Sunday, June 27, 2010

Destinations, Discovery, and Disappointment

"I come here to find myself. It's too easy to get lost in the world." -- University Circle park bench.

On weekends, when the weather is decent I tend to go out for a walk. The more stressed or off kilter I'm feeling the longer and more aimless the walks tend to be. The destination of these ventures is no destination at all, well, strictly speaking that's not true: Each one begins with the immutable fact that some how, some way, I will circle back to my home. Precisely when, why, and by what path or intermediate destinations is up to whim.

Given the somewhat sweltering heat -- 95.3 in the shade according to my house at the time I write this -- I oscillated about walking or not. I decided, though, that I needed to get out of the house. 11.2 miles, an three and a half hours give or take, later I'm back.

My walks rarely follow the same path but frequently include the same destinations: I'm a sucker for the beauty of Shaker Lakes and like to take in the Cleveland Museum of art by seriously contemplating the art in one gallery each weekend. When I left my home this morning I wasn't sure if I was going to visit either -- I let my feet find their own path including some streets I haven't before traveled, and wound up cutting through Cain Park, south on Taylor, a left at Fairmount, wandering by the Baptist Church, a few aimless jogs and turns, Horseshoe Lake, Lower Shaker Lake, back down Fairmount, through the CWRU campus, around Wade Lagoon, around--but not through, today--The Cleveland Museum of Art, through the CIA parking lot, Little Italy, down Mayfield, and finally back home. Still disappointed, still off kilter.

I didn't find what I was looking for, despite not knowing what I was looking for.

Essentially my off-kilterness comes to one source: There's a question I need to ask. I don't think I have a right to ask the question, and I'm pretty sure I already know the answer, but the optimistic part of me is hoping that I've misinterpreted and therefore the question needs to be asked to get me out of the achromatic funk. I'm uncomfortable with grey, I always have been uncomfortable with grey. But I know in asking the unaskable question it seems probable, even likely, to irrevocably alter the course of human events. As I have plans for the Friday following next that I'd prefer not to alter, nor to make my guest in the least bit uncomfortable or give any cause not to enjoy the evening, said question cannot be asked until the conclusion of that event.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ten Pounds or $3,185.25

(I originally planned to post this the week I went to the Tony Awards... but that week got kind of busy and this lingered a little too long. For anyone who was waiting, my apologies for the extended delay).

The 2009-10 Cleveland Orchestra Severance Hall Season is over; with the exception of the opera, I didn't miss a season weekend and I managed to fit in most of the other programs as well. At the beginning of the season I didn't intend to attend every concert offering--I went to a concert, then another concert, then another just sort of happened. At the end of a road a I hadn't expected to take mere eight months ago, I find myself looking back trying to quantify the uncountable.

Thirty Four. The number of individual Cleveland Orchestra concerts blogged about between Opening Night and Composers Connect. The number of people met at those concerts--and experiences shared--innumerable.

Ten Pounds, give or take a few ounces. The weight of a season's worth of program books. Like the performances, some were individually lighter while others were much heavier.

Three Thousand One Hundred Eighty Five Dollars and Twenty Five Cents. The total amount paid, give or take, for one ticket per concert and parking. (add $120 for concessions and tips). I'm reasonably positive that aside from my mortgage payments this has been my single largest expense category. Is there anything I would have rather spent that money on? Not anything that comes to mind. Anything with better value? Doubtful.

One Hundred Six Hours. Approximate time spent in Severance Hall this season; of course incomparable to the time spent by the musicians of the orchestra.

The beautiful thing about live performance -- not just the Cleveland Orchestra -- and art in general is that there is no tangible gain from the investment; the gain is purely intrinsic: While (aside from 34 ticket stubs and 10 pounds of program books) I don't have anything tangible, the music has stirred emotion, enlivened, entertained, educated, and enhanced my quality of life; indeed, one presumes, that of all listeners.

I've been trying to ask myself what my favorite concert was, and it's a difficult question to answer: There were certainly some that I didn't care for and some that more entertainment was derived from, but to pick "A" concert is difficult. The first Fridays@7 was awesome; Ashkenazy's Pictures at an Exhibition was beautiful; all of the Musically Speaking concerts were enlightening; the Composers Connect was adventuresome. I view my attendance at Cleveland Orchestra concerts as a vehicle for discovery and, truly, some discovery came out of every concert, and in that vein I do not think that it is possible--or proper--to choose one favorite; we'll just leave it as a great season.

And the best part? The Blossom Season begins in just a few days and the next Severance season isn't that far behind.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cleveland Museum of Art: Summer Solstice 2010

(Preface: It's 2AM, I'm going to keep it short; there may be updates/edits to this post)

I had the extreme pleasure of sharing this evening with a new friend, and in all respects it was a fantastic evening to share. The Solstice Party originated last year to welcome the contemporary/modern art galleries, and was reprised this year to welcome to reopening of the antiquities collection.

"Antiquities" comprises a time period that I generally have a difficult time drawing connections to. The beautifully displayed artifacts, though, combined with a lively discussion with my guest yielded a spectacular premiere. Especially worthy of consideration is the intense level of detail present on many of the -- especially smaller -- objects, and the sheer fact that these have survived for, in some cases, upwards of six thousand years in beautiful condition.

The galleries continue the logical flow found in the other reopened areas of the museum and you're never left with the sense that you may be lost in some labyrinthine maze--my first impression from my only visit before the museum began the renovation. In a word it's beautifully done.

The party was also lively drawing a diverse--and once again sell-out--crowd well into the evening. Eclectic music was present outdoors, while indoors a scavenger hunt contributed much to my amusement. I'll be interested to see how my team scores, though at least one blackmail-worthy photo came out of the exercise.

I made the mistake of walking from my house--fine in shorts in a polo, but not such a hot idea in slacks and a button-down shirt, but that's the only negative I can pin on the evening: Even that had a positive outcome.

Truly an evening that will not quickly be forgotten and one that has few rivals.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Monumental Occassion: 5 Years In Cleveland

Yesterday, June 18, approximately 1:00 PM, marked the 5th anniversary of the day I arrived in Cleveland.

I had planned on a more "retrospective" post, but based on some amazing things that have happened lately, some blogged about, some not, the subject slipped my mind.

But 5 years ago I showed up in Cleveland to start a job that I wasn't sure I was qualified for, not really knowing anyone--or anything--about the city, or even really the state*, sleeping in a coworker's spare bedroom for the better part of a month while I waited for my (first) apartment to be readied.

It all started with an email that consisted of not much more than "Have you ever considered living in Cleveland?" At the time I hadn't, but the email came when I was becoming frustrated with working in academia, so I came for an interview, and accepted the offer--one of the biggest gambles I've taken thus far.

I still get asked "Why would you move to Cleveland?" by locals and out-of-towners with the same, gratingly annoying are you an idiot? intonation that accompanies a question like "How could you slam your fingers in the door?" or "What do you mean you 'lost' the kids?" -- but the truth is I've come to love Cleveland. True, there are 3 months a year when I question my sanity and consider going somewhere where the sun is visible, but the other 9 months, there's only one other City** where I could imagine living. And I couldn't afford to maintain my lifestyle there.

Cleveland is a city that has so much to offer -- from our fantastic Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Play House and Playhouse Square, to great institutions of higher education and libraries (I'll bet you didn't know that Cleveland Public Library is one of the country's largest public research libraries!) to predictably bad sports teams to tolerable traffic and livable costs of living to an amazing cultural diversity, and generally nicer people.

Aside from the at times depressing self-esteem of the region and politicians who seem to cling to manufacturing as a viable economic engine the city -- and Northeast Ohio in general -- have quite a bit to offer. I'm proud to say that I call Cleveland Home, and I make no apologies for taking advantage of as much of what's on tap as a one person can.

If you're local: Look around you and appreciate what you have available to you.
If you're not: Come visit us for a weekend. The stories you've heard are just selfish people trying to keep a gem in the rough for themselves.

An now I get ready for the Cleveland Museuem of Art's Solstice Party celebrating another reopening in their renovation.

*- I'm not entirely joking when I say that before moving to Ohio I would frequently get Ohio and Idaho confused--after all, growing up in Southern California, both are "up north" and "back east". I also wouldn't have been able to tell you, without outside assistance, the difference between "Spring", "Summer", "Fall", and "Winter"
**- The capital "C" should give, Easterners, at least, a hint.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I was at the Tony Awards!

As this post should begin...

I'd like to thank Playhouse Square (Stephanie Eames) for offering and arranging the trip; Gina Vernaci for the congratulatory call right before I left the hotel room to start this fantastic evening; the as-to-be anonymous gentleman who passed me a copy of the Playbill so I could have a tangible proof of my participation; the New York City Police Officer who was kind enough to take this tourist's picture with said playbill as I was leaving Radio City.

I've used the "(giddy laughter)" notation in several posts, but generally I'm able to restrain my actual giddy laughter to the privacy of my own home. Tonight, leaving the awards, I couldn't restrain myself: I giddily laughed, out loud, and in public. I think the people around me might have thought I was having a breakdown of some kind.

"If a civilian fills an empty seat next to you, please treat them as a member of your guild or union...or with respect. It is just temporary."

I was a seat filler: As seats emptied because talent was on stage -- or getting ready to be on stage -- they maneuvered us into position to make it appear that there was a full house for television audiences. Based on what little I had read I was prepared to be standing for most of the show. As luck would have it, I was assigned to the center section which meant I got a seat -- slightly obstructed view with television, lighting, and sound equipment directly in front of me (including both of the main cameras and the jib that took most of the flying shots) but a seat, center of the house no less.

When I was called to do my duty you couldn't have asked for a much better seat: Remember Leiv Schriber? I was in his seat, first row on the house center-left aisle for a fairly long time--I can't really remember what happened during that time, but once I watch the DVR of it I'll be more specific. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith were directly across the aisle from me... I remember seeing him do some toe-tapping. I also almost tripped Scarlett Johansson not once but twice (Sorry!) The house was [of course] full of celebrities -- including a fairly loud Jay-Z (one of the producers of Fela!)

One of PlayhouseSquare's marketing tags for the upcoming season is "There's No Substitute for The Real Thing", one of the presenters (this may have been before the telecast began) equivocated on how a performance on film is captured at 24 frames per second and repeatable infinitely, where as every performance in live theatre is unique ("A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a play is worth a thousand pictures"). Both of these sentiments I've long held -- stemming from my involvement in theater in high school where I saw how much variation performances of the same play could have based on the audience, props misfiring [there are no retakes], or actors "trying something a little different".

But tonight, with seeing the Tony Awards first-hand I can say that there is genuinely no substitute for seeing it live. I'm sure the CBS telecast was great -- and since you at home were probably not blinded by the intense strobe lights for Green Day's American Idiot, you may want to think that it was better. No: The energy in Radio City, the kensisis between audience and presenter the sheer wave of joy (or disappointment) that slid through each company's group as a winner was announced: You can't possibly feel that through a television set.

I fly home tomorrow; already this afternoon feels a million years away. This evening I hope will stick with me for a little while.

Update (June 15): I figured out that, assuming I have my celebs correct, the amazingly beautiful person I was seated next to for nearly an hour was none other than Ms. Naiomi Watts. (facepalm).


Trip to the Tonys: Day Two, Part One.

I'll admit it. Despite setting a total of three alarms for "early" I decided to sleep in a bit and didn't actually hit the streets until about 9:45 or so.

I mentioned yesterday that I managed to bungle up most of the pictures I tried taking in Central Park so I was going to try and re-take them this beautiful morning -- today, apparently, there is (was) a Puerto Rico day parade down 5th avenue, and in addition to throngs of people [and the greatest number of police officers I've ever seen in the same place at the same time], access to Central Park other than roadways was very difficult--access to the parts of Central Park I actually wanted to take photos of was impossible. I did notice, though, while in the park an odd desolation: I was virtually alone, the sun was out and the treed were green, but somewhere just beyond view there was a cacophony of city noises: Whistles, horns, music, yelling, cheering. To me that's more soothing than silence.

So I did the next best thing: I walked Central Park from the southern foot at 6th Avenue (a few quick blocks walk from the hotel at 59th) to the northern end at 110th and Malcolm X Boulevard. Snapping a few photos along the way and briefly considering a return visit to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum [I think my favorite museum from my last trip], I hopped a 2 Train subway down to Times Square/42nd where I transferred to an R train to City Hall, another park that I grabbed a few wintry shots at. After that I took the R one stop further downtown--without looking at a map of exactly where I was going--and ended up at Wall Street.
Got out, wandered around the financial district a bit, stumbled upon the NYSE and then took the train uptown to Times Square.

I had planned on, at this point, returning to the hotel room and possibly catching a quick nap -- certainly getting off my feet for a little while (Had I done any planning at all, I probably would have thought to bring a pair of shoes more suitable for all terrain walking -- but as my internal compass hasn't fully adapted to New York, I made a wrong turn and from 7th avenue ended up on 8th Ave instead of 6th where I wanted to be.

So I walk a few blocks up 8th planning on hanging a quick turn and jaunt back to 6th [I hate walking past the same people on the street going different directions... they may not remember that I just waked by, but I feel kind of stupid when I do, I needed to get about 15 blocks uptown anyway] -- and stumbled across a restaurant that caught my eye.

So I stopped at Schnipper's and ordered a burger and cheese frys. It was good. I made a mess of myself eating it on the patio on the corner of 8th Ave and 41st, but it was good enough that I didn't care. (The sign above the register: "Hello! We serve good old-fashioned American food for New Yorkers and travelers alike. We don’t do fusion or foreign. We think happy is healthy. We think low stress is as important as low fat, and high-quality can be just as important as organic. While we respect places that serve precious, fussy food, we never wanted to be one of them." There's an attitude I dig)

And I walked back to hotel without further direction-finding incident where I am typing this now... and I think I will try for a quick nap before I have to take a shower and get ready to be at Radio City by 4:30. I did pass the International Center for Photography Museum just south of the hotel-- I'd like to check it out, but I think I'll save that for my next trip given time constraints: I'd hate to not enjoy it simply because I rushed through it.

Until later tonight... Photos can be found here


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Trip to the Tonys: Day Won, Part Two: Fela! The Musical

I realized at some point this evening that I left out an important detail from Part One: Between the Frick Collection and the TKTS booth I did the Radio City Music Hall "stage door" tour. Unfourtunately this was during the time that my camera was charging in the hotel room an cell phone cameras were verbotten for some unclear reason. You'll see the Music Hall and Tony set tomorrow night on CBS -- the main lobby is an amazing volume of space, and of course, there is some interesting history in the building. For about $20 I'd reccommend it over the Empire State Building.

And thus we arrive at the ticket booth and by extention the show I saw tonight: Fela! The Musical. I took a risk with Fela! because I hadn't heard anything about it; it was a risk that didn't pay off -- perhaps ominously, Fela is playing directly across the street from the only musical I've ever walked out on; maybe West 49th isn't my street for theatre.

Unfourtunately it's a case of the sum of the parts being less than the whole: The set -- which spilled out into the entire theater -- was visually interesting; the correography was good. Lighting and visual effects were effective and probably my single favorite element. I really didn't care for the music--and it seemed like 2 hours of pretty much the same beat--but it was well played technically. I take no issues with the acting or the dancing.

The storyline stopped making sense to me after about twenty minutes, and the plot seemed confused. For example, Fela died in 1997 and [based on Wikipedia] was most active in the 60s-70s, yet references are made to Hati, AIG, the IMF and other anachronistic-just-to-make-a-political-statement insertions. In the end, I simply was not entertained*, motivated, inspired, or enlightened and it's not a show that I can envision myself seeing again.

"Lincoln," you may ask, "why did you buy a ticket without knowing anything about the show?" Fair question. When I arrived at Father Duffy square, I surveyed the board. Of the shows that caught my interest, I want to see Phantom of the Opera a second time, but it will be in PlayhouseSquare later this summer [I should probably buy a ticket, if I can, shouldn't I?]-- I really like the music from Next to Normal, but I have it to look forward to in PlayhouseSquare's next season, and while I enjoyed Avenue Q and In the Heights, I already know what those are about: I wanted something new. I had planned on Promises, Promises -- which was on the board when I got to the front of the line, but had sold out by the time I got to the window. So I blurted out the first name that came to mind: Fela.

No, I didn't know anything about the show before I bought my ticket, but I didn't know anything about Next To Normal either, and that's a show I enjoyed at the time and has really grown on me since then. In that case it was a gamble, that paid off. Such was not my luck with Fela... but there is no regret in trying something new.

Making a speedy exit during the curtain call, I walked back to the hotel via Rockefeller Center--another destination I missed on my first "real" visit to Manhattan back in January--and grabbed a few pictures of both the plaza and Radio City Music Hall. New York at night is a beautiful city. They aren't the greatest quality, but I've uploaded the ones that are at slightly in focus to Flickr.

And now it's time for a nice long nap before the big day. I'm quite excited at the moment.

*- I also wasn't amused that I was sold an obstructed view seat without it being disclosed as such.

Trip to the Tonys: Day Won, Part One.

I'm not entirely sure where my brain was going when I typed the subject--the odd spelling of one was entirely unintentional but it seemed apropos given the circumstances.

To recap for those watching at home: A little while back I entered PlayhouseSquare's contest for a trip to the Tony Awards in New York City--the live theatre industry's equivalent to film's Academy Awards or television's Golden Globes. I forgot about entering until I got a phone call congratulating me; they're taking care of the hotel room, the airfare, and of course the most imporant part: getting me into the event.

I am not a morning person, and the flight I was originally booked on seemed like a great idea -- leaving CAK at 5:40pm. At some point I realized that by the time I got to NY that would mean that it would be too late to do much on Saturday... then I realized that I had a HHonors certificate for a free night* that was due to expire this coming Tuesday... and there's a Hilton Garden Inn right across the streeet from the airport.

Fast forward, and after a night where I wasn't really inspired to sleep I find myself stumbling to the front of the line at 0-dark-25 this morning and asked if I might be able to change from the 5:30 PM to the 6:40 AM flight. To give you a general idea of my level of alertness, the agent asked "Emergency Exit Row: Window or Asile?" and my frist try at answering was "Yes, please." (about 20 seconds later I tried "Window, please." and that seemed to be the answer she was looking for as a boarding pass printed).

Shortly after 8AM I found my way to the bus stop outside of LaGuardia, MetroCard in hand -- I that long for a matinee, then made my way to Central Park.

When I was here in January -- the first time I spent any significant time on Manhattan -- I took some pictures of a leafless, snow-covered, and desolate Central Park -- with highs in the mid-teens, I couldn't say I was suprised. Needless to say, Central Park was anything but desolate today and it had a great energy with musicians, artists, famlies and just about anything else at play.

I thought it would be interesting to try to remember where the first set of pictures had been taken and take new ones 5 months later for contrast. Unfourtunately, the one battery I forgot to charge last night was my camera so I didn't get many -- and a few I forgot about the relatively slow shutter speed of my camera. But I charged it today and I might try again tomorrow before "the event"

Along the way I grabbed a quick hot dog and soda-- we'll call it brunch. NYC has no shortage of street side vendors of quality meat products.

Following my quick jaunt through the southern half of Central Park I back tracked down 5th Avenue to the Frick Collection -- one of the museums in the Cleveland Museum of Art's Reciprocal Membership program, and one that I didn't visit in January. I have to say I wasn't terribly impressed -- sometimes I forget how much the Cleveland Museum of Art's insightful label copy helps to understand the context of a particular piece -- and the art itself didn't really tug at any emotions. I did, however, pick up a copy of "Manners for Men" a reprint of an 1897 guidebook. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that in the handful of pages I've thumbed so thus far I haven't really found anything that I'm not already doing yet.

Add a tinge of riding the subway just for the heck of it, a return to the TKTS booth -- trying for Promises, Promises but winding up with Fela! and a return to Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridian for my 3rd time**** -- it's no In-N-Out, but it's a pretty good burger.

And now I need to leave for Fela! So we'll (presumably) pick up with Part 2 later this evening.

* - It had just enough strings attached that I couldn't actually use it at any of the hotels I wanted to use it at.
** - It was like 8:45AM. Normally I'm not conscious before 9 on a weekend, cut me some slack.
*** - This is quite possibly the earliest I've checked into a hotel.
**** - Once for each visit to I've had to Manhattan wher I had time to my self.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why I Bought a Tux (or Why I'll be In New York Next Weekend)

There have been plenty of "Black Tie" events that I've resisted attending for the simple fact that renting a tuxedo kind of creeps me out and they weren't of sufficient magnitude to warrant a purchase.

I now have such an event. Though my credit card hates me right now, I will (giddy laughter) have a spontaneous weekend in New York thanks to Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare.
Nordstrom's "cheap" Tux: $550*;
White Dress Shirt: $58.50**;
Black Tie: $95;
Going to the Tony Awards: Priceless.

A while back -- I can't remember exactly when -- in PlayhouseSquare's eAlert newsletter there was a contest with the prize being a trip to the Tony Awards as a "seat filler". I submitted my entry then promptly forgot completely about it.

This past Friday when I got home from work I had a voicemail from the marketing department congratulating me. Somehow -- for I think the first time in my adult life -- I managed to win.

I takes a lot to get me giddy. This is such an occasion. I love New York nearly as much as I love Cleveland. I love theatre. I love travel. I love spontaneity. This is the perfect confluence of all of those passions and it comes at a time when I've been feeling a severe case of summertime wanderlust but couldn't figure out where to wander to.

I think this qualifies as "Once in a lifetime experience"

More blogging and some pictures to follow once I hit the road... and I have to thank PlayhouseSquare for the opportunity and my client in Columbus for rescheduling the meeting I had on Monday to Tuesday.

*- Including shipping since the Beechwood store doesn't stock "toothpick" as a standard size.
** - My expectations for the lifespan of this shirt is approximately 6 hours based on my luck with anything white. Despite the miracles my dry cleaner can work, essentially, I'm considering it disposable.
*** - Calm down, I love Cleveland as well--and can actually afford to live here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Composers Connect

Botti: Translucence (2005)
Staud: On Comparative Meteorology (2009)
Andriessen: Worker's Union (Interlude performance by Mark Jackobs, Scott Dixon, Maximilian Dimoff, Marc Damoulakis, and Dylan Moffitt)
Dalbavie: Concertate il suono (2000)
Pintscher: with lillies white (2002)
Matthias Pintscher, conductor.

It would be easy to take this evening's concerts at face value, and a fine performance it was, but I had a feeling there was a grander purpose. During the second intermission it I was finally able to verbalize it: This concert as a whole was about more than new music, but the concept of embracing something new.

New also challenges one to think for his or herself: All four works in the concert programs were commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra from young composers, and do not have a wide body of critical commentary weighting them down. New is not necessarily popular: Attendant to the premiere of any work is the possibility of a run-away hit and the risk of an instant flop; it is not merely the road less taken but the road that doesn't yet exist.

With that frame of mind, this concert -- celebrating 10 years of The Cleveland Orchestra's commissions and of musical risk taking -- seems a fitting end to a season where the Orchestra itself took risks and tried the new, most notably in the Fridays@7 format but also other subtle changes designed to appeal to a wider audience.

On first blush the structure of the program seemed odd with an intermission or interlude separating each piece, especially considering that the longest piece was 20-some minutes, yet this construction gave listeners a chance to cleanse their musical palate between pieces and allowed each composition to stand on its own. Severance Hall was refreshingly full with a broad mix of patrons represented.

As for the music itself, modern classical music tends to befuddle me, and I did not have a clear favorite from the concert. The only work I had heard before was Staud's On Comparative Meteorology. When I first heard it in 2009 I was generally confused by it [in fact, likening the confusion from that hearing to my feelings after one aborted courtship] and I hoped that a second hearing, a year later and with a broader exposure to the cannon, might make more sense. Such was not the case: I was as confused by this hearing as I was the first time around.

Susan Botti's Translucence held a slight edge over the others... The piece's quiet beginning certainly had a bit of a mossy feel and took me to solitude in a forest, building, and questioning if actually alone in that forest.

Worker's Union (for any loud grouping of instruments) was presented during the interlude between the two sets of compositions. Not an orchestra commission the piece was an announced as "about 14 minutes of noise" -- and held true to that advertisement, but nonetheless was interesting to listen to.

Both Dalbavie and Pintscher's works were interesting for their unconventional stagings (Dalbavie had three "concertinos" scattered throughout the auditorium in addition to those musicians on stage, while Pintscher had thee lone percussionists in the same locations) and one can only speculate as to the amount of rehearsal and tweaking that went into making four distinct music-producing bodies sound coherent, but they certainly did.

So here's to taking risks; to trying the unknown; to supporting new talent.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My house has bugs...

Not the living kind (well, not many of the living kind -- I did see a lone ant try to sneak through my living room the other day) but the software kind.

As "Meet Lincoln" (over on the right, yeah, right there) says I "Work in technology," and that's about all I can say before most people's eyes glaze over. I work in an obscure corner of the technology world that combines computing and audio/visual -- some call it integration, some call it automation. I do that programming that make all of the toys play nicely with each other.

While my job has be doing exclusively commercial projects (casinos, hotels, government facilities, conference centers, schools, theatres, etc.) I've programmed the automation system for my home. It's cool: I can turn all of the lights in the house off from one button, I can adjust the air conditioning from anywhere in the world with Internet access, one button turns the TV on, sets the lighting "mood" (based on the time of day), gets the TiVo ready... the ultimate universal remote.

My house also does a fair amount of "thinking" on it's own -- as I joke around the holidays "It knows when you're sleeping, it knows when you're awake, and it kind of knows if you've been bad or good". If I arm the security system (from a convenient wall-mounted or wireless touchpanel, my iPod, or any number of other interfaces) it turns off anything I've left on, and sets a lighting look. If I've left a window open, it won't let the air conditioner run...

But the downside to this intelligence is complexity: With a normal home, you flick the light switch and the light comes on, if it doesn't either there's a power failure or the light has burned out. Not so in my house: It could be a programming problem. This weekend while trying the next cool new toy (and that's really all I can say thanks to a non-disclosure agreement) there were some lights I couldn't turn on...and others I couldn't turn off. Do you realize how bloody frustrating that is?

But aside from that little issue, my house has enough annoying quirks, largely from organic growth since I first conceived the system nearly 3 years ago -- and features that I forgot to add the first time around -- that I've decided to just reprogram my house from scratch. Yes. I am reprogramming my house. The dark side to the house of the future.

But I enjoy solving the puzzles.
(As a point of reference -- the MSRP for the control equipment (not including displays, aplifiers, wire, installation labor, etc) is just about $60,000. Of course, I didn't pay anywhere near that, but it's still far from an "every home" solution). It also explains why I'm still driving a 10 year old car.