8-7-06, 9:41 AM -
August. What horrible memories come to mind when I think of that word. It's second only to February on my Hateful Month List, and this week is a good reminder why. It's like having Clifford the Big Red Dog breathe on you all day. If he had a gigantic spotlight hanging from his head.
Our apartment faces the west, so the first part of the day here isn't too bad. You don't really see into the eyes of hell unless you step outside and out of the building's shadow. We actually have quite a few trees and a good green lawn out front, which gets all dewed up overnight and fools you into believing it's springtime.
There's a certain feeling one gets when the rest of the world is at work and you're at home. It starts around 9AM, after the last of the late commuters has pulled out of the parking lot & the traffic on the main road loses its roar. The residential world is sort of an alternate universe at this time. You know that somewhere, the working world is churning away, eyeing deadlines and busting humps, but there is no sign of that here. The dumpster truck comes by a little after 10:00, and if it's Friday, the lawn crew gets busy out front, but otherwise there's no nothing nowhere apart from us stay-at-home people. There are a few more of these besides me in this complex, but we don't venture out much. Not in August, anyway.
Besides, Sesame Street is on at 11:00. I'm not one of these parents who wants the TV to babysit, and Sesame Street is more like a fun preschool than TV. Since we no longer have cable and the wondrousness of Noggin or Nick Jr., we're left with what PBS can do, which most of the time isn't much. A few of their shows are pretty good, like Arthur, Sesame Street, and Dragon Tales. I have a strange fascination with Thomas the Tank Engine, as does Nathan. It's probably the hyper-English songs and big choo-choo trains.
Somewhere in there Nathan will eat, have a bottle, and take a nap, though he's no more keen to go to sleep than I ever was. Got stuff to do, parents to chew on, things to destroy. But eventually he'll drop off, and I can get a bit of work done. Soon, though, I'll hear the stirring of little lungs, or more likely, look up to see him peering at me from between the crib bars. Time to play.
If we're lucky, the pool will be open and we can have a swim. Nathan's a big fan of water nowadays, and likes to sit in his ring floatie and splash like crazy. His father enjoys the exercise, plus the good memories that chlorine pool smell brings back. Lately, the pool has been as likely to be closed as open, owing to some pretty ferocious algae this year. I've made friends with a couple of chain-smoking old ladies whose balcony overlooks the pool. Babies make good icebreakers, whether you want the ice broken or not. These ladies can't ever seem to remember whether he's a boy or girl, which is fine. A baby pretty much looks like a baby, and his eyelashes are in the family tradition of being long enough to swat flies, so they could be forgiven for thinking he's got mascara on. Though I've never seen a baby with mascara...
If the pool's not open, we often have to entertain ourselves in other ways. I can usually prevail upon the Wifely to come home for lunch so I can take her back to work and commandeer the car. As I've mentioned before, Nathan enjoys retail scenery, from the mall to the bookstore to the bloody Ikea supermonolith. I used to take him for outdoor walks, but that'll have to wait another month until Pete turns the oven off out there.
By late afternoon, signs of civilization start returning to the complex. Early shift workers fill the first spots, groggily ambling over the lawn to their front doors. Our next-door-neighbor, whose apartment faces the woods behind the complex, claims there are occasional bobcats and coyotes back there. Haven't seen any of them leap out to capture slow-moving humans, but I keep my eyes open.
8-21-06, 8:23 PM -
I suspect that at the turn of each century, it takes a while for those present to really feel like the odometer has flipped over. The 20th century, for instance, probably felt a lot like the late 19th until, I dunno, World War I. Wasn't there, can't say for sure.
The 2000s have felt enough like the 1990s to me that I've been living in the past a bit. In some ways--politically, for example--the shift in my brain did take place, but in most other ways it's kind of been like an extended curtain call for 1999.
Until last week.
Ladies & gentlemen, I have seen the 21st century, and it looks like Second Life. If you don't know about this yet, you soon will. Second Life is a virtual world, inhabited by and built by virtual selves, and presided over only minimally by Linden Labs, who created the basic framework.
Your virtual self is represented by an avatar, a graphical person who you can rig up to look like whatever you want. Virtual selves have existed for a while in the form of usernames, email addresses, and video game characters, also a form of avatar. Here's mine, dubbed Matthew Perreault:
But Second Life is not a game. There's no objective apart from what you bring to it, no way to win, and no one trying to kill you. Unlike the Sims, you don't have to feed & bathe your avatar, or even clothe it if you don't want to. It's the kind of world an intelligent designer would come up with, if he/she/it really wanted humans to be free to use the large brain pan they possess.
For those who may have played it already and are thinking, "Huh? What's the big deal?", it is likely that you are not a musician.
Last night I sat in front of my computer in my boxer shorts, turned on a mic and played a live show to a good-sized crowd of people (my avatar strumming his guitar and singing for their avatars) at the Roc, a club in Second Life. I played for an hour, turned off the mic, and changed my son's diaper. I made some tip money, sold some songs on iTunes, and logged off, taking care to adjust my boxers once more.
I was out NO MONEY. This is almost unheard of in the world of independent music. No flyers, no gas, no schlepping, and in not too many years, probably no disc pressing costs to recoup. It's damned near perfect. If this is the future of music, Warner Brothers can kiss my honky ass.
Some might argue that there may be something missing from a performance which involves no actual physical proximity. It's true that at some live shows, there is a certain frisson that can give a nice spark. Which is why I've never given up live local performing.
But think of this: At this Second Life show, I entertained people from the UK, Australia, Brazil, California, and Pete knows where else. Music lovers gathered, unrestrained by geography, to enjoy music in the same virtual space. There's something incredible and amazing about that, and I'm glad Second Life has made it a reality.
And this complements what's happening in music retail. Half my sales now come from places like iTunes and Rhapsody, slowly overtaking physical disc sales. In ten years, if I can make my new album at home, chuck it up online, and sit at my computer all day promoting and selling it in virtual space, Universal Music Group can REALLY kiss my derriere blanc.
Looks like a party, don't it?
So anyway, if you have a high-speed internet connection and a computer that's less than a couple of years old, I would recommend you visit the new world.
It's aptly named, because it's given my optimism about the future of the music business a whole new lease on life. This century rocks.
8-28-06, 10:33 AM -
August's wrath is legendary around these parts, and every year I forget that once it's over, this state can actually be quite beautiful. A vast expanse of storm clouds in a Texas sky bring a sort of tension that's both frightening and exhilarating. Thunder and lightning crash ominously, reminding those who've forgotten that we don't own this place, we just rent it.
The view out my window is soothing to me. Dark shadow, soft light, diffused air, the heaviness of moisture slowing the world down just enough to give it a good look. The tones of my adolescent infatuation with England.
Nathan naps peacefully in his crib, calmed by the lazy light. When he wakes, we'll read his favorite books and work on standing up. You don't realize how hard getting upright is until you watch someone trying to do it for the first time. Once he crosses that threshold, he'll never go back. It's nice to have this time with him, watching him learn things, being his memory for this period in his life, until he's ready to remember for himself.
It's good that I'm getting close to completion on the new album at this time of year. I feel much more like myself in gray weather. I'll give you some news when I have something other than "nearly done, almost there..." All I can say is that at this point, I'm very proud of it, and intend to be more so in another month or so. More later.
11:37 AM -
Nathan's up, and so is Elmo's World. And probably my time. Dreaming of September, and more so of October. Another Texas summer survived. And I must admit, the prospect of an oncoming New York winter doesn't tickle my nostalgia button in the slightest. I'll be glad to miss it. I've already got 4 years worth of photos of Central Park in the snow.
Be good in this life, and I hope to see you in the Second...