Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

8/21/2008

New Music Resources

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Yeah, I know this is later than normal, but I gave you two things on Tuesday, so I figure we’re even.

Well, as you know I’ve been searching for new music. At least, music that’s new to me, because, you know, I was told that Snow Patrol is, well, mainstream and old hat and whatever other cliche you want to squeeze in here. So, I put a poll up over in the sidebar and hoped for the best. Now, for those of you who don’t know me in life, you might be a little surprised by how eclectic and varied my choices in music can be. For instance, in my car right now, I have Warren Zevon’s last CD, a Frank Sinatra collection, Snow Patrol, Bowling For Soup, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Rob Zombie and Nina Simone, just to name a few. In fact, I went from listening to Rob Zombie to Sheryl Crow in an afternoon. So, my point is, I’m pretty open. I usually say I don’t listen to Rap or Country, but, honestly? If someone presents something interesting enough, I’ll try it. Seriously.

In any case, I wasn’t satisfied with the responses I was getting on my poll (vote early, vote often!), so I started doing more research. I got a book called The Pocket DJ. It’s been around a little while, but I figured it would still lead me places I hadn’t been. Also, there’s this writing exercise where you build a playlist for your various characters, to try and get inside their heads and feel how they feel through music. I sort of figured that I could go in the other direction and pick playlists from the book then build the character from that. You know, getting twice the use of the book by cranking my musical IQ up a few points and getting some writing exercises at the same time. I’ll get back to you on both.

Either way, though, there was a section in the back of the book that listed a bunch of music blogs. So, naturally, I sat down not too long ago and started chasing links. Some didn’t interest me and some had either moved or shutdown or shutdown just as I found them. At least one blogger announced that she was shutting down her blog to become a full-time music journalist not more than a week after I bookmarked it! Of the ones that survived, though, I’ve got three for you.
First, there’s Sixeyes MP3 Blog, with regular posts and free MP3s in every post! Yea! They’re mostly indy stuff, but kind of all over the place, too.
Then there’s Fluxblog! with almost daily posts and, again, free MP3s in every post, sometimes podcasts with music, too. Yea free! I mean, seriously, you can fill your entire iPod with free MP3s of popular and new music from this blog alone!
Finally, there’s Stereogum with many, many posts, at least one daily, lots of performers from overseas and many posts with videos or MP3s. Yea regularity! Oh, my middle-age is showing! Seriously, these folks love music and it shows in sheer volume of posts, if not the intensity of each review.

Also, a friend, Marc Garvin of Pulling Strings, the great Houston-based public radio show about classical guitar and similar stringed instruments (Correction!  Marc e-mailed me and said the show features “the sounds of “Picked, plucked and strummed” (sometimes “banged, bashed and hammered”) instruments.”  So, you know, it’s even better than what I said.) suggested some of these very cool and different performers when he caught wind of my search for something new to add to my rotation. Even though these links are all about the music, they’re brought to you via YouTube.
Jake Shimabukuro on the Ukulele. This is definitely worth looking at and listening to. He does things with a ukulele that have to be heard, and seen, to be believed!
Kaki King playing the guitar in such a way as to get percussion. Okay, the video is a little strange and disjointed, but I really like this sound. It’s kind of the latest version of a performer singing with their instrument. Open mike night taken to a super-high professional level, you know?
Joscho Stephan, also playing the guitar. This is a more Country, or Appalachian, sound to me than I’d have expected from Marc, seeing as he’s a Classical guy, but, I have to admit, it’s got a certain energy to it that really works!  (Update!  Marc told me that “Joscho is a “gypsy jazz” guitarist in the style of Django Reinhardt.” So, that should make it more clear to those of you who are more musically well-versed than I.  And, by that I mean, everyone in the world.)

Finally, if you want to find any of the music that’s been mentioned here, or elsewhere on my blog, I suggest trying SeeqPod, the playable search engine. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating in this context. One of the great features here is the “Discover” feature that lets you discover songs that SeeqPod thinks are close to what you’ve been searching for in style. Sometimes some really interesting stuff comes up in that.

So, there you have it. As promised, more than one new resource for new music.
Also, for those interested, yes, I did buy the newest Snow Patrol CD, but don’t let that stop you from voting in the poll because I’ll be buying more music eventually.
Oh, yeah, one more thing… Don’t forget that next week I’ll be doing a guest post on someone else’s blog. I’ll have an announcement the day it’s supposed to go live on that site.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If I'd known I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself!"
   --George Burns

2/12/2007

Lunch with a Holy Man

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always,
‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine
In my backdoor some day.

Trouble in Mind written by Richard Jones and sung by Nina Simone

So, Saturday, I had lunch with my minister.
Now, when he reads this, I have no doubt that he’ll balk at the title of this post, but, for me, it’s no less true. In fact, that was half the reason I wanted to get together with him.

He’d been helping rehearse a wedding, apparently without the benefit of food, because at two o’clock when I came to get him, he asked if we could get lunch instead of coffee. Naturally, that was fine with me, even though I’d eaten. So, we jumped into the Black Beast, as I often refer to my retired police car, and headed out. I think Matt was a little surprised to find Nina Simone in the CD player instead of Ramstein, but, hey, I like to keep my spiritual advisor/fashion consultant on his toes, you know? Anyway, we made a bit of small talk about health and weather and getting older as we zipped past Six Flags over Jesus (aka Second Baptist) to Escalante’s. Matt’s been working on his PhD. in Lubbock and, apparently, they don’t have any good Mexican food there, so he was craving. I just had ice tea, but they were slow and we had enough to justify taking up the table.

By the time we’d walked through the door, Matt knew I wanted to talk about the two most confusing, vexing, baffling subjects known to man: God and women.
God, it turns out, is the less vexing of the two. As I explained to Matt, I still have a hard time with certain things about religion. Belief in a Supreme Being isn’t so hard. Belief that He cares about so insignificant a life as mine, well, that’s a bit of a stretch sometimes. So, too, that whole salvation concept is a little beyond me sometimes, too.
But, he explained it in a way that, somehow, I’d never considered before.
“What if a friend came to you with a problem? A bad habit he’d tried to break, but had given into. What would you tell him?”
“Well, I guess I’d ask him what he learned. I wouldn’t be focused so much on the bad habit, but the behavior and thoughts that led up to the backsliding. I mean, the point isn’t to be perfect, but to learn from the mistake and move on.”
“Well, don’t you think that an all-powerful, all-knowing supreme being is at least as compassionate as you are?”
“Oh…” Yeah, somehow, I lost sight of that whole idea. That God, as powerful and huge as He is, still cares about me at least as much as I care about people who come to me with problems. See? Like I said, Matt may not be comfortable with the label, but Holy Man fits.

Now, as for the women end of things…
Well, I’ve tried every other approach to women that I can think of, so asking a minister seemed like a novel idea. Besides, Matt’s happily married with two kids and a third on the way. I told him about the subject of my posts last week. I gave him all the detail I leave out of this blog. How I made myself vulnerable to her. How I told her what I felt and thought. How I shared my writing with her. The kind of writing I rarely share with anyone, because I never think it’s good enough. I told him how she rarely returns phone calls or e-mails. I told him how I’d made the decision to pull back, for my own safety, but still called to let her know why I was doing that, because I’d always hated seeing someone turn cold to me with no explanation and wondered why. I told him how all my efforts seem to be met with a confusing mix of appreciation and disdain.
Matt summed it up when he made two simple gestures. With one hand, waving me closer. With the other, holding it up to say “stop”. “Come closer, no, wait, go away.”
And, after listening to the whole thing. Hearing my frustration and my embarrassment and my self-directed anger, he said something to me that shocked me down to my bones.
“She’s not worthy of you.”
I hate to admit it, but that’s a fairly alien concept to me. Me not being worthy of someone else, that I get. But, the idea that perhaps there was someone not worthy of my honesty and openness… Well, it certainly made me think. So did the last thing he said to me about all that.
“Guard your heart.”
And, that I got. The trick, as I told Matt, is figuring out the right balance between guarding myself from harm and being transparent enough to be real. I’ve struggled for a long time to rediscover my authentic self and, mostly, I like who I’ve found. And, damn it, Matt’s right, that should be more than enough for anyone who’s paying attention. How many people would take the risk to be honest enough to share their feelings, even after being fairly certain that things weren’t going well at all, just because it’s the right thing to do.

The other thing that surprised me a bit was when Matt asked me if I’d prayed about it. I grew up with the idea that one never asked God for anything for one’s self. That was the height of selfishness and practically heresy. But, he reminded me of Scripture, which I can’t remember now, where Christ told someone to express their wants to God. He told me it was not only okay to tell God I was lonely for that special relationship, but that God wanted me to bring that to Him. God wanted to hear my heart’s deepest longing. Yes, he already knows it, but God wants to hear it from my own heart.
And, I’ll be honest, I am lonely. It’s not that I lack for friends or family or love at all, but it’s different. Yes, if I want to get out to a movie or dinner or just not be alone, I can find someone to be with easily enough. Male or female. But, I’m lonely in a different way. There’s something different about that tender, intimate relationship with a member of the opposite sex that goes beyond simple friendship. I feel like I know so little of that sort of relationship that I can hardly hold a picture of it in my mind, much less describe it. But, this much I do know, it’s a kind of intimacy that goes deeper than anything else. It is, I think, what drives us all, in one way or another. The search for it gets me up in the morning and exhausts me during the day. If I were to remember my dreams at night, I’m sure it would be all I dream.
So, I started praying about that longing to God. I don’t pretend to know what the results will be, but when my holy man instructs me, this student listens.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries."
   --James Michener

4/3/2006

April Fool’s Date

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Surprise!
I’m sure many of you are fully expecting me to say that my alleged date on Saturday was, in fact, a very elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. It was not. It was, in fact, not only quite real, but quite good.
Saturday afternoon, I got a haircut and the $100 detailing done on the car, which took longer than I’d thought it would, so I just barely had time to scoot home, wash up and change before going to church. I opted for a high level of casual in relaxed-fit Gap khakis with a white DKNY, long-sleeved shirt, lightly starched. After some debate and a check with Matt for spiritual guidance on my choice of shoes, I opted for black cowboy boots instead of the Cole Haans. My date is an inch, or so, taller than I am, so I figured the extra height couldn’t hurt. I cleansed my car of all heavy metal and replaced it with Sting, Bonnie Rait and some other mellow favorites. No Sade or Nina Simone, though, per the helpful suggestions or my gentle readers.
So, at church everyone was asking about my plans. In fact, I had a veritable legion of folks who seemed to know what I was up to that night. Matt checked me over to make sure I’d done okay, as did J.’s new girl L. The general consensus of opinion was a thumbs-up. I have no idea what went on during the service because, honestly, I was beside myself with nerves. First date in over ten years makes a guy a little nervous, you know?
So, with Sting’s Brand New Day in the CD player, I raced over to her place as soon as church was over. She lives over by Minute Maid Park, so there was a bit of traffic, due to the Astro’s exhibition game, but it wasn’t too bad. What was bad, however, were the directions that I got via Yahoo!Maps. They were fine right up to that one, illegal, left-turn onto Franklin. Thankfully, I’ve driven all over Chicago during construction season, so circling wide and around to get where I actually wanted to be was not a big stretch for me. Also, I called her to get pointed back in the right direction. I parked in a loading dock at her building, per her instructions, and met her out front as she was walking her dogs. The first thing that caught my attention was how blonde she was. I spotted that two blocks away. The other thing was how tall five-foot eleven was when you got up close. Yeah, she’s an inch taller than I am,when I stand up straight. Still, she was at least as good looking in person as she was in her pictures, so, all was well. (She said more or less the same about me, later, so, don’t think I was the only one worried about that!)
We took her dogs up to her apartment and I got the nickel tour. She runs her business out of her home, so she had an industrial oven, a bunch of baking racks, and assorted high-end cooking gear all over. Naturally, she had an enormous kitchen. She actually lives in a loft in a building that, except for the nice, wide halls, reminded me of places I’d been in Chicago. In fact, that was one of the reasons she like this building, because she used to live in Chicago and it sort of reminded her of there. So, yes, she lived in Chicago for nine years, working in catering, mainly, and she knew the edges of my old stomping grounds. In fact, she said that would be the only part of the country that she’d consider moving to again. Oh, did I mention that she took me by surprise with a kiss when I met her?
Anyway, after that it was off to La Vista, a little Italian place that she knew. It’s quaint and used to have a strictly BYOB policy, and they maintain that even though you can get wine there now. Apparently, it was run by a friend of hers from high school and was more wildly successful than he’d ever imagined it being. Who knew? But, here is where it got interesting. At this restaurant I noticed the difference between this one and everyone I’ve ever gone out with before. We ordered our dinners and I ordered a glass of iced tea. Well, our salads came, but my tea didn’t. I was willing to quietly ignore that, as long as it didn’t end up on the bill, but she caught our waiter and told him to get it for me. Honest to God, no one has ever been that attentive to me before, ever, much less on a first date. I thanked her, of course, then told her that I’d been willing to let it slide. And how thoughtful it was of her to catch that for me. Dinner was, of course, wonderful. Sadly, if we’d had dessert we’d be too late to catch a movie, so we skipped that and were off to the giant Edwards MarqE to catch a late show.
We got tickets to the 10:30PM showing of Ice Age: Meltdown, but we were cutting it close. The lines were too long at the candy stand, so, while she ran into the ladies room, I hit the quarter vending machines to feed her self-confessed sweet tooth. Generic Sweet Tarts and plain M&Ms for a buck’s not a bad deal at the theater, so I carefully filled my hand and waited for her by the door to the ladies room, feeling rather like a pervert. She came out and saw what I had in my hand and started giggling like a little girl. She grabbed my free hand and gobbled a couple of the candies while dragging me into the theater. She hesitantly lets me choose where to sit in the darkened movie house and I quickly point to two seats in the middle of the row in front of the main aisle. When she sighed with relief and called me a man after her own heart, I knew I’d done good. She hates climbing up to the higher reaches of seats as much as I do. Cool. I automatically lifted the middle arm between the two seats, because, well, just because. That, too, met with her instant approval. We dropped into our seats just as the last preview was ending and the main feature was starting. Perfect timing!
I won’t review the movie, but Ice Age Meltdown was hilarious. We laughed the whole way through. Great first date movie.
After that, it was back to her place for some mellow music, more talking and, well, stuff. It was at this point in the evening that I found out she was a published poet and a very accomplished photographer. Her black and white photos of Paris looked like they could have been hung in a gallery. I also got to know her geriatric basset hound and her two miniature Dachshunds. When I finally left, she sent me out into the world laden with her gourmet dog biscuits as a peace offering to my own dog. Also, she figured a bribe might get me back into the house.

She’s braving my house for pizza and a movie Tuesday night before heading out of town for a trade show. Next week, the Saturday before Easter, she’s going to come to Mercy Street with me. Apparently, she wants to meet the man who gave me spiritual advice about my shoes.
In short, I think I’ve got a winner. Now, if I can just get used to being fawned over for a change, and learn to take her compliments without a skeptical side-long glance, everything will work out just fine.

4/22/2003

Nina Simone

Filed under: E-Mail Entry — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

A jazz great passes.

Nina Simone was a far more remarkable woman than I realized, until I read her obituary at MSN.com. I knew her from a movie called Point of No Return, which was an American remake of La Femme Nikita. The American film starred Bridget Fonda as a street kid trained to be an assassin. Her character in the film listens to none other than Nina Simone. In particular, there is a scene that involves her “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl” that is quite memorable.
In any case, Jazz fans will know her better and appreciate her more fully than I did. I was, however, quite sad to hear that she’d died and thought I’d mention it.
I hope she passed peacefully.

[ Posted by mail via mail2mt.pl ]


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