Monthly Archives: May 2011

Spanish Romance

To be hon­est, I’d never heard of Spanish Romance until this year. Once I found out it was a clas­si­cal stan­dard, I started see­ing it on all these CDs by respected gui­tarists and com­pi­la­tion albums of “clas­si­cal greats”. It seems like any­one learn­ing clas­si­cal gui­tar will try to tackle it at some point, seduced by such an ele­gant melody. I have no clas­si­cal aspi­ra­tions, and even I fell for it.

I fig­ure I’d record this before I cut off my nails cause I’ve been grow­ing them for about two months1 and I’m com­pletely sick of them. They clack on my key­board and iPad, and I always have to be annoy­ingly care­ful about not break­ing them. Unfortunately, this song also sounds way bet­ter with some bright­ness to it when it’s not played with actual nylon strings; I’m still using a set of Silk and Steel, and there’s a cer­tain fat­ness to the sound when you really dig into them.

I’ve only had Larissa for six months now, but it feels more like six years. There’s so much famil­iar­ity in the wood and glossy curves. Even when I’m try­ing out a gui­tar sev­eral times the price of what she would cost, it never feels as nice.

  1. Although halfway through I cut them down to 1/4 length and lost a lot of growth cause I thought they were inter­fer­ing with my rest-stroke. Turns out the prob­lem was actu­ally in my tech­nique. Oops. []

Dear Lisa

It was this suc­cinct wit. She could say so much in a line or two, and any­thing left unsaid would only serve to feed your curios­ity. You’d be given the punch­line, this blow that would knock the wind out of you, then won­der what cir­cum­stances could have led up to that. I’ve always been after that style, that abil­ity to move peo­ple with words the way hers used to move me.

Dolly and Lisa

Of course Dolly has to sleep on any­thing new in the house, regard­less of whether it’s your sweater or not. It’s part of the sass, and yet one can’t help but reward her with cud­dles and love.

For a few years, I lost her to the hap­pi­ness (where I hope to lose myself one day) until we spent a rainy day together, blissed out and hope­fully obvi­ous only to the check-out lady who scanned all our vari­eties of chocolate.

Dear Lisa believes in me, and that’s the only rea­son I believe in myself too.

Humble & Brilliant

Jesse’s Dangerously’s lat­est knock­out album, Humble & Brilliant1, has been released as a dig­i­tal down­load only with no phys­i­cal media. However, you can also pur­chase a chap­book for those of us who enjoy the tac­tile feel­ing of liner notes, lyrics, and kick-ass illus­tra­tions. Included in the dig­i­tal down­load is this top­less pic­ture of Jesse I took to pro­mote the album.

Jesse Dangerously — shirtless


I have so many amaz­ing mem­o­ries of these songs, back before the album was released and I was doing backup ukulele parts for a few of his acoustic sets. That was when I was just start­ing to get into play­ing an instru­ment again, except this time it was in my adult­hood and it was for reals. He gave me a draft of the album last year when all the ideas were there but he had yet to decide on how some of them were going to be exe­cuted, so it’s very sat­is­fy­ing to hear how pol­ished and com­plete it is now.

There were a bunch of shots we did but didn’t end using, and they were all really fun to do.

Pictures more bril­liant than humble

  1. Proper pro­nun­ci­a­tion has the empha­sis on the last syl­la­ble of “Brilliant”. []

short exile on a long weekend

When you no longer work in an office, some­times you don’t find out it’s a long week­end until the Friday of. My friends have also replaced their rit­ual bar­be­cues with babies and play dates, so no invi­ta­tions were sent out that may have noti­fied me of the holiday.

Toronto Lake Shore

A quiet moment among vol­ley­ball tour­na­ments and beach goers in a calm area of the Lake Shore.

I wanted to get away cause I’ve been dread­ing any time alone. Loneliness hits me hard­est when I’m sit­ting at home won­der­ing what every­one else is doing. A road trip to Toronto was the best way I could avoid that. Unfortunately, the only peo­ple I can drop in on with such short notice hap­pen to be five hun­dred kilo­me­tres away.

The truth is I never watch sun­sets any­more. I’m usu­ally too caught up in my projects cause I’m wor­ried about being left with noth­ing but the thoughts I’ve try­ing to put in the back of my head. That’s why I don’t mind the five-hour drive at this time of year; it gives me an excuse to see what I never make time to do. When I leave at a quar­ter to seven, I hit the rich­est1 part of the sun­set halfway through the 401. For a glo­ri­ous stretch, there’s noth­ing con­crete curves and crim­son colours bleed­ing through the trees.

CN Tower sushi

The “CN Tower” sushi plat­ter, with tem­pura obser­va­tion deck.

All I wanted was a quite time with the right com­pany, no heavy plans or per­son­al­i­ties. I’d be kick­ing myself for all the shots I missed cause I was too com­fort­able to pull out my cam­era, but I know that’s what those moments are about.

To lose your­self in the haze and sum­mer heat finally upon us is to live like a child again with­out a worry or thought of any­thing beyond the next five min­utes. Regression is embrac­ing the itchy sweat break­ing out on your face, as your fin­ger­tips mash the ice into slush in a white cream soda freezie.

grocery store

Feeling lit, feel­ing light,
2 a.m., sum­mer night.

I’m always fight­ing exhaus­tion on these trips cause I don’t get enough sleep. There’s too much to do. It’s a test of con­sti­tu­tion to be dri­ving in the dark­ness and city lights, won­der­ing if I’m too tired to be dri­ving, let alone nav­i­gat­ing the infu­ri­at­ing con­struc­tion and traf­fic of down­town Toronto. When I sur­vive another day, it’s a reminder that not every­thing has to be per­fect, that the world still turns no mat­ter the state of my heart or mind.

Over a par­tic­u­larly heavy blend, I was asked what it would take for me to go all out, to say fuck it and lose con­trol. It made me real­ize I’m already there, sid­ing with indul­gence over mod­er­a­tion, try­ing to break myself down so I can rebuild myself again. That’s why I always lose myself on those warm sum­mer nights, when I tell myself I’ll be in bed by 10 every night, but the com­pany keeps me up till 3.

cat and human

Dexter is now too fat and lazy to fight off my cud­dly advances.

I have such a mixed past with Toronto. It was such a chaotic time in my life when I lived there. I was crip­plingly unde­vel­oped, but that also meant I still had the inno­cence none of us ever return to once we hit adult­hood. Much like those mem­o­ries, this city will always be a part of me.

Now I’m back in Ottawa, returned to the lit­tle things that make it home like a famil­iar pil­low and a cat’s par­tic­u­lar purr. In my case, the exile is always self-imposed, a con­trolled escape, and I always won­der if any­one would care or miss me if I never came back.

  1. The time when it just starts to get dark, a bal­ance between the rich colours and bril­liance of light, since they both com­pose. []

a sketch of Shaded By Your Shadow

So the iPad 2 is some­thing I bought last week, solely for the pur­pose of GarageBand. It’s pow­er­ful enough to be a sketch­pad where you can cre­ate musi­cal ideas, and because the instru­ments are touch-sensitive, it’s really fun to doo­dle and exper­i­ment. I don’t actu­ally have a bass or piano or drums, so the extra instru­men­ta­tion is pretty handy too.

Over the week­end I made this sketch of Shaded By Your Shadow as I was fig­ur­ing my way around the soft­ware. It’s always been one of my favourite songs by Shane; the title alone evokes this image of lying in the grass on a warm day, with someone’s hair drift­ing in the haze of their out­line above you.

I haven’t lost myself this much in a project (small as it was) in a long time. I had to fig­ure out the roles of instru­ments I’ve never played before, per­cus­sion being a par­tic­u­larly weak point of mine cause I rarely pay atten­tion to it when I’m lis­ten­ing to music. There are a lot of synth instru­ments included with GarageBand, so I tried to give it an 80s synth-pop sound. Everything was done right on the iPad, includ­ing vocals which were recorded using the built-in microphone.

I still have to learn about mix­ing and pro­duc­tion and what­not (and since I don’t have any mon­i­tors, I’m com­pletely blind when set­ting the var­i­ous lev­els), but I was happy as punch just to be able to fig­ure out the soft­ware and process. It really is it’s own cre­ative process when mak­ing a full band arrange­ment for a song, a puz­zle in it’s own right, because you can start with an idea or motif on any instru­ment and there are so many direc­tions you can go from there.