Category Archives: Music

Sick World

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Back in May of this last year, I got an email from an Art Director named Florian Mihr at a pretty big record company, Fearless Records, out of LA. He’d found one of my old 365-Photos that I’d done over a year before, with a creepy arm coming out of my mouth, and wanted to do something along those lines for the album art for a band they’d recently signed called My Enemies & I. They thought my background and style fit with the band’s, and I had to agree! I loved the band’s sound immediately and jumped on the opportunity.

ME&I had a music video out for one of their songs that featured a creepy, oily black hand, and I knew I wanted to match that stylistically. What would I use for the goop? My first thought was chocolate syrup. Though messy and a bit gross, my old days working at a summer camp that features messy activities (which includes kids covering themselves in the likes of chocolate syrup) prepared me to take a dip into the stuff.

I also knew we’d be relatively close-up on the face for this shoot, and so I wanted to make the model anonymous and with a feeling of something eerie, and so I went with a gauze wrap over the upper half of the face. The gauze also called to mind echoes of illness, which would match the album title, Sick World.

A bit of test work and photoshopping later, and I got two mockup images.

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The images quickly reassured me that my photo abilities had definitely improved in a year and half to where they needed to be, and I jumped on finalizing the idea, getting two of my friends together to do an only slightly awkward shoot, with syrup everywhere, handprints, and of course, my buddy CJ’s corgi running around trying to figure out just what the hell we were up to.
Corgi

The lighting was simple. I wanted to go with high contrast and drama because we were going for that horror movie feel, so I lit it with one canon speedlite on camera left with a soft white umbrella modifier against a plain white wall.
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I did some quick edits in photoshop to put it all together and color grade the way I wanted before sending them off to Florian. He and the band loved them (here, we took a break to work on the new BlessTheFall art, which came up suddenly and needed all of our attention). From there, we made small tweaks to hand placements and which base image they preferred. I sent the file along so that Flo could work on the title design, and we had our finished product. 12032854_1231629103529278_3119624340908748732_oThe EP dropped yesterday on iTunes, which you can check out here.

It’s a badass blend of different hard rock and metal genres, and I dig the shit out of it. If Metal is your jam, give it a listen! I think these guys could seriously be big.

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Photoblog: These are the Ghoulies

Ghoulies-TeaseSpent my Friday night hanging out with these crazy fools, the Ghoulies. They’re a punk band out of Denver, Colorado, and they have a damn good time on stage. (You might recognize Connor if you’ve done a ghost hunt at the Stanley Hotel with the two of us).

The band booked me for some shots before performing at the Buffalo Rose in Golden, Colorado. Buffalo Rose was a bad ass place. Grungy and dingy but with big booming speakers, a fantastic staff, and a nice front end, it was a sick place to bang out something loud.

They banged out the tunes. I banged out the shots. These are my favorites. After shooting some 1500 photos over the course of the night, both band shots and live shots, I’ve been deleting and editing until my fingers hurt. But these are the fruits and I couldn’t be happier.

It was another experiment in flash photography at twilight, and I’m still in love with it. The lack of softbox or umbrella gives a lot of the photos a harsh look, but that works for these guys. And I’m still wigging about shooting this dark with 100 ISO. You can’t beat the sharpness.

Anyway, have a look, give their stuff a listen. This song is perhaps my favorite. They closed with it, and it was stuck in my head for the rest of the night. It’s called Backdoor Man.

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Ghoulies-For-Web-7And this is the set from their live show. I creeped about during sound check and the show to get the best angles I could. I took about a thousand photos during the live element (trying to keep my shutter fast enough to avoid motion blur, catch the action without silly expressions, and nail the focus in an already-very dim but often backlit room was hard as hell, and it was easy to spray and pray when I caught an angle I liked). I got maybe 25 that I liked, and of them, only the following are the favorites.

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Art in the Future

Friday night. Felt like blagging.*

Just watched a fascinating documentary (appropriately posted over on YouTube) about the future of art in modern western culture, in the face of this exponential technological revolution, the ease with which art is produced by younger, poorer, less-educated people, and what it all means to a whole slew of writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians.

You can find the video here;

And about halfway through I got all worked up about some of the pretentious things some of these “artistic types” were saying and had to just say my piece.

Which is to say, though there were many positions taken in the film and many issues brought up, my stance on some of the broader and semi-controversial issues is such:

One, art is about the product, and the communication of that product with the audience. Art is communication, usually of an emotion, and so requires two people: the artist and the audience. Many people disagree with this and point toward art as a kind of internal meditation or cathartic process, which indeed it can be, but that’s not art–What that is is either masturbation or therapy.

Art is telepathy, art is discussing those ideas that run below our material world with signs and symbols that speak toward a conversation bigger than ourselves.

And so art is not about process. Process can seek to add a deeper meaning to a work, but that is only one way of critically studying a piece of art, and should by no means be an exclusive explanation to disregard someone’s art. So whether the song is produced on a computer over the course of a day or in a studio over the course of three months, the art should stand regardless.

Because many young people can now access materials for cheap to make music and film, simply because they have the means and produce does not mean that the quality is in any way lessened.

Though indeed, because now everyone can, a lot more people now think they can. Due to this, there is a plague of mediocrity. But this should prompt, not a blanketing of our culture in “gray goo,” but instead a more critical viewing eye on the part of the audience. Which is what I try to do by, frankly, shredding every new horror movie that arrives in theaters in the desperate hope I’ll see something withstand (a la Black Swan or Perfect Sense). Maybe even as a culture we’re being trained to be too nice, too supportive, too open, coddling what’s not quality art. (This could lead to a rant on bullying, but I’ll leave that to another day).

Though, this also leads to the question of what is bad art? If we as a society lower our collective level of critique and are so rewarded with intellectual, emotional experiences from mediocre productions, is that bad? I think so, because I’ve seen some of the crap hollywood produces, heard the music on the radio, and read some of the fiction circulating and I don’t know how we can engage in any kind of stimulating discourse on the matter.

“I don’t think a young Hitchcock or Scorsese would make it in this business. Slap up their early stuff on Facebook, on YouTube, it would get lost in an ocean of garbage. Remember in 2007, Time Magazine gave the award of best person of the year to you, ourselves, you and I. It’s global masturbation.”

-Andrew Keen (who I kind of disagree with everything he says but love to listen to anyway)

But what is overlooked, it seems, is that good art will always transcend mediocrity. If art is good, it is operating on a level that is there awaiting recognition by anyone so prepared to engage with it, and so long as there is an audience, even of only one, there will be a place for good art. At worst, good art will become again elitist, as was suggested in the film.

As for our definitions changing for what kind of forms art will take in a new digital age, there’s an important difference in how it’s distributed; distribution is politics. It’s economy. It’s industry. That’s not art, and while a fascinating topic of discussion, should not influence our reception of art. As far as art taking new forms, new styles, new genres, and new media, HELL YES. So whether it’s dubstep, or stories told through internet websites, or a movie made through a series of vlog-style videos on youtube, whatever it is, that can be art too; so long as there’s an intellectual and/or emotional discourse that accompanies it.

That’s why, if I may rant, I can’t really stand it when people blanket-hate on dubstep. I’ve seen dubstep music infect audiences more than many other kinds of music during performances. I love it because I, myself, cannot help but move when I listen to it. There’s something powerful there, and that’s what music is all about, isn’t it? Who cares if there aren’t guitars and it’s very beat-heavy? What difference do the mechanics make?

Toward the end of the movie, these producers started making distinctions between performance of a song and a digital mp3 file, or the difference between track-based music culture and record-based. What’s the fucking point of making such distinctions and calling one better than another?

Who the fuck cares if you listen to a song for four minutes through an iPod or a sixteen-track record on your turntable. If it’s a musical experience that we’re lost in, what’s the difference?

Concerts, in the film, were argued to be some kind of future of music, because it’s a more immersive experience than plugging in headphones; which is true in some cases, but to compare one to the other is apples and oranges. When it becomes performance and collective-based, it’s a different genre of art altogether.

My point then comes down to this; art is art. And to get fuddled up in the details about media, process, and what the future might look like, is too often (and quite often, as the movie relays in fascinating fashion) missing the point. After that it’s people afraid of change and too caught up in their own pretentious definitions of “true” art that reject what’s happening on the foundational level.

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Fascinating excerpt from the film that scares the crap out of me:

What are your thoughts though? If you watch the movie or just read my blog? Is art doomed? Is process important? Am I just too bored on a weekend? Sound off down below.

*”Blagging” see, http://xkcd.com/148/

The Problem (or lack thereof) with Apple’s Digital Publishing

Yesterday, Apple announced brand new software called the iBooks Author Program, which is an OS-X Program you can download in which authors or indie publishers can design and format digital books or textbooks for the ipad. This came on the heels of news about Apple’s new bookstore, where you can now buy textbooks on the ipad like any other books, often with cool new features, like interactive videos and demonstrations and whatnot.

More info on that can be found here; http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/19/apple-announces-ibooks-author-app-for-os-x/

But today I read an article tweeted by one of my more favorite authorly types earlier today here; http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/apples-mind-bogglingly-greedy-and-evil-license-agreement/4360?tag=nl.e539 about Apple’s EULA, the End User License Agreement (those pages and pages of text we all just click agree to and never think twice about).

What Apple has done with this new software is to say that legally, the book produced by this digital publishing app belongs to Apple if your book is priced other than free, and that the author gets a split of the profits 70/30. Which is essentially the same as app designers for the app store. The problem here is that Apple also reserves the right to deny your book publishing, to which you cannot then use the exported material from the app (which produces a file, just like a music file or a Word file) to then sell somewhere else on the web.

This book is different than your content. I’m a novelist and a writer. If I format my novel for digital publication on Apple’s website through their iBooks program, Apple only owns that file produced by their app, the “book,” not my content itself. I can still go publish my content as a new book in a different format all I want.

Why this is an issue: 

Hubbub arises because no other software puts these kinds of restrictions on the files produced. Microsoft does not say that you can’t use a powerpoint presentation because its through their software. This, critics say of Apple, is an unprecedented restriction, and is ultimately very, very greedy.

Also, people are misreading Apple’s legalities and think that if you publish your book through Apple, they take the rights to the entire content, which would mean you couldn’t sell it anywhere else, and so would mean if Apple turned down your work, you’d be screwed out of publishing your content. This isn’t true.

Why you would care:

Digital publishing is the future. Books aren’t going anywhere; there are too many fanatics who love that experience of reading a bound book, myself included. Legalities like this are paving way for the future of digital publishing, exclusivity, and the implications for independent writers and publishers. And if you’re an independent writer looking to take advantage of an easy publishing format, well–this is important.

But mostly this is a huge step in digital publishing, and many people think its an ugly one.

Why this isn’t a big deal:

Through zdnet, Ed Bott writes

Dan Wineman calls it “unprecedented audacity” on Apple’s part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that’s prohibited:

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.

Point one: “Essential access to multiple markets” is only prohibited if you’re so lazy that Apple’s publishing software is your ONLY means of formatting your digital book.

Point two: In software this practice is unprecedented, perhaps, but not in the publishing world.

Apple is publishing a book that you took the time to format through their device. This is publishing. This is a business. In the world of real books, you send your material to a publisher, and they cut a deal for the rights to publish that book, and tell you that you can’t do it anywhere else until your contract is up.

Obviously digital publishing is a bit different, especially with all the variety of outlets and file formats. Nook, Kindle, and Apple all have different formats. (The market right now is essentially a slow-moving format war that really just needs to find a universal, the way that .mp3 finally took over for much of the music industry). Because anyone can format a digital file for free these days, there are no big publishing companies snatching up all your digital rights for only one format.

Apple isn’t even doing that. Which makes them less “greedy” than industry standard for print books.

But Bott continues:

The program allows you to export your work as plain text, with all formatting stripped. So you do have the option to take the formatting work you did in iBooks Author, throw it away, and start over. That is a devastating potential limitation for an author/publisher.

Devastating limitation? No savvy author or publisher would want to put all their eggs in one basket with Apple, and producing the only formatted copy of your book through Apple is just ignorant business. Also, it’s not that hard to reformat your book for other file types.

With digital publishing, sites that I use like smashwords.com tell the author how to format your story to be published on any number of digital devices, which the independent author then creates through Word, submits it to the independent digital publisher, who then turns it to downloadable content for most industry leading formats. This cuts out the middle man working for the company and leaves it to the author. It’s not that hard. For short stories, this can take an afternoon. For novels, perhaps a couple days. They distribute your work anywhere you like and take a small cut of the profits. You can also take the formatting elsewhere if you like.

But Bott continues:

I’m also hearing, but have not been able to confirm, that the program’s output is not compatible with the industry-standard EPUB format. Updated: An Apple support document notes that “¦iBooks uses the ePub file format” and later refers to it as “the industry-leading ePub digital book file type.” But iBooks Author will not export its output to that industry-leading format.

My longtime friend Giesbert Damaschke, a German author who has written numerous Apple-related books, says via Twitter that “iBA generates Epub (sort of): save as .ibooks, rename to .epub (won’t work with complex layouts, cover will be lost).” Even if that workaround produces a usable EPUB file, however, the license agreement would seem to explicitly prohibit using the resulting file for commercial purposes outside Apple’s store.

Of course this is the case! It’s Apple. It’s how they’ve always done it. Their files (which, doing a lot–containing images, videos, and audio as well as text–necessarily demand their own file type) are always for their own devices. Remember when iTunes first got big? .aac has always only worked on Apple devices. It’s always been their business strategy, this is no surprise. And of course if you change the format you’re going to lose your formatting. .Epub can’t handle this new file design. And of course Apple wouldn’t let anyone else sell their media outside their store. It’s Apple.

What the future looks like:

This situation is only a minor hiccup; people love to hate on big business crushing self-starting artists. No little man is being crushed. Any publisher or author who has any idea what they’re doing in the publishing world (even the brand, shiny, new digital one) knows better than to fall into whatever “problems” might come from using this software.

Apple might be setting a new standard here for book publishing, but it’s no different than what they’ve done for digital music.

Digital publishing is exciting. It makes publishing so easy for indie authors or publishers. Its wicked cheap. What we authors need is an industry-leading format and marketplace, the go-to place for digital stories the way iTunes and Amazon are the go-to places for music downloading. We need somewhere that new authors can introduce new material, and where, if it’s good, it will thrive.

This well could be Apple. I hope it’s Apple. iTunes is great and this needs to happen for authors as soon as possible. And this new way to get published is easy and should be celebrated. The legalities are only a limitation for lazy authors who don’t want to format for the rest of the market right now and don’t understand that this is still publishing. It just looks a little different.

Bringing Bloggity Back

A lot on my mind today – best just be put into a blog I think. Perhaps I should start doing these weekly, to give me enough content with just the right amount of forcing, to be so optimistic as to hope a theme or direction begins to form, for a point.


Ketchup: It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve sent off the query for my first novel, Hallowtide, and I haven’t heard back from the agent. Neutral to the significance or lack thereof due to the wait. They suggest three to five weeks waiting. Fingers are beginning to grow numb from being crossed. Still no word from GHI. Of course, Production has not asked me to return to film with them since my only episode in March – but it sounds like shooting will begin in a few days for the next season – I wish whoever to be fresh to the team and those left the best of luck. I hope production finally gets serious about the show and GHI finds some stability.

A week or two ago I posted a link to a short story I wrote that you can find here; It costs only two bucks (that’s less than a beer), and takes two minutes to register an account on Smashwords (that’s less than a commercial break). I’d appreciate it from the bottom of my heart if you take a look. I’m proud of the work and extremely curious what the readers think. It could add some spice to your week!

#MindfuckMovieMonday got lazy last night, and due to poor turnout and not being in the mood, we just watched Constantine again (one of my favorites) and used the Matrix played to Metallica’s Black Album as a control showing to compare to the Wizard of Floyd. I think the Black Matrix showed how very nicely albums can blend with certain movies, that sometimes the music does indeed line up nicely, but rarely. Perhaps Pink Floyd lined up with the Wizard intentionally, perhaps not, but best control comparison results will come I think, from very theatrical, musical-based films and very instrumental, dynamic albums.

Halloween fever has struck very suddenly this year. I’m desperate for the leaves to change, the temperatures to drop, and that almost-protective glaze to fall, the one that almost seems to trap the romance of the late summer, as if to hold it through November, to give a spice to the damp brush and empty flowers. For those who can’t wait like me, I highly recommend checking www.pumpkinrot.com; I aspire to make similar sets a tradition on Halloween, starting small this year, but with a scarecrow of my own. We’ll see how he turns out. I’ll keep you posted. On a related note, Rot also keeps up a themed blog for all things Halloween at pumpkinrot.blogspot.com. It’s secured a place on my bookmarks bar.

As if I haven’t mentioned it enough on my Twitter feed yet, August and September are proving frightening for their amount of music being produced. I only wish it would have been more spread out over the year, for I long for new albums the other eight months of the year. Disturbed are following 2008’s amazing Indestructible with Asylum, due out the 31st. Two tracks have been released, both with music videos, seen at www.youtube.com/user/disturbed . Apocalyptica have been pushing their new album, 7th Symphony, due out the 24th. I just learned today that Kamelot’s Poetry for the Poisoned will be out September 14th. I’m still debating whether I should fork out the money and see Apocalyptica again. They put on a brilliant show, but I’m going broke fast. On a final music note, I finally got my hands on the Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach from earlier this year; very disappointed. I dig going fresh directions, but albums with too many guests feel too collage-like for my tastes. More Demon Days please.

Chris McCune, my cohort from the first five episodes of Ghost Hunters Academy will be arriving tomorrow bright and early for a few days of general merriment and debauchery. We’re looking at hitting up Boulder around noon. Send me a tweet if you want to meet us and say hi!