Sunday, September 27, 2009

Acoustic Battle: What we learned

Last week I reported that Cinder Bridge didn't make it to the second round of Acoustic Battle of the Bands. One benevolent commenter offered words of encouragement, saying that whatever we learned from the experience made it worthwhile.

I do think the experience was worthwhile. We had a good time, met some new musicians/listeners and reconnected with old ones, and got our act in front of people who wouldn't have otherwise heard us.

But a learning experience? Hmmm.

As it happens, some musicians who participated in the previous ABOB requested that judges write comments instead of just ranking the bands. They felt the feedback would help them improve. So this year, we got feedback.

Was it helpful? You decide.

Judge #1

Overall -- Nice tunes -- tough to pull off as a 2 piece. [Cinder Bridge is a duo consisting of me (vocals, keyboard) and a drummer.] I might add a sequence[r] part for more texture.

Judge #2

Great lyrics and sound. I wasn't that drawn in to their music. The keyboard threw me off, not acoustic.

Judge #3

[No comments, but mediocre ratings.]

So, to sum up:
  1. We should be less acoustic.
    (Using a sequencer probably would have disqualified us for Acoustic Battle of the Bands, but I'll assume he meant for regular gigs.)

  2. We should be more acoustic.
    (Next time we'll hire a U-Haul and bring my upright piano. If we can get the thing on and off the stage in time, we'll be a huge hit.)

  3. Sometimes people will think you're doing a lot of stuff right, but they won't be into you anyway.
    (An important insight, but we pretty much knew that already.)
Actually, I'm inclined to take the sequencer guy seriously. If he thinks our sound is too thin, maybe we should try to acquire a bassist and/or guitarist. Then again, other listeners hearing us for the first time have told us -- with no prompting -- that they're impressed by how full and rich our sound is with just the two of us. Their opinions aren't more valid than that judge's, but they're not less valid either.

As much as we'd love to use this year's ABOB feedback to learn and grow and improve, we don't quite know what to do with it.

Oh well. Did I mention that we had a good time?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why did the health insurance provider cross the road?

A few weeks ago I posted some ideas about what we can do to help people with ME/CFS and other invisible illnesses. In it, I admitted that my only public act of advocacy has been to write a song. So far that song hasn't had much of an impact. This is probably because hardly anyone has heard it.

We're working on getting "Everybody Knows About Me" out there. In the meantime, though, I've had another thought. This popped into my head while doing dishes tonight:

Why is it that we have thousands of lawyer jokes, and no health insurance provider jokes?

There are a couple of possibilities. One, lawyers have been annoying people for centuries while evil health insurance companies are a relatively new phenomenon. Two, lawyers have a much higher profile. When we think of unscrupulous legal practices, we think of an individual who masterminds and profits from said practices. When we think of dicey health insurance, we think of faceless people working for monolithic corporations. They're harder to make fun of.

But that doesn't mean we can't try! I'll go first.
Q: How many health insurance providers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Zero. The light has been turned off in the past, so it's clearly a preexisting condition.
There. It took me about 30 seconds to come up with that. Not exactly comic genius, perhaps, but about average for a lightbulb joke.

Now it's your turn. Why did the health insurance provider cross the road? What's the difference between a [fill in the blank] and a health insurance provider? Post your jokes in the comments, then tell them to everyone.

Just wait. Soon everybody will be telling health insurance provider jokes. Then the American public will be CLAMORING for a public option.

Chickens and doggies and art ... oh my

Gig Saturday! Gallery 801 is presenting Carolyn Anne Anderson's first solo exhibit, and we're providing some of the music for her opening.

I'm psyched for a couple of reasons. First, we're sharing the stage with Kevin McCalix, a friend of mine. I haven't gotten to hear him play in ages. Second, I want to see the art.

The painting above caught my eye while I perused her press release for the event. It's part of a whole series, “Pollos del Pueblo," featuring chickens that wander around familiar Tucson scenes. I like all the Pollos paintings, but this one particularly made me grin. There's something about the expression on the face of the chicken in the foreground. "Hi. I'm a chicken. Why am I in front of the Rialto? What am I doing here?"

I've had days like that.

Anyhow, the opening reception is Saturday, September 26, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Gallery 801, 801 North Main, Tucson, Arizona. There will be hors d’oeuvres and samplings of award-winning wines. You should go. It will be fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Outside the box

I never mourned the loss of vinyl records. When CDs took over the world, I was too impressed by the lack of pops and scratches to notice any other difference in sound quality.

The thing that saddened me, just a little, was the shrinking down of the cover art. Cover art looked cooler when it was big.

Of course, everything is relative. For people who get most of their music through downloads, the art is even smaller, even less important. The space on a CD case is huge by comparison.

I pondered such things while looking at Our Favorite Album Covers on The Music Is the Message. They posted up some good, provocative, if not totally safe for work images. All of these would look great at vinyl size. Not all of them would work so well as thumbnails.

When Cinder Bridge put out Highways and Hiking Shoes just four years ago, we gave no consideration whatsoever to the move toward MP3s. We loved our designer's work. Still do.

But the nuances are lost if it comes up as a thumbnail in an iTunes search.

Contrast that with the art for Everybody Knows About Me, our single available only for download. (Art by RachelCreative.)

The greater simplicity and obvious color contrasts make the cover perfect for thumbnails.

Beyond scalability lies an even more interesting issue. Why does cover art displayed online look exactly like physical cover art?

Think about it. The image is no longer tied to packaging. No record or CD lives inside it. Why, then, is the shape always a square? Why not a circle, or a triangle, or ... anything at all?

This wouldn't work for all sites. Not yet. iTunes, for instance, displays cover images with a shadow effect, to make it look like they're real CDs. I suspect that whatever shape you started out with, it would be framed by a square. But the effect would work somewhere. And who knows, if the idea inspired enough imitators, iTunes might adapt.

Makes me want to put more albums out. I want to be among the first to create an album cover that is -- literally -- not inside the box.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The music industry eats itself

Hey, y'know how album sales are down? It's because of all that illegal downloading. It's got nothing to do with the way music industry runs its own business.

So run along now, boys and girls, and fork out $18 for the latest Hannah Montana CD. Whatever you do, don't read articles like this:

Why the Music Industry Sucks (Part XLVII)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The preliminaries for Acoustic Battle of the Bands are complete. We didn't make it to the next round.

I admit it: I'm bummed. Despite saying it's all about the fun and exposure -- despite meaning it -- in the end, losing still feels like losing.

On the plus side, though, it really was fun (aside from the losing part), and it really was good exposure. After we played we got lots of compliments from the other musicians, a CD sale (to someone who came to vote for another band), and some mailing list signups.

Having done three of these Acoustic Battles now, I honestly don't think we're ever going to win. The people who make the decisions seem to like a couple categories of sounds, and we don't fit either of them. But again: Fun. Exposure. Unless we're too busy the next time it comes around, we'll be back for more.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When bands compete, you win!

Olympic figure skating is weird.

Not the figure skating part. The Olympic part. Think about it. Here you have performers displaying breathtaking, beautiful movement, and piercing through the musical accompaniment is the voice of some commentator, informing us exactly how impressive or unimpressive we should find the last half lutz. At the end, judges hold up numbers: their quantitative assessment of the routine.

I'm not saying you can't regard skaters as athletes. It requires brutal training and inhuman stamina to do what they do. But so does ballet. Can you imagine announcers interrupting Prokofiev's score as the dancers leap and twirl their way through Romeo and Juliet? Can you imagine the Arts & Entertainment critics for your local newspapers holding up starred reviews as the performers take their final bow?

Also, as much as the judges might try to base their decisions on objective standards, figure skating doesn't lend itself to the emergence of clear winners. In baseball, the winning team is the one with the most runs at the end of the ninth inning. In track, the winner is whoever reaches the finish line first. You'll never hear a referee say, "The Giants, y'know, they scored the most downs this game, but it felt like they were just going through the motions. The passion, the gestalt wasn't there. We're gonna have to give this to the Ravens."

I think about things like this at times like this, when gearing up for tonight's Acoustic Battle of the Bands.

Musical competitions are kind of silly, for all of the reasons above. Musicians don't win because their songs or performances are better than everyone else's by some objective standard. They win because they get more friends to vote for them, or because the judges happen to like the kind of music they play.

So why do it, then? Why do Ron the Drummer and I enter Cinder Bridge into the Acoustic Battle every time?

Because it's fun. It's a helluva lot of fun. We get to do our thing for people who come for other bands and might not otherwise learn about us. We get to talk to the other performers. We get to hang out with people who love listening to music.

I've pondered ways one could make the judging of Battle of the Bands more fair. Some list of objective criteria that would force judges and voters to look beyond their personal preferences. I get about two seconds into this when I realize what a stupid idea that is. It's impossible to be completely objective when judging art (again, see above), and if you tried, you'd suck all the fun out of the event.

The point isn't winning (though winning makes it even more fun). The point is giving bands an excuse to get their music out there. The point is giving fans a chance to support the bands they love -- to get involved and have their opinions count.

So, we go in, we play, and we give the audience the same love we'd give for any other gig. If we don't make it to the next round, we don't assume it's because we suck. If we do make it, we realize it's not because we're better.

That said, we hope to qualify for round two, because then we get to play more. If you're in the vicinity of Tucson, please come see us and everyone else tonight.

Where: Old Town Artisans (201 N. Court Avenue, Tucson, AZ)
When: Saturday, September 19, 7 p.m. 'til whenever it ends

Hope to see you there!

* * *

Judge: "This blog post had a compelling start, with good, reasonably entertaining arguments. The segue into cinderkeys' personal experiences with Battle of the Bands, however, was weak, and she never brought the essay back to its original point. In the end, all of the early material comes across as an excuse to promote her band and tonight's Acoustic Battle. I give the post a 6.8."

Creative connectivity

This is why I love the Internet.

On July 21, 2009, a blogger by the name of Laurel posted a poem she'd written several years ago. The poem, Waiting from Within, describes the inner life of someone who's become bedridden with ME/CFS.

One of her readers, Michelle, found the poem very moving. She set the words to background music and images. Then she contacted Laurel and asked for permission to post the video on YouTube.

Michelle's video on Dreams at Stake

Before the Internet, it's unlikely that Laurel would have been able to broadcast "Waiting from Within" to an international audience -- not because of the poem's quality, but because of the sheer number of poets competing for a tiny number of slots in a finite number of publications. On top of that, her health problems might have prevented her from submitting it.

But in July of 2009, posting the poem to her blog with a brief introduction was doable. Her readers could decide for themselves whether they liked it. When one of them did like it, she did something new with it. Added her own creative input.

Before the Internet, neither of these women would have known the other existed. Now they've collaborated on a video. Now other people who would never have heard of either of them will see it.

This is why I love the Internet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out of sight, keep in mind

September 14–20 is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. If you have friends or family members with health problems, now would be a great time to give a call, see how they're doing.

What's that you say? You haven't spoken to them in a while because they never stayed in touch? All the more reason to call. Chances are they really do want to maintain contact with you. They've just been too overwhelmed by their illness and activities of daily living to manage it.

If you don't know what an invisible illness is, look over here.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Several lifetimes ago I taught a class called the Sociology of Women. As an earnest graduate teaching assistant, I presented evidence indicating that women and men might not be as diametrically opposed as people think they are. Even if there are biological factors that lead to gender differences in personality, interests, and so on, culture leads us to perceive more and greater contrasts than actually exist.

I believed that. I still do.

Years after dropping out of grad school, I came across a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" on XM radio. Cinder Bridge (my band) also covers "Miss You," so I was curious as to this singer's interpretation. The woman belted out:
I've been waitin' in the hall
Been waitin' on your call
But when the phone rings
It's just some friends of mine who say, hey
Whatsamatter, man?
We gonna come around at twelve
With some Puerto Rican guys that's just dyyyyyyin' to meetchoo
Wait. Puerto Rican guys?

That's just wrong.

* * *

My gut response, strong and immediate, may strike you as hypocritical. Didn't you just say women and men are more alike than we think? I hear you cry. Didn't you just write a whole essay on why gender neutrality is a good thing to strive for in songwriting?

Yes and yes. But even if certain gender differences are solely a product of culture, they still exist, and sometimes the songwriter has to acknowledge them.

For instance, I broke my no-gender rule for the first time in a song called "Nice Guys." The lyrics tell the sad tale of a character (male) who is interested in a person (female) who rejects him in favor of some jerk (male). The rejected nice character is completely oblivious to the fact that the narrator (female) has the hots for him.

From the chorus:
Talking 'bout the good girls, the good girls
Who only want the bad boys, the bad boys
It's enough to shake your faith and tear your fragile soul apart
And they say nice guys never win
But they're the ones who always break my heart
There's no way to make this song gender-neutral. None. Don't believe me? Think about how many guys you've encountered who complain that women only want jerks and not nice guys (like them)? Have you ever heard the same lament from women about men -- or, for that matter, from women about women or men about men?

Me neither.

In part, I wrote the song to point out how we're all the same in some ways. Pining after people who are only interested in other types of people is a human trait. Neither men nor women have a monopoly on it. But I couldn't get to the message about sameness without digging into the differences -- or perceived differences, anyway.

Back to the Rolling Stones, and "Miss You." Most of the lyrics really are universal. Male or female, gay or straight, we've all obsessed about someone who dumped us. The part about the Puerto Rican girls, though ... that doesn't translate so well. I'm not sure I can put my finger on why. Maybe it's because I've noticed guys fetishizing foreign women more than women fetishizing foreign guys. Maybe it's because a woman's friends are less likely to try to get her out of a rejection funk by encouraging her to sleep around. Whatever the reason, substituting "guys" for "girls" just didn't work for me.

In retrospect, it's entirely possible that the singer was aware of all these issues and made a conscious decision to turn a gender stereotype on its head. See, women can treat men as sex objects too! Women can be sexually liberated too! If that was her intention, then I take back everything I said about the girls/guys switch.

But if she simply assumed she had to change that word to "guys" 'cause she was a chick, then I stand by my initial reaction.

* * *

On a tangential note, I have now spent far more time analyzing that one line than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ever spent writing it. Such is the fate of a wannabe sociologist turned songwriter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Atmosphere etiquette

I arrived at the J-Bar about half an hour into Amber Norgaard's set. As her music wafted into the lobby, I told the friendly hostess that I'd like to sit on the patio, where she was playing.

"Oh," she said. "Do you have reservations? There's a half hour wait."


The last time I saw Amber perform here was a year or so ago. I came alone, sat at a small table, listened, ate good food, and generally chilled. Without thinking about it, I had assumed tonight would go pretty much the same, except that Ron the Drummer would be there too. I hadn't expected a crowd.

Fortunately, Ron had arrived far ahead of me. Also fortunately, a large table of Amber's friends and admirers had invited Ron to sit with them as he waited for a table. They graciously scootched over and made room for me too.

And then came the inevitable dilemma: I never know how to behave at atmosphere gigs when I'm with other people.

See, I know how it feels to perform at these things. You understand that your audience won't be paying much attention to the music. You accept that. But you also rejoice when people come to see you and listen to you. So when I'm the one in the audience, I like to focus on the artist or band I came to hear.

On the other hand, if I'm part of a group, I feel like I'm expected to socialize. Everyone else is. I don't want to be rude.

I ended up spending half the time listening to Amber and the other half attempting to be social. "Being social" in this case mostly meant directing my gaze at my tablemates and trying to follow the conversations -- somewhat difficult, as I couldn't hear anyone except Ron and the woman to my left, and then only when they spoke directly to me. Still, I hoped I was being sufficiently attentive to everyone involved.

Not until I came home did it occur to me that I was way overthinking this. Nobody else was paying attention to what I was paying attention to. Maybe I should've just done whatever I wanted.

Am I the only person who gives two seconds of thought to this kind of thing?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it's time to record again

Seven or eight years ago, I stumbled across an amazing singer/songwriter named Amber Jade at an open mic. I bought her CD and began seeking out her performances.

After a few of her shows, it occurred to me that she almost never played any of the songs from her CD. I asked her why. Her response was something to the effect that her newer material was more interesting to her.

I didn't get it, but whatever. Her non-CD songs were good too.

Fast-forward to the present. Ron the Drummer and I are gearing up for this year's Acoustic Battle of the Bands. We only have 15 minutes to play, so we have to choose our songs carefully. As we deliberated during rehearsal, I realized something. My top picks didn't include one song from our album. Ron felt much the same.

Now I get it.

Set lists evolve. We have to rotate older songs out to make room for newer ones. When deciding what goes and what stays, we've given the songs from Highways and Hiking Shoes preferential treatment. Why? Part of it is that we used some of our strongest work for our album, so it floats to the top naturally. The other part is promotion. If listeners hear and like specific songs from our album, the logic goes, they'll be more likely to buy it.

We released Highways four years ago. That's four years of heavy rotation. We're still proud of those CD songs, but we're ready to play something else now.

The obvious solution is to record again. If we make another CD, it expands the number of songs that we need to promote.

We're working on ways to make this happen. Stay tuned.

* * *

Note: Remember how, at the end of my last post, I said that "next time" I'd talk more about vagueness and specificity in songwriting? What I should have said was, I'll talk about this the next time I have a lot more time to contemplate the subject. Hopefully this weekend or next. Hang tight.

Monday, September 7, 2009


"I think the Indigo Girls are gay," said Beth.

"What? Why?"

Her statement surprised me, not because I disagreed, but because I'd honestly never given one thought to the sexual orientation of Emily Saliers or Amy Ray. As we listened to their CD together, I tried and failed to pick out anything in the music that would prompt my friend to wonder about this.

Beth couldn't give me much in the way of a concrete reason. Essentially the Indigo Girls had set off her gaydar, though this was 1990 and we had yet to learn that word. The only solid piece of evidence she could produce had to do with the songwriting.

"They never use pronouns," she pointed out.

She was right. Whenever they sang about love or breakups, they didn't give away the gender of whoever they were singing about. For instance,
Hey, Jesus, it's me
I'm the one who talked to you yesterday
I asked you please, please for a favor
But my baby's gone away
Went away anyway
I pondered this, less interested now in the original question than the songs. Say Beth had guessed correctly. Even if I hated the bigotry that had most likely inspired these pronoun games, I approved of the songwriting technique. By keeping gender ambiguous, they made their songs more accessible. Straight women and gay men could more easily insert themselves into the stories.

I resolved that if I ever wrote songs, I would do the same.

* * *

Eventually I did try my hand at songwriting. With a few necessary exceptions, I stuck to my principle of gender neutrality. I also discovered that the universality issue extends way beyond gender.

For instance, here's the last verse from "Not Going to Run," which we included on our album Highways and Hiking Shoes:
Picking up the jagged pieces
Kneeling on the floor
Far away the road still beckons
But I've been there before
I will never understand it
Why you feel that I deserve the wonder of your love
But I'm not going to run
At some point in the middle of writing this, it occurred to me that religious people might think I was talking about God. Not a believer myself, I contemplated throwing something in to indicate I was referring to a romantic relationship.

I discarded the idea half a second later. When it came down to it, the song wasn't about how Mary Sue Peterson, a 32-year-old accountant with short red hair, had changed the narrator's life. It was about how the narrator, whose only coping mechanism had been to run away, had lucked into something worth sticking around for -- love. It didn't matter whether that love came from a person or a deity.

* * *

These moments came floating back to me when I read a recent post by Angel on Fibromyalgia Journal. Angel wrote,
Browsing through my iPod at the gazillion songs I've downloaded, I stumbled across an oldie-but-goodie ... The more I listened to it the more I realized that the song was about US! People in chronic pain.
Here's an excerpt from the song, "Unwell" by Matchbox 20.
But I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
I know right now you can't tell
But stay a while and maybe then you'll see
A different side of me
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired
I know that right now you don't care
But soon enough you're gonna think of me
And how I used to be... me
Her entire post is here, along with the full set of lyrics.

I read all the words to the song twice. My take? Maybe Angel was onto something. Everything there could apply to living with chronic pain and dealing with other people's lack of understanding. On the other hand, it could just as easily be about feeling paranoid or depressed or out of control.

The only way to know would be to ask Rob Thomas, the guy who wrote "Unwell." But if it turned out he'd had something else in mind, I bet he would still like Angel's interpretation. This song is about not feeling right, whatever right means to you, and feeling that people are judging you because of that. In the end, the specifics don't matter. It works as a fibromyalgia anthem even if Thomas has never heard of fibromyalgia.

* * *

Our lives are filled with experiences that are specific, distinct, unique. Songs are powerful because they cut through those isolating specifics to get at the universal themes.

Marissa Moss sums it up perfectly in this piece:
The first time I heard an Indigo Girls song, or remember hearing one anyway, I was about 11 years old. I had just survived what felt like an overly traumatic dissolution of a crush on a boy named Joey, and for whatever reason, the song Ghost made everything feel a little bit better -- that, maybe, we all feel this way sometimes. When I learned that the lyrics were probably written for a woman, by another woman, I also remember it being the first time understanding that in love, life, or anything else for that matter, we were all the same. Felt the same.

* * *

Next time: when to be vague in songwriting, and when to add the nitty-gritty details.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

ME/CFS advocacy: A few things you can do

Good post on Behind the Surface about The ME/CFS advocacy conundrum. It asks why patients with multiple sclerosis do much more advocacy for themselves than patients with ME/CFS.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons to choose from:
  • Much of the time ME/CFS sufferers feel too sick to feed themselves, much less write their congressman.

  • When they do feel well enough to do something, they have to conserve their energy for all the stuff they're not able to do at other times (like feeding themselves).

  • If they can make the time to advocate, they have to be careful not to push themselves too hard. With ME/CFS comes post-exertional malaise -- exertion can cause real damage, and the damage can be permanent.

  • MS patients receive the sympathy they very much deserve. ME/CFS patients often get brushed off by medical staff, friends, coworkers, and family who think they're "histrionic, lazy, and/or hypochondriacal."

  • Caregivers who do believe their parents/partners/children are sick often become too overwhelmed to advocate. They're too busy helping said parents/partners/children with activities of daily living to want to do much else.
"Unfortunately," says Michelle on Behind the Surface, "we cannot get legitimacy and access to treatment without advocating for ourselves. Except we cannot advocate effectively for ourselves without legitimacy and access to proper treatment."

Michelle doesn't offer a solution to this conundrum. She doesn't have one. Neither do I. I know very little about how to harass the government or take on the entire medical establishment. When I asked myself what I could do in the public realm, the best I could come up with was write a song and pen occasional blog posts like this one.

Since I don't have any big sociopolitical solutions today, I'll leave you with suggestions for small, personal actions you can take.
  • If you know someone with ME/CFS, don't automatically assume they should get psychiatric help or suck it up because you "feel tired too sometimes." If this person wasn't a neurotic pathological liar before getting sick, it's unlikely they've suddenly turned into one. (Same goes for people with Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities, and other invisible illnesses.)

  • If possible, accompany the sufferer in your life to doctors' appointments. This serves two purposes. First, if you know enough about the person's symptoms, you can remind them of questions they wanted to ask if they're fogged and forget. Second, doctors who don't acknowledge the reality of ME/CFS (or Lyme, fibro, etc.) tend to display better manners when there's a healthy witness present. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe rude doctors don't feel they can bully healthy people as easily; maybe the healthy person's belief in the sick person's illness lends it more credibility. In any case, it works.

  • Quit calling it "chronic fatigue syndrome." Before someone invented that name, it was called myalgic encephalomyelitis. Refer to it as ME and the response will likely be "What's that?" rather than "Whatever, I get tired too."

  • If someone else calls it chronic fatigue syndrome, it's easy enough to say something without getting annoyingly self-righteous. For instance, "It was called myalgic encephalomyelitis until 1988, when the insurance lobbyists got involved."

  • If you have trouble pronouncing myalgic encephalomyelitis (my-AL-jik en-SEH-fa-lo-my-el-I-tis), just say ME.
Any other thoughts on actions we can take, big or small? Post your comments here or at Behind the Surface!


Have you ever noticed something without noticing you noticed it? For instance, a good friend mentions in the middle of a conversation that she just got a haircut, and you realize that this knowledge has been buzzing just beneath your awareness -- a feeling that something is slightly different, even if you haven't quite identified what.

Something like that happened at Friday night's rehearsal. Ron the Drummer and I set up, and he left the room briefly before we began playing. As I glanced at our speaker, it dawned on me that it wasn't our speaker.

Ron came back. "So you got them," I said.

See, Ron had been yearning for speakers with more power and punch than our little JBL Eons ever since our Music on the Moutain gig. The main act used Mackies (and let us use them too). The sound impressed Ron, and the little wheels in his audiophile brain started turning.

I wasn't all that enthusiastic about the prospect of dropping lots of money on a new pair of speakers when the current ones worked perfectly well. Ron thought that was reasonable, but he still wanted them, and he was willing to pay for them himself instead of splitting costs with me as usual.

He found a good deal. He took the plunge. And I have to hand it to him, the new QSC K12 sounds fantastic. I can't readily distinguish between differences in sound quality most of the time, but the difference between Eon and QSC was obvious.

Of course, now that I'm convinced of the worthiness of this purchase, I pretty much have to throw in.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A little grocery store music

I wandered through the vegetable section of the Food Conspiracy Co-op, searching in vain for broccoli. For those readers who live somewhere other than Tucson, the Food Conspiracy is a small grocery store located in the hippie-ish part of town. They've been around for almost 40 years and boast an entirely organic produce department along with (according to their website) a commitment to environmentalism, social justice, and education.

I like the idea of these locally owned and operated stores. It's sad to me that huge chains are homogenizing the landscape of the entire country. Places like the Co-op have more character, more personality.

And yet, as I continued to scan for various items on my list, I thought about why I almost never come here. Parking tends to be a pain, as it was tonight. Plus, I was going to end up stopping off at a chain supermarket anyway because these guys didn't have any broccoli on hand. What grocery store doesn't have broccoli?

My thoughts were interrupted when, suddenly, I heard a violin.

I made a 180-degree turn in the direction of the music. A guy with dark gray hair was standing near one of the checkout lanes and playing "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." Like me, the other people in the store had stopped what they were doing to watch and listen.

When the music came to an end, everyone burst into applause.

Okay. Score one for locally owned and operated. I'm pretty sure that will never happen at the Safeway.