Magic.

Still charged from a whirlwind of a weekend, I am back home and getting back into school mode. This past weekend I was the sound engineer for two performances of “It’s Raining Men!” by the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus. The show is fantastic and if you’re in the area you should take the opportunity to see one of the shows on the 5th or 19th of April. More information can be found on their website.

I have always loved the art of sound engineering: working closely with the production director and stage manager to understand exactly what they need, running cables, placing microphones in the best location, tweaking equipment, following director cues and finding the right sound to show off the performers without startling the audience. Sound design and production has always been my favorite component of performing. I’m excited to have the chance to lend my skills to this fabulous group. They’re also a great bunch of people. I’m looking forward to next weekend’s performance in Norwalk, Conn.

I’ll probably make a video blog entry today while en route to school. It’s time to put this new Mac through it’s paces.

Geek Glad.

So this is the first time I’ve owned a Mac that has a built-in iSight. I know they’ve been around for a number of years, but I’m just getting hip.

Here’s the obligatory picture just snapped at the kitchen table.
MacBook Pro

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Third Generation.



Third Generation., originally uploaded by iMachias.

And today the third generation of Macs in our house begins. My PowerBook G4 (3 1/2 years old) is being relegated to exclusive DJ duties. Earl’s original Mac Mini G4 is up for sale, as is his iBook G4.

The two new guys in the Macinhouse include a MacBook Pro 2.5gHz for me and a 2.4gHz for Earl. Mine is faster because of the video editing I do (it also comes with more video RAM). They are both 15-inch glossy screens. After living in G4 land for the past 3+ years I think we are going to notice a considerable speed increase.

So Where Have You Been?

Life has been interesting this week. Midterm grades came out on Wednesday and I am not happy with my progress; more specifically that damned MA122 Calculus class featuring Professor Frightful and his cast of voices in the chalkboard. I don’t know if it’s approaching middle age, an inherited genetic disposition or what but I can not retain what I learn in that class. Let me look at the book and I can calculate a problem six ways from Sunday. Throw an exam in front of me and I can’t remember one of the six thousand “rules” and “formulas” that we have been given. Hell, I barely remember my name.

In today’s business climate one hears about “corporate speak”. One phrase that pops up is “give me the low hanging fruit”. I absolutely dislike this approach to most things but when it comes to calculus, I want to know what formula to use, how to use it and how to derive my answer. I don’t really care about the theory behind it. My goal is to score well on the test. I know this is a poor way to approach learning but I figure that if I have the basics then I’ll be fine because when I return to the “real world” I’ll have a computer at my desk that’s attached to the internet and anything I need to know will be just an expertly worded Google inquiry away.

My other courses are aces and I’m really happy about that. The information taught in my engineering classes comes naturally to me. Even physics, which I never had in high school, is coming relatively easy to me because the professor provides a list of every equation that’s been discussed in the class for each exam and quiz. He doesn’t tell WHAT the equations are for, he just lists the equations and it’s up to you to figure out which one is applicable to a problem. I like this approach and if Professor Frightful would listen to my voice instead of the ones in the chalkboard and do the same I think I would be able to score at least a “B” in the course.

Today we moved onto another subject and he spent 15 minutes proving some complicated formula involving limits approaching infinity, exponents, greek letters and division. After he rattles all this information around and half the class falls asleep, I raise my hand and say, “So when the exponents fall to the denominator, you can drop the variable completely?” His reply was “Yes”. I resisted the urge to say “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Low hanging fruit. Just tell me when to drop what and I’m good to go.

Spinoff.

It was bound to happen. My DJ SuperCub alter-ego has the beginnings of his own website now. All DJ stuff will now appear at djsupercub.com.

Now, back to the blog.

Waiting.

I’m sitting here on the couch in the “great room”. Tom is curled up next to me, he has two paws resting on my leg for comfort. Otherwise he’s sound asleep and having quite the dreams because he’s twitching and thrashing about. He’s like his dad when it comes to restless dreaming.

Our new computers have been shipped and should be here by the end of the week. Thank goodness. I will have three Macs for sale, let me know if you’re interested in a first generation Mac Mini, a last generation iBook or a G3 blueberry iMac. I’d rather sell them to a reader before I throw them up on ebay and I’ll deliver to within 300 miles if it means I get to meet a reader. I’m not getting rid of my PowerBook G4 that I’ve loved for the past 42 months; he is getting reassigned to exclusive DJ duty. I think it’s better to have a separate computer for my DJ gigs.

Our midterm grades are announced tomorrow and I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about my calculus class with Professor Frightful and his cast of voices. The adjoining classroom has been populated by a professor with a LOUD computer this week and Professor Frightful keeps thinking it’s someone asking him a question so he stops the class to talk to the computer in the other room. It’s a little weird.

Other than that, it’s a typical week in the life of iMachias. This weekend I’m off to Connecticut to be the “sound designer” for the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus. I’m looking forward to the experience.

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American Idol: Top 10.

After taking a week off from live blogging American Idol last week (who wants to watch that when we can watch power outages in Las Vegas?) I’m back watching American Idol on time delay and giving my raw impressions as I watch the performances. I welcome comments and feedback.

There may be spoilers if you haven’t watched the show. I’m just warning you per internet etiquette.

Tonight’s theme is the year they were born. Mostly 80s music? This is making me feel old already.

1. (1987) Ramiele Malubay: “Alone” by Heart. The audience is annoying with their waving arms. That first run she sang was off key. She’s off key quite a bit. Did Carrie Underwood sing this back during her season? I believe she did and it was much, much better than this horrible performance. The audience needs to stop the boos. I completely agree with Randy: “pitchy”.

I still think the “American Idol” logo looks naked without the oval around it. It lacks punch.

2. (1987) Jason Castro: “Fragile” by Sting. Typical Jason: stool, dreads, guitar, breathy vocals. He has one way of singing and he does it well but it doesn’t grab me and I wouldn’t enjoy an entire album of this. “Gee whiz Jason, shave the peach fuzz above your lip until you can grow a real mustache”. What is Paula Abdul wearing for gloves? Zsa Zsa cast offs? Jason seems like a nice kid but he has the personality of a wet dish rag.

3. (1987) Siesha Mercado: “If I Were Your Woman” by Stephanie Mills. Surprise! I totally expected “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston. I’m not familiar with the track but I thought she sang it well. She’s no Jennifer Hudson but I thought she did a very good job and she was on pitch the entire performance. I enjoyed it.

I’m happy that they’re including the Cathy Dennis “Oh whoa whoa whoa whoa” on the music beds this year.

4. (1985) Chikezie: “If Only For One Night” by Patti LaBelle and Luther Vandross. First couple of notes were a little shaky. Not a bad performance, the end was impressive, but unfortunately it’s not suited for mainstream radio. I agree with Randy’s comments in that it sounded very dated.

You would think that the top rated show on the American networks would be able to make the judge’s mikes sound good. What’s up with the hum and the hiss? They need a better sound designer.

5. (1983) Brooke White: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Whoops, false starts are always disconcerting but she recovered well. I don’t know how she plays piano with rings on, I always have trouble with my wedding band when I play piano. Maybe the rings are interfering, I heard a few clinkers in the instrumentation. I want to like this but I’m starting to think she’s a one trick pony like Jason and that’s unfortunate because I really want to like her.

The lack of consistency in the American Idol on the bumpers is not good for brand recognition. Can you tell this lack of oval bothers me?

6. (1978) Michael Johns: “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions ” by Queen. He does Freddy Mercury fairly well. Perhaps he should try the ‘stache, but that’s my spin on it (big fan of the ‘stache). I’m happy that he knows his vocal limits and didn’t try to sing above his natural register. I enjoyed both his vocal performance and his presentation. Good job.

7. (1983) Carly Smithson: (she gets MAJOR points for mentioning Kylie Minogue in her pre-game interview) “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. I’m always a fan of Carly but this performance isn’t really doing much for me. I almost think she’s trying too hard. I agreed with Randy and Simon, she didn’t seem entirely comfortable while performing.

8. (1990) David Archuleta: “You’re The Voice”. I don’t know this song. It was a typical David Archuleta performance. He nailed the pitch, the performance was good. O.k., it was written by John Farnham. Google says David Foster and Jeff Pescetto did something with it in 1990. I agree with Simon to an extent in that it sounded like a Theme Park Performance, but I think it would be a high-end theme park like DisneyWorld.

9. (1984) Kristy Lee Cook: “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. At least she’s staying within her genre without going hoedown on us. I still say she’s Carmen Rasmusen without the yodel. She still has some pitch issues that are not characteristic of country music. I think she played it safe this week. Her arm movements looked rehearsed and unnatural.

10. (1982) David Cook: “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson but as performed by Chris Cornell. I hate his hair, it reminds me of a bad beauty parlor cut on an older Italian woman. Vocally he’s on target but he’s a bit of a one trick pony. He’s a cheap version of Daughtry. Predictable.

Who do I think should go home? Chikezie.

Almost Spring.

As I went back to school today, Mother Nature made it look very warm and inviting. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was a brilliant blue and the birds were singing a joyous song.

But that could have been their beaks chattering.

In reality it never got above 35 today, but my college has graciously cranked up the air conditioning to an uncomfortable level. Rumours of slabs of beef hanging in the hall were unsubstantiated.

Perhaps I’m still in desert mode.

Here’s a picture to remind me of the warmth of Vegas. Even in this night shot last Tuesday night it was still in the low 60s.

Sigh.

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Not Quite Saturday Night.

Back in 1993 I had my “big break” in radio when I was asked to host a remix show on our local Top 40 radio station. I had been hanging around the studios for a couple of months, had secured my FCC license (which you needed to be on the radio in those days) and was ready to show the world what radio personality J.P. Marks was all about. The regular remix DJ, a very nice guy by the name of Ron The Sugarbear, was taking the weekend off and I was asked to fill in. The Program Director was nervous as all get out and laid out a game plan for me to follow for three of the five hours I was to be on the air, the other two hours I was allowed to do my own thing. One thing I distinctly remember is that after a few mixes I did my first talk break in which my mother called immediately afterwards in tears because she was so excited to hear me on the air.

Saturday Night Dance Tracks was skewed towards the mainstream dance music of the time (remember it was the early 1990s) and the emerging hip hop scene. One of the highest rated time slots on the station (which was consistently in the top three in the market), I was determined to fill some pretty big shoes for my debut while keeping my own spin to make my trademark.

I decided to play a record I had picked up a couple of months prior. It wasn’t on any of the industry dance charts at the time and was only being heard in gay clubs in major cities, it was however very successful when I played it during my gigs. I was absolutely certain that this record would be a HUGE hit if the general public had the chance to hear it, even though it was a remake of a HUGE hit from the 1980s. The song was released by an unknown artist on a small indy label from the UK.

When I spun into this record and the first verse started, the phone board started lighting up. As we progressed into the chorus of the very familiar tune, the board reached capacity. “Who is this?” “Where did you get this?” “Oh my God, I love this!” All the callers were loving the record. The hotline (a special line into the studio that station personnel have access to) called, it was the music director. “Great track, who is it?”

Grinning from ear to ear, I replied with, “It’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart'”. The music director thanked me for the obvious. I filled in the blanks with “she’s Nicki French and it’s on a small indy label called ‘Energise Records’ or something like that”. He replied with “can I borrow it?” “Absolutely.” Success. J.P. Marks had made his mark.

Nicki French’s version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” hit U.S. mainstream radio about a year later. I had the opportunity to meet Nicki a couple of times: the first time was backstage at a Kix 106 concert in Providence, Rhode Island and the second time at John Garabedian’s house during his syndicated “Open House Party” show. Ms. French is clearly the NICEST artist and one of the NICEST people I have ever met.

For your enjoyment, here’s her video for the U.S. radio mix of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.