Friday, August 30, 2013

Classical Dubstep?

I love music.  There is always something playing either on my stereo or in my head.  I am a singer (bass), musician (saxophone, bassoon, piano), and very small time composer.  I studied music in college and will one day finish my degree and use it to teach.  For now, I am content listening and practicing privately.

When listening to music, I listen to almost all genres.
I love:

  • Classical
  • Opera
  • Ska
  • Reggae
  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Techno
  • Old country
  • Rap
  • Hip Hop
  • Sub-genres of any listed above.
So when someone tells me "You've got to hear this!" I usually jump on it.

So when I discovered this latest obsession of mine, I almost fell over.

Let's start with a classically trained violinist.  I say, "great start".  Now lets add original compositions by said violinist.  "Getting better."  Now add dubstep into the final mix.  "Okay. I'm interested."  Now let's say the violinist can dance while playing.  "Impressive."  Finally, make the violinist a smoking hot girl that looks a lot like Alyson Hannigan, oh, and a geek as well.  "Winner!"

Introducing Lindsey Stirling.

She comes from my home state of Arizona, USA and is incredibly talented.  After watching just one of her videos, I was hooked, and I was not the only one.  Apparently her video for 'Crystallize', one of her original compositions, was the eighth most watched on last year.  That's right, EIGHTH!  Considering how much crap is uploaded on a daily basis, eighth for the whole year is pretty huge.

Recently, I was turned back on to her because she worked with vocalist Peter Hollens on a Star Wars medley tribute during You tube's Geek Week in early August.
After watching that video, and loving it, I watched another from the suggested videos that Youtube always throws at you.  This one blew my mind because first of all it was a cover of a song that I really am not a fan of and I found it to be amazing now, and second, it was performed with an incredible group I had never heard of, The Pentatonix.  This is a vocal group from Texas, USA that has one soprano female, two tenor males, a bass, and a beat boxing baritone.  Their re-imagined harmonies along with Lindsey's violin and a cello played by the beat boxer made this cover of 'Radioactive' by Imagine Dragons an incredible journey of audible joy.

Between Lindsey and Pentatonix, my week has been filled with music fun.  Pentatonix have a lot of great covers, including one of my favorite songs, 'Somebody That I Used To Know' by Gotye.  Their harmonics and love of music shine in everything they do.

Thank you for sharing this adventure with me and I hope that you enjoyed it.  Please visit the artists' websites and let me know what you think of their work.  Lindsey is at and Pentatonix are at

'Til next time,

Llama Llama

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Write On! Write Away!

Until very recently, I have looked down my nose at fan fiction.  I have always been of the opinion that when something amazing presents itself, you should leave it the hell alone.  Especially because when I would hear about some of the things my friends had read, I was appalled.  Stories about forbidden love, most of the time really being just lust, between two characters that never should have been in that situation, i.e. Han and Chewbacca, Deanna Troi and DaiMon Bok, or Harry and Draco.  Why do people feel the need to create $5 trash novels out of the books, movies, and shows that we love?

I said 'until very recently' because I have been reading a few different fan fictions and I have to say that my opinion has changed.  There are some amazing writers out there that are just interested in extending out our favorite story lines in their own way.  It is very interesting to see where some people think things would continue to go after the tale is over, or what would have happened in the pages that seem to have a gap in time.  It can be a fun way to continue to live through our favorite stories again but with new tales from the imaginations of some very talented people.  And then, go back and read someone else's work from the same point, like a choose your own adventure story from our childhood.

Obviously not all fan fiction is good.  Like I mentioned before, there is a lot of sex trash and some writing that is not so great, but it is a great medium for beginning writers who need a platform to find their own creativity.  Some of these beginning writers have a great story line and just can't write well, but everyone has to start somewhere.  And while it would be easiest to tell them to refine it before posting it, everyone wants and deserves to have their stories read by as many people as possible.  Thank goodness for the internet because there are a million and one places for people to post their work to be read.

Part of my recent education has taught me that fan fiction does not just include written works, but artwork as well.  Many people are not the greatest at writing or creating stories, but are incredible artists and share their visions that way.  I have seen some art that dropped my jaw in amazement and some that almost made me weep from the beauty of it.  It is another perfect medium for some folks to be able to share their passion for the things that they love.

A lot of people badmouth fan fiction and have since I was a kid, but I now see that it can be a great thing.  I highly recommend that you try reading, writing, or viewing some fan fiction relating to the things that you are passionate about.  It may turn out to be a pleasant surprise for you.  Search the internet for it and you will be rewarded with a huge number of sites that are dedicated to it.  For example, is one of the largest and most notable collections of fan fiction of almost any type. Also, some of the larger main sites have fan fiction pages attached, like  Also, for artwork, I recommend checking out  Any search there will reveal some amazing artists.

So what are you all passionate about?  What fan fiction have you read or might you consider reading?  And feel free to share any great writings that you have found and believe need to be recommended to other readers.

'Til next time.

Llama Llama

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sharing Music With The World

Eric Whitacre
When I woke up this morning it was raining outside and I had a few songs running through my head.  Because of those songs, I decided that today I want to share with all of you something that I love very much: the music of Eric Whitacre.  Specifically, his virtual choir projects.
First, a little bit about the man, himself.  Eric is a music composer who writes a variety of different styles, but he is most notably known for his classical pieces and choral arrangements.  He has a choir simply named The Eric Whitacre Singers who travel the globe and sing in concerts as well as hold workshops with other singers.  If you haven't heard any of his works before now, I highly suggest listening to a few of his albums.  They are amazing and can be both relaxing and very exciting.

The Virtual Choir has become one of Eric's most notable projects.  It all began with this video:

After watching this video, Eric had a vision of people from all over the world making videos like this one, sending them to him, and then he could put them all together to make a virtual choir.  No one would have to be left out because of their location or inability to travel because you could just record yourself singing from you own home. After talking to some people about how to go about the technical side of the choir, he posted an announcement on his website about how to audition.  He included the written music for one of his composed pieces and a video of himself directing the music.  From there people could practice and then record themselves while watching him conduct to them so that they were all singing in the same time.  Once all of the videos had been received, he and his technical crew worked to compile everything into one video that both sounded great and looked great while showing everyone that was singing.  The final result came on March 21, 2010: 185 voices from 12 different countries singing 'Lux Aurumque' and it was absolutely beautiful.

As of today that video has almost 4 million views.  It was such a success that Eric decided to do the whole thing again with the song 'Sleep'.  Virtual Choir 2.0 came almost exactly one year later, being released on April 6, 2011.  This time, things had taken off so well that it included 1,752 singers from 58 different countries and an ingenious way of showing them all to the world.

Then again, a few days shy of one year later, Virtual Choir 3 debuted on April 2, 2012.  This time things had grown so much that it was a major undertaking.  3,746 videos from 73 different countries had been sent in.  With a lot of work and organization, the performance of 'Water Night' was a huge success.

That is when things got tough.  The production had taken so much time and effort that taking on another Virtual Choir would be incredibly difficult.  This time, before asking for videos, Eric asked for help.  He started a Kickstarter campaign in December of 2012 to be able to fund the newest Virtual Choir.  In one month's time he raised $122,555 of his requested $100,000 to be able to make the greatest video so far.

Before debuting the fourth video, he did something that amazed me even further.  On March 22, 2013, he gave a talk and performance at TED.  What was so amazing with this was that he had brought a live choir from a few different colleges in California, as well as a few Virtual Choir Alumni through Skype and they performed together live.  This had never been done before and was incredible to watch.  Linking that video through TED's site is difficult so if you want to see it, search Google for it and enjoy.  I highly recommend it.

Finally, on July 11, 2013, Virtual Choir 4 premiered.  5,905 singers from 101 countries across the globe joined in to sing 'Fly to Paradise'.  And to make it even more special for Eric, he was on hand to debut it as part of the Coronation Festival Gala at Buckingham Palace, and yes, Her Majesty was in attendance.

I hope you have enjoyed this small walk into one of the many things that I love so much.  Please feel free to comment and let me know what you thought of the music and visuals that you saw.  I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

'Til next time.

Llama Llama

Friday, August 23, 2013

Road Trip to Nowhere

A few days ago, I received a text message from my friend asking if I could give him a ride to a town about an hour and a half west of where we lived.  He is trying to move out of his ex-girlfriends house and needs a car in order to do so.  While searching online he found a car that the seller had agreed to to drop $300 off of if my friend drove out to pick it up.  Seeing as I try to help my true friends out in any way possible, I couldn't say no.  Plus, I thought it would be a bit of a fun adventure.

To begin our trip we needed to gas up and get snacks.  While doing so, we watched a woman try to turn right out of the gas station and hit the curb in the process.  Now while this happens all of the time and isn't really that funny, it was killing us because this woman was something else.  She started scaling the curb in her lifted and oversized Dodge Ram and then, once she realized that she was on the curb, she decided to back up and try again.  When trying for the second time, she hadn't corrected herself at all and just started going forward on the same path as before.  Then, after hitting the curb again, she backed up and tried again.  This time she seemed very proud of herself as she missed the curb, that is of course, until she mounted it with her rear tire.  At this point she seemed resigned to the fact that she was going to hit it no matter what and just kept driving.

From there we hit the road and kept ourselves entertained by eating chips and listening to Chris Hardwick interview Wil Wheaton on the Nerdist podcast.  Just a few minutes after leaving we had to stop with a small line of cars and wait for the construction crew to allow us to pass.  As soon as we were allowed through we were forced to go around a truck that was in our line of cars.  As we passed him we both looked over, wondering why the truck wasn't moving, and saw the driver with his head slumped to the side.  Knowing that we had not been stopped for very long, I immediately thought that the man had suffered a stroke or something and was about to jump out and check on him.  Relaxing a bit, I let the construction worker, who was already on path to the truck, check on it.  I watched the whole scene play out in my rearview as the worker knocked on the truck window and jumped back like he was scared of being shot or something and motioned towards us.  The truck then joined us in line again.  Must have been a VERY tired driver.

About a third of the way to our destination, I looked up and saw a butte on a hill a small distance from the road that looked like a giant nipple.  I wish I had gotten a pic because it was hilarious how much it resembled a nipple.  Of course, because we are guys and will always be 15 years old in our minds, my friend decided to pretend he was pinching it like The Kids In The Hall would 'scrunch' people's heads.

During our trip, I received a phone call from a co-worker who was curious about what she should do with a situation at work.  Just as I was getting ready to hang up, a chipmunk darted into the road in front of me.  Now this particular stretch of road is only a 35 m/h speed limit so avoiding the chipmunk would normally not be a problem, but my friend scared the crap out of me.  He threw his hands up as if to use The Force and propel the tiny animal out of the way of the car.  Just the sudden movement threw me off so I slammed on the brakes harder than I normally would have.  After our hearts slowed, we both laughed and I looked into the rearview to see the creature run off into the bushes at full speed.

When we finally reached our destination we were tired from laughing.  Before we knew what was going on, we looked up and realized that we had driven through the whole town in a matter of about a minute.  After doing a u-turn we went and parked in the small parking lot at the one grocery store in town and tried to figure out what to do next.  During our drive we had been told by the seller via text message that no one would be available to show us the car until 7pm...  We got to town at 5pm...  So we waited there, ate a small meal from the store, and chatted about whatever came to mind.

While waiting, I was a bit on edge.  This town was so small and remote that it made me think of one of those towns from horror movies.  Everyone that happened by would look at us like we were from another planet and I kept waiting for one of them to drag us off into the woods and butcher us for pig food.  To add to my discomfort, while we were in the grocery store, I saw a woman, dressed in the uniform of the store, walk to the employees only area at the back.  While this is not normally something that is out of the ordinary it was this time because she was walking back there with an infant in her arms.  Still nothing to worry about because maybe there was someone in the back that was going to help keep an eye on the child.  Problem in my mind was when she took a left turn out of sight towards the stores butcher area...

When 7pm finally made its way around we went and looked at the car.  I was not the best car by far, but if we could get it home and do a little work on it it would serve him well as he really only needs it to get to and from work.  Seen as it only had one headlight working and no dashboard lights I figure it would be best for me to lead the way home so that I could see any upcoming animals in the dark and keep us around the speed limit.

It was a mostly uneventful trip back until less than a quarter mile from where he lived.  Just as we were down the street form the house, he got pulled over for a missing headlight and for doing 27 m/h in a 25 zone.  The officer was really cool and gave him a warning but I am still shocked that we made it the full hour and a half with no other incidents.

It wasn't the most exciting trip, but we had a blast and he now has a car.

'Til next time.

Llama Llama

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

2013 seems to be the year of weddings and babies with my friends and family.  I have attended two weddings in the last year and have one still to attend, had two different engagements get announced, and have a new niece with at least three other babies on the way with other friends and family.  To say the least, its been a busy year in one way or the other.

The most recent announcement, my younger brother's engagement, has my family all excited.  He was proposed to by his girlfriend the other night with not a ring, but a pair of cufflinks and a tie tack.  We all know that she was more manly than he is but the fact that she was the one to propose was priceless.  The wedding plans that are in the works already are very special though because they are trying to keep with a 'tradition' of sorts with our family.

Tradition is not quite the word I should use but homage is maybe better.  When I was eight or nine, my mother married my step-father in a small ceremony at the courthouse gazebo in the small town that I now live in.  When I married my wife, we had the same small ceremony in the same gazebo and I even wore the same shirt that my step-father married my mother in.  So far, those same plans are being discussed for my brother.

While mothers more often hand down wedding dresses, my mother had all boys and while my brother may look good in my mothers wedding dress, it may be a bit small as he is almost a full foot taller than she is.  Also, while he has a wide chest, his bust size is seriously lacking.  So instead the shirt was handed down.  It really wasn't much of a conscious thought from what I know, but it has happened and we will see how far it goes.

I am really happy for all of my friends and family, whether wedding bells or baby cries or both are in their future!  It's been a really busy year for me and next year looks about the same.

'Til next time.

Llama Llama