red echo

A web journal by Mars Saxman: my life, reflected and filtered

May entries

Archived Entries for April, 2005

April 30, 2005

Wilderness restoration on Whidbey Island

April 29, 2005

April 28, 2005

Bike season again - time to wash off the playa dust

Demolition of First Christian Church on Broadway

Sunset at St. Mark's

April 27, 2005

April 24, 2005

Another day in paradise

April 23, 2005

51 Road Deconstruction, Cedar River Watershed

Organized by the Friends of the Cedar River, an unusually large group of volunteers spent the day planting trees on an old logging road inside the watershed. Give it a few years and this will almost look like a forest.

April 22, 2005

I just marked down yet another Pacific Northwest burner event in my calendar, and as I flipped back through I noticed that they have been accumulating thick and fast: SOAK*2005, June 3-5; Critical Mass, June 23-26; Burn in the Forest, July 15-17; Phoenixfest, July 21-25. Then of course there is Burning Man itself, from August 29 through September 5th. Somewhere in here I have a new art installation piece to build, last year's Skybeam to repair, a REALbasic release to get out the door, and some backpacking to squeeze in. Um... yeah. It's going to be one busy summer, and I have a feeling that about half of it is going to fall off the list.

Dewanatron: strange musical instruments with funky electromechanical early-mid 20th century looking interfaces and names like “Melody Gin&rdquo, “Swarmatron”, and “Courtesy Modulator”. These things would go well in a studio with the Funk Logic Mastererizer and Palindrometer, except that they actually work... I think.

April 20, 2005

The band project isn't going as well as I'd hoped. Sadie's priorities have shifted over the last few months, and she's decided to drop out. I'm glad she decided to do it before we sunk a huge amount of time into the project, but I'm still disappointed; she has a great voice, and it's not easy to find people with similar musical tastes and levels of ambition. Well, it was time to bring in another musician anyway, so now I'll just post two ads instead of one.

I am pretty happy with my own musical efforts, at least. I feel like I've finally mastered my Nord; I've gone from cautiously tweaking the preset patches to boldly dialing up brand new sounds from scratch. Song ideas aren't coming any more quickly than they ever did, but something about all this Bach and Handel has finally sunk in, and I'm finding it easier than ever to write harmonies and accompaniments. The voice lessons, too, have paid off, both in extended range and improved control. I don't expect ever to be a great singer, but at least I don't feel like I have to hide behind a wall of digital effects anymore.

My original plan, which now seems hilariously optimistic, had been to put a show together by the end of last year. Given the amount of time I expect to spend on art projects and Burning Man this summer, I think it's reasonable to push that goal back by a year. There's a lot of work to do still, but I think it will be a good thing when it finally comes together.

April 19, 2005

April 16, 2005

April 15, 2005

A couple of months back I wrote out lead sheets for a couple of my songs so that Sadie and Caroline could learn the harmony parts. Today I noticed that I have been practicing these two songs a lot more than the rest, simply because they're sitting out on my piano where I can play through them without thinking about it. It occured to me that writing down the rest of the songs probably wouldn't be a bad idea, so I spent a couple of hours at the piano and now I have a paper copy of “Winter chill”. Nice. It's not quite the same as composing new music, but it's still awfully satisfying to see the physical evidence of something created.

After that I wandered over to Chop Suey for a random concert that turned out to be really good. It was Sushirobo, FCS North, and Kuma, with a little burlesque interlude by the Atomic Bombshells, who were their usual campy selves. (At the end of the act, one of the girls flung away the rose she'd been playing with; it sailed out into the audience and nailed me in the neck. Hmmm.)

I keep hearing about Kuma from various people, most of whom have said that the band puts on a good live show, and they didn't disappoint. The music is a little outside my normal range, but it's creative and different, and they put a lot of energy into it. It's moody, darkish rock, mostly driven by the singer, who puts every muscle into her performance and has a voice that reminds me of Siouxsie or maybe Kate Bush. Worth seeing if you get a chance.

April 13, 2005

Me, Sara, and my sister Olivia

How to make curry, an adaptable recipe template designed for customization.

The 2005 map for Black Rock City is out. Looks like they've made some changes this year: they've redistributed the theme camps, running them deep into the city along roads 7:30 and 4:30. This is an interesting idea; in years past the city had a definite downtown/suburb split, with all the big elaborate projects up near the esplanade and all the unaffiliated campers lodged out in the hinterlands. From the looks of the new map, it's going to be impossible to end up further than three blocks from a big theme camp boulevard no matter where you stake your tent. This is a good thing, I think; more of the city will feel lively and active, and people who just show up and camp won't feel like they've been exiled to the boondocks. I'm sure I'd have been less frustrated in 2001 if the city had been laid out this way.

More Cuttlefishery

April 11, 2005

A two-channel 40 watt audio amplifier for ten bucks? There has to be some useful thing I could do with that.

April 9, 2005

After the initial test run at the Dorkbot party back in January, I decided that my laser backpack needed some improvements. I spent a few hours tinkering with it today; now the batteries are held in place with bolted-in metal clips instead of scotch tape, and the case has an external switch so I don't need to take the backpack off and pop its case open to toggle the power - this feature will be particularly valuable in certain extremely dusty environments.

April 3, 2005

I spent a few hours today working on the latest incarnation of Starfish, a computer graphics project I've been tinkering with for years. While Starfish is designed around big, detailed, screen-sized images, the new program (which I'm currently calling Cuttlefish) is intended for realtime video generation. I've mostly just been waiting for computer hardware to catch up to the level of performance such a project would require, but the wait was good for me: I've learned some tricks in the meantime. The Cuttlefish math engine uses a bunch of techniques borrowed from audio synthesis, for example, which never would have occured to me had I tried writing this even just two years ago.

April 2, 2005

I was working on a music project today and realized that my studio lacked a small gadget which would make life easier. Sometimes I want to listen to the music I'm working on through my speakers, and sometimes I want to listen on the headphones. My mixer has jacks for both, but there's no easy way to shut off the speakers while I'm using the headphones - I have to yank out the plugs, which is annoying and seems kind of silly. I stopped by Guitar Center, but they had nothing like this - just Mackie's Big Knob, which is total overkill given that my mixer already does everything but the output routing. “This can't be that hard”, I thought, and off I went to Radio Shack.

The plan was to make a little black box that could sit on my mixer, but after I got home and started fitting components together I realized that the plastic box I'd bought was too small. This turned out for the best, though - I realized that I could simply mount all the components in the mixer's rackmount flange and have the whole system built in. An hour or two of drilling, screwing, and soldering later, my mixer has a fancy little a/b/off monitor control switch. Whee! No more messing with plugs when all I want to do is turn off the speakers and record something.

March entries


photo © 2001 Stacie Mayes

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Current reading

Twilight of the Habsburgs, Alan Palmer
The Age of Empire, Eric Hobsbawm
On Alexander's Track to the Indus, Aurel Stein
Video Night in Kathmandu, Pico Iyer
The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke