Late Night Creativity 101 (Now With Portals!)

Last night around 10pm I couldn’t sleep so I decided to channel that transient insomnia into something creative.  Inspired by flipping through the music on my phone, I decided to take the following sound clip from Portal 2 and manipulate it into something even more awesome.  Take a look:

Now, I’m a huge fan of “Community” on NBC, and if you’ve never seen it, go watch it now.  If you’re also a huge fan, you can probably see where I’m going with this.

The smooth jazz piece “Daybreak,” heard throughout the second half of the third season, is clearly a perfect fit here.  It took me about twenty minutes to do; most of that time was spent playing around with effects in Audition.  I’m probably not the first person ever to have this idea, but I’m proud of myself for coming up with and executing it on my own.



Vermont in October

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are changing, floating down to earth, and dotting the sidewalks and grass with their colors.  The mornings are cool and the afternoons are pleasantly warm.  There’s a hint of bright cold winter chill in the air, but its nicely balanced by the remnants of summer heat.  Soon the air will smell of dry maple leaves, apples, pumpkins and spices.  At least, that’s what it will be like across the country where I’m from.

When I was younger I hated fall.  It signaled the end of the freedom of summer and the start of the long and tedious school year.  The minute the leaves fell off the trees I would pray for snow.  Winter was my favorite season because it meant skiing, snow days and, of course, Christmas.  I didn’t have a care about anything else.  Fall was simply delaying that wonderful time.

Since 2005, the arrival of fall has meant so much more.  I can still smell the fresh grass of a new soccer season, leaves gently cascading down from the trees along the creek side onto the fields.  It’s also the season I was either introduced to or began to love groups like Radiohead, Elliott Smith, and Jack’s Mannequin.  These are some of my quintessential albums for fall and links to certain songs that take me back (updated and expanded periodically):

RPI in the fall

A lot of wonderful things have happened during the fall.  I fell in love for the first time in November of 2006, not long after an amazingly destructive surprise snowstorm.  The next year was my first semester of college; I’ve said before it’s probably my favorite period from my life (so far) and it was an absolutely incredible adventure (also the end of that first love, but there’s nothing to be done about that).  The next few years after that meant a return to the normalcy of college, seeing old friends, meeting new ones, intramural sports (and in 2009, a championship), and having an all around awesome time.

Going to school half an hour from New England, I often took many a trip out into the Green Mountains of Vermont to soak in the annual glorious transformation of the foliage.  A day in New Hampshire on Columbus Day weekend quickly became a tradition.  During my senior year of college, the fridge in my apartment was continuously stocked with apple cider from September to January and I never failed to grab a gallon every time I made a trip to Price Chopper.  Fall is pretty much the my favorite season, edging out spring by a fair margin.

11 days before December in California

Except, as I said before, that’s how it is where I’m from.  Fall in central Northern California is a little different.  The nights are cold, while the days are hot like summer.  Leaves have begun falling off of the sycamore trees around my apartment, but they don’t change color, except to turn dry and brown.  The trees that do change color don’t do so until around late October (at least that’s what happened last year.)  There’s limited apple cider, few pumpkins, no foliage (or actual native trees, really), and until November the days are still relatively hot.  The only thing that’s even close to being like home is the position of the sun in the sky, and even that’s off by 10°.  Hell, on some days the combination of haze and warmth feels more like spring than fall.  California is weird.  On days like today I really miss fall back home, but until I return on some future autumn, I’ll let my music take me back there while I enjoy the prospect of another snow-less winter out here.

Farewell, Jack’s Mannequin

On August 24th, Andrew McMahon wrote a brief essay eloquently describing his state of mind and the direction of his life.  Most notably, he wrote:

I will be trading in old masks for one with my name written on the inside

In other words, the project known as Jack’s Mannequin is no more.  This makes me feel odd and uneasy on the inside, like an entire era of my life just ended.  Clearly the man is still around and will continue to perform, as himself, but I still can’t shake this strange feeling.

Since I was in grade school I’ve been a fan of Something Corporate.  As a budding piano player, any band who used the piano as a primary instrument was an automatic favorite.  Songs like “Konstantine” and “Cavanaugh Park” had been flowing out of my speakers all during high school, even though Something Corporate disbanded shortly after I finished ninth grade.  When I arrived at RPI, I made quick friends with a number of people in my hall.  I spent most of my time in late August after moving in hanging out with and getting to know them.  It was through one of them that I was introduced to Jack’s Mannequin.  In high school she had made a music video for the song “Miss Delaney” for a audio/visual arts class or something and she showed it to me one day during that week.  Obviously I recognized Andrew’s distinct voice, but I was wholly unfamiliar with this new band.  I was immediately intrigued, but alas it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in college classes.

My freshman year, in music form.

Around a month later, I finally decided to download “Everything in Transit” and give it a spin.  Despite the season’s end, the upbeat California indie rock blasting out of my speakers brought the summer feelings roaring back, especially those of that first week of college.  It wasn’t long before it solidified its place among my absolute favorite records where it remains to this day.  Even now, I can’t listen to “Miss Delaney” without visualizing my old friend’s music video and the times we spent hanging out in the hall.  In truth, we only really hung out that first week before classes got in the way, but it doesn’t matter.  I look back on that time as a defining moment of my freshman year and the beginning of the best part of my life so far.

Five years to the day that I discovered Jack’s Mannequin, they cease to be.  I don’t find this in any way fitting or poetic.  My irrational brain keeps trying to tell me that August 24th 2007 and August 24th 2012 are bookends to something, but I don’t accept that.  Jack’s Mannequin might be gone, but as long as I’m around I’ll be listening to their music, reminiscing fondly but always swimming onward.  More than ever, I’m looking forward to hearing what Andrew writes in the future.

[note:  I just discovered that Everything in Transit was released on August 23, 2005.  That’s one hell of a coincidence.]

“Swim”, from The Glass Passenger, the sound of my autumn of 2008.

“Diane, The Skyscraper”, from Dear Jack EP, the sound of my autumn of 2009

“Television”, from People and Things, the sound of my adventures throughout California, in the fall of 2011.  See a trend here?