workout for its two actors. The professor was very good in this production, but the student's delivery just wasn't natural at all. I saw this production at the Hideout, already an intimate theater, but for some reason only myself and three others were there for this performance!

Bananas : 2 of 5

Since I do consider myself a Woody Allen fan, I decided to bite the bullet and rent his first two goofy films, Bananas and Sleeper. I was pretty underwhelmed with Sleeper, and let me tell you, Bananas is worse. This is full of slapstick like airplane, but bad slapstick. In all fairness, there are a few funny moments that got me laughing, but by the time it was over, I had had enough. I do have to mention the only reason to watch this movie - the New Testament Cigarettes ad, where a priest admonishes a parishioner for smoking the wrong brand. "Those are for sinners!"

New Year's Eve 2001 with Chris & Eliza

Watch our close little group welcome the new year with food and fireworks (don't call the cops).

View photos: Happy New Year 2001

Gotham Girls

Everyone knows that 90% of the appeal of Batman (especially the animated series) can be attributed to the gorgeous babes, both heroes and villains. Of course, the big four are Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and now they have their own site (part of the usual Warner Bros. set of animation sites). Here you can find little Flash movies and info about the girls, and some seriously cool desktop wallpapers to drool over. (I wonder if the attraction to animated women has been codified by the psychiatric community?)

Visit site: Gotham Girls

Z Tejas Grill (Arboretum) : 3 of 5

I've eaten dinner at the Z Tejas 6th Street location a few times and enjoyed it, and now I've had a couple of lunches at the Arboretum location. This Z Tejas certainly has a Northside spin to it - it seems much more upscale than the South location, probably to cater to all of us jet-rich techies up here. Both times I had the Pepper Turkey Sandwich, which is too huge to finish, and has an excellent spicy taste. They serve cornbread before the meal, which is a nice bonus. The atmosphere is pretty cool with lots of views of the trees on the few undeveloped hills, though the wait was a little long for a usual lunch. The food was good enough for me to go back for more lunches, but I can think of lots of better places for dinner.

Mario Tennis / Nintendo 64 : 3 of 5

This one is Barron's, too, but I had a great time playing it with him and Chris. At first I was worried about how to position my racket correctly, but it turns out it's a lot easier to play after some sake. Seriously, this is a cool game, and it's nice how the computer can step in to play doubles so three people can play easily. I think the Ring Shot version of the game is the most fun, and makes for a long game without that confusing tennis scoring. This is also the first game to feature Waluigi, so it must be a collector's item!