What I Made This Week

Not much. It was the holiday, and I was visiting relatives. While I had great intentions, my actual output didn’t amount to much. Basically just a bunch of tiny bits that will hopefully develop into stuff:

“For When Your Soul is Dying” and “For Duke” — these are a pair of song fragments that I’m going to save to work any more on for February and FAWM. What I did on them might technically be cheating, but the earth will continue to spin, I think.

“Esther Jenkins, Senior Ninja” — a silly little comedy song that’s currently in my sights to finish quickly. There’s really nothing too deep about it.

“Whiffenpoofs”, “Hats”, and “Pregnant” — potential bits for season 2 of Three Legged Race‘s Weathered Adolescents. That’s a long way off, though.

“Moose Hunt” — this was originally intended to be a Weathered Adolescent bit, but I’m going to propose it instead as a standalone video. Mainly because I want to play a character different than the one that I would be playing if it is a WA scene.



Sciencey Vids: This is a Galaxy

This is the second installment of my Sciencey Vids, a picture-based music video about astronomy. And a few other things, including Daleks, rubber duckies, Halle Berry, Glenn Beck, port-a-potties, inflatable sheep, and pregnant cakes.

What did I learn from this one? I’ve actually never done a photo-based video like this, and it’s not a strategy I’m going to go out of my way to use again. Finding the images, and making sure they are public domain or Creative Commons-licensed, was awfully time-consuming. I’m not really a fan of the technique overall, although I think it’s effective for this particular video. I certainly have a better sense of what NASA offers and how to find it now!

The music is quite simple, but despite or because of that, I’m pleased with the effect. I got to explore some of the instruments available in my keyboard, in particular a couple of specialized ones that I wouldn’t have thought would have much use.

Hope you’ll watch it and find it infectious.

[Edited to add: The frame that appears as the video tease was automatically generated and unintentional. But utterly delightful.]

What I Made This Week

Last week felt more like a groundwork kind of week than a results one. I did:

* Finish “Bob“, the song that’s been in waiting for a year and a half, and

* Launch Sciencey Vids, my new… thingy… of offbeat but interesting videos on a variety of scientific topics.

* I also started, and possibly finished, the music for “This is a Galaxy”, the second Sciencey Vid.

None of those three things are really major parts of the week, though; “Bob” and Sciencey Vids were both mostly done before this week, and the music for “This is a Galaxy” really won’t be that involved.

My biggest project this week was something for my actual job. I don’t tend to discuss day-job projects here, for a number of reasons, but this one is worthy. I’m going to be making a series of videos promoting National Library Week, and I think that they will be cool.

Fairly time-consuming, too. This week I spent a lot of time pulling some excerpts from our video archives, which will form the basis of the new videos. I also found a number of music selections that may be useful for the project.


This has been a long time coming.

I originally wrote this song for a Three Legged Race show last year. But we didn’t have anyone who could provide instrumentation for it, so it didn’t go anywhere.

A year and a half later, and I’ve done the piano myself.

It’s a sad, mournful song from the point of view of an evil genius, who has just made a wonderful (he thinks) present to his evil companion. But she’s, well, distracted. By Bob. Bob, the evil supergenius down the street.

Poor evil genius.

Anyhow, this will hopefully be something that we film and release early next year. Which means that I should, well, plan the video.

Until then, though, enjoy the song:

Bob” at the Internet Archive.

What I Made This Week

Finally, productivity. Thanks to the Thanksgiving break—two days of which I had no other demands on by time—I actually managed to finish a couple projects:

* Volunteer Vid. I made a video to promote volunteering at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (where I am a volunteer as well). I filmed it a couple weeks ago, but finally (thanks to the time and some figuring out of stuff in Final Cut) edited it on Thanksgiving. I’ll share it as soon as the museum posts it.

* North Pond Nature. This isn’t affiliated with the museum, although it was filmed around the North Pond in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, where the museum is also situated. This is a video about the wildlife that can be found in and around the pond, set to a soundtrack composed from the calls of local birds. It’s also the launch of Sciencey Vids, a new endeavor about which I’ll be talking more soon…

These both turned out to be really big projects. Neither is long – 2 minutes for the volunteer video and 1 for North Pond Nature. But both were complicated: 20-30 cuts for each, plus the soundtrack for NPN, which is something I’ve never done before.

* “Bob.” I’d hoped to record this this week, but it looks like that won’t be happening, since most of the rest of my afternoon will be occupied. (I’ll be working the PBS pledge drive with some other museum volunteers.) But I have been rehearsing it and I’m close to being able to record it, so that should be happening soon.

* And finally, the very beginnings of writing a comedy video for Three Legged Race. It’s a bit hard to describe, save to say that it’s about a fellow trying to do a crossword puzzle.

Music, Live

My brother once said that professional musicians make it look easy to play music because for them it is—they’ve practiced the songs that they perform enough where they’re unlikely to make any mistakes.

Two days out from my first in-person-before-a-crowd ukulele performance (as musical guest for Democracy Burlesque this Tuesday), I’m not to that point yet. I think I’ll do a perfectly credible job, but flawless? Unlikely.

That’s not self-dissing. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I’ve only been playing for six months, and had never played another string instrument before that, so I did not expect to be performing live by now. I didn’t actually expect to be performing live at all, but I’m not complaining.

What’s helped me to get a base level of adequateness that makes me feel okay about performing in public?

Factor A would be FAWM, the write-14-songs-in-February challenge that I attempted (and succeeded at). It consumed a lot of time, but a fair amount of that time was spent with the ukulele in hand. I wrote one of the songs on the three-song set-list during FAWM, and I learned a fair bit about the composing part of songwriting (well, I got introduced to the Circle of Fifths, which I hadn’t really comprehended beforehand) which made composing a second song that I’ll be performing way way easier.

Factor B is CHUG, the Chicago Ukulele Group. Now, I’ve only made it to 2 of the monthly jams—I’ve been out of town or in rehearsal for the other three—but the first one I attended was  when I had had the uke for just about three weeks and didn’t have a clue about it. Going there gave me some direction in how to proceed when I really had none. Plus, they made me do a solo, sight-reading, of “I’m a Believer.” Surviving your first one of those is always a big confidence boost.

Factor C… well, you can’t get away from it. Practice. I’ve been reasonably diligent, if I do say so myself. And the past couple weeks, moreso. I’ve probably been annoying the neighbors, though, since I’ve been doing the same three songs over and over again; I’ve actually taken to playing in the closet* in hopes of minimizing that.

So that’s my strategy toward becoming a ukulele hero in three easy steps. Follow them to achieve fame and fortune, or at least a one-off performance for a political sketch comedy troupe.

*This isn’t as bad as it sounds; I live in a small studio apartment, but the closet is relatively huge. You could use it as an office if you didn’t have to hang clothes up.

Music: Always the Moon

Of late, I’ve been working to prepare for my first-ever actual ukulele performance, which will be next Tuesday as the musical guest at Democracy Burlesque at Mary’s Attic at 7:30. So I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working three songs—coincidentally, the three I’m planning to play—in hopes of not utterly humiliating myself. I’m pretty confident I’m to that point, so now I’m working to get to the not-make-any-errors point, which may be tricky. I’ve not been playing long, you see.

Anyhow, this is one of the songs that I’m planning to perform, and the only cover song. It’s “Always the Moon” by Jonathan Coulton, who is the reason that I took up uke. (There are a couple of ukulele players who he has been known to have accompany him, so I figured, why not me?) It’s got a pretty clear “You fucked me so go screw yourself” vibe underneath the creation and apocalypse myth, so it’s been, shall we say, meaningful for the past year or so.