27 July 2011

Put This On

In the last year or so, since I finished my own personal downsizing, I've had to buy an entirely new wardrobe. With the exception of shoes and socks, almost every piece of clothing has turned over (the only exceptions being some clothes which had been too small [and which are now too big], a couple of heirloom garments [I have a navy blazer from my grandfather - now too big], and a custom-made suit which is way too big, but which my grandmother advised me not to get rid of in case I got re-fat). As part of the rebuilding of my wardrobe and the curiosity that comes with a new toy (that is, a new body), I started taking a much more significant interest in the way I dressed. Color, fabric, cut, style, etc. All of these things are now much more important to me than they were when I was fat. However, when I tried to find some resources to explore how to best suit myself (literally), I came up short. There are plenty of vague how-to-dress sites for women, and a handful for men (usually connected to a brand, which makes them suspect), and even a few independent sites for older men, but not much for guys my age who want to spiff up a bit.

Then, I discovered PutThisOn. They're a web presence all about, as they put it, 'dressing like a grownup.' Part youtube video series, part blog, part shopping portal, and part twitter feed, hosts Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor take you through the finer points of how to move your fashion and style out of collegiate slob and into early-middle-age. Parts of PutThisOn are a little out of my price range ($420 for a pair of shoes is high) and parts are a little too un-me for me (I don't think I could pull off a blue blazer with white buttons and white pants, nor would I really want to), but much of it is terrific.

Three big takeaway lessons from the web series: expensive shoes can be cost-effective if you care for them well (see Episode 2: SHOES), buy shirts to fit your neck, sleeves, and shoulder (you can get the mid-section tailored to fit) (see Episode 6: BODY), and I've been shaving wrong all these years! (see Episode 4: GROOMING).

Seriously, if you are a guy, or know guy, or are near a guy age 22-39 who needs to shape up his style, they should watch this series.

Also, can I borrow a couple of hundred bucks for a pair of shoes?

26 July 2011

Getty Center

Play day today! After a quick stop at Stan's doughnuts (S was less than impressed, though I remain transfixed by the delicious refined sugars), we headed up to The Getty Center to see some art and some flowers. The art didn't photograph so well, but the flowers were lovely...

Red and moody.

Blurry lens makes abstractions.

Cactus or flower? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.

Love this shot.

23 July 2011

War of the Clowns

I've got a couple of projects coming up in the next few years, but one of the ones that I've been really looking forward to is tentatively called The War of The Clowns. Eli Simon is directing, and it's a piece that we're building for the National Theatre of Romania. They'll keep it in their repertoire to pull out whenever they want it.

Eli teaches clowning at UC-Irvine, and many of his clowning students end up in a troupe that he calls Clownzilla. Clownzilla has four or five shows in their repertoire, most of which I've designed. Some, I've written music for. Some, I've toured to foreign countries to put up. One, Clown MacBeth, is only a Clownzilla show in as much as Eli and I worked on it; the performers were members of a Korean theater troupe. As Eli and I have worked on these shows, we've both learned a lot about this new style of clowning that he teaches and how it can be used to tell story. We're both looking forward to going to Romania next summer to put this piece together.

Recently, we've been doing a lot of research into structure and themes for the show. We've got a rough plot outline of the show, and we're tapping a lot of resources for inspiration. Here are some of the avenues of research that I've been exploring:

* Beach Boys music
* The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss:

* Lord of the Flies
* Hogan's Heroes:

And some other avenues of research that I still need to explore:
* The Green Table
* Johnny Got His Gun
* Catch-22
* Woyzeck
* Rory Stewart - The Prince of the Marshes
* Ken Burns' The War miniseries

We're looking specifically for macabre humor to help keep the clowns dark and funny while exploring the themes of war, so as I sift through the research, I'm looking for examples of humor or dark levity or silliness in war. I'm particularly looking forward to re-reading Catch-22 again!

20 July 2011

settling back in

S and I got back from our hiking trip to Montana on Sunday night, and I've been working hard ever since. I'm almost done with setting up my new office and am working hard on the sound design for The Understudy. S has been sending out resumes and looking for work in her biz. We saw Harry Potter last night, which was nice.

That's all! Just a small update!

16 July 2011

another black bear!

Lunch at Iceberg Lake



Last day in the park, and after a late-ish start, we headed into the Many Glaciers area of GNP to get in one last big hike. After consulting with the ranger, we decided to hike up to Iceberg Lake, a 10-mile round trip with 1200' of elevation. The hike was beautiful, with lots of vistas and a changing ecosystem as we slowly climbed into the lake basin. Wildflowers turned into thick trees, which turned into evergreens. At one point, we had to scramble off of the trail as a mama moose and her calf came down towards us. There was a bear sighting (a mama and three cubs) towards the top of the trail, but we didn't see them.

At the top of the trail, the path opened up into an alpine meadow, and the lake sat, mostly frozen, in the cradle of the mountain. We stopped for lunch, then headed back down. The week of hiking has worn many of us out, and combined with the fact that there were some previous injuries, most of us were cranky and/or hurting and/or fatigued on the hike down. Once at the bottom, we jumped back into the car and sped off back to the car for a quick clean-up.

We got showered in record time (6 showers, 2 bathrooms, 35 minutes between turning the car off and turning it back on), and zipped down to the St. Mary's section of GNP for a boat cruise.

The boat cruise was terrific. We did a circuit around the lake, snapping photos the whole time. The captain told a lot of stories about mysterious mansions on the hill, donors who never visited the park, and cheetos-stained rock. After the cruise, we went back to The Two Sisters Cafe, then home for a night of packing and relaxing. Home tomorrow!

Meal, interrupted.

15 July 2011

an eagle soars over the valley

yet another amazing waterfall

Dianne scowls as the chipmunk plays hard-to-get

Two Medicine Lake

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

East Side!

Last night was our last evening in West Glacier, so this morning, we packed up and headed to the easy side of the park. In the Two Medicine section of the park, the climate was much cooler and more arid. We visited a ranger station to ask about good hikes in the area. S and D had a few picked out for us, but the ranger had other thoughts. One of the trails they chose was closed due to excessive bear sightings, and another was supplanted by a new ranger suggestion. He suggested the Astor Falls hike, which featured both a waterfall and a mountaintop vista. We ate atop the mountain, where D befriended a chipmunk.

After the hike, we headed to Babb, where we'll be sleeping for the next few nights. The house in Babb is a doublewide trailer, but it's lovely and suits us just fine. C, B, and I sat out on the deck in the afternoon and shot photos of a bird that was hunting nearby. We're not sure if it was a bald eagle or an osprey. Ornithologists we are not.

Dinner was at a place called the Two Sisters' Cafe, a little road stop decorated with license plates and a roof with a big sign that says 'ALIENS WELCOME.' Not sure if they mean Martians or Mexicans. The dinner was awesome. The owner (?) came over and told us that if we liked fish and didn't order the trout, 'BAD YOU!' naturally, we ordered three trouts. And other food. And pie. And milkshakes. And beer. And cocktails.

When we got back from dinner, eagle-eye S saw a bear in the meadow behind our house! We safely got inside, but have been trying to get some shots of it before it gets too dark. Speaking of which, time to go!

One last day of hiking tomorrow!

14 July 2011

sunrise photo shoot, chopper tour, and Lincoln Lake!

A huge day in Glacier National Park! I'm pooped, and it's not even dinner time!

B, C, and I got up this morning to head into the park to shoot the sunrise. We found a nice perch on the shore of the lake, and we got some terrific shots. There were dense clouds over the mountain, but we got great shots as the sun rose behind the clouds. Wow! Afterwards: breakfast at a diner, where B had Huckleberry pancakes (yum!).

Later in the morning, the six of us took a helicopter ride through the park! All six of us fit in the chopper quite snugly, but we all had great views. The pilot took us over much of the terrain that we had been covering on the ground (Lake MacDonald, Hidden Lake, Logan Pass, Avalanche Lake, Going-To-The-Sun Road, etc.), and then he took us past a couple of sites and glaciers that we hadn't seen yet. The pilot said that while there were over a hundred glaciers in GNP in the 1850s, there are about 25 now. By 2030, the anticipated number of glaciers is 0. ZERO.

At any rate, the chopper ride (my first) was amazing (thanks again, C&D!), and we were exhilarated when we landed. So exhilarated, in fact, that A and I decided to increase our hike distance today. We decided last night that we wanted to do a tough hike today, and after the chopper ride, we switched from the Huckleberry Mountain Hike to the Lincoln Lake Hike. The LLH is a 16-mile roundtrip hike that starts with a steep climb and ends at a glacial lake. The lake itself is quite small, but the waterfall feeding the lake is huge (HUGE!), and the hike is so far that there were very few people (four) on the trail (contrasted with the dozens and hundreds that were on the trails over the last few days). The trail started sunny, got cloudy, and then got sunny by the time we got back to the car. Also, we were mauled by mosquitos. Still, we had a great time, and we did the 16-mile hike in just under 7 hours.

Our feets are sore and have blisters.

B took the day off from hiking to repair his knee and work. C took the day off from hiking to relax, and S & D took the day off to shop in a nearby town. We've all reassembled, S&D have prepared a yummy dinner (with C at the grill), and we're gonna eat soon.

Tomorrow, we leave our great house in West Glacier and head to Babb, on the other side of the park, for a few more days of hiking and fun!

the campsites were totally flooded out at Lincoln Lake!

The start of the hike to Lincoln Lake

a glacial lake

helicopter over Lake MacDonald

paintbrush flower

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

morning trees

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

sunrise over Lake MacDonald

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

13 July 2011

Ben fiddles with his camera at St. Mary's Falls

S thinks the easiest way down is to the right...

'Do we really want to hike this snowy hill?'

Want to see a sheep? You're in luck!

Snow and waterfalls

After a great dinner and s'mores last night, we got up this morning to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road en route to our hike. The GTSR is the main drag through the park, but it was closed due to snow until today. Today is the first day this season that the GTSR is open, and the lines of cars were plentiful (the road construction due to the spring thaw didn't help matters much either). There were plenty of beautiful waterfalls and lots of snowpack to keep us cool on the mountain pass.

The Hidden Lake trail was a bust. It was beautiful, but very snowy, and we only did about 1/4 of the trail out before we decided to bail and eat lunch. The walking was tough indeed. Lunch was on a rocky oasis in the middle of a snowfield, and there was plenty of wildlife to see and shoot (with a camera, natch).

After lunch, we headed to St. Mary's falls, a shortish hike that led us to a number of beautiful waterfalls. The hike was pretty easy, and there were some beautiful photography spots along the way.

Going back to the house took a long time. Even though GTSR is open, there's still a lot of construction. Took us an hour just to get through the construction. I slept. C drove. Thanks, C!

Dinner was at the Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the oldest structures in the park. The lodge itself was built in 1913/4, and it's beautiful! Rustic, dark, with high ceilings and lots of dead animals on the wall.

12 July 2011

Did I mention there were bears!

Lake MacDonald

waterfalls into Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Gorge

Glacier National Park (and bears!)

Montana is lovely. I'm here on a family trip with S and her kin: parents C & D and brother B and his wife A (oh golly, that's ABCD! eek!). Today we did two hikes - Avalanche Lake and John Lake. They were both beautiful, but Avalanche Lake was awesome. We hiked a gorge, saw some waterfalls, ate lunch at the lake, and got a wide range of climates. I had my zoom lens on the camera, so you'll see the photos have a different feel than the ones from Yurp.

The internet is VERY slow here, so I'll be emailing the photos to the blog, one at a time. You'll have to scroll through like good little children to see them all.

Also, we saw bears!

09 July 2011

Research (why I love my job)

There are a lot of reason that I love design. I love working with disparate groups of people. I love creating lasting relationships with people over many years, and I love not working with the same people every day. I love writing music, digging into a script, and figuring out how to do technically what's inside my head. There are lots of reasons to love sound design.

Today, I'm going to talk a bit about research. Specifically, music research.

When I start designing a show, one of the first things I do is start listening to music. If I'm composing music, my research can inspire me. If I'm not composing, then the music will invariably end up as part of the design. In either case, research is a great opportunity for me to start digging into (and expanding) my music library, and I love reminding myself what amazing music humans have created.

Sometimes, my conversations with directors lead me in very specific directions, and my music research will reflect that. When I designed 'Treasure Island,' the director wanted the play to feel like and old swashbuckling movie, so the music reflected that - I used music by Korngold, Steiner, and that ilk to set the 'classic Hollywood' mood.

Sometimes (ok, usually), the director is not so specific. Or, like in my current situation, I'm starting my research before actually talking with the director at all. In these cases, my research becomes the starting point for the conversation. I'll pull a lot of music from a wide variety of styles, cull it down to a few representative pieces, and pass that to a director. Invariably, much of what I pull will be wrong for the show, but some of it will be on the right track. Through conversations with the director, I'll discover which parts of my research are on the right track, and then I can continue in that direction.

These wide-net research tasks are always exciting for me. They're a little frustrating in terms of designing the show (the mathematician in me objects to all of the wasted effort), but the curiosity in me is delighted for more opportunities to listen to the music I've collected. Right now, I'm working on a new play, which features a fictionalized 'lost text' of Kafka. This fictionalized text is being produced on Broadway, and we are watching a rehearsal, complete with sound cues. So, what does a modern production of a Kafka play on Broadway sound like? Who knows? There are so many possibilities, and until I get a chance to talk with the director, I don't know what he's thinking about. In the meantime, I'm pulling a huge swath of music for him to consider and be inspired by. When I packed up my CD binder of research, it had a wide variety of musicians contained therein:

Korngold (old Hollywood swashbuckling)
Brenda Angiel (modern dance)
Bach (organ and chamber ensemble
Bavarian beer-drinking songs
French movie scores
T Bone Burnett (newgrass genius)
Michael Brook (Canadian studio wizard)
David Byrne (weirdo)
Cafe Tacuba (Mexican rock)
Ennio Morricone
Richard Einhorn
Hurdy Gurdy dance music
Max Steiner
Nordic folk compilations
Schubert lieder

For the past few days, I've been sitting at my computer, listening through a lot of this music. It's beautiful, and as I listen to it, I'm rejecting anything that could not possibly be part of this play. What's left could be part of three or four different productions, dependent on how the director wants to move. But, that's a conversation for he and I later...

07 July 2011

slight redesign

While researching music for The Understudy, I dug into redesigning this page, my personal blog. Partly, I'm doing it because I was getting a little tired of the old color scheme and felt like a change. Partly, I'm doing it because my professional webspace is getting a facelift, which will include a blog feature. Since I'll be able to separate professional blog entries from personal blog entries, I can let this site get a little less professional and a little more friendly. Here you go!

Also, here's another HDR shot from Yurp:

05 July 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day has always been my favorite holiday. I like the history, the significance, the idealism, the food, and the proximity to my birthday (Mom has a theory that for most of us, our favorite holiday is the one closest to our birthday). in recent years, I've started making a tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence. Usually, I read it to myself (S thinks it's silly), but on occasion, I read it out loud.

This year, S and I are in Independence, Iowa, at a family reunion. We spent yesterday visiting with lots of distant family and eating lots of yummy food. Today, after breakfast and goodbyes, we'll be headed home to California. With any luck, we'll be sleeping in our own bed tonight!


After breakfast and a long drive from Iowa back to St. Louis with B and A (and a lunch at Steak'n'Shake), we headed to the airport to catch our 6.17 flight through Houston. Which was overbooked. Fortunately, the gate agent saw that we might be able to catch an earlier flight through Phoenix that would get us home an hour early. We zipped through security (S drank her entire water bottle because she forgot to empty it) and ran to the gate for the flight to Houston. As we headed to the gate, we were paged. The page was to put us on the flight to Phoenix. We managed to get onto the Phoenix flight as they were closing the doors. We think our bags made it. We sat down in our seats, and S texted her brother while I texted our ride back in LA. Then, the doors shut and we zipped away. As I write this, we are en route from St. Louis to Phoenix.


Got to Phoenix. Flight delayed an hour. Finally home, with luggage, just shy of midnight. The long ordeal is over. Thanks to everyone who hauled us around. Thanks to everyone who let us vent over twitter, Facebook, irl. Thanks to the occasional kind and sympathetic airline agent. No thanks to the airlines themselves, particularly USAir, a truly terrible organization of sadistic beings.

02 July 2011

Google Chrome Speed Tests

A terrific vid! Great sound!

Some HDR shots

We made it into Iowa, at long last. Dinner with the extended Short family, then back to the hotel for some laundry. Also, now that I'm back in the states, I'm checking out this new app called Blogsy, which is supposed to make blogging from the iPad easier.

Also, here are some photographs that I took in Europe and then processed into HDR images. I've been working on them slowly throughout the trip, and I'll put some new ones up from time to time..

Tower and carousel.

A villa in Capri.

St. Peter's Basilica, with Jesus-light.

Modern Rome.

Blog from the sky!

I'm starting this blog somewhere over the English Channel (I think). We're on the plane from Rome (pause...), but we've just landed in Heathrow airport in London. One of our passengers had a medical emergency, so we landed so they can get treatment.

The Rome airport was a mess. S counted eight lines we had to stand in before we were seated on the plane: one to get our boarding pass, one to say that we packed our own bags, one to check our bags, one to be screened, one to get on a shuttle to the gate, one to go through the gate, one to get on a shuttle to the plane, and one to get on the plane.

Plus, the airline was terrible about seating us together. We were never able to get seats together, despite asking numerous times and booking the plane tickets at the same time. So, when we got on the plane, S's seatmate agreed to switch seats with me. Thanks kind stranger! Of course, USAirways got all grumpy with me for it. When they were passing out meals, my seat switching meant that they had to walk an extra few feet to deliver my special Muslim meal (air travel pro tip: regular airplane food sucks, but if you order a special diet - Kosher, Muslim, etc. - the food is usually more tasty. And healthy!)


We've been on the ground for the better part of an hour, and everyone is cranky. Passengers want to know what's happening, crew is frustrated wit the situation, and the medical emergency is apparently still on the plane. Some of the passengers have been checking on their connections and don't think they're going to make it. We were scheduled to have a 3.5 hour layover in Philly, so we SHOULD be alright.

The captain just announced that we're getting read to go!


All that rush for nothing! Ten minutes later, and we're still on the ground.


And... We're back in the air, after over an hour on the ground. The time is now 11.13 EST. The arrival time is now scheduled to be 6.35 pm.


We landed at 6.25, but missed our connection. We are stuck in philly overnight, and scheduled to fly out to St Louis tomorrow morning. We actually had enough time to make our originally-scheduled flight tonight (well, if they held the plane five minutes), but USAirlines, sensing an opportunity, oversold our evening flight out and bumped us to a tomorrow flight.

We're going to sleep soon, thank god. USAir - you really blew it today.

Also, while all of the passengers were in the shuttle to the airport tonight, we heard more about the medical trouble from the flight. Apparently, the passenger had a bout of food poisoning (I've heard alternate stories of peaches and clams), which caused the flight to be diverted. Then, once on the ground in London, the passenger refused to get off the plane. My feeling (and I feel pretty strongly about it), is that if you're ill enough to cause an emergency landing, you're too ill to fly.

Here's hoping tomorrow is better. At the very least, we'll have family around us.