2006 April at John Mackey's Blog



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  • April 29, 2006

    Cats in a Box

    (not to be confused with Snakes on a Plane)

    I’m heading to Texas tomorrow morning. But first, let’s get a few photos out of the way.

    What is it with cats and boxes? I guess it makes them feel safe, but how safe is he if he’s sticking out the top?

    AEJ and I had dinner last night with Sarah, who had flown here from Houston for a conference. We had a nice time, and dinner was tasty, but the waitress was kind of bitchy. We’ve had semi-rude service at Malo before, but in the past, the rudeness has come with competence. The server may not smile, and may question your choice of tequila in your margarita, but she did it because, damn it, she cared. The server last night, though, was cold and not even very good at her job. Still, we enjoyed the ground beef and pickle tacos. (I know they sound weird, but they’re delicious.) After dinner, we came back to our place, and a neighbor cat came to the window to visit Loki.

    Loki was all, “hey, let’s be friends!” and the neighbor cat was like, “screw you,” and that was the end of their chat.

    Although the neighbor cat was mean, Loki and Sarah got along splendidly. I’ve never seen Loki’s eyes light up the way they did when he saw Sarah.

    (That photo is completely unedited. Loki’s eyes and flash photography don’t really get along.)

    On another note, AEJ made me a great Easter basket this year, and it was waiting for me when I got home from Florida a few weeks ago. She had made little cut-out figures of her in a bunny costume, and Loki in a monogramed Easter sweater and bunny ears. The Loki Easter cutout now lives on my keyboard because it rules. Doesn’t it totally look like a South Park character?!

    So, I’m off to Commerce, Texas, tomorrow morning. I’ll try to remember my camera cable so I can possibly post a blog entry from the road, but there may not be a real update until I get home on Wednesday. Until I get back, Loki will keep himself safe in this box.


    April 27, 2006

    UCLA and Midwest news

    A little news… I found out last night that Ray Cramer — Director of Bands Emeritus at Indiana University, and President of the Midwest Clinic — will conduct the Midwest Clinic premiere of “Turbine” this December with the Musashino Academy of Music Wind Ensemble. Mr. Cramer is on his way to Japan this weekend to prepare that same wind ensemble for an upcoming performance of “Sasparilla” in Tokyo. Those kids are going to be sick of me by the time Midwest rolls around in December. In all seriousness, I couldn’t be more excited about the performance of “Turbine.” I’m sure the group will be fantastic, and I’m honored that Mr. Cramer wants to program it.

    I had a great visit at UCLA yesterday afternoon. After a fairly traffic-free drive to Westwood, I parked and headed through campus…

    … and into the music building, named after, that’s right, the TuneSmith himself, Arnold Schoenberg. (Schoenberg was a member of the music department from 1936 until 1944 — when he wrote some of his greatest “hits.”)

    Once there, I met up with Gordon Henderson, Associate Director of Bands at UCLA, and conductor of the upcoming wind ensemble concert. (Thomas Lee, the UCLA Director of Bands, is on sabbatical, hopefully sunning and funning somewhere exotic.) Gordon and I headed across the street to have lunch at the Faculty Center with Ian Krouse, composer and Chair of the department.

    Lunch was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed talking shop with Gordon and Ian. I really want to hear some of Ian’s music. For lunch, I had a wasabi tuna salad sandwich.

    Gordon was nice enough to give me a little tour of UCLA’s gamelan room. UCLA has a major ethnomusicology department, but even knowing that, I was pretty surprised by the size of their gamelan setup.

    Here’s a collection of gongs for the ensemble.

    And those two pictures probably only show about half of what that room housed. I wish I could have heard it!

    The rehearsal with the group was a lot of fun. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, as their concert is still about a month away, and I never hear rehearsals of “Redline Tango” this early in the rehearsal process. Wow, though, they’re an incredibly strong group. The Eb clarinet player (lower-right) was especially a standout. It was funny because when I heard her start playing, I looked up from the score, thinking, wow, this sounds incredible — vulgar, raw, perfectly stylized — this player is rocking! And then, when I looked up at her, she looked like this was old news to her. I expected her to be flailing all over the place physically, but nope, she looked so controlled — but sounded all crazy and wild. I got a real kick out of her. Turns out she’d never even played klezmer before. Great player.

    The whole ensemble was great. There wasn’t all that much for me to say. I can only imagine how great they’ll sound by the time of the concert, considering they were 95% ready to perform it yesterday!

    Here’s another shot of the band. (Those markings in my score are not my own. Somebody returned the score to me like that, and I kept the markings in to make it look like I actually understood the beat patterns.)

    And here’s a shot of the student conductors, fixated on the Redline Tango score. I swear, this photo wasn’t staged. They really are that interested in Redline Tango. Really. That’s how dedicated they are to their craft. (Okay, I’m lying.)

    So, a great afternoon at UCLA. I wish I could be there for their performance on May 24, but I’ll be on my way to New York for Bob Reynolds’ performance of the work with the National Wind Ensemble. If you live in LA, though, I encourage you to check out the UCLA performance. They’re going to give a great concert. I’ll be heading back to campus in a few weeks to work with them one more time. I’m sure it’ll be a blast, once again.

    Tomorrow night: dinner with my friend Sarah, visiting from Houston. So the question is, do AEJ and I take her out to dinner, or cook out on the deck?


    April 25, 2006

    UCLA, Texas A+M

    I just read that Amazon’s quarterly sales were up. I think that’s almost entirely due to the shopping habits of AEJ and I, with our frequent purchases like the world’s best rice cooker (it plays “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” when you press the Start button!) and countless other fun kitchen supplies. To the executives at Amazon.com, I say, “You’re welcome.”

    Tomorrow I’m spending the afternoon at UCLA. I’ll be having lunch with Gordon Henderson — who will be conducting “Redline Tango” on their next concert — and Ian Krouse, composer and Chair of the UCLA Music Department (and former teacher of my friend, composer Bob Gates). After lunch, I’ll work with the wind ensemble, and then I’m heading to West LA Music to pick up a copy of Kontakt, the software sample player. I’m tired of MachFive and its lack of updates and support, and its inability to take full advantage of the VSL samples. Speaking of which, I just bought the Vienna Symphonic Library Saxophone collection. I’ve barely gotten to play with them, but I think they’re going to be great, especially for the upcoming Saxophone Concerto for UT. (More on that in the near future.)

    On Sunday, I’m heading to Commerce, Texas, to work with Jeff Gershman’s group at Texas A+M Commerce. They’re doing both “Mass” (which I haven’t heard live since the Juilliard premiere in 2005), and “Sasparilla.” Dinner, I’m told, will be at a place called Jasper’s. Photos will, of course, be taken.

    “24” is getting a lot better. It’s a shame that it’s taken more than half of the season for the writers to figure out where the hell they’re going with the plot, but now it’s back on track. This season would have been a lot better had it been “12,” but if they keep going at the pace they set last night — and kick up the action even more next week when Jack Bauer hijacks an airplane! — well, it should be enough to get me back next season.


    April 23, 2006

    Friday Fun Day

    Friday was a fun day. AEJ and I thought it’d be fun to do a little summer clothes shopping, so we headed to Beverly Hills. (Don’t be too impressed; Rodeo Drive even has Club Monaco and Banana Republic. I’m sure The Gap won’t be far behind.) On the way, we stopped for burgers at Astro Burger in West Hollywood. The place is famous, and it’s definitely tasty, with the burgers charbroiled and cooked to order, and the onion rings are homemade. To me, though, it was good, but not amazing. It may be heresy, but I prefer In-N-Out Burger. With its charbroiled taste and loads of lettuce, Astro was a bit like a high-quality Burger King.

    After lunch, we made our way to Rodeo Drive, parked, and did a little shopping. I bought a few shirts — one nice one, and two “comedy” shirts (one looks like a vintage 70s polo shirt with a big green felt dollar sign on the pocket; I’m so money). We did a little more window shopping, and AEJ found the shoes she was hoping to see in person (but had only seen online until then) — these little shoes that look like mice.

    At the time, we decided that they might be a little decadent. At the time, that is. Plus, these weren’t exactly the shoes she wanted…

    Somehow, I got it in my head last week that it would be fun to have a bread machine. I found a fun one online — made by the same company that makes our rice cooker (because when you think Japan, after you think “rice,” you probably think “banana bread”) — and we thought we’d check at the nearest Bed, Bath, & Beyond to see if they had the bread machine in stock. So, off to the Beverly Center we went. Sadly, they didn’t have the bread machine in stock, so we left empty handed. On the way out of the mall, we stopped at Macy’s to see if they might have the bread machine. They didn’t — but they did have the exact shoe AEJ wanted. (The difference is subtle. This one has a different back — and a little stitched tail.)

    Again, AEJ was strong, and walked away from the shoes.

    From the Beverly Center, we thought it would be fun to take a little tour of Mulholland Drive. Wow, there are some crazy-nice views up there. The highlight of the drive was when we passed a John Lautner-designed home called Garcia House. (I’ve written about Silvertop, the Lautner home across the reservoir from our place in Silver Lake. Some day…) Garcia House is immediately recognizable as a Lautner. As soon as we passed it — it backs up right to the road, so it’s impossible to miss — we had to turn around, pull the car over, get out, and see it up close. I wish I’d had my camera that day, although we might have been arrested taking up-close photos of private homes on Mulholland. Fortunately, there are lots of photos online. Here are a few…


    and this link will take you to an entire photo album of the home. What you can’t see in these photos is how you’re able to see through the entire upper half of the home — it’s just glass on both sides. This was the closest we’ve been to a Lautner — they’re usually behind gates, like in Palm Springs, or even here in Silver Lake — so this was exciting for us.

    We eventually made it home, and decided that for dinner, we’d try P.F. Chang’s. It’s a chain, but I’d heard it was good, and we haven’t had Chinese food since we moved to LA in September, so — what the hell. P.F. Chang’s is pretty darned tasty. The quality of the meat is much higher than your average Chinese hole-in-the-wall, and the spicy dishes are actually fairly spicy. Good stuff. A bit loud (it was a Friday night), but I’d go back.

    So, fun day, and tasty dinner. And just by chance, P.F. Chang’s was at the Beverly Center — where we’d found those mouse shoes that AEJ wanted earlier in the day! Wow, what a coincidence! Or maybe not. Did AEJ end up with her mouse shoes? Well, she didn’t buy them for herself, if that’s what you’re wondering. That would have been indulgent. But when I saw how happy they made her, what was I supposed to do?!


    April 18, 2006

    I am Sherry Palmer

    “24” was a bit better last night. I like this whole “the president is an evil, evil man who has risked destroying the country just for the sake of securing our supply of oil — and he must be brought down” plot. There were still problems, though, as if the writers don’t know their own rules that they’ve established in previous seasons. Too many people had already died so that Jack could get that recording, and he lets Henderson get away with the tape just so Jack can try to save Audrey?! Sorry — Jack’s #1 reason to be alive is to save the country at any cost, and as quickly and efficiently as possible, no matter who gets hurt. This is the second time this season they’ve broken that rule. (The first time was when Jack agreed to save that little girl before getting the evidence against the President. Give me a friggin’ break. And then that chick gives up Jack’s location?! Lame, lame, lame.)

    So, what “24” character am I? Well, I don’t know about this…

    Sherry Palmer
    You are Sherry Palmer! The villian we love to hate. A real b-i-t-c-h you know how to seduce, and black mail anyone for anything. You want to be famous and powerful..

    Which “24” character are you?

    What’s funny here is that if I changed one answer — making my favorite color “black” instead of “royal blue” (which isn’t really my favorite color anyway, but “chartreuse” wasn’t listed) — then I actually would have been Jack Bauer. So little separates the evil of Sherry Palmer from the good that is Jack Bauer. So very, very little.