Wednesday, March 04, 2009

5 pictures project

Every so often, I enjoy walking around with my camera to take a few photos of my immediate surroundings. I try not to set out with a specific composition in mind, rather I start snapping away at whatever captures my attention in the moment, be it some tiny detail that seems insignificant or a large-scale scene that spans the width of my field of vision.

It's interesting to go back and look at photos of familiar objects and places from a perspective that is one step removed from viewing them "live." The photos below are things that I see every day at work, but looking at a time-frozen image of the disaster that is my desktop or the way the stairs wind around the interior of the building removes me slightly from the immediate experience of those objects. And it causes me to speculate about why these are the things that stood out for me today and caught my attention. At the very least, it seems like a good exercise in stopping to take note of perspective.

Earlier today, I challenged a friend of mine who lives abroad to take photos of his surroundings and choose five of them that capture the essence of his day. I agreed to do the same. Below are five snapshots from the few moments this morning that I spent intentionally taking notice of the environment around me.

By the way, if any of you decide you would like to try this "5 pictures project," please let me know - I'd love to see what you come up with.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

studio update #3

Leslie isn't here with her laptop, so I'm back to typing on the iPhone. Ran into a little snag late this afternoon when a metal band started rehearsing in their practice room in the basement. Despite the fact that they were three floors away through several closed doors and a stairwell, it was still vibrating the walls and bleeding sound into our vocal takes. Antonia and I went down to talk to them, and since they were planning to practice for an hour and a half or so, we walked up to The Village to get a beer and bide our time. So it goes with shared space.

But we're back on track now: all guitars, mandolin, banjo, and lead vocals are done. Antonia is working on her accordion parts now, then Josh will lay down the cello tracks. It's getting late in the day - the coffee and pizza are now cold, the beer is now warm, but we're pressing on.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

a few photos from today

studio update #2

8:03 p.m. - Progress is progress...but it's slow. Or, at least, a bit slower than we'd hoped. Jonathan is (re-)recording the last of his guitar parts. My mandolin parts are finished, and I've taken a stab at the banjo part on "You Do Too," but it's not quite there yet. And I've yet to put electric guitar on the two songs that require it. Lots of foundation to work with, but still lots to do during tomorrow's session. We'll call it a night shortly. All are getting a bit tired.

And it's STILL cold in here!

studio update #1

12:36 p.m. - It is seriously cold in here. We're in a space above Metro Sound on Broad Street, and there has been no heat in the studio all morning. The recording room itself is a little warmer, as it's in the center of the building and better insulated. But Jonathan is the only one in that space right now. The rest of us are in the control room, which has big drafty windows overlooking Broad Street. It's cold enough in here that when I scrunch up my nose, it feels like it takes a couple of seconds for it to shift back into place.

We finally got the heat turned on, but not only are the overhead vents fairly ineffective given the 12-foot ceilings in the control room, it has caused a technical issue: the sound of the air coming out of the vents is being picked up by the microphone and bleeding into the recording. So we have to turn off the heat when we record, then turn it back on in between takes.

With regard to progress on the recording itself, we have the acoustic guitar parts for "St. Josephina" and "You Do Too" so far. But we only have two days to do all the parts for six we've barely scratched the surface.

recording this weekend

We're in the studio this weekend recording the next Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird EP "The Fire Next Time." I'm hoping to post some thoughts and photos from the studio as we work through the process. Makes me wish I had a laptop instead of typing on my iPhone. But so it goes.

Stay tuned - updates and pics to follow...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the times they are a-changin'

What a day it's been! So many things to be said about the day of Obama's inauguration...but with so many people saying all of those things already, I thought I would offer a relevant but off-the-beaten path story from my mom for your consideration. She told me this story back in November on the evening of Obama's election, and I asked her to write it down for me that week. I've been saving it ever since, waiting for today to post it.

I can’t remember the details of this little anecdote, but the impact has stayed with me all of my life. Manners were elemental to my upbringing in the Deep South of the 1950s, and one of the most heavily emphasized was respect for our elders. I naively took that to mean ALL elders.

One day when I was about 6 or 7, I was at a friend’s house. Her black maid said something to me to which I replied, “Yes, Ma’am”. Well, that’s how you addressed grown-ups, right? Evidently not. I was quickly told by my friend (or maybe her mother, I can’t recall) that “you don’t say Ma’am and Sir to ‘Negras’.” I felt embarrassed and stupid as though I had made some unforgivable social gaff. But I still didn’t understand “why”. That was just the first of many cultural double standards that would not make sense to me. It was the beginning of several years of childhood ambivalence between what society told me was appropriate and what my heart told me was right.

Tuesday morning, as I listened to the TV pundits discuss the likelihood of Barack Obama becoming our next President, it suddenly occurred to me that I had finally been vindicated. I remembered that little moment 50 years ago and knew that I had been right - right to show respect to someone who was different from me, and right to question why someone would have the audacity to tell me I shouldn’t.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

next stop: the kennedy center (seriously)

If you don't read anything else in this blog post, read this link: Jonathan Vassar and The Speckled Bird on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center. That would be my friend Jonathan, his wife Antonia, and myself. In two weeks.

I'm not sure how I've managed not to write about all that's been going on lately with this current music project. As I mentioned a few months ago, I've been playing with my friends Antonia and Jonathan Vassar under the name Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird. Jonathan released his EP "The Hours and the Days" on Triple Stamp Records (a local Richmond label) back in September, and we've been busy playing shows through the fall.

The week before Christmas, we had the opportunity to play at the newly-renovated National Theater here in Richmond, opening for another local band, Louisiana Territory. It was a really fun show in a beautiful venue. The photo above is from the show...and if you have a minute, I encourage you to check out the photos of the inside of The National on their website. Really lovely.

As I mentioned earlier (in a not-so-subtle fashion): on Friday, January 16, we're making a trip north to D.C. to play at the Kennedy Center on the Millenium Stage. Each night, the Millenium Stage has a free, hour-long concert from 6:00-7:00 p.m. If you happen to be in D.C. in a couple of weeks, I hope you'll drop by...and please encourage your D.C. friends to do the same.

The following weekend, we're headed into the studio to record an EP that should be released sometime in the spring. More on that as the time draws near. Needless to say, there's a lot to be excited about so far in 2009!

P.S. - Thanks to my sister Leslie for all the photos!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

in with the new

Midnight on the East Coast. 2008 is over, 2009 has begun (right on time). Feels about the same as it did half an hour ago...New Year's always seems just a little anti-climactic. Still, happy to be at the start of another year, counting my blessings and thankful to be where I am.

And I'm not saying it's a New Year's resolution or anything, but I will point out that it is Day 1 of 2009, and I am writing blog post #1 of the year. That score may not stay even for long, but it's nice while it lasts.

So, here's to looking forward into the promise of the coming year. Cheers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the next (same) hurdle

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). The "IT Band," as it is often called, is a long strip of tissue-like material that runs down the outside of the upper leg, connecting the hip to the knee. Running causes friction between the band and the femur. Too much activity (along with a number of other contributing factors including length of the IT band, effectiveness of stretching, pronation of the foot, quality of shoes, etc.) can cause inflammation of the band, radiating dull pain to the outside lateral portion of the knee. Symptoms usually begin in the first 2 or 3 miles of a run. The sharpness of the pain increases with continued activity, and inflammation subsides when the activity is stopped. It often takes weeks to heal completely.

ITBS is the thing that kept me from finishing the marathon last Saturday. I first had symptoms back in the spring when I ran the Monument Ave. 10K, and the problem flared up intermittently over the course of the marathon training. But I'd been in the clear since late August...until our 20-mile training run in late October. It's been problematic every since. But I rested it a lot during the 3-week taper leading up to the marathon, determined to run on November 15.

I started to feel it somewhere around Mile 3 of the marathon. It was exactly what I was afraid of. I suspected then that I wouldn't be able to finish, but I stopped and stretched every so often and tried to push on. I had to walk most of Mile 7 - not because I was tired or my muscles sore or my lungs struggling, but because the pain in my knee had begun to stab. I stretched for several minutes at the Mile 8 marker in an attempt to get my IT band to cooperate. It was effective for about a tenth of a mile. Finally, after stopping every 200 feet or so to stretch (and still limping along), I had to give up at the Mile 10 water station and resign myself to the fact that I'd have to tackle 26.2 another day.

I'm headed to see the sports medicine doctor on Tuesday to start rehabilitation. I hope to get back to training as soon as I can, though I'll make sure I'm completely healed first. I will say definitively that I will not let my first marathon attempt be my last.