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Sound Waves & Spray Paint

Music. Writing. Art. The Ramblings of SZ Marsh.

Not-quite Spring Cleaning

Confession: I always assumed “spring cleaning” happened in, you know, Spring. And yet, for me, the bug for organization always comes in the middle of winter. I guess the increased time indoors (I am SO not a snow bunny) eventually makes me go sir crazy.

Also, a New Year means tax returns, which usually results in me getting a little something for the house.

Since I finally saved enough to get myself a (very cheap) couch and ottoman – to keep both me and the cat happy, you know -I’ve been quiet lately as I attack the living room seeking some semblance of order. 

This year my additions were -first and foremost END TABLES. Real fricking end tables-not this odd mismatch of TV trays and nightstands we’ve been living with for a decade because, well, they came with the house and we had to put cables and cups somewhere. The storage ottoman takes care of the prior (as well as giving me an extra chair for company), cheap end tables will take care of the latter. Next up was new counter stools -which have been patched with electric tape for years, and a computer chair that doesn’t sink on me at random intervals. And then, a fold away exercise bike so I can quit the darn gym – I hate going because it’s too crowded, better to exercise at home if I can make the space.

And, I know by now you’re wondering what any of this has to do with my blog. Three things:

1. It’s the reason I have been too busy to record my newest song for you. There’s another new one. I’ll get around to sharing it eventually.

2. After all the house stuff, I wanted a toy in the mix somewhere, so picked up the extension cab for the Blackstar Fly I got for Christmas.

Pictured here flanking my bose speaker.

3. Making room for the bike meant reorganizing again, which meant my amp corner needed to become my bike corner.

That meant my amps and such needed a new home. I disassembled most of my sewing corner, relocated my PJ drawer, made the old PJ drawer my sewing drawer, relocated my fitness stuff and some video games, and created a new bit of music space to slide said amps into. I even found an official space for the bodhran. And, I put the music books where I can see them, so maybe I’ll make myself use them (I have been dipping into Bass Basics a bit this week, too, but nothing to say about it for the time being).

The turtle is where I keep my guitar picks. It’s not out-of place, really! I have no excuse for the slippers.

So, that’s what’s up for the moment as I count the days toward evening daylight. I haven’t forgotten you all. Just seeking some semblance of order.

Photos: Keyport Waterfront

Woke up today in the midst of sinus hell and realized I was almost totally out of allergy meds and sent my favorite chapstick through the dryer, so it was off to the nearest convenience store. 

It was a cold day, but not unbearably so, so I threw on two hoodies and headed out. The cold air was good for my allergies, so I decided to head down to Keyport for a bit, walk along the waterfront, pop into a few of the antique shops to browse, and the local music store for guitar strings.

The local shop is small, so there are limited options. For electric he pretty much only carries DAddario, Ernie Ball, and GHS. Of those options, I’m going to choose Ernie Ball. And, I learned that people will make assumptions about what you play based on the strings you buy. The shop owner said “oh, you’re a power player, huh?” 

Not sure what to think about that. I just said, “not really. I just don’t like D’Addarios.” Which is true. I tend to like strings that are a little less bright. It has nothing to do with what I play. I don’t know enough to be any specific type of player. Seems limiting to categorize yourself like that, anyway.

Strings acquired, I discovered an antique shop that had a ton of old records and record players, and also that my favorite thrift shop is gone and has been split into two stores-no more homemade pear butter for me ūüė¶ .  After that, I took my sorrow over the loss of my local jam supplier and wandered down along the waterfront for a bit until the sinus problems eased, then home.

New Tune: Mexico

You might construe this one as political if you squint, given our current political landscape in the US, but actually it’s just sort of a coincidence that this one ended up being called ‘Mexico’.

True story.

This morning at about 9:30, I’m at work and my dad calls. Now, I’m pretty firm about people not calling me at work unless it’s really important. It’s not exactly that it’s restricted at my office, but personal phone calls aren’t exactly smiled upon, and everyone is really effing nosy, so I’d rather get texts an answer them on the sly, so the fact Dad was calling generally only means one of 2 things:

a) something serious has happened, or

b) can you stop by after work/can I stop by your office to drop something off with you?

So, when I answer and the first words out of his mouth were “are you okay?” I knew I was clearly missing some important piece to a puzzle I didn’t know I was on task to assemble before I’d finished my morning tea. I told him, “I’m fine. I’m at work…” with appropriate confusion in my tone.

He answered, “That’s good enough for me,” and proceeded to briefly explain that he had just received a call from Mexico, and it was a hysterical girl saying “they’re taking me away”. When he tried to find out who it was, she just kept saying “It’s me Dad! Dad, it’s me!” She appeared to be hysterical. He said he couldn’t make out much because it was garbled from the crying. So, when the call ended, he called to check on me, just to be sure.

So, I don’t know. Whoever that girl was, I hope she’s going to be okay.

And the end result of that was me writing this song today, while the story was fresh in mind. I went with the uke for this one as well because, well, I guess because I had it out from having been working on yesterday’s song when I got home.

 Mexico

She called the wrong number
when they took her away
Someone else’s father on the line
didn’t know what to say
He called his own child
to ask if she was okay
Said there was so much crying
He didn’t know who it might be.

How do we live in a world
Where it’s so unclear
Who gets dragged through Mexico.
And I tend to think that
my family is all still here
But we all walk a lonely road
And I don’t know quite where we go.

Somewhere a daughter’s crying
And her father doesn’t know
That he might not see her again
What if she botched the only phone call
She’d get to have
And a stranger was her only chance?
She didn’t tell him her name
Choked sobs make us sound the same.

It’s me dad. Dad it’s me.
And I really need your help.
They’re taking me away dad. Dad it’s me.
You can’t be somebody else.
It’s me dad. Dad it’s me. Don’t you know me.
Please help.
There’s no way to track the call.
From New Jersey, a stranger can’t do much at all.
He hangs up the phone
Calls his daughter to make sure she’s somewhere close to home.

How do we live in a world
Where it’s so unclear
Who gets dragged through Mexico.
And I tend to think that
my family is always near
But we all walk a lonely road
And some roads lead to Mexico.

Somewhere a daughter is crying
And her father doesn’t know

that she’s in Mexico.

New Tune-14

First run of another new tune.

NOTE: This one’s politics, too. If that’s not your can of worms, then skip this post. If you don’t and get offended, I don’t want to hear shit about it. I warned you.

I think it’s foolish to assume that any sort of art is not a ¬†reaction to the world it’s happening in, so while we’re all sick of politics, this is just the sort of thing you can expect out of me for the moment.

Also, if, this time last month, you told me my first ever celebrity reference was going to be Shia LaBeouf (did I even spell that right? It’s late and I’m in too much of a rush to care right now.), I’d have looked at you like you had three heads and said “what? that kid from Transformers?”

Life is weird like that.

This one’s a ukulele tune. I suppose it would be easy enough to play on guitar, too, but somehow it just flows better on the uke. I was working on it and working on it on guitar and I just couldn’t figure out where I was going and it was depressing as fuck, so I grabbed the uke, scrapped 90% of it, and it fell together pretty quickly after that. Songs are funny that way.

14

Shia lost some more innocence today

because some small man had 14 words to say

He will not divide us is what the moving pictures say

but there is so much shouting that words just get in the way.

 

And I’d take a vow of silence

if it would make these people hear

that a historic backward action

can’t make history less clear.

 

I know that the world can look so very small

when you look at it through keyholes

or just don’t look at all

but the problem with building a house with

55 foot walls

is that neighbors look like monsters

when you’re peeking through the cracks

and while they’re living their lives

you’re afraid to turn your back.

 

They say the sky’s the limit but it’s just so far away

when people kick you down

for every little thing you say

So, there are 14 things I’m not going to say to you

but know that I’m still listening

and I’ll tell you what’s not true

we don’t live in a world of alternative facts

that’s just liars making a lot of noise to distract

us from the laws that they’re all breaking

and the broken backs they climb upon

and lack of planning that’s gonna backfire on ’em.

 

And I’d take a vow of silence

if it would make these people hear

that a historic backward action

can’t make history less clear.

 

So I’ve got negative fourteen things to say to you

but from where I’m standing there’s a

pretty darn good view

of a fighting force 2800 miles strong

with battle flags waving to tell you when you’re wrong.

So I try not to worry about your inflated head

maybe we can skip the wall and build a hat for it instead.

 

And I’d take a vow of silence

if it would make these people hear

that a historic backward action

can’t make history less clear.

 

The Difference a Tipper Makes

Top: the tipper that came with my bodhran. Bottom: the one I bought.

I won’t pretend I’m spending a huge amount of time with the bodhran. I do spend a few minutes with it most days, though.

In my last bodhran post, I said I wanted to try a longer, heavier tipper without such a pronounced bump in the middle, as I thought it might have better stability for learning with. So, I spent a good deal of time wandering the internet, mentally cataloged a lot of interesting looking things under ‘for later’, and eventually settled on this one, based partly in cost and mostly on Amazon reviewers describing it as ‘a bit heavy’.

It turned out to be money well spent. This tipper feels a bit more stable in my hand and I at least haven’t sent it flying yet.  The flatter end paired with their heavier weight hits the skin more solidly, so I’m not as prone to dragging the tipper along the skin. The extra inch lets me sit more comfortably-I don’t feel like I’m reaching across my body as much, because the stick can reach without pulling my elbow in as far (I do wonder if this is an issue unique to a bodhran as small and shallow as mine, but am not experienced enough to determine if it’s me, or just the nature of the beast just yet.)

As an added bonus, the heavier tipper produces a fuller sound, which I think.I prefer.

Does a different tipper magically make me a better player? No, but it makes me a more comfortable one, which means I can practice for slightly longer intervals, so well worth the nine bucks, in the end.

New Tune: They Dying Light (Very VERY Rough)

Really super rough draft of a new tune. I’m going to preface here: Yes, the song is sort of political. If that bugs you, turn back. Stop now. Do not proceed any further. I will not debate my political views. I feel no hesitation whatsoever about deleting comments. I do make every effort to avoid politics, but I also don’t live under a rock, so if politics have colored my world enough for a song to come out of it, then there is no reason I am going to run from that just because it might make someone on the internet cranky.

There, got that out of the way. Good. For those of you still with me,¬†I assume you also don’t live under rocks, so you know that more than half of my country is in mourning right now. There’s a lot of anger and shock and denial as we see what we anticipate to be a bad situation getting worse and worse with every cabinet choice, with every nomination going to people either grossly unqualified, or diametrically opposed to the position they’ve been chosen to fill, and that is terrifying in a way that no transition of power ever has been.

People are afraid. And, people are in shock.¬†It’s impossible not to make historical parallels, which I won’t detial: if you have even the barest grasp on history you already know what they are. But understand that at latest tally, the approval rating was 37% – the worst we’ve seen since…well, let’s just say long before I was born. Actually, if the numbers are to be believed, before my parents were born. Now, we do have people in this country who don’t think it’s that bad (apparently 37% of them), but that’s not the way most of the country feels, and it’s not the way my social circle – full of minorities, LGBTQ folk, and people with disabilities-feels. I may be about as white a person as you’ll ever meet, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to issues, even if they affect me only insomuch as they affect the people I care about.

So, that’s where this one’s coming from – a place of worry, and deep-seated concern.

If I’m going to post something with a political bent, now – on the day that many of my friends have been participating in the Women’s March – is probably the time to do it. So, while I probably should work this out more, deal with the kinks, figure out the chord changes a bit more accurately, I’m just going to let it fly – badly played as it is (seriously, my guitar playing in this rough up is atrocious) – for the moment.

 The Dying Light

Silence

This is the dying of the light

We don’t know if we’re going down

Or if we’ll find the will to fight

We’ve got some bruises

We’ve earned our battle scars

There was a black eye and a bloody nose

That showed us who we are

Upon reflection

Things are looking pretty grim

Words might be said as only words

But they’re still sinking in.

And we’re all fighting fires

with water guns

It’s just this fun idea we had

that isn’t very fun

When ashes turn to ashes

And dust turns to dust

Somehow I don’t know how much there’s

gonna be left of us

So let’s have some silence

This is the dying of the light

There’s an avalanche that’s coming down

Full of wicked to make right

And everything we thought we were

hasn’t been a lie

we just got a bit distracted

by the newsfeeds flashing by.

Now we’re here fighting fires

with water guns

It’s a little bit slow going,

but we keep on pressing on

When ashes turn to ashes

And dust turns to dust

Let’s take a moment’s silence

To grieve, and breathe,

and then walk the road we must.

Because we’re all fighting fires

with water guns

It’s just this fun idea we had

that isn’t very fun

We’re all spectators to the dying of the light

we may need a moment’s silence

but we’ll make it through the night.

Some maintenance changes…and art.

As usual, there’s plenty going on here, but honestly, I’ve had one of those days where you shove your foot really far down your throat first thing in the morning, and that sort of sets the tone for the rest of the day, so I’m not feeling my usual level of sarcastic optimism enough to deal with most any of it for the moment.

But, I have made a site change, and that, at least, I have energy enough to talk about.

I’ve been with redbubble a while for the art stuff, and I threw some of the photos up there, too – the better quality ones, off the camera. (I usually share from the phone here, out of convenience for both me not having to plug the camera in, and for you – because faster load times, but better quality of most of these photos exist). And, I can say with a rather fair amount of certainty that, for me, it’s been a big fat waste of time and energy. I won’t pretend nothing has sold ever. I have two designs that did…okay. But, I’ve received an incredible amount of twelve cent payouts. I’m not exaggerating there. Most of my commissions from redbubble for months of work have landed at less than a dollar.

I’ve been trying to decide if it was worth maintaining based on my level of art-making, and my utter lack of desire to waste my life promoting shit all the time, when I got another weird email.

This one came from a recruiter for Design by Humans. I’m going to be utterly frank here: I’m not convinced that making the switch is going to make a lick of difference, but¬†a email conversation with the recruiter and some mad googling did leave me with¬†enough potential benefits to give them a shot.

The ones that stood out the most to me were:

  1. Broader Range of Apparel Sizes – this is a little misleading, as many of the styles actually have a rather limited size range, but you can get a basic tee in up to a 5x, which is a broader size range when you consider most similar sites cap at 3x.
  2. Standardized pricing – some people might hate this, but not having to decide what the heck things ought to be priced is just one less thing I have to fuss over. I’ve had a really hard time in the past trying to find a price point that both allows me to make…well, more than twelve cents, while remaining in a price bracket that didn’t deter potential buyers. Having a standardized price structure takes the guesswork out, and means I don’t have to micromanage or fuss over numbers when I’d much rather be busy making things.
  3. Less saturated marketplace due to the need to apply to open a shop. I don’t actually expect I’ll have any less trouble getting buried on DBH than any of the other POD sites I’ve tried, but on the numbers game alone, my chances are marginally better.
  4. Larger than average printable area.
  5. On average, the price structure works out better for both the buyer and the artist than what I was seeing elsewhere, so if I manage to sell anything, I at least should have a profit that is not less than what it cost the company to pay it to me.

They apparently also take care to use eco-friendly inks and ensure that their shirts are not made in sweatshops or with child labor which, is a nice little aside.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start turning into some mad advertiser, and I have no expectation of making huge amounts of cash from my occasional drawings (or, anything I’m up to, really). But, I do think if I’m doing a thing, putting myself in a position where I have some chance of making a few extra bucks off of it now and again is worthwhile. Redbubble proved not to be financially practical for anyone in my case, so trying somewhere else isn’t hurting me any.

As far as photo prints, I’ve taken those down from being available at this time, too. Don’t pretend to be sad about that. There was really no interest, and I can’t blame anyone for that because, again, the price point on most of these POD sites is rather off-putting. At the moment, I’m investigating alternatives, for the same reason – because if I’m ever going to replace my mostly broken furniture, or execute other minor house repairs, while still funding my music hobby, then every dollar counts, and because I hate just letting crap I have tons of languish in obscurity on my hard drive because it makes doing it seem pointless, even if I enjoy it.

And, so that this post is not all boring maintenance stuff…the new store at DBH needed to be christened with a new design, so I doodled this silly idea I had as I was brushing my teeth to go to bed the other night.

smile.png
Those of you who know me will get it. The rest of you can take turns guessing.

The new design, as well as one with the jagged heartbeat from my site banner can be found at the new site: http://www.designbyhumans.com/shop/szmarsh/ Рif you are so inclined.

And that’s all the advertising you’ll get out of me. It’s up on the menu bar for the convenience of those interested, and the rest of you are welcome to go right on ignoring it.

I’ll be back to my normally scheduled program of writing songs, talking about bodhran, getting my butt in gear on the 2nd poetry album (soon, I will start recording very soon), and spamming you with pictures of trees in the near future.

 

Another Audio Interface Discovery

So, today, in further noodling, suddenly, Reaper started doing that monitoring lag thing that Studio One was doing the other day. ¬†Clearly, I gave Studio One a bad rap in my last post on the subject, because if now both of the DAWs are doing this second lag/echo thing on the monitor there’s something going on that’s either

a) True of both of them, or

b) has nothing to do with either of them.

So, I opened up my preferences and options menus in both to take a look and LO AND BEHOLD, for reasons I do not understand, both were using my interface, but had switched my settings to not be said interface. So, apparently when you have a USB deviced plugged in, the DAW will default to use it, but won’t necessarily have the right settings set up to do so effectively, and this will cause weirdness. In my case, that weirdness came in the form of an echo.

Studio One did this to me because I made the mistake once of unplugging the interface before starting the program. The program read that as the Solo failing to function properly, so the next time I opened it chose different defaults, because it thinks the device doesn’t work. It actually asked me “this has failed to start in the past, are you sure you want to try it again?” ¬†Yes! It didn’t fail to start, I turned it off, you dumb thing. And with that, no more monitor lag in Studio One.

Over to Reaper, I admit I have no idea why it changed my settings. It’s probably something I did, but I have no memory whatsoever of doing anything remotely out of the ordinary there, so it’s a mystery. But, once I set them back to the focusrite, the monitoring lag went away.

So, I’m back to square one with both programs being about the same quality, and my choice will be coming mostly down to personal preference after noodling with them both a bit more.

Life lesson: with DAWs, if things are being crazy, before anything else, check your audio settings. Apparently, they sometimes make decisions about what they should be all on their own.

Photos: Holmdel Park

Ah, FINALLY, a decent enough day on the weekend to go to the park where I’m not tied up with social obligations or busy hibernating from the cold! It’s been entirely too long. Between the holidays falling on weekends, snow that keeps happening on Saturday, it being dark already when I leave work during the week, and my strong compulsion to hide from the elements when it drops much below 40 degrees, I have been feeling quite sulky for all the lack of sunshine. The lack of outdoor time in the winter always makes me super lazy, but today I took out the trash and just thought ‘YES, I AM GOING TO THE PARK! Park park park park park! ūüôā ‘

What can I say, I’m easy to please. So, I threw on my sweats, bundled up in my hat and coat (seriously, It was only about 34, but I looked like I was ready for an Arctic expedition), and I made a madly happy dash to Holmdel Park/Longstreet Farm. I wanted to stay mostly to the sunshiney areas because it really was a bit chilly for me, but by the time I was finishing up, I’d warmed up a bit. The cold air makes me sniffly, but it was nice to get outside and play a bit.

 

As per usual, if you want to see all the photos, the are on the instagram.

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