Getting in the Groove

As some of you know, I haven’t posted regularly in quite a while. To get back into that, I want, no I need, to post about one of my favorite subjects — MUSIC.

Sometime ago I started a category on this site called “MusicILove.” It is always a pleasure to make posts that fall into this category, and since I want this experience of posting regularly again to be a joy, I’m coming with a music post near the beginning of my reboot, if you will.

For new readers who don’t know, I am a player. No, not that kind of player. I’m too old for that. I mean player in the best possible way. I love to play piano or keyboards (almost any kind). I do play classical music, but I also play just about everything else. Jazz is my favorite. I can get drunk playing that stuff. When I was in college, and was only minoring in music, I was way down on the priority list for using the practice rooms at school, which had wonderful grand pianos. Those rooms were sometimes impossible to get into. But when I did get in, I would stay for hours and literally be dizzy when I left. No weed for me. Just give me a nine foot concert grand in a room with fantastic acoustics. One of the best highs ever.

Playing became such an obsession that at one point in my life I managed to get paid for playing jazz. I have very fond memories of that, and some of it is going to work its way into a published story I hope.

And the reason I’m going down memory lane today is due to a Facebook memory popping up from eight years ago. It’s a YouTube video of a jazz player. I mostly listen to this guy in iTunes on my iPhone, because I downloaded his videos years ago and converted them to MP3 files. So I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even know until this morning that he still had a YouTube channel. But I’m glad he does as his playing never gets old. He’s Nicholas Tam, programmer, gamer, jazz player with the aptly named YouTube channel, Play it again, Tam.

A few of his goodies:

By the way, I have never heard Richard Armitage mention any jazz music he likes. I certainly could have missed it if he did. If so, please school me. I would love to know what, if any, he likes. Thanks!

Pardon Me, I’m in Zuni World

note as of 11-23-14: Zuni has a new Twitter account for her music.

I’m aware there is currently a huge press push for The Desolation of Smaug, but I am taking a short break from the deluge and soothing myself with an artist I’ve come to adore. Hey, I run a fan blog, so my adoration has to go somewhere when I’m taking a breather from our guy, which I’ve done a few times this last year.

ZuniStevenson

When I first witnessed Zuni Stevenson’s performances several months ago, it was due to her following me on Twitter, and I responded as per usual — going over to the website or YouTube channel listed on the profile and checking it out. The thumbnail on the first video looked like at least a thousand others I’ve seen and usually come away from respecting the person for sticking out their neck with a public performance and nothing more. But Zuni didn’t just have chutzpah. Damn! this girl actually had some talent:

I was also charmed by her sweet but somehow knowing demeanor, so I watched another video:

And another one:

And another one:

And before I knew it, I was a fan and had these songs converted to MP3 and loaded on my phone with this possibly being my favorite:

Yes, please, please give Zuni what she wants, which is to make singing her full-time profession. Obviously, I believe she can attain it, and a big part of that confidence is not just in her talent for singing but in her ability to take a song and make it hers. I now count her cover of Life on Mars as my favorite version.

Not long after I listened to those first few videos, I found myself wishing she had some original material, and then it happened:

May this continue! And please note that even if I already owned some of these songs, I bought all of them from the original artists as a sort of support for Zuni. But I look forward to the day I can buy her music. Hopefully, someone who can help her is out there listening!

To hear more from Zuni, check out her website and her YouTube channels here and here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

another note: I’m not sure why Zuni followed me. Maybe she’s a Richard Armitage fan. :D

The Vidding Empire

This post gets the public service tag. :D

If you’ve read this blog for more than a few pieces, you know how rabid I am about fan videos, which I’m defining as videos set to music and starring the object of a fan’s attention — someone or something. They got me started on Richard Armitage, and my love for them has become so intense that I’m wondering when these things will gain much more notoriety than they currently enjoy. For now they are not really acknowledged much by the mainstream media, and a good part of the reason is the history of their illicit nature. In my search on the web, I found one piece from a mainstream media source discussing the significance of fan videos, and that was from 2007. Maybe there are a few more, but the key word would be few. However, at some point soon I think fan videos will have more formal recognition. So far for most people who don’t peruse videos sites and are over the age of 25, there has been no awareness these things exist, but that’s changing as more and more people (even your grandmother) are starting to surf YouTube.

Heck, SO’s almost 80 year old parents get on YouTube regularly, and my mother, who by the way, is considerably younger :D, also gets on YouTube. So if you’re 60 and you don’t ever get on YouTube? What planet are you on? ;-)

Actually, I’m assuming most reading this are the choir. So why did I even say that? Maybe there is one out there among you who has not ventured onto a video site for fear it’s just stuff like this:

and you got your fill of this kind of thing on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Oh, you’ve never seen that show? LUCKY YOU. Really wrestling here with the temptation to go on a rant about why I hated that show when it was on, but one rant a week is enough. The show is still on?! God help us.

Of course this is a cute video, and it’s understandable why it’s in the top ten all-time watched videos on YouTube, but c’mon, after you’ve watched it 300 times, you would think it would get old. FYI: a few weeks ago this video passed its four year anniversary, and I can see its lasting effect with the eventual publication of How to Pay For College: The Advantages of Being a Mischievous Teether in the Digital Age by Charles Davies-Carr. ;-)

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah, fan videos. Well, if you’re new to them, and I’m assuming you’re a Richard Armitage fan since you’re reading this blog, there is only one place to go, and my friends, it’s not YouTube. No, it’s a little place on the web hosted by one of the most intriguing fans, Elvira Sweeney. Here are some things I know about Elvira. She is artistic, prolific, a bit perfectionistic, and definitely industrious. Oh, and she likes RA. :D He was the inspiration for what I now think of as the RA Fan Video Empire, or just The Empire. So what is this place? It’s called RAfanvids, and if you have never been there, oh my are you in for a treat. Now the only proviso I will give you is that you must prep the storage on your computer so you can download to your heart’s content when you get there. You’re not sure about this downloading? No, you’ve got to change that notion. You can’t really enjoy some of these videos without watching a download. YouTube, Vimeo, et al will not give you the quality of a 1080 vid. You can only get the real impact of it by downloading and watching on your system or possibly your tv monitor.

Take this video for example:

You can watch it and love the music and the clips, but you can’t get the full effect of this unless you download and watch. It’s the eyes. You almost fall into them. Can’t get that from watching on YouTube — even in full screen mode. Oh, it’s better than the little window, but not nearly as good as watching your own copy.

Or consider this one:

Want to really feel like that leather is within arm’s reach, download! And of course the eyes are also compelling. By the way this video was done as part of Elvira’s “Vidding on the Cheap” series for all those people who think making videos with an old Mac isn’t possible. Guess again.

This is one of my favorite montage videos, and for good reason. I really feel I’m in the room with RA and he’s looking at me when I watch the download:

This was the video that convinced me I needed to watch everything I could from a download copy. Once I got this one on my computer and started watching, I realized that I had missed so much on YouTube, and if a video is not in a large format, putting the player in full screen doesn’t really cut it either. So I downloaded this one and was blown away. I also realized something about Elvira. She can read people. Anyone who puts as much emphasis on people’s eyes and expressions is focused on reading them. I would love to know what she really thinks of RA other than just liking him so damn much. LOL!

And the next two you haven’t really seen unless you’ve watched a download and especially in 1080. You watch these like that, and you will never be satisified with them on YouTube again.

If you still don’t want to download, you can just watch the videos on that site, and there are quite a few that are not on YouTube. So check it out.

One more thing. If you go over to RAfanvids, you may notice something is absent. But no worries, ’cause Elvira’s got it covered over here. :D (note: the link is an archive page and not all pages linked within it are available).

Candid shot from, uh, I’m not sayin’.

Cameron’s Stylin’

[note as of September 2014: Cameron’s videos are long gone as is his movie review blog, but oh, I hate you missed it. He was something else, and quite the reviewer. LOL! Not necessarily erudite in the sense of a New Yorker reviewer but definitely someone who had something to say and a sense of style while doing it. I think what happened is Cameron’s parents found out he was doing this and from their bedroom, so the kibosh was put on his filming endeavor. It also might have something to do with his being about 13 or 14 at the time. Would love to know what he’s doing now!]

]If you’ve been following this blog much, you know about Cameron. If not, then here’s an introduction:

Wow. I’m impressed that Cameron likes Woody Allen. Should be interesting to see what happens if Cameron keeps going on these movie reviews. Of course I’m wondering how much time he’s spent on this while he’s still in school, but hey, I’m sure Siskel and Ebert had to start somewhere.

Here’s the first time I wrote about Cameron, and if you’re wondering why I’m still writing about him, well, he’s the mainstream movie goer of generations to come.

Now if I could just get Cameron to read a few books, his reviews would be awesome. I’ll have to work on that. :D

Cameron,

If you read this, I really do love watching your reviews. Hang in there.

Muse and the Man

How fitting to couple Richard Armitage with one of the best bands of the 21st century! I love the fanvideos, and I have a really soft spot for the ones that feature Muse:

Phew. I think that’s all of them.

I love all of these, but those who know me know which one is near and dear to me. :D

edit: Almost all of these videos can be downloaded from Elvira’s site, RAfanvids.

Sexy Back 3

Interrupting my FanstRAvaganza posts for a public service announcement. :D

I’ve said it before: watching Heather’s Sexy Back videos is a rite of passage as a Richard Armitage fan. Some of us have been waiting three years for her next Sexy Back video, and now….


.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
the wait is over!


If video shows as ‘private,’ reload this page; have a bucket of water handy. Video download available here.

Thank you, Heather! It’s a pleasure to showcase your video, which oh, maybe one or two fans have been wanting to see. LOL!

For the uninitiated, here’s the one that started it all:

And its equally entrancing sequel:

If you haven’t checked out Heather’s channel, do it now. Lots of other things there that are great. I also have an interview with her.

Yeah, the drum roll was cheesy, but I’m having fun with sound files and can’t seem to stop. :D

My Huckleberry Friend

Most who read this blog know how much I like fan videos. There’s no question I’m addicted to them. Probably only a few other fans are more obsessed (at least that I know about :D ). Certainly, when fan videos concerning Richard Armitage pop up on YouTube, I check them out. Imagine my surprise when I saw a fan video with a fan literally singing to him. The song was clever and funny. My grin was huge, and I chuckled at the end when the singer giggled.

But watching her video was never going to be enough. I’m infernally curious about everything and people are chief among my interests. I think I’ve said that a time or two. But I’m not curious for the sake of it. People are not specimens to me. They are living and breathing and have feelings and desires, and despite my snark, I always believe everyone has something to contribute. This is what edifies.

Allison of the video had already had a bit of an edifying effect on me. Her seemingly carefree nature throwing caution to the wind with her willingness to drop the mask so many of us wear made something bubble up in me and had me nodding my head and wanting to shout, “You go, Girl!” I immediately sent her a note asking if I could have an interview. That’s one of the cool things about having a blog — it’s media, my friends, so anyone writing a blog can become a reporter and probably have access to people in a way they never could otherwise. If I haven’t learned anything else about reading blogs for the last several years, I’ve learned that! Oh, the possibilities are endless, and I am loving it! I’ve got plans to interview all sorts of people now that I’m a journalist. ;-)

While I was waiting for Allison to respond, I started reading her blog. I read it off and on for a couple of days until I finished it, and some parts I read several times. She is intensely interesting, and sadly, this little blog entry is not going to do her justice. But I have to try.

A little mood music before I begin:

When I loaded up her blog, Al’s Adventure!, I realized she was on her way out of town, literally heading off for an adventure by means of couchsurfing, and it was not the ubiquitous diary of someone’s daily routine. No, this was something more, and I was immediately drawn into her life and Richard Armitage was forgotten. But I’m just jaded enough that if this had been mere blog entries to herald the advent of her vacation pictures, I would have probably stopped reading.

So I went to Ireland with Al where she met up with a guy named Marty Kelly, whom she had never met before, and now I feel like I’ve met and maybe will say hey to if I’m ever in his hometown. No, I probably wouldn’t do that, but it’s fun to think about it. I found myself thinking about all sorts of things as Al was on her adventure. The sense of wonder at discovering new people and things was infectious like her video. Often I could see the twinkle in her eye while I was reading about her pursuits, and her sunny disposition almost had me reaching for my sunglasses.

Al also made it to England, Wales and Scotland, and then was back home in Seattle, but not for long. Several weeks later she returned to Ireland to live and work for three months. This gave her plenty of time to find out the craic.
And when you’re in the land of bards, the craic inevitably includes waxing poetic. My eyes were moist with something :D as I read her “elegy” to Marty Kelly’s dryer on the verge of departing:

Ode To A Tumble Dryer, With The Help Of Marty Kelly

Tumble Dryer you broke my heart
For years you spun my garments dry
One time I left you on too long and the heat was intense
I was chafed for days
And I cried silently with the washing machine
The toaster laughed and mocked me
English muffins never tasted the same again, not even with gooseberry jam
Especially with gooseberry jam
But now you lay cold and untumbling
There is something inside of you that I can’t fix
I cleaned out your lint trap
I changed the fuses
And still you remain silent, sullen
I called the repairman for help
But your parts are too old, unavailable
Tumble Dryer believe me I tried my hardest to fix you
Thank you for the years of toasty clothes
But the garbage truck is rumbling down the street
And it’s time
It’s time

But Al was not content to ruminate over the appliances with Marty and was soon off on a side trip to Yugoslavia of the former kind. I loved seeing Split in Croatia. Her pictures are clean and inviting. Certainly fitting for a travel brochure beckoning people to lay down some serious cash to come see for themselves.

But I was also moved by the stark reminder of the devastation that occurs from even a wary foot, and how we are so insulated from it in America.

Then Al returns to Ireland and is back home not too long afterward, and I figured the journal would come to an end when the traveling did. There was indeed a respite for over a year, and before I could begin reading the rest, Allison responded to my note. Her honest humility and sweetness at my request was evident — even to my somewhat hardened self. She told me she was surprised by the interest and assumed anyone who commented on her video would tell her what rubbish it is. I did realize she was new to playing the guitar, so I wasn’t thinking it was the best guitar piece I’d ever heard, but her honesty and sweetness even when she was being bawdy came through. That’s what made me so curious.

I finished the blog and learned about her mother passing away during the blog’s silence. She had mentioned her several times, and I felt like I was coming to know her, so it was a bit of a shock. I read about her pets, and for the first time in my life might have had feelings for a rat. I also read about her recent stay with her sister in the Dominican Republic. The imagery of that visit is very well done. I could see and sense so many things — the ominous looking “Watchmen” walking through the yard, Al locking herself out of the house, the food, and the stray dog, Reckless Clive. It was as if I was there just as I’d been in Ireland and Croatia, and she had hardly said a thing.

I wrote my questions as I was reading, and frankly, I had to work hard to come up with one about Richard Armitage. Allison is very interesting in her own right. Thankfully, I didn’t have to come up with those questions although I did ask a couple. Nat sent me a note that she had also asked for an interview, so we decided that she would give most of the 411 on that, and I would be free to ask and write what I wanted.

My questions/comments to Al:

There are so many blogs, as you know, but what I like about yours is that while it’s honest, it doesn’t have a bite. It really does have a genuine sweetness. That’s hard to fake.

Coolness! That’s good to hear. It’s absolutely how I try to live my life. Several of my friends have dubbed me the most non-judgmental person they know. I’m just happy to be me and I’m a hedonist in the true sense – I do things that will result in my happiness. The good news for me is that I’m VERY easy to make happy. I’ve noticed throughout my life that I have a marvelous capability to infect others with my good moods. I also have a deep dark side that I think helps to temper the sweetness. I’m not cutesy with pretty, pretty locks and sunshine and lollipops, I’m sweet with short spunky hair, tattoos and pet rats!

No question your good moods are contagious. I’m still smiling from watching you sing.

And you just sound creative as hell.

My mother would kiss you for that!

LOL!

I would love to read your poetry. I did read that you write it, and it wasn’t just Ode To A Tumble Dryer? Or did I dream that? Do you write anything else outside the blog? Would love to read it. Your imagery is good. I could see everything in the blog and how it fit in the bigger picture of your life. Well done, and I know some of that was not easy to write.

Holy cow my mother would really kiss you for this. My sister would probably join in too!! They both have encouraged me to write all my life. I do like writing, just not enough to really apply myself. And especially not long things. I think that’s why the blog posts, poems and songs work so well. I do have a good number of poems that I’ve written throughout the years, and personally I think they are spectacular, but I never assume anyone wants to read them. Plus, I lack the motivation to get them published anywhere! I know I could put them on the blog, but it’s always a little weird to put something so personal out there and have no one respond to it – I always just figure I’m boring people. I’ll send you some though, if ya like!

Oh, I don’t think you’re going to bore anyone, and I’ve very much enjoyed the poetry. If I hadn’t, this part of the interview wouldn’t be here.

I also love your pictures. You do good photo. I especially love the ones of Croatia.

Seeing Sarajevo and Croatia was beautiful and intense. As a privileged American I’ve never seen what war does to a place first-hand. I had never seen buildings pock-marked with bullet holes and signs by the side of the road warning of land-mines. My Couchsurfing host took me to a memorial site where practically a whole town had been massacred. It was pretty intense. Thanks so much about the photos!!! I’d say it was a bit of a hobby of mine. It’s by no means a serious hobby, I only have the one small camera – but I’ve had people amazed at some of the photos I’m able to take with it. There are just a lot of tricks that I’ve picked up over the years.

Of course there is your guitar playing and songwriting. The Richard Armitage ditty aside, how are you liking the guitar? After the fingers develop callouses, it can be a lot of fun. LOL! Considering how good your ear is with words, I have a feeling you can hear beats and tones well. This is a big plus for you.

I’m loving playing my guitar (her name is Charlene) I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but guitar came into my life at a time when I really needed a therapeutic outlet, and it continues to be. I love creating music. I was never a very confidant singer, but I find that I can sing much better when I play guitar. I can’t “hear the notes” to sing (as a lot of people have tried to coach me to do) but I can hear the notes within the chords of the guitar, so as a result I’ve become a much better and more confidant singer! It is a little weird to lose most of the feeling in the fingers of my left hand! But for me it’s a source of pride, I’m really impressed with myself that I stuck with it long enough to get the calluses.

I’m sure you and Charlene have a lot more coming. :D

I noticed on the blog that you like the Fratellis. What other music do you like?

Oh the Fratellis are GREAT! Their music is so high energy, and I love the way they borrow from so many genres. So many bands have a lot of talent but all their songs sound the same, so I love the way that the Fratellis mix it up. I’m very into roots music, folk, bluegrass, roots country, and I love hearing how music in America evolved, as the roots stuff began to morph into rockabilly, which then gave rise to punk. So you can listen to Hank Williams and hear so much influence in a lot of more modern stuff. I love vintage soul music, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, it’s just all so good. It’s where we all came from. Going back even further, I love to listen to world music and hear all the similarities. One of my greatest loves is fusion music done right, when artists can successfully combine “different” forms of music into one fluid sound that works and all of it’s levels. Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly are two of my all time favorite bands, and for an absolutely brilliant example of a fusion that blew my mind is The Dharohar Project from Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling. They went to India and created music and it’s just amazing. Right now I’m listening to Gillan Welch, I just love her too. Lordy, I could write about music all day.

I understand. LOL!

And before I forget, I have to ask you about the couchsurfing thing?! I know what couchsurfing is, but I’m wondering about this organization. Sounds wonderful! I would love to hear more of your thoughts about it. Now that the dust has settled a bit from your last trip, what would you say is the best thing you’ve taken away from the experience?

If it were up to me, Couchsurfing would win the Nobel Peace Prize. The experiences I had and the people I met through this site re-affirmed my belief in the goodness of human-kind. Some of them completely astounded me with their hospitality. There is not enough gratitude in the world for me to feel towards these folks. A few of them even helped to teach me some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned. I had a small few whom I just didn’t really click with, but I never had an outright negative experience. The best thing I’ve taken away from my travel experiences (aside from all the brilliant things I’ve gotten to do and the people I’ve gotten to meet) is the ability to appreciate almost any situation I find myself in. If I’m somewhere and I’m cold or wet or covered in sweat, I know that it’s only momentary, that eventually I’ll get warm and dry, or cool down – and then I’ll be really grateful that I’m cozy again because I’ve known what it’s like to be uncomfortable. Also, if the shit is hitting the fan and everything is going wrong – I try to picture myself one day telling the terrible story and laughing about it. I used to think in terms of “if only…” like, if I were somewhere nice but rainy, I’d think, “oh, if only it were sunny, then it would be perfect.” or “if only I had decided to splurge and stay at that nice hotel then things would be so much better.” or “if only I had packed the silver bullets I could defend us against this werewolf, but I didn’t want to lug them around the whole time…” You know, that sort of thing ;)

I’m finally learning that sort of thing. :D

When I was reading about your Irish Adventure, I couldn’t help but wonder about Marty Kelly. I figure there’s more to that story, but maybe I’m reading into it. By the way, he’s cute! But maybe he wasn’t your type?

Marty is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. He’s like a soul brother to me and when it comes down to it, I have a fantasy that when we’re 60 years old and have led whole separate lives of stories and adventures we’ll finally settle down together and own goats and rats.

Do you have any other travel goals?

I don’t have any other travel goals, but I never really did. All the traveling I’ve done has kind of just popped up in my life. The opportunity comes along, and I take it.

I have to tell you that I got misty eyed when I read your mom had passed away since I felt like I had gotten to know her some. Many condolences on that. We’re never prepared for it! I sense there is plenty more to write about Mom. It was obvious you have a lot more to say.

My mom was by far the best and closest friend I ever had. She encouraged me in all of my odd and artistic endeavors. She gave me just enough wiggle room to explore and be free, but never let me doubt for a minute that she loved me entirely and would do anything to keep me safe. I’m utterly grateful for the time I got to spend with her and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

May everyone have a mom like that!

One more question or questions, and they’re going to be about Richard Armitage since that is the premise of my blog. LOL! I’m wondering what made you do the video? And if he saw it and made it known, how you would respond? :D

Well the song was just written in mid-November, after having watched the last few episodes of Spooks, and first played it for a friend about a week after that. She loved it and was the one who encouraged me to put it on You Tube. If I’m honest, I’m flabbergasted at the reception this song is getting. I wrote it as just a larf, I just thought, “why don’t I write a cutesy song about my crush on RA, but it’ll be kinda funny since he mostly plays dark characters.” I never for a second thought I’d ever be making a You Tube video or that – be still my heart! – he may ACTUALLY HEAR it one day! I have little doubt that he will see the video – which, again, still doesn’t seem real but in this age of technology I’m sure someone will eventually call his attention to it and he’ll watch it and… no, it’s just too much for my poor mind to handle! ;) But if he actually responded, well, that would be… how can I make words describe it – really freakin’ cool. All I can say is that if he does respond, how am I to know it’s really him unless he thanks me in person? Just sayin’, Richard, if you’re reading this and want to shake my hand and be all like, “thanks for the great song, Al” I’d have no problem with that. None at all.

LOL!

_______________________________________________

There is so much more to say about Allison. She could no doubt make a book, and during our conversations, she commented that she was humbled and having been something of a reject in her younger days was honored that someone would want to ask her these questions. As she said it, I thought how often those who have endured what it is to be something of a reject in their youth end up being the most interesting people.

Photos courtesy of Allison of course.

Oh, and Al is on Etsy and has some neat looking items. Why am I not surprised by this? LOL!

If you haven’t already done it, go over now and look at Nat’s interview. Fantastic as usual. She is a comic genius!

note: If you’ve made it this far, sorry this was so long, but Allison was worth it, and I had a blast doing it.

Blessings to all. :D