Monday, June 27, 2016

The Bird Man Of Indiana University

I don't know if the story is true about the Bird Man at I.U., but I have heard several other students talking about it.  He supposedly stood on the roof of his dorm and yelled out some stupid bird call as a signal for a panty raid.  I heard he was expelled from school for doing this, but I don't know where he is supposed to be now.  He's probably in Washington!  
- excerpt from "Hoosier Folk Legends", compiled by Ronald L. Baker
I recently met Mary as we were volunteering for a very worthwhile cause.  As we began collecting giant bags of lost and found items at McNutt Residence Center, and our casual conversation turned to campus legends and lore.  Eventually, the topic of the Bird Man came up.  Although I've only ever taken one class at IU, I had heard of the legend due to Baker's excellent collection of "Hoosier Folk Legends" (a cherished book since I received it for Christmas in 7th grade - thanks, mom!  Best campfire book ever!)  As it turns out out, Mary was a resident at McNutt in the 1960s and has heard the Bird Man live and in person!  It's always kind of exciting to me when a legend turns out to be true.  Mary forwarded me this article from Life magazine wherein the Bird Man is mentioned.  Better still, she sent along an interview from a radio show on the campus radio station.  This discussion with the Bird Man is from 1966.  The interview was broadcasted from Foster Residence Hall, and the Bird Man - whose identity remains secret to this day as far as I know - affects an accent to hide is identity.  Best of all, there is a recording of the Bird Man doing his thing (listen all the way to the end to hear other examples of it).  It is absolutely eerie.

The Bird Man was expelled from Indiana University, but his legend lives on.  Great stuff - thanks for passing along, Mary!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Keep On Rockin' In The Prius

After years of threatening to do it, I finally did it:  I ponied up for a stereo for our old, beat up '08 Prius.  You see, shortly after we bought it, the CD player - one of the features I was most jazzed about having - petered out.  I've been doing long road trips with no music; or more accurately, with whatever I can find on commercial radio.  Have you ever tried to scan stations on a ten hour drive?  You're lucky if you get 3 songs an hour worth cranking.  You have to wade through a lot of crap for even the slightest satisfaction.  So I mostly just kept the radio off, particularly if the rest of the family was in the car (don't want the kids going deaf any earlier than usual).

What I bought isn't anything fancy, and it doesn't play CDs.  You can connect your phone to it via wire or Bluetooth.  You can take calls via Bluetooth through the car's stereo system, which is pretty fun.  You can load up the tiniest of USB drives with mp3s and have hours worth of entertainment. - the point is, I'm now free to rock, and it has made a HUGE difference in my driving experience.  I haven't yet given it the ultimate test, that is the long road trip to northern Michigan, but I have no doubt it will be freaking.  AWESOME.
Not a transformer; just the Prius with its guts hanging out.

Home brewer and all around good guy Karl installed it for me.  Aside from the fact that I purchased the wrong wiring harness, (which Karl was able to pick up at Auto Zone) everything went smoothly.  I opted to have the stereo installed in the compartment below the stock stereo. The new stereo is behind a spring loaded door - you don't even know it's there until the car is turned on and the control panel glows through the dark-tinted compartment door that covers it.  Bad ass.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to many hours of podcasts and great music.  Vacation is next month.  It's never too early to start compiling the summer driving list . . .

Thanks again, Karl.  We're loving it!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Watching Foley Artists At Work Will Make You A Better Listener

I love sound.  Examples?  This blog has examples of this love.  For example, this.  This blog even has samples of sounds I hate - like this.  After all, this is a sound blog, not just a music blog.  Paying attention to sound is an exercise in mindfulness, and it makes me love the world more.  Heck, even paying attention to silence makes me happy.

Enter the Foley artists - the guys and gals that do the sound effects for your movies and cartoons.  Watching this for me was magic.  It really makes me want to learn some tricks of this trade.  I need to do some more "Audio Scratch Pad" entries, and soon!

The Case For Cash Money

Back when I was still teaching junior high, I remember hearing a story from a group of three teachers about seeing legendary supergroup Asia* at the Bartholomew County (IN) fair.  To be honest, it seems unlikely that Asia - "has beens" as they are - would be so desperate for money that they'd play a podunk county fair in Indiana.  I did some light Googling to see if I was remembering the story correctly.  I haven't been able to confirm that they played at the fair, but this is how I remember the story, so this is how I'm going to tell it.  The point is Asia ain't selling out stadiums anymore; they're on the fair/club circuit.

Anyway, these teachers - three young women - rushed up to the stage and began screaming in unison between songs "FI-NAL COUNTDOWN!  FI-NAL COUNTDOWN!  FI-NAL COUNTDOWN!"  "The Final Countdown" never got played, so they left in disappointment.  Until they realized that a hair band called Europe (not Asia) played "The Final Countdown".  I have to admit, I had a pretty good laugh at this story.  Confusing Europe for Asia and mixing up their hits - classic.  I wonder how the guys felt on stage when three good looking women rushed the stage only to request the wrong song - were they insulted?  Did they ponder for the millionth time how they ended up playing massive shows all over the world, only to end up at the Bartholomew County Fair?  Did they shrug it off?

I remembered the story after reading this morning's entry at the great "Gin and Tacos" blog.  Ed makes a great point:
At some point I stopped looking at it as hanging on to faded dreams of stardom (although certainly that might be the mindset of some people who can't let it go) and began to see it for what it is: a way to make a living. And comparatively speaking, a fun way. I knew a guy who played minor league baseball for about fifteen years. People often snickered that he was delusional about making the major leagues and couldn't walk away. His perspective was totally different. He knew he wasn't going anywhere; he also knew he got paid about $30,000 to play a kids' game outside during the summer for six months per year. The other six months he worked odd jobs for additional cash. Annually I'm quite certain he made more when all was said and done than a lot of the manual labor and office bodies that thought he was crazy.
 If you're involved in a creative endeavor - music, writing, sculpture, painting, sewing, whatever - you like to think you're evolving.  You want to continue to challenge yourself to get better; to find new ways to express yourself and/or explore ideas.  Ideally, your work would resonate with your audience, maybe even expand your audience.  Your work would remain relevant and continue to produce financially; or in the case of those who've had a hit, maybe you'd get even richer.  But what if you were content to rest on your laurels?  I mean, if you're putting food on the table and "The Final Countdown" keeps your mortgage paid, is that enough?

I'd say yes.  I mean, it's not ideal, but if I could travel and play the same tired-ass songs and still make enough to keep my family covered (and put some money in savings), I'd absolutely do it - don't care if it's the county fair circuit or the nursing home circuit, I'd do it.  It doesn't matter if I'm doing jazz, metal, prog rock, polka - who cares?  I remember hearing an interview with Chuck Mangione a long, long time ago.  The interviewer asked him if he was sick of playing "Feels So Good"** every time he played out live.  His reply was that "Feels So Good" put his kids through college.  As long as people want to hear it, he reasoned, why wouldn't he play it?  I found this to be a very refreshing take.  To me, it represented a comfort level that few artists reach - financial stability and artistic satisfaction.  I'm still kind of wired to think that the latter is a bad thing - that artistic satisfaction is the death of creativity.  You have to remain hungry to produce any work of consequence and all that. But maybe instead of death, it's creativity's afterlife?  Maybe.  If you're coasting on your band's past glory, and as long as you're not taking yourself too seriously.  But if you can coast on your past glory, and you don't have any ambition beyond that, that might be okay.  A part of me feels horrible for admitting this, but screw it.

*-For the record, this is hyperbole.
**-Holy crap, this song has a great bass part!