Stuff I Like

The About Me page already goes into some detail about my affinity for specially crafted environments. I thought I'd complete the picture here with a random list of stuff I like, in no particular order.

Disney

I've already spent some time explaining my love of the Disney parks. When I was still in high school I was so smitten that I wanted to work there and inquired to see if there were jobs for people with degrees in math or physics who might help them build their rides (I was already considering such fields of study). I didn't know the term "imagineer" nor did I know of the existence of WED Enterprises, as Walt Disney Imagineering was then called. So my letter to them was routed to someone in the Casting department which hires "cast members" that work in the park (guest services, entertainment, ride operators, characters, janitorial, etc.).

Their reply completely missed the point of my intial letter but I was too passive as a high schooler to take steps to redirect my inquiry. So the trail ended there and it wasn't until decades later that my desire to be an imagineer resurfaced.

I still have the reply letter! Manually typewritten, of course (we're talking about 1978 here), on Space-Mountain-embossed stationery. Space Mountain had just opened in Walt Disney World in 1975 and the Disneyland version in 1977.

Sci-Fi

I'm not a complete trekkie (my wife will probably disagree), but I do derive some perverse enjoyment from watching the various Star Trek incarnations. I loved Star Wars when it came out. Probably the most influential movie of my life if you factor in the awesome John Williams score which I devoured as I was just learning the craft of orchestral horn playing.

I like Philip K. Dick's stories and their film versions, even though the onscreen renditions deviate a great deal from the originals. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies, due in large part to the atmosphere it evokes.

Neuromancer is an amazing novel, especially for having been written in 1984.

Music

I play piano and electric bass, and I'm a member of the Austin Symphony where I play French Horn. I like all kinds of music, but here are some highlights:

  • Baroque
    I love music from this era and often feel that except for notable composers like Mozart and Haydn, music took a turn for the worse in the period we refer to as Classical. Baroque music, especially performances involving period instruments and authentic stylings, is full of passion, spark and life. I never hear a performance by The English Concert on the radio that I don't love.
  • Romantic
    The term "Romantic" is more tightly defined than the sense I mean when I use it. I'm throwing a blanket over all kinds of late 19th to early 20th century music, including the Impressionists and Gustav Holst's The Planets.  Some of this music is the most beautiful that I've heard.
  • Metal
    This is also an umbrella term that covers lots of disparate sounds, but I like much of it, at least sonically: "traditional" (Led Zeppelin), mainstream (Van Halen), thrash (Metallica, Megadeth), power (Dream Theater), groove and nu (Pantera, Slipknot), even death metal to some extent. My inner weather is not as violent and angry as this music often is, but I love listening to it from time to time.
  • Big Band / Rat Pack / Vocal Standards
    I had to put this right after Metal. Love all this old school easy-listening swing band music. Cool, breezy and classy.
  • Lounge / Exotica
    Talking about Martin Denny, Esquivel!, Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman. This goes with the love of 50s Googie art and Tiki Bars and such.
  • Punk, New Wave, Surf, Rockabilly
    I'm putting these together because of my experiencing them at the same time in the late 70s, early 80s. The Ramones, X, Monochrome Set, The Cure, The Blasters, The Jam. Stuff like that.
  • Bluegrass
    How can you not like bluegrass?
  • Ragtime / Stride Piano
    I have a recording of Chris Calabrese doing stride versions of lots of Disney tunes that I love.
  • Barbershop
    Pure sunshine. Nobody rings a chord like a barbershop quartet. It's interesting how some genres of music only lean toward minor mode (e.g. Klezmer) while it's impossible to imagine barbershop having anything to do with it!
  • Space Music
    I used to love the NPR show Hearts of Space. Vangelis' soundtrack for Blade Runner fits in this category, as does much of Brian Eno's oeuvre, such as his compositions for the Apollo missions.
  • Reggae, Ska
    Lots of diverse music under this umbrella as well. There are some kinds of dub that I get impatient with, but overall I love it. I'd have to say that Gregory Isaacs is my favorite.
  • Flamenco
    I did spend 7 years in Spain. Camarón de la Isla, Paco de Lucía.
  • House (Electro, Deep, Progressive)
    Sometimes. Not often.  Thinking of producers like deadmau5 and Kaskade.

Woodworking

It's always fun to make things out of wood, and I've done lots of it, from loudspeakers to bookshelves to beds.

Pixar

Not all of their movies knock it out of the park for me, but it's astonishing how many do! I really appreciate their attention to the craft of storytelling and their devotion to first-class animation. It's clear that they spend time on their stories, which just happen to be produced using 3D animation. Their movies have heart. It's like Disney getting over the hip, edgy irony of the 90s and getting back to their soul.

Spain

I lived in Spain for seven years ('91 to '98). Even though my friends there wouldn't know it since I'm almost entirely out of touch with them, they were my family away from home and I look back fondly on the time I spent there.

Italy

I spent three different summers playing the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. This is mainly an opera festival but features art of every kind imaginable: orchestra concerts, chamber music, dance, film, even puppet shows. We weren't given much time for excursions, but I spent time in Rome and Florence when I could. Spoleto is a delightful town and I can't wait to get back to visit.

Good Food and Drink

Italy and Spain are making me think about good food and drink. Both were wonderful places for that.

I'll never forget our first months in Spain, before we knew our way around. At that time we were unaware of how wonderful Spanish food could be, and had only run into excessively mayonnaisy sandwiches and things like that. So our opinion of Spanish cuisine was lackluster, but we were constantly being asked "¡a que se come mejor aquí que en estados unidos!" meaning roughly "people eat better here than in the U.S, right?" 

Truth is, you can eat great anywhere once you know where to go.  

J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon

I want to see anything that either of these guys direct or write. I think J.J. Abrams is a master at telling stories on screen. I lament that Firefly only got one season and got a big kick out of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Both of these guys have a great sense of comedic timing and know just where and how to insert humor.

Studio Ghibli

More specifically, I like Hayao Miyazaki's work. Like most westerners, I'm a little bemused by the elements of Japanese mythology. I recognize that the storytelling style is different, but I love the atmosphere that he creates. I also enjoy that none of his "bad guys" are really bad guys in the end.

Googie Architecture, Mid-Century Modern and 50s Diners

No, not Google, Googie. I suppose my affinity for all things 1950 is based on the same sort of glossy fiction that people surround pirates with.  But there's something really fun about this kind of design.

I had discovered Nat Reed's website and found myself wanting to post pretty much every image on it, but now that site is being blocked by my antivirus software! You can still view his art here and here.

Tiki Bars

I want one. In my back yard. Like Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel.

Classic Cars

I'm not a gearhead at all, but I love the design of cars made in the 40s, 50s and 60s. They don't make rocket ships like that anymore and I don't really understand why. At first I though it was just because the computer modelling and wind tunnel test were forcing all the sedans into the same boring shape, but then there are things like the Honda Element and the Nissan Cube driving around at highway speeds. So why can't we have the timeless stylings of a '57 Corvette again?

Excellent Family Entertainment

I'm referring to programming directed at kids but which is so well conceived and executed that adults find it entertaining. There's no reason why children's programming need be mind-numbing. It often is, but I believe that this is the result of laziness and nothing more.

Some examples:

Roller Coasters

I'm not a thrill seeker and spinny rides make me nauseous, but I love the feeling of flying which a smooth roller coaster can give you. Speaking of coasters, there is only one podcast that I'm a fan of: coasterradio.com. Mike and E.B. are fun to listen to even if you don't care about coasters or theme parks!

Steampunk

My love of gadgets and contraptions, combined with my desire to build things, gives me an appreciation for Steampunk.  My wife, Brie, gave me a hand-cranked burr coffee grinder for Christmas and I'm already thinking about how I can rig it up to a motor which would do the grinding for me.  My plans don't involve steam power, unfortunately. But maybe they should...

Hi-Fi and Pro Audio

Even though I don't have any decent equipment in my home, I love hi-fi. I built the speaker system currently in use at my church. I'm one of the people who helps run sound on Sundays.

I sometimes feel that I missed my calling to be a studio engineer.  There's more that I don't know than I do know about the subject, but I'd love to learn.

Speaker Building

Like I said, I designed and built the polyhedral cluster of speakers that's in use at my church. I've built speakers for my computer (two little bass-reflex boxes that have nothing but 3" drivers in them but sound much larger). I've built surround speakers for my home theater system and a sub-woofer for my brother.

This page last modified: June 07, 2019