Tuesday July 5th, 2016

The hits just keep on comin’!

Tuesday July 5th, 2016

When I got home tonight, there’s a letter from the Office of the Mayor. Huh? The letter inside reads,

Dear Bruce:

It is my distinct pleasure to share that you have been selected as the recipient of the Meritorious Service Award as part of the 2016 City Employee Recognition Program. You were nominated for the prestigious award and a review committee selected you from among a number of impressive nominees.

It goes on about the ceremony and all that. (Light refreshments will be served!) It concludes,

On behalf of all your colleagues at the City and the residents of Rochester, we thank you for your exemplary service.

And it’s signed by the Mayor with actual ink.

It’s had to have come from my time with the Public Library, since I’m still in my probationary period with the Bureau of Parking. (Which, BTW, officially makes me a bureaucrat.)

I have to make an appointment with the city photographer. Apparently there’s a thing being prepared for the cityofrochester.gov web site.

I’m still tracking down who might have nominated me.

Wow. I sure have come a long way…

Crap! I’ll have to wear a tie that day! And maybe pants other than jeans.

Friday May 6th, 2016

End of an era

Friday May 6th, 2016

After 14 years, yesterday (Thursday) was my last shift on the circ desk of the Arnett Branch. Tomorrow (Saturday) I have to do an outreach with the Books by Bike trailer. It will be my last day with Rochester Public Library (RPL).

With some sort of cosmic symbolism I can’t yet figure out, the manager who hired me into RPL those 14 years ago, and who has since retired, came into the library today to pick up a book. Our conversation bookended my career with the library.

No, I remain employed, and remain employed by the City of Rochester. I’m no fool. I’m switching departments so that I can change my work schedule.

Three years ago I lost my flex-time job. Since then, I’ve been unable to find a second part-time job that

  1. I’m qualified for,
  2. that seems like I’d enjoy doing it,
  3. that I can reach reliably by bicycle in the winter, and
  4. that didn’t interfere with my work schedule at Arnett Branch.

Hardly a month has gone by without something coming along. I get the interview, but something about the job doesn’t work out. Generally the schedule, if not that, then the location. Or they hire somebody else.

I’ve also been two years on waiting lists for subsidized senior housing. It would cut my rent by $300 a month and largely negate the need for a second part-time job.

In the meanwhile, I’ve gone through all my savings at a time of life when one should be socking away as much as possible. It’s only three years before I’m eligible for reduced-benefit Social Security, six years before I’m eligible to draw from my state pension, 7½ years before I’m eligible for full-benefit Social Security, and 11 years before I can no longer save for retirement.

Pushing out retirement to age 70 in 2027 is currently my goal. I’m healthier than I was in my 20s, I’m happy, I enjoy working, and I need the savings. So why not?

But it can’t be done on a single part-time job, and afternoon and evening part-time jobs are far more plentiful. Something had to give, and my job with the library was it.

Around the first of the year I applied for a clerical position with the Fire Department. Never heard a thing. About a month ago, I got a phone call. Would I be interested in interviewing for a clerical position with the Parking Bureau? Turns out, there was a retirement in the Parking Bureau and rather than advertise the opening, City HR simply sent over the rejects from the Fire Department position I’d applied for.

One of the rules is, always take the interview. So the next morning I interviewed. The position seemed doable, the location is fine, the hiring manager seemed decent and it pays a bit better than the library. The job is in the morning through the lunch hour. I decided that if offered, I’d accept.

The Friday the hiring manager promised to make the decision by came and went. No call. In the City, you get a call if you get the job. No call? No job and you’ll get a letter confirming that in around a month. I figured no job, and I’ll get another rejection letter for the file.

Then I went on about my business.

Well, it wasn’t quite that. There were a lot of emotions involved that weekend. And on Monday I had to tell everyone that I’d gotten no call.

Then on the following Tuesday, I got the call. I accepted.

Put that way, it sounds very different than how it felt. I love my job at the library. It’s the first job I’ve ever held where I look forward to going to work. Fourteen years is the longest I’ve ever held a job. I like the rest of the staff, I like (most of) the patrons. The only gripe I’ve had about the library is that in seven years of budgets, nobody could get me one stinkin’ hour a week so I’d have my full 20 hours.

Sure the summers were tough, when we’d have as many as 500 kids registered for Summer Reading, and the place became the de facto neighborhood day-care. The solution I found last year—taking a day off every-other week—took the edge off sufficiently to get through.

I’ve done amazing things there too. I get Excellent Customer Service awards so routinely, they’ve become ho-hum. Three years ago I won the Director’s Choice award, chosen by the Director herself from among the 500 or RPL staff, for “Providing exemplary service to residents of Rochester and Monroe County and making a difference in the lives of many”.

I was a member of the team that won the Rochester Regional Library Council’s 2015 Public Library of the Year award. Of course, I was a member Books by Bike project team, and we got the Outstanding Team Award for that last year too.

I was one of only 21 people in the entire county library system selected to work on the five-year plan. What an eye-opener, and what a pleasure it was to work with 20 smart people dedicated to mapping out the best future for our library system.

As an outgrowth of that, I found my voice in the library system. I spoke for those without a voice. By joining the debate on several key issues, I was responsible in part for eliminating hold fees for kids and teens during summer reading. With the start of the new fiscal year this coming July, late fees will be eliminated for kids and teens, and hold fees reduced for everyone from $1 per title to only 25¢, (but still free for kids and teens during Summer Reading).

Heady stuff, having policymakers listen to what I had to say, then acting upon it. Who ever would have thought?

But what I found more satisfying and am most proud of was buying the DVDs. As a clerk, I’m not really supposed to manage a budget and do purchasing, but we don’t have an A/V librarian, and I offered.

What happened is that I did such a good job, that in a report run last summer, 480 of the top 500 circulating titles at our library were DVDs. Yup. My purchasing was directly responsible for 96% of the circulated titles, and I did it with only 22½ percent of the total book budget.

For these reasons and more, I absolutely hated the idea of leaving the library. (Not the least of which was sharing laughs daily with co-workers and our patrons.) But financially, I had no choice. When you run out of choices, it’s easy to do the right thing.

My goal became to leave on the best of all possible terms. I want a place to come back to if the situation changes, or at the very least, after retirement. Shelving books two or three days a week just to get out of the house sounds nice.

I had no idea what leaving a job on good terms means. I’ve never voluntarily left a job before. At least not on good terms. I can do getting shit-canned. I can’t count the number of times I was shit-canned. I’ve let my temper get away and have quit in a huff. There’s not a single previous employer who would take me back, and I don’t blame them.

Leaving on good terms preserving the possibility of return? Totally uncharted territory.

Making it up as I went along, I worked my tail off these past two weeks. I went through everything at work, cleaned out the deadwood, reorganized all my stuff, even made all new file folders to replace the ratty ones I’d been using. I documented several parts of my job that nobody’s been cross-trained on—supplies ordering, DVD ordering, and DVD processing.

I even ordered all the DVDs through to the end of the fiscal year, eight weeks away. And went only $210 over budget. Easily covered by other surpluses.

Well that bit seems to have knocked the socks off everyone. They don’t know how they’ll get along without me. “Like this,” I said. “I wrote it all down for you.”

So when I locked my cabinet for the last time Thursday, everything was shipshape for my co-workers to handle things in the interim, and for my successor in about a month. Better organized than I kept it for myself, and no unfinished projects or crap lying about either.

On Saturday I’ll pull the Books by Bike trailer in the Little League parade for their season opening, then park it for a last time, leaving my badge and my keys on my boss’s desk.

I told everyone I didn’t want the usual going-away party at bar or restaurant. That left open something at work. I arrived at work early on Thursday to take down my bike rack and clean out my locker. The table in the lunchroom was overflowing with gluten-free cookies. There was a card and gift as well.

First there was a coffee cup engraved, “Arnett Library Guy Bruce Wilbur”. For the “Library Guy” story, see this YouTube video from 2012.

In the cup, two rolls of quarters labeled “RPL Holds Kit”. Yep, 80 holds under the new 25¢ rate that I helped to implement. Those effing quarters are the best gift, since I’m also giving up the free holds benefit enjoyed by staff members. (I’ll have to start paying late fees too.)

On Monday morning, I start at the Parking Bureau. I’ll be working in the section that administers the ramp garages and permit parking areas of the city. And it administers the bike lockers in the ramp garages.

This is not without some anxiety. There’s the usual “What if it doesn’t work out?” worries. But also, it’s been 16 years since I’ve had to be to work before mid-afternoon. That’s going to be really different. It’ll be back to cubical-land, but that’s offset by floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows right outside my cubie.

There is potential for indoor parking in my cubie on nice days, but the office is carpeted. I doubt dropping slush all over it would be well tolerated. First thing, I’ll get myself on the waiting list for a bike locker in the garage.

And as I wrote almost two years ago in the entry about chapters in life, I’ll turn another page and get on with the story.

Friday February 26th, 2016

Who knew?

Friday February 26th, 2016

Once upon a time, I slaved over every detail of my web site. I sweated through the learning curve, honed my XHTML and CSS skills and all the technical details, and I obsessed over my logs.

Those are the pre-WordPress years, which exist now only on a CD in a drawer and maybe one of the Internet archive sites.

These days, I’ll go months between postings, and years between glances at the site logs and stats.

Recently, I was doing some fact-checking for a letter I was writing. Yes, I’m hopelessly old-school. I still write letters. On paper. Mailed in envelopes from the post office. Quaint, no?

Bear in mind too that I’ve had e-mail since 1982, currently have a half-dozen active addresses and am a regular poster on a half-dozen forums. And I tweet. So it’s not all 19th century around here. There’s a foot in the 21st too.

Anyway, I was searching for a set list from ONE OK ROCK’s show at the Saitama Super Arena last July. Imagine the shock when I found my own review of ONE OK ROCK’s show in NYC was #4 in the list. The article references the Saitama show and includes a set list.

Now, of course, so does the previous paragraph, so this piece is likely to show up in the same search someday. Apologies to the future for the confusion.

In any event, I just shrugged, said, “Huh”, and went on about my day.

Then, earlier this week, @jilansy retweeted the album review I wrote for SPYAIR’s “4”. Jeepers. I wrote that months ago.

This time I dove into the site stats to see what the heck was going on. Turns out, those two reviews are the number 2 and 3 top-viewed articles of all time on the site. (Not bad for 18 years of history.) Apparently, I’m an authority. Who knew?

So I’m beginning work on two new reviews. Both are live performance discs from the same weekend, August 8-9, 2015. SPYAIR’s Just Like This 2015 Live at Fuji-Q Highland, and flumpool’s For Roots — Osaka Fields Forever.

Don’t hold your breath. You’ll turn blue long before I actually get these things posted, if ever. But since I now know that people actually read the stuff I write, there’s a certain incentive.

And a certain pressure. I don’t write well under pressure, which is why I’ve politely declined all offers to do so.

We’ll see.

Tuesday February 16th, 2016

Wintering well — Part II

Tuesday February 16th, 2016

We seem to be getting all of our winter in one week. No sooner did we warm up from the weekend’s cold snap, then we get over two feet of snow.

I’m grateful that due to the city keeping the libraries closed, a full larder here at home, and not having family or other obligations, I can stay home inside and watch the rest of the city deal with it.

It didn’t look that way this morning. As of 7:30, the library announced we’d open late. Looking outdoors, I knew there was no way I was getting to work by bike. I’ll admit that at first—selfishly—I thought of how that would end this streak of consecutive workdays bike commuting.

Then I got on the transit company’s web site. That looked worse than what I saw out my window. The real-time bus tracking showed “No service” for the route that goes to my branch. News reports said that a dozen buses were stuck, mainly in the southwest, where my branch is located.

Meanwhile, the snow continued at over two inches an hour according to other news reports. I went downstairs and started two loads of laundry.

Just before 10am, the Director tweeted she was asking the city for permission to keep the libraries closed for the day. Just after 10am, she tweeted that we would be closed. Emails and phone tree calls followed.

After doing the happy dance around the apartment, I ironed and put away the laundry. Then I ate a late breakfast and did lots of Really Important Things. Erm, I mean, I took a nap.

The snow stopped around 6pm. The digging out begins.

I’m already thinking about the commute tomorrow. I know that side streets are out of the question. I’m concerned that the main roads may not have the snowbanks plowed back far enough.

But that’s a worry for tomorrow. Tonight, there’s dinner to be eaten and books to be read and snow to be looked at through the window.

Saturday February 13th, 2016

Wintering well

Saturday February 13th, 2016

This weekend it’s below-zero (-18C) cold. The floor in my apartment is so cold that even with two pairs of socks, I can’t keep my feet on the floor for very long. And I refuse to wear shoes sitting at my desk.

The bed is on the floor too, but the futon provides some insulation from the chilly oak. Cold drafts travel across the floor, so I threw on an extra blanket.

I did all my errands yesterday while it was a relatively balmy 25F (-4C) so I can stay inside on the weekend. I left the apartment, but not the building, to look inside my mailbox today. On Sunday I’ll have to take the garbage out. That’s the extent of planned extra-apartment excursions.

Besides, my legs need a rest. In just 12 days, I’m at 189 miles, or 94.5% of my 200-mile February goal. (More if you count the 30-miler out to horse country on Sunday January 31.) I’ve been pushing the studs for the past three days too, which is easily 50% more work for the same miles.

Figuring it’s a good time to make wintertime comfort foods that heat up the kitchen, last night I roasted a whole chicken, and threw in some spuds and carrots to roast in the oven too.

This morning I made stock from the bones, onions, celery and garlic. I used some of that stock in tonight’s dinner, my Chicken With Creamy Braised Leeks. It’s leeks, spuds and carrots baked in a chicken-based cream sauce, topped with boneless chicken breast.

Sunday morning and afternoon I’ll bake. The weekly bread of course, and I bought some gluten-free brownie mix.

Chuck roasts were on sale this week, so in the afternoon and evening tomorrow, it’ll be Sunday Pot Roast. I wanted rutabega in the vegetables, but the only ones I can find are so huge they’ll barely fit in the pot by themselves. So I bought a turnip instead. Along with spuds and carrots, onions and celery. I don’t make gravy with it any more. Instead I save the stock it makes to use in other dishes.

There’s not much of interest on teh interwebz, so I’ve already finished one book and am quite a ways through a second. The PC runs in music machine mode, pumping J-Rock throughout the place. Some singing has been heard and occasionally, dancing has been seen.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed this weekend is use of the language. You may recall a couple of years ago I questioned the use of the term “polar vortex” when applied every time the mercury dropped. Haven’t heard it since.

Lately the traditional term “Arctic blast” is popular, but I’ve heard the more old-school “cold snap” almost as often. A return to sane use of the language if you ask me. Seriously, two days? What more could it be?

It seems February-like weather will continue to next weekend when the El Niño weather returns from vacation. Spring is right around the corner after that. It looks like I can take the studded snow tires off the Portland during that first weekend of March, since March’s forecast looks like a typical April one.

Meanwhile, the half-gallon of chicken stock I made earlier today (that I didn’t already consume, drinking it like tea) is cool enough to go into the fridge, dinner is digesting nicely, and a nice hot shower is next on the agenda, followed by reading until bedtime.

In my book, that’s how one winters well.

Monday February 1st, 2016

Screw the groundhog, go with the Pelican

Monday February 1st, 2016

I saw a sure sign of spring outside the library today. A Pelican street sweeper went by (both ways) cleaning the street.

The city doesn’t usually send out the Pelicans until April or so.

No matter what the groundhog says tomorrow, I’m with the Pelican.

Oh, and I did the long loop to work, and the usual cut of it back home today. The single commute accounted for 15% of the February mileage goal.

Happy El Niño!

Sunday January 31st, 2016

brucew.com 18th Anniversary

Sunday January 31st, 2016

CORRECTION: I got mixed up between my car-free anniversary and the website anniversary. I originally published this as the 17th anniversary. Simple math shows 2016-1998=18.

The site’s anniversary came and went last week without my really noticing, despite having to pay the domain renewal fees. It’s not just another bill either, since I pay it every-other year. You’d think that would cause some sort of recognition, but it didn’t.

Part of the reason is that I was busy writing. A week ago another member of BikeForums.net asked if he could do an email interview for Loose Screws. Strangely, Loose Screws isn’t a site for those with peculiar eccentricities, but rather, a specialty cycling parts etailer. Which I suppose, is itself a peculiar eccentricity.

I spent a couple of days in full-on writing mode, surfacing only for work and meals. It’s also the first time I’ve let myself be edited. That was a new experience. The result is down to “only” 3,500 words or so, and still sounds like me, but without the occasional salty language, intentionally mangled grammar and dyslexia-induced typos. Surprising even myself, I didn’t change so much as a comma in the approval copy.

Many thanks to Jonathan for wielding the blue pencil with an amazing amalgamation of lightness, depth, and propriety. You can read it here:

Bruce Wilbur On Winter Commuting

 

Just a dusting of snow. Not your usual January commute in Rochester.
In the meatspace, commuting this winter has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’m all for El Niño winters, which here in the Great Lakes translates to relatively dry and balmy.

We’ve had only a couple of isolated days of winter leading up to the past two weeks where we got a very mild dose of it. I have as many commuting miles on the Ribble with its road tires as I do the Portland with its studded snows. Hell, the Litespeed has even gone to work a few times this month.

I’m hoping to inaugurate February by commuting on my 17-mile three-seasons long loop. A brief scouting detour on the way home from work Saturday showed a little more ice than I’m willing to chance with the road tires. It looks very good for Monday, though.

Meanwhile, with 50s and light southerly winds forecast for this afternoon, I think I’ll wrap up the month by taking the Litespeed for a little spin out through horse country.

 

2015 was a challenging year economically. Obeying the individual mandate for Obamacare meant that I was health-insurance poor. After paying the premium—even with my $225 per month subsidy—I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or afford much else for that matter. And my insurance company was shut down because they were losing too much money. How silly is all that?

Fortunately, New York State fixed that this year with the new Essential Care plan. I now have the best health insurance I’ve ever had and it costs me only $1 or $3 for prescription co-pays. Any politician who wants to take that away from me won’t get my vote.

That relieved much of my concern looking forward to 2016. My other concern was that I wouldn’t be subbing so much as other years. Despite subbing a lot, my income in 2015 was $800 less than in 2014. The two libraries where I sub the most hired good, stable staff. Good for them, bad for me. The Universe seems to have stepped in and I’ve subbed on a Saturday in each of this year’s two pay periods so far. Hoping that signals a trend.

Plus, this will be the first year since Obamacare started that I won’t be using my tax refund for health insurance premiums. There are two years of deferred repairs, replacements and expenses that total more than 150% of the combined tax returns, but I’ll be able to clear the important stuff. Not a minute too soon either. At work I joke that my pants reveal that I do my best work on my knees. Ahem.

That’s not to say it’s all work and no play. Just as last year I tried to strike a balance between needs and wants/rewards, I’m doing the same this year. Part of the tax refund is converting itself from dollars to yen and heading for Japan to buy music CDs and concert BluRays.

I want to say a special thank you to the Federal Reserve for strengthening the dollar, and to the Bank of Japan for weakening the yen. I can buy more music this way. Ditto to the European Central Bank for weakening the euro. More bike parts in the shopping cart.

 

Despite the weakening Loonie, I think I’ve decided to skip the ONE OK ROCK performance in Toronto on Friday April 15. OOR is appearing as the second act in a four-act line-up, and there are no VIP or meet & greet tickets.

Yes, the tickets are cheap, even in $CND, and the B&B I use in Toronto is in the same block as the venue. Talk about convenient.

But I think my money is better spent on the new 2015 35xxxv Japan Tour BluRay announced today. Sorry guys. Hope you have a great show without me.

 

Also waiting in the shopping cart at amazon.co.jp is flumpool’s new album Egg. Despite their main fanbase being Japanese women, I’ll admit I’m a big flumpool fan. Their For Roots—Osaka Fields Forever concert BluRay is in high rotation here. It’s notable for the absence of black t-shirts in the audience. They’re just not a black t-shirt band.

One of the things I like about flumpool is that they make nice, yet interesting music with all the hard edges smoothed off. You’ll see what I mean in their 2015 singles, You’re Romantic and Bookstore On a Hill. They’re perfect examples of the flumpool sound, and overall, are little different from their first single, 2008’s Hana ni Nare.

Their new single, 「夜は眠れるかい?」 (“Do You Sleep At Night?”) is a real departure—rich, warm, fat bass and guitar lines, the band in black (Is that leather?), playing at night in the video. And it’s short. With the bulk of their catalog running in the five and six minute range, it’s only 3:49.

Yet, I like it a lot. An awful lot. It’s like they’ve been listening to UVERworld as much as I have. (A black t-shirt band if there ever was one.) They’ve picked up the metal-with-an-EDM-edge that UVERworld works so nicely, and Ryuta even uses effects on his vocals. It’s so un-flumpool that I wouldn’t have recognized it had they not tweeted the video’s release.

Yet, it works, and it makes me anticipate Egg even more than I did SPYAIR’s 4 or OOR’s 35xxxv.

 

Going in completely the opposite direction, after reading this article in the Japan Times summing up 2015 trends in Japanese music, I tried out and quickly became a big fan of 世界の終わり Sekai No Owari (End of the World).

Sekai takes a very difficult path and plays it to perfection. They don’t just blur the lines between genres, but erase them completely. I love the traditional instrumentation in half a dozen different genres juxaposed with beatbox rhythm lines and the circus atmosphere of their videos. Here’s a selection from the last two albums:

And their shows are over the top. They blur the lines between concert, theater and circus. Their Twilight City at Nissan Stadium concert BluRay sits in my cart awaiting the release date. This video from that performance of their song Moonlight Station cinched the deal. How could I not want to see that whole show?

 

And so this entry sort of encapsulates the 18-year history of the site. Part letter to a friend, part cycling blog, part music blog—like life, I never know where it will lead.

On the back of an El Niño winter, supported by relief on health expenses, and coupled with new things in music, it promises to be an interesting year.

Now, off to horse country.

Saturday November 28th, 2015

Album Review: SPYAIR “4”

Saturday November 28th, 2015

SPYAIR remains my favorite band, recent postings here notwithstanding. SPYAIR is one of those very rare bands where I like everything they’ve released commercially. “4” continues in this tradition.

Okay, while the band was still “growing up”, some of 2007’s “Can You Listen?” was a little rough for my tastes, but since signing with Sony in 2010, they’ve scored a perfect 100% with me.

Likable as their singles are, it’s their album deep tracks that get two or three times the play around here. I’ve been waiting two years now for a fresh batch of deep tracks. The wait is over.

“4” collects three previously released singles, Imagination イマジネーション, ROCKINOUT, and Firestarter ファイアスターター, along with the current single, I’m A Believer アイム・ア・ビリーバー. Then there are eight new deep tracks for fans like me.

What I like about SPYAIR’s deep tracks is that they experiment with different styles and sounds. They always manage to sound like SPYAIR, but they don’t always sound like their singles.

I remain functionally illiterate in Japanese, so my knowledge of their intent is limited to a single subtitled interview on MTV81 from over two years ago promoting the release of the third album, “Million”.

In that interview, UZ says he wants to be like bands that are musically flexible. Overall, SPYAIR wants to remain a mainstream band, but without being pigeonholed into any one style. They want to push out from the middle in all directions, while still remaining uniquely SPYAIR.

“4” accomplishes this goal.

Each of the eight deep tracks is markedly different from the singles and from each other. Each retains that signature SPYAIR sound, yet is completely distinctive.

COME IN SUMMER is flavored with that islands/calypso beat they first experimented with on “Million” with Blowing. It happily be-bops along.

Far Away is ballad that follows along in the vein of あの頃、僕らは同じ未来を (Anogoro, bokura wa onaji mirai o, [That Time, Our Same Future]) from the “Best” album. It’s all piano and strings that builds from simple accompaniment to a big sweeping production.

NO-ID is a duet with female singer JASMINE. It’s a pure pop song with a driving beat. It has “single” written all over it, so don’t be surprised if it comes out as one. I’m unfamiliar with JASMINE, so all I can say is that her voice harmonizes really well with Ike’s. (Even if she has to crank up the Auto-Tune to do so.)

I liked the way Rock This Way with SEAMO showed the band’s—and especially Ike’s—flexibility and ability to work with other artists. NO-ID does the same, although it’s style is far-removed from Rock This Way.

Darekanosei ダレカノセイ is filled with UZ’s guitar and Ike’s wailing, sailing vocals on the chorus. Meanwhile, UZ raps the verses, like he did in Supersonic and Trust Your Anthem. In all, the song packs a satisfying punch.

EZ Going is a light catchy thing that bounces along. I’m not a big fan of background sound effects or Kawaii girls chatting along, but I got over it in time on Are You Champion?? Yes I’m Champion, so I expect in time I’ll get over it on EZ Going too. After all the song is easy going, just as the title implies. And it includes a real brass section, not synth brass.

Someday, Somewhere is the biggest stretch on the whole album. Think of SPYAIR as an EDM band. It’s mainly synth riffs over a dance beat with Ike experimenting with vocal effects. I like it, but then again I’ve been a fan of EDM since decades before the term existed. I’m a fan of SPYAIR too, so it works for me.

4 LIFE stretches a lot too. In it, Ike takes a break while UZ handles lead vocals. If you were to hear it out of context, going by the vocal you wouldn’t recognize it as SPYAIR at first. Subtract the vocal, and the sound is 100% SPYAIR. Sort of like, “Gee, that sounds like SPYAIR, but who is that singing?” It’s UZ.

Stand By Me is the least experimental of the deep tracks. Instantly recognizable as “classic” SPYAIR, it’s a mid-tempo piece that gives Ike plenty of room to stretch his vocals.

Limited Edition “B” (AICL 2991-2)

Nice as the studio stuff is, SPYAIR has always been about the live performance. They’re happiest playing live, and happier still playing outdoors.

Limited Edition “B” has a second audio disc recorded at the Fujikyu Highland Conifer Forest live this past August. It contains the first live recordings of ROCKINOUT, Firestarter, and Blowing along with 10 other favorites.

My longtime faves OVER and LINK IT ALL are present in freshened arrangements. I like these older songs a lot and am glad that they remain on SPYAIR’s live set lists.

No SPYAIR live is complete without Rock ‘n Roll. And you’ve never heard 0 GAME like this before.

Standouts include a new arrangement of the long underrated To. It gets a beefed-up drum and bass line while UZ switches to acoustic guitar. As usual, Ike’s soaring vocals are spine tingling.

Beautiful Days gets a full acoustic treatment. It’s also slowed down a bit becoming almost mournful. Last Moment starts out slowly with Ike singing only over a light guitar line, then it kicks in with full force. Nice.

Genjou Destruction, Supersonic and I Want a Place round out the set, all strongly played.

What I like best about SPYAIR live, is that they turn up Momiken’s bass and bring Kenta’s drums forward as well. While at the same time, their live recordings leave the “air” and dynamic range in the mix by not compressing the hell out of it. This adds power, while still being easy on the ears when played at high volume. If only their studio versions did this.

While I’ve been putting the studio disc through its paces, the one I’ve been listening to most is the live disc. It just sounds so much better.

Limited Edition “A” (AICL 2989-90)

Six videos come on the DVD in Limited Edition “A”. It includes the promotional videos for the singles, Imagination, ROCKINOUT, Firestarter and I’m a Believer.

There’s also the eleven and a half-minute Making of I’m a Believer. Working in a public library, I was hoping to get some tips on how to herd teens. It’s like herding cats. Still not sure how they did it. Of course the opportunity to scream “So what!” dozens of times could have something to do with it.

The disc closes out with a video montage over the live recording of Just Like This 2015, the theme of the live this past August at Fujikyu Highland Conifer Forest. Along the same lines as the video for Glory, it features quick cuts of scenes from the live and serves mainly as an advertisement for the forthcoming DVD, set for release on January 13, which is already waiting patiently in my cart at amazon.co.jp.

Friday October 9th, 2015

ONE OK ROCK autographs

Friday October 9th, 2015

After the VIP photo session with ONE OK ROCK last weekend, but still before the show, (and before ordinary ticketholders were admitted), I visited the goods counter. I bought a tour t-shirt and wristband, and saw a little note on the table.

“The first 250 people who buy the album get to stay in the hall for an autograph session after the show.”

$14 retail, $12 at the show with autographs too? Sign me up! And I was going to buy the “black” US version of the album anyway…

After the show when autograph time came around, I slid both my albums on to the table in front of Taka. He just kept signing along. Only Tomoya seemed to notice. He looked up at me, and I just shrugged. He grinned back.

On the cover of the “Red” Japanese First Press Limited Edition of the album, clockwise from about 11 o’clock: Tomoya, Toru, Taka, Ryota, and Toru again from the Pittsburgh show.
  On the lyric sheet from the “Black” US/International edition, left to right: Tomoya, Toru, Ryota, Taka

See also: ONE OK ROCK’s 35xxxv album: Red vs. Black

Friday October 9th, 2015

Finding myself

Friday October 9th, 2015

With all the cameras and cellphones at the ONE OK ROCK gig in NYC last weekend, it was only a matter of time before I found myself. SMtube, the Youtube Browser for SMplayer makes it a little easier. Plus, (hint, hint) it’s easily modified to become a front-end for youtube-dl, the Youtube downloader.

Video stills, clicky to embiggen.
From across the room for context.
  Look! It’s my right hand!
  I had my turn with this view too.

The second-last song of the main set was The Beginning. While performing it, Taka jumped off the stage, crossed the security and photographer’s pit, then hopped up on the rail RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME

He jumped off the stage after the line, So where do I begin? and was on the rail and ready for the line, Nigirishimeta ushinawanu youni to, then performed from there for the rest of the song.

The top photo was taken from across the room, but gives a little context for the next two. This is where Taka was singing from, balanced on the rail, supported in back by security, and in front by holding the hands of fans.

The fan cellphone vid the still is taken from has absolutely horrible audio. It’s really better with the sound turned off. But you take what you can get. Look for Taka jumping off the stage at about 3:20 in this vid.

For a different view with better audio, try this vid.

The second and third stills are taken from this vid which apparently was shot by the chick standing next to me.

The upper one has my right hand in it. You’ll recognize my red RoadID bracelet.

The bottom photo shows how Taka sang directly to each of us. This is her viewpoint. When he swung around to me, my view was similar. When he was singing to me, I belted it right back too!

Finally, the band likes to take a group shot with the audience after the show. This is the official photo taken by the band’s photographer.  I’m in it!

Back home In Real Life, people have been amazed that I’d spend $150 for a photo with the band, the opportunity to stand around for three hours waiting for the show to start, then being battered around and ground up by the crush of the crowd.

This is why.

And I’d do it all over again.