I Don’t Think I’m The Only One

Eyeball with heart inside

This is gross. My eyes are screwed up as it is. I got my first pair of glasses in the 3rd grade. There is NO way I’m going to put “jewelry” in the “mucous membrane” of my eyeball!

Bob Dylan in a cowboy hat

Bob Dylan is not a good looking man. I’m sorry. “Blood On The Tracks” is one of the all-time greatest albums. I have a ton of respect for the man. But he should not be juxtaposed with girls in their underwear.

We Passed Upon The Stair

Everyone and their brother is talking about the fact that 10 years ago today, Kurt Cobain killed himself. You can check out Wil Wheaton’s take on it or numerous other writers over at Black Table.

I do remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard that Kurt was dead. I was in college trying to sleep after a late night party. It’s almost funny that I made my post yesterday about how much I didn’t like Daylight Saving Time. How difficult it was to cope with that missing hour.

April 5, 1994 I was trying really hard to cope with that missing hour, even if it was a few days before, and was losing badly. Back then I was the master of the snooze alarm. I could manage to hit snooze for 7 minute snatches of sleep for two hours straight. I don’t know how my roommate put up with me.

In those brief glimpses of semi-lucidity in between the blissful dark, I dreamed that Kurt was dead. When I finally decided to give up the charade and enter waking life, I continued to have the strangest feeling that Kurt was gone. I told myself it was just a dream and ignored it.

Of course the first conversation I had with someone started out with “Did you hear…” and I realized that I had actually heard from my clock radio that he had taken his own life. It was a surreal moment–bordering on deja vu. Even if it was only caused by lack of sleep.

I didn’t think much about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana at that time. I had burned out on them after the “Nevermind” deluge, and I steadfastly pretended they didn’t exist. But something about his death, the near-dream-state during which I found out about it, gnawed at me.

I was about six months later that the “Unplugged” album was released. The first time I heard his acoustic version of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”, I knew I had to buy that CD. An idea had been gestating in the back of my mind for months, and it hit me when I sat down and listened to the entire album. Nirvana was a great band. I had not allowed myself to pay attention to them because of all the hype that surrounded them, and so I missed out while he was still with us.

Spring Ahead

Note to self: Don’t stay up half the night watching movies when you’re going into Daylight Saving Time. Losing that hour is killer.

I love Standard Time. Gaining an extra hour is like finding five bucks in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a while.

Daylight Saving Time is setup to happen at 2am in the U.S. because most people are at home asleep or at least in bed at that time. When I was in college I had a late-night freeform radio show and the going into and out of DST was always an interesting experience. People who had a show that went on the air at 2am on the first Sunday in April would not be able to broadcast that week. The time just disappeared. October was the really unusual time because we had to decide what to do with that extra hour.

I wish we could always gain an hour. It would be like getting a free gift every six months.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

In fact it is right now.

I was out enjoying another reading in the park with a bit of lunch when it started coming down in buckets. It was pretty overcast when I went out today and a little chilly. Thankfully because of that I was in my car at the time it started raining.

I’ve noticed a strange thing about rain in Los Angeles. Having lived in Boston and Chicago for a number of years I have a “feeling” for what rain should be like. LA doesn’t seem able to fit into that picture I have. We will go the entire summer with literally no rain. In the winter, when it does rain, I’m always amazed. The local news turns it into this big event. STORM WATCH ’04 plastered all over their broadcasts. I know for a fact that Los Angeles gets FAR less rain then I ever got growing up back east. I’m used to bad weather. In fact the first time my dad ever took me out to teach me how to drive, there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. These are not conditions that Angelinos have to deal with.

And yet whenever I get caught out on the road driving in my car when it starts to rain here in LA, I always have a feeling like it’s the end of the world. I just had it not an hour ago driving back home from the park. I was going about 15 MPH because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Everyone was. And this is where the really weird thing comes in: I know that if I turn on the news tonight, they’ll say we had 0.10″ of rain. Maybe 0.20″. It’s completely bizarre. Back east, you have a massive downpour like that, and you’ll find out it was 3 or 4 inches. I don’t get it.

Goin’ To Las Vegas With An Aching… In My Heart

Well, I’m already in California.

My buddy and I booked the plane tickets and hotel rooms today. We’re off to Vegas on April 18 for the NAB show. This will be fun! I have never been to NAB. (National Association of Broadcasters, for those of you who don’t know.) It’s a huge convention for media production and post-production. Lots and lots of software and gear. Heaven for tech geeks like myself.

I’ve never been to NAB. I always seem to be working on a movie when it comes around. In fact when you do film sound, like me, you always hope that you don’t have to wind up on a dub stage for a mix while NAB is going on because you can never get any tech support from engineers or people at the companies who make the products we use since they’re all hanging out in the Las Vegas Convention center.

I am also going to use this opportunity to check out Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton. I’ve never seen that either and now that there’s the new Borg 4D adventure to go along with the original one, it should be extra-super-cool.

I talked to another friend on the phone today who’s spent the last 2 months hanging out in Chicago. (He’s from there but lives here in LA now.) He’s coming back into town on Friday for 5 days before he takes off for Australia and South-East Asia for another 2 months. We going to go see “Hellboy” the movie before he leaves. Oh yeah!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

A recent study by professors at Harvard and the University of California shows that illegal MP3 filesharing has not hurt the record industry. They said that “downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero….” Of course the RIAA thinks this is completely untrue.

I suspect that filesharing probably does effect sales a bit, but I refuse to believe that it is the sole cause. I would love to see album sale statistics for last 15 years or so. When did the downward trend start? Was it the day that Napster was introduced to the world or did it start a few years before? How about looking at the number of bands that been created in the last ten years by a marketing team and not by musicianship? Now how many of those same bands get in the heavy rotation on radio stations? How about looking at the actual number of major record labels. I can drive down the street, just past NBC studios and see the building that is home to WEA (Warner / Elektra / Atlantic). Three different names, one actual label. Or how about we look at the number of über-corporations that own the majority of radio stations in this nation? Four companies? Five? Six? And how much of the market? Seventy percent? Eighty?

If the RIAA wants to get to the bottom of declining record sales, they should take a look at the record labels themselves and at the radio stations that play those albums. Steve Albini wrote an insiders look into just how much money a band makes on a major label.

The article is hosted on Negativland’s website, the poster child of the anti-establishment, anti-corporation movement. Who can forget their classic U2 album?

Negativland's U2 Album Cover

Oh yeah, it was pulled from the shelves after a lawsuit. Thankfully you can download some of the tracks from their site. You’ll never look at Casey Kasem the same way again.

Who’s A Big Dummy?

I am.

For those of you who aren’t in Southern California and haven’t been watching the weather on this coast, it has been gorgeous. The terrible 90° heat of a couple weeks ago has been replaced by wonderful breezy days in the low 70s. So today I decided to grab a little lunch, drive over to Griffith Park and enjoy the sunshine with a good book. (Actually this isn’t that wacky of a decision for me. I do it quite a bit when I’m not working.)

I found a nice spot to park near the Mineral Wells picnic area, rolled down all the windows in my car, opened up the sun roof and decided to listen to a little quiet music with my lunch and book. I shut off my car but clicked the key forward to leave the stereo on. After listening to a couple of Black Keys singles I picked up at Amoeba several weeks ago, and finishing off my lunch, I decided to hunt for the perfect soundtrack to a wonderful day on my iPod. I have my iPod hooked into my car stereo with one of those cassette tape adapters. Hardly the latest example of high fidelity, but it works. (Though I do keep meaning to stop by Al & Ed’s Autosound to talk to them about how we can set this thing up properly.)

I decided on The Beatles’ White Album, and with the gentle sounds of “Dear Prudence” gliding from my car’s speakers, I sat back to enjoy my book.

I must have really gotten into it because time slipped by and suddenly I realized that the music was long over. I wasn’t quite sure how long I had been sitting there in my car enjoying the sun and breeze and the book but I knew it was probably time to head home. And that’s when I discovered that my car wouldn’t start.


In my car from the “off” position on the ignition, one click forward with the key turns on the radio. Two clicks forward adds the air and power to the windows. Going beyond the second click will start the car. I realized that I must have shut off the car FIRST and THEN decided to put the windows down. So I put the key in the second position to do that and must not have moved it from there. So I sat in my car for two hours or so with not only the radio pulling power from the battery, but also the A/C. (I had the fan on so low that I didn’t even notice it was running with all the breezes blowing through my car.)

Did I mention that I’m a genius?

Now of course this was hardly the end of the world. I was in a beautiful location with the sun shining, a cool breeze blowing and a good book to read. And since I’m currently unemployed, it’s not like there was some place I absolutely had to be. So I calmly pulled out my AAA card and called them from my cell phone. Then I picked up my book and continued reading until the tow truck arrived.

The driver took one look at my car with all its windows open and the book in my hands and said, “Lost track of time, huh?” It was a little embarrassing. But the situation was quickly remedied and we were both on our way.

Next time I should just use the ear buds.

Maybe It’s Because I’m Now 30

I had a conversation with my mother today about buying my own house. (Or more probably my own condo.) This isn’t exactly a new conversation, in fact we’ve been having it more or less regularly for the last year now. It’s a bit of a scary proposition, especially here in Los Angeles. Property values are very high–that’s why I say it’s more likely that my first purchase would be a condo. I can still live in the Los Angeles area are actually buy a condo for something around the $200,000 to $300,000 range. And by “the Los Angeles area” I mean LA proper, Hollywood, near Valley areas like Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks. Something on the westside might be nice. Closer to the beach means cooler weather. Of course if often means higher prices too. I have no desire to go live out in the high desert, Palmdale or some such place, just so that I can own a cheap home. And an actual house in the areas I’m talking about is going to start at half-a-million for a piece of junk.

So it probably would be a condo or a town house. Still scary though.

It’s all a moot point right now since I’m not working. That’s the other scary part about home ownership. There’s something about the notion that you can just walk away from a rental property that’s a little more comforting when you don’t have a steady income.

I love my career choice and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it doesn’t guarantee me a regular paycheck 50 weeks out of the year. Doing post-production sound for films is a very fun and a pretty geeky technical job. You get the satisfaction of knowing that you had a direct hand in presenting that final product that people shell out their $10 to see in a movie theater. You’re also completely anonymous. When I walk down the street nobody comes up to me says “Oh my god it’s YOU!”

I get paid pretty decently but if I don’t have a movie to work on, I don’t collect a check. Typically I’ll have a nice run of a year or two with next to no time off. And then I might not have another job for 3 to 5 months. That just the way it goes, and those of us who do this for a living (at least the smart ones) plan for the fact that we’ll have time off. If you take home $3000 a month after taxes when you’re working, you can’t turn around and spend $3000 a month. You just can’t. You have to plan on only spending $1500 or $2000. Otherwise you’ll never make it through the downtime.

Anyway it’s just the way my life works and it’s a little different from someone who puts on a suit and tie and sits in a cubicle all day.

So let’s review: fun job, not a guaranteed income, houses very expensive.

I’m not sure where I was going with this whole thing. I guess I am just saying that I’ve been thinking about the future a lot. It would be nice to have a place to call my own. Not call it my own because I’m throwing money at someone to let me be there, but actually mine. Maybe it’s just one of those things that happens when you enter into your third decade.

So Long And Thanks For All The Tracks

I was driving around looking for lunch–as I often do in the 12pm – 1pm timeframe–listening to Steve Jones‘ radio show on Clear Channel’s take on indie radio here in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM, when Jonesy said that J.J. Jackson had died of a heart attack last night. It was like someone hit me with a hammer.

J.J. for those you of who don’t know was one of the original MTV VJs. He, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Nina Blackwood started it all off in 1981.

I still remember that day in 1983 when we first had cable television installed in our house in Farmington Hills, MI. Tom Mitchell, my neighbor and sometimes babysitter, came in when the installers finished and said, “You have to check this out.” He turned on MTV and changed my life. I was only in 3rd grade. Tom was in high school. I looked up to him.

I proceeded to watch MTV non-stop for years. Back then they only showed videos. No gameshows. No spring break beach parties. Just lots and lots of videos. Now at the tender age of 9, I was more interested in catching the latest Weird Al Yankovic video than Duran Duran’s next big hit. But since there wasn’t a heavy rotation playlist in place at the time, I got to see a lot of different videos by a lot of different artists while waiting for the next showing of “Eat It” or “I Lost On Jeopardy”.

I spent a lot of time with J.J. and Martha and Nina and all the rest. They were my friends who showed me what was cool and fun. They told me about bands that I’d never heard of like J. Geils, The Rolling Stones, The Police, Joan Jett, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Toto and Queen. It was because of J.J. and the others that I went down to Perry’s Drug Store with my allowance that I’d saved up and bought my first cassette tape, the Ghostbusters soundtrack. Hey, I was 9! Ray Parker, Jr. was awesome.

The point is that J.J. Jackson introduced me to this amazing world of music. He exposed me to all kinds songs and artists that my parents didn’t listen to at home. (Though it’s hard to go wrong with The Beatles and Motown.) He helped me learn to appreciate a much wider range of music than was played on the local Top 40 radio station.

Flash forward nearly 20 years and I’m living in Los Angeles. Imagine my surprise when I turn on the radio one Sunday evening and there’s Triple-J hosting “The 7th Day” on KLOS. It’s a show that plays albums in their entirety. J.J. would introduce each album with an amazingly insightful look at the band, the impact of the album, and society at the time. He would always take a break at the point when you would have to flip over the original vinyl and talk some more about album. His presentation of The Who’s Tommy was one of the best pieces of radio I’ve ever heard.

So long J.J. You will be missed.

NOTE: I was looking for some web links to throw into this piece and I was glad to see that KLOS had a little piece on remembering J.J. Jackson. But I was sorely disappointed to see that MTV didn’t have a single thing to say about the loss.

UPDATE: It seems MTV just had to get the latest Courtney Love hijinks out before talking about J.J.