Sunday, May 31, 2015

Doctor Pyewacket

We have a new kitten in the house. His name is Doctor Pyewacket.  He was a foundling.

One day (May 11 to be precise, a Monday) Leslie heard a high-pitched sound of distress coming from some bushes near our house.  The source was a little black furry thing.  The feline-human bonding process began almost instantaneously.

We performed a modicum of due diligence to determine if the kitty belonged to anyone.  We asked a few neighbors, none of whom claimed him.  We put up a single small "Found Kitten" sign for a few days.  No bereaved little girl appeared asking for the return of her cat.

Apparently someone had just dropped their unwanted kitty in the shrubbery and run away, hoping cat lovers would find it.  That's exactly what happened.  Doctor Pyewacket is one seriously lucky cat.

A week later we took Pyewacket to the vet.  The contract he agreed to was simple: we'll take care of him for life.  In exchange all he needs to do is be cute and affectionate.  Oh, and he never gets to go outside again, ever.  He gets extra bonus points if he remembers to use the cat box.

Leslie named him Pyewacket after the Siamese cat in the movie Bell, Book and Candle.  You can watch some scenes of Pyewacket in this video (just remember that Frank Sinatra has nothing to do with it.)  That was one seriously well-trained movie animal.

The name Pyewacket was originally one of several imps (along with Elemanzer, Peck in the Crown, Grizzel and Greedigut) described by "witchfinder general" Matthew Hopkins in 1644.  I'm sure he knew where-of he spoke.

Our houseguest Isabel gave Pyewacket his doctoral honors.  The name has stuck in that form.  Dr. P. is not to be confused with Mr. P. the peacock who lived in our tree the first year we were in Pasadena, shown here confronting our mackerel tabby Big Boy.

Dr. P. is getting along as well as might be expected with Chowderhead, our big red dog.  Our two older cats, however, are not so accepting.  The male, Crackle Pop, is curious but standoffish.  The female, Spackle Puss, thinks that this new rival is evil in the flesh.  Spackle is seriously unhappy about the extra pussy cat on the premises.

I tried hard to catch some of Dr. Pyewacket's cuteness on video.  His dark color makes him hard to photograph.  The good pictures happen when you're quick and well-lit.   I edited the best scenes into a short video.  Then I added a frightfully over-composed soundtrack.

Watch as Pyewacket is tormented by his humans!  Marvel as he drags a mouse by its tail!  Thrill as he meets the dog!  Laugh as he chases the evil laser dot!  Snicker as he swipes at me for not wanting him to chew on my computer cables!  Guffaw as he attacks the camera!  Marvel again as he sings along with the music while he rides on my shoulder.

Someday, when Pyewacket is older, heavier and not nearly so active we'll show him this video and say "You were so cute.  What happened?"  Meanwhile, here are some pictures of our other pets.  First the brother sister team of Spackle Puss on the left and Crackle Pop on the right, shown dozing in their natural habitat.

Then, Chowderhead waiting to be given a treat and Crackle resting his head on my thigh as I sit at my computer.

Finally, just because, here are some pictures of other animals, real and imagined, photographed in the more-or-less wild.

Here's a Mixed Meters post with video about dinosaur puppets at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (where Leslie works on worms).   Another post which delves into the history of the dueling-dino image after discussing the Rite of Spring.

There are plenty of other Mixed Meters posts about cats and/or dogs.  Check them out.  You know you want to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gerry Fialka Interviews David Ocker

Last November I was asked by Gerry Fialka if I would consent to be interviewed on his series called MESS.  He set a date nearly 6 months in the future.   I announced the interview here on Mixed Meters and then promptly forgot about it except when I tried to imagine what it would be like, what he would ask me or how I would respond.  That happened only almost every day.  I had no answers for the first two questions so answering the third question with any accuracy became quite difficult.

Gerry Fialka interviewer at the UnUrban May 9 2015

As the date slowly loomed closer and closer I did some research by looking up Gerry's interviews on YouTube.  For example this one.  And this one.  Or this one.  While I didn't necessarily know who the interviewees were, I did get a sense of what Gerry wanted to know.

His questions definitely don't cover the who, what, where, when and why stuff.  You might call it more of a meta-interview.  Apparently he's been asking questions like this of all sorts of people for decades.  At one point Gerry says
"We try to talk with artists or musicians or filmmakers and not so much ask them to tell us what their art is about, because as I. A. Richards taught us, the artist is the last person you want to ask what their art is about.  But we talk about the philosophies of life."
The questions ran a gamut from what I thought was the best thing for a human being to what I would do if someone threw a bag a shit at me while I was in a vat of vomit.   My research into Gerry's previous interviews helped only a little.  I had a few prepared answers but was surprised to find that some of my spontaneous responses were much better.

Gerry Fialka and David Ocker at the UnUrban May 9 2015

Gerry suggested that I should take the task of recording the interview into my own hands.  I used the point 'n shoot in my pocket to record video of most of it and also made a backup audio recording.

As I've reviewed my performance, I am relieved not to be cringing too much at what I said.  There are a few places where I didn't express myself as well as I might have and other places where I wish I had expounded more.  I still pretty much remember what I meant to say so feel free to ask about the incomprehensible bits.

I decided to share the interview here.  I knew I would.  After all, this blog is specifically about things I have to say so what could be more perfect than two hours of me saying things.

Gerry Fialka and David Ocker at the UnUrban May 9 2015

Here are some points you should probably read before watching:
  • This video is as a massive selfie.  At Gerry's suggestion the camera shot was framed to show only me.  The room was not well lit, so the video also qualifies as film noir.  
  • I was distressed to learn at the last moment that my point'n'shoot would take no more than 30 minutes of video at one go.  I managed to stop and restart it twice.  If you're quick you can see my arm reach out to the camera just as a few words are dropped from the conversation.  Alas, I didn't restart he third time, so at about 90 minutes the recording switches over to audio only.  I added some fifty of my photographs to satisfy the visual nature of the medium.
  • In spite of all my facial and hand gestures and all my photographs, this is essentially an audio document.  If you listen without watching you won't miss much of anything.  In a hurry? YouTube gives the option of faster playback: 1.25 and 1.5 are still understandable.  Double time is not.
  • I am grateful to all the people who attended.  The room was small but well filled.  Some old friends showed up to mingle with Gerry's regular audience.  One questioner, who might well have been drinking, didn't belong to either group.  He's the one who asks me for a hug.
  • Gerry and I share the experience of having worked for Frank Zappa.  There are a lot of Zappa-related questions.  If you're interested primarily in my experience working for Frank, then you should check out this interview from the mid-90s.  Or this interview about Francesco and Frank.
Okay.  That's the end of my preamble.  Here's the main event . . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Four Winters

The Seasons is not just some dead European's collection of four tired old warhorse violin concertos that everyone loves.  It's also my series of pieces that almost no one knows about.  You can find links to read about or listen to all my Seasons here.  Sometimes it seems that you can hear that other set of seasons just about anywhere.

One aspect of Vivaldi's Seasons that makes sense to most people is that there is one concerto for each season.  Old Antonio figured that's all he needed to do.  Once you hear his impressions of a particular season, say, Winter, you've heard as much Winter as you'll ever need.  The theory here, I guess, is that all winters are pretty much alike.

My Seasons are much more ambitious.  There will be a new piece called Winter every year, as long as I keep writing them.  So far I've completed four Winters.  To distinguish them from one another (and from Vivaldi) I add a year to the title.  My four completed winters are Winter 2011, Winter 2012, Winter 2013 and Winter 2014.

If you're one of Mixed Meters' three regular readers, you'll already know that these pieces contain huge amounts of pure silence - up to 80% has no sound whatsoever.   Listening to a piece like that would be madness, right?

Also, there's no intent on my part to portray Winter.  There's no tone painting here.  If you feel cold while listening to this music, I suggest it's because you forgot to turn up the heat.  My pieces are called "Winter" because they were written during the winter.  Simple, huh?

My intention, is that The Seasons are combinatorial - you play them with other music.  Yes, two or more pieces simultaneously.   Mostly I listen to my Seasons in combination with my other Seasons, although playing them with Vivaldi works pretty well too.

This process requires creativity on the part of the listener.  My sense is that listeners do not like exhibiting creativity when they listen.  Most listeners, whatever their favorite genre, don't like unexpected, unusual, abrupt cacophonous interruptions when multiple unrelated pieces of music are played at the same time.  Imagine that.

To make matters worse, most playback systems, analog or digital, do not facilitate multiple simultaneous streams of music.  To allow those few people who want to hear all four Winters simultaneously, I've mixed them together and uploaded a single easy-to-play file.  Just click and play.  No creativity is required.

Click here to hear Four Winters - by David Ocker
4384 seconds   - Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 

If you are inspired to try combining some of my Seasons simultaneously on your own, there is a way to do that online.  First be certain you have a good Internet connection.  Then go here and in the first category, "The Seasons", click on "Listen" several times.  You can separate your clicks by a couple minutes for added variety.   Alas, these sound files won't repeat endlessly which would be a nice touch. (UPDATE: so I just tried this again and was surprised to discover that the sound files DO repeat endlessly. Oh joy. I have no idea what changed. Maybe it happened when I switched to the HTML5 player as default.)