Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Blogging Phenomenon

This is the most unique (and sad) story I've heard in a long time, but at the same time it's very beautiful. I say that, because of the way this family has dealt with the loss of their daughter from a car crash, originally thinking she survived, only to find they have been caring for someone else's daughter in the hospital for several weeks.

Check out the Laura VanRyn blog.

UPDATE: This blog has been removed by the VanRyn family. I'm sure it was a reminder of the hardest time of their lives, so I understand. I read the last entry and it stated they were thankful for the support from all the readers (which numbered over 325,000 when I last checked the profile view count). Anyway, I'm glad they blogged while they did, because they shared the gospel straight ahead with many people who would never have heard it, and it was in a way that inspired - not hammered. God bless the VanRyn family.

Thanks to Yahoo! posting a story about it, about 100,000 people have read the blog as of the posting of this entry. That's a lot of people reading an amazing story of love and faith.

UPDATE 07-06-06
This blog is now alive again, but I was unable to comment as I'm not a team member. Regardless, it's still there in its entirety, and it's still just as moving.

UPDATE 01-23-07
All of the links in this entry seem to be dead now. I hope this story will be adequately told one day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Big Movie Sound Effects

George Lucas says that "sound is 50 percent of the moviegoing experience." This makes logical sense, but if you're in the movie industry, you probably know sound many times is an afterthought during the filmmaking process, plus it isn't usually given 50 percent worth of the credit if a movie is a hit. There have been some films however, that have commanded respect because of the incredible sound they have.

The "Star Wars" movies are a prime example of films that contain sounds indigenous to those movies, but are also widely recognizable by the masses (who doesn't know what lightsabers, R2-D2, and Vader's breathing sounds like?) In 1978, the Academy awarded Ben Burtt a Special Achievement Award for the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices in Episode IV. THAT's communicating with sounds! (pun intended)

Gary Rydstrom is one of the most influential and successful sound designers in film history. If you go to his IMDB page, his filmography speaks for itself. He has won seven Oscars for films such as Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and more. Here is a transcript from a July 2004 event where he discusses his work and the influence of Jurassic Park on the sound community.

Dane Davis, the sound designer for "The Matrix" also appeared that evening, and here is his transcript. Every once in a while a movie comes out that reshapes the industry, and I think that "The Matrix" definitely pushed forward the art of sound design once again.

Stay tuned for more Big Movie Sound Effects commentary....

The Mavericks Look Marvelous

I'm not the biggest sports fanatic, but I have a few faves.
The Mavs have come a long way, and they look really good this year.

This is the foul that sent Dirk to the line and the game to OT, during which the Mavs finally shut the door on their rivals from San Antonio. Thank you Manu for giving the Mavs a "hand".

You can follow the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns here.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Drumming For A Lifetime, pt. 2

The Three Levels of Musicianship

I received a music degree from North Texas State (now known as The Universiy of North Texas). It's a pretty acclaimed school for music, so while I attended, we enjoyed a lot of super-stud artists coming in for clinics and such.

Vinnie Colaiuta, the master. He most likely has had more influence on me than any other drummer.

Elvin Jones, who passed on in 2004, was an incredibly innovative and smooth player. He also sweat more than a human should. He covered me in sweat when I met him at NT, but I still haven't washed since.

Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, and Elvin Jones were among the monumental drummers that came. They often shared things that have stuck with me through the years. Dom Famularo, a gifted teacher from New York, came through one year and something he said has long since been important to my approach in drumming and any other creative device I pick up. (be it music or editing related)

Dom said there are Three Levels of Musicianship. And as I'm going strictly by memory, I'll paraphrase. And this will be communicated as applied to drummers:

(I think it's important to state that this can be applied to any/all instruments, or even all areas of the arts/entertainment world)

Level 1 - DRUMMER

The moment you pick up a pair of sticks and start playing the drums, you ARE a drummer. This doesn't mean you're accomplished or even good yet, but by simply starting to play you've entered the marvelous world of drumming.

Level 2 - MUSICIAN

You have reached this level when you can discuss the craft intelligently with other musicians. You can communicate in musical terms that others understand, and you understand when they communicate back. Naturally, your skill will have improved by the time you reach this level as well, but that's not really the point. The main point here is that you understand and speak the language of music.

I believe that the jump from Level 1 to Level 2 can be a relatively quick one, depending on the person, and I've found that this is the level that most players stay in for the duration of their career. Good, solid, accomplished musicians.

I also think that complete musical fulfillment can be found here, and those who do not move on to Level 3 are not necessarily lesser musicians.

Level 3 - ARTIST

This level is reached by pushing your craft forward and bringing to it new ideas and innovations. You have contributed to the world of music around you a fresh approach or style. Your playing style becomes emulated, copied, or just plain ripped-off, and your influence (whether from your recordings or your educating) has a ripple effect throughout your industry or particular genre.

I feel that this is the cream of the crop. This is the player that moves you, influences you, and inspires you to be a better player - (or give up your instrument.) :) I also think that many "artists" do not stay at this level ALL the time. Many of them fluctuate between Level 2 and 3, running in seasons.

Remember this however:
True artistry is usually NOTICED during the mountain top appearances, but it is only possible BECAUSE of your work in the trenches.

Dom Famularo is possibly the most enthusiastic drum instructor there is.

As for me, I don't know if I've ever reached the third level in my 27 years of drumming. Briefly at times, maybe. What I do know, is that I've definitely felt the elation and joy of "magical" moments that occur while playing with other great players. Those moments are fulfilling and satisfying, and they can literally change your life and give you a focus you knew nothing about. I think that that type of fulfillment is a gift from God. I find it in music. Some find it in writing, some in dance, sports, etc. Where do you find it?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Special Olympics

The Special Olympics is definitely a special event. Even Bugs comes to volunteer. (Not sure if he's just looking for easy photo ops, but he played with everyone nicely - no sticks of dynamite or anything.)

The torch arrived via this gigantic helicopter. Some rescue guy was lowered to the ground to pass it off. Very cool touch. The crowd went ballistic. It's cool that they do these extras, 'cause it makes all the athletes know they matter and are being taken seriously.

The above photo was taken during the torch's lap around the track before the main torch was lit. Just before this, the motorcycle cop ran over my friend Jeannine's foot. I was on the phone with Chana when this guy was doing a u-turn, took it way fast, and ran up her foot with the front wheel. For some reason,he thought it was funny, and luckily she wasn't hurt, but MAN, next time I get pulled over I might have to give the cop a sobriety test.

For the last two years we've been at the entrance of the field when the teams (teamed up by community, like countries for the other Olympics) come onto the field. They walk in with their heads held high. They are totally pumped up and ready to compete. It's so inspiring, I have always found it hard to keep dry eyes as they walk by me and give me high-fives. The focus on their faces is profound.

Watching some of them compete, you'd think they belong in the other Olympics, because they can run well, or swim fast, or whatever. For some of them, it is a challenge to them to even try to participate in their respective event. For instance, last year I was involved in running the long jump. Some of them had good long jumps that you and I would be proud to have made. A couple of them, it was all they could muster to run the lane and jump over the scratch line. In the standing long jump, a few were afraid to go, so I asked if they wanted me to jump with them. They said yes, so together we would jump "on 3", and they would be so proud of themselves. The surrounding volunteers would go crazy and make noise for them. You could see a pride in their faces that I'm sure is seldom there. Thank God for the Special Olympics and the difference it's making.

Click here to see how you can get involved with the Special Olympics in your area.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Drumming For A Lifetime, pt. 1

I thought I'd start a series about drumming and it's many built-in therapies. Whether you're playing in a band that tours the world, tours the town, or you never get out of the garage, you can enjoy the benefits of playing drums for a lifetime.

I'm currently teaching my 13 year-old son some grooves, and he's catching on really fast. He's starting to learn about the same time as I started, so it kinda takes me back. Of course, I didn't get to learn on a DW kit! (my DW's have the same finish as the ones in the above stock image)

My first kit was a $20 flea-market three-piece Ludwig. It had a cool 20" kick. A year later, I traded up to a vintage four-piece WFL kit I still own. It was made by Ludwig in the 1950's during the time they had sold the company name. They started making the WFL line of drums (WFL=Ludwig's initials), and they were great. I have recorded many a session on those babies, and they've never let me down.

When I was a kid, my Dad was always supportive of my playing (though not always happy about my practice volume). Nowadays, there are those cool practice pad sets. Maybe I should get one for my son?? Naa, where's the fun in that!

My wife is so cool 'cause she'll often ask me to stop what I'm doing and go play. I can't believe it doesn't drive her crazy when I do, but she seems to like it. We should really video tape the kids during those times, because they are inventing new impossible dance moves every time. (Why is it that when you're between 3-8 years old, you can bend in ways God really hadn't intended?)

My intention is to play drums (and other instruments) until I leave this world and trade them in for a harp. I must confess though, that I'm hoping the harp will also serve as a MIDI controller and be able to playback samples from God's drum-sample library.

More on drumming to come. For now, check out this site: DW Drums
There's a lot of useful information there; I've always enjoyed the "Kitbuilder" feature.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blast From The Past

theCalling is a band I played drums for during the late 80's (man, I'm dating myself with this entry), and Todd Williams, the lead vocalist, has just set up a myspace page for it. You can hear a few songs we recorded there.

It was the cool band that almost was... in that we had some success, some record deal offers, and a thriving regional fan base. Unfortunately, we just weren't meant to be. It was a lot of fun while it lasted though.

Todd, Martin Baird (bass and fearless leader), and Mike Graff (guitarist, and man responsible for the unique sound we had in the day) are all successful men in various careers in Dallas. You can read up on everyone at myspace.

One thing I'm proud of is that it was NOT a hair-band. The music STILL sounds cool in my opinion - a lot of U2, Police, XTC, The Smiths - type of sounds all rolled into one. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rockin' Spain

The Triibe had a great trip to Spain. The conference was a success, and God changed many lives. We played a total of four times (3 times on Sunday!), and the response seemed really positive. Some people don't know what to do with us - since we're a percussion heavy / spoken-word heavy band, but most others get it and open themselves up to us and our message.

Unfortunately I only have this one picture of us playing. Maybe I'll add more if I receive more. I do have other interesting info from the conference though.

There were many bands at Contra Corriente, one being the UK band Superhero. They are a group of great guys with great hearts, and VERY cool music. Check them out. I believe you can get their music on iTunes.

Keith Wheeler (www.kw.org) is an amazing individual. To promote the gospel, he has carried the cross over 17,000 miles, through more than 160 countries on all seven continents. He was one of the key-note speakers, and he has an incredible story. We had the pleasure of hanging out with him and his wife Cherie a couple of late nights in the town of Huesca. (s.l. weska)

Backing up to the beginning... After flying into Madrid on Friday morning, we proceeded to drive to Huesca, a 3.5 hour drive northeast. We turned the drive into eight hours by stopping for a couple of us to visit as many bathrooms as we could find - sometimes visiting them more than once per stop. Crazy times.

We stopped in a small town called Huerta to visit a Monastery (Monasterio de Santa Maria de Huerta) about half way there. The monks were still living there, though their numbers have decreased by about 500 since the monastery's opening in 1100 AD. Here's some pics from there:

The front gate:

The main sanctuary:

A small portion of the ornate ceiling:

The pipe organ:

One of the court yards:

This is one of the monks. He invited us to a 30 minute prayer-time with all of the monks of the monastery. We didn't know what to do once we got there, but it was really interesting. (L-R: Gyle, Daniel, Mr Monk, and Bob)

This is just a really great self-portrait. Notice how my hat is a tad crooked. Very street.

Spain has a pace all it's own. We gladly adapted to that flow during our drive from Madrid to the conference. It was a nice relaxing time before the non-stop marathon that was the conference. I took this picture in a pub. I just thought these guys would be the perfect extras in a movie.

Triibe plays again in Kansas City in a couple of weeks. I will be joining them for that one too. I'm looking forward to it!