Monday, September 13, 2010

Feeling fall

I know that fall, or autumn, or whatever you want to call this season, doesn't officially start until Wednesday, September 22. It's still over a week away. However, it would seem that summer made a very fast exit a short while ago. There's no doubt in my mind; fall is here.

People often say that we don't have seasons in Southern California, and they're mostly right. But sometimes seasons aren't always definable by the color of the leaves on the trees, or whether or not you're able to wear shorts to the mall. Fall can be a vibe, rather than an average temperature, and let me tell you: it's fall, baby. My son started school particularly early this year, on August 31, and in the couple of weeks since then, I've felt fall coming back with a vengeance.

In New England, it's easy to tell when it's fall. Near Los Angeles, less so.

There are a few physical clues that the seasons are changing here. The daily temperature here has been steadily dropping (though we had such a cold and crappy summer at my home here by the beach that it wasn't a really dramatic change). I find myself having abandoned the flip-flops and shorts, and I've dusted off the thermal shirts and socks that stayed in the back of the drawer for a few months. I wake up each day to fog and overcast skies that sometimes burns off in the afternoon, and other times hangs around, bringing an eeriness to the entire day. It's also awfully quiet here at Zak Central; my aforementioned son is gone at school for most of the day, and I was pretty much used to the sounds of him playing video games, banging around on his guitar, and shooting baskets in the driveway for the past couple of months.

All this can seem a bit depressing. But this will be my 42nd fall; I know from experience that there are good and bad sides to every season. One thing that seems to go well for me in the fall is my tendency to get organized and get moving on some projects that I may have let slide over the lazy summer months. And that, my friends, is what I intended on writing about when I started this post that's been pretty bleak thus far. Let's get rolling with some positive vibrations.

Much to my surprise, I found I actually enjoy the creative aspects of recording and editing videos. In my life that doesn't involve being a wanna-be rock star on the Internet, I own a small marketing communications firm... we do ads, websites, PR and that sort of stuff, mostly for the music/audio products (and related) industries. I've always been forced to use other resources for video work, but it's pretty incredible what you can do with mid-priced gear and a little ingenuity these days. I had recently purchased a new HD camcorder, and in a couple of days I'll have a new addition to my video making arsenal: a chroma key "green screen" and a couple of lights.

Look Ma! I'm Industrial Light & Magic! Not quite, but this will indeed help me do some cool stuff for videos.

You, being a savvy technology-centric person, probably know what a green screen does, but I'll tell you anyway. When I film something in front of the green screen, my computer software can take a different batch of footage and substitute that for the green background, ostensibly placing the subject in any environment you can imagine (and probably several you can't). So, as you'd guess, this opens up many creative possibilities for my video work. I'm excited. My green screen -- a 10' x 20' type that was way less expensive than I'd assumed it would be -- is supposed to arrive in the next couple of days, though it will probably be next weekend before I can start testing it out.

Without spoiling the surprise factor, Kat and I are going to be working on a video for one of the songs off the Zak Claxton album, and we're putting a lot more planning and effort into this one than we did with our previous videos. Stay tuned.

Say what you will about American professional football. It's barbaric (sure). It's corporate-sponsored bullshit (absolutely). It's homoerotic (ooh, big guys in tights!). But I will shrug all of that off and tell you that I love when the football season gets rolling. Hell, I love all of it: the games, the pools, the endless analysis. I love adding ESPN's NFL scoreboard back to my browser's bookmarks. I love finding an extra hour to pore through Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column on Tuesday mornings. I love the history of the game. I love the veterans trying to eek out another meaningful season; I love the talented rookies making names for themselves. I even love watching my woeful Oakland Raiders, even though they have an offensive line that a group of kindergartners could seemingly stroll though without much effort.

Yep, I love it all, and I'm excited it's back. Go Raiders! You suck, but I don't care!

Keep those cleats in good shape, Jason. You'll be doing a lot of running this year.

Music Recording!
Sigh. Here's what I'm going to say about this topic: I have songs to record. I have a great place to record them. I have great people to work with... musicians, engineers, and so on. But for the past four months, we have simply been unable to get our shit together and get back to Sound Sanctuary to work on new stuff. Well, all I'm going to say is that there's no way I'm going to let these new tunes languish and fester in my brain; they need to get recorded, and they will. As soon as we actually set up a date where my musical cohorts and I can all be in the studio at the same time, I'll let you know.

See how happy I am in the studio? It's time to get back.

Yeah, I know, I know. "But Zak, you hate traveling!" Wrong. I hate being forced to travel to places I don't want to go, and for reasons that don't involve my choice. But in the next two months, I have one trip planned and another that's on the "maybe" list, and I find I'm looking forward to them both.

First, my darling Kat and I are soon taking a weekend excursion out to Joshua Tree National Park. "Joshua Tree" is more than the name of a U2 album; it's a huge expanse of beautiful desert in the eastern part of Southern California. It's only a couple hours drive from here, but it might as well be on a different planet. Kat and I are planning on several activities during our brief visit. We're taking my still-new telescope with us for some desert star gazing away from the light pollution of Los Angeles. We're planning some short desert hikes where we can enjoy nature and take some cool photos. I'm also taking the cheap guitar with me, just in case I get some musical inspiration while in this unique environment. All in all, it should be way cool.

The Southern California desert has a beauty that's different than anywhere else in the world.

Later in the fall, there's a trade show that I'll likely attend. As much as you've heard me whine about hating trade shows in the past, this one still brings me some enjoyment. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) show is back in San Francisco this year, and while I have legitimate business reasons to attend, it's also a good excuse to take Kat up to the Bay Area again, something we haven't done since our first face-to-face meeting back in early 2006. So, while the plan isn't set in stone yet, it's likely that we'll take a weekend and enjoy the food, culture, and sights of that city soon enough.

It really is a great city. Looking forward to going back again.

We'll end this note with a nod to my absolute favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Regardless of anything else going on, I am committed to hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my home, which means I get to cook. And yes, I really like cooking, especially when navigating the intricacies of a full thanksgiving feast. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams, cranberry sauce, bread rolls, and so on. Not only do I enjoy cooking it, but I love serving it, eating it, and pigging out on leftovers for the rest of the weekend.

Thanksgiving is great because you don't have the pressure you get at Christmas. No malls, no buying presents you can't afford, no rush to return stuff shortly thereafter. I cook, I eat, I'm done. By the following Monday it's all a distant memory, and I throw out whatever remains in those Tupperware containers in my fridge. Still, it's something I look forward to every year, and especially since I've decided to hold the meal here for whoever wants to come, there's an even higher level of anticipation this time around.

How can anyone not love Thanksgiving?

Well... I wasn't planning on writing a small novel when I started this. But you only acknowledge new seasons four times a year, and Fall and I have this interesting relationship. I like having these plans, and hopefully a good portion of them will actually happen. No promises, but I think Fall and I are going to have a fine time over the next few months.

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