Thursday, May 29, 2008

...or maybe I *will* be the next Boyce and/or Hart

So my next assignment, from one of my two guitar teachers, is to (you guessed it) write a song. I now know just enough musical theory to be thoroughly dangerous.

I'm going to get a little help. I plan on buying a program called Guitar Pro that will help me play my composition as it develops. I may even pen some lyrics. If I get brave and adventuresome I could possibly even post a midi where people could listen.

Oh, btw, the lesson is to make the verses sort of sad and the chorus "epic". I'm thinking "All By Myself" meets "Bohemian Rhapsody." With a bridge reminiscent of a portion of "Toccata and Fugue In D Minor." Except in C.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mentalism and movies - I disclaim the connection

I have heard far too many mentalists* brush off the use of disclaimers** with a statement like this:
"What if an actor came onscreen at the beginning of the movie and told you that he was just an actor and wasn't really the character he played, and the whole thing you were about to watch was just a story. Wouldn't that hurt your enjoyment of the movie?"

I've heard/read that statement or similar from people too numerous to mention. You'd think that an avocation as seemingly creative as mentalism would come up with different agruments (it's like all of the creative geniuses who use "out of the box" to describe creative thinking). However, my bigger argument with this is that it doesn't hold. The analogy just isn't there. Why not? Let's explore.

Who goes to movies? Most everyone. Who knows about movies? The number increases. There are magazines and websites devoted to movies, and to the various components thereof (actors, special effects, etc). A good chunk of these magazines and websites cater to the general populace. Actors are interviewed on tv and in print. (Which would, in a sense, be a version of a disclaimer: "See? I'm not really Iron Man.") In short, there is a cultural understanding about the nature of movies and how they work.

Now let's take mentalism. ("Take my mentalist, please!") Who goes to see a mentalism show? A small number of people. Who goes to see a GOOD mentalism show? That number shrinks. Considerably. And while there are websites and publications that deal with the intricacies of mentalism, the vast majority don't cater to the general public. In fact, the average person on the street is much more likely to have heard/heard of/seen Jonathan Edward, Sylvia Browne or Allison DuBois than Max Maven, Banachek or
Derren Brown. This means that the cultural expectation for those who deal in psychic phenomenon is that one is either
a. real, or
b. a big old slimy fraud
depending on one's perceptions of the aforementioned Edward, Browne, and DuBoise.

While I agree that it may be bad theater to tip your hand prior to the show, I think many take it too far. To extend the analogy, it doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the Indiana Jones movies to see an interview with Harrison Ford, where he tells us that in his next film he will play a completely different character.

I know there are people who are going to believe no matter what. After one of my own shows I had a lady call me and ask if I could tell her where her missing opera tickets were. But guess what. Even with the cultural knowledge regarding movies, there are some people who believe them. Watch the documentary "Trekkies" to see some examples. Or check out the number of people who have listed "Jedi" as their religious affiliation. Just because I think some people are deluded doesn't mean I have to feed the delusion.

I know I won't convince many to change their tune here, just as their "argument" doesn't convince me. If anything, though, I'd like them to take a look at that hoary "but what if an actor..." analogy that so many use and see it for the straw man it really is.


* For the uninitiated: a "mentalist" is an entertainer who specializes in the theatrical pretense of psychic abilities.

** A "disclaimer" is an acknowledgement that one is indeed not a real psychic.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Masochism Tango

Guitar lessons have been tough; I feel like I haven't had enough time to practice, and that I haven't progressed fast enough (fast enough for what, smart guy?) and I'm getting a bit frustrated.

So if one feels overwhelmed by what one is doing, and feels pressured by too little time to do it, what's the obvious move? Why, get a second guitar teacher, of course!

That's right, music fans, I now have (count 'em) two people giving me too many lessons to tax my already stressed-out brain and fingers.

Stay tuned for the Pete Townshend finale.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Katie Barre The Door

I have hit my first major guitar stumbling block: barre chords. I've got fairly small (and apparently fairly weak) hands, and they just don't want to stretch to those positions just yet.

My instructor gave me my first song to learn last week - Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone" - and one of the first chords in that sucker is an F#m, which is (you guessed it) a barre chord. It opens with an A, which was new but not too difficult, then an E, which I already knew, then our unpleasant little friend. I've twisted the guitar and my body and my hands, all so far to no avail.

So how to get past this dilemma? I'm thinking ukulele.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Not Ready For Prime Time Player

The guitar practice is moving along nicely. I made a big jump last night, for no apparent reason. Suddenly I could transition between chords fairly well, when just the night before it was quite the chore.

On a completely different note, I took an ITIL certification class and test at work. I passed the test, which means that I'm officially ITIL v3 certified.

I can tell by the thunderous silence how much this means to everyone.

Friday, May 02, 2008


I'm measuring my guitar ability by the number of chords I know compared to standard musical styles. When I knew three chords I was a punk. Now that I know five I'm pre-folk. I'm getting pretty close to knowing all the open chords. (Let's not be mistaken here: I'm using "knowing" in an academic sense. I don't "know" these chords in the sense of being able to reproduce them in anything resembling music.)

Next week I plan on tackling this song.