New Year Re-Solution

I’ve been playing guitar now for about 15 years and been taking serious lessons for about 5. This year I hope to push my music theory knowledge and I think I’ve discovered the key!

In October of 2014 I decided to come up with a solution for my unfortunate habit of practicing guitar without intent. My guitar teacher is strict with his studying: “If you’re playing guitar, you’re not practicing guitar.” The difference between playing and practicing being casual enjoyment vs. progression. My solution in October was geeking out. I made a spreadsheet to keep track of my practicing, and for the most part I was able to keep on task for the last quarter of 2014.

For the New Year, I revamped my method further and adjusted my spreadsheet to log my progress through four different areas:

1. Scales – 15 minutes going through Major, Minor and the modes. These are done with two cycles of 12 where I step through the circle of fifths, one key per day alternating between starting C on the sixth and fifth string
2. Etudes – Three Allen Hanlon etudes per day, tracking tempo and switching etudes only upon clean performance at a reasonable tempo (different per etude).
3. Jazz Study – Mark Levine’s Jazz Theory book. Mastery of one page per day
4. Song Analysis – Fakebook, one page per day chord analysis

This series takes between 45-60minutes.

If I can keep this up for all of 2015, I will complete both the jazz theory book and the Fakebook (both of which have approximately 350pages). My hope? To be able to immediately find key transitions and be able to identify and nail modes for soloing (or even just scale arpeggios) at 160bpm.

Peaky Blinders

A week ago Jen and I started watching the Netflix original show Peaky Blinders. Huh? You ask? What on Earth is Persnickety Biscuits? Well, good friend, Pesky Blunders is a 1920’s mob story with character depth, excellent music, and a fast moving plot. I am entirely convinced that if this show was named with some title more memorable than Pasty Blithers than the world would be very much aware of its stunning execution.

In full disclosure, not everyone loves Peachy Balloons. Sander was turned off by the parallel plots and the accents, which at times feel like they need subtitles. That said, if you have Netflix and you like dramatic crime, put Party Bingers on your short list. At the time of this post there are 12 episodes online, each about an hour long.

Let me know what you think!

Laugh Tracks

This weekend I got into a heated discussion with a friend about Laugh Tracks. I hate them. For me, they ruin a viewing experience. Take the acclaimed ‘Big Bang Theory’. Even though technically it’s not a track since they have a live studio audience, the laughter feels like an emotional crutch. It’s as if the jokes aren’t good enough on their own, so they cue everyone: “hey! this is where you’re suppose to laugh!”

The result is awkward pauses in flow of the script as the group waits for the laughter to subside. Through the magic of technology others have skillfully edited out laugh tracks in such shows as the Big Bang Theory. The result is awkward.

“But Wait!” you interject, “That’s a tendentious example, it’s not always awkward!”

Actually you’re right. This article does a good job at making the argument that laugh tracks aren’t the problem: The attempt at saving a failed joke is the problem. When laugh tracks or laugh cues are used when there isn’t actually anything funny… perhaps that is where it fails. In fact, I get that same distaste from stand-up comedy when I have a disagreement with the crowd’s appreciation for a joke. It makes me pause and wonder why the crowd guffaws. Ultimately, I become detached from the show. Maybe it’s the show’s resulting lack of sincerity from mistimed laughter that causes my distaste.

To me a laugh track seems as bizarre of an idea as a sob track for a sad film or a fear track (the crowd gasps!) for a horror film. These ideas seem so ridiculous; but conceptually they don’t differ at all from the idea of a laugh track.

But perhaps if laugh tracks or sob tracks were used in perfect harmony with the viewer’s genuinely experienced emotion, they would enhance the viewing experience. Perhaps people who love shows with laugh tracks just have a more welcoming sense of humor.

Maybe I’m just a dud.

The Cheese Files Vol V

Hold onto your faces: Midnight Moon cheese is lick-your-cutting-board delicious.

On Saturday we visited Fromage to try yet another cheese. We asked our server what her favorite was and she pointed us in the direction of Midnight Moon.

Midnight Moon is a hard aged goat cheese and, while the official website of the cheesemaker (Cypress Grove) does not explicitly say it, I’m pretty certain that prior to being milked each goat is dipped by a cherub into a pool of shimmering dew collected from the mountains of Valhalla.

Midnight Moon headquarters is based out of Humboldt county California, but unexpectedly this cheese is made in Holland and then provided exclusively to the cheesemaker Cypress Grove Chevre. I’m not sure how this business arrangement works, but it doesn’t matter; the cheese is ambrosial.

Cheese.

With stark contrast between the shadowy casing and the brilliant white flesh, Midnight Moon almost looks like it was inked in a graphic novel. The texture is a buttery creamy softness and the taste is quiet and comforting. The cheesemaker reports flavorful undertones of nuts and caramel, but I won’t pretend that my unschooled pallet can find these flavors without cliff’s notes.

Midnight Moon won third place in the 2014 World Champion Cheese for Hard Aged Goat Cheese and I completely understand why. This cheese is my favorite so far from the Cheese Files. Shockingly, it’s not the highest rated cheese from Cypress Grove! Their website describes another cheese, The Humbert Fog, as their flagship cheese. We will make sure to try this in the coming weeks.

Taste: 4/4
Price: $$ (25/lb)
Independence: High

Verdict: Buy this cheese.

A Surplus of Wonderful

There seem to be way too many seven wonders of the world.

From a quick internet search:
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (AW)
Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NW)
Seven Wonders of the Underwater World (UW)
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (IW)
New Seven Wonders of the World (N7)
USA New Seven Wonders of the World (UN7)
The New Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NN7)
Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages (MA – weirdly there are more than seven here)

Let’s list out all the wonders from the lists above and see if we can filter out the best of the best.

The list!

Great Pyramid of Giza (AW & N7)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon (AW)
Temple of Artemis (AW)
Statue of Zeus at Olympia (AW)
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (AW)
Colossus of Rhodes (AW)
Lighthouse of Alexandria (AW)
SS Great Eastern (IW)
Bell Rock Lighthouse (IW)
London Sewerage System (IW)
Brooklyn Bridge (IW)
First Transcontinental Railroad (IW)
Panama Canal (IW & MW)
Hoover Dam (IW)
Palau (UW)
Beliz Barrier Reef (UW)
Great Barrier Reef (UW & NW)
Deep-Sea Vents (UW)
Galapagos Islands (UW)
Lake Vaikal (UW)
Northern REd Sea (UW)
Iguazu Falls (NN7)
Jeju Island (NN7)
Komodo Island (NN7)
Puerto Princesa Underground River (NN7)
Table Mountain (NN7)
Halong Bay (NN7)
Amazon Rainforest (NN7)
Grand Canyon (NW & UN7)
Harbor of Rio de Janeiro (NW)
Mount Everest (NW)
Aurora (NW)
Paricutin volcano (NW)
Victoria Falls (NW)
Potala Palace (UN7)
Old City of Jerusalem (UN7)
Polar Ice caps (UN7)
Papahanaumokaukea (UN7)
The Internet (UN7)
Mayan Ruins (UN7)
Great Migration of Serengeti (UN7)
Channel Tunnel (MW)
CN Tower (MW)
Empire State Building (MW)
Golden Gate Bridge (MW)
Itaipu Dam (MW)
Delta Works (MW)
Great Wall of China (N7 & MA)
Petra (N7)
Christ the Redeemer (N7)
Machu Picchu (N7)
Chichen Itza (N7)
Colosseum (N7)
Taj Mahal (N7 & MA)
Stonehenge (MA)
Colosseum (MA)
Catacombs (MA)
Porcelain Tower of Nanjin (MA)
Hagia Sophia (MA)
Leaning Tower of Pisa (MA)
Cairo Citadel (MA)
Ely Cathedral (MA)
Cluny Abbey (MA)

Some of the wonders above appear on multiple lists. Let’s consider this a vote of confidence for these wonders. I wish my filter had naturally worked out to a list of seven, but alas… only six. So I hereby present to you…

MIKE D’s SIX WONDERS OF THE WONDERS

Great Pyramid of Giza
Panama Canal
Great Barrier Reef
Grand Canyon
Great Wall of China
Taj Majal

I love that five of the six items on this list have adjectives of grandeur (taj means ‘crown’)! How wonderful!

A Question of Social Acceptability

In early Novemeber I was at a work event and someone casually asked how old I was. I promptly replied “Thirty Three.” When the person left moments later I was struck with confusion. “Wait a minute, I’m not 33,” my brain befuddled, “I’m 32.” It was bizarre.

Reminder: This was in November.

Yesterday, I was thinking about age and I suddenly realized that I AM 33. For a solid month I had wrongly believed I was a year younger than I am.

I submit to you that perhaps the impoliteness of asking someone his or her age is not at all a social faux pas because of age stereotype or capability stereotype, but instead it puts someone on the spot and challenges them to do calendar math (the most annoying type of math).