Jesse Rivest's Blog
This blog is old and is now sealed off for historical preservation. As a result, neither new posts nor new comments are possible.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
In light of that, and in the hope that starting a new blog in the future might get me excited about blogging again, I am going to seal off this old blog soon. That means it will still be around for historical purposes, but new comments will no longer be feasible, and neither will new posts.
For those of you who are subscribed to this blog using my feedburner feed (the one advertised from the subscription area of my website), you are free to stay subscribed as I'll continue using this feed for my new blog when it is born.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about (feeds, blogs), then just have a laugh and find the next funny thing on the Internet.
Friday, December 04, 2009
I quit my job about 6 months later to travel to Australia with my music - that was when I fully jumped into GMail and out of ISP hosted POP mail. I've never looked back; I've been using Gmail since. At the beginning of 2005, I signed up for AdSense, made about $5 and then left it alone until this year. I've made more money since, and who knows? I might even use AdWords sometime.
At the beginning of 2005 I also started using Blogger, which I've been reasonably active with since. In 2006 I discovered Feedburner and have been using its cool stats and widgets for all of my feeds. The funny thing is that Google bought both of these companies soon after I joined - it was inevitable that I would get sucked down Google's drain! I went willingly.
Oddly, I didn't start using Google Calendar until 2007... odd because it's so useful! Now I've got 9 different calendars, I think, including one for my performances which I feed through Feedburner - very cool and useful. If we back up a year to 2006, we'll see that I started using Google Notebook, which I've relied on quite heavily and consistently. Google no longer supports or develops this tool, but fortunately they keep it active for existing users - with it I organize all my notes on my music business and doings... sort of like a log. I hope that if they nuke it they let us know first so we can export our data!
Let's see, what else am I using (yes, there is a moral to this story, read on)... Picasa Web Albums - why try and create a web photo gallery for my site when I can use Google's? It's pretty quick and easy, and it frees me up to focus on other things. Google Webmaster Tools - great for (at least) getting your website properly indexed. And if we go way back, there's Google Groups - I haven't used a proper newsgroup reader since early 2000! Having said that, I used Google Groups for a short span and honestly haven't been on a newsgroup since 2005.
Two really cool tools are Google Alerts and Google Reader. I use the former to tell Google to "keep an eye open" for specific search terms, and to notify me of new results when found. I used to receive the alerts as emails but I've smartened up and chosen the feed route... which brings us to Google Reader. I LOVE Google Reader, I've got all my blog/news/website subscriptions consolidated in one place that I can access from any computer - great! It's fabulous for staying up-to-date with friends and family (well, the geeky ones), as well as with most of your favourite websites. If you're reading this far, have you considered putting some of my feeds into YOUR Google Reader?
Yes, it's true... I even use Google's Orkut. I have two friends that are connected to Brazil... somehow I got sucked in. For a while I was social networking with Brazilians, ha ha - oh, how I'd love to visit!
I was a bit late jumping onto YouTube; I reckon Google already owned this one by the time I signed up. Very cool, it's just a shame that video quality is lost after you upload. You get this great looking video all ready, you upload it, and poof! It's shit-ified. Fortunately Google adds an option for high quality when you're viewing... but it's never the same!
I even have a Google Wave account now. It looks cool - I wonder if it will catch on? I bet that if they can integrate it into GMail seamlessly, then it'll be almost a no-brainer.
Every day that I use an Internet-enabled computer, I use a Google product. The moral of this story is: I am a geek. And so are you, I reckon. A bit of one, at least - don't deny it.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Afterwards, on my cycle home through the night, I cleared my throat and starting singing. I let the front and top of my mouth amplify the higher notes, I supported from my stomach area and I felt my whole upper body behind my sound. It was effortless and clear - I felt like an opera singer, yet opera singer I am not. I relaxed the back of my throat and just let it be a passage to the mouth chamber. Would you believe that this recharged me?
A few minutes of singing made me feel much better. I remember days when singing was highly draining and taxing for me... so maybe the years of practicing singing have paid off? Perhaps this is what good vocal technique should feel like - effortless, clear, fluent, strong, satisfying, efficient, smooth. It just plain feels good!
Maybe I should sing more when I talk? Or find some other way of applying some of these techniques or "feelings" to my discussions?
Anyhow, speaking of singing, here's a nice clip of Martin Sexton showing us how it's done.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Wellington (New Zealand) is cold, but relative to Albertan cities it is an autumn day in the park. In the Canadian winter I would not be able to cycle like I do in Wellington. But still, it's cold in Wellington - the humidity and wind drag that 10 degrees Celsius down to about 1 or 2 degrees - strangely, I've often longed for a crisp, dry, -5 degrees day in Calgary. However, the real cold in Wellington isn't so much the outside temperature and moisture... it's the inside temperature and moisture.
[Commence rant on superiority of average Canadian homes over average Wellington homes, all the while quietly minding the fact that most Wellington homes are quite old. Begin with analogy of camping in the Canadian Rockies to winter mornings in a Wellington home.]
I wake up in the mornings in a tent in the Rockies (my bedroom in my house). I can see my breath (yes, in my house). There is condensation dripping at the tent seams (my windows are smothered in beads of water). If I stir a bit to the left or right, my sleeping bag (my bedding) feels like ice. When I finally muster enough ambition to dash up, I prioritize a cup of hot coffee or tea to wrap my hands around - never mind that I need to pee, I'm gonna warm up first! When I finally walk to the outhouse (washroom in the house), the toilet seat is extra cold and I am shivering (yes, in my house). I am hunched and tense; I recall that if I try to relax, with deep and measured breaths, then I might warm up. I light the campfire (the toaster oven in the kitchen) and warm myself over it while waiting for breakfast (toast). I've eaten and I've put on most of my clothes - it's now time to air things out. I open the tent flaps (house doors) and windows to let the morning air move through it. Okay, enough of my analogy.
The temperature is somewhere between 1 and 10 degrees and, every morning, the house needs to be aired out - windows and doors open. Otherwise, all that warm moist air from last night's dinner, plus all the farting (admit it, you fart, although I'm not convinced that my flatmate does) and breathing while sleeping stays condensed on the walls and windows, plus in the sneaky spots you forget about - like in your wardrobe closet, where your favorite suit is. Mold grows. If Wellington homes had insulation, combined with ventilation and heating systems, this wouldn't be an issue.
The Canadian homes that I've lived in all my life have not been like this. They were well insulated (walls, floors, ceilings) and all windows were comprised of two panes of glass, with weatherstripping to seal them. Doors had weatherstripping, too, to stop drafts. As a result, moist air was unlikely to condense on any walls, ceilings, or windows. Especially if you'd been heating the house. Heating ducts serviced each room in the house, directing rapid hot air from a central convection furnace. Thermostats in the house regulated when the furnace would fire and blow, thus keeping a near-constant temperature - and the warmth dissipated very slowly thanks to all the great insulation. To aid in ventilation, one-to-several main rooms in the house had air intake ducts. When the furnace was blowing, it was also sucking (and filtering) old air. I'm told that many cold countries have similar home standards.
I'm complaining, right? Sure, maybe a real man wouldn't complain. He'd keep warm by keeping busy - working on man things, like chopping wood, building shelves, yard work, hauling things, etc. Sure, I like chopping wood and keeping active - but I'm a writer and a musician. I prefer a warm home - my fingers don't work on my guitar when they're cold, and I can't sing when I'm coughing. My equipment suffers from condensation. I'm a real man, too - I like camping in the Rockies, with bears and moose and cougars - but when I'm at home, I want to be productive in my own way. It breaks my heart (and my wallet) every time I turn on a heater in Wellington, because the rate of heat dissipation is tragically high. For such a "green minded" country, I have to say that there is a lot of heating energy being wasted here in Wellington (kudos to those folks that just sit huddled in all the clothes they own, under blankets... but is that really living??).
If you're a Kiwi and you hear another Canadian complain about how cold it is here (in Wellington, or in many places in New Zealand), then do remember this (if I may generalize). A Canadian can handle some shocking cold weather - imagine blinking and having your eyelashes stick together; sniffing quickly and having your nostrils glue shut; apparent dead skin tissue on your cheeks and ears after a 2o minute walk; a bleeding lip after prying it from the metal zipper on the collar of your jacket; spit freezing the moment it hits the ground; cat's missing ears and tails due to frostbite; the oil in your car being so thick that the engine won't turn over; shovelling snow several times per week. A Canadian can handle some very cold weather, but a Canadian is accustomed to buildings and homes being warm and comfortable. And such general warmth and comfort make the extreme cold rather fun!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
In this post, it is mentioned that the musicians were paid all the proceeds from the promoted concerts - so why is SOCAN entitled to a fee? Because SOCAN isn't concerned with the performing musicians - it is concerned with the performances of songs. Granted, many-to-most of the songs performed at these concerts were written by the performing musicians... but not all of them. Consider the cover songs (many performing acts perform a cover or two), or the co-writes by people who do not participate in the performances (or who are not even part of the band/act). SOCAN collects this licence fee to reimburse the artists whose songs were performed at the event.
It's also suggested that songwriters might reconsider their membership with SOCAN. But, since laws are established to enable SOCAN to collect money for performances of songs (this includes radio, concerts, TV, movies, in Canada and around the world), and since many artists' songs are being used or performed in a variety of ways, it only makes sense that songwriters and composers would join SOCAN. If they don't, they are missing out on money that they are entitled to, and which is being collected whether they want it or not. It costs nothing for an artist to join SOCAN, it's simply a matter of signing up and saying "Yes, please distribute to me my share of your collections (because otherwise, where is my share going?)."
Finally, it's mentioned that promoters (who give all the proceeds of a show to the performing artists) may find it excessive to pay a fee to SOCAN in addition to paying the performers. Look at it this way - the fee to SOCAN should be regarded as payment to the songwriters/composers, and it should be part of the overhead. Just as you need to obtain a liquor licence to sell alcohol at your event, you need to obtain a SOCAN licence to have music at your event; just as you are paying the the musicians for performing, you are paying the songwriters for composing and creating.
In the original post from i(heart)music, there appears to be an understanding that an event only needs to be licensed by SOCAN if at least one member of any of the performing acts is a SOCAN member. I'm open to being corrected; I believe that every event that uses music (live or from recorded media) needs to pay a licensing fee. Even if the band performing has no SOCAN members, they may play songs that were written by SOCAN members. Also, if the band or act is from another country, they may be members of a similar association that is affiliated with SOCAN. In any case, if an event has music involved, then the creators of that music are entitled to the money that SOCAN obtains from you (the promoter or venue manager) through a licence fee, along with a submitted list all the songs that were performed during the event.
Sounds like pain in the ass, eh? Well, as a songwriter, I appreciate receiving any extra income from SOCAN, especially knowing that they're collecting it regardless of whether or not I want it. Essentially, I'm (voluntarily) participating in an in-place system that benefits me, whereas music venues and promoters need to (lawfully) participate. I bet a lot of people could suggest alternative (and perhaps better) solutions for compensating songwriters, music composers and publishers for the use of their creations.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
In New Zealand, new music CDs are usually $25 to $35 at retail outlets. In contrast, I recall newly released CDs to typically be $15 in Canadian retail outlets, however special orders, low-stock older releases, and obscure finds could rise to over $20. Mind you, someone recently complained that prices are now $20 in HMV, but if my memory serves me correctly, HMV was always more expensive than other outlets. Since I've been away from Canada for a few years, I checked Megatunes (which doesn't represent all of Canada) and it appears that new releases are still as low as $15 and ranging to $20.
Well, I have some theories and thoughts on this; that's the kind of guy I am.
For starters, let's look at population differences and manufacturing costs. I'm going to group Canada with the USA (giving a population of about 350 million) and New Zealand with Australia (totalling to about 26 million). I'm also going to assume that manufacturing costs for CDs are higher "down under". So I'm off to a good start here... making assumptions and grouping "rivalling" nations together, ha ha. Having done that, it's obviously possible that New Zealand and Australia need higher CD prices to turn a profit - they have a smaller consumer base that will buy CDs, and they have manufacturing costs that are similar, if not higher, than in North America.
I was reading this discussion thread where it was suggested that CDs are not more expensive "down under", and that it may simply be a difference in exchange rates. It's also suggested that the higher prices are due to shipping. But what about local/national artists? Their CDs are just as expensive as international artists' are. Also, I don't believe that CDs are shipped overseas - I'm pretty sure that international record labels make licencing agreements with "down under" record labels, enabling the latter to manufacture CDs for retail. An example: I purchased In Field & Town from Hayden when he performed in Wellington last year; his CD was manufactured by Spunk Records in Australia, yet he was charging $25 to $30 (sorry I can't recall the exact price). Regarding exchange rates, I've seen the rate between New Zealand and Canada fluctuate as much as 0.3, and CD prices certainly haven't fluctuated in either country. I think that exchange rates and shipping aren't really factors - unless the ongoing rate was set by CDs that were once shipped "down under"...
Then there's the momentum of the ongoing rate - existing CDs are that price, so new releases must also be that price. Raising the price might result in less sales, and probably no record labels or artists want less CD sales - that would be anti-promotional. On the other hand, lowering the price for a new release might devalue it or somehow associate it with lesser quality. I wonder if North American entities would like to raise the prices of their CDs but feel they cannot, or maybe "down under" groups want to lower theirs? It's possible that people want to shift their prices but the momentum of the ongoing rate has the final say.
I've considered that New Zealand CD distributors, record manufacturers, or artists may want more money per unit than similar groups would in North America. On one hand, that's silly - everyone everywhere wants more money! However, perhaps North America sees a CD more as a promotional item than New Zealand does. It's possible, and I'm speculating - but I have met a fair number of music artists in Canada that sell their CDs between $10 and $20 at shows because they want to get the music "out there". I've met a fair number of artists in New Zealand that sell their CDs for $20 to $30 at shows.
Perhaps everything is just more expensive in New Zealand! Live shows are much more money here. So are CD's. So are meals. Beer is a bit more. Clothing and footwear... definitely much more expensive here. I find the real cost of living to be high in New Zealand, possibly higher than in Canada. The difference in cost of CDs (and these other consumables) may be proportionate to the difference in average wages or incomes in both countries. However, I recall the real cost of living in Australia to be much lower... maybe Australian prices have been the model for New Zealand prices!? Maybe the USA has set the bar for prices in Canada? I dunno.
I took a look at Google Insights and it appears that, for 2009 in all four countries, "free music" is the number one music related search. Actually that's not true, in Australia it appears they are more interested in "the music" (possibly for an Aussie music website), while "free music" is runner up. But these stats seem to indicate that people generally want to pay less-to-nothing for music; maybe with lower CD prices they would be more keen to pay? Maybe not - but that's a different discussion.
I've mostly avoided these higher prices in New Zealand; I've found it quite rewarding to purchase music from online outlets in Canada. I get more for my money! In one instance last year I made a bulk purchase of 6 CDs from Maple Music; with shipping to New Zealand it cost me about the same as buying 4 CDs locally (mind you the exchange rate was good then). Just the other week I made my very first digital music purchase, something that I've in the past been resistant to. It's definitely cheaper than buying a physical CD, and with Zunior you have the option of purchasing albums in FLAC format; compared to MP3 format the file size is larger and the audio quality is identical to the quality of the CD (which I can say is near impossible with MP3, but let's not get into mathematics). Plus, Zunior appears to offer PDF files containing complete album artwork.
Don't get me wrong, I prefer to have the physical CD, but these days and in my situation, I think I can slide into some FLAC and PDF files from Zunior for a while.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
How about the word "swine"? This word had somehow disappeared from my vocabulary; I had completely forgotten it. I don't recall any of the previous "swine flu" incidents or epidemics that the Internet and news inform me of. Was I just a child when I last knew this word? When I was retrospectively traumatized slaughtering and sticking a pig with my father and brother, was I considering this word? I've now been in New Zealand for 2.5 years, and I spent nearly a year in Australia - both places that have wild swine running rampant in the bush - and I simply don't recall hearing this word. It's always "wild boar" or "wild pigs". Has the word fallen out of fashion (was it ever in fashion)?
I suppose it's an old word... an Old English word, perhaps. I believe "swinish" is an adjective, for example: "He was acting rather swinish towards the other patrons in the bar so the barkeep removed him from his premises." I imagine that the word was associated with pigs first, and analogies to disgusting, contemptuous, or brutish people came later. I made the following search and it seems this word was common in Shakespeare's literature, and appeared in an array of classic literature, of which titles I've read none within the past 10 years.
Well, I am glad to have this word back; I've been enjoying using it. I've been brewing batches of my own Winter Recession Soup with Free Range Swine, and devouring every last ration of it. When friends mention friends that go hunting, I ask if swine are an intended target... nope, just ducks. Shucks. I think of Wilbur from Charlotte's Web and I can't bring myself to categorize him as "swine" - he was such a likable pig. I've yet to appropriately refer to any person as a swine, but I'm on my toes, waiting. The word is in my jowls; it's my word of the month; it's my wry grin.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
I recall a couple years ago an acquaintance introduced me as an "itinerant singer-songwriter". I had to ask what that meant - itinerant - although if I had applied myself a little, I would have figured it out. I mean, I knew what it meant to have an itinerary!
Also a couple years ago, Radio New Zealand referred to me as a drifter on their website (see here). I remember feeling a little defensive about it; I felt that it implied I was an aimless wanderer. Well I admitted then, and I admit now, that I have known myself to enjoy stints of aimless wandering. But what exactly is a drifter?
Today, the word "drifter" on Wikipedia - a voice of a subset of the people of Earth (that subset whose members know how to edit a wiki resource) - redirects to the word "vagabond". According to Wikipedia, a vagabond is an itinerant person, commonly referred to as a drifter, tramp, rogue, or hobo - but not a bum, because bums "are not known for travelling, preferring to stay in one location." It's fairly explicit at Wikipedia that a vagabond was historically a purposeless wanderer, and that in later years there was a shift towards associating the word with bohemian artists such as Tolstoy, or the Hungarian mathematician Erdos. It's all at the Wikipedia page, if you'd like to see.
Let's see what official sources say about drifters. Merriam-Webster tells that a drifter "travels or moves about aimlessly" (click here), while Dictionary.com indicates something similar and adds: "a wanderer who has no established residence or visible means of support" (click here). Interesting - aimlessness seems to be a common theme. I confirmed with Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com that "vagabond" has some negative connotations and synonyms, as well, including: unsettled, irresponsible, disreputable, worthless, carefree, and rogue.
So, perhaps Tolstoy and Erdos (and some other historic artists) were vagabonds. I wonder if they got up to mischief, or if they appeared aimless? Did they do a lot of loitering? Were they known to be ambivalent or lost? Townes Van Zandt was a drifter - and a drunkard - and a well-regarded contributor to music history. Who else can we name as a drifter or vagabond that left a legacy of artistic contribution? How were these people perceived during their vagrant times?
I'm just curious, really, about these terms. I have entertained romanticized thoughts of being a drifter; a vagabond. By these definitions, I've not truly been a drifter - I suppose I have been to some extent, at times, but I've also been someone who enjoys having a home and a studio space where one can focus. I've supported myself and I've had aim, purpose, and ambition. The negative aspects of these definitions ruin for me the romance of being a drifter.
I enjoy considering the meaning of words, but sometimes I am too literal. I wonder what others think of words like "drifter" and "vagabond"? What about the term "itinerant/touring singer-songwriter"?
Thursday, April 09, 2009
On the walk home from the grocery store I came across an elderly lady, probably in her eighties, coming out from the side of her carport to release a "rubbish kite" into the wind. I think it was a plastic bag that probably once held some potatoes.
"It's not mine, so I'll let the wind take it," she explained to me, setting the kite free as I continued past her.
Great. Nice one! So, what you're saying is: if some rubbish blows into your yard, then you don't have/want to deal with it; you'll toss it out past the border of your yard so that the wind can blow it into the next person's yard.
Maybe one of her sons lives down the street, and this bag will land in his yard. I can imagine how he'll act when he finds it.
My fingers have warmed up a bit. I'll go make some guacamole and salsa now, with thoughts of warm Mexico.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
- I was rinded by the white; wrapped up like a Brie, another Camembert delight
Go ahead. Say it. It's not the first time I've said something a bit cheesy.