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The Singing Bassist

I’ve been a bit quiet for the past 6-7 weeks because I’ve been pouring myself into a new online project,

http://www.singingbassist.com

Making Drum-Rods at home

When one of the musicians in the band I play in complained of the drummer being loud, he started playing with drum-rods, which are described here.

In Germany and in Switzerland, drum-rods are expensive. The ones we found locally cost 23 Euros.

The manufactured drum-rods cost 25euros for a pair.

The manufactured drum-rods cost 25euros for a pair.


The original, manufactured drum-rods

The original, manufactured drum-rods

The drummer decided long ago to spare himself from paying that ridiculously marked up price and started constructing his own.

Here is how.

He finds wooden dowels at the local do-it yourself superstore. The price isn’t “wow” but he’s still saving money over the manufactured drum-rods. These dowels are cut to the preferred size and sanded rounder at the tips to prevent unnecessary wear on the drum heads.

Wooden Dowel Selection at the Hardware Store

Wooden Dowel Selection at the Hardware Store

He bundles the cut and sanded wooden dowels as shown in the following picture

The grouping of dowels for a hand-crafted drum-rod

The grouping of dowels for a hand-crafted drum-rod

…..uses shrink tubing and black electric tape to bundle the dowels into his own drum-rods. For less than 10euros he has drum-rods

Unfortunately I have forgotten to photograph the finished product…..soon! in the comments…

Beatles vs. Rolling Stones

I had the fortune last Friday of watching one of the videos of the Beatles Anthology. Okay it was in German, but that fact didn’t detract from the great stories and their wonderful songs. Watching normal school-kids metamorphose into masterful performers and song-writers was a treat.

As a chaser I subsequently watched the first half of a documentary about the Rolling Stones. They started their career about two years after the Beatles. I dig some of their songs, especially their work from the 1970s, about 10-15 years into their career. What really pissed me off in this documentary was the insistence of reporters to ask Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, “Do you think the Rolling Stones are better than the Beatles?”. And that in the year 1965. This isn’t comparing apples with oranges, this provocative journalism attempts to compare apples with rat-turds. Top this nugget of audacity witht the fact that the Stones only played cover songs for the first two years of their career, even playing covers on their first tour of America, and you find that the Stones were simply posers, trying to look scary and provocative on the stage but having no core, substance or character to back it up. I didn’t have the perserverance to watch further in their documentary, and although I am sure that it does get better, especially as soon as they start writing songs, it was too devastating watching befuddled “music journalists” compare apples with turds to continue.

I have once heard that Oasis have proclaimed themselves “better than the Beatles”. I don’t have the heart to look up that video or link, as I still enjoy some Oasis tunes.

Why were the Beatles able to focus so much career into so little time? Why were they already writing songs and pushing boundaries only two years into their career? I think my buddy Nick has hit the nail on the head with this post:
http://www.nickpagan.com/blog/124/the-beatles-time-secret/

DEEEEEERRIIIIIIVING!

I am finishing up my driving license with about 2-3 lessons per week. Driving is, surprisingly, fun! We go up into the mountains and I get to test the limits of the instructor’s car’s manual transmission (well, not really, but it ends up being this way, as the clutch always seems to emit a strong odor of grinding metal when I am at the helm). The transmission emits said vapors, the instructor emits correspondingly worried responses, and all is well on the Swiss roadways. We’ve just started city-driving, in Basel (a very small “city”). Rush hour, with its bicyclic and tramway-induced confusion, is a great exercise to forget my day-job.

Said day-job has been canned (with six-month resignation period). I will go to Bucharest for several months starting end of July, in order to learn Romanian and to catch up on some projects from which my day job currently consumes all my time. Such as a successor to my first album. Living costs in Buc are fabulously low, so it will be nice to be able to sleep in for a few months in a row in this “mini-retirement”.

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Anatomy of an Asthma Attack

For anyone who’ve experienced them, Asthma Attacks are near-death experiences: time dilates, the tidal wave of panic subsides, and you genuinely believe that your number has been called and that you’re then scheduled to see the big guy.
As a preface, I sometimes wonder whether the following happens to other people: sleeping with eyes open, the body is asleep and paralyzed, but the eyes see everything and the mind is awake. I’m no expert, so I don’t know whether this state of sleep (this state of non-sleep) actually exists or whether it’s my own private illusion, but its a chilling predicament to be in. My mind is awake, thoughts race through it, but I’m frozen in a paralysis prison and cannot act at all on these thoughts. Even more frustrating is the fact that I feel most creative during the phase between consciousness and subconsciousness, so during these “living paralysis phases” I often experience melodies which I’d like to record and save for future developement, if, I weren’t frozen in corporal subconsciousness. Does anyone else experience this “intraconsciousness”?
Let’s compound this described situation with a chest full of fluid. I think that the gods have to have their evil fun too. I have had a chest cold for the last two days, which has entailed much coughing and associated mucous. Anyway. Last night I laid down for sleep and slept well for about 3h. After that, I found myself in an intraconscious phase, complicated by the fact that my breathing passages were completely blocked. So, my body was asleep, my mind was awake and aware that no air could pass through to my bloodstream. The tidal wave of panic quickly subsided, I accepted and almost befriended the concept of a drowning death (”eh? this beats burning alive”), and wondered when I would be found in my apartment later on. Miniscule spurts of air would reach my lungs, taunting me with an ever more inaccessible concept of life. That was, for me, the worst part.
Obviously I survived to write this post. Its not the first time that this has occured to me. Its almost always in springtime, when pollination starts. I have taken medical measures to prevent this from occuring, but, its a phenomenon which occurs so infrequently that I’m always surprised by it again. “Asthma Attack? Again?”. Maybe this is why the panic subsides so quickly.
At the risk of alienating the non-asthmatic community, I’m posting this, in part, to relay the immense emotional roller-coaster that my respiratory system induces on me, and to probe the internet to see whether my symptoms are unique or common.

Solo-Artist DAVV: “about the question itself”.

DAVV is my band-room neighbor who plays in the band John Sars. In addition to that, DAVV creates songs from scratch, from alpha to omega, from vocals to keys to drum-lines. In my opinion, “singer-songwriter” is the closest category for DAVV’s music and “singer-songwriter” is still insufficient for the scope which his debut CD covers. Check out the songs on his myspace.

When did you start making music?

I started making music when I was 15 years old. First drums and keys and later guitar. But that was just practicing and not really making music or writing any songs.

Which bands?

I used to play drums in a Band called Speewaa before i switched to playing guitar in John Sars.

Did you ever take formal music lessons?

Yes.

… for which instruments?

I took lessons for drums and guitar.

Are you continuously working on new songs?

Yes. I’m currently working on new material. I try to do as much as I can but I don’t know when there’s going to be a new release. Going to take some time.

How do you capture and/or save your new ideas?

I mainly work with my computer. I record all the ideas and if they are any good I work on them.

What is the biggest source of motivation and encouragement for Swiss musicians today?

I dont know. My motivation is to make as many good songs as possible.

What are the biggest challenges for Swiss musicians today?

To be taken seriously as a swiss musician you have to be special.

There are billions of bands out there doing the same stuff all over and over again. You really need to focus on yourself and just try to do something different. Which of course isn’t easy.

Isn’t that challenge applicable for non-swiss musicians as well? Or is it especially difficult to be taken seriously as a swiss musician?

Of course it is. I think that if you do something that is really good and has a certain value, it doesn’t matter if your swiss or italian or whatever.

It probably used to be harder to get heard by an audiance outside of switzerland. that is a bit easier now because of the Internet. But that doesn’t change anything about the question itself.

Thanks DAVV

Taxmoney to Save Car-Makers?

Whew, am I thrilled to pay taxes in a country which won’t be “BAILING OUT” a car-manufacturer
    - because Switzerland has no car-manufacturers of its own.

I feel downright betrayed when I hear that the U.S. government will not permit any of the major three car-manufacturers to go into bankruptcy.  These enterprises should die a good old classic Darwinistic Death, survival of the fittest, cannibalisation of the weakest.  Why should a government already starved for funds pay to keep the car-manufacturers alive? 

How about coughing up the money the car-makers are requesting “in order to stay alive till the end of the year” for public transportation instead? 

If I paid U.S. taxes I’d ask: “Why should my taxdollars pay for companies whose boards of directors aren’t democratically elected?”

Please, dear U.S. congress, write down the amounts the big Detroit three are requesting.  Then, invest that money into Amtrak, informing Amtrak to hire all of the employees being fired “for economic reasons” by the Big three.

It’s just like mama said, “There is no justice in life.”.  Which translates to, “Democracy is a myth.”

we are the department of engineering

For the first half of this week I was in Friedrichshafen, Germany with my boss at a seminar.  We brought our digital projector (”beamer”) in order to go through some slides with our colleagues.  However, Swiss and German power outlets are different:

Swiss outlet

Swiss Power Outlet

German / European Outlet

German (European) Power outlet.

Unfortunately we forgot to bring a power adaptor.  My boss, the engineering manager of our company, went for a breakfast walk and found the utility company in town, and obtained a length of cable from them for free (remember, in Germany, outside of restrictive hours, all the shops are CLOSED).

He came back and MacGyvered up the following dangerous looking but functional connection between the German electrical supply and our Swiss beamer.  No animals were hurt during the filming of this contraption.

macgyver electro

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are the department of Engineering !!

 

emergency workspace

I am really digging Stuart Noggle’s emergency workspace:

http://www.zooomr.com/photos/snoggle/1132688

Although I don’t know why he insists on brandishing it an “emergency” workspace.  That could very well be a permanent workspace, dismantling it for extra space when guests are around.  And if you have to disappear overnight (all you fugitives out there know this) then you can get your office in your backpack (and the rest into a dumpster) and then flee.  What a great reassurance.

Hooray Cardboard Furnishings

I’ve been moving apartment for the past few weeks, packing, repacking, jettisoning kit, repeat. Ikea furniture is quite terrible for non-drivers, its heavy, often one-time use, and in switzerland its difficult to get rid of.

Swiss apartments often have built in cabinetry and closets with shelves in the walls.  This makes purchasing bookshelves and clothing closets superfluous.

Desks and chairs which are foldable and thus stowable (on the balcony for instance) make limited floorspace accessible, cleanable, and reusable.

Beds are typically heavy, but if one restricts themself to mattresses which can be stowed upright during the day, the floorspace is again available.

For random things like stereo and lamp fixtures, the idea is to have the item at hand/eye level and nothing more.  However, accomplishing this in a car-free lifestyle has been difficult, as most commercial solutions involve plywood or other heavy, wasty materials. 

I’ve grown fond of using cardboard for this type furniture, for instance, prefab ikea-boxes to seat my stereo unit, 2 boxes near the door to prop up keys and wallet, etc. Its good to keep things at eye-level to avoid the situation of hiding things rather than storing things. Using empty boxes is ideal as well, because they’re easy to acquire and dispose during any move.

Cardboard is also craftable at home, enabling people to make custom solutions for their own needs, not being manipulated by the designers at IKEA labs in Jönköping or Beijing.  For instance, I saw this prop-up stand for a macbook and was very inspired:
DIY Laptop Stand

Check out the prop-up stand for the IPOD next to the laptop pedestal, wowsers.  Cardboard furnishings, coupled with foldable “hard” furnishings like folding chairs and tables, clever apartment design (large built-in closets), and a minimalistic approach to bedding (mattresses), render a completely car-free lifestyle entirely possible. 

Some of these great ideas and more are available at unclutterer.

This post written in part for the group writing project “design you love” contest at DESIGNER-DAILY.