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Jump to a specific date this week

Monday December 06 
Tuesday November 07 
Wednesday December 08
Thursday December 09
Friday December 10 
Saturday December 11 
Sunday December 12 

Previous weeks   

first week of December 1999 
fourth week of November 1999
at-a distance diary, Oct-Nov 1999 


Monday December 06

Another insane busy day.  But a day with breakthroughs on many levels.   A late lunch with Steve Arnold, the person largely responsible for bringing Sanford Ponder to Seattle 5 years ago to work at Microsoft in a now legendary facility called 'the blender.'   This man is plugged-in.  What does that mean?  More than I can explain today.   But more on this topic as this evolves over the next year.

* * *

Curt spent the afternoon rehearsing with Bill and Christian, and then I also met with Bill and Christian for a quick repertoire run-through this evening before spending three hours at Mark Long's 'demo club' at the Speakeasy -- Demo Club is an entrepreneurial schmooze-fest where start-ups come to mingle with venture capitalists and catalysts.   

This is also another long story, and not one which I can share here given the hour and my current state.   I will say, though that it was a complete pleasure seeing Eric Kahan in his prime element, demonstrating his latest co-invention (an ultra-sonic speaker system.)  An old Claymont Court companion, Richard Risingsun was also there -- I showed Richard my priceless red "Bank of Charles Town" bank bag which I use to carry every audio connector known to man so that at gigs and recording sessions, I am never without the ability to connect from any point A to any point B.   This red bag is one of my most obvious physical reminders of the many bleak days I spent living just outside of Charles Town West Virginia in the Claymont Court mansion and barn from 1989-1991.

Demo club was hopping this evening with 26 start-ups showing off their ideas to at least 200-300 potential investors, employees, and strategic partners.

To follow-up on the events of the evening, David Singleton, Diane Aldahl, Curt Golden, and I are having dinner tomorrow evening with Mark Long at my old favorite belltown haunt: Cyclops.

* * * 

Immediately after demo club, I bolted over to Dean's house for SGC rehearsal.  Hero Bob was staying home with a sick Isabel, so we were a quartet this evening.   

We spent most of the first hour working progressively slower on "Cultivating the Beat."   We broke down and repeated problem areas over and over --  this piece remains just above our reach.  And tonight we were up on our tippy-toes reaching just a bit further.   My estimation is that, at our current rehearsal pace, it will be mid-February before we are really able to reliably nail this piece with the same certainty and minimum competence level we have with, say, Bicycling to Afghanistan.   

For me, this will also mean playing and practicing this piece every single day to stay in touch with it and to keep it growing and alive in my hands.  

Did I mention that this is a difficult piece? 

My friend (and Seattle Repertoire member) John Henning called me at home just after our Phinney Winter Festival show last Saturday, and mentioned that he really enjoyed our performance of CTB.  Despite our continued incompetence with this piece, the music still seems to sail through. 

After Cultivating the Beat, we spent a half hour revisiting another future winner in our repertoire: Curt's iconic "Vulcanization."   I have already raved heavily about this piece in previous diary entries, so I will not continue that thread here.   But our work this evening on this piece was also well worth it.    

At one point while we were working on this piece, I had a quick vision of the SGC performing this piece on "Sessions at West 54th" sometime out there in the future.   This seemed real and possible.

With this, Curt suggested that we play the piece again at tempo (94 bpm.)   We did, and despite a few minor falters here and there, the piece rocked.  

NYC, here we come.

* * *

Following the SGC repertoire work, we shifted gears and visited some of the SB Roadshow material for our upcoming Saturday evening rock show gig at the Rainbow.   We reviewed the form and cleaned up some details in "Message in a Bottle" and then we revisited the form and details of "Hollow." 

I'm really looking forward to this upcoming show.  

In some ways, this is a test of another vision which I have been seeing recently: I see a series of shows with an SGC set (all instrumental, formal, all ovations) followed by an SBRS set (all songs, less formal, electric, various instruments, rocking out.)   

Same people for both sets and 'costume' and personality change between sets.   For the audience: a view of two sides of the same coin. 

* * * 

One of the things Peg mentioned about the Cle Elem show we did a few months ago: some of the people she spoke to after the show said they wished we had played at least one or two "familiar" pieces.    And someone mentioned they also wanted to hear a "song" (human voice) now and then to break up all of the guitar music. 

The California Guitar Trio do this very well (the "familiar" part, not the 'song' part.)   This idea was even suggested to RF back in 1990 during the NYC Level One by a high-powered music biz exec who came to the course to check out the League of Crafty Guitarists.   

His suggestion to Robert was that the League should do an entire CD of 'covers' which everyone knows.   At the time, I believe almost everyone in the League wrote this suggestion off as blasphemous and ridiculous.    Robert mentioned at the time that he had always hoped that the League would eventually do a version of the 'William Tell Overature.'    

Hmmm...  I wonder if Pauly, Bert, or Hidi are reading this diary?

But what do I know.  I'm just a poor boy.  I need no sympathy, because it's easy come, easy go, little high, little low.   Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me.   To me.     

* * *

Nine years later, this is one of the primary strategies (conscious or otherwise) which has lead the CGT to their current level of success.  

* * *

Tuesday December 07

Wow.  Where to begin.  This day was exactly one web-year long.  Perhaps a good place to start is an image painted my friend Mark Long, entrepreneur and founder of Zombie entertainment.   At dinner tonight, Mark was describing the pace of our so-called-lives in high technology:

"You step up on the the running machine, and the handcuff snaps around your wrist.  Then, everyday, someone cranks up the speed one more notch.  Pretty soon you are running.   And every day the knob goes up a notch and speed gets faster and faster."

Does it ever slow down?   

Apparently, the answer is no.

Mark's current solution for Zombie: make the work environment more like home since that is where you  will be living 99% of your waking life.

* * *

Another great one from a T-Shirt he saw last year at the Game Developer's Conference:  "Remember when you thought this would be your dream job?"

* * *

So much for chronology in this day's description.  Let's begin with dinner.  David Singleton, Diane Aldahl, Curt Golden, Mark Long and SB had a 2.5 hour dinner at one of my favorite downtown restaurants, Cyclops.   We had an intense discussion surrounding start-up company logistics.   Mark is our Seattle Start-Up Sage, and we do not wish to reinvent the wheels which already propel him around at 2 bazillion miles per hour.

Small world department: An old friend and former MSN "Mint" producer, Matthew Clarke walked in and sat at the table across from us.   Matthew has a new start-up design firm and clothing company called Houston which was written up in Wired magazine this month.  His web site is called: 

* * *

Christian and Bill worked together in the rehearsal space this afternoon while Curt and I were out being business people.  Christian has been crossing a great divide this week.  At 12:37, Curt just called to say that our recording plans for tomorrow are still undetermined.   This means that they are probably cancelled.  

Perhaps just as well...? 

* * *

We're all off to see the Jane Siberry show tomorrow evening at the Century Ballroom.   I hope to see Jane briefly to scope out a plan for continued collaboration with the Seattle Guitar Circle next year.   But I know how it can be before and after a show... so I have no expectations.  

* * *

My brain is reeling from the Mark Long meeting which followed a Venture Law meeting which followed a peek at three possible BTV office sites, which followed a long day of intense and defining Microsoft meetings. Perhaps this is a good time to switch over to some more amazing mail from Travis Hartnett:

From: Tiktok World HQ 
Sent: Tuesday, Dec 07, 1999 8:16PM
To: Steve Ball
Subject: A machine that eats everything in its path


I've been thinking some more about that briefest of mentions you made regarding the SGC playing NYC.

My experience is that a band is a machine that eats everything in its path. There is no "Park" or "Neutral" in the gearbox of a band, only forward gears. Once you get to a certain level of competence and recognition, the act of joining a band insures that you get gigs. Gigs require a set list, the set list must be practiced. Time is short, so practices become focused on the impending show. Anything not required for the show gets pushed aside. Shows lead to more shows. Which leads to more press and schmoozing. And more shows. And less sleep. I've always hated and distrusted the idea that "any business not growing is dying", but as best I can tell, a band behaves this way despite the wishes of its members. People call you and offer a gig, and hey! You can't turn down that sort of exposure/money/opportunity, and on and  on and on... And for someone with the contacts, know-how, and visibility that the SGC possesses, things will start moving very quickly indeed. From where I sit the SGC is busybusybusy and I don't see that changing unless someone drops out. 

So, I'm still tickled that the same man who only last week explained his Local and Immobile theory of making music manages to play in other countries and considers national television exposure and bi-coastal appearances to be a distinct possibility.

Best of luck.


P.S. Again, how do you make God laugh?

P.P.S. TravCraft Aphorism #421: "Every breath a band takes costs a thousand dollars"

And another:

-----Original Message-----
From: Tiktok World HQ 
Sent: Tuesday, Dec 07, 1999 4:36 PM
To: Steve Ball
Subject: SGC/NYC

"At one point while we were working on this piece, I had a quick vision of the SGC performing this piece on "Sessions at  West 54th" sometime out there in the future. This seemed real and possible.

With this, Curt suggested that we play the piece again at tempo (94 bpm.) We did, and despite a few minor falters here and there, the piece rocked.

NYC, here we come."

Ah, the Devil never stops whispering in our ear, does he Mr. Local And Immobile?

Best of luck,


"Never go to New York City without enough money to get out..."--Levon Helm

Travis does it again.  Excellent, biting, and right on the money, every time.  Regarding the devil, I am reminded of a famous aphorism:  "The artist's reward is temptation."   

One minor clarification about the timeline of the NYC vision:

NYC, here we come.  In five years.  

By then, Ballistic may be global and mobile again.   That's the great thing about vision.  If you've got good eyes, you can see what is way out there.  

I have pretty good eyes.  

But we still have to walk (or sprint as the case may be) in the direction of what we see to get there.  NYC here we come.    But don't hold your breath just yet.

* * *

Wednesday December 08

Jane Siberry show on Capital Hill: for me, this was a reunion of sorts with Tobin Buttram, Andrea Weatherhead, Sue Ennis, Joyce Thompson, Curt Golden, Christian de Santis, Guy Whitmore, Liza White, and Leslie Smith all showing up with about 200 other adoring fans to support the heavenly voice of Sweet Sweet Jane.

At this point, I feel so tired, I assume that everyone I know just knows everyone else I know.

Sadly absent from our group schmooze: Jaxie, home with a flu or cold, and Bill and Frankie, also home feeling ill.   Fortunately, the show was sold out and I was able to sell their tickets at only a minor loss (handling charges...)

My favorite moment of the show: Jane played the opening chords to 'the Walking' for about 20 seconds and then morphed into another, more recent, song.  It was like a surreal flashback to a scene from another life, a life which was making itself known in the present for just enough time to transmit a reminder about the depth, richness and learning that occurred in that past life, but there is not only a flavor remaining.  Now we move on and become firmly rooted in the present. 

That's a lot of words to explain a simple idea -- that time is so extremely freaking mysterious, and yet we take it for granted.   How can this song which touched me so deeply ten years ago take me back to my own experience from ten years ago as if it were happening right now?

How can this one woman make every single person in the room feel like she is singing intimately and directly to them alone?   Even Curt commented that he felt Jane was looking at and singing directly to him at a certain point.   What is this skill?   

Another powerful moment: 

I don't need anybody. I don't need any comfort. I don't need any lover, I can get it from my self.  Don't need anyone to want me, don't want any one to need me, and  I think I almost have my self convinced, I think I almost have my self convinced...

* * *

After the show, I had a few minutes alone with Jane backstage, and I gave her the new SGC CD and Greenthumb.  She confirmed her hope to lighten her calendar in the new year for more work with the SGC.   A quick hug and a shared warmth that is difficult to describe in black and white text flowed through the room.   I floated out into the hall, inspired to go home and practice.  

Excellence inspires.  Fuel tank is full.  

* * *

Speaking of painful car metaphors, Curt gave me a ride to my car which was parked at David Singleton's Bellevue hotel.  For most of the day, my car was in the shop.   By the end of the day, I had spent $1036 on my poor Toyota gig-mobile fixing brakes, starter, and a major tune-up.  


* * *

Got home around 1:00am.   Played my Yamaha piano for 25 minutes -- a piece which I have not played since about 1984 showed up spontaneously at my fingertips.   Gently down the stream.   A phrase that has very specific meaning for about four former musicians on the planet who, at one time, were like brothers to me.      

But that's a much different story.  And not for tonight. 

Orange Juice.  Brush teeth.   Diary.   Quick mail check. 187 unread messages.   414 awaiting response.   Time for the massive 'delete.'   There comes a point where I have to say that if any email is so important, then I will get a phone call, or they will send it again. 

Management by deletion. 

But one exciting mail from Jax:  SGC has monthly gigs at Mr. Spots lined up between now and June.  Quote from Jax:  "Yippeee!"

I'm happy.   Delete. 

Tomorrow: Christian's last day in Seattle until February.   

* * *   

Thursday December 09

A hugely fun SB Roadshow rehearsal this evening with the quintet featuring SB, guitars/vocals; Jaxie Binder, guitars/vocals; Curt Golden, electric guitars/vocals; Bob Williams, bass; Dean Jensen, ambient guitars; and very special guest, Brock Pytel on drums.  This rehearsal rocked!

I sometimes hear software people express great enthusiasm by saying that something "rocked," and I am always skeptical about software that "rocks." 

Tonight, however, my description of the SBRS rehearsal is literal and accurate.  With Brock on drums, we literally ROCKED.   Our last run through of 'Message in a Bottle' filled the room with joy.  The look on Curt, Bob, and Jaxie's faces said it all...  mildly ecstatic enthusiasm was flying around the room.

Brock was less enthusiastic, but over the years, I've learned that this is just Brock being himself -- there are times when he is simply unable to see and accept what a great musician and drummer he really is.

Everything he played tonight brought this delicate repertoire to a new level of energy and rightness.  

I will sleep with a slight smile this evening.  Even if it is only for about five hours.  

* * *

Immediately before rehearsal this evening, I met Bill Rieflin and Christian de Santis for a farewell meal for Christian at Red Mill Burgers on Phinney Ridge.   We briefly discussed our work of the past few weeks, and I asked Christian some tough questions about how he felt about his visit.    

As usual, he gave all the right answers.  Christian is very direct and honest -- this is a trait which comes out in his playing as well.  His tone is also very direct, clear, and honest.   Even when he is playing at 130dB through an orange boss distortion petal into Curt's Marshall.

His current thinking is that he will come back with his wife Marisol and son, Cristian in February for one month.  My job may be to arrange housing for them while they are here.  

Not a problem.

* * *

I also ran into Andy and Charlie, mututal friends of Chris Murphy at Red Mill.   Andy was the person who orginally brought the SGC and the SB Roadshow to 18 months of almost continuous shows at the various Borders Bookstores around the Seattle area.

The world is getting smaller here.

* * *

Immediately before my meeting with Bill and Christian, I had Thai soup with David and Diane, discussing my now expanded weekend plans, and their meetings earlier in the day in San Jose.   

More progress.

David has extended his stay so that we can continue meetings with major movers and shakers in the VC world.  We're likely to both head back to San Jose on Sunday for an early Monday morning meeting.  Then David will head straight back to England.    

* * *

Immediately before meeting with David and Diane, I spoke on the phone with Steve Enstad, who was in LA, but on his way to the airport.   While he was visiting DGM US offices today, Chris Murphy and Tony Levin walked in to collect some of the new DGM titles that they had both worked on, but never seen before.

Steve had a chance to meet both Chris and Tony, and he had a great conversation with Tony about current BTV work and plans.   Chris also emailed me yesterday to say that his Levin/Bozzio/Stevens work was going well.     

* * * 

Curt and I are about to enter a weekend full of musical activities: KSER show with Peter Dervin on Friday night, Beginner's Circle on Saturday morning (3 hours) then SGC and SBRS shows at the Rainbow (Curt is playing in 3, count 'em, 3 bands that evening.)   Then he is up at 4am to fly to San Jose for the Bay Area Beginner's Circle meeting.   (I'm also flying into San Jose later in the day...  coincidence?)  This is after 3 weeks with Christian as a house guest.

I am guessing that Curt is looking forward to a break on Monday.

The past two months in Seattle have been very much like being on an extensive and intensive GC course.  And it's been this way at least since before the beginning of the AAD course on October 10th.


* * *

A nice message on my answering machine from Joyce Thompson who I saw and sat with at the Jane show last night.  Like many others, her feedback is that the 'greenthumb' CD is my most accessible work to date.  

I don't disagree.   

That material was actually written, arranged, and  recorded well before almost everything else I have released over the past two years (Electric Gauchos, Ballistic, Breathing Field, SGC.)     It's actually somewhat unfortunate that my recent CD releases have hit the world in this particular order.   Ballistic is essentially a 'remix' single with many extremely different arrangements of only two songs.   Perhaps this is a confusing concept for someone who is not familiar with my work and processes.

Both Jaxie and Brock mentioned that their kids (Isabel and Clement) like to listen to 'the Breathing Field' before going to bed.    Chris will probably be happy to hear this.   Music to put kids to sleep with..   soothing or boring?    You decide.    

So, why is 'greenthumb' more accessible?  As I discussed with David and Diane yesterday, there is something enchanting, primal, and powerful contained within vocal harmony.      

* * *

Final thought for the evening.  The music in rehearsal tonight brought me great joy.  The energy and momentum really kicked in during 'Back in NYC.'     Everyone was really ON.   And even dear Jaxie had been reviewing her parts and doing some homework...   She even wore her ultra-cool black leather jacket.   

Once again, I realize I am blessed to be surrounded by such amazing friends and musicians.

* * *

Friday/Saturday December 10/11

Too tired to think straight let alone write tonight.  This diary will probably remain stagnant until Monday evening as I'm off to LA then San Jose (same day) very very soon.    I'm writing this at 2:00am on early Sunday morning just after the SGC / SBRS show at the Rainbow.    I have to be at David Singleton's hotel at 5:30.  You do the math.   

Did I mention packing?  Or preparation?

No sane person would be doing this right now...  but I'm acting on the new prime BTV aphorism:

There is no tomorrow.  It must be done today.

So, a big update will appear here on Monday evening about the wild and musical events of the past 48 hours, and the wild BTV events of the next 48.  Those who saw the rainbow show may wish to email me with comments and reviews.   Those who heard the KSER show on Friday night, please email me reviews and observations.    I will gladly post them here with your permission.

If you did not hear or see these shows, you can also email me comments and observations if you wish.

* * *

One quick sad note:  Nori, one of my former cat twins from a former life is very sick and may be passing on soon.   Some quiet prayers for Nori and his loving  cat-mom-Karen might be useful.

Sunday December 12

It's actually Monday now,... very late, as predicted.  Just home from a 'vacation' of sorts.   I've been to LA and San Jose in the space of 48 hours.   Hare-brain Pelota is off on another web adventure.   I have many stories with which to fill these pages since my last entry.   

But, not tonight.  

Good advice from Dean on my answering machine when I got home this evening:  "go to bed." 

Taking his kind advice.

* * *