Choose Your Gig Wisely

When I first started my path as a professional musician my teacher Mark Cox offered me some sage advice (Pardon the paraphrasing Mark!):”You don’t become a professional someday.  You became a professional the minute you walked onto campus your freshman year, whether you act like it or not.” One of the lessons I learned and have tried to pass on to my students (and my colleagues sometimes) is the profession of being a gigging musician isn’t about how many gigs you play.  It’s to a large degree about how you cultivate those gigs, and what those gigs are.  In particular, you have to remember that your musical skills have value, so don’t give them away for free.  And just as important, don’t undercut your musical colleagues, because what they do has value too.  If you sell your services cheaper, it drives down the rate that everyone makes, and it pisses off your fellow musicians.  It does not reduce the amount of practice time, the price of your instrument, or your utility bills. To the non-musician, the uninitiated, a gig is a musical performance that’s outside of your regular musical duties.  For an undergrad for example, a gig would be playing at church, but not your regularly schedule band concert.  For a professional gigging musician, gigs are the colorful mosaic that, once arranged, make up a living. The “your work has value” rule is the backbone of being a music professional, which is why a conversation on the TubeNet was interesting. It’s about just that sort of thing, but from a different angle. Yes, the TubeNet is a tuba bulletin...

Letters to Doug, Part II

This is the second email response I sent to my friend Doug.  The first is here. Article the Second: While the first half of this rant dealt with history, shortcomings, abuses, and hacks, the second half deals with the current and future state of things.  Specifically I want to talk about a concept called “responsive design,” some existing CSS capabilities, and then I’ll address your original concern about fonts within that framework. As you have probably on some level already guessed, mobile devices are changing the way people use the web.  And that means that web designers who want to stay relevant need to keep an eye on what WILL BE, rather than what currently is.  You, like most of the designers I know, are already hard-wired to look for the new, the innovative, the fresh.  But the technical requirements of designing for all sorts of different devices (including the staid desktop computer) requires a framework for innovation.  Otherwise the “graphically bold” becomes the “technically unusable,” or worse, unachievable.  But, by imposing some limitations, you’ll get a pretty quick idea how designs can work on any sort of device under almost any sort of condition. In other words, constraints breed creativity. As I mentioned, there are some big differences between print and web, but they are exacerbated with mobile devices.  Print designers expect that their dimensions, ratios, fonts, margins, gutters… all of it will be preserved, no matter who is looking at them.  If you rotate a poster on its side it looks like a poster on its side.  Mobile devices on the other hand (and browsers in particular)...

Letters to Doug, Part I

13 years and a couple lifetimes ago I lived and worked in Mt. Pleasant Michigan.  I was finishing my undergraduate degree and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.  I got one of those little nudges that changed my career, my life, and my whole viewpoint: I interviewed for a job uploading bulk ads to ebay, but when they found out I had a web portfolio they hired me as their webmaster.  It was there that I met numerous wonderful people, and at least one not-so-wonderful person.  Doug is one of the former. Doug contacted me via everyone’s favorite social networking site a few weeks back, maybe a little sheepishly, and asked for some advice on web design.  Specifically, the codey, noodley, messy business of making a web page look good, despite all the hurdles that seem to have been arbitrarily put up.  Doug is a graphic designer, in the old fashioned sense.  He learned to use film before there was flickr.  He stands by typography as a pillar of visual communication.  Basically, he’s my kind of guy.  And to people who would rather work in the world of the real, the web offers vexations.  Which is why, when I decided to help him, I also decided to help anyone who cares to read my blog. After some introductions and catching up, Doug wrote: Suffice it to say, over the years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with web design. Maybe an overall casual interest/boredom relationship is more accurate. When I was beginning in graphic design, graphic design meant print design. ‘Graphic’ in the...

Meeting Dido

Yesterday I saw Berlioz’s opera Les Troyens with my friend Megan and it was amazing.  Afterward over sushi we talked a bit about Berlioz’s portrayal of the female characters.  He staged a number of strong, smart, successful women, and then killed them off. The most dramatic scene in the first half has the Vestal Virgins taking their lives en masse, in front of the invading Greeks, who understandably exclaim, “WTF!”  But it’s opera, so they exclaim it in french. The second half focused on the relationship of Queen Dido and Aeneas, the leader of the survivors.  Dido has endured hardship and created a peaceful and prosperous kingdom, only to lose her head when Aeneas steps on the stage.  The opera ends with Aeneas leaving her to fulfill his destiny, and her stabbing herself with a sword.  Then singing about it for a while. That’s why opera is great. In the second half when the audience is introduced to Dido, she’s caterwauling about how she don’t need no man.  And judging by the outfits, lighting, and joyful music of her subjects, she’s right.  Her sister warbles something about meeting someone someday who’ll set her straight, and Dido responds with the operatic equivalent of “bitch, please.”  Then Aeneas drags his heroic homeless self onto stage and she is suddenly a teenager.  One of her advisers, Narbal, throws a convincing fit about how she’s suddenly not seeing to her duties as queen.  In fact, Dido seems like two characters: one is a prop, and another a cautionary tale.  The first Dido is scenery- she is the arrival point for the hero.  The...

Sleep is Serious Business

This is my unofficial official job report.  I work at Sealy now.  Yeah, the bed people.  When I first shared that on facebook, some of my friends offered clever comments asking if I was the guy who sleeps all day to test the mattresses.  No, smartasses, I write websites. But today I had an official tour of the building and we went past the “R&D” department.  Research and development.  I asked what exactly does R&D do at a mattress factory.  The response? Burn things, put out cigarettes on mattresses, build machines that abuse the mattresses, and… take naps. I’m totally serious.  Employees can volunteer to take...