2007 June at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
  • New stuff for Fall 2014!
  • UTWE Tour : Shenzhen
  • Wine-Dark Sea – the video
  • Wine-Dark Sea – recording and score
  • “Wine-Dark Sea” – the program note
  • We’re buying a house!
  • Symphony for Band – an update, with audio
  • Xerxes — for metal rock band
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  • Cats: LA Cat Show
  • Design: Cambridge Studio
  • Design: Dining Room
  • Design: Family Room
  • Design: Front Door
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.1
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  • Design: Kitchen, pt.3
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  • Design: Kitchen, pt.5
  • Design: Living Room
  • Design: The Austin House, part 1
  • Design: The Austin House, pro shots
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  • Food: Samar
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  • June 29, 2007

    The Hard Life

    The iPhone goes on sale today at 6pm. Since we have tickets to a concert at 7:30, we’re going to have to miss out on the fun of waiting in line this afternoon. The Apple Stores will be open until midnight, though, so our plan is to stop by one of them after the concert and try our luck. Worst case, I’ll try to find one locally tomorrow morning. Worst-worst case, I’ll order one online.

    I kind of enjoy the community of the “waiting-in-line-to-buy-a-toy” thing. We waited in line for about 45 minutes in November to get our Wii, and that was admittedly pretty fun. Granted, it was 45 minutes, and it was Southern California. We had the weather on our side.

    When I look at the stores around the country where people have been camped out since last night (or before), and it’s raining, or it’s over ninety degrees, it makes me realize how spoiled we are here. I’ve been reading the MacRumors forum for updates on the Apple Store line status around SoCal, and I found a great picture of the wait at The Grove, LA’s big outdoor mall. (You can read a previous blog entry about The Grove at Christmas right here.) They have what is probably the busiest Apple Store in LA, so naturally, there are already a lot of people in line — there were about 100 by 9am. The best part (as seen in the picture) is that the management of The Grove handed out umbrellas to the people who were waiting in line to protect them from the sun. Around the rest of the country, people are standing in the rain, or baking in the sun and humidity where it’s 100 degrees, but here in LA, where it’s 74 degrees with a light breeze and almost no humidity, the management of the mall hands out umbrellas. Southern California is cushy.

    New York was fun — no doubt about that — but there was definitely the feeling, day after day, that the city is trying to beat you down. The noise, the dirt, the smell, the sweating… Good lord — the subway platform in August is one of the worst places on Earth. Then, when a train does come, it’s packed, and you end up in a car with no A/C. I don’t miss those days. Or there was the time when AEJ and I flew to NY last summer, and when we got off the plane, we were greeted by — no joke — a large, unfathomably stinky pile of human vomit next to baggage claim — NYC’s little way of saying to us, “welcome back.” I do miss the people, and the concerts, and the restaurants, but it’s nice to live somewhere where it’s easy to live.

    In other news, a few days ago, I posted a blog entry announcing something, then started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t have said anything at all, so I deleted the entry. Here is the “non-controversial” part of that entry…

    We did a little CostCo shopping the other day. I love CostCo, but they don’t have bags there, and you have to put your stuff in a random box in order to carry it. I don’t know what this box was for, but Loki decided that the description somehow fit him.

    Oh, and I’m judging a band contest — one that’s done strictly from recordings. I received a huge box the other day with scores and CDs. It’s kind of overwhelming. Loki, always a fan of boxes, thinks this is going to be a great project.

    It might be tough to judge how cute he looks in that shot, so I cropped it. The framing isn’t as nice, but man, that’s a damn cute cat. Who has paws? Who has cute little kitten paws? (You have to say that with a baby voice.)

    Time to get back to work. I had kind of set a goal for myself to finish the slow movement of the sax concerto by Monday. With the concert tonight, and likely iPhone shopping (and playing) tomorrow, time is running out.


    June 24, 2007

    Strange Humors choreography

    Last year, I wrote a band piece called “Strange Humors,” a mid-level ditty that features the African hand drum, the djembe. That piece is a transcription of a piece originally for string quartet and djembe. The audio of that original version has been here on the site for ages. The original, you may or may not know, was composed for dance, back when I was living in New York (in 1998!). The choreographer, my frequent collaborator, Robert Battle, (Mass, Damn, Rush Hour, Breakdown Tango – the precursor to Redline Tango, Juba, Irish Ghetto, etc.) did an incredible job with the score — one of our first collaborations. Now, for the first time, I’m posting the video of his choreography, so you can see “Strange Humors” the way it was originally intended. There’s some funky lighting in a few places, but you’ll definitely get the idea.

    Note that the music and choreography are both copyrighted. If you want to perform this choreography, you have to license it from Robert Battle. If you don’t, he’ll sue your ass (with a smile). Same goes for the music, although from me, you don’t get the smile.

    Strange Humors (1998)
    Music by John Mackey
    Choreography by Robert Battle
    Dancers: Samuel Roberts and George Smallwood
    Performed at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

    In a few days, I’ll post the video of “Rush Hour.” It is bad-ass.


    June 21, 2007

    Back to Jinpachi

    I found out about a month ago that I need to get my cholesterol down. I exercise a lot, and I weigh very little, but it seems that even though I’m not visibly fat at all, my arteries are “chubby.” It’s a bummer of genetics.

    I’ve changed my diet somewhat, adding more fish and reducing the amount of red meat and fried stuff that I eat. It’s been a minor challenge — but not in all areas. Fortunately, one thing I’m supposed to eat more of is fish. Unfortunately, my favorite way to eat fish is as sushi — and it’s expensive. But oh, so yummy.

    This morning, I had some follow-up blood work to make sure all is improving, so last night, to “prepare,” AEJ and I went once again to our favorite sushi place, Jinpachi, over in West Hollywood. Last time, I took the beast of a camera, and spent more time trying to get into a good position for a good shot than I did enjoying the sushi. This time, I brought the old PowerShot SD800IS. (One funny thing — because we brought the Canon XTi with the huge 24-105mm F4 L on our first visit, the sushi chef and the waiter remember us. Now we feel like regulars. Granted, three visits there in a month will do that… It’ll also make you broke. Anybody wanna buy a marching license?)

    Usually we start with the edamame, but this time we mixed it up with some assorted vegetable tempura.

    Here is some blue fin tuna and some melt-in-your-mouth yellowtail. (I’m pretty sure “melt-in-your-mouth” is the scientific name for it.)

    AEJ and I had two different takes on spicy tuna. AEJ had Spicy Tuna Tartar — hand mixed spicy tuna with radish sprouts and wasabi ponzu sauce.

    I went with the traditional spicy tuna roll. We sat at the sushi bar this time, and it was fun to watch the chef hand-mix the spicy tuna. Best spicy tuna roll I’ve ever had.

    I’m also a big fan of the eel and avocado roll. Again, this iteration was the best I’ve tasted. The eel was hot and lightly crispy, the avocado was cold, and the sweet sauce was tasty tasty. What’s in that eel barbecue sauce? How can it be so good? I thought I tasted a hint of meth, but maybe I imagined it.

    Whereas some places have funky takes on sushi like a deep fried salmon and cream cheese roll (which, I’ll admit, I like), Jinpachi keeps it clean. Here’s one of our favorites that we order every time — Japanese red snapper with garlic chips, yuzu, Hawaiian sea salt, and chili sauce. The flavor and texture of the tiny garlic chip totally makes it.

    And here’s the other special sushi dish that we get every time — yellowtail with jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, yuzu, and soy sauce. Spicy and bright. Lordy, it’s good.

    Usually after we have dinner at Jinpachi, we go across the street to Pinkberry for dessert. (Our favorite: regular flavored Pinkberry with Coco Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles.) The owner/chef of Jinpachi is married to the restaurant’s dessert chef, Tomoko Obake, who used to work at Spago, and since we were sitting at the sushi bar last night, we felt a little more guilt about having our dessert elsewhere. So, we ordered a chocolate souffle with a molten center, fresh whipped cream, homemade green tea ice cream, and fresh strawberries.. It was mad delicious. The presentation was also beautiful. I’ve never had dessert like this at a Japanese restaurant. Incredible stuff.

    Jinpachi is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. Why does it have to cost $100 for dinner? (I’m not suggesting that it’s overpriced for what it is; it’s just overpriced for what I can afford to eat as often as I’d like.) I’m trying to decide if I can write a piece about sushi, and use my meals at Jinpachi as tax-deductible “research.” The IRS would totally go for that, right?


    June 19, 2007


    I finished a movement of the Soprano Sax concerto today. This movement, which I think will be the second movement, is called “Felt.” Here’s my plan for the concerto, as it stands now…

    Each movement takes its title from a primary material of the saxophone — metal, wood (the reed), and felt. The scoring for each movement reflects that material. “Metal,” for example, is scored for brass, metal percussion, flutes, piano, harp, the sax section, and the soloist. “Wood” is scored for wood percussion (or percussion that can be struck with wooden mallets), woodwinds (except flutes), piano, harp, the sax section, and the soloist. “Felt” is scored for percussion that can be played with felt mallets (especially timpani and marimba), winds (flutes, clarinets, oboe, bassoon, contrabassoon), piano, the sax section, and the soloist. The final movement will use every instrument. All four movements feature the sax section, which will allow the soloist — presumably the sax teacher at the school — to play with his or her studio.

    “Felt” is all about the keys of the saxophone — the things you can do without changing keys (pitch bending), as well as the different fingerings you can use to play the same pitch (alternate fingerings). The movement starts with low-register repeated pitches with alternate fingerings, works its way to flashy virtuosic runs, and ends with the flutes, clarinets, and the sax section playing rhythmic key clicks. There’s also a bunch of “slap tone” thrown in for good, freaky measure. It’s even more random than I’m describing.

    “Wood,” which is also nearly done but not fully orchestrated, is simply a song. (AEJ’s idea with these movements was that “Felt” could be about “here’s what a sax can do when it comes to weird sounds,” and “Wood” could be about “here’s what a sax can do that’s nice and melodic.”)

    I’m pretty excited about these two movements. Not quite sure what to do with “Metal” yet. I’d written about two minutes of it, but have decided to throw it away. It was one of those cases where I had an idea that was sort of okay, and it was going to happen 3/4 of the way through the movement. The problem was that the idea wasn’t all that great to begin with, and I couldn’t think of anything for the first 3/4 of the movement that wasn’t completely awful cheese. So, it’s back to square one on that movement, and I think that’s best.

    If you’re curious to see a few pages of the short score, here’s a link to the PDF. The tempo is quarter=168. It’s speedy. And Finale tells me there are 11,464 notes — in the span of 5-and-a-half minutes. I think it’s time to write something slow.


    June 13, 2007

    The (even more) awkward years

    When AEJ and I were in Florida last week, I found boxes of old photographs, ranging from pictures my grandfather took when he was in the army, to pictures of my mom and her siblings growing up, to pictures of me as a baby, all the way through to my high school senior pictures. I’ll share more as I scan them, but here are a few to get us started.

    This is the only sincerely great picture in the bunch. These are my parents, probably in 1968 or so. Where are they? Why, they’re at band rehearsal! That’s right, they’re at their community concert band rehearsal. See – I try to hide it, but band is in my blood.

    Then, a few years later, I came along. At first, I was cute enough. And happy. I’d get over that happy part real fast.

    What’s happening in this class picture? AEJ says I look like I’m on The Shmaily Shmow. I think it looks like a promo still for an imagined and insufferable film, “The Lil’ Senator.”

    Things got much more awkward from there, but I’m going to save the worst for last. Let’s jump ahead to my senior pictures. Look how earnest I can be! Don’t my eyes just cry, “it’s okay. I’m listening.” Good lord, I can’t believe the photographer actually put me in the most cliched pose ever used on film — and he even used it with soft focus. And why does it look like I’m wearing lip gloss? (That’s not a trick question. I’m not wearing lip gloss.)

    The backgrounds in the next two pictures totally crack AEJ up. She pointed out that I graduated from high school in 1991, but these backdrops seem to be left over from the 80s.

    This background — and sweater — is probably the best. Yes, I’m sitting in an aluminum foil box. Oh, and my sweater has tiny shiny green threads in it. And again with the shiny lips!

    Okay, one more with that sweater. This background is edgy. I look a little like I have yellow antennae, which is pretty awesome.

    I leave you today with this picture, which I think is from middle school — so I would have been, like, 13. I don’t know what’s best about this picture — my smirk, my pseudo mullet, my bad complexion, my fake velvet shirt, or my gold chain. I can’t figure out why I didn’t get more dates then.