Sunday, February 16, 2014

Office Rap...

This has got to be my fav new commercial.  It's for a Georgia lottery scratch-off.

These are what I believe the lyrics are.  The line underlined is one I'm really not too sure of.  Please add any correction suggestions to the comments: 
I'm rich!
Now I got the itch ta ditch 
Ten million in my pocket, man
That ain't no glitch
Rollin' out this office
My money in a stack
You can hide the printer, Dave
I won't be back
To my boy Jimmy Bone,
He got my speaker phone
And Carol's on my ergonomic, fresh
Computer throne
Court-side seats,
And world travelin'
Wearin' silk jammies
cuz they be so dazzilin'
And I'm out ya'll,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Les Miserables: From Book, To Musical, To Movie

In 1985, I moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Anchorage, Alaska.  Around that time, I saw a segment on the news show "20/20" about a new musical which had come out and was gaining popularity called "Les Miserables."  Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel involving post-revolutionary France  I became immediately fascinated with the story, and knew I had to see it.

Several years later (around 1988), a new performance hall had been built in downtown Anchorage.  Musicals that had only been available to those visiting large cities such as New York or London were frequenting various theaters (sorry Isabelle - theatres). Touring groups were now making these musicals available to the masses.  "Cats" was the first musical to visit the performance hall.    I and my girlfriend took our trip to this music hall to see our first "Broadway" musical.  At some point prior to "Cats" beginning, I glanced at the playbill and saw an advertisement of an upcoming presentation of "Les Miserables."  My decision was made.  I was already mentally making plans for my girlfriend and I to attend.

Within a couple months of  "Les Miserables" opening in Anchorage, I and the previously mentioned girlfriend were no more (which shouldn't be too surprising - I was only in high school).  At this point, I had two tickets, but only one to attend.  If I had to go by myself, I would have.  I mentioned to a  friend of mine to 'keep an eye out' for somebody that would like to see it - I didn't want to take someone just because it was a free ticket.  Not long after mentioning this, he and his wife had a visit from someone who had just moved up from the lower-48 (the 48 states below Canada to Alaskans).   While visiting, she saw an advertisement on television for "Les Miserables" and exclaimed, "Awww.  I really want to see that!"  That's all my friend had to hear.  I had the same opinion.  I didn't care about anything else except the simple fact that she really wanted to see it.  The fact that she was absolutely gorgeous was just a bonus.

There we were, about to see the musical I had so been looking forward to.   I found it necessary to purchase the souvenir program - the playbill just was not enough.  Browsing through this program, I found a mock version of Cosette holding movie tickets with the statement, "In 1992 she will be going to the cinema."  I absorbed this with great anticipation.  The rotating stage drew my mind in.  The musical began and finished leaving me completely astonished.  

My "blind" date (merely a figure of speech, as she could see very well) came and went - leaving Alaska due to her brother's upcoming involvement in "Desert Storm."  Just a bit later, I left Alaska myself, having purchased and totally memorized "Les Miserables - The Complete Symphonic Recording."  I was still awaiting the movie release which never came.  Soon I assumed it would never be released and moved on attending several more musicals including another visit to "Les Miserables."  By this time, I had seen "Cats" come to DVD (which is not a good sign for "Les Miserables" should the movie ever come to fruition.  "Cats" need remain a stage production).

Several years later, "Phantom of the Opera" showed up on film.  This was done very well, and left me with a much more positive impression should the musical of "Les Miserables" become a movie.  Around 2009/2010 I began to see and hear more rumors of  "Les Miserables" making it to the cinema.  My only thought was, "I'll believe it when I see it."  The rumors became more solid when my research on revealed a presumed cast. When I saw this list, my only concern was the actors being 'too recognizable.'  I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although very recognizable, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe among others performed so well as to soon forget their other manifestations.  The introduction of Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette was a treat.  Considering my physical problems due to MS, I very rarely go out, but on December 25, 2012, I made it to the movie theater for "Les Miserables'" very first showing.  I was not disappointed.  The movie version of this musical was every bit a work of art.  I 'rolled' out of the theater with the feeling, "This masterpiece is my 'castle on a cloud'."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guitar Stings - Does the brand make a difference?

I'm not really one to to tout the quality of guitar strings. I have always used Ernie Ball "Slinky" strings, but with no real way to compare, I pretty much considered them all the same.  I have a story to tell that's fairly interesting and may change the mind of many guitar players.

A while back I purchased a  Steinberger "Spirit" guitar.  Even though I have MS (and am beginning to experience its generosity), I still feel a strong urge to play.  The "Spirit" is the lower priced version  of their "Synapse" guitar.  The primary difference are the active EMG pickups of the "Symapse" (which I actually prefer  passive pickups.  A snap jack with a consistently installed end would drain an active pickup's battery).  The Synapse also includes a fixed bridge as opposed a tremolo.  I prefer the tremolo any way, so my choice was definately a Spirit.  It has got to be one of the best little guitars I have ever owned.  It's perfect for one with MS.  Lighter and smaller with easy to change "double-ball" strings, always staying in tune.  This article is not about the guitar, but about the strings, so I'll move on.

When I ordered the guitar, I also ordered some strings as I tend to change to a new set of strings with a newly acquired instrument.  Looking around, I decided on GHS "Boomers" double-ball strings.  They were the best price, and GHS strings have always had a good reputation.  I ordered  three sets of these strings and awaited their arrival.  I finally decided to change the strings, but found that the ball end at the bridge wouldn't stay in its saddle upon tuning up.  I finally gave up, and put the factory string back on, and the GHS strings back in the package (this is one of the benefits of double-ball strings).  My thought was, "Maybe these GHS strings will not work" so I ordered a set of Steinberger strings (actually made by La Bella).  I was sure these would work.  Upon their arrival, I immediately dove in to change these finding they had the exact same problem.  A little "white-trash" ingenuity came to the rescue.  Adding some electrical tape to the ball end of the lowest string resolved the problem.  The remaining 5 installed fine.  I tuned up the guitar, and it worked great.

Fast forward about a month.  I decided to try a string change again.   I went ahead and grabbed a set of the GHS strings, with my roll of tape ready if necessary.  I found that holding the string secure in its saddle while tuning it up resolved this issue (something I should have tried the first time).  After all the new strings were on and tuned up, I began to notice how good they sounded.  I thought it must have been because they were new, so this thought was disregarded.  A little while later, I thought to myself, "no, this is more than a new string sound."  These string sets were stored away, but I finally decided to go look and verify that the first set of strings replaced were also GHS "Boomers."  Looking in my guitar storage tote, I expected to find a set of GHS strings and the set of Steinberger strings.  I took all the strings out and found that there were actually two sets of the GHS strings; the Steinnberger strings were gone.

To make an extremely long story short, the set I replaced originally were the Steingberger strings.  All that time, I had thought they were the GHS strings, thinking this improved sound was new strings, or at least some form of Placebo affect.  This was not the case.  For many years, I never thought the brand of strings made a difference.  My own experience proved me wrong.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Flying Colors: No Parental Advisory Necessary

I have been a guitar player for many years, whether or not considered 'good' is for others to determine.  Suffice it to say, I never become famous or reached 'guitar hero' status.  Over the years, I have been very open minded to various musical influences - classic rock, metal, progressive rock, jazz, classical, hip-hop and country.  Being a guitar player I followed Van Halen of course and in my quest to add various guitar influences, I began listening to and following Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads and Eric Johnson among others.  I also was introduced to multi-faceted guitar virtuoso Steve Morse.  Over the years I dove into his playing style and attempted to mimic him when and where I could.  The variety of  his playing style was amazing, falling into the influences mentioned above, and then some - rock, metal, progressive, jazz, classical, country - the list goes on.

Knowing my musical tastes, friends would always suggest different bands I had not heard of.  With a free visit to a Rush concert and the introduction of Geddy Lee, I began to realize how vital the bass is to a band.  Somebody suggested a band called  "Dream Theater" to me.  It only took one listen to become an immediate and devoted fan. My left arm is branded in ink with their fan recognizable Majesty symbol.  The reason for its name and design  appearing totally different than the Dream Theater  name is a long story; subject to a different article.

In 2010, Dream Theater's long time drummer and one of its original founders, Mike Portnoy left the band to pursue other interests.  My initial reaction to this was disappointment, and  fear of Dream Theater's eventual down-fall. Mike Portnoy went on to work with Avenged Sevenfold.  He assisted in the completion of their album "Nightmare" and accompanied them for one year of its supporting tour due to the untimely death of their drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan.  Dream Theater decided to move on, and introduced me to a new drummer named Mike Mangini.  It's safe to say that once a band such as Dream Theater reaches their status, any addition would be one to appreciate. After his insertion into the band, they went on to produce the Grammy nominated album "A Dramatic Turn of Events."  

Being as prolific as Mike Portnoy, he continued to dive in to various projects including tribute band work, and his creation of the band "Adrenaline Mob."   In 2012, I first heard of his assembled project "Flying Colors" in which I was introduced to his long time friend Neal Morse and singer Casey McPherson.  What drew me to this project and its initial album release was its inclusion of the aforementioned Steve Morse and master bassist Dave LaRue.  I of course purchased this album without hesitation upon its release, and have not been the least bit disappointed.   In listening to this album (many times now), I have decided to add a new category for my music recommendations: music that will not offend my parents.  With Casey's great vocals and its mixture of feeling, there was no need to adorn it with colorful language that would constitute its need of a parental advisory label.  Without Mike Portnoy's departure from Dream Theater, I would not have been introduced to other talents, and there would have been no creation of Flying Colors.  Because of this, I am very grateful.