Saturday, November 24, 2018

Zak's Autumn Playlist 2018 - Episode 10

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now we're in the midst of that weird weekend where you've been eating for a couple of days, and society is telling you that you should be shopping or something. It seems quieter than usual for a Saturday morning. It's barely a week until December, somehow. Getting out of this bathrobe and into the shower feels like a chore, so why not delay that task and just drink coffee and post another five songs that have the feel of fall? Enjoy... just three weeks left until winter is upon us.

EP 1EP 2EP 3EP 4EP 5EP 6EP 7 • EP 8EP 9

1. Vince Guaraldi: “Happiness Is” (1964)

2. Jim Croce: “Time In a Bottle” (1972)

3. Gravenhurst: “The Diver” (2003)

4. Beck: “Turn Away” (2014)

5. C Duncan: “For (Autumn Rebuild)” (2015)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Serenity Gardens (11.19.18)

Throwing down the sweet rocking vibes at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

There's something I briefly mentioned not long ago in regard to my bi-weekly Monday evening shows at Serenity Gardens in Second Life: during the fall and winter, I am in direct competition from an entertainment standpoint to one of the USA's most powerful entities: the National Football League. Don't laugh; it's 100% true. Since debuting in 1970, MNF has been one of the highest-rated prime time programs on television. So, for my shows between September and January, I am fully aware that a certain percentage of people want to get home from work, put their feet up, and watch the game.

Do I blame them? Hell no! I've been a football fan since I was a little kid. I participate every year in football pools, and spend plenty of time discussing the sport with like-minded friends (I'm looking at you, Jess Smith, whom Christina calls my "football wife" due to our steady stream of NFL-related chats, often on Sundays). I've heard people say that folks who would be likely to be in Second Life aren't usually football fans. Guess what? That's not true. Like any cross-segment of the population, some are, and some aren't. So I am perfectly fine with accepting that some folks will want to watch the game instead of listening to me do live music, and that is perfectly fine.

Do I expect that more people will be interested in my little live music show than perhaps the best football game ever? No. No, I don't. Rams/Chiefs photo via Sports Illustrated.

The Attention Battle
As a performer of any sort, you are constantly in a battle for people's time and attention. Even among the segment of people who might really like my music, not everyone feels like sitting in front of a computer at all moments of their day. People like to read, spend time with their loved ones, watch TV, play video games, exercise, travel, go out to eat, and do creative stuff of their own. Also, even if you narrow the focus down to "people who happen to be in SL on a Monday night", I'm not the only musical performer playing shows at my time slot, and people might very well choose to see another show... or to build, or to socialize, or do things other than be at my show.

All of that is fine. I am not the type of person who views it as a competition. Whatever folks want to do is cool with me, and if they choose to check out my show and enjoy themselves, all the better. But not checking out my show is cool too. Do what you feel like doing! Life's too short to spend your free time doing things you don't really feel like doing. I'm always glad when people come to my show, because that means they chose to see me out of literally thousands of other things they could do at that moment. It's quite flattering, no matter if it's nine people or 90.

Me, in a sweater for some reason. Photo by Kat.

One thing (of many) that I admire about Serenity Gardens: Ilsa always changes up the decor to match the season, and the place always looks lovely. Photo by Kat.

Why Are You Writing About This?
Why am I writing about this? Because last night, as I strummed and sang for the folks at Serenity Gardens, there was what might be the most epic Monday Night Football game in history going on at the same time. If you haven't heard (or, in some cases, don't care), the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs went into the game as two of the top teams in football, both with 9-1 records. Everyone knew going in that this highly-anticipated game would be big, but few would have predicted it would end up being the highest-scoring game in MNF history, with a combined point total of 105 points (the Rams, perhaps due to home field advantage, ended up beating the Chiefs 54-51 in a hard-fought battle). Some people as of this morning are already calling it one of the greatest NFL games ever played.

I guess the reason I'm mentioning this is as follows: no matter what it is that you like to do, I never want anyone who comes to my shows to feel obligated to do so. If you have something else going on that you really enjoy, or some special event, or whatever... I will never be upset or annoyed that you don't come to every one of my shows! From time to time, I have people contact me to tell me that they had to miss the show for some reason or another, and that's nice of them to do so. But be aware: there has never, and never will be, a time that your presence at my show is an obligation. I won't be hurt by your absence. Quite the opposite: I'm grateful for each show you attend, whether it's every time or a few times a year. But it's never mandatory, and if there's something else going on that you feel like doing while I'm playing music, do that thing, and come to another show when you feel like hanging with me. It's all good, and I'll be happy to see you whenever you come around again.

I'm always happy for each and every person who takes the time to hang at my shows. Photo by Kat.

The Show
Ah yes, the show. It was a good one! I was in a somewhat silly mood, probably because my previous show was a bit more serious. We had a nice crowd at Serenity Gardens, and folks seemed to be enjoying my musical antics. I did manage to get one previously-unperformed cover song into the set, which was fun, along with a few rarities from my repertoire. My voice and guitar were both, for the most part, doing what I wanted them to do, which is always a bonus.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
I’ve Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Rocket Man (Elton John)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
The Arrangement (Joni Mitchell)
Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
*You Wreck Me (Tom Petty)
Box by the Cliff (They Stole My Crayon)
Everlong (Foo Fighters)
Long Time Gone (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Big thanks to the folks who weren't watching the game while I was rocking... especially the following who helped support the show!
Asimia Heron, Kat Chauveau, go2smoky Resident, Trouble Streeter, Eli Schlegal, Kat Claxton, Tyche Szondi, TheaDee Resident, my fine manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Lutz City of Templemore (11.16.18)

Templemore is back, and I loved being up on that magical stage once again. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

It wasn't very long ago, maybe a month or two ago, that I noticed some cryptic photos posted on the Facebook page of my friend Luis Gonzales (aka Luis Lockjaw in Second Life). I didn't want to get my hopes up, but it seemed that he was doing a rebuild of his famous Templemore sim, an environment and live music venue that has been one of my personal favorites in all of SL for many years.

Templemore has opened and closed a few times, and I've never pressed Luis for the reasons why. I've gotten the idea that he's run into mental and emotional burnout at times. I also know Luis' real-life work keeps him extraordinarily busy, and the time and effort he puts into the place can probably be overwhelming. I will say -- as I've noted many times in this blog -- that his artistry as a designer of virtual environments is right there at the top, placing him among the best at this unique art form.

Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Anyway, as Luis continued posting pics, I was excited that Templemore was seemingly headed for another reboot. I wasn't even thinking about the possibility of performing there; I was just stoked that it was coming back. Then one day a couple of weeks ago, I glanced at my live show calendar that's maintained by my manager Maali Beck, and there, on Friday November 16, was a listing that said "Lutz City of Templemore Grand Opening". I understood right away that the new Templemore was a dedication to Garrett Lutz, a friend who passed away from ALS in August of 2017 -- I wrote about it at the time. At that moment, I knew I had to plan something special for this show.

I think two things happened when planning for this show. First was the selection of my set list. Garrett had been literally the only person in SL who seemed to be aware of Sun Kil Moon, an indie band I loved and covered occasionally. I purposely did a mini-set list of Sun Kil Moon songs just for Garrett, which -- at the opening night of a sim dedicated to his memory -- seemed to be entirely appropriate. Second was the posting of the artist lineup for the night; in addition to me, there was Anidia Huet, Gravey Jones, and Sassy Nitely (who, with the onset of a bout of pneumonia which I'm happy to say she seems to be recovering from, was replaced by the also-excellent Toxie Darkmatter). All of these people are super talented in their own unique ways, and being on a bill with them was inspiring for me to make sure I did as good a show as I'm capable of doing.

Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

One other note... while Templemore is always a feast for the eyes, it's also a beast of a sim with tons of detailed textures, and I probably should have dialed back my own graphics settings before doing the show. I managed to not crash during my performance, which is good, but just getting my ass out to the stage was a nearly impossible task. I will tell you, it's totally worthwhile for the splendor and beauty of Templemore's design. I just had a couple of freak-out moments before my show when my streaming software was like, "Hmm, your computer seems pretty busy right now, so I'll just take about ten minutes to launch while the seconds are ticking down to the start of your show."

I took a quick screen cap while peeking out from backstage during Anidia's set...

... and made it through all four shows before this happened as I left to TP home.

Lutz City of Templemore set list...
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
So. Central Rain (R.E.M.)
If I Had a Tail (Queens of the Stone Age)
The Waiting Boy (Zak Claxton)
One of These Things First (Nick Drake)
*Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
Bull Black Nova (Wilco)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Huge thanks to every person who came to the opening of Lutz City of Templemore last night, with special thanks to the generous folks who supported my show!
GraveyJones Resident, bblbabe Resident, Luis Lockjaw, Lunette Kyomoon, Asimia Heron, JimmySkat Canucci, Gideon McMillan, Lyxz Delicioso, J453A13x Resident, Tyche Szondi, Alex Zelin, Aurelie Chenaux, BrynnLynn Resident, my awesome manager Maali Beck, Templemore hostess Bee Blackrain, and the astoundingly talented dude who makes Templemore happen, Luis Lockjaw!

Zak's Autumn Playlist 2018 - Episode 9

It's already the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This season has been jamming along. The world is crazy, but at least my state is less on fire than it's been in recent weeks, and things seem to be settling down a bit after the Midterm elections. It's a nice weekend to chill and listen to some music. This week's selections aren't all in a traditional Fall vibe, but there's still an element of melancholia and introspection even in the harder-edged stuff. As usual, all five songs are presented in chronological order. Enjoy.

EP 1EP 2EP 3EP 4EP 5EP 6EP 7 • EP 8

1. Carole King: “So Far Away” (1971)

2. Nirvana: “Pennyroyal Tea” (1993)

3. Broken Bells: “The High Road” (2010)

4. Mac DeMarco: “Treat Her Better” (2014)

5. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: “Over Everything” (2017)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Zak's Autumn Playlist 2018 - Episode 8

It feel like a month has gone by since last Saturday morning when I posted the previous episode of my Autumn Playlist. If you look at all the things that have transpired since then, it almost seems impossible that only seven days have passed. Nevertheless, here we are, on a Saturday morning where the rising sun is tinted bright red via smoke from the still-raging fires here in Southern California. Hopefully this playlist will bring some mellow and introspective vibes to all who listen. Each week throughout Fall, you get five songs in chronological order that have, for me, the feel of the season. Here's Episode 8.

EP 1EP 2EP 3EP 4EP 5EP 6EP 7

1. Elton John: “Your Song” (1970)

2. Desertshore: “The Town Alight” (1994)

3. Yo La Tango: “Our Way to Fall” (2000)

4. Junip: “Don't Let It Pass” (2010)

5. Joanna Newsom: “Sapokanikan" (2015)

Friday, November 9, 2018

"Nobody Is Above the Law" Protest in Torrance, CA (11.08.18)

This week has been, in a word, brutal.

Don't get me wrong; the blue wave that drove this year's Midterm Elections was fantastic, and the positive results are still flowing in. But despite the overwhelmingly positive outcome, the stress of leading up to election day and the intensity of following dozens and dozens of local, state, and federal races on Tuesday and throughout the week absolutely took its toll. Add to that yet another mass shooting here in Southern California, immediately followed by massive fires that drove many of my friends and their families from their homes, made it a tough week to get through. I mentioned to someone today that Monday seems like a month ago, and I meant it.

In the midst of all that, on Wednesday November 7, the morning after the elections, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign by the president. It wasn't entirely unexpected; if you've been following along, you were aware that staff changes were going to happen as soon as the Midterms were over. But another aspect of that firing/resignation was that the president put in an acting attorney general named Matt Whitaker. It is still very much in dispute as to whether Whitaker can legally act as AG, but one thing is clear: his conflict of interest places the Robert Mueller investigation of meddling in the 2016 election in jeopardy.

Christina and I feeling good about doing our duty to stand up for what's right.

Fortunately, this specific occasion was one for which we've been prepared for a long time... "we" being members of various action groups across the USA. Christina and I had signed up months ago for alerts in this regard, and now that the occasion to protest had indeed arrived, we were ready to mobilize on the spot. It's really incredible, if you think about it, that thousands and thousands of people in cities across the country would be willing to drop everything they were doing on a random Thursday evening with little notice, and get out into the streets to make our voices heard.

Rachel Maddow covers the nationwide protests on November 8, 2018.

On a side note, I frankly never thought I'd be in a position to be forced to give my support to public protests like the ones we've done in 2018. Last night's #ProtectMueller protest event was the third such one we've involved ourselves in this year, after the March For Our Lives rally in March and the Families Belong Together event in June. Do I think these things make a difference? Yes, and the more I've had direct involvement, the more I see how effective they are. The city of Torrance, where last night's event was held, has a somewhat conservative side compared to many local areas here in Southern California. However, I saw zero counter-protesters, and the number of attendees (over 400) and the cars driving by and honking to chow support both indicated to me that the prevailing feeling we shared was mutual among a good chunk of the community at large.

All we knew by way of instruction was that we'd be gathering on the northwest cover of Hawthorne and Sepulveda, near Del Amo Mall. We could see that there were a lot of people who'd RSVP'ed for the event, which wasn't very surprising; the location was central to residents of Torrance, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes, and other South Bay cities. But you really never know what kind of turnout an event like this one would get until you get there, and while we arrived a few minutes before the start time of 5PM, there were already over a hundred people set up along Hawthorne Boulevard as we pulled up. The crowd swelled immediately after we got out of the Jeep and joined the action.

Some of the Indivisible team at the Torrance protest. Photo by Christina.

Roughly 400 people came out in our little suburban area at a moment's notice to protest the danger to the Mueller Probe. Photo by Christina.

Was this what I felt like doing at that moment? No. Hell no. I'd greatly prefer living in a world where protest wasn't necessary. I'd have rather spent my Thursday evening after a hellacious week relaxing at home. But am I glad I did it? Yes. Hell yes. And I can promise you that there are many other similar events planned across the US should certain circumstances call for them. I believe the movements against the immoral and often illegal actions of the president and his administration are really only gathering steam at the moment, and no matter where you are, you should count on seeing this kind of thing more and more over the next couple of years, if not longer.

And I'll be there supporting them. Count on that.

Protesters stretched as far as the eye could see along Hawthorne Boulevard. Photo by Twitter user @Betsy_Boyz.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Serenity Gardens (11.05.18)

I'm back! And so is my happy crowd at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

The more sharp-eyed among you might have noticed that it's been about a month since I last wrote a report from one of my live shows. There's a reason for that.

I was scheduled to play my bi-weekly show at Serenity Gardens in Second Life on Monday October 22, but the moment I launched into my first song, it became very obvious that something was dreadfully wrong. "Something's wrong with the sound" are nearly the worst words that any virtual world or other remote performer can hear, second only to no sound coming out at all. I tried every way I knew to fix what was wrong, and frankly, we never did really determine why on that night, instead of my glistening guitar and mellifluous voice coming through folks' headphones and speakers, the tinny sound of a sad robot had somehow replaced me. After trying in vain to make it work -- and a very kind audience who hung out for some 20 minutes -- I had to admit that the show doesn't always go on. It was, to put it mildly, a massive bummer.

The following weekend, we tried some tests with my audio system, with the stream, and the same thing was happening. It became worrisome that something major was broken and that it might have ended up being an extended time before I was able to perform in the virtual world again. Finally, it was just last Saturday that I went through all of my system preferences, reset some data and audio cables, and more, and voila... we tested again and things seemed normal. That having been said, it was still a bit of a question mark until the beginning of last night's show, when I strummed a chord and the audience let me know that things were back to normal. Halle-fucking-lujah! I was so happy just to be able to be heard normally that my mood skyrocketed and the subsequent show was full of energy and positive vibes.

And Now, A Brief Interlude
I'm writing this post at 7AM on the morning of November 6, 2018. As most of my friends/fans/fam know, I have been an ardent supporter of causes that all seem to be in direct opposition to the current Republican administration. Despite all the polls and pundits, I really have no idea what the outcome of today's Midterm Elections will be. I will say only this: I am so very happy that all signs point to a very engaged populace who will likely shatter voting numbers for a non-presidential election year. I am hopeful that the results will be a positive step for the USA, but regardless of what ends up happening, I will always remain a fighter for what I know in my heart to be right, and will continue to support people who are marginalized in our world, and do what I can to protect the environment. It's going to be a pretty tense day for just about everyone, so I advise a) voting and b) remaining calm and focused on the end goal.

And Now, Back to the Show
For some reason, I was pretty convinced that we'd have a really small crowd at Serenity Gardens. A few friends had already indicated they wouldn't be able to make it there, and since it had been four weeks since my previous show, there's always a concern that she folks would find better things to do on a Monday night. I mean, I'm literally competing with the National Football League with shows on Monday evenings in the fall. But I was wrong; we had a large and happy crowd right from the start, and everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I did. I also whipped out a couple of tunes I'd never played before, and pulled out a couple that have been rarities in my set list.

Rocking and rolling the Zaksters. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Tyche Szondi seemed to think the song "Pecan Pie" may have been about something beyond a simple delicious dessert. My fans have dirty minds. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
*Pecan Pie (Golden Smog)
Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
*Boys in the Trees (Carly Simon)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Texarkana (R.E.M.)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Gigantic thanks to all who came out to the show, with special super thanks to the following who helped support it!
Galen Bookmite, Richy Nervous, Turn Pike, hynesyte Harbour, go2smoky Resident, Asimia Heron, Cordelia Cerise, Kat Chauveau, Jamerson Knoller, Aurelie Chenaux, Tyche Szondi, my great manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Zak Claxton Endorses -- Part 2/2 -- Midterm Elections 2018 (House of Representatives, Senate, Governor Races)

While Part 1 of my endorsement report dealt with only the candidates and issues that were on my ballot here in Los Angeles County, CA, the list below is quite different. All of these are Democratic candidates in various areas across the USA in three major positions of government -- the House of Representatives, the Senate, and state Governorships -- who I feel have a potential for victory on Tuesday if enough people get out and vote. Some of these candidates may seem like a sure thing; some are admittedly somewhat long shots (but that can still mean they're within the margin of error with current polling techniques).

Regardless, I ONLY included candidates on this list who I feel have a completely realistic, legitimate chance of winning. Are there other candidates in tight races who could win (or not) who aren't on my list? 100% absolutely yes. I also may have easily overlooked some races in my research -- I'm not an expert at this stuff by any means. In any case, a) please, please, please vote on Tuesday, if you haven't done so already and b) take a look through the list below and if your area is included, be aware that your vote matters even more than I can possibly impart to you. Grab some friends in these last two days before the election and spread the word! Feel free to comment below. Zak also endorses free speech.


AK At Large: Alyse S. Galvin

AR-2: Clarke Tucker

AZ-2: Ann Kirkpatrick
AZ-8: Hiral Tipirneni

CA-10: Josh Harder
CA-25: Katie Hill
CA-39: Gil Cisneros
CA-45: Katie Porter
CA-48: Harley Rouda
CA-49: Mike Levin
CA-50: Ammar Campa-Najjar

CO-6: Jason Crow

FL-15: Kristen Carlson
FL-25:P Mary Barzee Flores
FL-26: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
FL-27: Donna Shalala

GA-6: Lucy McBath
GA-7: Carolyn Bourdeaux

IA-3: Cindy Axne

IL-6: Sean Casten
IL-12: Brendan Kelly
IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan
IL-14: Lauren Underwood

KS-2: Paul Davis
KS-3: Sharice Davids

KY-6: Amy McGrath

ME-2: Jared Golden

MI-7: Gretchen Driskell
MI-8: Elissa Slotkin
MI-11: Haley Stevens

MN-1: Dan Feehan
MN-2: Angie Craig
MN-3: Dean Phillips
MN-8: Joe Radinovich

MT At Large: Kathleen Williams

NB-2: Kara Eastman

NC-9: Dan McCready
NC-13: Kathy Manning

NH-1: Chris Pappas

NJ-3: Andy Kim
NJ-7: Tom Malinowski
NJ-11: Mikie Sherrill

NM-2: Xochitl Torres Small

NV-3: Susie Lee
NV-4: Steven Horsford

NY-2: Liuba Grechen Shirley
NY-19: Antonio Delgado
NY-22: Anthony Brindisi

OH-12: Danny O’Connor

OK-5: Kendra Horn

OR-5: Kurt Schrader

PA-1: Scott Wallace
PA-7: Susan Wild

TX-7: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher
TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones
TX-32: Colin Allred

UT-4: Ben McAdams

VA-2: Elaine Luria
VA-5: Leslie Cockburn
VA-7: Abigail Spanberger
VA-10: Jennifer Wexton

WA-8: Kim Schrier

WI-1: Randy Bryce
WI-6: Dan Kohl


FL: Bill Nelson
IN: Joe Donnelly
MI: Debbie Stabenow
MO: Claire McCaskill
MS: Mike Espy
MT: Jon Tester
MN: Tina Smith
OH: Sherrod Brown
ND: Heidi Heitkamp
NJ: Robert Menendez
NV: Jacky Rosen
TN: Phil Bredesen
TX: Beto O’Rourke
VA: Tim Kaine
WV: Joe Manchin


CO: Jared Polis
CT: Ned Lamont
FL: Andrew Gillum
GA: Stacey Abrams
IA: Fred Hubbell
IL: JB Pritzker
KS: Laura Kelly
ME: Janet Mills
MI: Gretchen Whitmer
MN: Tim Walz
NH: Molly Kelly
NM: Michelle Lujan Grisham
NV: Steve Sisolak
OH: Richard Cordray
OK: Drew Edmondson
OR: Kate Brown
SD: Billie Sutton
WI: Tony Evers
VT: Christine Hallquist

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Zak's Autumn Playlist 2018 - Episode 7

What makes a Fall song? Sometimes it's purely the musical vibe, with Fall sounds being a little slower, quieter and more introspective than the other three seasons. Sometimes, though, it's just some association with the time of year, and that can vary a lot from person to person. Anyway, here's Episode 7 of my personal Autumn Playlist, with five songs presented in chronological order each week of the season. Enjoy!

EP 1EP 2EP 3EP 4EP 5EP 6

1. Fred Rogers: “You Are Special” (1968)

2. R.E.M: “E-Bow the Letter” (1996)

3. Cat Power: “Say” (1998)

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” (2013)

5. Robyn Hitchcock: “Autumn Sunglasses” (2017)