Sunday, November 30, 2008

Home from School and the Joys of Rocky Horror

Our oldest daughter came home from school for the weekend. At her school, there are a number of students who live far enough away that they can't go to their own homes for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we had one of them stay with us as well. She was very pleasant to have around and my lovely wife enjoyed having an extra daughter on hand, too.

Of course, my daughter knows she needs to be earning a bit of scratch while she's home from school (next semester's books ain't exactly buying themselves, y'know), so she'd signed up to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during her "time off." As I write this, we're getting a dusting of wet snow and she's on her third day in a row of work while on vacation. To her credit, she hasn't grumbled too much. She's lucky in that her summer job employer welcomed her back during her school breaks.

The working while on break's not too far off of what I've been doing with the woodworking during my own holiday time off. One of the first things I did was make up a new project for sale in my Etsy shop. It's a Holiday Star Wooden Tea Light Candle Holder:

It was ready just in time for the Thanksgiving Day feast we had here at the house (with 22 people in attendance). One of those in attendance was my sister, who celebrated (or probably tried to ignore) her 41st birthday earlier in the week. She saw a pair of the candle holders on the table and complimented me on them. I said "You like those? They're for you - happy birthday!" Then she proceeded to tell me what else she likes of mine... I guess it'd be safe to say they went over with her fairly well.

As I recall from being a college kid (and this is a stretch since I'm so very old, right?), one of the best parts about being on break is getting together with your friends from town again. My daughter had a few friends over to the house last night and after all the giggling at inside jokes, they sat down to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show - another step in the rite of passage that is getting through college. Since our home DVD player is busted at the moment, they gathered around the nearest widescreen laptop to watch.

Now, something I recall about watching Rocky Horror as a kid young adult was going to the theater (without a clue of what I was in for) and slowly figuring out for myself why people were squirting water pistols during outdoor rainy scenes, why rolls of toilet paper were being thrown at the screen ("Great Scott!"), and why everyone declared the actors were eating meat loaf for dinner; none of which my daughter or friends had even a clue about! One of the more enjoyable things I did as a college student at UConn was to present the film on campus as part of a fund raiser. When an ameteur acting troupe out of the New Haven, Connecticut area heard we were presenting the film, they asked if they could perform on the floor during the showings. I was naïve enough to say 'yes', but it turned out to be a highlight of the presentations.

Something else I recall about Rocky Horror was trying to relive the theater experience on a home theater VCR, only to discover that certain movies just do not translate well to the living room. Rocky Horror being first among them. The girls had their giggles while watching some of the racier stuff in the movie the other night, but they simply had no clue about the rest. They definitely missed out on the better 70% of the fun of going to "the show"!!

Coming up in my next installment: an interview with Etsy's MuffinTop Designs!
Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Idle Hands and Idol Worship

A long time ago, a good friend of mine turned me on to some music, the likes of which I'd never known existed. We were at his mom's apartment after school one day back in 1981 or so, and he had put on an LP without showing me the cover. It turned out to be 'Oxygene' by Jean Michel Jarre, and it absolutely blew my mind! Over the ensuing years, we became the best of friends and hunted down albums of electronic music to share with each other. He'd find LPs by Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and Michael Garrison, I'd find albums by Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Edgar Froese, and Synergy. We taped each other's collections (as well as our own, because you just didn't want to take that chance that your kid brother or sister was going to take out your LPs when you weren't home and use them as frisbees for the dog to chase).

We made it through college, or whatever passed for higher learning, and moved out into the real world. He moved into it a bit quicker than I did, go-getter that he was. I ended up getting married and sprouting children a lot quicker. Sooner rather than later, my disposable income was now necessary, so the additions to the LP collection became fewer and further between. Of course, LPs were starting to see serious competition from CDs, so it wasn't long before there weren't many LPs to be had anyway. But I digress...

Back at the end of the 80s, when Tangerine Dream was recognizable enough of a name here in the States to be able to mount a 30 to 40 city tour and realize a profit, I decided it was time to meet the man behind the band, Edgar Froese. At this time, I'd already amassed about 50 LPs by him and his band, had written to them and received press kits and autographed photos of the band's members, and was, in short, a bit of a fanboy. I figured it was high time I met my idol.

I discovered the phone number and contact for the label Tangerine Dream was signed to at the time, called her up, gave her my name and told her I was a college kid working for the campus radio station with an assignment to conduct an interview for airplay. About the only part of this that wasn't a big fat lie, of course, was my name. After getting my brother-in-law (who WAS a campus radio station DJ) to sign off some sort of credentials on my behalf, and submitting a list of potential questions, I was approved for the interview.

By phone.

"Uh-uh", I remember telling the label rep. "I want to conduct this interview in person." I already had tickets in hand to see the band perform in Boston, so why not get together before the show and do it then? After a bit of hemming and hawing on her part, we agreed. I ended up sitting down with Edgar Froese and a tape recorder for about 20 minutes, going over his views on music technology (presaging by about 10 to 15 years the advent of compact flash drives), analogue vs digital instruments, and several other such inanities as he's covered in countless better interviews conducted by folks a lot less gormless than yours truly.

Following the interview, my brother-in-law and I strolled over to Newberry Comics and found a rare Tangerine Dream CD that I just had to add to my collection. Meanwhile, I think my extremities felt somewhat numbed at the excitement of it all. We had the privilege of meeting the full band backstage after the show as well. I also traded a transcription of the interview for a membership in the Tangerine Dream North American Network, some members of which made me seem quite casual about the whole thing by comparison.

Eventually, the editor of the Network's newsletter must've had a falling out with Edgar's management or something because the direction of the newsletter went from covering all things having to do with the band to covering everything close to the band but not the band itself. Yeah, odd, I thought. One particular band the editor had become very fond of during this transition was an electronic music band from the UK with the strangest sounding name I'd ever encountered, considering the music they played: Radio Massacre International. Shame on me - it was years before I actually found anything of theirs to listen to. And what a revelation it was for me, too! Unfortunately, much of their music is privately pressed, meaning it's recorded to CDR and distributed through limited channels til the supply runs out, then it's 'tough luck, Charlie.'

The connection was made for me a few years later, when upon listening to a BBC recording of Tangerine Dream live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975 (and incredible recording if you can get ahold of it!), I heard the radio announcer mention that the concert was being broadcast from the vaults at the request of one Steve Dinsdale - - who, as it turns out, is a member of RMI. I guess I wasn't the only fanboy out there after all. I'm glad Steve did that, though. What a great recording! And an obvious inspiration to his band in their formative years.

And even though RMI has played various shows in the US at least four times over the past several years, I have yet to get out to see them. I kick myself, too, because they're right up there among my all-time faves now, right alongside Redshift...

...but they're a subject for another day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Etsy Members are the Best

I find myself this evening in the Holiday Inn Express in Toronto - or one of them anyway. There may be a half dozen of them in this city for all I know. It's the first time I've been to Toronto, but the purpose is the same as it's been for a while: I'm here to try and sell machinery for cutting, grinding, and polishing synthetic and natural diamond for industrial purposes - it's my day job, as it's been for three years now. Of course, with the US economy in the tank and taking every other nation's economy with it, Canada's automotive sector is having just as much trouble as America's. There are a few bright spots - companies that diversified into more than automotive, companies that deal with the Japanese automakers (who don't seem to be quite so hard hit (yet)), and companies that were never heavily invested in automotive to begin with. I'm hoping my travel schedule puts me in touch with more of them than the ones who are laying off most of their workforce, but I'll know better by the end of the week how that works out.

But more to the point of the title of this particular entry. I decided I'd check out who among the Etsians I've been in touch with in the various forums might live somewhere along the way between Connecticut and Toronto. [I got together on the way up with my best friend from high school, but that's a story for another day.] I've found that many of us in the Etsy forums have expressed an interest in meeting up with other members of the forums because we all seem to get along so well. I know that other web board members get together fairly frequently. I'm also a member of the boards and live in a constant state of jealousy of the friendships that have been forged first-hand through meetings at the numerous bashes held all over the UK. A number of b3tans have pledged that they'll have a bash in my honor, should I ever make it across the pond again, and I plan to hold them to it! They're a great bunch, and I'd love to meet them all!

As for Etsians on this particular trip, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the proprietor of Muffintop Designs, who lives in the Toronto area, for coffee, before starting out to conduct the business of the day. This is the first time I've met up with somebody from the forums (I've met a customer or two as well as other sellers in the Connecticut area before), and it was a rare treat! Never has a morning coffee gone by so quickly! We both left with the feeling that we could've talked all day and not exhausted the subjects of conversation: selling on Etsy, selling at craft shows, our day jobs, our families, our pets, our spouses, what led us to do this crazy thing and how we've overcome inherent shyness to put ourselves out there and proudly spread out our wares to show the world that we enjoy creating! What a blast! She also has an entertaining and informative blog, so please support her as well and check it all out!

As for my own Etsy shop, I'm considering listing a bunch of "seconds" from the last batch of swords I made up. See, I had purchased a whole bunch of wood from a friend of mine from back when I used to live in North Carolina many moons ago. Oddly, some of it turned out to be wormy, which is sometimes okay if that's a characteristic you're looking for in, say, flooring for a converted farmhouse, but may not necessarily be desirable in a toy sword you'd want to get your kids for Christmas (unless your little pirate likes pretending he was a member of the worm-ridden undead crew aboard the Black Pearl). Am I wrong about this? I don't know - here's a photo of the swords in question:

Anyway, I was thinking of listing them at half price and seeing how they do. They'll still be sanded smooth, and woodburning a personalization is still free, so it's not a bad deal by any stretch. In the meantime, I think it's time to head to the lumber yard and find some poplar that's a little more solid for the next batch of swords. We'll see...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's starting to get c-c-cold

So I started out promising to keep this up on a weekly basis, and it's been - what, over 6 weeks! - since my last post. Pretty smooth!

So, what's been happening since my last post, you ask? As it happens, a lot! Let's see - there was my high school 25th reunion, my oldest daughter's been back home a few times since we sent her off to school, half of my boys have had their soccer season come & go, Halloween's cavalcade of candy greed has fueled all the kids into hyperdrive, and I've been on the road a few times, too (Utah, Massachusetts, and New York, with more Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ontario yet to come in the next couple weeks). My trip into Massachusetts and New York last week saw the last remnants of autumn's firey maples and rusty oaks dusted with the first of the early winter's snow. It was like coloring on a clean white sheet of paper.

Calvin chasing down a soccer ball

The west side of the Berkshires with an autumn dusting of snow

Halloween carvings

My reunion reintroduced me to a good friend I hadn't even spoken with since graduation. All I knew was that he'd gone into the Navy afterward. Talking with him the other night unearthed some territory I must've subliminally put right out of my mind many years ago. Suffice it to say, I hadn't given my friend nearly enough credit for his role in helping me achieve a somewhat normal existence in high school. Thank you, Charlie.

The big highlight for me this past month and a half was the completion of a woodworking commission of sorts, involving the fabrication of wooden fan blades for Urban Archaeology in Brooklyn, NY who, among other things, upgrades ceiling fans by customizing the metal finish on the motor housings, then adding either red oak, quarter sawn white oak, mahogany, or teak fan blades to them. It's probably fairly obvious where I came into the picture, I suppose, but I have to admit to being completely stoked to having finished the project on-time and on-budget. For a hobby-gone-bad, that's a major accomplishment. It wasn't as crafty as the projects I get into in my shop on Etsy, but it'll help put oil in my tank this winter!

I was also featured in an interview at The Downtown Boutique a couple weeks ago, and am currently featured in Vicki Diane's Artists of Etsy Exposed Series. Downtown Boutique's giveaway is over, but the interview is still a decent read (if I do say so myself!). Vicki Diane's feature, however, expires Tuesday morning at 9:06 AM, so check it out before it goes! [Once it's gone, it's gone!]