Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Two Funky Restaurants

The first is for my buddy Lee. It's called Ninja New York, and we may have to go to dinner there when we go to the East Coast in January. While patrons work their way through the tasting menu at this Japanese restaurant, servers dressed as ninjas perform magic alongside their tables. The interior is designed to be a medieval Ninja Castle, and is built like a maze.

The second is for me and anyone not afraid of heights. It is called Dinner in the Sky, and that's it. You sit at a table that is suspended by a crane in midair while feasting on the executive chef’s specialized gourmet menu. Based in Brussels, Belgium, Dinner in the Sky is planning to bring its table to cities throughout Europe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Computer for Drummers

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Death by PowerPoint

Last week, I went to Seattle for a two day meeting with Microsoft to hear about their programs for Partners (people who sell with them or create products based on Microsoft stuff). It was two days at the very swank Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. My room was on the 38th floor, overlooking the Puget Sound and the Space Needle.

Pretty awesome.

And the information was good, too. A bit more for people who create products based on Microsoft stuff than for people who create products that work on Microsoft. But still good stuff and good content.

This week, I am at the Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington for a 4 day Partner training. Again, great materials and contacts. And I am staying at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, another beautiful hotel with all the amenities (including plasma screens in room).


...all of the sessions are PowerPoint presentations. Hour after hour of PowerPoint presentations. It is fast becoming a joke. One of my fellow attendees called it the "PowerPoint Dungeon." I call it Death by PowerPoint. After about six hours, your butt is in pain and you would do just about anything to get up and move around.

I guess I'll just have to hang on until 5:30. We're having wine tastings with designer appetizers at the finest restaurant in town.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Philip Glass Sucks

As a conductor and arranger, I have always been baffled by the fact that some musicians don't seem to want to hear their music played. For example, Philip Glass, who is one of my favorite composers, does not sell his printed music for performance. You can sometimes rent it, but that is expensive and ensures that his music will only be performed by groups with the money to do so.

How sad. I wanted to get his saxophone ensembles for my students to play, but they are not available - even to rent. And I would have loved to see how the music fits together and possible transcribe his work for Brass Ensemble.

As an arranger, I have found that there are some folks that just won't allow their music to be arranged for other ensembles. John Williams of Star Wars fame comes to mind. WIlliams will almost never allow his music to be arranged. This is a bummer, because his stuff is great and I would love to try and interpret it in my own way.

I like the attitude of composer Jennifer Higdon, who said:

“I’m not the kind of composer that feels they have to protect their works and have them sound just like I “originally conceived them”… I’m all for the music getting used in whatever way will best serve the community of musicians and audiences. It’s supposed to be about communicating, and if that’s happening, that is all that matters to me.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Book Review - Self Made Man by Norah Vincent

Over the course of 18 months, Norah Vincent lived life as a man and wrote this book to document the experience. Vincent is a lesbian, which makes the project even more interesting. She begins by consulting makeup experts and choosing a wardrobe. And then she sets out to find out what it is like on the other side of the sexual divide.

Over the course of the eight chapters of this 286 page book, her alter ego Ned joins a bowling league, goes online for dates and gets a job at an assortment of high-pressure sales firms. She even lives for a time at a monastery and joins a men's group on a retreat, at which she is fearful that the men will find her out and try to kill her.

This book is a fascinating look from the outside into the man's world. Vincent does not always get things right (she has a tendency to generalize), but she does offer some great insights into the difficulties of being male in 21st century America.

"I passed in a man's world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball. Eventually I realized that my disguise was the one thing I had in common with every guy in the room. It was hard being a guy."

Her adventures as the worst bowler in an all-male league are quite entertaining and unexpectedly (for Vincent) poignant.

"They were far more generous with me than they had any reason to be, and it was only after a couple of months when they got to know me a little better that they felt free enough to kid me now and then about how much I sucked, letting me in.

"I could never have predicted it, but part of me came really to enjoy those nights with the guys. Their company was like an anchor at the beginning of the week, something I could look forward to, an oasis where nothing would really be expected of me."

That's the way guys are, to be sure. Women just don't understand that we really can spend hours together and talk about nothing, just enjoying what we are doing.

But Vincent does gain an understanding of the other half, and her insights are thought-provoking. For example, one is struck by the thought that, even given our vast differences, men and women have done a pretty good job of learning to live together. Perhaps some of these lessons could be used to help understanding between cultures or races. Taking the time to live as the other person leads to better understanding and tolerance of differences,

Overall, I enjoyed the book and encourage people to read it. Both genders will gain from it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Learning to Play

Yesterday, I decided to learn to play the guitar. I looked online to find out who makes good guitars for beginners, and found a nice Washburn guitar on Craigslist. I picked it up last night and had my online first lesson, written by a man named Dan Cross, who seems to be the guitar expert at

He has posted a number of articles and free lessons, so I got started with the basics. I am practicing chromatic scales and basic chords. The scales are pretty easy - the chords are tough. I just can't get my fingers to do what I want them to. But, I will practice every day and see how it goes.

While growing up, I always enjoyed those people who could take a guitar and play songs. Singalongs, campfires, that sort of thing. And I suppose I have always wanted to do that.

We'll see how it goes! I'll keep you posted.