Connection

I’m going to the NAMM show this year, for the first time in almost 20 years. I’ve been saying 12 (when I last moved from Carpinteria, and its comfortable, less-than-8-hour drive to Anaheim), but doing the math it’s been 20, as I didn’t attend NAMM any of the years I lived here last, either. Craziness. In case you’re confused, NAMM stands for “National Association of Music Merchants”, and is *the* biggest music conference of each year. To be looking back at 2 decades of avoiding NAMM as a constantly-working musician is, frankly, a bit strange to me. Maybe even a bit embarrassing, honestly.

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Simplification

While making coffee and preparing for our Sunday this morning and absent-mindedly tap/swiping my way through my email inbox on my iPad, I realized that my regular routines these days are almost diametrically-opposed to how they were just a year ago. In a nutshell, I haven’t ‘sat down at a keyboard’ in almost 6 months now, at least at home. I have three laptops – only one of which sees any action and it’s when I fire it up – like a desktop machine – each day at work, and then put it to sleep when I leave. Only rarely is it undocked for meetings in favor of the aforementioned iPad, and even those moments are further apart and fewer than ever before.

What’s changed? Unconscious simplification. I never intended an iPad to be my main computing device, but by nature of it’s rather innocuous and carry-friendly footprint it’s weaseled its way into my life quite definitively. Although there’s still professional recording, video editing and a handful of tasks that still need the extra beef of a full-blown computer, even those tasks – up to a certain point – have become manageable on a tablet today, and what was hopeful curiosity a year ago has become convenient reliability in recent weeks.

My old arguments against a tablet-based life usually revolved around power (the processors and display weren’t beefy enough for real work) and a mix of ergonomics and efficiency (virtual keyboards, to be frank, just never work as well or allow you to work as fast as real keys on a real alphabetic or musical keyboard, not to mention all the reasonably-good audio interfaces aren’t generally compatible with iOS devices).

What made the difference?

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Sketching

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It’s nice to rediscover pens and pencils lately, although I’m not sure I’ll stick with these newfangled ‘brush pens’ for long. Too much pen, not enough brush IMO. Beautiful morning of sun, coffee, Jimi Hendrix and a clear page in the big Moleskine.

Chill

The holiday break has been wonderful here, albeit a bit colder in weather than I would have hoped (which is mostly unnecessary whining, as we still wore shorts to the beach on Christmas Eve).

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(Yeah, I’m wearing thermals in the pic above, but swear I was actually wearing shorts over them.)

Mostly it’s been a quite chill-as-in-relaxing holiday week for me more than the get-a-sweater variety, and I’ve spent the entirety of it with my wife and son. Doing randomly stupid but oh-so-therapeutically-beneficial tasks like shooting stomp rockets at the beach, kinda like this:

But that’s not all…

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Holidays

My 2012 Holiday to-do list.  Not ambitious at all.

For the body– I already agreed to up the exercise quota back to late-summer levels.  The last few months I’ve seen my exercise regimen  slipping wildly due to the loss of Daylight Savings time, colder weather and wetter beaches, and many, many more excuses just like that.  So I’m going on a run a day.  Doesn’t have to be a big one, just a good one – that’s all.

For the soul– I need to finally quit my sneaky, occasional cigarettes.  I like to insist that I’m “not a smoker” simply because it’s not a daily, recurring habit for me.  But enough’s enough, so it’s time to throw out the hidden pack of Spirits and return the lighter to our candle drawer where it belongs.  Just the peace of mind (and clarity of vocal passages/reduced risk of cancer) this would bring me – priceless.  I’ve been fighting this one for years, though. Wish me well.

For the mind– I need to be able to kickstart my creative process more spontaneously, and finish equally as quickly. Writers’ block is a bitch, and I’m tired of submitting to it.  So I’ve decided to host a few small, private sci-fi RPG sessions this holiday week, as building a good campaign will both expose my son to math and storytelling in an approachable way, and force myself to learn how to create on the fly again in the process.  Win/win.  Being a game master forces you to tell an interesting story on the fly and is a great way to get comfortable being spontaneous with your muses.  1d20 vs intelligence?  Critical success!

For the spirit– we’re going to our friends’ Xmas dinner instead of cooking this year.  It’s a simple statement to make, but such a relief in practice.  I’ve (nearly) always planned and cooked Christmas dinner when we hosted the day in our Oakland house.  However, as we’ll be self-contained this year, it’s time to stop acting like a stressed-out host and relax for a change.  I’m also going to spend as much time as possible off this computer and on with my family, as frankly – family is what the holidays should be about.

All my best for a wonderful 2012 holiday season, and a fantastic 2013.

Proud

In retrospect, I’m honestly not sure how 2012 turned out so well, given how it started.

Last December I was suffering a job that demanded more and more of me in my time, ethical compromises, sanity and grey hairs, yet returned less and less as time wore on (salary and benefits notwithstanding).  My wife was increasingly depressed, struggling to keep a therapy business afloat in an area (Oakland) that was already ravaged by the macroeconomic landscape before Occupy Oakland and the Oscar Grant riots tore it even further apart.  My son was happy but at great financial and emotional cost – a very expensive school that would only support him for another year before we had to choose between bad, worse or unacceptable options locally, or ship him off to somewhere with an affordable option for the attention that his wicket-smart brain already demands.  (With a lot less of Oakland’s well-documented senseless crime to either tempt or threaten it.)  Looking back now, I can easily see how I rarely felt proud as a father, or even as a person in that environment.

So believe me, to say I’m really proud of 2012 is something I hadn’t seen myself doing, not by a long shot. And there’s a lot of reasons why.

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