musical washboards, rhythm bones, t-shirt designs, Swamp Train & the blues...

Articles have been tagged as musings

Swamp Train - King Bee - Slim Harpo (cover)

15 August 2011, 17:37

From last Saterday’s gig on the beach.

It’s often hard to get the members of a band to get organized for stuff like taking pictures and videos, and we (Swamp train) are no exception. So you kind of have to do it yourself if you want to make sure someone does. And since a new camcorder is a bit too pricey for me at the moment I decided to get my old digital 8 machine out of the closet for last Saturday…

What happened is that I have/had Premier 6.5 but as many, when I moved from XP to 7 (64bit) last year I omitted to check compatibility and was never able to install it. Plus, as usual, with all the new formats coming out, doubt that it would be that useful anymore. Buying Premier Pro CS5 is out of the question, Adobe is one of those companies that think that all folk in swissland are rich, why not have them pay more? All their products are 30 to 40% more expensive than in the States, even for the English version. They tell you that it’s because they need to translate and adapt the program… Bullshit! So I ended up taking whatever videos I could get from my friends, splice and format them with a video converter program (I’m using Aunsoft Blu-ray Video Converter Ultimate) which works ok if you don’t need elaborate effects or titles and such.

However last month when I made the animation for Back To My Lady (using Xara Designer Pro 7) and assemble it all with windows live movie maker as I mention in that post, I decided I needed to film the band more however which way and get something better to edit with…

So Saturday morning I charged up my old handycam and made sure it still worked. Also I have a zoom microphone for it that I never used because it seemed to always add a lot of hum but it’s been a while so I decided to check that as well. Since the lady of the house was napping, I let the faucet drizzle in the kitchen sink and made a few tests. It does seem to add hum but perhaps that was because I was so close to the water drops and the metal sink would resonate the machine’s noise… not conclusive but I didn’t want to spend hours on it either, you know how it is…
All that to point out that I focused the camera on the sink, a mere foot away, and forgot to adjust the focus when I quickly set the camera up on the tripod before playing, so everything I filmed that evening is somewhat blurry. :P

I can’t say I chose the best angle either, it was more convenience than anything else. And I forgot to turn it on for the first set and the battery lasted 13min into the third (we played for about three hours)… which is too bad since I had moved it to a better angle; but that’s the way it is plus it would have been blurry too. In any case yesterday I downloaded CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64 and was able to sharpen it up and play with a just few of that program’s numerous possibilities and made the above. Great program for the price! Hope you like it! (the video) :P

PS: This is one of the rare tunes we play in which I don’t use the washboard and pretend to be a drummer… ;-)


Concert, Videos


When You Run Out Of Green...

1 February 2011, 18:37

…Use Blue!

Or in my case: when you run out of canvas (and can’t afford buying more) use paper (which fortunately I still have drawerfuls of)!




As the suspense thickens...

25 July 2007, 21:36

carrotsThe windows in my apartment where changed today from 125 year old wooden things that we barely dare to touch anymore because they where falling apart in every way possible, to white plastic double glass panes that hopefully will do a better job at keeping out the cold. Ugly but efficient as opposed to rotten with a history I guess.

However when I look at the silicone they have put around the edges, between the crumbling old damp stone and the plastic, I do not see 100 years of faithful service. But that is not my problem so why be bothered, back to pealing carrots and potatoes, a pleasant task, lets your mind wander.

Gluing little squares of paper onto a piece of canvas is like that too. And while doing just that today, I ended up considering how often you can be turned on to a work of art, literature or the likes by another person, friend or not, although it helps. And this made me consider how and why our perception of art is being modified by today culture of the masses. An old story of course, and yet always new if you want to be romantic about it.
Although it seems that we have relatively rapidly (200 odd years? that’s fast enough for me…) gone from a situation where art was imposed by the ruling powers, often a church, to an elitist consumer hype oriented market. It seems to me that the real culprit for the lack of brilliancy found in todays art is mostly due to technology. I know, I hear you laugh, perhaps rightly. After all, isn’t technology, progress, globalisation, etc, a convenient scapegoat for many things? I was, however thinking of a byproduct of it: reference.

To put it simply, before photography you had to rely on memory, sketches, an occasional copy and written descriptions to keep an art work “with you”. Now you open a book or search the web.
Before recordings, the only way to hear music was to have someone play it. Now we are neck deep in reference recordings, often superb; unforgettable!

Yet forget we must to truly assimilate and go beyond.




Either you like it or you don't

20 July 2007, 21:29

One of the more arresting things about being an artist is surviving the way people consider it as an activity. What other occupation gets you “and do you live from it?” as a sequel to “what do you do?”. OK, sometimes you get the “what type of art” question in between but either way: say no and your inquisitor usually beams with righteous justice, say yes and visibly you’ve sold out.

Yes, yes, that’s a bit of an stereotyped exaggeration but it was fun to write and has a ring of truth…

In any case in the real world, as opposed to the art world, it almost always makes people project all their images of flakiness, weirdness and irrationality on you. Which is kind of funny since generally artists are just like you and me, often pretty narrow minded, believing in the truth of what they believe, not much fantasy, lots of wishful thinking… But anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about.

Either you like it or you don’t, in art everyone is an expert. It’s rare that someone considers that the many hours spent working (yes, making art=work) can actually help you become a better artist and make better work. You can’t prove it, there is no diploma, a work of art is not like a bridge or a building or a mathematical formula.
Art doesn’t even need to do anything or make sense, it just is, and don’t you wish that was true? Because it isn’t – and yet that can depend on how you perceive it.


Art, Musings


Bumblebees and Butterflies

16 June 2007, 22:15

Bill, me and Dave at The RefugeYesterday I went for a nice long walk to get over my fatigue from Friday night’s fun. Much of it was spent chasing bumble bees and butterflies with my camera, a somewhat Zen activity which I find to be relaxing. Zen because with digital technology, you can focus and follow the insect with the little screen which means that you have both your viewpoint and the camera’s. This gives a feeling of being very much in touch with it, which is one of those odd things.

The bumblebees are relatively easy subjects, meaning that getting pictures of them is not hard. Getting a good one is mostly a matter of luck as far as I’m concerned. The delay between taking the picture and the actual moment the camera takes the picture is big enough that if the bug flies away, it’s gone.Bill, me and Dave at The Refuge

The butterflies are difficult, all the more if there is a good wind like there was yesterday. Unlike the bumblebees who don’t seem to pay much attention to what is going on around them, they remain on their guards and easily take off when you get too close. Then the wind catches them and blows them far away.
Remaining calm and moving slowly seems the best/only way to get a decent shot unless it is trapped in the grass like this one.




Primp your washboard

17 April 2007, 22:08

Closeup of my washboardYou know the word Pimp, now being used for just about anything, well yes it's cool and all that, sure.., right. And it is interesting to follow how words have their meanings change over the years and all that.


The way we perceive the world has a lot to do with the way we project ourselves on it. So when we start using words to mean their antonym, or, as in the case of pimp, to describe a value that is a colorful take on a concept, we change the way we understand that word and our perception of it and what it represents is modified. For good or bad? Depends, the issue is more in ones being aware of that process and to act in accordance with your ethics.

The way pimp is used to describe something that is decorated or embellished, is actually pretty funny. But since it’s apparently based on Hollywood’s characterized extravagant young man in furs, it has nothing to do with the sex slavery we can find in most cities nowadays. Do we really want to buy into that image?

I’ve decided to prefer the word Primp, not quite as cool but funny in its own way, and as promised in yesterdays post have put some pictures of my magnetized, primped up board.

Don’t hesitate to comment if you have another suggestion, or think primp has issues.


Washboard, Musings


PoMo Creolization

6 April 2007, 22:46

… Shirky describes this generational shift in terms of pidgin versus Creole. “Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.” …

The above quote is from: Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll -- New York Magazine", an interesting article by Emily Nussbaum

I can’t help but wonder to what extent there is a parallel here with today’s art. Could one argue that art is the Creolization of all former “art” languages, both traditional and not? Does the question make sense? Has it always been? (It could certainly be formulated in a better way).

I guess the fact that there was/is no “official” (art history approved) state of “pidgin art” is what makes it just artsy nonsense, and yet it makes my hair tingle. Usually a sign that there is something to consider nevertheless, even if I’m missing it.
Perhaps the argument should be that PoMo IS a state of “pidgin art” and that one could “wish for” its Creolization.

If you follow that idea and look for a parallel with the “Internet Kids” article then what? Besides feeling old… ;-)


Art Browsing,


We are all photographers now

28 March 2007, 22:41

Just before going to S.F. the local press was talking about the “tous photographes!” (we are all photographers now) show at Lausanne's Musée de l’Elysée. An exhibition that shows us how digital technology has changed the art of photography and one in which you can participate in as well (maybe) by uploading your images here.

And the New York Times published an article about the exhibition just before I came home, so it followed me enough to take note although I have yet to see the show.

One of the works that has received the most attention by the press is the video by N.Y. based photographer Noah Kalina: “everyday”. A somewhat boring six minute assemblage of 2,356 daily self-portraits shots.

I quote from the NY Times: “But what makes “everyday” truly exceptional is how easy it was to make and how quickly it attracted a huge audience, said William A. Ewing, director of the Musée de l’Elysée, who selected it for the exhibition.”

Taking a picture of yourself for seven years may not be as easy as all that for most of us. Plus, assuming it takes at least a minute to find the camera and take and download the picture of the day, the artist has spent at least 39 hours, or almost two whole days, to create his work.

It could be said that time is the enemy of all but the best of art. Yet ironically(?), time is what most people never seem to have enough of…;-)


Art Browsing, Musings


Browsing with my feet

15 March 2007, 22:03

San Francisco is such a nice city to wander about in that visiting the gallery scene should be a real pleasure. Which it is of course, although I have to say – old fart me – that I would expect a lot more excitement from a city renown for it’s counter-cultural history. I was told a few times that L.A. is where it is happening, almost could of seemed like sort of a local “what can we do” background color. It’s all attitude down there, they say, don’t give a hoot about N.Y. no reason to be like them, or anyone else, different culture, different savor, do it their own way.

That certainly sounds good, so what’s up here?

I can’t help but think of wine. 20 years ago California wine had a very specific taste, not always great but still, you could taste California in it. Now you get these wines that all seem to be made the same way and although the overall quality is better, the character is disappearing. You would be hard pressed to say whether it was from France, South Africa, CA. or the Czech Republic.

Are generic supermarket products really what we want? Not really all that thrilling but safe, undemanding and easier to sell? To this tourist, many of the cloth designs in shops on Haight street were just as exciting, if not more than, much of the stuff found in the downtown galleries, but perhaps that’s the hitch, downtown. Or maybe it’s just jet-lag and too much sun, whatever, today I’ll wander elsewhere.


Art, Musings


Mushrooms, soy noodles and soap?

3 March 2007, 17:03

In an attempt to avoid putting to much junk down the drain I have gotten into the habit of washing my brushes and stuff in a little water filled pail which, when it gets too disgusting, is poured into an old container or can; whatever is convenient. Depending on the season and the humidity level, either the water evaporates and I can put the residue in the trash bin, or the whole thing starts to rot and stink. Which of course raises the internal, eternal(?) debate of self comfort versus idealism.

A few years ago my “mixture” rotted, dried up, rotted some more, dried up again and really became beautiful both in color and texture. I made a silicon mold ;-) of it with the thought of making a little bronze relief souvenir,.. or something, which I sadly admit, I have yet to do.

All that to not explain my basic happiness at looking at the pictures from we make money not art‘s post about Michel Blaz’s Post Patman installation at the Palais de Tokyo. Hope I can make it there in April!


Art Browsing, Musings


TV Torture

23 February 2007, 16:56

Has anyone noticed how before 9-11, there was this TV series and movie trend for plots taking place in a sort of post trauma environment? Everyone out in the dark streets, standing around fires burning in big 55 gallon oil drums, shabby overcoats, gloves with cut off fingers, everything black, dark and grey…. Torn apart factories in the background. The hero a half machine of some sort or a mutant escapee of a secrete military experiment… Like Hollywood was preparing us for a big hecatomb of a future, only the strongest will survive, that type of shit.

And how all that is now being replaced by these super hero patriot cop/agents who will torture if needed to get the info; at least those who don’t have super psychic powers… Like if the producers were doing there best to get us to think this is normal.

Well it isn’t and shouldn’t be either!

Human Rights First has listed the news coverage on this. So do your future a favor and take action.




Is process a distance?

22 February 2007, 16:18

I’ve been thinking about the notion of actually moving “forward” in art and the metaphor that keeps appearing in my mind is a carrot on a stick. Which is not to say that I don’t have any carrots, I certainly do and follow them salivating. But in order to be going forward with my artwork, I would need to measure that process as a distance which I have yet to figure out how to do.

a) So is time a motion?
b) So is this passing bit of abstractness a door that opens onto a blank stare or friendly pat on the back (poor thing)?
c) So… (your comment here)


Art, Musings

Comment [2]

As I fell asleep last night,

17 February 2007, 16:13

I though: To hear music you play a Mp3 file, CD or even better, a LP, and if you want a whole lot better than that; you go to a concert! But it was the fact that music “is” only while it is played that caught my attention, and yet that isn’t true because you can hear it in your head at other moments.

Which led to the following: I’ve always kind of assumed that art works, by their physical status as objects were in a different category of stimulation. Yet there I was in the dark with all these art works in my head. In fact, like many musical pieces that I know only through recordings and will probably never hear live, there are lots of art works that I have only seen in reproductions. Yet I carry them with me and, to be cheesy and romantic about it, they exist in my heart.

Anyway, it seemed more interesting then than this morning.


Art, Music

Comment [2]

Just another post of artsy fartsy gibberish...

15 February 2007, 18:26

My current dilemma is truly accepting the fact that perception is almost pure projection. I believe, because I have experimented on myself (which probably means that I’m mad), that you can teach yourself to be excited by, and appreciate, just about any art work and probably anything else. There always seem to be something that you can focus on that can be used to make yourself “see it”. So I think the way we see is totally malleable and if pushed farther you end up in a space where nothing is anything, good or bad, it just is. Seen globally, today’s art is not far from being there, everything just is, as well as simultaneously becoming just another form of mass entertainment; not that the contemporary art in galleries has much of a mass following but museums yes.

The dilemma is that I do still have my idea of good and bad but recognize its conflict with the afore mentioned state and the uncertainty it brings within that “idea”. Still, at the moment I’m happy to coexist with contradictory feelings although it does make having an opinion sketchy.