Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sometimes I Need To Just Be a Fan and Not a Photog

I've got a load of stuff going on at work I shouldn't get granular about(like I ever get detailed about work in a public blog anyway, I'm not an idiot) and I'm massively stressed. I booked a massage and facial for Janaury, because that's the first time when I'm going to have three hours free to do this, but I need it now. A Mighty Lumberhorn show will have to do for this week. I always get a crack in my neck when I go see them. Last night was no exception: great playing accompanied by jokes and stage banter that had me groaning from terrible puns, really stinker jokes, and just all around debauchery. They're doing this kind of regularly at O'Keefe's House of Hamburg -- the last Tuesday of every month. They're done by 10, so that people who have to work won't be too bleary eyed the next morning. I've shot them enough that I didn't even play photo hound last night. I've shot them with every camera I have in my current arsenal (my film SLR, my digital point and shoot, and my digital SLR) except my cell phone camera with its 352x288 pixel resolution (not even enough for the mega- prefix!) I decided to shoot them with that. Partially because with the light in there, I wasn't going to improve on anything I've shot with this band anyway with my SLR, partially because I'm in an "artsy" mood, but mostly because, when I boot up my SLR I'm "working." I assume a professional attitude, I don't really talk to other people, I listen to the music, but I'm going for images, and its work. Don't get me wrong, I love this work, I feel great doing it, but I needed to not "work." I needed to just sit there, suck down a diet coke, laugh at terrible jokes, watch the Bucks get killed by Ashton Kutcher and the rest of the 76ers, and kvetsch that they didn't change to channel 12 after the game was over so that I could see Helio Castroveves' triumphant victory over Scary Spice and Marie Osmond (well, it wasn't hard to beat Marie) on Dancing With the Stars. I was partially expecting Helio to climb the walls upon winning, but Brian assured me that at least somebody in the audience did indeed present him with a chug of milk. "You were serious? We thought you were joking," Tim O'Keefe told me afterwards. No, I am a pop culture junkie and you can't put a charming Indycar driver, an aging spice girl, Donny's little sister (not to mention, earlier in the season, the owner of the Houston Rockets, a prizefighter, and a couple of soap opera stars) on a dance contest and not expect me to be riveted. Please.

But yeah, as much as many people have produced interesting art with their cell phones (which are getting to be the Holgas and Lomos of the digital age), I just can't take myself seriously as a photographer with one. I know, I know, it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but oh well. This way, I could still shoot the show but not at all be expected to produce anything worthy. Nice compromise. When I decide not to be Lynn Goldsmith, I can enjoy the music even more, especially on a night I've got too much on my mind. And the Lumberhorn is perfect for brain dump. There's a song they do where they (and anybody in the audience) tells a wretchedly bad joke during one of several breaks and it was he kind of low budget, lowbrow entertainment that served my needs. Then, when they're done, they jump into well executed bluegrass reminding you they really do have their act together and they are anything but lowbrow.

Anyway, cultural lineup for the weekend: Bruce Springsteen cover band at shank, Canyons of Static at Points East, but really, not a lot going on this weekend in the clubs that I haunt. I think everybody's getting ready for their holiday extravaganzas. Slice of Ice -- free skating downtown -- doesn't even open until next week. So the thing to catch might be Wild Space's "Balancing Forces" this weekend and while we're near the PAC and in that dance mood, we'll pick up our Nutcracker tickets.

Then again, there's always the Five Card Studs! They're at Lulu Thursday night (for some calendar release party) and at County Clare on Friday. We have the Bucks/Detroit game Saturday night and hopefully last night's debacle will wake them up. But my not knowing what's going on musically reminds me of the first of a few random ramblings I'll end today's entry with:
  • Bands, myspace is good, but you're depending on it way too much. For one thing, for a lot of people, myspace is NSFW. For me -- and many other people in corporate america -- it's simply unavailable (along with YouTube, etc.) Lots of companies block myspace, partially because it's NSFW, but mainly because it and YouTube are bandwidth suckers, and very
    few corporations need myspace to conduct their business. So, find a vanilla board (yahoo and google can set you up), and post your schedule and news there too. Oh, and remember, there's lots of your fans who aren't on myspace but still have email. Remember the ol email distribution lists? Sure you do! They were what you did before ol Uncle Myspace Tom gave you your free (as in, you get what you pay for) web home. Plus, there's enough hotdogs on myspace who think that the best way to keep in touch is to send out a freaking bulletin every time they hear a bad joke. If you have a bad joke to tell, go see the Lumberhorn -- they'll be happy to give you 15 seconds between stanzas. Plus, if you're playing out soon, tell me and the rest of your fans a couple weeks in advance, and remind me a few nights before. Day of Show is not a good time for anybody to first hear about your gig -- most people have already made plans. Oh, and one more thing. Just because you CAN modify the layout on myspace doesn't mean you should. Placing a repeating graphic on your page that's 2 gig to begin with only makes it impossible to scroll down the page to actually see any news about you. Green on Red, while a great band, is a terribly difficult-to-read combination for text. Don't you actually want people to be able to read your page? Go to somebody's house that has dial-up and try to read your page from there. Better still, go to the library. If you can't read your page, or the scolling takes forever (or even locks up) that's probably a sign that maybe you might want to consider the default layout. There's nothing wrong with it other than the overall uglieness of myspace itself. If its good enough for Robyn Hitchcock -- whose artwork and graphical sense nobody denies -- it's good enough for you.

    Summary: myspace is butt ugly to begin with, and very few of you have successfully hung a hat on that horse. If your band sucks and your text is boring, no amount of flashy graphics is going to change that, and if your band is great, the default butt ugly (but at least scrollable and legible) text will get your point across.


  • Speaking of graphics, people, if you're going to use my photographs -- or anybody's for that matter -- could you have the class to credit the photographer? Actually, it's a good idea (not to mention the LAW) to ask them permission first to even use it at all. Unless there's a Creative Commons Public Domain notice on the shot, its copyrighted. It doesn't have to SAY it's copyrighted. It just is. Look, photogs aren't being jagoffs by asking you to do this. If their pictures are good enough for you to use, its because they've taken the time, care, and practice to render an image. Hey, can I use your music on my page without even telling anybody who made it? And possibly implying that I'm the one who made it? No? That wouldn't be cool? Then why is it OK for you to just snag my pictures without crediting me? Or even telling me? Ask anybody who's taken the 30 seconds to drop me an email to ask for permission -- chances are 99.9% good you'll get it, from me, and from most photogs. Photogs are just like you, band people. They're struggling artists who need exposure and their name out there. Look, I don't have the time or $$$ to hire an attorney and crank out cease and desist letters any more than you do. Just recognize that visual artists need, deserve, and are legally entitled to the same credit, compensation, and plain old courtesy that musicians need and deserve. (For the record, I've never illegally downloaded ANYBODY's -- music. Not even Metallica's.)

OK, getting down off my soapbox. If I seem crabby, can you tell I'm totally stressed out this week?!?!?!

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