2006 March at John Mackey's Blog



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  • March 15, 2006

    Blog Potpourri

    I’m still irritated by the huge decline of quality in this season of “24.” If you want to watch a new show that’s really pretty fantastic — and stars the late President Palmer of “24!” — check out “The Unit.” It’s on Tuesday nights at 9pm on CBS. It has a bad title, but as a show, it’s very, very good. It was co-created by David Mamet, so there’s the occasional “Mamet-speak” in the writing (“I just… I… I can’t, but… but you want me to… you… you want… you want me to… I can’t!”, but if you can get past that (it really doesn’t happen much), it’s great television. And it’s fun to see President Palmer kick some ass.

    Steve Bryant attended the U. Arkansas performance of “Turbine” a few days ago. He wrote about it on his own blog — complete with photos of the food he ate post-concert. (At the moment, it’s the second entry down.) I wish I could have been there to hear W. Dale Warren’s group give their premiere — and I can’t believe I missed out on one of those milkshakes that Steve enjoyed!

    My mother is coming from Florida tomorrow to visit me and AEJ here in LA. It’ll be fun to show her Southern California, although the weather forecast isn’t great: high of 60 degrees, and a chance of rain. These LA winters are brutal.

    I finally found a great place in LA to get a haircut: ChopChop. In NY, I always went to DopDop, and it’s a little funny that I’m now going to what seems to be the bizarro DopDop. (I’ll admit that I initially picked the place partially based on its name similarity to DopDop.) If you’re in LA and want a great cut — the best haircut in LA! — check out Darin Birchler at ChopChop. (Darin is the owner.)

    My planned trip to U. Miami in April has fallen through, I’m sad to report. (Sorry, Lisa & Mike!) I was really excited about the trip, but it looks like I’ll have to wait a while longer for my chance to work with Gary Green. I will still be at University of Florida and University High School (in Orlando) April 9-14.

    I found out this week that Ray Cramer, Emeritus Director of Bands at Indiana University, will be doing “Sasparilla” in Japan this summer! I’m excited, and wish I could be there for that. It’s funny; that piece isn’t getting a ton of play in the US, but I think it will have received nearly a dozen performances in Japan by July, including a tour of one high school band. Go Japan! (Go ahead. Click it.)

    Sorry for the crazy hodge-podge of content today. (Would you believe that the link to “hodge-podge” is a blog about food?!) I guess I’d better to tidy the house for my mother’s arrival…


    March 13, 2006

    "24" and "Press Your Luck"

    I won’t put any spoilers here, but let’s just say that one of my favorite shows, “24,” has officially jumped the shark. I mean, I get it. “24” is all about, “we’ll show you that nobody is safe on ’24’!!!” Ooooo. I figured that out in Season One. But give me a break. In past seasons, when a primary character was killed, it was done for a reason. The past two episodes of “24,” though, were just irritating. If I hadn’t commited 4-and-a-half seasons of my life to this show, I’d stop watching. It had already established itself as the weakest season yet (I’m pretty sure that key cards don’t work that way, and having a bad guy who seems to be improvising the entire time isn’t scary like last season’s Marwan, and, did we really need to see Kim again? ever?, and we’re supposed to believe that somebody as by-the-book as Lynn McGill wouldn’t tell anybody he’d lost his keycard? and what the hell does Jack still see in Audrey? and… oh, never mind.) — but as I was saying, if I hadn’t already become committed to the show, I’d walk away. The writers had better do something really, really good in the next episode or two to win me back, and to erase my current view that they’re writing things that are stupidly executed, lazy, and a bit desperate.

    In other news, the host of my favorite game show of all time, “Press Your Luck,” Peter Tomarken, died in a small plane crash just off the coast of Santa Monica this morning. (Wow, somebody updated that Wikipedia entry fast.) The craziest thing about this is that in Googling “Press Your Luck,” I came across the story of Michael Larsen, a man who, in 1983, memorized the patterns of the Big Board on Press Your Luck, went on the show, and won over $110,000. This on a game where a big win would typically be closer to $10,000. And Larsen only quit playing after over an hour of filming — and he chose to stop. Crazy story. This link has a great detailed story of the episode, and this link has video of it.

    And let me add this: At least “Press Your Luck” never jumped the shark. Well, except when they did that typically desperate 1980’s cross-over episode with Knight Rider, “The Knight of 1000 Whammys.”


    March 12, 2006

    So little to tell

    I haven’t been writing blog entries — but what the hell have I been doing?! Going to the post office, and watching American Idol.

    I posted the MP3 of “Turbine” a few days ago, and then spent a day burning CDs and writing cover letters and sending copies of the recording all over the place. (Well, not all over, really. I sent out about a half-dozen copies, primarily to people whom I figure wouldn’t listen to a piece online.) I also sent out a few dozen emails about the piece.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve sent out CDs to conductors, trying to generate performances. I didn’t really do it with “Sasparilla,” as I figured (I think, correctly) that the piece had limited and specific appeal. I guess the last time I sent a piece around, it was with “Redline Tango.” It felt strangely exciting to be doing it again. (Not, like, “Rachel McAdams before she went blonde” exciting; more like “ooo, we’re having banana cream pie for dessert” exciting.) We’ll see if any performances come of it.

    AEJ and I have been watching Idol, although we’re not particularly attached to most of the finalists. I don’t think we’re big fans of any of the women, but we like a few of the guys. Bucky Covington is a favorite, and not just because “Bucky” was my imaginary friend’s name when I was four. Bucky is just a raw talent with absolutely no training or experience, but he sings really well. He has that Southern Rock sound, and it’s real. This guy clearly grew up in the middle of nowhere — a real country boy from North Carolina, unlike Carrie Underwood, last year’s winner, who lived in a “small town” in Oklahoma. I’ve been to Carrie’s hometown (written about here), and it’s small, but give me a break — there’s a friggin’ Pizza Hut there. No “country town” has a Pizza Hut. I’m pretty sure, though, that Bucky lives on a farm in the middle North Carolina where the nearest Pizza Hut is two hours away.

    Whereas Bucky is raw, Chris Daughtry seems like he’s really a rock star already. Great charisma, good voice, and seems like he should be fronting a band. I feel like he has this thing wrapped up already, and I’d be fine if he won. Then there’s Kevin Covais, who is only surviving on sympathy votes. The guy can’t sing, and he couldn’t look less Idol. But people keep voting him through, presumably out of pity. Come on, people — you’re just setting him up for an even bigger fall. There’s Ace Young, who is like last season’s Constantine, only without the sexual charisma — meaning he’s nothing, because that’s all Constantine was, was a 6-foot tall “I’m going to impregnate you with my eyes” smoothie. I think Taylor Hicks is entertaining, but AEJ doesn’t like him at all. I don’t know how long the gray-haired 29-year old Joe Cocker+Ray Charles impression will stay interesting, but he’s fun for now. At least that guy Will is gone. I read on another blog that he was like the “illicit love child between Fred Savage and John Mayer,” and wow, she nailed it.



    I rest my case. (Did Will go to my photographer? I think I’ve seen that pose before.)


    March 7, 2006

    Fasten your seat belts

    I know, I know, the airplane thing is a bit much (I could have said something about tray tables, or exit rows, or the beverage cart), but everybody has been suggesting that I introduce the piece that way, so there you are.

    I’ve just posted the audio file of real people (no more MIDI!) performing my new work, “Turbine.” The recording, with Cody Birdwell conducting the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble, is sweeeet. One person already commented on the recording, “It rocks my face off.” Imagine how the trombones at UK must have felt.

    This sucker was nearly deafening at the premiere 10 days ago (let’s just say that the piece is “assertive”), so when you listen in the comfort of your home, crank it up.

    This is the link to “Turbine.”


    Turbine coming soon…

    I’m about 3/4 of the way through the edits on “Turbine,” and this recording is going to be pretty fantastic. I’m hoping to post it later tonight…

    Stay tuned!