Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More YouTube footage of the back of my (fretting) hand

Here's another fourteen minutes from our show, starting with the ending of "Here to Hear," a catchy little number with slide guitar that we've been playing for a couple months.

Following is a cover of Teddy Pendergrass'  "Love T.K.O.,"  with Jay on vocals and guitar, Elliot switching to the drums, Taylor on bass and background vocals, and your humble narrator edging some licks in around the vocal. You'll find some good shots of my left I work through the tricky Bm - F# chorus. (Added bonus for listeners with exceptional curiosity:  Hall and Oates' live version.)

The third song is "Minor Blast," a tune Jay and Taylor and I have been messing around with since 2006 or so. Its original incarnation was basically Taylor's main bass stomp in C#m, over which I'd noodle endlessly with single-note lines, arpeggios, chord fragments, (occasional) repetition of an interlocking melody - whatever I could find to fill the space - generally ladled with effects.

On the Eighth Day, Jay created the "Minor Blast" chorus (first heard in this video at 10:22). With a verse and a chorus, we were on our way.

In its present incarnation, "Minor Blast" is an intro (Taylor basses the main riff, Jay backs him from behind the kit, the rest of us try to enhance this core), an opening chorus at a time of Taylor's choosing, solo #1 (Elliot comes in at 10:43), another chorus, solo #2 (yours truly, with phaser and tube screamer, at 11:53), and so on until we close with the final chorus.

At 12:19 our friend with the camera drops the lens down for a great in-the-trenches shot that includes a twenty-something guy in the lower left corner who was watching intently every time I teed up. This enthusiasm, this communing with a total stranger, is one of the many things that makes music so worthwhile.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My YouTube debut

After playing guitar for 23 years, I've finally made it to YouTube.

Sort of.

Recently we had a big birthday bash for my roommate at our sprawling flat. As part of the party, my band played their first public performance in front of a capacity crowd of 25 who were sardined into our jamspace, a.k.a. James Taylor's bedroom.

The structure of our show was three sets of four songs each. In between sets the band members milled around and stopped at the keg and caught up with friends, before making our way back to the music room an hour or so later, whenever one of us took the initiative to herd the cats (and the audience.)

A friend who was generous enough to bring his camera was shooting from the hallway for this number, "Grayed A." I'm the guitar that's poking out from the right-hand part of the screen. During my solo (1:42 - 2:20), my fretting hand comes into the camera eye, and my black-shirted back, as the cameraman swings to his right to get as much of the action as he can. My volume is higher in this mix because my amp is closest to the camera - and because I'm not timid with the volume knob.

Nick (trombone) takes the next solo (2:27 - 3:03), Elliot comes in at 3:11, and Jay dishes a little treat with some balls-out drums (and a game face to match) from 3:38 to the finish.

p.s. special thanks to Tony Garot, my first guitar teacher

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Glass half full

I don't read a lot of self-help articles, but I found this one interesting. The title ("A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full") appears self-evident, but some of Jane Brody's points convinced this self-proclaimed skeptic to reconsider his view of what an optimist is.

Many optimists I've met seem to maintain their positive worldview by ignoring all the selfish, shallow, downright evil energy in the world, or pretending that it isn't there, but Brody gives ballast to her half-full mindset by starting off with clear-eyed realism: 

"Unlike Voltaire’s Candide, I’ve yet to be stripped of my optimism, though there are clearly forces in this country and the world that could subdue even the most ardent optimist.

"I am a realist, after all, and I do fret over things I may be able to do little or nothing about directly: economic injustice; wars and the repeated failure to learn from history; our gun-crazy society; the overreliance on tests to spur academic achievement; and attempts to strip women of their reproductive rights."

And where many people (most?) view optimism as the act of maintaining a positive attitude come what may, swami-like, Brody cites an author who casts optimism in terms of actions, rather than attitude:

"Murphy’s Law — 'Anything that can go wrong will go wrong' — is the antithesis of optimism. In a book called 'Breaking Murphy’s Law,' Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, explained that optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent.

Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found that rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on. They plan a course of action, getting advice from others and staying focused on solutions."

I've tended to view myself as a pessimist over the years, but Segerstrom's definition re-shuffles the deck, as I do tend to be unfailingly "motivated and persistent" when I focus on a goal. Also, though I'll never be capable of unconditional internal happy talk, I can reach for the sun by maintaining this proactive stance in the years to come:

"With the right guidance, many of the attributes of optimism also can be learned by adults, Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found.
"Noting that it is easier to change behavior than emotions, she eschews the popular saying 'Don’t worry, be happy.' Instead, she endorses a form of cognitive behavioral therapy: Act first and the right feelings will follow. As she puts it in her book, 'Fake it until you make it.'
"She wrote, 'People can learn to be more optimistic by acting as if they were more optimistic,' which means 'being more engaged with and persistent in the pursuit of goals.'”  

In the final section of the article, entitled "Framing Your Thoughts," Brody writes:

"Both Dr. Segerstrom and the Mayo researchers recommend taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write down three positive things that happened that day, ending the day on an upbeat note."

This is sound advice that I first acted on some months back, when I started a gratitude notebook. I miss some days, but the notebook comes out four or five days a week, usually when I'm on the bus, sealed in with my iPod. 

I don't know that I would call myself an optimist just yet, but I'm working on it.