Monday, March 30, 2009

Stage Shoes

At the recent Roots Rumble show at Grappa's cellar I captured an assortment of eclectic footwear worn by the Mosh pit inducing musicians that graced the ears of listeners. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paul Slavens

This article was featured recently on My Denton Music with photography and writing by yours truly. I am featuring more photographs taken on the gig for your ocular delight.

Mr. Paul Slavens is a mercenary of the army of spontaneous composition. Dan's Silverleaf hosts this soldier every Monday night, and an audience of variable size makes paid submissions to have the master create a musical piece in the spirit of the titles provided. Well, maybe. As Paul warns, there are no refunds, no guarantees and sometimes you get ripped off. His shows even come with a few ground rules (but surprisingly, no "safe word") to set the pace.

Rule 1. Anybody can be in the band.
Rule 2. Don't piss off Paul.
Rule 3. Nobody gets paid, except Paul.

The rules don't get in the way of sonic amusement as Slavens collaborates regularly with the likes of Brave Combo's multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Barnes, Joe Snow on harp on lap, FroBro on drums, and the nearly invincible bassist Bach Norwood. With that lineup, this creative army could impose martial law and you'd love it all the more. In addition, it's a thrill to never know exactly who will be playing each Monday night. Paul explained that he used to be in a band full-time called Ten Hands, which was a hit in Deep Ellum. But the band had one major flaw: rehearsals.

Now, Paul's sessions of spontaneous music come with a spontaneous band, and no rehearsals to complicate the artistry of each gig. Foolish you say? Not for the mercenary; not for the master. Master of Composition that is - Paul is working on a music degree at the University of North Texas, and has won a number of Dallas Observer awards with the aformentioned Ten Hands as well as his own comedy group, the Texclectic Unsemble. If Monday nights catch you working or otherwise busy, tune into KERA-FM 90.1 for Paul's Sunday night music show or catch his sounds on The Boxcar Bandits or a Baptist Generals recording. Back at Dan's, the audience generated titles are one-brick foundations on which Mr. Slavens builds his compositional skyskrapers. Five dollars, even with a unique title and you'll probably get heckled by the band; ten dollars and your tune will be played, but at 20 dollars or more, Slavens' lyrics are built to your custom specifications.

The range of titles is expansive but there is a direct correlation of volume of alcohol drunk to the sleaziness of the titles. At the beginning of the night titles flow in like "Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Muffin Man" but they quickly denigrate to "I Invented the Manpon" and "Turkish Delight In My Mouth Tonight." If you're one of the cheapskates that had trouble parting with five bucks and wrote such unstimulating titles as "I don't have any money for a Bar Mitzvah" or "Be careful, it's smelly down there," your tune is likely to get "Meddelized" at the end of the show, meaning that Slavens and the band will make a combination of the least lucrative songs. From experience, you will not be disappointed even if you do get "Meddelized." It's difficult to put the satisfaction into words, but as Paul Slavens might say "Feel the power of music theory."

Paul Slavens ( plays every Monday night at Dan's Silverleaf, 103 Industrial Street, Denton, TX and can be heard Sunday nights from 7-10pm on KERA-FM 90.1 in Dallas.

[Slavens played along with Bubba Hernandez on bass and Rex Emerson on Mandolin]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Package love

Marks & Spencer makes beautiful packaging. Whether you're in backwoods Cebu or Central in Hong Kong, the box makes you feel like you're having a healthy breakfast in a mountain chalet. Very refined, yet rugged. But for the inner kid in me, I need Froot Loops and Lucky Charms every now and then.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A thousand words is worth a picture

After checking out a CNN newscast recently on visual depictions of speeches and articles I decided to create my own word cloud of an article I did on Paul Slavens. You can use Wordle to produce your own. It can be extremely helpful to avoid redundancy or increase your emphasis of important concepts in writing, especially for visual artists and thinkers who also write.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Save The Human

A few weeks ago, I attended the opening of a new initiative based in Hong Kong called Save The Human. It relies on a reduction in consumption of meat as a means to positively change our environment. Check out the video. My friend Vicky invited me and she appears at 4'30'' fashionably in pink.

Sorry Bobsy, I ate a burger before I went. My bad!

Feel free to join Save The Human's facebook group.

Friday, March 20, 2009

UNT Alumni - Asia

I just created a group for UNT Alumni to collaborate. The focus is on Asia, but the reach is universal. The world is extremely interconnected and our alumni network should be as well. The simplest application of this group, considering the first batch of invites is to facilitate music in and through Asia - local gigs as well as tours. The more difficult and equally important goal is to strengthen ties between alumni of all disciplines, much like other schools of the same size (>30,000 students). UNT offers a top-notch education, but the alumni network is not as strong as it should be. This will change, and the "UNT Alumni - Asia" is a step in that direction.
Join today and collaborate!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Web Wednesday

Web Wednesdays are new to me, but an exciting concept that brings together first-rate industry professionals and entrepreneurs. This past session was with the creators of Rotten Tomatoes, who have moved on to a new global social networking project based in Hong Kong, Alive Not Dead. Stephen and Patrick explain how they have created and sold the movie site and moved on to an artist-fan networking site. The video above is bookmarked at the point where I ask a question about how their Alive Not Dead can specifically help bands that wish to collaborate globally, like US-based Snarky Puppy. Stephen and Patrick were also very gracious to lead me to another networking event later that night called "Speak Up" which embraces the local arts community by providing a platform on which to share news, live performances and films.

The next Web Wednesday will feature Matt Mullenweg, one of the co-creators of Wordpress. Matt is one of the biggest players in internet culture today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Denton Music is now interactive!

My Denton Music is now a social-networking site in addition to the best location to find out about local Denton gigs and read informative reviews. This was the highly anticipated launch of their new site design and my feature (photography and writing) on Paul Slavens. This launch, along with the North by 35 (NX35) festival are making Denton music much more effecitively nationally and internationally recognized. See you at the Grammys - and the underground dives too!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Food for thought

'Food for thought' is a new business in Viet Nam out to empower street kids to become employees and leaders in the hospitality industry. Having done a very small amount of development work but being associated with those that do, I am especially excited about this particular project because it is one in which egos have been put aside to truly concentrate on the purpose of empowerment. Empowerment is the quintessentially important aspect of sustainable development and eventual self-development within a country. It is Abraham Lincoln's notion of "teach a man to fish."
On egos: It is much too easy within an business, NGO or aid program to see oneself as the great savior of an exotic people. To effect any real change, we must see ourselves as global citizens, put aside our egos, and help a friend in need. The world is your neighbor. Social groups as Rotary, Lions, and Optimist clubs usually are the best at using their skills to create positive change.
Here's more detail on the organization from their site,
"'food for thought’ brings together 5 star luxury and street kid poverty. The hospitality industry needs well-trained, enthusiastic and committed staff. Street and disadvantaged young people need education, training, and a chance – a chance to fulfill their potential, a chance to build a career and a chance to embrace a brighter future. ‘food for thought’ provides comprehensive hospitality training in a real-life environment for young, marginalized and disadvantaged kids. When they complete the 18-month training programme and have perfected their skills in our ‘food for thought’ training restaurant, these young people graduate to find secure long-term employment in local 5-star hotels and restaurants, enabling them to lead independent, productive & successful lives."

Saturday, March 7, 2009


*All images from North by 35 (NX35) festival site, though I wish I had taken (most of) them.

Denton, Texas. When I say those words in Hong Kong, I get a blank stare but when anyone hears the music from the wonderfully quirky town they say "who are these guys? They're great!" Denton is hosting a festival and conferette (don't fret Denton Arts & Jazz Fest!) and it's going to be the best thing since Bruce Lee. In synergy with (but no direct connection to) the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival, North by 35 (NX35) is hosting their "first-year music conference programming over 130 acts, multiple panels, Q&As, and a trade show in the heart of Denton, Texas — the other, smaller, music town in Texas." Take a look at the cheeky band portraits to get a feel for the fun in store.

It may be smaller, but it's juicier. Don't let anybody tell you that "juicy" is not a way to describe good music.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Grupo Fantasma

Before I start writing almost completely about the Hong Kong media and arts scene, let's do a blog post or two back in my home country of Texas. Grupo Fantasma in the past few months was nominated for a Grammy, and made a new music video. No Grammy, and by the music video they "ain't got no money" neither. But that doesn't stop them from continuing to tour throughout the US and on to the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) on March 21. If you still haven't heard them yet, open your ears and prepare to be browned out!

Grupo Fantasma - "Gimme Some" from API Productions on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Denton Music 2009 Marketing Packet

My Denton Music has a beautiful spankin' new marketing packet I did the photography for. This has come just before the release of their site redesign. The current site is functional a fun, but will be cleaned up and have social interactivity included. It's a very exciting time for Texas music, and I'm looking forward to sharing the music with the world.

You can download the marketing packet here and enjoy the photos in a larger format. I may also post a few images, but don't want to spoil the upcoming MDM feature on Paul Slavens!

(The picture at the bottom was the crazy cool shindig at Hailey's on New Years Eve)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Valley

If you're ever feeling glum, take a look at this illustration by Jessica and it will make your day a little shinier. The process to happier daily life is simple. A true friend must eat the cloud over your head. They in turn, will digest the cloud's negativity and keep none if it in their body.
Yoga helps too.
Photo editing by Jeremy Stones (an amazing trombonist, now in the Netherlands!)