Monday, December 31, 2012

We'll Be There in Just a While

Celebrating the end of 2012 with one of my most favorite songs ever. Steppin' Out by Joe Jackson (1982). Great then, great now. And it will still be great in 2042. A perfect song for every new, hopeful year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Mayans?

Did not hear so much as a peep from the Mayans yesterday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dicentra Spectabilis

Bleeding Heart, also known as lyre-flower. This has always been my favorite flower, ever since I first saw it growing at the edge of the playground at my nursery school.

image source

Friday, December 14, 2012

Every Artist Insured

Just one more year and the health exchange will be in place. I am so hopeful about this.

Here is a document created by AHIRC (Artists Health Insurance Resource Center). While it is particularly focused on those in the arts, it is a really good overview and explanation of how the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will (hopefully) improve the choices available to everyone in the United States.

What I hope it will mean for me personally is that I'll be able to have good, affordable health care and insurance irrespective of a day job.

Every Artist Insured - Understanding Healthcare Reform

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rosemary & Thyme

I've been watching this cozy little BBC mystery series called Rosemary & Thyme on Netflix recently. The protagonists are two lady gardeners who somehow manage to entangle themselves in an elaborate murder mystery with each new landscaping assignment they undertake. The ladies, Rosemary Boxer (played by the sweetly pretty Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (played by the robustly handsome Pam Ferris), are a pair to be reckoned with. Not only do they always create stunning gardens and catch the culprit in the end, but they also confront various personal and romantic complications along the way. Even more than the stories, I really love that every episode has beautifully filmed shots of incredible scenery and absolutely idyllic gardens -- the plant life is treated like a third main character. But my very favorite thing of all is the music.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snowball & Stevie

On the cover of her first solo album, Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks is dressed in a long, white, flowing gown with gossamer-wing sleeves. She is pictured next to a bouquet of white roses, holding aloft a beautiful, majestic cockatoo.

That album (which I love, by the way) includes the song "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)." Not only are birds often mentioned in the lyrics of her songs, but ever since her Fleetwood Mac days, Stevie's wardrobe has had a distinctive "creature-in-flight" aesthetic. Here are a few early examples:

And here are some from the Bella Donna era:

All in all, there are some pretty clear indications that Stevie finds winged things to be inspiring.

So what, you say?

So, here's Snowball, y'all! This bird really needs no introduction, since he is a world-famous dancer and beat keeper, and has even been studied by Scientists. Though Snowball's list of accomplishments is long and impressive, it may be argued that his greatest achievement is his impassioned performance to "Edge of Seventeen." Yes, indeed: the very same song mentioned at the beginning of this post.

But, but... what does it all mean? Well, having intensely pondered the deeper significance of it, I humbly suggest that The Universe is sending a message. It seems that the inspiration has become the inspired. Just watch how this mess of feathers gets down to Stevie's classic, and behold the hardcore rocking that is unleashed at 1:45 -- "Well I see you doing what I tried to do for me..."

It is the Cosmos telling us that we are all one, freaks.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seems Too Good To Be True

It's a teeny tiny chameleon that fits on the tip of a matchstick.

And a couple of other guys with equally alluring attributes.

And judging from their expressions, I'm pretty sure they all have rap names.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy to Share a Planet with Them

Three of the many reasons to love Cuttlefish:


plus, they're really cute.

Hive Mind:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some Songs I Love

Never My Love - The Association (Insight Out, 1967)
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty (City to City, 1978)
O-o-h Child - The Five Stairsteps (Stairsteps, 1970)
And I just discovered this great cover version by Hall & Oates, released in 2004.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sheer Sparkling Beauty

The Three Degrees - When Will I See You Again, released 1974.

Also, an orchestral version (Caravelli Rockin' Strings, 1976).
I love the awesome album cover! It reminds me of Blade Runner.

Rick Wakeman

Three of my favorite songs of all time are "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens and "Life on Mars?" and "Changes" by David Bowie. I always particularly loved the piano playing on those songs. It came as no surprise when I finally learned that the same person was responsible for the piano on all three. Rick Wakeman. His playing is just so pretty.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lazy Thursday

Spent today all alone watching music documentaries about a few of my favorite albums. They're all available on Netflix and are part of the "Classic Albums" series from VH1.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours, 1977.
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973.
Steely Dan - Aja, 1977.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, 1973.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sincerely, L. Cohen

I saw Leonard Cohen on November 1, 2012, at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas. This was by far the best concert I have ever been to. No artifice or posturing whatsoever. Just LC's amazing songs sung with complete sincerity. He was so genuine and truly happy to be there. He showed such appreciation for all of his musicians and back-up singers, too, and he sang for nearly four hours. RESPECT. The only blemish on the whole night were the clods behind me who were chomping on ice cubes, talking and kicking my seat. Unbelievable! Luckily their antics weren't constant, so I managed to forget that they existed for most of the show. They were an annoyance, but really, nothing could detract from Leonard's performance. I've seen a lot of great shows in my life, and this surpassed them all. I'm not sure what it was... probably his honesty. It was pretty much a perfect evening.

I did not take this video footage, and of course it can't do the show justice, but at least it's something.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Songs I Love

All of them have those delicious, aching chords and chord changes that make me feel all woozy and glittery inside, and they all have sweetly sad, wistful lyrics. What could be better?

Long, Long Time - Linda Ronstadt (Silk Purse, 1970)
Les Fleurs - Minnie Riperton (Come To My Garden, 1970)
Have You Never Been Mellow - Olivia Newton John (Have You Never Been Mellow, 1975)
If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot (Sit Down Young Stranger, 1970)
Morning Has Broken - Cat Stevens (Teaser and the Firecat, 1971)
Summer Breeze - Seals and Crofts (Summer Breeze, 1972)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Happiness Is a String of Pompoms!

I bought some of these pompoms for someone very special who was turning four. I am not four, but I got pretty jealous and had to get some for myself.

I love the colors so much!

Here's what they would look like to a spider.

And here's what they look like from the other side, through the glass.

Whether you're four or not four, if you want some for yourself, you can get them here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Elephants Breaking My Heart

I saw this documentary (The Urban Elephant) for the first time many years ago, and have watched it many times since. Shirley. Solomon. Jenny. So sad and so sweet. If you haven't seen this, please watch it. You will not be the same.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Magic Finial

Winter is coming soon, and it is time to do some magic spells to prepare for the cold weather and snow.

So, I got this cute little wooden finial on Etsy. I actually got a bunch of them, but I only needed one for the spell.

I sanded down the varnish and secured the finial to a pedestal in my basement. The wood looks a little rough and dull in the picture, but it's actually really smooth and pretty. Then I said some magic words and waved a spoon and a feather at it, 'cause that's how magic is done.

And poof! The finial branched out into this cool coat rack!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Enclosed Porch

I've been working very hard on fixing up my enclosed porch.

This project involved removing three layers of old flooring and putting down some very sturdy, high-quality plywood over what was left. My friend came from Texas and helped me with the worst of the demolition and with putting down the plywood and trim. Folks who live in Texas generally like to escape the summer heat, so it was a win-win situation. I filled all the nail holes and gaps with heavy-duty wood filler and painted the floor a medium grey. Finally, I gave it a couple of coats of polyurethane. I painted all the bricks in a mottled whitewash which kind of resembles Ghost Paint. I also did some gold-leafing and dripped paint on some of the bricks, too. I filled and caulked and painted all the trim so it is now completely seamless. I painted all the wall panelling and the ceiling, too.

Here are some pictures of the porch BEFORE:

The previous owner really liked lace curtains. They were all over the entire house. They were pretty, but not really my style. I mean, I like lace as much as the next guy, but I appreciate it in significantly smaller doses. So, I removed all of the curtains and will put up something else soon.

I removed the carpet and the flooring layers underneath.

See all those layers? The top one was actually pretty cool -- cream with little gold glitter flecks in it -- I probably would've kept it if it had been in better condition, but it wasn't in good enough shape to salvage. It was not possible to remove the final layer of flooring (the checkerboard linoleum), so we left it undisturbed and just installed the thick plywood over it.

Here's the plywood after the wood fill, but before the paint and poly. It is a really, really solid floor.

This is what the brick looked like before I painted it.

Here's the wickedness that presents itself when you remove a very offensive "Hunter Green" paint job from concrete steps. This step leads from the enclosed porch into the living room, so it is actually inside the house. Leaving it dark green was not an option. In fact, I didn't re-paint it at all. I just left it the untreated concrete color.


Here's the view to the left. I hung a burlap curtain over the window at the end. Eventually there will be curtains on those front windows which face the street, too. The concrete step can be seen to the right -- I'm sure you're as relieved as I am now that the "Hunter Green" has been removed.

Here's the gold leaf and dripping paint.

And a close-up.

Here's the view to the right. Those pipes on the left are for the radiator which still has to be re-installed. And again, there will eventually be curtains on the right side because those windows face the wilderness outside.

 A weird little built-in brick shelfling that is perfect for displaying a small glass bowl.

Here's a close-up of the contents including a beautiful seed bead bracelet made for me by someone so very special.

The porch is still not perfect, but it's so much nicer than it was and I can actually use it now. I still want to do a few things to it: replace the front door, replace the shuttered double doors that lead from the porch into the living room and of course, hang those curtains I keep talking about. But those are all relatively minor things, and they can wait for a while. So for now, I can cross this room off my list!

And that means that I can now move on to fixing the room that will be dedicated to my studio!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ghost Paint

Last night I had a dream that I was shopping at a store in New York owned by HGTV's Genevieve Gorder. She was helping me pick out some things and I found something called "Ghost Paint." The label said: "Gives everything the eerie, haunted glow of a Natural History Museum." Obviously I had to buy it. It was $17.50 a quart.

Jeff Zentner - White Horses

Jeff Zentner's new album, A Season Lost. I sing on "White Horses":

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chandelier Transfer Project

The house came with a clear glass chandelier. It was nice, but it was kind of dirty and some of the crystal drops were attached with paper clips. Unacceptable!

So after a year of cringing every time I looked at it, I initiated the Chandelier Transfer Project. I knew it would be difficult, but I was motivated.

I waited nearly two months for the new chandelier to arrive. It came in this unassuming but very large box:

I had to have it delivered to the day job, 'cause I can't get mail deliveries at my house since packages are almost guaranteed to get stolen by hooligans. Since I don't drive at all, a nice man from work helped me bring the box home in his car. He laughed a little bit at my pink floors, but he's kind of a tough guy and can't really be blamed for misunderstanding the decor.

Then it was time to hang the new chandelier, so I called a friend to come from Texas to help me.

Of course, the old chandelier had to be removed. I rescued all the crystals and put the remaining chandelier skeleton outside on the sidewalk in hopes that someone would take it. It still looked nice, despite the missing crystals, and within minutes it was gone!

Then we had to extract the new chandelier from the box. It was in a million pieces and each one was very fragile. My friend hung the skeleton and did the actual electrical wiring. Putting it together was so frustrating, because the instructions were in an Alien language. It took forever, and a lot of psychic interpretation was required. Hanging all the crystal drops was particularly time consuming and there were several times when I uttered the words "Can't we just forget about this?"

But, in the end, it was worth it, 'cause now look!

And here's what it would look like to a caterpillar:

Saturday, March 17, 2012 has been moved and updated. This change was necessary due to various computer crashes and subsequent file losses, ridiculous levels of spam, and infuriating former hosting company issues. It had to be done.

Never fear, though. There is no need to be sad about the absence of stripes and porcelain figurines, because you can still view all of the content from the old site forever and ever. So instead of shedding those crystal tears, you can time-travel back to the old site by using The Wayback Machine.

As for the rest of us, we're moving on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rescued Table

I found a table on the street. It was all broken and in pieces but I dragged it home. Here is a picture of two of the pieces:

As you can see, it has very ornate, elaborately carved details. You can't really tell in the photo, but the finish was really scratched up and ugly. I considered painting it some crazy color, like lime green or bright coral, but I decided I wanted it to look like driftwood instead. I liked the idea of the opulent carving in contrast with weathered wood.

So I stripped the stain and varnish off. It was a messy job, but someone had to do it.

Then I made a concoction of steel wool and distilled vinegar. Why did I do that? Well, the top of the table was just plain light wood. It looked brand new and was much lighter than the carved table legs. It looked weird, so I wanted to treat it in some way. And what's almost as cool as driftwood? That's right: weathered barnwood. I searched online and found instructions for how to give new wood the look of aged grey barnwood. I made this special potion and brushed it onto the top of the table. It turned the wood a nice faded grayish-brown, which is exactly what I'd hoped for.

Here is one of the stripped carved pieces next to the grey treated tabletop. I love the color of both and the fact that they're not a perfect match.

And here is the table all put back together again:

Here you can see a close-up of the most intricate part of the carving:

So, for the cost of some steel wool and a container of Citristrip (and a little elbow grease), I now have this amazing table that I love. It's a perfect place to display a shell, a jar of ribbon, and this awesome rose painting (which, by the way, is by this artist).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Last Unicorn

I had never seen this before. It was really sweet, sad and hopeful. Populated by a host of creatures who are not what they seem, The Last Unicorn is all about finding and being true to your genuine nature/essence, even when most of the world either wants to trap and control you or is completely incapable of seeing you at all. Of course it's also about love, immortality and death. And all this, accompanied by delicate, glittery animation and '70s AM-radio-style songs with some very pretty chords. This movie contains a lot of Knowledge, but no spiders.

Amalthea: "I can feel this body dying all around me..."

Schmendrick: "But -- but it's only for a little while, I promise you! Soon you'll have your true shape again forever!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Life on Mars?

My favorite music video of all time. David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" from the album Hunky Dory (1971).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cloud #1

Hello, welcome to my blah. I mean blog!

So, I'm trying to both streamline and expand my empire. The Mellowtraumatic website will stay active, but I have dismantled the Antoinette's Revenge online store. The CD versions of both of my full-length albums are sold out, and since downloads are available from so many places, it just doesn't make sense to host a store anymore. At some point, though, I will be setting up an Etsy store, and I'll make an announcement when it's open for business.

As some of you know, it has always been difficult for me to manage the many entities that contribute to the Mellowtraumatic website. Due to time constraints, I've always outsourced the main site operations to Kansas Mayhem and the Splinterglass sisters, among others. All of them are well-intentioned and do their best, but they have a tendency to get into trouble. They throw tantrums, get depressed, go on benders, get into fights and are generally a challenge to keep track of. Unfortunately, this means that it can sometimes be months between updates. They'll still handle the main site, but as an antidote to the madness, this blog will be written by me in an effort to be more current and connected. It will be used for quick Mellowtraumatic updates and it will also be a place for me to store inspirations, interests and obsessions -- both musical and otherwise. Sometimes you might have to put up with me posting pictures of my house, which has pale pink floors. Trust me, they are awesome, and you are jealous.

It's not that I think you should care about my thoughts and opinions, or my pale pink floors, it's just that when I'm in-between recording projects I get very distracted by bright and shiny things, so this will hopefully be a way for me to reign in the chaos. I really need a place to collect links and photos, and it is nice to share. A lot of it will be music-related, too.

Speaking of music, I have been getting a lot of questions asking if I'm working on something new. Here's the deal: For a really long time I was not in the same state as my home studio. I was living in one place and my studio was in another place, very far away. I have now moved yet again, and finally the studio is with me in my new spot. I haven't started recording yet, though. I have a lot of songs that were written over the past few years, and many others that were written earlier that were never recorded or released. Point is, there are plenty of songs around, so I'm hoping to start working on a new project this year. I don't know when it will be finished -- 2012 seems pretty optimistic, but 2013 is looking pretty realistic, so hopefully those pesky Mayans will return to scribble a few more years onto their calendar.

I haven't been entirely quiet, though. I've done a little singing on some fairly recent releases, and there are some other things in the works, but I can't spill any details yet.

And now, I leave you with this cumulus of inspiration: