Archive for the ‘the Self-pity goes to 11’ Category

Hey there.  How y’all doing?  I know mikey has recently ‘been released to find new opportunities’  but it sounds like his profile is much higher and more desirable than in the past, especially when he is wearing pants.

Been so damn busy, me.  Hey, you know what?  remember that crazy shit where I added four stories to a building?


Got a Mayor’s Design Award for that shit, and the Dean of the Architectural School likened to to European design and also said that this view makes it look like the project is a triumphal phoenix-like eruption from the original building.  Well, gosh.  I was just trying to make it look cool…

And you guys remember back to when I talked about cutting heads off of drawings to create new hedgehogs?  Come on, that was magical wordplay combined with a callback to a very obscure mikey comment.  Here’s the hedgehog in question:

hedgehog 1

And after much trial and tribulation, we are now at this point.

DD 4.1 [East elevation] copy

Yeah, design involves a lot of compromise (which is apparently lost on the Mentors Remaining).  We moved in many different directions to make it acceptable to all the parties, and now we are ….more or less OK.  I got a check from them.

of course, no one ever comes to the Empire looking for Happy Time Happy Talk.

SPOILER ALERT: things get dark from here on out.

Did I ever talk about this project, directly across the street from that crazy award winning project?  We had worked on the site and managed a building code variance to allow a curious combination of construction types and a pretty aggressive  code version to allow a very tall wood construction.  It kind of looked like this:

2214 7 story design

Yeah, well, it ain’t gonna happen that way.  you see, while I am really really great at design and overall work and urban design, I have a chicken vs. egg problem.  While making the PRIOR hedgehog work out, I had to get design aspects ironed out including many many many MANY unit layout changes, I had to forward them to the associate architect who was agitating so he could get his work done and get some checks as well, and the clients are just basically pushing like hell to get it all done WHILE they are demanding more changes and revisions, so that taller building kind of went on a back burner.  Well, the client (same one as the head-swapped hedgehog) was only willing to be back-burnered so long, and I was notified that he would be finding a different architect to deliver that baby.

The dilemma whose horns are rammed up my ass has to do with the Great Bush Economic Unpleasantness.  Before that I had a few folks on staff, and was able to work around the demands of bigger projects.  But the Shit came down, and for a while I was barely able to maintain myself, let along take responsibility for others.  so I let everyone move on… And now, while I am re-building cash flow and a bit of cushion, I am strangely gun-shy about bringing on staff willy-nilly.  and so; how to build capacity before I have the staff, while bringing on staff prior to having projects seems kind of stupid.   Been burned and well burned at that; scared to grab the damn stove again…

On top of that, at the Mayor’s Design Awards reception, a friend and client notified me that one of my long time clients and someone I consider a friend had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  This is the guy for whom I have designed many of the MLK Drive renaissance buildings, which you may recall from this:


And not long after that, I saw the sad news that Welford had succumbed.  Here he is in front of our first project together:


Gonna miss him a lot.  He was a good man, a good friend and a great client and he had a huge impact on the city that both of us loved.  Zombie props, Welford, and you live on in the work we did.  Kind of zombie-like, now that I put it that way…

Well, on a less depressing side of things, I had a GREAT time at the Murder By Death show last week, and may have been a bit over-served.  And a lovely girl kept playing with my hair while I was having such obvious enjoyment of the show.  How weird…

And tonight, I saw World Party in a stripped down three piece show, and it was a splendid show, yes it was.  It was supplied with tables and chairs, because the WP fans are older, yes we are.  And I managed to avoid that dastardly over-serving issue.  Also talked for a while about music and shows and common acquaintances with Brian Wooldridge, one of my favorite local musicians.

Mr. Wallinger, (if you did not know, had an accident several years ago and dain bramage made him lose his goddam voice and it is so good that he managed to work back.  Dammit, we don’t have enough artists, universe, that we can let you just remove one like that) does not look like that anymore (but which of us do?).  Now he looks like this (but fortunately he still sings and plays and writes like he did).

However, his son was working the merch table and he does pretty much look like Karl in those younger days.  And I think between Brian Wooldridge and I, we managed to buy Karl a new guitar strap.  Someone else will have to buy him a proper left-handed guitar rather than just an upside-down righty.

I am always curious about lefties who play right handed guitars, and whether they re-string so chording is just reversed rather than upside down; and looking at it, I see he keeps the right hand stringing.  What a weird thing to do, but then I shoot pool left handed, so who am I to judge?

Such is life.  There’s Bad, and Good, and Bad, and a little more Bad just to spice things up….

Wow, I am in a lousy mood today.  Woe be to the poor bastard who tries to reach me on the phone….

I am, however, seeing a darkish Goth-alt-country band tonight, across the street from my office at the wonderful Turner Hall; Murder by Death.  Here are some samples:

It will either cure my mood or deepen it.

…it is, however, dependent on whether I can get the goddam ticket sitch straightened out, they haven’t been delivered yet.  Gotta see if I can switch them to Will Call…

Hooo, boy.  

THAT was a long day.  Hell, it was a pretty trying week, all told.  As I’ve said, my car had a massive computer-related infarction.  It took the shop four days to track it down….

1.  “It’s the ECM.  We’ll get you a used one, won’t be too bad.  Should be here today.”

2.  “Won’t be here today in time to get installed.  First thing tomorrow.”

3.  “Seems that the instrument cluster is the culprit; it shorted and the resultant signal fried the ECM.  We’ll get a used one of those too.”

4.  “…has anything else gone wrong lately, related to electronics? Just asking…”

5. “Here’s what happens when I plug it in here.  The ECM is freaking out and making everything hell.  But when I plug it in HERE, the ECM is OK and the dash cluster is screaming digital gibberish.  Short story:  still don’t know.  But we have many thousands of dollars in diagnostic equipment telling us MANY things we don’t know….”


At this point, since I had a mission critical meeting I needed to get to, they let me borrow their little shop truck.  I had rescheduled the meeting from Wednesday 10 AM to 7 AM today, and then needed to catch up in the office until about 1:30 AM, updating drawings and printing plans.  2 Hour stressful meeting, as we are behind schedule, then back to the office to work on the new marching orders….

3:30.  Mechanic on the phone “Good News or Bad News?”  Shut up.  Is my car fixed?  “Yes.  and ultimately it was NEITHER the car computer NOR the dash cluster.”  Turns out it was a wire connector located near the bottom of the fire wall that had some errant salt water work its way in.  So although I didn’t have to pay for the electronics, the technician took several hours to track down the short.  They billed me for 5; I know they spent way more time than that (over four fucking days), so I’m OK with it; I effed at them a bit over how I kind of needed my car, and that I had spent much Ameros at their shop over the years.  Other than, you know, the whole damn week without my car; if it wasn’t for that damn meeting  I would have been OK cuz I could have bussed in to the office.

However, I had to pay them with a check, because yesterday my bank card was “compromised” and the bank canceled it to send me a new one. I will be seeing some paperwork to file the fraud claim and get my money back. I may see a replacement card tomorrow.  Or not.


AND I have a client that has three months of arrears, to the tune of $30,000.  So I got THAT going for me….


So, halfway through the day I got a text from Zorgy reminding me that we were meeting to see some music tonight.  At the Riverside Theater, this humble little palace:


to see this band:

[I think they’re from New Zealand]

The opening band, Mini Mansions, features a Lead Bass player from Queens of the Stone Age, but they played a lovely set of 80’s inflected synth pop that channeled a healthy bit of Sniff ‘n The Tears.  How 80’s were they?  They not only did a dirge-cover of “Heart Of Glass” but they opened with a cover of “Sherlock Holmes” by Sparks.

After the long day and stressful week, I was more than happy to be sitting in the audience watching a couple of great bands, and drinking beers with my friends.  I was tired and my feet hurt.  But after a bit, Tame Impala and the light show started something, flickered a bit of internal warmth…

That clip up there does not do the band justice.  The other live clips are closer, but the sound is mostly borked; and with the exception of the reedy thin vocals (which I still have not decided on) the music was muscular and rich.  It was deceptively simple and unassumingly complex the band started and stopped and went into digressions that made you think it was a different song, then brought it back hime before you figured out what they were doing.  It was contemporary, with some trip-hop and some EDM flourishes, but there was something naggingly familiar about the whole thing….

The light show encompassed the entire back of the stage, but there were several pole-mounted LED Varis behind the band, and more standard ones mounted on the sides of the stage and above; they kept spinning, arcing beams of light and spinning stars out into the crown and on the sides of the theater.  The band was shrouded in mist and shadows, the focus was on the music and the light show.  It felt so familiar….


It wasn’t until they added the bass pedals to the mix that it struck me;  we were watching spiritual heirs to the mid-period Genesis when they still had Steve Hackett and before they started pursuing pop stardom! All the elements were there; they often used Tony Banks keyboard sounds, the bass pedals made the bottom end shake your rib cage, the light show was splendid and dovetailed the music, and even the drummer, on a small kit, did some Collins-style drum drops.  The only thing missing was the occasional twelve string guitar.  At one point, I could have sworn they were ready to launch into the organ intro to “Watcher Of The Skies”!

Good Friend Rory, later admitted that he felt let down.  He had seen the band a couple of years earlier at one of the other stellar venues in town, and remembered being completely amazed.  He allowed that alcohol may have affected the memory.  I argued that they were actually pretty awesome, the music was great, the mix near-perfect, and the light show stellar.  I had no complaints (other than my sore back and aching feet goddammit doesn’t getting old suck).

But GFR was having a troubled, emotional day; remembering his recently departed parents and also more current troubles.  I drove him home, and spent some time in the car listening; I liked his Dad quite a bit, and never actually met his Mom.  So I cut him some slack, because his memory of the band was most likely colored, and his memories of his parents were uppermost in his mind.  My parting wisdom (such as it was) was to go to bed, get some real sleep, and cuddle with his dogs.  I am reminded that for all my angst and distress, I still have much to be thankful for…..


This is normally the point in my music post where I reference the Soul Asylum line (when they were still angry and not polished and before mikey had ever heard of them and this is still one of my favorite lines) but tonight that is not quite right.  It’s not so much a ringing in my ears as a vibration in my bones, a rumbling in my soul.  No less heaven sent for that….

There is something so vital about seeing live music.  It’s less artificial; no overdubs, fewer electronic trickses and no studio carry.  3 or 4 or 5 (or, in the case of the upcoming Mekons shows 7 or 8 or 75) people actually playing instruments and feeding off the audience response to boomerang it back out.  It’s a wonderful feedback loop and the best way to experience it is in a small club.  Because that is where the amplification factor is most evident.

GFR talked about spending hundreds of dollars to see Jeff Beck, which is perfectly valid.  But I compare that to the $25 we spent to see this show tonight;  or the $15 I punched out to see Murder By Death, or a similar amount to see World Party.  The first concert tickets I ever bought were to see BOC/ UFO at Alpine Valley and they were fifteen bucks and I was a mile away.  Decades later, I paid fifteen bucks to see them at a 300 person club and you know what?  THEY WERE AWESOME and I was right up in front of them (they are kind of short).

With very few exceptions, I will almost always not spend my money on the “big shows” and spend it on smaller clubs, smaller venues, and younger bands.  I was encouraged to see several folks of my age cohort in the venue tonight…But then, I am admittedly atypical.  It doesn’t make me wrong….

I tend to like latter-day Marillion better (probly because that’s the period I’ve seen them live) but this makes all the Fish days worthwhile:


Apologies for the absence and incommizombo.  I been way damn melancholy, yes I have. Lots of Sun Kil Moon going here, yes… but I echo the idea that I feel ghostly and lost and unconnected.  And I feel like I should make that echo resonate to young lady Von, but she sings and plays music with folks already, and that is a soft supportive backdrop already, yes it is.  Von is a Professional and she stomps on the terra, as the the Doctor would say; she is far stronger than she thinks and if not, she has many musical friends who to take up the slack.


My dad never bought me a guitar. In fact, Mom and Dad were always perplexed at my obsession with music of any sort.  I bought my first guitar used at a local music store and took it home balanced on my bike.  It was a 1955 Les Paul flat body that had a humbucker hacked into it, but the guy who did that left the original tuning pegs, so it was unable to hold a tune.  I spent 75 dollars on new tuning pegs and spent a summer stripping it and refinishing the cherry body.  It was a beautiful small body Les Paul with a nice wide fretboard that fit my hand well, and way more pretty than the punk slabs of shart that I played on it.  Sold it to stay in college…. but I still miss it.  I now have a Fender Telecaster Blue Flower edition, but as gorgeous as it is, it’s not the same.


It’s been  a long several weeks, and not anything that I wanted to blog about.  Well, that’s not quite true — lots of stuff I want to blog about, especially concerning this stupid state and its stupid Republicans, but then  it goes all bleak and I let Charlie Pierce do the heavy lifting in favor of making myself another drink, you know?

In most ways, it resonates with the most recent Sun Kil Moon album

I am repeatedly confused and reluctant to refer to music releases as ‘albums”. they aren’t albums, they are mostly not even CDs and in the era of digital downloads, what is the best reference?  Even when we aren’t ripping them from torrent sources, and even paying the artist?

Still melancholy over all.

Oddly, the Brewers have the best record in baseball and I am not sure how I feel about that, still not over the way they extorted a stadium out of the region at the expense of the local school system; since they never fill the place up, they certainly can’t point to ticket sales as an element of their success.  It reminds me of Moneyball, but since they are succeeding by IGNORING the on-base stats, it is more like the anti-Moneyball.  I hope they can keep it up, though; it would be kind of cool to see them as a contender after Summerfest, for a change.

The thing about this kind of melancholy is that it seems like it is not particularly influenced by external events.  In the last couple of weeks, I was notified that some of my work has received two more awards; in addition, I have had several calls to make new projects happen, from a sizable (and kind of fun) residential garage addition to advancement of  100 unit apartment (near) high rise. And there’s a 14,000 SF commercial strip, a renovation of a small historic building, that adaptive reuse of that school building is still alive, and a couple of other medium size projects.

Sigh.  If only I could figure out a way to make money at these things.  Maybe that’s what the melancholy is about.

But it’s OK, in the end.  Lucy the Orange and I went out and burned some shit on the deck last night:

IMG_1560 IMG_1559

Although even Lucy gave up when I brought out the Hornitos and the glow in the dark shot glass.

But now that Robitcs Panic Season is over, I have tried to get back into the TKD regimen, and between the two have managed to drop a pants size.  I am hoping it’s a tapeworm, so that it’s more-or-less permanent.

But hey!  Did I mention robotics?  We went down to Chicago for a second regional, and did really well.  I know I promised a whole post, but if you feel underserved, please contact me for a full refund.  Sorry about the lack of photos; I was a bit busy, and I haven’t got the photos from the others yet.

We had a great regional in Chicago in fact, the best we’ve ever had.  Our robot worked well and looked great; our drive team was gelling; the pit team was in a groove, and our pit received recognition each day for how clean and organized it was (?????) .  We had many great matches, and there were several where we were the prime robot, scoring most, if not all, the points.  After the final day of Qualification matches, mentors from our traveling partners said “You guys will be playing after lunch tomorrow” and they should know (lunchtime is the dividing line between qualifying matches and the finals rounds).  And we were, we were.  Our team has been in existence for 6 years, and I’ve been a mentor for 4; but the elation and pride that welled forth when our team was called in Team Selection was almost more than I could bear.  And even though we were on one of the underdog alliances and eliminated in the quarterfinals, our alliance partners were still impressed with our gameplay and we established ourselves as contenders.

But I think the part that I felt was most rewarding is that during the entire regional, we established our team as having our shit together.  We were next to a team from Turkey (one of four at this Regional) and we spent a lot of time helping them out with tools and materials that they didn’t bring along; when one of the Turkish teams had messed up their bumpers, several teams set up a production stall next to us to rebuild their bumpers in time to pass inspection.  We seemed to become one of the standard stops when someone was looking for tools or materials or a helping hand — we eventually had to keep track of what had been loaned out, to whom and when ti got returned on our whiteboard.  And we gave that help happily; many other seasons, we were the team looking for that help.

On the field, we did some great work.  Although we discovered that our robot design had an inherent limitation based on the pneumatic capacity and the recharge rate, we were able to do a lot of other things capably due to our drive teams ability to work together. Our robot design turned out to be robust and resilient and although this year’s game has been extraordinarily rough on the robots, Whatnot just kept working, dents and all.   And we started to notice that in many cases, our alliance partners relied on us to drive the strategy, which was weird.  This culminated when one of our alliance partners stopped by our pit for pre-match strategy saying “we are SO excited to be on your alliance!  We love your robot!” we felt like saying “You DO realize that two weeks ago, we finished as 57th out of 60 teams?”

I spent the evening working on a preliminary diagram for redeveloping a problem parcel in my favorite neighborhood, and after writing that robotics thing up, I feel the melancholy fading away… a little bit, for a little while.


“Observe the snow.  It fornicates.”

January First!  A brand new year, glistening and fresh in its potential and waiting to bestow happiness and fun on all.  Let’s just see what we’ve got in this fantastic new Annum, shall we?

I…I am ready for 2014 to be over now.  I give.


Edited, to remind everyone that even Lucifer was once cute.


But she moved on.


Well, that went over like a lead balloon. Mythbusterizing notwithstanding, I will probably be AWOL for the rest of this holiday season, in a drunken stupor or with the covers pulled up over my head.

Now to check out return policies, and try to brainstorm a backup strategy. I am not hopeful.