Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jonny passes another test!

My son Jon passed his second karate test Tuesday night at Haish Gym in DeKalb. He has been going to hour-long classes weekly since last fall and is in his fourth six-week session. He loves the class and has not missed a session yet. It has been neat to see him emerge as a leader among his peers. The instructors often ask him to demonstrate a move for his classmates.

I'm so proud of Jonny for passing his second belt test. I'm most impressed by the maturity and poise he showed when Sibak Austin was trying to teach him his test manuevers. It took three or four tries for Jonny to get it right, and I know even six months ago he might have broken down crying out of frustration. I could see that impulse welling up, but then watched as he quelled it and found his focus.

Yeah, he'll eventually learn to kick butt, but he's already learning discipline, how to follow directions, and that "practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes." From my third grade teacher Mrs. Bolin, to me, and now said by my son.

Jam session Monday

The stars were aligned Monday night. I went to The House Cafe hoping to get enough players together to jam a few riffs I've been working on and hope to develop into full-fledged songs. Right when I got there, I met Dan, the lead guitarist of Isle of Vinyl, a local jam band. I asked him if he would join me in the jam and he readily agreed. We continued talking through the sign up, and got adjacent slots toward the end of the evening. All of the pieces were in place. I then asked Ron Kollman, who I've played with many times before, to join in. After sign up, I went back home and saw my neighbor David Jonsson, also a local musician, if he would join in.

We didn't practice what you hear. In fact, I learned a valuable lesson about jamming. In the first song, I just started playing, with my guitar capoed to the sixth fret, and assumed my fellow players would pick it up by ear. They did, but it took a few bars to get it together. For the second song, I gave them the chords for the chorus and verse before we played, and it went a lot more smoothly.

My favorite moment is the last two minutes of the video. There's some serious soloing going on, and the band is tight and creating new sounds. In spite of my own technical problems (the pickup kept falling out), the rest of the band is cooking. If you like Isle of Vinyl, check out their stuff on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A little misunderstanding

Last Saturday I attended the Indy Horror Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb. It was a great way to spend a cold, gray, dreary Saturday afternoon in March, indoors, reveling in the imagined sufferings of others. I saw three features and three shorts, staying at the theatre from about 4:30 to 10:30.

I found out about the festival from the Midweek, a free weekly serving DeKalb County. I faithfully read the Town Crier and do the crossword puzzle. I use it and The Daily Chronicle to find out what is going on in the area and to help plan weekend activities.

Here's a quote from the event description: "The sister festival of the Chicago Horror Film Festival screens independent horror films from all over the world. Tickets include an entire day of films and activities, including a scream contest, guest performances and a late-night paranormal investigation of the theatre."

I was especially excited about the paranormal investigation. A past Midweek article showcased this unique tour of the Egyptian Theatre, and I remember that past tours cost $50 a head, a price too steep for me, and a bit much for what it is. After the last feature, I saw George, a middle-aged man with long straight white hair. I told him I was looking forward to the tour. He asked me, "Do you have a ticket?" I thought that question odd. I'd just come out of the theatre. Then I said I was looking forward to the tour and "I'm glad this one is more reasonably priced. The last one cost $50 or something like that." This time it was George's turn to give me a quizzical look, but nothing more was said.

I asked him why he stopped writing the column. Mind you, I really liked his sense of humor, a mix of self deprecation liberally dosed with obvious and obscure pop culture references. He told me stopped writing the column because the paper changed owners and the new owners didn't want to pay him enough for the column. I thought, "He got paid do write those columns?" It wasn't like he did any research or interviewed anyone for them, and they were buried in the back of the paper, just before the classified section. I liked them. They were well-written. Just off the cuff. George also spoke very eloquently about the paranormal energies in the theatre and claimed to have been pushed once by an invisible hand.

But he told me to come back at 11 p.m. and bring my flashlight and a camera, which I did. When I arrived at 11, George wasn't in the lobby, but a stern looking man wearing a suit was collecting tickets and handing out waiver forms. When he asked me for my ticket I showed him my ticket stub from the film festival. He said, "But this is a separate admission."

"That's not what the Midweek said," I replied. "I also talked to George earlier about this." The theatre manager's eyes bugged out and he gave me a disgusted look and said, "I'll go get him." In the meantime, I stood there and looked around at the fellow tour participants. One older woman had three young sons or grandsons with her, and a huge, dark green crystal in her hand. If I were Superman, I'd back away slowly.

The theatre manager, still looking like someone who's sacred space was about to be overrun by strangers, appeared with George, who apologized for the misunderstanding and then told me with a straight face that the tour price was $50 and they just happened to have one ticket left...

I felt so embarrassed, I could feel the blood rushing through my ears. I stammered out, "I must have misunderstood the Midweek article," apologized, and walked out of there as fast as I could. But as I was walking home, I thought, "Wait a minute. You worked in the newspaper business for a few years and have a degree in English." I raced home to verify that the Midweek article indeed said price of admission to the film fest included the paranormal investigation.

Lessons learned: (1) Yes, lowly typesetters and copy editors at weekly newspapers, words do mean things and people act on information they read in the paper.

(2) Spiritualism is fodder for crackpots and charlatans, even in the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

At long last, Stoom! in 2011

I finally ended my long hiatus and played the open mic at the House Cafe in DeKalb Monday night. The music was well-received, and except for a few missed notes, I was pleased with the performance.

The first song is an original, "All The Same," that I've performed a couple times before. I recorded the backing track and vocals. No samples. It's a good song to open with because it's easy to perform. The next two songs are "chick rock" covers, "Who Knew," by Pink, and "Stuck Like Glue," by Sugarland. I learned those songs during a recent stay in Texas. My niece Mallory asked me to play the Sugarland song. She goes to school in Sugar Land, Texas.

I got the Guitar Tab White Pages (vol. 2) by Hal Leonard publishing. I put a list of songs I want to learn on my Twitter page. I hope to get a full band together for a few shows. Just doing this for fun. It's nice to play to an audience, but at age 38 have no dreams of rock and roll stardom.