Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I've been Schmapped!

One of my pictures of downtown Austin was recently selected by Schmap Online City Guides for their website! This fortuitous publication of one of my favorite pictures, though small (only 150 pixels to be exact), is a tremendously satisfying experience.

To the left is a screen shot from Schmap's website displaying my picture of Frost Tower in the top right corner.

The coolest part about this digital publication is that Schmap contacted me about the photo after finding it on Flickr. They emailed me saying that the picture was shortlisted for inclusion in their new Austin guide. About two weeks later it was selected and now flashes before visitors' eyes.

I took "Downtown" in early September while visiting my cousins in Austin, just after returning from Japan. I'm sure I looked like the stereotypical tourist, walking around downtown Austin taking pictures with my big Nikon (standard equipment for all dedicated tourists). A mesh khaki pocket vest would've completed the outfit, but I'll be damned if I wear that without a press pass.

Here is a larger version of "Downtown" complete with a link to my photostream on Flickr:

I took the shot with a Nikon D40 using a polarizing lens. The cloud pattern was not my doing, but being in the right place at the right time is, for better or worse, necessary for taking decent pictures.

So thank you Schmap for selecting my photo for your travel website. Everyone, keep on traveling!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Frames Like Mine

Earlier this month on February 3rd, was the 50th anniversary of the death of Lubbock's number one son, rock n' roll pioneer Buddy Holly. It's impossible to talk with anyone here in town who hasn't heard of Buddy Holly; he's got a street named after him and another one named after his band "The Crickets," his bronze statue stands in front of the Civic Center, and a museum dedicated to his life sits in downtown Lubbock. Though everyone knows of Buddy Holly, not too many know about him, especially the young'ns (me included), so I took a trip to the Buddy Holly Center to learn more about this enigmatic rocker.

The museum itself consists of a large, one room exhibit, a video room that rolls a biographical feature, and a small gift shop. I thought the place would be bigger than it was, but as I wandered through the exhibit and learned more about Holly, I began to understand why the museum is so small: Holly's career only lasted three short years before the plane carrying him and his band crashed outside Clear Lake, Iowa.

Although Holly's career was cut short, it was action packed and truly international. Long before the "world touring rocker" was born, Holly was off touring in Brittan and Australia, inspiring some of music's greatest talents along the way. His appearance on a London band show sparked the creativity and admiration of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, aka the Beatles, who chose their band name reflecting Holly's own band, the Crickets. Buddy Holly influenced so many bands and songs, e.g. Weezer's "Buddy Holly" just to name one, that you'd think no one had heard the electric guitar before Holly started strumming it. Now if only Bono would give him a shoutout.

I've been listening to Buddy Holly's music for a couple of years now, but it wasn't until I visited the museum that I learned how groundbreaking much of it was. Because I wasn't a part of Holly's era, I really don't have the cultural experience of hearing his music as it shakes up the status quo. A sign of the times, it's easier for me to appreciate innovations in electronic music by Daft Punk, or identify with "geek rockers" like Weezer. But a lot of what Holly cut onto records was innovative and utilized every circuit of the day's technology.

One example of Holly's inventiveness can be heard on the cheery song "Everyday." The drum beat behind the chimes doesn't quite sound like a heavy drum smack, and that's because it's not. Holly wanted a lighter sound to express the light-hearted spirit of the song, so instead of using drums, he placed a microphone up to his knees and slapped out the beat with his hands, giving him just the sound he wanted. Holly had a clear vision of how he wanted that song to sound, and he devised a way to realize that vision using the resources he had--low tech or not.

As a son of Lubbock myself, Buddy Holly's short but packed career is inspiring and challenging to emulate. I'm not saying I long for rock n' roll fame, but I do aspire to creatively actualize my passions and see where those passions take me. I wonder what Holly's friends and family thought when he came back to flat and dusty Lubbock with tales from Europe and Australia. Shoot, in his day flying anywhere-and landing-was a story in itself, much less flying overseas with a guitar in hand instead of a machine gun. Holly's ambition must've been bigger than the State of Texas, and ambition is well worth emulation.

Even after learning about Buddy Holly's life, I can't say that his music moves me. It is nice to play while lingering about the house, but it definitely wouldn't carry a road trip. No, his music doesn't make me like him, it's his qualities like his work ethic, his uncompromising devotion to his craft, and his openness to the world that I admire.

I also like his glasses, the black horn-rimmed glasses that define his image. I think in his day those were the only kind of glasses for sale, but nowadays a pair of Holly-esqe frames are hard to come by. Almost three years ago before I left for Japan, I searched all the Lubbock eyeglass shops for a pair just like Holly's but came up short. Oddly enough, I found my Rayban Wayfarers in a small eyeglass shop in Kuki City (久喜市), a town half the size of Lubbock and neighbor to Washimiya Town where I lived. At least once a week I'm complimented on my glasses and asked where I bought them. "The closest place to buy 'em," I say "is just north of Tokyo." It's regrettable that in Buddy Holly-crazed Lubbock, you can't buy a pair his frames anywhere. (However, you can get the conservative-sheik Sarah Palin frames, the very same ones, at a few shops in town.)

So while Buddy Holly and I may have nothing more in common than horn-rimmed frames and being from dusty ol' Lubbock, it's what's behind the frames that counts, and his example is one that hits close to home.
Buddy Holly's real last name was spelled with an 'e' in it but was shortened for the stage.

Monday, February 16, 2009

21st Century Silence


taka taka taka,,,tak tak, dum dum
ling ling ling

-Yeah it's due tomorrow
-Are you kidding me

click click, taka taka toka, dum taka taka click, click, dum toka

fuip fuip fuip
-Spiritual stuff, remind me agian

taka taka

erooooun, erooooun, boin
taka taka tic tic tic click boin, erooooun, -um, we'll see what she wants us to do, posterboard


ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling li
-hey,...I'm at the library

Friday, February 6, 2009

zi Daft Punk riotinae: Classically Modern

Ever hear a song that throws you so far off kilter it leaves you asking, "where has this song been all my life?" Then you start imagining all the highlights of your life with the song playing in the background. Maybe that doesn't happen to you, but it inexplicably happens to me about every four months or so; and today was one of those days. The song: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (live)" by the French mixers Daft Punk.

I have a love / hate relationship with electronic music--a song is either total shit, or a hyper-creative work of mind blowing genius on par with the best of Beethoven or Def Leppard. Since I don't write about shitty things (well there was that one post;), it's safe to say that Daft Punk is a powerful composer of the electronic symphony, an art elegantly unleashed in "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (live)." Watch and listen:

Many people I know find techo music annoying, and many of these same people tend to think classical music is boring. I think they feel this way because 1) they haven't heard exemplary pieces from the genres, and 2) because they don't have the mental framework with which to appreciate what they are not hearing. Connecting classical music and techno is not a stretch even though the two genres sound completely different and presented in drastically different atmospheres: you hear techno in dance clubs and classical in concert halls.

Underlying techno and classical music is a detailed and delicate mode of progression wherein a theme is built upon, dissolved, and recapitulated in a tsunamic climax. The theme is the baseline, the familiar musical phrase that hooks and carries the listener through the piece's movement. The dissolution of the theme, the breakdown, is the dispersion of the supporting elements built upon it during the rising action. During the breakdown, the artist will slowly and carefully recapitulate the supporting elements of the piece, culminating in a massive emotional climax that hits harder than original theme did in the first place. Different musics with similar underlying structures.

With this structural similarity in mind, I wonder when electronic music will be classified as "classical," or "later classical." Although the genre term "classical" applies to music delivered using traditional instruments, i.e. violins, cellos, pianos, etc., "classical" music wasn't considered "classical" in its own time, it was considered extremely modern.

Moving forward to the present, stop and consider what instruments are used for musical composition: keyboards, synthesizers, electric guitars, and above all, regardless of the genre, the computer. Perhaps someday in the future, when computers become tools of antiquity, techno music will be seen for what it is: the creative use of the era's breakthrough instruments, those powered by electricity whose sounds are compiled in bytes.

The future of music has already arrived, carrying its past upon its technologic shoulders.