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Sound Waves & Spray Paint

Music. Writing. Art. And whatever the hell else I want to talk about, damn it.

Generic Update – aka, look, I’m not dead after all!

I haven’t posted anything here in entirely too long, so I thought I should post an update to confirm that I haven’t died. So, here I am. I haven’t died.

Actually, I’ve been neck deep in the formatting. I wasn’t happy with the first idea for the last chapbook, so I moved on to another idea, which I liked in digital, but when the print proof arrived, I hated the cover. It went from looking vaguely like waves hitting a beach to looking like garish splashes of primary colors, because all the subtle shifting of colors got lost in the printing process. It happens, but since I wasn’t happy with the print version, I had to redesign. When I found a cover design I was mostly satisfied with, it then clashed with the aesthetic inside, so I had to rework fonts and internal cover pages so it would feel more cohesive.

In between waiting for formatting changes to go through, I got started on the Ominbus edition, so there’s a very real possibility that the last chapbook and the Omnibus Edition may be released almost simultaneously. We’ll see how it goes.

The Omnibus turned out to be a formatting nightmare. As I tried to copy and paste text, it kept pasting formatting that was not the formatting of the original document. It constantly changed my margin settings. When I tried to adjust the margins on the entire document, it said it did, but it didn’t. It invented a bunch of new page styles from the conversion, that were all (in theory) identical but (in practice) pasted as being completely and wildly different from each other. I had to find and delete them all. I had to keep re-setting page sizes and margins, fix places where this crazy margin nightmare had caused lines to break in funny places, even though the formatting on the document I was pasting from and pasting to were, supposedly, identical.

I’ve never run into so many issues copying and pasting text between two identical documents before. It was hell.

And then, when I thought I finally had everything matching, I had to figure out how to skip a page number in the middle of a document, and that was a fresh level of hell. Tutorials were vague and convoluted. Video tutorials were just as bad when they weren’t even worse. I’d managed to deduce that I needed to use 2-3 different page styles in the document, and how to do that. But, every time I tried to start a new page style, it would change all the page styles I’d previously done and I had to start from scratch. Ultimately, I was forced to create two custom page styles specific to the document, avoid 100% of all default settings, and jump through a few circus hoops to make it all work, but I did it.

Yes, there was a late night victory dance when I finally got it to behave. Why do you ask?

So, at this stage, I’m waiting on my 2nd print proof of the last chapbook, and I’m working through the digital proof on the omnibus  to find offensive line breaks and fix them. Both will probably be live in the next week or two as long as I don’t run into any other major issues, and then I can move on to my next project, whatever that may be.  Maybe, with the poetry project done and over with, I’ll be able to dig deeper into my music studies again. Or maybe some totally unrelated project will strike me and I’ll find myself neck deep in something entirely new. Who knows? All I know for sure is that I drew well over 30 artsy borders for the last chapbook and ended up hating that idea once I actually saw it outside of my brain, so didn’t use any of them.  Maybe I’ll come up with something to use them for in the next project. Only time will tell.

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New Toy and Updates, because I’m too lazy to do those things in separate posts, even though I should.

I’ve been a terrible blogger again. I kind of feel like I’ve been starting pretty much every post like that recently, but it makes it no less true. I have a lot of things I should talk about, but I’ve been lazy about recording things, so I don’t. My GERD has been terrible recently, so the idea of having to sing anything to give you a rough idea of what I’m writing song-wise is honestly not appealing. Added to that, we are having an unusually cold winter here in NJ (I will never complain about 20 degree weather again…until I forget I said that next winter) and with winter allergies that get no favors from forced air heat, even the humidifier isn’t much help for my poor, abused sinuses.

Are these lame excuses? Yes, in fact, they are. And none of it explains why I completely neglected to mention chapbook #10 was released to the public on December 16th. My sinuses and stomach do not in any way get in the way of me typing or talking about that, but I didn’t do it, because I was too lazy, so, official notice Chapbook #10, ‘How to Be Beautiful’ exists in the world and can be purchased on Amazon. There, I told you about it, Internet. Belatedly, maybe, but I did it.

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I’m even so lazy that I’m showing you a digital image of the cover rather than taking a photo of the actual chapbook. But, dammit, at least I’m mentioning it.

I had hoped to be done with the entire poetry project by now, but it wasn’t meant to be. My first draft of the last chapbook – full of short poems, ended up not being as nice as I had hoped, so I’m re-thinking it at the moment.  Since the pieces are all so short, without a little fluff (see artsy-fartsy-ness) a print volume looks too empty, and it turns out the fluff makes the formattting stage of things, quite frankly, a huge pain in the ass. I’m undecided, but the last one may end up being a digital-only release. I’m currently still analyzing whether a print release is worth the effort required to make something that actually looks nice, so that project is in limbo while I consider my options. Still, the primary 10 chapbooks were done by the end of the year, and that’s something.

In music-related updates , well, there’s not a heck of a lot. I got several little music things for the holidays, but not anything worth posting about. Mostly the basics, strings and things, and I finally have a case for my baritone uke, which I’m told the poor clerks at my nearest Sam Ash actually had to go rummaging around in their basement to find. And, as a bonus, it can do double duty as a case for my uke-bass, if I ever get around to learning how to play the darn thing. It’s a snug fit, but it’s a fit.

I also managed to stockpile amazon and visa gift cards this holiday season, which means I was finally able to upgrade to a better microphone. I’ve been wanting to since I bought my original cheap ass mic back in…well, according to my post history, it was summer of 2016. Don’t get me wrong, that cheap little Hisonic HS308L is still hanging in there, which is way more than I expected for the nothing that I paid for it, but it was never the quality I wanted, it was just the only quality I could afford at the time. Since then I’d grabbed an Audix F55 mic on a flash sale, and that is a perfectly respectable microphone, I have no real cause to complain about it, except that I wanted a decent mic with an on/off switch, and the Audix has no switch.

Soo, I used all of my visa gift cards to buy myself amazon gift cards, and bought myself the mic that’s been sitting in my saved for later list for over a year:

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Sennheiser e835S

Now, since I waited over a year to buy this between when I originally decided on the model and now, I can’t honestly tell you why I picked this model. I just no longer remember, other than I was specifically looking for something reasonably budget-friendly (without being downright cheap. I already had cheap.), with an on/off switch.

I haven’t run in through any real testing yet. I plugged it in to make sure it was functional, but I only just got it yesterday and honestly, I’ve had a hell of a day and haven’t felt up to running anything more significant than ‘testing 1,2,3’ on it.  Still, it’s going to do the job just fine. It’s sturdy, has a nice amount of weight to it. Unlike the Audix F55, it comes with a mic clip that actually fits the mic, and the bag to stick it all in is a surprising bonus – nice material with a light foam lining and zipper, not that godawful pleather that seems to be par for the course in microphone pouches.

So, I’m content. As for the old Hisonic, it hasn’t kicked the bucket yet, and while it’s sub-par for most musical purposes, it’s still got life left, so I’m donating it to a friend who runs a comedy show rather than relegating it to the back of a drawer never to be seen or heard again.

And, I’ll try to be better about posting, and interacting with other people’s posts, and all that, but I’ve met Me, so I know that if I haven’t improved on that front by now, I probably never will.

New Chapbook: Dry Bones

The finish line on this epic chapbook project is in sight, guys. I’m working on the collection of short poems, I have the proof of the 10th chapbook on the way, and the 9th chapbook didn’t need any edits, so will be popping up on Amazon in short order. (here)

Today, I get to share something from Chapbook #9 with you:

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I originally had a much fancier idea for this cover, but it ended up being too busy, and in the end, you’ve got one of the simplest covers I’ve designed yet. I’m mostly happy with how it turned out, though.

And, here’s a piece from the new chapbook, since I’m actually writing a post on the lappy for once:

 The Part of You That’s Dirty

I don’t know what to do with you now.
We’ve already said all of the important things—
like how wet paper crumbles
when you touch it.
Your tissue, used and abused,
can only love the part of you that’s dirty
and nobody wants to talk about.

I’m like that.
All I see of you is seminal fluid,
and vomit,
and too much booze,
black eyes the color of overripe plums,
and a cigarette with too much ash hanging from
yellowed fingernails.

I still hope that, maybe,
I can melt under your touch one more time.

We’re all dirty, really;
it can’t be helped.

but we still try to find something worth keeping
in spite of the history that comes with it,
as if that can save us and make us clean.

2 More Chapbooks: Kaleidoscope & Dead Leaves, and other poetry stuff

I did mention I’m banging out the chapbooks with a goal of being done by year end, so two new chapbooks are going to share one post. They were released almost simultaneously due to the 2nd, miraculously, needing no edits once I got the proof. 

I’m mobile atm, so don’t have easy access to poems from these books to share with you right now. Just consider this a generic sort of update post, in that case.

So, where I am on poetry projects is thus:

1.) Chapbook #9: proof on the mail on the way to me. Provided there are no issues, will likely be released within the next week.

2.) Chapbook #10: Was up until a stupid hour of morning finalizing files and designing the cover. It’s currently processing, so I should have a first, digital proof by tomorrow.

3. Went through my odds and ends, which is all short poems. Actually only sent one of them into oblivion, and am currently toying around with an idea that might give me a full chapbook worth of baby-sized poems. This one will be, as a matter of necessity, more artsy, and I’ve been designing borders most of the afternoon to see if I can make it work.

Designing borders, btw, is a weirdly sort of zen process.

Once that is done, I am going to look into the possibility of collecting them all into an omnibus edition. I think I’ll probably be able to price and omnibus in a way that will make it more cost efficient, but I have to work through the math to see if I’m right/if the difference is significant enough to make the project worthwhile.

Once that’s all done, come New Year, I’m not sure. I’d like to really buckle down and work on more music study stuff. I haven’t touched my bass in months, for starters, and I’m still trying to conquer barre chords, but there’s really no telling with me what the next project will be.

For the immediate future, I will have two more chapbooks released in the next 2-3 weeks, and a chapbook of short, baby poems, not too long after that. What comes after that, we’ll have to wait and see.

Chapbook: We Are Only Here For Now – Available Now.

After a bit of reprieve and some time away, I am back in chapbook mode, plugging away at my goal of getting all caught up by the end of the year, and I’ve got to say guys, right now, my chances look good. I’ve just completed the sixth book, the seventh just needs a final proof, I’m waiting on a print copy of #8, and #9 is pending first proof.  #10 is still in final edits, but I will be designing the cover probably this week. And, other than having odds and ends to go through to see if there’s anything worthwhile, there are ten chapbooks in all. There might be an eleventh, depending on how much I find in my poetry odds and ends pile, but the current assumption is that there isn’t going to be enough there to fill a book. We shall see.

Today, I get to say that I have #6 all ready and rolled out. Available on Amazon. (Though, the e-book version may take a few hours to a few days. I’ve done my part, so it’s just a waiting game to see when it appears on site.)

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Cover of the proof copy needed minor tweaks, but actually doesn’t look as bad as I feared it might.

And, for something chosen from the new chapbook to share with you. The bare bones of this piece are a fossil, but it’s been edited so many times over the years that I can’t help but wonder how much of the original piece is even left.

Drama Queen

When it rains
even clear water becomes muddy.
I wonder what it’s like
to be one of those people
who likes to stir things up.

I can only vaguely recall
the forked tongue you used
whenever you got caught telling stories,
because, over time,
the things you hate about people grow numb
even if the lessons that you learn from them
leave a scar.

You taught me not to trust easily,
that ‘friendship’ doesn’t guarantee honesty.
So, I’ve known people half of my life
who I’m still not sure I can trust
and that’s not their fault.

In retrospect,
I can see you as you were.
I can call you a drama queen.
I can forget the color of your eyes,
and the spelling of your name,
but the lessons you etched into the marrow of me,
those don’t fade.

New Tune: It’s You

I decided to write this one on the new baritone uke as an excuse to noodle around with it and get used to it.

Ultimately, this song pretty much exists because I had two weird encounters in the same week. This happens to all of us sometimes, I think – where we have a totally ordinary encounter with someone, and they, for reasons that are totally incomprehensible, misread the encounter and get insulted and insist things happened that never actually happened.  If you’ve got a delicate ego, and it happens enough in a short enough period of time, I guess you start to think ‘is it me? is there something wrong with me?’ But, I mostly am just convinced that I’m surrounded by crazy people, really. So, I don’t know, I guess I kind of might have inadvertently written a song about gaslighting.

Note: Vocals are absolutely too loud and clip on the ends, so unless your device of choice tends to be on the quiet side, you may want to turn your volume down to minimize some of the harshness that my too loud mic settings caused. I still haven’t found the right sound settings for use with the CAD U37 in audacity, owing in part to the fact that I’m louder when no one’s home to disturb, or I’m quieter when my allergies are wreaking havoc on my nose and throat, so the correct levels setting isn’t static. It varies based on the circumstances. I’m sure I’ll find the sweet spot eventually, but since these are really just me roughing out tracks so I don’t forget them, I’m not really aiming at perfection anyway.

It’s You

I don’t know what’s worth saying anymore
we’ve been building up our lives on little white lies
and I’m tired of all of this keeping score
because I can’t even speak
without being told to be more meek.

If I mention that it’s cloudy
you complain I’m being rowdy
and white wash my opinions
until they aren’t worth a damn
and whenever I clam up
to avoid this rotten luck
I’m accused of being rude
what’s a girl to do?

But it isn’t me, it’s you.
It isn’t me, it’s you.
You say that I’m too blunt and I’m a bitch
well whatever, then I’m an evil vile rotten
dirty little witch
and if there’s nothing I can say
to make you feel okay
then I don’t know what you expect me to do
It really isn’t me, it’s you.
I swear it’s true,
it’s you.

I just can’t win for losing at this game
that I can’t quite figure out to play
are there rules written down somewhere
if I peruse them will I lose myself
in learning to abuse myself
and if I abuse myself will that be enough
to prove that I care

or should I just delude myself
into believing that lies are truth
and tell you that you’re right
every time, every place, and everywhere

If that’s what you expect me to do
then it it’s definitely not me, it’s you
it’s not me, it’s you.
And if there’s nothing I can say
to make you feel okay
then I don’t know what you expect me to do
I know I’m not crazy,
so the problem must be you.

Photos: Perrineville Lake Park (Baird Rd Trailhead)

This morning, it was off to the car dealer for some repairs under warranty. There were two up sides.

1. My center console lid no longer flies open to smack my elbow.

2. Getting to check out a new park.

I’m never in this area except for car things, so I relied on Google to tell me what was nearby. It produced two parks. I chose the one that was a bit farther, but had a lake.

There’s this fun thing Google Maps always does to me with new-to-me parks. It directs me to the weird, satellite part of the park first, rather than the main entrance, which is how I ended up on this little 3/4 mile out and back trail that was nowhere remotely near the lake I’d chosen the park to see. It was completely vacant aside from me. So, either the GPS on my phone is antisocial, or it knows I have really antisocial hiking habits.

Either way, it was a nice light walk, level and mostly abandoned over all dirt and grass. Next time I’m in the area, though, if the weather is nice, I want to find the other entrance and check out the park properly.

Photos: Davidson Mill Pond Park

With daylight savings time fast approaching, this is very likely my last after work walk for a while. From November through January, it’s black as midnight out when I leave the office, which I am not looking forward to at all, though my body doesn’t seem any happier about trying to haul out of bed when it’s that black out, either, so maybe for the best.

Davidson Mill Pond Park again, since it’s one of the very few left that I can still get to after work with a reasonable amount of daylight when sunset is at 6 pm. 

The sky was super pretty tonight. There will be several sky pictures on the instagram once I get around to uploading this batch.

The Unicorn-lele! (aka: a left-handed baritone)

You know that saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do?’ Yeah, well, I know I said ‘no more ukuleles for a while’, but then I found a left-handed baritone. A LEFT-HANDED BARITONE, guys. You know, a unicorn. Anyway, I’ve wanted a baritone for a while, but haven’t shopped seriously because of the limitations and expense necessary to convert one.

Basic sum-up of conversion of a baritone would be something like this:

  1. Would have to find a fully acoustic one, with a body shape that lends well to being flipped over. Anything with right-handed electronics would be a fucking nightmare. This doesn’t limit me TOO much, but it does cut my options a bit.
  2. Due to the string width and the DGBE tuning, would have to replace the nut. This means either paying someone to make a left-handed nut, or buying a nut blank, files, and sandpaper, and doing it myself, which is not necessarily hard, but it can be time consuming.
  3. If I want electronics in it at some point, will have to bring it to a shop and pay to have them installed, which is an additional expense.

So, when I came across a left-handed acoustic-electric baritone ukulele, even though money is tight, I knew it was something I didn’t dare pass up, lest I never find it again. I kicked myself for over a year for not buying my lefty uke-bass and letting it go out of stock because it took forever for them to get more of them. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the left-handed guitalele when I saw it, because now that that limited run has gone out of stock, no one makes one. They literally don’t exist. If I want one, I’m going to have to budget for converting it, because I have no other option. So, I bought the lefty baritone, in spite of knowing that it was financially a bad idea. It wasn’t financially a bad ENOUGH idea to stop me, I guess.

Now, let’s take a look at it, shall we?

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This is a Caramel uke. Caramel used to be Rubin. I have a Rubin soprano that I pretty much never play, but am always working on because, while it is genuinely a piece of crap, I’m not convinced just yet is irredeemable, so I keep buying replacement parts since I’m really reticent to let go of a left handed acoustic-electric uke if I can save it, and I have one more thing I can try before giving up. As it stands, the intonation is absolutely godawful and it’s way too plinky for my taste, with enough laquer to make it remind me of that teacher I had in elementary school who’s head was so bald and so shiny that the ceiling lights reflected off of it. Caramel (formerly Rubin) really seems to love high-gloss. I’m not really a fan of putting enough gloss on an instrument that it doubles as a mirror, but that’s just a personal preference on my part, so you shouldn’t count that as a negative unless you also genuinely happen to dislike high gloss. Anyway, they’re not secretive about it, so I knew what I was buying.

Still, given my feelings about my Rubin, I knew going in I was taking a risk on Caramel. It was a risk worth taking because, as I said above, this is literally the ONLY lefty baritone that I’ve even come across. As I write this post, I’m fairly confident that no one else makes one.

So, at a first cursory look, everything looks solid. There are no obvious blemishes, everything seems well-assembled and as it should be. My first impression as I was tuning it for the first time was that the action might be a hair too high, but I wasn’t going to be sure until I tried to play it.

The strings it came with though…! Okay, guys, I’m not actually all that picky about strings. You always hear ‘ukes always come with crap strings’, which is true, I suppose, but they’re generally not such crap that you can’t play them or that they won’t stay in tune.My point is this: I have string preferences, but I don’t really have any particularly strong feelings against any uke strings in particular. That’s important for context, because I’m about to rant hard against the strings that came on the Caramel Baritone.

Seriously, guys, I’m not even convinced these were ukulele strings. They very well may have been half-rotted classical guitar strings. Half-rotted. Yes, I do mean that. The wound strings were absolutely filthy, discolored in several places. The tension when tuned was such that it screwed up the intonation. I actually thought I might have to adjust the saddle height, not realizing the strings were causing this (I didn’t know strings COULD cause intonation issues, but once I changed them, the intonation problem was gone, so clearly they can. Go figure.).

The strings actually made me think the uke needed several small adjustments. They were surprisingly hard to fret (reference: on guitars I tend to prefer strings that are medium-light to medium gauge, so this is not me being a total sissy. My preferred string falls into a comfortable middle ground. Depending on the guitar, I usually go for 11s or 12s. The strings on this baritone required significantly more pressure to fret than 13s.), the intonation seemed off, the action seemed a bit off. It really did sound like a baby guitar, but one that was very uncomfortable to play and harder to get a clean chord out of than it should be.

None of the things in the above paragraph were true once I replaced the strings. I mostly use Aquilas, but I use different aquilas for different ukes. I couldn’t find info on whether their nylgut strings were wound or unwound on the D and G strings (I will admit I didn’t search very hard to find out), and I definitely wanted the wound strings there, so I decided to try the Lava strings this time. I haven’t tried the Lavas before, but I’m in love with the Aquila Reds in Low G, so I’ve been looking for an excuse to try some of their other options, and desperately needing strings for the baritone gave me an excuse. Also, how is it that NONE of the music shops anywhere remotely my area carry ANY baritone uke strings in store, and almost none online? Not cool, guys.

Re-stringing provided me with what seemed like an entirely different instrument. First of all, that ‘baby guitar’ definitely sounds more like an uke now. The intonation – greatly improved. It might be spot on, but until the new strings stretch enough to stay in tune, I can’t say for sure. The action is just fine. The pressure required to fret has become normal, so no more sore fingers.

As far as the electronics? They work fine. The built in tuner seems to be accurate. What more do you need?

So, overall, I think I’m pretty satisfied. I’m still getting used to it. It’s harder than I thought to figure out the chords. Since it’s missing the lowest 2 strings of the guitar, I find myself in the position of trying to think through something I’ve been doing automatically for a while, trying to remember which strings form my usual guitar chords. G, for example, is a one finger chord on baritone uke. I had to think about E and A and Am and C. Sometimes, it’s easier to just pick up the guitar, form the chord, and then look to see what strings I’m on than it is to try to think about what strings I need to fret first. I’ll get the hang of it, but it feels more like learning new chord shapes than I thought it was going to, since I’m still mentally counting two strings that just aren’t there as part of the equation.

So, do I recommend it? For my fellow lefties, absolutely. It’s literally you’re only choice, it’s functional, and it’s not going to cost a fortune. Just do yourself a favor and buy new strings at the same time – the strings it came with are absolute garbage, so you can’t get a feel for the instrument until you re-string it. For the righties? I don’t know. You guys have a lot of options and I haven’t tried any of them, but it’s an entirely playable acoustic-electric baritone uke that only costs around $100, which is more than enough to make it a solid contender for the budget-conscious musician.

Now, can someone PLEASE make a goddamn left-handed guitalele/6 string baritone? I want a mini-guitar dammit! (not that I need one) In all seriousness, though, I have no immediate plans for future instrument purchases, but since lefty guitaleles don’t exist, the next possibility ranges from banjolele, to parlor guitar, to mandolin, to…I don’t know, whatever, something else that hasn’t even occurred to me yet. I don’t need anything though, I really don’t. I need to will myself to sell the instruments I rarely play…but they’re all so darn pretty that it’s hard to let go.

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