Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That's All Folks!!!

Well this is it, my last blog entry and the last day of my Midlife Crisis at 40. Today I turned 41, so my 40 year old midlife crisis is officially over...and so brings an end to this yearlong blog. I've done quite a bit over the past 365 days, actually more than I ever dreamed I could do. I've traveled to:

  • 4 Continents: Asia, Europe, Africa, North America
  • 16 Countries: Taiwan, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, England, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Spain, Italy, USA
  • 28 Cities: Taipei, Paris, Strausberg, Freiberg, Prague, Kutna Hora, Budapest, Krakow, Auschwitz, Berlin, Liverpool, Cairo, Luxor, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Samos, Selcuk, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, Istanbul, Vienna, Bratislava, Bucharest, Barcelona, Venice, St. Louis, Los Angeles
  • 21 Airline flights
  • 7 Train rides
  • 6 Bus rides
  • 2000 miles driven by car

What have I learned over the past year during my 40 Year Old Midlife Crisis?

I've learned that I am one hell of a lucky guy. I've also learned that you create a lot of your luck in life. The best quote I've heard about luck is what I heard from the Australian guitarist Brett Garsed, "it's not about being lucky, it's about being READY when that luck comes your way." I might have gone overboard this past year with traveling, music and other things, but I milked every moment I could for what it was worth. Every single day, I realized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I wasn't going to waste one moment of it...and you know what...I didn't!

Thanks for reading the blog, thanks for all of the comments and thanks for the support over the past year. Grab life when you can, because one of these days, it's going to go be gone, and the last thing you want to be thinking is, "I wish I would have, could have, should have..."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Top Five Blog Posts

Well, I've arrived in Los Angeles with two days left of my "Midlife Crisis". I missed LA quite a bit over the past year, but after being here for a little over 48 hours, I'm wondering if I miss more the "idea" of Los Angeles, and not actually the reality of LA...traffic, smog, unfriendly people...yeah, great stuff.

Well I couldn't come up with anything interesting to talk about in Los Angeles, so I decided pick my Top Five Blog Posts over the past 364 days.

5). Images in Taiwan - It was a challenge trying to take pictures of remote desolate areas in a city with millions of people walking around. My first attempt at photography and video editing, combined with music.

4). Harmony Home on Christmas - Spending Christmas with the children at the Harmony Home orphanage in Taiwan is something that I'll never never forgot. Something that's changed me for the rest of my life.

3). Aboriginal Taiwanese Tai Ya Tribe - Traveling to the mountain area a few hours outside of Taipei to create a short film with the children from the Tai Ya Tribe was awesome.

2). Open Studio - short film & jam session - If I had to pick my favorite moment in Paris, it would have to be playing with violinist Pasi Eerikäinenat our our Open Studio. It was a crazy with our only rehearsal, 30 minutes before our performance, but luckily it turned out ok.

1). At the Pyramids - Egypt was the scariest, but also the most amazing place I've ever visited in my life. This picture says it all:

NOTE TO SELF: Next time check to see if a country is under Martial Law before traveling there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back in the good ole USA

After 30 hours and three separate flights, I finally made it back to the USA from Taiwan. Traveling more than 24 hours reminds me of the first 24 hours of a water only fast.  If you can make the first 24 hours, the rest is pretty easy. I heard that after 24 hours your body realizes it isn't going to have food so it stops sending hunger pangs, maybe after 24 hours of travel the same thing happens and your brain tunes out how long you've been traveling.

Anyway, the heat and humidity of Taiwan has prepared me for St. Louis brilliantly. Today it was 101°F with 38% problem! My family and I had a chance to go visit the home where Ragtime musician Scott Joplin lived in 1900. During the years he lived there he composed many of his popular songs including "The Entertainer". This is the only standing home that still exists today where Scott Joplin lived. He studied classical piano as a child and harmony and composition as an adult in Sedalia, MO. He wanted to create "America's first classical music." The sounds of his Ragtime music certainly has a very rich classical harmonic texture and syncopation, a true testament to the absolute king of Ragtime music.

After the Scott Joplin House, we headed over to Crown Candy. This famous kitchen opened up in 1913 and was made even more famous recently because of its "5 milkshakes in 30 minutes" challenge shown on the TV show "Man vs Food" with Adam Richman... I won't spoil his results, you can watch it here.

After my first Five Guys cheeseburger earlier in the day (quite good), I was only able to finish about half of my Crown Candy chocolate malt, the thing is ginourmous! One week left in St. Louis, then off to Los Angeles for the last week of my 40 year old Midlife Crisis.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

More studio recording in Taiwan

Back in the studio again this week to record guitar on some Taiwan "pop music". Still no word on when the performance video editing will be finished, but I'll post it when I get a copy. Working with Tu Lao Shi, the Taiwanese Music Producer/Composer is excellent. We're both on the same page musically, around the same age, grew up playing rock but also learned classical and jazz. Tonight's session was extremely quick, easy and productive. I'll be going back tomorrow to work on some more music.

I have less than 10 days left in Taiwan, then I'm traveling back to the USA to visit my family, and take care of in Los Angeles. My 40 year old Midlife Crisis has less than fours weeks left. I have plans for one last hurrah in the USA...then it's "Game over man...GAME OVER!!!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back in Taiwan...with a music gig

Oh my, the weather in Taiwan in do they say it...oh yeah, "it sucks". Basically 100 °F with about 75% humidity. The good news is that I can breathe much better here in Taiwan (haven't figured that one out yet).

A month ago I was freaking out from having no job and no job opportunities. Now, I have opportunites in Taiwan and the US to do music and engineering. I met up with a music trio from Argentina/Brazil that has moved toTaiwan from China to work professionally as musicians. I got the chance to meet them and rehearse for four hours. The next day we shot a live promotional video, performing three songs: an instrumental version of a popular Chinese song "Ting Hai", Chick Corea's "Spain" and Miles Davis' "So What". It was quite the experience. It is one thing to record audio music in a studio, it is quite another to do one complete take with the entire band live, on video, with no chance for any overdubs to correct any mistakes you make. Suffice it to say that everything went well and was a first take recording for all of the songs, aside from the two takes it took with the Chick Corea song "Spain" (hey listen the original version, it's not so easy: Spain).

We started the five camera video recording at 12:00 midnight, and ended at 8:00am. It went very well and we felt really good about the performance. This is for a promotional video to promote this group as a studio session recording group as well as a backing band for live tours, so we'll see what happens.

Great musicians and great people to work with, I couldn't ask for anything more than that...and yes this is me in a tie...I give up a job of 10 years as an engineer wearing a t-shirt and shorts to work every day, to wear a tie playing music...oh how the mighty have fallen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Au revoir Paris, 你好台灣

Au revoir Paris, 你好台灣 (Goodbye Paris, Hello Taiwan)

Wow, six months go by fast. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were arriving in Paris trying to get our bearings, and now in 24 hours we'll be on a plane, flying back to Taiwan.

Today I went to my favorite place in Paris for the last time, Notre Dame. I'm not a religious person, although today I did sit through an entire mass (hard to brush off 12 years of Catholic school I guess). To me it isn't a spiritual thing, it's just the most peaceful, serene place I've been to in all of Paris. It was always a great place to go to "center" myself. What a privilege to have had that opportunity.

I had no "souvenirs" from Paris so on my walk back from Notre Dame, I saw a store and broke down and bought my one and only Parisian souvenir. I tiny pewter replica of Notre Dame. As irritating as the church bells ringing at all hours of the day was...I'm really going to miss them.

Au revoir Paris!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Last European really!!!

OK, we are leaving Paris in two weeks so this has to be the last European trip. By my "normal" standards, this is nothing special, just two cities over a period of one week: Barcelona, Spain and Venice, Italy. Two weeks from now we'll be back in Taiwan, so why not?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dracula's Castle - Poenari Fortress

Well I made it to the "real" Dracula's Castle, "Poenari Fortress" in Transylvania, Romania (thanks to my Romanian friends Gabriel and Ana). The drive from Bucharest took almost 3 hours, and we had to climb all 1480 stairs, but how can you go to Romania, without visiting a place where Vlad "the Impaler" Tepes once lived?

Here's a short video I shot at the top inside the ruins of Poenari Fortress:

I was even able to pick up a bottle of some Prince Tepes wine...Merlot, red wine of course.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Up next...Vienna, Austria - Bratislava, Slovakia & Bucharest, Romania

Tomorrow I will be leaving for probably my last European trip of this journey. I'll be visiting my friend in Bucharest, Romania for a few days, but also wanted to throw in a few other countries on the short trip. Traveling from Paris to Romania is not the easiest thing to do, so after a few days, I finally figured out the least expensive and most interesting trip for one week of travel:

- Vienna, Austria (1 day)
- Bratislava, Slovakia (1 day)
- Bucharest, Romania ( 4 days)

I told Mihnea, that I would visit him in Romania, on one condition, "I want to see Dracula's castle", he replied, "No problem, but it's not that Hollywood vampire shit, he was a real person." Point taken.

The "real" Dracula's Castle, Vlad "the Impaler" Tepes' Poenari Fortress, can only be reached by climbing 1480 stairs and is a day trip from Bucharest. I don't mind the stairs, I just hope I can find a willing partner to escort me there. There is another "Dracula's Castle" (Bran Castle) but he never lived there, and it's just kind of a tourist trap. Hopefully I can work something out to see the real castle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The La La Song

Charlene has the opening tomorrow for her, and two other Taiwanese friend's Paris Art Show: Metamorphosis of Time.

— Le temps du corps — 40 par Charlene Shih
— Le temps de l’imprimerie — Dialogue remixé de style FF par Li-Ming Cheng
— Le temps de la lumièreLa lumière dépasse le temps No°2 par Chi-Yang Chiang

Part of her show is a short documentary film about women artists, and the challenges facing them as they get older. She asked me to write something that:  sounds like a French circus, that is both happy and kind of sad, that uses an accordion with women singing, but not words, just the sound "la, la, la, la".

And so, became the "La La Song".

NOTE: This is just a video that I made for the song, it has nothing to do with Charlene's film. I just took a few promo pictures for the show, and edited them to the song.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back in Paris

Arrived back in one piece to Paris today, pretty amazing trip for sure. Instead of the typical summary post, I'll write down the actual notes I took at each location...kind of an "in the moment" description of things that happened on the trip:

Paris, France
  • almost jumped and robbed by two guys at the bus stop at 2:00am, luckily I was able to run quickly down inside the Paris Metro station to escape them
Cairo, Egypt
  • there is no government here, only martial law with the army walking the streets with machine did I get myself into?
  • weird pushy tour salesman at hotel, reminded me exactly of the guy with the swords that Indiana Jones shoots with his gun
  • scammed by camel jockey guy at pyramids
  • power outage at 3:00am at hotel (no other buildings in the area affected), thought it was a hostage takeover situation...walked down 8 flights of stairs to escape only to find out that the power came back on and there was no problem
Luxor, Egypt
  • water smells very, very strongly of way in hell I can drink or even brush my teeth with it
  • internet down in entire city for three days due to cable break by construction on roads
  • so pissed off at people bothering me to go to their stores or ride in their horse carriage I just ignore everyone and pretend I am deaf or from Russia
  • someone used a key to try to get into my hotel room while I was in the room, barricaded the door for the night
Athens, Greece
  • Greek salad looked great, but tasted like crap
  • can wear shorts and no problem with long hair...most people speak to me in Greek thinking I am a local
  • excellent Metro system can get anywhere very easily
  • forced sweating from intense sun to dehydrate myself and eliminate need to urinate on 2 hour non-stop bus ride from Attica to Athens
Satorini, Greece
  • 8.5 hour ferry boat ride from Athens to Santorini...should have flown
  • first gyro in Greece, fucking awesome!!!
  • Santorini is basically the Greek version of Hawaii
  • tried to walk to the beach from hotel in the morning...way too far, turned back after 30 minutes
Mykonos, Greece
  • after five sunny days in Greece I finally get a chance to go to the beach...10 minutes before I arrive dark clouds cover the sky for the entire day
  • nice/mildly retarded (?) waiter at dinner
  • idiot noob on scooter crashed into a wall and would have run over me if I didn't jump out of the way
Samos, Greece
  • hotel 25 miles from ferry port...opps
  • beautiful authentic Greek fishing village
  • Samos Archaeological Museum had many small items that reminded me of the figurines in the movies "The Exorcist" and "The Omen"
Selcuk, Turkey
  • scammed by taxi driver going to hotel
  • killed one large moth, 3 smaller moths, 4 large ants and 2 fleas (one in my bed) in my hotel room
  • hotel smelled badly of moth balls (someone or something die in my room perhaps earlier?)
  • crappy Turkish food
Cappadocia, Turkey
  • 12 hour night bus ride was pure hell, asshole was sitting in my window seat, but wouldn't move forcing me to sleep in the aisle seat getting banged all night by people walking by
  • Turkish food from day tour gave me diarrhea
Istanbul, Turkey
  • if you like mosques, you'll love Istanbul...otherwise not too exciting, slightly underwhelmed
  • more crappy Turkish food
  • best Turkish food I had was at Popeye's Chicken at the Istanbul Airport before my flight back to Paris
While my notes were mostly pessimistic, angry jabs, I had the trip of a lifetime. As scary as Egypt was with only Martial Law, I'd have to say it was my favorite place on the tour. Ignorance is bliss, because if I would have know how fucked up Egypt is right now, I would have never gone there. I've never claimed to be the smartest guy in the world, but I sure as hell know how to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes knocking at my door.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Necropolis of Heirapolis

Roman necropolis of over 1200 tombs in the ancient city of Hierapolis (now modern day Pamukkale, Turkey).


Finally arrived in Turkey and on my last leg of the tour. Not sure how much internet access I'll have until Istanbul, so we'll see if I get a chance to post anything before then.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Samos Island in stop in 6 hours, Turkey.

Monday, June 6, 2011

At the Parthenon

At the Parthenon in the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Temple of Poseidon

Crappy video from the Temple of Poseidon in Attica, Greece overlooking the Meditarrean Sea. Sorry about the bad audio it was really windy up there.

At the Pyramids

First test to see if I can post via my cell phone. Here's a picture at the Great Pyramid of Giza. Unreal!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Flying solo...literally

Well I'm actually not flying the plane by myself, but I will be flying and traveling alone for the next three weeks. Charlene has a show she is preparing for in Paris in one month, so it's a perfect time for me to "get out of Dodge". I've always wanted to visit Egypt, Greece and Turkey, so I decided six days ago to plan the trip, and I'm leaving for the Paris airport tonight.

Here's the itinerary:

Day 1 - fly from Paris to Athens to Cairo
Day 2 - Cairo, Egypt
Day 3 - Cairo, Egypt
Day 4 - Cairo fly to Luxor, Egypt
Day 5 - Luxor, Egypt
Day 6 - Luxor, Egypt
Day 7 - fly from Luxor to Cairo to Athens, Greece
Day 8 - Athens, Greece
Day 9 - Athens, Greece
Day 10 - Athens to Santorini, Greece by ferry
Day 11 - Santorini to Mykonos, Greece by ferry
Day 12 - Mykonos to Samos, Greece by ferry
Day 13 - Samos to Kusadasi, Turkey by ferry
Day 14 - Ephesus, Turkey
Day 15 - Pammukale, Turkey (night bus to Cappadocia)
Day 16 - Cappadocia, Turkey
Day 17 - Cappadocia (night bus to Istanbul)
Day 18 - Istanbul, Turkey
Day 19 - Istanbul, Turkey
Day 20 - Istanbul fly home to Paris, France

Pretty crazy, but if you're going to have a midlife crisis, why not go down in flames in a blaze of glory?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One more music assignment

Here's another four part harmony exercise from Mihnea Brumariu. This time the original Soprano melody is in half note triplets, implying a 3 over 2 (or 3 over 4 if I used quarter notes) polyrhythm. I had to compose the bass, tenor and alto voices to complete the four part harmony.

We're going Liverpool, England in an hour and will be back in a few days. Then I get to figure out what I'm going to do with the remaining two months in Paris...tough life huh?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eastern Europe - Freiburg, Germany & Prague, Czech Rebuplic (Part 1 of 3)

"Why go to Eastern Europe?"

Heard that way too many times before we left for the trip. A better question is maybe, "Why not go to Eastern Europe?"

It is very inexpensive, the people in the tourist areas almost all speak English, the food is excellent, the beer is even better, there are many things you will never see in any other part of the world especially with the recent fall of communism, you get to see their personal views regarding the cold war, communism, the NAZI party, etc. I could go on, but Eastern Europe is an AWESOME place to visit, no question about it, I highly recommend it to anyone.

Strasbourg, France / Freiburg, Germany

Yes technically this is not Eastern Europe, but we needed to start our trip from Paris somewhere, and Charlene has family living in Germany, so it was a great place to start our trip. We originally thought we were going to stay in Strasbourg, France, but actually this was just the pickup spot from Charlene's cousin to get us and take us to their home in Freiburg, Germany (about 30 miles across the French-German border).

Freiburg, Germany was a beautiful area, and it still surprises me how much a lot of Germany looks like St. Louis, Missouri (minus the cathedrals and castles). Very nice open areas, clean, and lots or red clay brick buildings.

As you could imagine, the beer was great in Germany, the food was good with a lot of potatoes and an interesting kind of German pizza with no cheese (I forget the name of it, but it was pretty good).

Prague, Czech Republic

We then took a night train to Prague. We were lucky to find a Czech pub/cafe/restaurant a few doors down from our hotel (the building was over 500 years old). The food was excellent, excellent...and did I say excellent? The beer was also very good and everything was very inexpensive. Prague is an easy city to walk around everywhere.

There are many sites to see from castles, to bridges, to museums, to parks and just local restaurants and pubs. I finally got to try goulash, very good, highly recommended!

They also had a really cool toy museum with many toys from all over the world as well as toys from the "cold war" era.

I got to check out the Museum of Torture Instruments (no pictures were allowed inside). Three floors of torture insturments that were used throughout Europe for hundreds of years.

We took a day trip out to visit the city Kutna Hora that has some cathedrals and a very interesting "bone church". There are bones from over 40,000 people here. I had seen a bone church in Rome, but the design and scope of this church in Kutna Hora blew away the one in Rome.

We returned back to Prague later that day. The following day we went to the Museum of Communism. It is quite amazing to see the changes from WWI to WWII to the Communist era to the modern "post-Communist" era.

We then took a night train from Prague to Budapest, Hungary...which I'll cover in the next post.

Eastern Europe - Budapest, Hungary (Part 2 of 3)

Budapest, Hungary

We took the night train from Prague to Budapest and arrived quite early in the morning. From the train we took the subway. It was quite interesting, the subway cars in Budapest looked a lot like the subways in New York from the 1970's (think of the movie "The Warriors").

The food in Budapest was even better than the food in Prague. I got to try "real" Hungarian goulash which was excellent. 

We also discovered the wonderful spice Paprika. It is very similar to American BBQ sauce, with both a sweet and hot version of the spice. The beer in Budapest was even less expensive than Prague, about $1 US for a draft beer (yesterday in Paris I just paid $10 US for the same size beer in a pub).

We traveled to the main castle in Budapest and I got to meet a guy straight out of the movie "Highlander". He had an eagle, and for about $5 US I got to hold this huge eagle, it was actually quite heavy and felt very strong...then again it is an eagle, not a parakeet, so I guess it's not too surprising.

There was a creative businessman in Hungary around the time of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. While most people were tearing down the statues of the Communist leaders, he thought to buy them and create a park where people could come and view the old icons. The end result is Memento Park. There are over 32 HUGE statues to check out in the park. Whene we got there, we were the only people so for a short time it felt like we were in some kind of modern day Mount Olympus.

The next day we left for Krakow, Poland...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Krakow, Poland & Berlin, Germany (Part 3 of 3)

Krakow, Poland

By the time we arrived in Krakow, Poland (on yet another night train) we were pretty tired. It was actually quite cold. That morning at 7:30am, it was (1 ºC = 34 ºF). We considered buying some gloves, but luckily the rest of the trip in Krakow, the temperature stayed above freezing. Very sunny and nice, but windy and cold. We ended up staying in a private room hostel. Private room, but public shower and toilets...hmmm not the biggest fan, but it was only two nights so it wasn't too bad. We got to "party" with a group of Swedish college art students, so my awesome idea was to draw pictures of each other.  My favorite was the drawing where I ended up looking like Cartman from "South Park".

On a much more serious note, we went to visit the WWII concentration camp Auschwitz, which is a little over an hour bus ride from Krakow, Poland. I didn't know what to expect, but it is pretty much incomprehensible seeing these things in real life.

It's one thing to watch a video, or old film footage, or read a book, but when you walk into a room and see 40,000 pairs of shoes (yes 80,000 shoes) or two tons of human hair that was cut off of women, your mind just doesn't work correctly to take it in. This isn't a recreation, these are the real buildings, barracks, fences, railroad tracks, gas chambers and crematoriums from the NAZI's in WWII.

The second larger part of the Auschwitz camp in Berkenau was destroyed quite a bit by the NAZI's to cover it up at the end of the war, but almost all of Auschwitz is still completely in tact. I think the impact is something that hits you much later after you leave. It is one thing to read stories, hear an interview or watch a documentary film, but after you actually walk inside a gas chamber where 1000's of people would die each day, it changes your perspective forever. It is not an easy place to visit, I haven't heard of one person visiting, that regretted going and wasn't moved my the experience.

Berlin, Germany

We took our final night train from Krakow to Berlin. A word about trains (both night and day travel) they suck. We both had to literally jump off the moving train in Prague (because no one told us to get off, so I opened the door and we both had to jump off or miss the stop). We almost had to share a night cabin room with three very sweaty, smelly guys in Budapest, luckily Charlene talked to the train steward and we got a private room (imagine a sauna...that's what it was like with those guys, horrific). Then in one trip we had a Canadian guy who snored so loud that I couldn't block it out even with my ear plugs, tinnitus and train noise....HORRIBLE. I guess one good thing is you can save a night in a hotel, but really sleeping well on a moving train that literally starts and stops every 30 minutes (much like a bus) is almost impossible. Plus it is almost cheaper now to just fly.

Oh yes, Berlin. I had been to Berlin ten years ago, and back then it reminded me of a Communist New York. Now it appears they are building up everywhere and there is quite a big art scene. We took a few tours of "East" and "West" Berlin, and it was fun, but really there's not too much to do. It is so big and spread out (much like Los Angeles) that it isn't very convenient to just "hop around" even when you use the subway.

We did the typical Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie sightseeing. Here's my "artistic" shot through a hole in the Berlin wall, with Charlene in West Berlin and me in East Berlin:

After almost three weeks of travel and not shaving, we took a train to the Berlin Airport and flew back to Paris...the noisy, dirty streets of Paris never felt or smelled so good!

I'd highly, highly recommend to anyone to check out Eastern Europe. Very easy convenient travel, amazing food and drinks at very cheap prices, a lot of things to see and just an overall great time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Off on Eastern European trip

Well technically it's not "all" Eastern Europe, but a good chunk of our trip is visiting some Eastern European cities. We leave Paris today and will travel to:
  • Strasbourg, France
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Krakow, Poland
  • Berlin, Germany
We'll be gone for almost 3 weeks, so I have no idea when I'll post again.

Au revoir!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Music homework

We'll, I've been studying harmony and composition for two weeks with my friend and musical mentor, Romanian composer Mihnea Brumariu. My latest lesson was to write the missing melody and add two addional harmonies to a musical idea that Mihnea gave me. Yes only 30 seconds of music, but I spent five days, countless hours, and some brutal "constructive criticism" to get the end result...which thankfully both Mihnea and I were pretty happy with:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Musical Mentor

At an open studio two months ago Charlene had met a composer from Romania, Mihnea Brumariu that is here at Cite Des Arts writing an opera. I didn't get a chance to meet him that evening, but we did see him a few days later in building at we talked for a few minutes. I was interested in meeting any musicians here in Paris, but to meet a classical composer writing an opera was quite overwhelming an intimidating. I asked a few questions and he said he composed using microtonal music. I was interested in hearing his music and learning about microtones so I got his phone number to meet in the future and speak about music in general.

Microtones could be considered additional notes "in between" the frets of a guitar, like bending a note slightly sharp, but not all the way to the next fret. You hear soul/blues/pop singers doing these "blue" notes (that's where the term "Blues" came from) to add some "soul" to the notes, also you'll hear them in the bent notes of blues guitar players. You can't play them on a piano, but you can play them on other instruments and with the voice.

Almost six weeks passed before we were able to meet, but we finally hooked up a week ago. He has perfect pitch, and is composing and writing the opera in his room with no musical instrument or computer, just a pen and paper! We listened to some of his music and he showed me some of his music scores. Some of the music was interesting to me because of the odd meter rhythmic groupings and polymeters so I got the nerve to play a few of the songs I had recorded that used odd meter and polyrhythms.

He said he liked it (that was surprising) so I asked him what was missing and he said harmonic structure. So to my great, great surprise he said that he would teach me harmony and composition every day. To say I was floored is an understatement. Unfortunately he is going back to Romania in two weeks so we will only have a short time together, but I'm trying to be a sponge and soak up whatever I can from his unbelievably kind generosity.

A funny story is that I couldn't think of any way to "pay him back" for his kindness so I got the only gift I knew he would accept, a few packs of Marlboro Red cigarettes (he smokes like a chimney). He laughed and accepted them, but said "no more gifts". The next day he gave me a piece of music he wrote for me as a "thank you".

We only have two more weeks, but he wants Charlene and me to come visit and stay with him in Romania. Opportunity came knocking, and I'm just really glad I was lucky enough to be there to open the door.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Open Studio - short film & jam session

We have met many people at Cite Des Arts from all over the world, but most people are only able to stay here for two months. Some of our friends are leaving at the end of March and we wanted to have some kind of party before their departure. Charlene's 40th birthday was on Friday, March 25, so we decided to have an Open Studio showing Charlene's short film 12 steps to success for Artists in Los Angeles as well as a jam session to "unofficially" celebrate Charlene's big 40.

The previous week I met Pasi Eerikäinen, an amazing violinist from Finland who is classically trained, but also plays in a Gypsy Jazz & Tango trio in Finland. Unfortunately Pasi was leaving at the end of March but we decided to try to pull off something for the Open Studio. It came down to learning two tango songs (by Astor Piazzolla) as well as four Gypsy Jazz songs (by Django Reinhardt) in a period of 5 days, with our first and only rehearsal 30 minutes before the Open Studio. Considering the circumstances, it seemed to go extremely well. All I can say is thank god for Pasi coming and playing so well, he made me sound 1000 times better with his brilliant playing.

Here are some videos from that night's "jam session":

Libertango - Astor Piazzolla

Oblivion - Astor Piazzolla

Nuages - Django Reinhardt

Minor Swing - Django Reinhardt

I think the Open Studio overall was a great success with the film screening, the jam session and just an overall great party (at least 15 bottles of wine, a case of beer, food, etc). Hopefully in the future Pasi and I can play again, because he's an incredible musician and a great inspiration.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flat Stanley

My friend's son, mailed out Flat Stanley to me from Austin, Texas. He arrived here on Monday. My job was to take Flat Stanely around Paris and document the journey and then send him back to the Austin, Texas. Here's his brief, but interesting adventure in Paris:

Flat Stanley in Paris

Flat Stanley arrived in Paris, France on March 21, 2011.

He was a little tired from the long trip from Texas, but he was happy to travel to Europe. He got to meet Jim, and see his guitar and amplifier.

Stanley also liked looking out the window at the old church across the street.

Because he was so tired, and it was late, Stanley went to bed early. The next day Flat Stanley traveled around Paris. He walked around the river Seine and saw the French flag.

He wanted a “I ♥ PARIS” t-shirt, but it was too big so he couldn't buy it.

He then traveled to a very famous church “Notre Dame”. In French it means, “Our Lady”. It was a very big church and very old.

Flat Stanley left Notre Dame, but needed to go to the bathroom, so used a public toilet. It was outside on the street and he needed to pay to use it, but he had to go really bad, so he didn't mind.

Finally Flat Stanley made it home to Jim's apartment and was very hungry. He eat an entire pizza. After that, he fell asleep.

The next morning, Stanley got inside his envelope and went back home to Austin, Texas.

Flat Stanley had a very good time and enjoyed his stay in Paris, France.